By Robert S. Benchley
If social entrepreneur Jack Sim had asked students what they thought of his presentation, held at the School of Business November 20, many might have told him, with a smile, that they really enjoyed talking sh*t. And Sim probably would have smiled back, happy that they got the point.
That word appeared in various permutations throughout his presentation because Sim (pictured here), who many call “Mr. Toilet,” is founder of the Singapore-based World Toilet Organization. The message he delivers everywhere he travels is that 2.5 billion people worldwide — 40 percent of the global population — have no access to a toilet. Moreover, the situation is worst in many of the developing countries with the fastest-growing populations. The result is a world health crisis, because open defection spreads diseases and pollutes the water. “One fly,” Sim told his audience, “is more dangerous than 100 tigers.”
Sim, who was awarded the Social Entrepreneur of the Year by the Schwab Foundation of Switzerland and founded 16 companies, was in the U.S. to help the United Nations observe the previous day, November 19, as World Toilet Day. He stopped in Miami on his way home to Singapore to speak in UM Ethics Programs’ Ethics, Policy and Society program. The event was chaired by John Mezias, associate professor of management, who invited Sim, and Anita Cava, professor of business law and co-director of UM Ethics Programs.
Conchy Bretos, right, and her daughter Pilar Carvajal Bretos run Mia Senior Living Solutions. Photo by Patrick Farrell.
By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@MiamiHerald.com / @ndahlberg
Conchy Bretos was a social entrepreneur long before being a social entrepreneur was cool.
She founded Mia Senior Living Solutions in 1996 with a single housing project in Overtown.
“We created a new model providing services to people who live in public housing so they don’t have to move from there. It became a model for the nation, received great press, we started getting contracts in West Virginia, New Jersey, Michigan, we started working with public housing authorities,” said Bretos, whose daughter, Pilar Bretos Carvajal, joined her as a partner in 2001. “We now work in 23 states on 40 assisted-living projects.”
Bretos is also an Ashoka Fellow.
Ashoka: Innovators for the Public, founded in 1980, is a global nonprofit that helps social entrepreneurs with their potentially world-changing solutions. Its network of 3,000 selected Ashoka Fellows from 70 countries receive financial support, support services, mentorship, and connections for the lifetime of their enterprises. So far, the 2-year-old Miami chapter supports two Ashoka Fellows — the second one is Connie Siskowski of the American Association of Caregiving Youth in Palm Beach County — but 50 or so entrepreneurs from the Americas come in and out of the office, said Lorena García Durán, executive director of Ashoka Miami.
Ashoka Miami and local partners recently launched Ashoka Youth Venture. Kids ages 14 to 18 who are selected to take part will research and design a project that addresses a specific local challenge, such as teen jobs or public safety, and possibly receive $1,000 in seed funding to launch the venture.
And while Miami may not yet be a large region for fellows, the region is noted for something else. Of the 300 global business mentors in the Ashoka Support Network, 20 of them are from South Florida, one of four international hubs for the Ashoka Support Network.
Hans Hickler, a former CEO at DHL, is one of the Ashoka mentors. “The beautiful thing is, it’s what we do every day as business leaders that is so valuable to social entrepreneurs — simple things like creating a business plan, staying focused, running effective meetings, hiring talent, thinking how scale will matter over the next one or two years,” he said. “It’s very natural for us. It’s hugely valuable for them.”
Along with being available to Ashoka fellows, Hickler works more deeply with some of them, including a Brazilian team he talks to frequently and visits every other month. Some fellows have ASN advisory boards, and he and other ASNs also help with the programs Ashoka U and Ashoka Youth Venture.
He also sees his role as an ambassador: to introduce social entrepreneurship and Ashoka to business CEOs. “We are not just helping social entrepreneurs. They are helping us — we get this huge asset as these creative people are really solving endemic social problems. Because of that, we have an obligation to introduce the business world to that. And we have an obligation to the social entrepreneurs to introduce them to a network of business people that can help them.”
Earlier this month, Ashoka Miami hosted 27 Ashoka social entrepreneurs from the Americas as well as Africa and other parts of the world. Twenty-one of them were presenting at the abc* Continuity Forum that was put on by the Americas Business Council Foundation, a Miami Beach-based foundation supporting social entrepreneurship and philanthropy in the Americas. Three of the entrepreneurs who presented their concepts — such as Flor Cassassuce of Grupo Eoz, which develops and distributes water purifiers to rural areas in Mexico, and Francesco Piazzesi of Echale a tu Casa, which provides homes through revolving Social Financial Housing Funds, similar to little banks — will receive $100,000 in funding from abc*.
Although most Fellows at the conference were presenting nonprofit models, García Durán says Ashoka is seeing more for-profits. “We are seeing a trend of more younger social entrepreneurs graduating from biz schools and using that knowledge for the social good. They are using business tools to solve a social problem. In Chile for instance, every Ashoka Fellow has a B-Corp.”
But for Ashoka, the structure of the venture is not what’s important. “They can be nonprofits, B-Corps or for-profit models, we don’t care. We just care that the model works and that it is sustainable and scalable,” said García Durán. “It’s about whatever works to accomplish the goal.”
Mia has always been a for-profit. “Our concern was that we needed to grow this model of ours very fast, not only because there was and still remains a huge need, but because there are very few options besides a nursing home, which costs the state a lot of money,” said Bretos. “We needed to grow very fast, and we decided the only way was to be fueled by profits.”
About three or four years ago, after the public housing sector experienced a slowdown because of budget cuts, Mia began expanding services to include working with low-income tax credit developers and owners of affordable housing for the elderly. Bretos says Mia may begin buying facilities for better control. With each project that Mia takes on, it hires local staff — an administrator, certified nursing assistants, cooks, drivers — and each project typically employs 50 to 60 people.
Bretos said she has been an Ashoka Fellow for about two years. Besides financial support, Ashoka gave her an advisory board and has been helping her with her expansion strategy, which might include forming a nonprofit arm of Mia.
“What we did 17 years ago has now come of age and is becoming more of the trend,” said Bretos. “If you have to make a profit, maybe that profit motive takes over the social motive. But that has never been an issue for us; we have never taken a back step on our social vision to change the way we care for low-income seniors and the disabled in this country.
“Sometimes doing the right things pays, and we are a beautiful example of that,” she said. “We love what we do.”
Follow Nancy Dahlberg on Twitter @ndahlberg
Thomas D'Eri, his brother Andrew, mother Donna, and father John at Rising Tide Car Wash, which employs people with autism. Photo by Joe Rimkus Jr.
By Nancy Dahlberg / email@example.com / @ndahlberg
The estimates are alarming: 80 percent to 90 percent of adults with autism are unemployed. And for the D’Eri family, the reality hit home — hard.
Partnering with his son Thomas, who had just finished business school, entrepreneur John D’Eri cashed out of his other companies and began researching potential entrepreneurial solutions to help his son, Andrew, who is autistic. They learned that there are types of businesses where adults with autism can thrive as employees.
After about 18 months of research and preparation, the D’Eri family opened the firstRising Tide Car Wash in April. Andrew, 23, is an employee of the Parkland business, along with 34 other adults with autism.
Along with terrific service, John and Thomas hope their business delivers a strong message.
“Autism is not a disability that requires sympathy; it’s a diversity that be can valuable to a workforce,” said Thomas. “If your business is structured and you have strong processes in place, people with autism can thrive. You are getting a very engaged employee that will follow your processes. They are the most enthusiastic employees you could possibly have.”
The D’Eri family’s young company has already turned the corner into profitability, and John and Thomas plan to replicate their success in other communities and hope to be a model for what’s working in disability employment. They are part of a new and growing breed of social entrepreneurs who are choosing for-profit business models for their socially motivated businesses so that they can scale their solutions.
“There are two words in social entrepreneurship for a reason,” said Robert H. Hacker, an investor, former chief financial officer of One Laptop Per Child and a professor. “People are increasingly coming to realize social entrepreneurship is just a variation of entrepreneurship. When you approach a social problem, you benefit from all the processes and approaches of traditional entrepreneurship,” said Hacker, who teaches social entrepreneurship for the Honors College at Florida International University.
Simply stated, social entrepreneurs work to solve society’s most pressing social problems through innovative solutions — and interest in the movement is surging. There are social entrepreneurship accelerators and incubators to nurture startups. A new generation of socially motivated investors — including angels, venture capitals and even the Obama administration’s Startup America — now offers impact investment funds, adding to the mounting microloan funds and specialized crowdfunding platforms available.
Foundations and other support organizations are multiplying too; Ashoka, a nonprofit devoted to finding and scaling world-changing solutions, now supports 3,000 fellows in 60 countries and last year launched Ashoka Miami. The Americas Business Council, a Miami Beach foundation that supports social entrepreneurs, gave world leaders for social good the stage earlier this month at its third annual conference. Local networking groups of social innovators have sprung up, including Momentum, which is holding an event on Wednesday.
Harvard Business Review found that top business schools more than doubled their social entrepreneurship courses between 2003 and 2009. Business schools at Harvard, Yale, Stanford, Duke, Northwestern, Berkely and Oxford all have respected social entrepreneurship centers or programs, and some of them have social tracks in their business plan competitions.
In South Florida, nearly every university and college has courses or events tied to social entrepreneurship. Barry University has a Center for Social Entrepreneurship within its business school, and campuses from Nova Southeastern to St. Thomas University to the University of Miami have brought in speakers and held workshops on the topic.
Miami Dade College’s InterAmerican Campus, for instance, offers a group of noncredit classes through its Social Entrepreneurship Academy, with topics like “Marketing Your Green/Socially Responsible Business.” MDC is also well along in its process to earn the designation as an Ashoka Changemaker campus, a coveted label only a couple of dozen campuses globally have earned so far, said Ana Cruz, chairman of the School of Business on the Wolfson Campus.
“I’m seeing a lot of young people that want to achieve more than just profitability,” said Seema Pissaris, a College of Business professor at FIU. “Purpose is very important. I’m seeing that change even in the last two years. It’s becoming such a phenomenon,” she said, attributing the increase in part to the explosion of technology that puts social issues in front of the students daily.
Students in her Social Entrepreneurship class work with real-life ventures. Last year, Pissaris inspired and supported students who formed EyeTalker, a company developing an affordable pair of glasses for the blind that will read to them. The concept won the FIU track of the Miami Herald’s Business Plan Challenge. Now, a class group is working with Barrington Irving, who flew around the world in 2007. His social entrepreneurial companies — Experience Aviation Experience Aviation, in which students participated in building a plane, car and hovercraft, and his newest venture, The Flying Classroom — teach kids about math, science and engineering in a very hands-on way.
With The Flying Classroom, Irving will fly to various location in North America, Asia and Australia starting next September and in each stop along the way students will interact virtually in challenges that involve math and science discoveries. “This journey is really about helping kids to indentify their passions and make math and science practical,” said Irving.
Irving, who has had a nonprofit since 2005, also established a for-profit company. He said it made sense in order to sell the curriculum to other schools for the social good. In essence, it’s an education-distribution company.
Several FIU class members are working with Irving and his partner Rajeev Brown, meeting with them at Irving’s office at Opa-locka Executive Airport or at The LAB Miami, a co-working and education center for entrepreneurship.
“I took the class not knowing what to expect. With social entrepreneurship your main priority is to help an underprivileged segment, but it has to be sustainable — that is very cool to me,” said John Sarasti, who is working with Irving’s team with five other FIU students. “Barrington told his story, and I said I have to work with him.”
The FIU students are helping with marketing and also building a franchise operation model.
“The main concept of business is how to make a profit. This class turns that upside down,” said Sarasti, a senior in business management with a focus on entrepreneurship. “You are making a difference. It’s really cool. This has been an incredible experience.”
Of course, real-world realities come into play.
“There’s a lot more competition for partners, distribution and funding sources than before — people want to see an evaluation of your last project,” said Hacker. “What that really means is if you are starting a social entrepreneurial venture, you better formulate your evaluation, practices and the full concept of how you will do the evaluation — that is part of starting an organization.”
Although social entrepreneurship is still young in Miami, it is coming of age globally. Take Grameen Bank, credited with revolutionizing microfinancing.
“That bank has $500-$600 million in revenue, it has started to do international expansion ... now it is looking like a traditional bank in terms of strategy, size and growth,” said Hacker, who has just finished a book on social entrepreneurship. “And Tom’s Shoes. That’s a classic example of social entrepreneurship and as part of their branding they will give a pair to a disadvantaged person in the Third World. They have continued to grow and have become a well-received company.”
Mauricio Laniado admits he was totally inspired by Tom’s Shoes. He studied its “buy-one, give-one” business model while majoring in entrepreneurship at Syracuse University. He always had this idea he wanted to re-create the shoes worn in his birthplace of Ecuador, and after doing social work in the country adter college he knew he wanted to focus on education as a social mission.
His company, Juntos, makes shoes in the style of a particular lace-up canvas shoe popular with Ecuador’s working class. “The shoes were in front of my eyes my entire life,” said Laniado, who grew up in Miami but spent summers in Guayaquil. For each pair sold of Juntos’ hip interpretation of the street shoe, the company gives a backpack stuffed with a year’s worth of school supplies to an at-risk child in Ecuador.
He began pitching his idea but faced a lot of closed doors — until he met Andrew Tupper in New York, who would become his co-founder and creative director: “He said, ‘I like where you are going, let’s just start talking once a week.’ He went to Ecuador with me and when he saw how real it was, we came up with the education backpacks.”
After a successful Indigogo crowdfunding campaign this summer in which Juntos sought $10,000 but raised more than $35,000, the company is now in production.
On JuntosProject.com, orders for the shoes lined with a map of Ecuador have come from 16 countries so far. Juntos is looking for its first retail partners, said Laniado, who recently was working on concrete product displays at a Miami Midtown art studio that would convey where the shoes came from.
The first production run was made in Asia, but Laniado is finalizing contracts to produce the shoes in Lima, bringing jobs to Latin America. His goal is to also produce them in Ecuador, but so far, he has not found a production facility meeting his specifications.
As for the backpacks, Juntos has interviewed, screened and selected three schools it is initially partnering with. Having already made its first 500 sales, Laniado will go back to Ecuador and equip one of the schools with 500 education backpacks, he said. He’ll also help install a soccer field in the playground.
Next up is the launch of his shoes in retail stores and finding investors or partners.
“We are looking at foundations in Guatemala and Ecuador, and global organizations that can help us not only find our schools but help us build our social brand and connect with the right people,” said Laniado.
Hacker would agree with that strategy. He sees social entrepreneurs moving away from partnering with governments, the traditional providers for the public good.
“You are better off with local foundations,” Hacker said. “Unions in certain countries can make really good partners; cooperatives, even churches are much more likely to partner with you. They all have social agendas — you just have to find the one that matches your social objective.”
Social enterprises could also partner with traditional businesses such as retailers to create scale, said Hans Hinkler, a consultant, an Ashoka mentor and a former DHL executive. He is a fan of the for-profit model in social entrepreneurship. “One of the best ways to scale your model is to be self-sustainable financially,” said Hickler, who has worked with social entrepreneurial businesses Lonesome George andMyMela in South Florida.
Back at the Rising Tide Car Wash, the D’Eri family is hoping its social entrepreneurial business becomes a model for the nation. For them, it’s all about scaling.
“We looked for a business that could be scaled, and a car wash is a staple business in every community,” said Thomas, also noting that it’s a fragmented industry with no dominant player. “It can also become a powerful community platform. We can use the business to explain what autism means.”
It’s also an extremely process-driven environment: People with autism thrive on structure, and many are very attentive to details, Thomas said.
Before settling on a car wash, the founders tested the concept with the help of Sonny’s Enterprises of Tamarac, The Center for Autism and Related Disabilities at UM, and consultants.
The family business ran a pilot program at a Homestead car wash owned by the owner of Sonny’s, first seeking feedback on the service without telling customers about its social mission. Feedback was good.
Then it sought the feedback after sharing its social mission and feedback was even better, said Thomas, who graduated from Bentley University in Waltham, Mass., in 2011, where he studied economics, finance and sustainability. His father, a serial entrepreneur, has 30 years experience building companies, including in litigation services and software support for the legal industry.
Rising Tide bought its first car wash in December, renovated it, and “we reopened in April with a whole new crew and a whole new purpose — to empower adults with autism through gainful employment,” said John.
Today, Rising Tide (risingtidecarwash.com), at 7201 N. State Rd. 7 in Parkland, has 35 employees with autism, out of a total of about 41 staffers.
With business growing every month, Rising Tide tripled its customer base, and in October, it had its first profitable month. “We want to operationalize it, and then open more stores within a year or so,” said Thomas, who runs the day-to-day operations.
Like other entrepreneurs in this article, Rising Tide’s founders stress that they don’t rely on their social mission to power their company. Offering a good service is key, and the company puts employees through an extensive training program on its 46-step car-cleaning process.
“We only ask that you come see what we offer, and if you like it, come back,” said John. “It is gratifying to see people get an opportunity to thrive and seeing the community supporting them.”
Follow Nancy Dahlberg on Twitter @ndahlberg
This week, a local group of community-minded technologists, planners, designers and civic champions announced it will join the Code for America Brigade by starting Miami’s local chapter. Code for America seeks to foster and facilitate innovation in government. Through Brigades, it helps to organize and support civic hackers locally to use technology to enhance their community.
This local Brigade, Code for Miami, will work with the governments of Miami-Dade County, the city of Miami and surrounding municipalities to build tools and apps to help the community and advocate for open, accessible government data. Code for Miami, headed up by Ernie Hsiung and Rebekah Monson, will participate in the Brigade’s leadership program, which includes monthly trainings, participation in a network of civic and tech leaders, and support from Code for America staff. “We’re helping government be more efficient, more transparent and more responsive to Miamians, and we’re giving Miamians tools to help them understand, communicate, and act on issues they care about,” Rebekah Monson said.
Code for Miami will be working closely with Michael Sarasti, program manager of the Community Information & Outreach Department of Miami-Dade County. “We’re incredibly proud of what we’ve embarked on with Code for Miami. We know that our mutual commitment to open 311 data and civic app development will encourage more engaged communities in Miami Dade County. Residents will know that their government and a growing tech sector are working together to empower them,” said Sarasti.
Code for Miami’s group of developers, designers, data geeks and idea makers have been meeting every Monday at The LAB Miami in Wynwood and welcomes your involvement. Some of its ongoing projects: Miami Wiki (site), TextMyBusMIA (code), FL Legislature Tracker (demo) (code), iam1of.us (demo) (code) and Dude Where's My Bike? (demo) (code).
More information about the group, projects and how to get involved: CodeforMiami.org
The Miami chapter of the Awesome Foundation, a global network that supports awesome community projects with $1,000 grants, will expand its local program with $20,000 from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.
Since its launch in January 2013, Awesome Foundation Miami has supported compelling ideas from local entrepreneurs and creatives that need seed funding to proceed. With Knight support, the Awesome Foundation work to expand its impact by increasing the dollar amount and number of grants it makes. Additionally, the Awesome Foundation will develop a social marketing campaign to attract more applicants and hold events to connect grantees with each other and the community. In this way, the Awesome Foundation hopes to become a well-known source of small-scale funding for the best community ideas and create new ways to spotlight the work of grantees.
“We have only just begun to tap into the ideas of Miami’s creative community, like funding surfing classes for kids and a community garden in Little Haiti” said Natalia Martinez, trustee and dean of the Awesome Foundation Miami. “With our increased capacity, we’re looking forward to discovering and supporting more of these uniquely Miami ideas, as well as targeting outreach to specific groups in our community.”
Grants are awarded monthly and applications can be submitted online by the 15th of every month. The application is available in English, Spanish and Creole to reflect the city’s composition. Funding is awarded with no strings attached.
Oct. 25, 2013 the Awesome Foundation Miami will host an event at the Wynwood Brewing Company. It will bring together grant winners, past and future applicants, and those interested in learning more about awesome projects that are happening in the Miami area. The event is free and available to the public.
The Awesome Foundation, founded in Boston in 2009, has since expanded to 80 chapters in 15 countries. Through these autonomous, self-funding chapters, $1,000 grants have been awarded to more than 650 projects that promote awesomeness in the universe, to total more than $660,000.
If any individuals would like to supplement the monthly grants the Awesome Foundation Miami accepts contributions through The Miami Foundation.
“Miami’s emergence as a center for arts, culture and tech is becoming clear, however we still need to find new and fun ways to support our local creative community,” said Matt Haggman, Knight Foundation program director in Miami. “The Awesome Foundation is doing just that by creating an approachable, viable source of small grants for innovative ideas.”
To encourage South Florida youth to develop entrepreneurial skills that benefit their community, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation is investing $50,000 to help launch Ashoka’s Youth Venture, the foundation announced in a press release. Ashoka is also partnering with The Miami Foundation and Breakthrough Miami to select its first round of youth participants.
A project of Ashoka: Innovators for the Public, a global association of the world’s leading social entrepreneurs, Ashoka’s Youth Venture provides high school students with the skills, training and mentorship to launch their own social venture. As part of the funding, Ashoka and partners will work together to select youth participants from 14-18 years old to take part in training workshops and mentoring. Students will then research and design a project that addresses a specific local challenge, such as teen jobs or public safety. They will present their idea to a panel of community leaders, for a chance at $1,000 in seed funding to launch the venture.
Established in 1996, Ashoka’s Youth Venture has since launched over 5,000 teams in more than 20 countries and 16 U.S. cities. Beginning in July 2013 Ashoka launched the Breakthrough Miami Youth Venture cohort at Ransom Everglades. In September 2013 the Miami Foundation’s Engaged Youth cohort will launch. In total, 70 students representing 26 schools in Miami-Dade County will take part in Ashoka’s Youth Venture this year and identify as changemakers in June 2014.More information: www.youthventure.org
SWOL — SOCCER WITHOUT LIMITS
Concept: SWOL is a social soccer community built around a digital publishing platform that unites and engages fans. Already featuring 55+ writers from 15 countries, SWOL aims to be the world’s premier content provider and fantasy gaming destination for global fans.
Story: A life-long passion for soccer united Adam Davis, an agent based in Germany and later Brazil for ROGON, a top soccer agency, and Danny Karbassiyoon, a former player for Arsenal of the English Premier League ( and its first U.S. player to score) and later a scout for the London club. “We came together to start something bigger,” said Davis. With the addition of a chief technology officer, The team custom built the SWOL.co site, which is now attracting 1.4 million monthly visits, and is moving into gamification. Beyond being community, information and entertainment providers, SWOL wants to give back to the sport. This year the startup launched the Fight Against Racism Footvolley event to help shed light on the acute problem tarnishing the sport. The fundraising and awareness-raising event in Miami Beach in June, partnering with Univision Networks to televise nationally, included Didier Drogba, Jerome Boateng (pictured here with Davis and Karbassiyoon) and many more top soccer stars. ‘We’re all in,” said Karbassiyoon, who relocated from Richmond, Va., in January to work on SWOL full-time.
Headquarters: Miami, one of the top U.S. markets for soccer fans. Team is based in Venture Hive as part of the accelerator’s first class.
Launched: July 2012
Management team: Adam Davis, CEO; Danny Karbassiyoon, CCO; David Der, CTO
No. of employees beyond management team: 3
Financing: Raised $100,000 in seed financing and now raising a $750,000 round.
Recent milestones reached: Passed 750,000 monthly unique users. Recently began producing Spanish content, with other languages to follow. Closed a partnership for a Featured Writer Program with Miami-based and Al-Jazeera owned beIN Sport.
Biggest startup challenge: Replicating the success SWOL has had growing its community and content in English into Spanish and other key “soccer” languages.
Next steps: Generate revenue through advertising, fantasy gaming, big data and premium content. “We just finished beta testing our own soccer fantasy game — SWOL Fantasy Challenge. Beta feedback was extremely positive and the next steps will be introducing this game to the community as an iOS app and in a Web version on swol.co,” said Davis. “In addition, we will be scaling growth with our SWOL Español contributor team and content creation, closing the next round of financing and uniquely involving more big name professional players into SWOL and the fantasy game.”
Investor’s view: “It comes down to the old investing adage, you bet on the jockey, not the horse,” said Dr. Kipp Lassetter, former CEO of Medicity, noting that some of the top players in the sport have partnered with SWOL. “The SWOL team continues to impress me with their aggressive pursuit of new opportunities. They are thinking big, and executing. This is driving remarkable growth. My experience starting a medical IT company has given me good insight into how SWOL can strategically scale their business while remaining aggressive and adaptable.”
Nancy DahlbergFind past Miami Herald Startup Spotlights in the Startup Spotlight category on this blog.
Some startups find funding in less conventional places; plus education news and conferences coming up
By Nancy Dahlberg, firstname.lastname@example.org
Some startups are finding their angels in less conventional places. For instance, Mas Equity Partners is the new $1 million funder behind Sportsmanias, a news platform for sports fans. It’s the first tech-startup investment for Mas Equity Partners, which typically invests mainly in later-stage energy companies and also in banking-related businesses, said Jorge Mas, chairman of Mastec.
ContractRoom, the creators of a cloud-based platform to automate the negotiation and contracting process for enterprises, said Thursday it has completed its angel investment round totaling $850,000. Investors include entrepreneurs in the legal, finance, healthcare, real estate and tech industries, such as Parker Thomson, former partner at Hogan Lovells and Edward Matthews, a former finance executive.
This new financing will be used to further accelerate product development and fuel sales and marketing activities, the company said. ContractRoom previously raised a seed round of $375,000, bringing its total investor financing to more than $1.2 million.
Other recent funding news: Miami-based medical analytics company QualMetrix reportedly raised $800,000 and Leapfactor, the Miami-based provider of mobile business applications and services, reported in a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission last week it had raised $384,000 in new funding. Leapfactor has already raised more than $13 million.
Showing it how it is done: CareCloud, the Miami-based provider of cloud-based practice management, electronic health records and medical billing software and services, last week announced it closed on an additional $9 million from Adams Street Partners as part of the company’s Series B financing round.
In June, CareCloud announced it secured $20 million in Series B funding from Tenaya Capital, Intel Capital and Norwest Venture Partners. CareCloud’s funding to date: $55 million.
The Venture Hive Accelerator and Miami-Dade County Public Schools are teaming up to produce a new magnet program for tech-entrepreneurship education called TEAM (Tech Entrepreneurship Accelerator Program) that will offer high school students the chance to intern with top tech startups. “We are giving our students an applied, experiential learning environment with world-class technologists, the curriculum of our accelerator program, and the mentoring and support from our team and the startups in the Hive,” said Susan Amat, founder of Venture Hive. Amat also chairs the Miami-Dade Schools STEM Board.
Startup Quest, offered by WorkForce One, is a new 10-week free program that provides hands-on entrepreneurship training to individuals to people with college degrees who are either unemployed or under-employed. To learn more about program requirements and to submit an application, visit http://workforceone.startupquest.org/how-to-apply/ — but hurry, the deadline is Thursday. There is also a no-obligation Introductory Workshop Thursday from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. at the Signature Grand in Davie.
On the radar
NewME Accelerator in San Francisco is bringing back its three-day PopUp Accelerator to The LAB Miami in Wynwood Sept. 27-29. Like last year, the PopUp includes two Master Classes in the evenings on preparing and presenting a pitch deck. Also included is a one-on-one hour-long mentoring session and a Demo Night, where participants can present to local investors as well as ones from Silicon Valley and compete for prizes, including a spot in NewME’s Accelerator. The PopUp program fee is $99. To find out more or to register, go here: https://newme.rezdy.com/7509/newme-miami-popup
Tech conferences are continuing to call Miami home. WebCongress, a digital media gathering with based in Spain with events all over Europe and Latin America, announced recently it is coming back to South Florida for its second year with a much larger program. It will be Nov. 7-8 at the Knight Center in Miami, and organizers are expecting more than1,000 participants, triple last year’s attendance. Speakers will include executives from Blackberry, Google, AOL, CNN, ESPN, TechCrunch and others, said Ouali Benmeziane, CEO of WebCongress. More info: webcongress.com/miami
Follow Nancy Dahlberg on Twitter @ndahlberg
Like the flip-flop is to Rio, this simple canvas shoe is to cities like Guayaquil, Ecuador.
As an unofficial symbol of street fashion, El Zapato de Lona, is a classic canvas lace-up shoe that has become a working class badge of honor in that part of the world, says Mauricio Laniado, co-founder of Juntos, a Miami-based startup.
The shoes caught the eye of the first-generation Ecuadorian during his recent travels and inspired him to start his first company to offer his own version of these iconic shoes -– with a hip twist.
Available in black canvas with white piping, white and powder blue, the shoes also features a a map of Ecuador inside -- so that when you wear them, you never forget where they came from, he says. They are set to retail for $48, and Laniado already has a U.S. production partner lined up.
This story has a social entrepreneurial twist too: Each pair of shoes purchased lets you do good, as an education backpack filled with a year’s worth of crucial school supplies will be donated to an Ecuadorian at-risk youth in the same neighborhoods where the style hails from. That’s one education backpack for every pair of shoes bought, says Laniado.
Laniado -– who co-founded the company with Andrew Tupper -– says he plans to create more products inspired by iconic styles from around the world that bring on warm feelings of home. But this is Juntos’ first product and the company is introducing it on crowdfunding platform Indiegogo. In just over a week, the company has already surpassed its goal of $!0,000 but now has set stretch goals. Its campaign ends Sept. 4.
Mauricio Laniado and Andrew Tupper are shown with the education backpacks and some of the Ecuadorian children who received them.
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