September 23, 2016

Spotlight: Rising Tide Car Wash makes waves in social impact

Risingtide
From left, Andrew D’Eri, Donna D’Eri, John D’Eri, Tom D’Eri and Rajiv Chandrasekaran, celebrate ‘Employing the Full Spectrum,’ part of Starbucks’ new ‘Upstanders’ series.

This social entrepreneurial company focuses on employing adults with autism. 

Name: Rising Tide Car Wash

Location: 7201 N. State Road 7, Parkland

What it is: A car wash with a focus on employing adults with autism. 

Website: risingtidecarwash.com

Services provided: Washes, some cleaning services. Prices start at $6 for a simple, basic wash of the exterior and use of a free vacuum. 

How it began: An existing car wash was purchased and renovated in 2012, and then launched as Rising Tide in April 2013 in Parkland. The business gives job opportunities to people with autism. When John and his son Tom D’Eri learned that 80 to 90 percent of adults with autism are unemployed, they set out to change that statistic. The D’Eris researched options and determined a car wash would be the ideal business for creating jobs for people with autism, like Tom’s brother Andrew, who likes structure and performing repetitive tasks and follows safety guidelines to the letter. 

Management team: John D’Eri, CEO; Tom D’Eri, co-founder and COO; Tom Sena, CFO. Dr. Michael Alessandri, executive director of the University of Miami-Nova Southeastern University Center for Autism and Related Disabilities, is an advisor.

Number of employees: 42, with 35 on the autism spectrum. 

Competitors: Others are in the area including Express Car Wash in Boca Raton and Sample Road Auto Spa in Pompano Beach.

Year-over-year: Six months after it started its car-wash operation, the business had tripled its customer base of 35,000 to 40,000 and had its first profitable month in October 2013. In its first full year, Rising Tide did about 110,000 car washes. In its second year, it did 142,000. For its third year, the company projects 160,000 to 170,000 washes. 

Milestone: 

September 2016: Starbucks is highlighting the business in one of 10 videos “about ordinary people doing extraordinary things to create positive change in their communities,” as it says in a news release. The “Upstanders” series, as it’s called, is available through the coffee chain’s mobile app, website (Starbucks.com/Upstanders) and its YouTube account. Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz and Rajiv Chandrasekaran, senior vice president of public affairs at Starbucks and the executive producer of the company’s social impact media initiatives, wrote and produced the series. Shot over two days in August, the six-minute video entitled “Employing the Full Spectrum” shows Andrew D’Eri drying cars and polishing tires with fellow employees at Rising Tide as well as scenes from D’Eri’s family’s home life in Fort Lauderdale. John and Tom D’Eri also are in the video.

Watch video below:

Upcoming: A second location in Margate is planned, with groundbreaking expected in the next two weeks. It’s projected to be completely built in about six months, with a spring opening. The new car wash  will be on 1.5 acres at 2970 N. State Road 7 that were purchased for $1.5 million and will be about one and a half times larger than the one in Parkland. It will cost about $3.4 million to get  it up and running. More than 50 people will work at the Margate location. 

Major keys to success: “You can’t do this without dedicated employees,” John D’Eri said. He cites “the dedication of all his employees, their willingness to follow proper protocol, their desire to deliver value, the fact that they treat clients with respect, value their position in the company and create a culture of acceptance” for the success of Rising Tide.

Strategy for success: John D’Eri said the company plans to replicate the success of the business locally, regionally and then nationally with a hub-and-spoke concept with the Parkland operation as a hub. In addition, he said, the company plans to analyze and use the knowledge gained to produce a superior product and delve into other businesses, using best practices as they relate to people on the autism spectrum — “the autism advantage,” he calls it.

RORY CLARKE

 

Read more Startup Spotlights

Toy inventors believe 'there's a hero inside every boy'

This startup wants to take you shopping – through virtual reality

Grocers, distributors catch the Banana Wave

Octopi making waves in shipping industry

Mediconecta brings telehealth to emerging markets.

Why Hope Solo is partnering with this startup

To see all Startup Spotlights, go to the Startup Spotlight category of this blog.

 

MDC’s Idea Center, NBCUniversal and Telemundo to present free Innovation M Conference next week

The Idea Center at Miami Dade College  is partnering with NBCUniversal and Telemundo to present the first ever Innovation M Conference, a three-day event from Sept. 28 – 30, featuring an extraordinary mix of inspiring entrepreneurs, educators and innovators.

Innovation M will explore a new America. This groundbreaking initiative will include experiential learning, inspiring talks and wrap-up with a thrilling community challenge. Sessions will discuss leadership, media and social innovation in the millennial age, among other topics.

Guest speakers will include Peter Blacker, EVP digital media and emerging businesses at NBCUniversal; Durell Coleman, founder and CEO of DC Design; Dr. Constance Iloh, assistant professor at UC Irvine; Zivthan Dubrovsky, platform lead at Bioinspired Robotics; Reny Dias Arango, VP insights and consumer intel at NBCUniversal; Lisa Atia, creative brand strategist at Blavity; Nuria Santamaria Wolfe, digital media and tech strategy at Twitter; Vanessa Hauc, Telemundo correspondent; Francesca Kennedy, founder and CEO of lx Style; and Christine Souffrant, Venededy founder. 

"The generation that created Facebook, Uber, Change.org, and countless other disruptive platforms are poised to reshape politics and government in the United States and abroad, said Leandro Finol, the Idea Center’s executive director. “We are thrilled to partner with NBC Universal and Telemundo to host this extraordinary Conference."

Get free tickets to this event at https://www.eventbrite.com/e/innovation-m-conference-join-3-days-of-innovation-tickets-27155776659?mc_eid=ce9c4e6266&mc_cid=0013f1416a.  

For more information, visit www.theideacenter.co.  

WHAT:        Innovation M Conference

WHEN:        Wednesday – Friday, Sept. 28 – 30, various times  

WHERE:     MDC’s Wolfson Campus, Building 8, 5th floor,  315 N.E. Second Ave. 

- Submitted by Miami Dade College

September 18, 2016

Why every incubator needs social entrepreneurs

Startupfiucohort1

Photo by Daniela Cadena

By Robert Hacker

In January 2016, Emily Gresham and I began to design the program that became StartUP FIU, Florida International University’s (FIU) new incubator. Emily, who is Assistant Vice President for Research and Economic Development, holds the strong belief that hospitals and universities are the anchor institutions in cities. This philosophy lead to StartUP FIU’s focus on serving the entire community and not just the Brickell-Wynwood corridor. I believe there is much confusion between small business management and entrepreneurship and that Miami would be best served if StartUP FIU supported the entrepreneurship that grows large, scalable ventures. With community and scalable ventures in place as the founding principles, Emily and I quickly added other key principles:

Inclusion We welcome everyone to apply to StartUP FIU, from high schoolers and college students to faculty from any university in South Florida. We welcome retired people, FIU alumni and people with no formal education. We received 160 applications to Cohort 1 and the applications were split almost evenly between students, alumni and the community. As they say, “we bet on the jockeys and not on the horses”.

Free: To be truly inclusive a program cannot have financial barriers to entry. The signature, 13-week incubator program “Empower” is totally free--no application fees, no payments or charges during the program and no equity participation for the incubator. We also provide mentors, consultants, space and university resources at no charge.

Stage Agnostic: When we first started talking to prospective entrepreneurs, we realized that many people did not even know how to advance their ideas beyond their first doodles on a piece of paper. Therefore, we decided that we would accept people who just had ideas, people that had a minimal viable product (MVP) but no revenue and companies with revenue. Applicants did not even have to have a company formed.

General Incubator: We think of StartUP FIU as a startup. We are iterating to determine the best way to serve the South Florida community. Today we accept all types of ideas from food and fashion to edtech, high tech and medical diagnostics. We even have a chair company in Cohort 1. We may experiment with specially “themed cohorts” in the future as we continue to explore what types of entrepreneurship will best serve South Florida, but today we welcome applications from all industries.

Authenticity: When one spends a lot of time with students, one realizes that they are most engaged by hands on, experiential learning. StartUP FIU’s incubator is offered through a group of entrepreneurs that use the customer fieldwork approach in a modified Lean Startup methodology. We do not use the professorial approach so common in most academic incubators. Demo Day at StartUP FIU is a pitch day to angel, seed and “A” round VCs.

The last key decision Emily and I made was to combine traditional and social entrepreneurs in the same cohort. Several institutions have separate incubators for traditional and social entrepreneurs, but we found that perhaps only Y Combinator shares our view that all the entrepreneurs should be combined in one cohort. We opted for this approach in part because we believe that diversity breeds better collaboration.

Secondly, we believe that the social entrepreneurs will help the traditional entrepreneurs to remember their responsibility to not only make a profit but also to improve society.

Lastly, millennials have a high level of genuine social concern. As they reach the years where they become the major purchasers, they will force all entrepreneurs to become social entrepreneurs.

Perhaps the evidence for this view of social entrepreneurship comes from the people and companies that began Cohort 1 Sept. 6 (pictured above). We have a former Detroit schoolteacher trying to provide better information about higher education alternatives to students. We have a team originally from Venezuela working to use bee keeping as a micro-entrepreneurship concept to help poor women raise their standard of living. We have a team composed of about fifteen FIU computer science graduate and undergraduate students from all over the world creating a new pedagogy for early child learning using the agile development methodology. We also have a PhD researcher from Baskin Palmer working on a new approach to eye diagnostics and a team building prosthetics with 3-D printers. As is obvious, the line between social and traditional entrepreneurship is becoming very cloudy.

[Who's in Cohort 1? See the list here.]

StartUP FIU will begin accepting applications Sept. 19, 2016, for its second cohort beginning in January 2017. Applications and more information about StartUP FIU can be found at Startup.FIU.edu.

Robert Hacker is the Director of StartUP FIU and teaches social entrepreneurship at FIU, MIT and UM. He is the former CFO of One Laptop per Child and prior to that built a publicly traded billion-dollar company in seven years in Indonesia. He consults to companies in the U.S., the Caribbean and Central America on growth strategies and complex problems through GH Growth Advisors. His books on entrepreneurship and social entrepreneurship are available on Amazon.

READ MORE: Multi-campus StartUP FIU gets ready for takeoff

READ MORE: Q&A with Robert Hacker on scaling social entrepreneurship, finding partners, thinking big

Hacker1

 Above, Bob Hacker introduced the mentors to the StartUP FIU entrepreneurs. At top of post, the first cohort of StartUP FIU.

September 17, 2016

Meet the entrepreneurs in StartUP FIU's Cohort 1

StartUP FIU launched its first cohort of its 13-week Empower incubator Sept. 6. The cohort, selected from 160 applications, includes 20 entrepreneurs from 19 businesses or concepts in a variety of industries. It also includes social entrepreneurs. The free incubator program accepted entrepreneurs from the idea stage to revenue-producing companies; it includes community members as well as FIU students and alumni. Read more about the program here: Multi-campus StartUP FIU gets ready for takeoff

Who's in Cohort 1 of StartUP FIU?  Find the list below: 

Addigy

Founder: Jason Dettbarn.

Addigy provides a cloud based IT Management platform for organizations to manage their growing portfolio Apple Mac computers.

Ascynd.co

Founder: Andru Fratarcangeli

eSport is a marketplace for players to seek competitions and funding.

BAHL Design Group LLC

Founder: Brandt H. Labastille

BAHL Design Group offers world's lightest deskchair in waterproof backpack with solar panel/battery pack

Bid.Aero

Founder: Anthony Leon

Bid.Aero is a sourcing & procurement platform for aircraft and engine part sales.

College Pop

Founder: Oneika Osborne

College Pop is the mobile student development and college preparation hub.

Delta Designs

Founder: Christopher Scull

Delta Designs is proposing a locally-sourced, rapid-prototyping business with the exclusive goal to produce prosthetic components using 3D printing.

Helene's Ice Cream

Founder: Helene's Ice Cream

Helene's handcrafts highly addictive frozen custard. Happiness in a jar.

iscreen2prevent

Founder: Delia DeBuc

'One Stop Mobile Eye Care' idea is to provide convenient comprehensive eye screening to rural and urban seniors as well as the general population

Jarly

Founder: Steve Aitken

Jarly is a subscription box service for artisan made fresh baked goods. We've launched. We have customers and revenue.

Master Honey

Founder: Andrea Saladrigas

Master Honey empowers low income women by giving them all the resources necessary to start their own beekeeping business.

MMM

Founder: Giovanna Gallardo

Discover, personalize and share transportation loops linking cultural destinations.

MPG (The Molecular Pearl Group)

Founder: Xavier González & Argelio Maldonado

Technology designed for automated creation of avant-garde food/beverage pearls

Neat Study

Founder: Ranjeet Deshmukh

Neat Study's app helps students ace their assignments while making learning fun.

NPC Publishing

Founder: Ivan Rodriguez

NPC Publishing creates a game universe where the players control their content

Pilot VR

Founder: Jose Maldonado

 Pilot VR is an all-in-one affordable VR system aimed at physical therapy.

SD Technologies

Founder: Sebastian Duque

SD Technologies is disrupting a niche market within the sports industry.

SoundBite LLC

Founder: Daniel Gonzalez

SoundBite brings the beauty of audio to the social media world.

VoterAid

Founder: Christopher Knowles

VoterAid connects voters and candidates with heuristics based on a set of questions designed to highlight the differences between candidates in a given election.

No Name Company

Founder: Rory Kennedy

Natural organic banana juice based beverage marketed towards individuals with active healthy lifestyles.

Startupfiucohort1

 Photo of StartUP FIU's Cohort 1 of Empower by Daniela Cadena

August 26, 2016

Radical Partners' social impact accelerator reveals next cohort of changemakers

Bootcampers

Greetings from Cohort 2 of Social Entrepreneurship Bootcamp

 

By Rebecca Fishman Lipsey

Social Entrepreneurship Bootcamp, co-hosted by Radical Partners and AkermanIN, is excited to announce the innovators who have been accepted into Cohort 3.  

Amy Renshaw, Co-founder and Executive Director of CodeArt, an organization focused on increasing gender diversity in tech by highlighting the creative side of coding.

Brandon Okpalobi Founder of DIBIA, a sports development program that fosters excellence and success in life through sports and recreational training and DIBIA Dream, which brings their programming to underserved youth.   

Felecia Hatcher, Serial entrepreneur, Co-founder of Code Fever, an organization that teaches minority students ages 13-21 how to code, and Black Tech Week, a massive national conference focused on increasing racial diversity in the tech sector.

Isabella Acker, Founder and President of Prism Creative Group, focusing on strengthening Miami through the production of powerful local events, locally-conscious storytelling, and compelling content.  

Lauren Reskin, Co-Founder, President & CEO of Sweat Records, a world-class independent music store, event space, and a portal through which to discover Miami's music and cultural scenes.

Leigh-Ann Buchanan, Executive Director of Venture Cafe, a local hub focused on strengthening Miami’s local innovation sector.  They host massive weekly networking and educational events and offer support for entrepreneurs, investors, students, and innovation and educational organizations.

Michel Hausmann, Founding Producing Artistic Director of Miami New Drama, a presenting and producing organization committed to theatrical excellence and theater-making as a means of social engagement, cultural conversation and human interaction.

Pioneer Winter, Founder and Executive Director of Pioneer Winter Collective, an innovative arts organization that uses dance as an anchor for social change, development, and community engagement by providing a platform for risk-taking, progressive, and experimental arts initiatives.

Rob Biskupic-Knight, Executive Director of Engage Miami, focused on building a powerful youth voting bloc in Miami-Dade County.

Sheila Womble, Executive Director of Arts For Learning, an organization focused on making the arts a central component of every child's education. Their programs are delivered at preschools, schools and out-of-school locations throughout Miami-Dade County

Valencia Gunder, Founder and Executive Director of Make the Homeless Smile, which heals disenfranchised communities by treating them with dignity, providing them with access, and empowering them knowledge.

These innovators join two groups of alumni who are deeply committed to strengthening Miami, addressing issues from sea level rise to human trafficking.  Bootcamp kicks off  in September, hosted at Akerman’s offices in Brickell City Center.  Scholarships for Bootcamp were made available with the help of The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the Center For Social Change, and others.

More information on Radical Partners and its bootcamp:   http://www.radical.partners/

Bootcampers2

Members of Cohort 1 of Social Entrepreneurship Bootcamp participating in a team-building exercise.

 

August 06, 2016

Fourth Estate launches journalism startup hosting program

The Fourth Estate Public Benefit Corporation  announced a program aimed to provide news and journalism startups with no-cost media hardened web hosting.

The JournSpark™ program was started as an an unofficial internal initiative where the Fourth Estate provides free web hosting for selected at-risk public interest news sites and several university faculty for their classroom journalism projects.  The program has now grown into a official journalism incubation program offered by the Fourth Estate in support of its public benefit mission.

“It is imperative that entrepreneurs that are involved in startups that are committing public service journalism be given the runway that they need to gain a market foothold,”  Jeff Brown, founder and CEO said. “JournSpark is a no-brainer for a entrepreneurs in the media and journalism space that are just getting started and don’t have a traction yet. It [the program] provides full featured, enterprise class hosting that is journalism hardened, all at no cost to the startup.” 

The JournSpark™ program was developed with the company’s web hosting division, Scoop.Host, to provide premium hosting services and technology at no cost for one year to qualified journalism startups. TheJournSpark™ Startup Program allows journalists and media entrepreneurs a full suite of services, at no cost during their initial startup phases..

How to Apply:

To apply for the program please visit www.JournSpark.com

The program Includes:

  • No cost for qualifying journalism startups.
  • An complete enterprise-ready web hosting solution including 150 GB of data storage and unlimited data transfer.
  • World-class web hosting technical support from Scoop.Host.
  • DDoS attack protection using CloudFlare’s Project Galileo.

Qualifying Startups:

To qualify for the program a participant must be a legally registered business, engage in original news gathering, act in the public interest (broadly defined), be a small commercial entity or a not-for-profit organization or official college/university program, be less than 3 years old, privately held, and earn less than $1M annually.

Getting Started:

  • Go to JournSpark.com
  • Complete the online applications to apply to the program.

June 29, 2016

Code for Fort Lauderdale to host civic hackathon July 23

By Code For Fort Lauderdale

Code for Fort Lauderdale, a local civic technology group, along with coding bootcamp Wyncode, are proud to host the Fort Lauderdale Civic Hackathon (#FTLCivicHackathon) Saturday, July 23, 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. at Axis Coworking Space in downtown Fort Lauderdale. This event is the first locally organized civic hackathon open to developers, designers, urban planners, and creatives of all types (technical and non-technical).

“We want to create an opportunity for new ideas and collaborations to emerge,” said Rob Davis, Code for Fort Lauderdale co-organizer. “Civic Hackathons are a great way for citizens to get hands-on with civic information and meet others who share the same passion for programming and volunteering.”

Participants are tasked with pitching an idea, forming a team, and attempting to build a prototype to present at the conclusion of the event. Key Challenge themes include Transportation, Water & Outdoor Recreation, Upcycling/Recycling, Non-Profits and Open Challenge.

The City of Fort Lauderdale is a proud supporter, providing not only key open data sets instrumental in addressing these challenges, but also food, drinks, and snacks to keep teams fed and energized.

Kevin Keimel, Applications Manager for the City of Fort Lauderdale and a judge for the event added, “While this is our first involvement in a local technology event, we’re excited to see what the local community can do.”

A team of local technology leaders will act as judges and will critique final presentations on Saturday evening. Related prizes will be unveiled during the opening kick-off at 8:30 a.m.

An exciting element of the event will be the presentation of practical problems from local non-profit organizations that participants will have the opportunity to tackle. Sea Turtle Oversight Protection and The Fort Lauderdale Historical Society are just two of the participating non-profits.

At the recent National Day of Civic Hacking, hosted by Code for Miami, demonstrated projects included a data visualization using White House Promised Zones data, a Facebook Chat Bot whose goal is to make it easier starting a business in Miami, and a website for affordable housing information.

“We expect to see that same ingenuity at Fort Lauderdale’s Civic Hackathon,” Rob Davis added.

Eager Civic Hackers can register at http://FTLCivicHackathon or http://ftlcivichackathon.eventbrite.com (one per guest).

Sponsorship opportunities are available at http://ftlcivichackathon.com.

EVENT DETAILS

Fort Lauderdale Civic Hackathon

Date: Saturday, July 23, 2016

Time: 8:00 a.m. - 8:00 p.m.

Location: Axis Space Coworking, 333 Las Olas Way CU 1, Fort Lauderdale, FL 33301

Registration: http://ftlcivichackathon.eventbrite.com

Web: http://ftlcivichackathon.com

June 06, 2016

Startup Spotlight: Modern ŌM, created mindfully

Modernom1

Company: Modern ŌM

Headquarters: Miami and Asheville, N.C.

Concept: Modern ŌM is a lifestyle brand that uses color to infuse the seven chakra-based intentions into its products. “We bring mindfulness into people’s everyday lives through design,” said Myk Likhov, founder and CEO.

Story: Modern ŌM is a family business built on a shared passion for mindfulness. It’s not the founder’s first business. In 2007, after earning an MBA from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, Likhov founded the successful Green Monkey yoga brand at age 26. After exiting Green Monkey, he worked in consumer tech in New York City, then returned to Miami in 2014 and began working on Modern ŌM". His parents joined him in this venture with their collective 50-year background in international manufacturing and distribution.

The idea behind Modern ŌM" was to build a lifestyle product brand for people who are mindful, or spiritual in intent. “We’re creating everyday objects that people can use as reminders of how they want to live,” Likhov said. “No one is doing anything like that — and the opportunity is significant.”

Based on the color heritage of the more than 3,000-year-old chakras, Modern ŌM’s affordably priced products are infused with the meaning of seven chakra-based intentions. These ever-present cues of mindfulness are woven through Modern ŌM’s products, which include: accessories such as malas, men’s and women’s apparel, iPhone cases and sustainable beverage totes, candles and stationary. Modernom.co allows you to shop by intention — for example, Vitality, red, the energy that springs from living in balance, or Connection, violet, the joy of being present in the now — making it easy to find items containing the energy you seek.

Modern ŌM products are also carried locally at Exhale Spa South Beach and Cowshed at Soho Beach House and through the Spring app.

Modernom2

Website: www.modernom.co

Launched: Jan. 1, 2016; soft launched in October 2015.

Management team: Co-founders Myk Likhov, CEO; Marina Likhov, Chief of Product; Steven Wenig, COO.


Modernom3Financing:
$250,000 self-funding invested to date with an angel round opened this May. Seeking to raise $500,000.

Recent milestones reached: Produced the company’s first apparel line from concept to sales in high-end Italian factories. YogaWorks and Exhale, two of the largest national wellness studio brands, now retail Modern ŌM. In April, the company launched The 7, an underground meditation studio in Miami, and taught 150 students in the first month of operations.

Biggest startup challenge: “We are building a company that embodies a lifestyle, which is a much grander vision than simply making products. The biggest challenge is consumer education. Once people understand how meaning is infused into our design principles, and how having reminders of their intentions can improve the quality of their lives, they love it,” said Likhov.

Next step: To create a direct relationship with 10,000 customers. “Building awareness is a challenge for a new company. It requires creativity, passion and pursuit of a larger purpose,” Likhov said. “That’s why our strategy is all about delivering tremendous value in alignment with our mission.”

Strategies for next steps: Build The 7, an underground meditation studio, into a recognizable mindfulness resource for the Miami community by providing an immersive meditation experience, where people can recognize the value that" this lifestyle delivers to them and become evangelists/customers.

Last week, the company launched a fundraising campaign on Indiegogo to bring meditation into the prison system. The goal of this project, which continues through June 30, is to fund meditation lessons for 1,000 inmates. To accomplish this, it has created a limited edition mala (bracelet) for $29. For every one mala sold, Modern ŌM commits to funding for one inmate to learn how to meditate. “Through impact, we also build relationships with meaning-driven consumers,” said Likhov.

Oct. 22-23, the company will hold Miami’s first mindfulness festival — 7 Life — at Sacred Space, with activities, speakers, meditation classes and a party.

- Nancy Dahlberg

Follow @ndahlberg on Twitter. Photos of Likhov are by Jose Iglesias/Miami Herald 

Read more Startup Spotlights under the Startup Spotlight category of this blog.

June 03, 2016

White House chief data scientist to address Miami's National Day of Civic Hacking on Saturday

This just in: Dhanurjay 'DJ' Patil, the White House Deputy CTO for Data Policy and Chief Data Scientist, will give closing remarks at Saturday's Miami National Day of Civic Hacking 2016 #hackforchange.

DjAbout him: Patil joined the White House following an incredible career as a data scientist — a term he helped coin — in the public and private sectors, and in academia. Most recently, he served as the Vice President of Product at RelateIQ, which was acquired by Salesforce. He also previously held positions at LinkedIn, Greylock Partners, Skype, PayPal, and eBay. Prior to his work in the private sector, Patil worked at the Department of Defense, where he directed new efforts to bridge computational and social sciences in fields like social network analysis to help anticipate emerging threats to the United States.

He'll be giving his remarks at the end of the day and is flying into Miami specifically for this event. Read more about participating in Saturday's s Miami National Day of Civic Hacking 2016 here.

April 30, 2016

Zumba: What the global fitness brand can teach Miami tech

TextEditor

Zumba filer

By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

It doesn’t get more Miami than the story of Zumba.

Perlman mug (1)Alberto Perlman, who appeared at The LAB Miami for the monthly  "Brainfood" series, is co-founder and CEO of Zumba Fitness, the largest branded fitness program in the world. He shared war stories and lessons learned.

Zumba dance fitness classes attract more than 15 million weekly participants in 200,000 locations in more than 180 countries. The brand also includes music, clothing, DVDs, video games, a charity platform and most recently its first food product.

Perlman oversees day-to-day operations, manages brand and product development, and negotiates partnerships with fitness clubs and organizations around the world. The Hallandale Beach-based company has about 220 employees and a development team of about 30. He co-founded the company with two other Albertos from Colombia, Alberto Aghion and Alberto “Beto” Pérez.

But Zumba used none of the traditional methods to grow. It hasn’t acquired any companies. Except for accepting one private equity investment, it hasn’t raised financing. Instead it was at the right place at the right time with the right idea, amid a confluence of healthy living trends, a resurgence of interest in all things Latin, and a fresh business model that relied on harnessing the passion of Zumba instructors to build the business. Today, they lead more than half a million classes every week. What’s the secret to building a worldwide movement? “You start with heart,” Perlman said at the discussion led by entrepreneur Marco Giberti on Thursday night.

Perlman said Zumba has been testing live streaming and virtual reality, and looks forward to testing augmented reality, but he told the tech audience that the live experience will always be the center of all Zumba does.

“The live experience is never going to be replaced. Face-to-face is never going away. Everything we do is to drive people to the classes.”

Not that there weren’t low points. One of them was in the downturn of 2008, when the team was running low on money and bracing for the worst. But 2008 was also an inflection point for the company because they realized that despite the recession, people were flocking to the classes to de-stress and have fun. The instructor ranks swelled also, as a means of employment in tough times. “We were there and the people found us.”

Since then, apparel has become a very big business for Zumba, which like all its products are co-created with the instructor network. Last year Zumba sold 4 million units, 90 percent of which are sold through the website, he said.

Zumba possibly would consider developing another fitness brand if it was the right fit (he said he didn’t see CrossFit coming), but it’s not a priority, Perlman said. “The Zumba brand keeps us very busy,” he said, and there is still innovation to do. For instance, in the last few years its charity platform, Zumbathon, has taken off, raising about $5.7 million. Its Zumba Stories website is packed with personal, life-changing stories. And the company this year introduced its first food product, Zumba Shake Shake Shake, a super healthy plant-based protein drink.

He said finding talent has been difficult in Miami, but he also believes that if he had started Zumba in New York or Los Angeles, it may not have gotten off the ground. Being under the radar and not having intense local competition has its advantages when you are building a company.

Perlman’s advice to entrepreneurs: “Focus on your product and customers — don’t spend all your time raising money. Customer-centric companies win.”

And perhaps he should have also added: “Listen to your mother.” She had a very instrumental part in the Zumba story, encouraging him to meet with her dance-fitness instructor, “Beto,” the accidental entrepreneur who invented the Zumba dance concept and became his co-founder. "Maybe you can start a gym together," she said then.

Nancy Dahlberg; 305-376-3595; @ndahlberg