November 23, 2015

Andres Cardona of FIU wins regional finals of Global Student Entrepreneur Awards


 Miami entrepreneur and college student Andres Cardona took home the big win at the regional finals for the Global Student Entrepreneur Awards last week.  The regional finals for the contest, in which college students from 50 countries ultimately vie for a prize of more than $500,000 in cash and services, was sponsored by Entrepreneurs' Organization South Florida and hosted at the Idea Center at Miami Dade College.

Six finalists were chosen to participate in a live pitch competition Nov. 19 at MDC’s Idea Center, which also included a keynote speech by Peter Kellner, venture capitalist and co-founder of Endeavor Global. For winning, Cardona received $1,000 in cash and $20,000 in services such as web, accounting and marketing from EO South Florida professionals.  Cardona will now go on to compete against 25 student entrepreneurs at the GSEA national finals in the spring, which will also be hosted at the Idea Center, and a $10,000 cash prize. The winner of the national competition will go on to complete in the global finals in Bangkok Thailand in May, with a $40,000 cash prize plus services.

Cardona, a  Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship alum and now a finance major at Florida International University, created the business plan for and began working on a youth basketball academy called Elite Basketball Academy ( while in high school because the student athlete was passionate about coaching young athletes and found a big need in the market. He's continued to grow the academy while a full-time college student,  and now the academy  has nearly 200 students/athletes. It's the largest of its kind in Miami, he said.

 “Our mission is to instill success principles in the youth of our community using the sport of basketball as a tool. We emphasize academic success, hard work, dedication, and a no-excuse mentality in order to achieve success. We focus on creating habits that will be everlasting and always present in the minds of our disciples,” said Cardona, who has also been honored by NFTE and Ernst & Young. Within three years, Cardona hopes to expand nationally, he said.

“This competition is special because the winners are not chosen solely on profit potential or the financial merits of their business plans, but largely based on their entrepreneurial journey,” said Mark Sanna, National GSEA Chairman, and EO-South Florida’s past president. “What challenges did these student entrepreneurs overcome, or what problem are they solving for others?  Compelling questions like these play a big role in the competition, and we know there are many great stories like this in South Florida.”

EO-South Florida is one of the world’s largest EO chapters, with  180 members whose businesses account for more than $1 billion in annual revenues and 30,000 jobs in Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties. EO-South Florida and the Idea Center, Miami Dade College's entrepreneurship hub, have partnered to support entrepreneurial innovation for MDC student entrepreneurs and other South Florida startup businesses.  To learn more about the GSEA competition or EO-SOFLO, visit

 Photo above is Andres Cardona presenting his business at the event and to the left is Mark Sanna of EO-SOFLO.


November 22, 2015

Startup Spotlight: Mundo Lanugo


From left, Mundo Lanugo’s Natalia Becerra, Avery Bailey, Roberto Castro and Carla Curiel. Photo by Hector Gabino.

Company: Mundo Lanugo

Headquarters: Venture Hive, downtown Miami.

Concept: Mundo Lanugo is a Latino entertainment brand that, through fun and authentic stories shared via digital videos and apps, inspires children to maintain their Latin culture and Spanish language while building the child’s self-esteem and identity.

Story: The second Carla Curiel became a mom, she had an urge to share with her twins her culture’s traditional songs, games and stories. She also wanted to pass along her Latino values and traditions as well as give them the gift of being bilingual. “But when I went to the stores looking for tools to help me raise proud bilingual and bicultural children, I just could not find any products that resonated with me,” she said. “I longed to see our spice, our culture, our uniqueness represented in media and consumer products.”

Next, the Babson College graduate set out to figure out if this was just the experience of “one crazy Latina mom” or a real unmet need in the market. Seeing the staggering numbers from her research, she concluded: “My calling was to develop those characters and that brand that I so desired for my kids, and that would serve as a bridge to help them grow a healthy identity with both cultures.” Curiel is creating a Latino children’s lifestyle and entertainment brand of American appeal and Latin feel that promotes the Spanish language and rich Latino culture.

Launched: September 2014.

Management team: Carla Curiel (co-founder and CEO), Roberto Castro (co-founder and VP), Natalia Becerra (creative director).

No. of employees: Four.


Financing: Mundo Lanugo has mostly been financed by Curiel’s husband and co-founder, Roberto Castro, and herself. Four months ago, the company raised a friends and family seed round of $200,000 and plans to raise more money in 2016. 

Recent milestones: Mundo Lanugo’s special 45-second animated interstitials centered on teaching values through Latino idioms were broadcast on Univision’s Despierta America during the summer, and ratings increased while animations were on the air. The company’s Christmas YouTube and Facebook videos have reached 1 million views and over 33,000 shares. Corporate partners have included Macy’s, Humana, Seventh Generation, Jackson Memorial Hospital, Hialeah Hospital and Miami Children’s Museum. The Mundo Lanugo: Juega & Aprende app has been downloaded more than 25,000 times. Alongside President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden, Curiel celebrated Hispanic Heritage Month and the 25th anniversary of the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics in Washington, D.C.

Biggest startup challenge: “Our biggest startup challenge has been organizing a complex and comprehensive idea for teaching culture to children into one single product, and also finding an ecosystem in Miami that supports entrepreneurs building brands, rather than a tech product,” Curiel said. 

Next steps: Continuing the path toward developing a full children’s animation series. In the meantime, the company will continue to share the Latino story and culture through shorter animations and interactive apps. “There are so many opportunities in the works for Mundo Lanugo,” Curiel said. “I can’t spill the beans on some of those yet, but you can expect great partnerships with broadcasters, co-production companies, distributors and direct-to-retail programs.”

Advisers’ views: As a board member, Michelle Spinale lends her expertise to help direct brand efforts anchored in content development and key partnerships to drive awareness, grow a loyal audience and connect with both Latino parents and kids in memorable ways. “I believe Carla and Roberto have the right vision, commitment and passion to make Lanugo Mundo a tremendous success,” said Spinale, brand marketing strategist and principal at The Spinale Group.

Venture Hive mentor Andrew Heitner, an entrepreneur and investor, has been helping Mundo Lanugo on the business side: “Carla is the expert on animation and creative endeavors. I have helped them create a sales funnel in order to categorize and prioritize potential key partners for the animation series, as well as future licensing opportunities. We have also explored together their go-to-market strategy and pricing model for their apps.”


 By Nancy Dahlberg; @ndahlberg


November 16, 2015

Kairos funded by Florida Institute, 500 Startups

By Nancy Dahlberg /

Kairos, a Miami-based human analytics company, found mentorship, a support network and most of its angel investors in the Sunshine State. Now – with a little help from YouTube – the venture-funded startup licensed a key piece of its technology from a state university and received an investment from The Florida Institute for the Commercialization of Public Research

The Florida Institute supports company creation based on publicly funded research, and Kairos recently exclusively licensed technology from the University of Central Florida. Kairos’ CTO Cole Calistra came across a YouTube video by a PhD student at the time who created technology to identify faces in movie trailers, and CEO Brian Brackeen got the licensing process rolling. Some of the profits are shared with the university: “It’s a huge win for both Florida and Kairos,” said Brackeen, who founded the company.

Kairos will be using its Institute investment of $300,000 to hire a couple of computer vision engineers, Brackeen said. Kairos uses three-dimensional data gathered by its face analysis algorithms to measure people’s feelings and interactions as they interact with content and products.

“We believe that data as we know it today is just the beginning for business intelligence, and our mission is to radically change how companies understand people,” said Brackeen, noting that Kairos now owns the intellectual property for all the technology it uses. “Kairos is the only player offering both emotional analysis and facial recognition technologies used to capture decisive moments in people's behavior to empower companies with meaningful metrics. We help our customers understand humanity.”

Kairos has been on a roll. In April, it purchased a startup competitor, IMRSV, gaining valuable emotion analysis technology and expertise. Kairos, now a team of 14 in its Wynwood office, has raised $6 million in total and is planning a $10 million Series A venture capital round early next year. Brackeen, selected as an Endeavor Entrepreneur in 2014, and his team are participating in the 500 Startups Miami Distro program, a growth marketing accelerator in Miami, and also received a $200,000 investment from 500 Startups, a Silicon Valley accelerator and fund. “We are learning really advanced concepts to find new customers,” said Brackeen about the program, which includes eight growth-stage tech companies from around the world.

In the last month, The Florida Institute also finalized a funding agreement with Genetic Networks, a Miami based company with technology developed at the University of Miami. Genetic Networks accelerates drug discovery and predictive medicine through its proprietary data-driven approach that delivers actionable data on both genes and compounds. “Genetic Networks' translational medicine informatics engine rapidly identifies lead compounds to therapeutic targets bridging the gap between drug targets, molecules and medicine,” said Genetic Networks’ founder Gennaro D'Urso, who declined to disclose the funding amount.

Formed in 2007, the Institute works collaboratively with Florida’s universities and research institutions to uncover commercially-viable technologies that may become the basis for tomorrow’s leading products and companies. The Institute provides company-building support services and seed-stage funding to help new ventures achieve development milestones and attract additional private investment capital needed for growth.

A recent study conducted by The Washington Economics Group found that between 2011 and 2015, companies supported by the Institute created of 1,144 new jobs; nearly 80 percent of which were in targeted, knowledge-based industries, with an average salary of $76,628. Entrepreneurs raised in excess of $28 million, inducing capital into Florida companies that may otherwise have been invested outside the state, the report said. Including Kairos and Genetic Networks, The Institute has funded 45 companies.

Nancy Dahlberg; 305-376-3595; @ndahlberg


Vigilant BioSciences gets approval to market OncAlert product in 28 European countries


Vigilant BioSciences, an innovator and developer of solutions that aid in the early detection and intervention of cancer, announced Monday that it has CE Marked its OncAlert LAB Assay for oral cancer risk. What that means: CE Marking allows Vigilant Biosciences to market the product in the 28 countries of the European Union as well as Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Switzerland. 

The OncAlert LAB Assay is a noninvasive, accurate and cost-effective tool for clinicians involved in the diagnosis and treatment of oral cancer. The test, an oral rinse, measures specific protein markers known to indicate risk of early stage cancers, aiding in the diagnosis of oral cancer, along with other clinical factors.

Vigilant Biosciences licensed technology from the University of Miami, and its creator,  Dr. Elizabeth Franzmann (pictured above with CEO Matthew H.J. Kim), is a co-founder of the company. The venture-backed company has multiple distribution agreements secured across the EU and expects to begin shipping the product during the first quarter of 2016.

Kim, who was recently named Entrepreneur of the Year by BioFlorida, called the approval a "major milestone" for the company. "With numerous distribution agreements in place and an aggressive marketing strategy, we are looking forward to making an impact on the high rate of late-stage oral cancers diagnosed globally," he said.

See in-depth story about Vigilant here.

November 15, 2015

Endeavor Miami report: 5 industries with strongest entrepreneurial growth potential

By Nancy Dahlberg /

Technology, healthcare, education services, creative industries and food/beverage are entrepreneurial industries that play to Miami’s strengths and appear to have the strongest growth potential in the local innovation economy, a new report by Endeavor Miami finds.

Endeavor Miami, a nonprofit organization that selects, supports and accelerates high-impact entrepreneurs, produced a report in order to get a better reading on where Miami’s entrepreneurial economy may be headed.

“I believe that Miami is beginning to define itself as an entrepreneurial community,” said Endeavor Miami Managing Director Laura Maydón. “Over time, industries with competitive advantages in South Florida versus other ecosystems will be able to attract resources faster and will have a higher impact in the economic development of our community. This report allows us to have a strategic view of where South Florida's entrepreneurial movement is growing.”

Maydón said people sometimes think that entrepreneurship is mostly related to tech but the report shows that there is strong entrepreneurial activity in several industries. The report also shows in what sectors there is an opportunity to innovate and differentiate South Florida, but resources have to be allocated not to miss that opportunity, such as in education, she said.

Here are a few highlights of the report released this week and available on

Software rules: The technology industry shows potential as a leading industry for entrepreneurial activity in South Florida because of the strong infrastructure of support services, including eMerge Americas, the Idea Center at Miami Dade College, Venture Hive and Refresh Miami. The best evidence of promise is the investment progress: The software and technology sector was among the most active in South Florida in 2014 in venture funding. Furthermore, software and tech jobs are expected to grow faster than overall employment growth in South Florida — 1.6 percent average annual growth compared to 1.2 percent. In addition, the report found that jobs in this sector are expected to grow from about 36,000 in 2014 to 40,000 in 2022, the report found.

Healthcare has a healthy heartbeat: Success stories, a large mentor network and access to a talent pool are helping to drive substantial progress in entrepreneurship in the healthcare and medical technology sector. Indeed, the sector received the second-highest level of investment in South Florida (and this trend is accelerating in 2015). Growth in the talent pool is expected to accelerate with the number of biomedical engineers expected to grow 5.3 percent annually from 2014 to 2022, while the numbers of mechanical and electrical engineers are expected to grow 1.4 percent, all outpacing the average annual growth rate for all South Florida occupations.

Ginnybakes_2946It’s not only about tech: Food and beverage could sizzle for entrepreneurial activity because the ingredients are already here. Miami has been outperforming the rest of the state in food service earnings growth, while the number of firms and sector employment have also been increasing. There’s a foodie culture here, expertise, a talent base and educational opportunities to augment progress. Still, South Florida entrepreneurial investment in this sector has been sorely lagging, forcing entrepreneurs to go elsewhere for funding, the report said. Notably, three selected Endeavor Miami companies are in this sector: My Ceviche, DeliverLean and ginnybakes (Ginny Simon of ginnybakes pictured here).

Innovation gets creative: Similarly, the creative industries sector is seen as a leading player in entrepreneurial growth because of the infrastructure already in place: a pool of multicultural professionals, a burgeoning art scene and a growing network of TV production facilities, fashion designer icons and renowned art events. Some trending areas entrepreneurs could take a leading role in include solutions for making the supply chain more efficient; data analytics for retailers, brands and suppliers; wearable technology; leveraging video and social media for more consumer interaction; and Internet advertising.

Leading education innovation: Education services have underperformed in earnings, but healthy job growth reflects the potential need for more innovation in the industry. While private investment has been low, public investment in the classroom has been a bright spot and “leaders recognize that education is an important area to innovate in if our community is to flourish,” the report said. Game-based learning, online and hybrid learning, and data-driven learning and assessment are a few of the trends driving innovation in South Florida’s education services sector.

“Endeavor Miami will continue to look for the best high-impact entrepreneurs across industries; that won’t change,” said Maydón. “But the report provides us with guidance of where South Florida is growing and allows us to be more strategic about our sourcing. It also helps me think about what type of mentor capabilities and partners will be needed by our entrepreneurs as they continue to develop themselves within those verticals. The more entrepreneurial activity within one industry, the faster that sector will attract the resources needed to grow.”

Endeavor Miami launched in 2013 with significant funding from the Knight Foundation and Endeavor Miami’s local board; Endeavor Miami was the global nonprofit’s first U.S. program. In the past two years, Endeavor has screened 211 companies. Through an extensive selection process that culminated in judging by international selection panels, 11 companies with 17 entrepreneurs are now Endeavor Entrepreneurs, joining the global network of more than 1,100 entrepreneurs in 25 countries.

Together these 11 companies will generate more than $60 million in revenue and more than 1,200 jobs in 2015, the report said. Forty-nine mentors have donated 781 hours since 2013, and 12 of them sit on Endeavor Miami Entrepreneurs’ advisory boards. In addition to receiving mentorship and introductions, Endeavor companies have participated in or have been supported by programs such as EY’s Growth Navigator, Bain & Company’s “Externship” program, Harvard and Stanford business schools and Kellogg’s executive MBA program.

Endeavor banks on the multiplier effect: These high-growth companies not only generate jobs, but their founders become role models and leaders in the entrepreneurship community, inspiring and mentoring future generations to think big and pursue high-growth entrepreneurship.

Nancy Dahlberg; 305-376-3595; @ndahlberg

Find out more about Endeavor Miami

Read the report, “Impact Report 2015: Insight on Trends in Entrepreneurship in South Florida,” find out more about Endeavor Miami and nominate a deserving entrepreneur for the program at Find the report here.

Coming up: Endeavor Gala

Endeavor Miami is holding a gala on Wednesday evening at the New World Center, and all proceeds go to furthering the organization’s mission. Honored with “Impact Awards” will be Jim McKelvey, co-founder of Square and LaunchCode, and Alexandra Wilkis Wilson, co-founder of Gilt Group and GLAMSQUAD. Find out more and buy tickets at


November 10, 2015

Healthcare startup in the spotlight: FIGS



FIGS finds better way to clothe an industry

The best medical treatment in the world can be sabotaged by a hospital-spread infection. Trina Spear and her co-founder Heather Hasson are squarely focused on making a difference there with their mission-driven e-commerce startup, FIGS.

FIGS, a fashion-forward medical apparel company based in South Florida, makes scrubs and sells them directly to healthcare professionals on To shake up an antiquated industry making the same boxy, uncomfortable and not-always-hygenic scrubs for a century, FIGS spent two years innovating the fabric alone.

“We were the first company to develop an anti-microbial treatment so that bacteria and infection and fluids aren’t seeping through and harming the medical professional. That was important to us,” Spear said. “Our fabric is stain-repellent and has moisture-wicking abilities. Think about what Dry-Fit did for athletics: We are the company that is bringing performance elements and technical elements to this industry that has never existed before.”

The scrubs are designed to look nice, too, with lots of functionality — pockets properly sized for today’s devices, medical supplies and other work gear, inside zippers where you can put your your wedding ring or your watch. “These are very important when you are on your feet 14 hours a day and you need something comfortable and functional for your job,” Spear said.

Based in Hollywood with an office in Los Angeles, the venture-funded FIGS is now a company with about 15 people. Before co-founding FIGS, Spear went to Harvard Business School and worked in investment banking: “I was doing very well and was working with talented and smart people, but I wanted to make a bigger difference in the world.”

FIGSINGUATEMALAHasson, a serial entrepreneur in the fashion industry, was trying to help a nurse practitioner friend find a better pair of scrubs — without success. At about the same time, Spear had done a private equity deal on a large medical apparel company, so she knew the antiquated industry needed disruption. They teamed up.

Integral to its social entrepreneurial business model, FIGS (which stands for Fashion Inspires Global Sophistication) has a nonprofit arm, Threads for Threads: For every set of scrubs sold, FIGS gives a set to medical workers in need in emerging economies in Latin America, the Caribbean, Africa and other parts of the world.

“In two years, we’ve donated about 75,000 sets of scrubs in 26 countries, and we’ve been able to reduce the hospital-acquired infection rate there by 66 percent,” said Spear. “It’s really just about having a clean pair of scrubs: Many [medical professionals] are working in dirty jeans and a T-shirt, and they are spreading disease from patient to patient.”

The company also partners with organizations such as International Medical Corps and sponsors medical missions for doctors and nurses to go abroad and help. It has sent in scrubs after natural disasters.

Nancy Dahlberg, @ndahlberg

See more healthcare startups in the spotlight here. 

See Special report Prescription for economy: Healthcare startup energy here.



November 05, 2015

RedCap, Videoo rocket to top in ETBS competition, take home the big checks


David Zwick, founder and CEO of RedCap, and Videoo co-founders Barry Stamos, CEO, and Joshua Stedman, COO, won the Emerging Technologies and Business Showcase. Photo by Jim Donnelly

By Nancy Dahlberg /

South Florida tech startups are finding more opportunities to pitch their businesses – and perhaps take home some big checks.

Twenty-four startups from around the state presented to a roomful of investors and business people on Wednesday at the day-long Emerging Technologies & Business Showcase hosted by Enterprise Development Corporation of South Florida, Florida Venture Forum and Space Florida and held at the Hyatt Regency Coral Gables.

They were selected from about 150 submissions, said Rob Strandberg, president of EDC. EDC has been running the event for several years, but this year the event was greatly expanded with Space Florida’s sponsorship. Along with the opportunity to pitch on stage and network with investors in the exhibit area, offering the winners a meaningful prize that will help take their companies to the next level  was important, said Strandberg. Companies received pitch coaching from the EDC, which runs startup incubators and mentors startups.

The winners, selected by panels of investor judges: RedCap (, a company that brings car sales and service to the consumer, won the growth stage category, and Videoo (, a startup that helps brands leverage social video, won the early-stage category. They took home $100,000 and $50,000 respectively.

The 24 companies represented all areas from the state and included medical device companies from Gainesville, a drone startup and a solar energy company from Jacksonville, ed-tech companies from Naples and a predictive analytics startup from St. Petersburg.

“Events like the Emerging Technologies & Business Showcase promote the growth of Florida-based, high-tech businesses, but also highlight the growing capital formation community in the state and showcase that we have the quality innovation-based businesses as well as the experienced management teams to execute bringing them to market,” said Space Florida President Frank DiBello. “The quality of the presentations was truly outstanding.”

Here’s a closer look at the winners:

Everybody loves their cars – except when they have to buy, sell or service them, said RedCap founder David Zwick. RedCap has a solution for that.

RedCap has developed software that enables automotive dealers to offer their customers “out of store” experiences, which allows a customer to service and purchase without leaving their home or office. “We take all of the pain out of buying and servicing a car,” said David Zwick, CEO of RedCap, based in Fort Lauderdale.

In its pilot tests, RedCap has found that the software improves customer satisfaction, increases revenue by 18 percent and reduces loaner expense by almost 50 percent. “The message is clear that dealers and manufacturers have to change the way they do business,” he said.

Now five years into RedCap (RedCap also offers a successful on-demand driver service for consumers), Zwick says the growth-stage company is at an inflection point. Nationwide, its software solution for auto businesses is in 50 to 60 locations around the country, but plans are to be in close to 1,000 stores next summer. South Florida customers include Warren Henry dealerships, Ferrari-Maserati in Fort Lauderdale, The Esserman Group in Miami, and several area AutoNation stores.

Zwick says he plans to use the money to help hire four additional software engineers and expand its customer service team as it ramps up more pilot programs.

Miami Beach-based Videoo offers software-as-a-service technology built for brands and publishers to better engage audiences through social video, said co-founder and CEO Barry Stamos. Videoo automatically pulls content from Vine, Twitter and Instagram for all-in-one playlists that re-order in real-time as audiences watch, vote, upload and share. Early adopters include A+E Networks, The Huffington Post, Mitu Networks, Bob Marley and Fusion (a joint venture between ABC, Disney and Univision).

Videoo signed two new clients this month, and has about eight new commitments from TV networks and major publishers to use Videoo in pilots, Stamos said. For example, Videoo is helping Fusion figure out how to be more creative with user-generated video and advance its methods of storytelling. It is also planning pilots with the History Channel for more social TV early next year.

Videoo also recently added Spanish and Portuguese and will be launching in Latin America soon, beginning with NBCUniversal Live from E! Latino. Stamos said Videoo, which has raised about $1.64 million, will likely raise another $400,000 to bridge to its Series A.

Other South Florida companies that presented at ETBS were BDEX, ClassWallet, EGLA Communications, Neocis, SettleitSoft, 71 Pounds, SirenMD and Symptify.

“I was humbled and inspired by so many of the other incredible entrepreneurs who were selected to participate. It’s inspiring that so many people have the courage and the commitment to bring new innovations to the marketplace,” said Stamos. “We all talked about how we could get together and help each other.”

More opportunities await. Startups and early-stage companies can apply for the Startup Showcase exhibition and competition at eMerge Americas April 18-19; find more information at The Florida Venture Forum is also taking applications to pitch at the Florida Venture Capital Conference in January; find more information at

Follow me on Twitter @ndahlberg


Action in the exhibit hall at ETBS; photos by Jim Donnelly.




November 02, 2015

Prescription for economy: Healthcare startup energy

 By Nancy Dahlberg /

South Florida’s history of healthcare entrepreneurship has received a shot of new startup energy, and some business leaders see it as the prescription for a healthier local economy.

Consider these developments:

Startupbootcamp, Europe’s largest accelerator that is expanding globally, will announce Monday that it is bringing an accelerator focused on digital health to Miami, its first in the United States. Funded by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and other local and industry partners, its mentor-driven program will help 30 high-potential health-tech startups grow in South Florida.

Three weeks ago, the Cambridge Innovation Center, a technology-focused co-working company, announced it will open a center next year that could eventually house 500 startups in the University of Miami Life Science & Technology Park. That will provide a critical link between the startup community and Miami’s large health district.

Not only are support services for healthcare-related startups growing, but South Florida biotech, medical device firms and health-tech companies have taken the lion’s share of this year’s venture capital in South Florida and almost half of the state’s take. The area’s three leading funding rounds, in fact, are early-stage companies in this industry: Fort Lauderdale telemedicine company MDLIVE’s $50 million financing in the second quarter, Boca Raton-based electronic medical record software provider Modernizing Medicine’s $38 million financing in the third quarter, and Dania Beach orthopedic robotics company OrthoSensor’s $19 million in the first.

“In the last six months, more than 100 business plans have come across my desk, compared to three years ago, maybe 10 or 20,” said Dr. Maurice R. Ferré, who co-founded robotics company MAKO Surgical, which was acquired by Stryker for $1.65 billion in 2013. He’s now involved in four healthcare-related startups. “People are really excited about this area — it is starting to get some buzz.”

To be sure, the life science and health-tech ecosystem is widely dispersed throughout the three-county area. There isn’t a strong, focused cluster like in Boston or Silicon Valley, but there is rich history here dating back more than half a century. Many of the area’s medical device companies trace back in some way to Cordis Corp. in South Florida, where one of the first pacemakers was invented. In the pharmaceutical industry, serial entrepreneurial billionaire Phillip Frost has the golden touch, including founding and selling generics maker IVAX to Teva Pharmaceuticals for about $7.9 billion in 2006. Now he’s innovating again with Miami biotech company Opko Health.

Beyond the history, the infrastructure is here, too. Miami houses the second-biggest health district in the United States after Houston. Three universities, eight hospital facilities with more than 30,000 beds, nearly a dozen research institutes such as the Miami Project to Cure Paralysis and the Diabetes Research Institute, the UM life science park and dozens of early-stage companies operate in a 25-square block area just north of downtown Miami.

In Broward and Palm Beach, medical device firms and life science research are flourishing, helped by the openings of permanent facilities of Scripps Research Institute in 2009 and Max Planck Florida Institute for NeuroScience in 2012. Adding to the momentum was the fast growth of Davie-based MAKO, which is spawning more robotics device companies, including OrthoSensor and Neocis.

In Miami-Dade, there are 1,078 life science companies employing about 10,597 people at an average wage of $79,453, according to the Beacon Council, Miami-Dade’s economic development agency. There are more than 500 companies in Broward also providing wages nearly double the county’s average, including most recently India-based Lupin, which opened a Center of Excellence for Inhalation Research in Coral Springs, creating 45 jobs and plans for more, according to the Greater Fort Lauderdale Alliance, Broward’s economic development counterpart.

These numbers don’t typically include health-tech companies classified under different categories, such as MDLIVE and Miami’s CareCloud, an electronic health-records provider, which together employ more than 500 people.

But these feisty health-tech companies are roaring onto the scene as the critical third leg in the life science-medical device-digital health ecosystem, a trend to which economic development leaders and universities pay close attention. These companies provide tools for virtual doctor visits, big data, electronic health records, pharmacy price comparisons and personal wellness assessments, for example. Unlike their life science brethren with long development cycles, health-tech companies can ramp up and generate jobs quickly.

They are an outgrowth of the merging of South Florida’s traditional healthcare industry with an emerging tech ecosystem building in the tri-county area. And as clusters of specialized companies begin to form in the technology ecosystem, healthcare is a natural attraction as it is one of the region’s strongest industries. Already, the area is seeing sub-clusters forming in medical devices, stem cell therapies, robotics and mobile health technologies, to name a few.

Norma Kenyon certainly does. The chief innovation officer at UM’s Miller School of Medicine runs U Innovation, which consists of the Wallace H. Coulter Center for Translational Research focused on funding promising biomedical research, and the university-wide Office of Technology Transfer, responsible for the commercialization of UM intellectual property.

Currently her office works with 44 UM-related startups in the life sciences, medical devices and healthcare-technology industries, including Heart Genomics, InflamaCORE and MobileCare. Nearly three-quarters of them were formed in the past three years, she said.

VigilantTwenty-eight of the startups have licensed UM technologies, and a growing number of them have received funding. For example, Vigilant Biosciences (pictured here) is getting ready to launch its first product, OncAlert, in Europe aimed at discovering the risk of oral cancer. It has received nearly $8 million in funding, including from the Florida Institute for the Commercialization of Public Research. Dr. Eckhard Podack, a cancer researcher who recently passed away, was the originator of three UM startups, including the first IPO of the crop, Heat Biologics.

“This innovation piece is a very important part of the future health of research and development of new treatments in the healthcare space,” she said. “The technologies available in other schools and colleges become very important as we move forward. Engineering really is becoming very integrated with healthcare. It’s a very exciting time.”

U Innovation started an Idea Portal in the past year to faster connect with and help faculty and students with their life science or health-tech ideas. The ideas are pouring in, and many are coming from engineering, Kenyon said. In the next year, she hopes to start an early-stage fund and offer subsidized space for startups to work.

Ferré sees a similar trend at Florida International University: “I see a lot of excitement from these engineers wanting to start companies and be part of this ecosystem.”

At the intersection of tech and healthcare in South Florida, Ferré sees opportunities in the computational analysis of genomics data, as well as personal activities, areas where Startupbootcamp can help find, accelerate and fund startups, he said. “In this new world of personalized medicine, what technology is doing is democratizing, making it a lot less expensive. ... As an economy we are spending 18 percent of our GDP on healthcare — there’s a huge opportunity to create efficiencies.”

Ferré is also seeing interest from new funds, and to be sure, there has been progress on the investment front. So far this year, healthcare-related companies in South Florida, including health-tech, biotech and medical device companies, have nabbed nearly $176.8 million in venture capital — more than three-quarters of South Florida’s total of $232 million and more than double what South Florida healthcare companies in the sector received in all of 2014.

Venture capitalist Karl Elderkin said he’s excited about the number and quality of deals flowing from South Florida as well as the growth in infrastructure and support services, such as incubators and university programs. He also likes the area’s attractiveness to smart millennial entrepreneurs: “I think that is going to change the economy of South Florida.”

He is founder and managing partner of Athenian Venture Partners, an early-stage venture capital firm with offices in Fort Lauderdale and Ohio. The firm, with $105 million under management, specializes in healthcare and tech, generally making $2 million to $8 million investments over multiple rounds. It plans to raise its fifth fund shortly and hopes to start making investments next year.

Companies like Magic Leap and Scripps attract very talented people from outside Florida “and it is people like that that create more opportunities for more talented people,” said Elderkin, who is also on the board of the Florida Institute. “If our thesis is right, we think we will be early into a market that is very poised for growth. We think South Florida is a good bet.”

Still, funding continues to be a challenge and South Florida and the state receive less than 1 percent of the national venture capital total. BioFlorida, the state’s industry organization, said in its 2015 report that it’s not surprising since Florida’s companies are still mostly at the very early stages, too early for firms like Athenian, and development cycles are long.

EntopsisStartups have had to look far and wide for funding. Hialeah’s Entopsis (pictured here), which is developing a universal platform that would allow diagnosis for multiple diseases easily, cheaply and quickly, found its first support in California, through PayPal billionaire Peter Thiel’s Breakout Labs. Then the company raised a seed round from Miami’s Krillion Ventures and G3 Capital, as well as investors in Hong Kong.

As healthcare entrepreneur-investor Samuel Reich sees it, there are three pieces to a strong ecosystem, and South Florida already has one: the research with universities and institutions such as Scripps, UM, FIU and FAU. “We need capital, and we are working on that, but I think it will follow the science, and we need human capital,” said Reich, executive chairman of early-stage Biscayne Pharmaceuticals. “We need more entrepreneurs, which will bring the money, which will keep the scientists here.”

Todd Holt agrees. He has studied the life science industry for the past nine years, first as part of Enterprise Florida, the state’s economic development organization, and currently as director of business development for the Greater Fort Lauderdale Alliance.

He’s particularly excited about Nova Southeastern University’s Center for Collaborative Research, opening next year. The $80 million center, which will feature one of the state’s largest web labs, an IBM supercomputer and a tech incubator, is aimed at expanding NSU’s basic research in areas like heart disease, cancer and autism and will be putting into place systems to spin out technologies, including helping founders find funding and navigate the regulatory maze.

“That is where we see the returns,” Holt said. “Once commercialized, we can work to have it manufactured here.” That has attracted support services, such as companies providing contract manufacturing or regulatory support.

Not only is South Florida’s diverse population and hospital-rich ecosystem attractive to the startup and scientific communities for beta-testing, clinical trials, customer bases and partnerships, but Jaap Donath, senior vice president of research and strategic planning at the Beacon Council, said Miami-Dade has also seen increased interest from healthcare-related companies locating Latin American offices here. “These are good paying jobs and put us on the map as a center for life sciences.”

Nancy Dahlberg; 305-376-3595; @ndahlberg

See story about Startup bootcamp here.

See story about four startups in the spotlight here.



$79,453: Average wage in the life sciences industry in Miami-DadeCounty

$44,140: Overall average wage, Miami-DadeCounty

2: Rank of Florida among states for the number of medical device companies

92 percent: Growth of Florida biotech industry since 2008, by number of companies

44 percent: Growth of U.S. biotech industry since 2008, by number of companies

$176.8 million: Amount of venture capital flowing into South Florida life science, medical device and health-tech companies so far in 2015

Sources: Beacon Council, Bureau of Labor Statistics, BioFlorida, Miami Herald research


A small sampling of resources available to healthcare entrepreneurs:

Enterprise Development Corporation of South Florida: Provides mentoring and other support,

Florida Institute for the Commercialization of Public Research: Provides funding and support for early-stage healthcare companies spinning out of Florida’s universities,

New World Angels: Not exclusively for healthcare-related investments, but 40 percent of the angel fund’s deals have been in the space,

Startupbootcamp Miami: A new accelerator solely focused on digital health opening in Miami in 2016,

Venture Hive: An accelerator founded in 2013 in downtown Miami that includes healthcare as one of its verticals,


Robotics startup in the spotlight: Neocis


Alon Mozes, left, and Juan Salcedo are CEOs of Neocis. 

Neocis targets dental implant market

By Nancy Dahlberg /

Alon Mozes worked at a number of young companies, including MAKO Surgical from the early days through its IPO. Then the Miami biomedical engineer took the plunge with his own robotics startup, Neocis.

Neocis is creating a robotic guidance system for the fast-growing dental implant market. The system provides the dental surgeon guidance both physically and visually before and during surgery, aiming to reduce surgery time and improve accuracy and outcomes through a minimally invasive approach. The surgeon’s procedure is planned in the software beforehand and the robot guides the drill while the doctor can also see everything on a large screen. “It’s perfect execution of your plan every time,” said Mozes. And if the surgeon needs to change her plan, that can be done on the spot within the software.

Mozes grew up in South Florida, and after getting his bachelor’s and master’s in engineering at MIT, he got his start in Silicon Valley. He worked for SportVision, an innovator in special effects for sports broadcasts like that yellow first-down line, gaining knowledge that would later come into play in robotics. But he wanted to come back to Miami, and returned in 2004 to study biomedical engineering at the University of Miami, earning his Ph.D. a few years later.

In 2005, he became one of the first 20 employees at MAKO Surgical. Mozes helped the robotics company develop software for its ground-breaking Rio system for orthopedic robotics surgery, create its first cadaver lab, and get its first FDA clearance.

He met his future co-founder in Neocis there as well: Juan Salcedo. Salcedo, who received his bachelor’s in mechanical engineering and master’s in biomedical engineering at Florida International University, was a key player in the design of Mako’s first and second generations.

Both men believed there was an unmet need and a lot of potential in the fast-growing dental implant market for robotic surgery. The $4.5 billion dental implant market, driven by an aging population and rising awareness about oral health, is estimated to reach nearly $8 billion by 2020, according to a 2014 research report.

They began working on their idea about 2009, Mozes said. Their prototype, made with scrap metal, looks nothing like what they have now, but it is proudly displayed in their office. “Nights, weekends, in the garage, that’s our beginning,” Salcedo said.

Neocis raised seed funding — its first investor was Fred Moll, who founded Intuitive Surgical and is well-known in the industry — at the end of 2012 and hired its first employee in January 2013. The company’s next multimillion-dollar injection came from a mix of local investors from Mozes’ Mako network as well as some from California.

Now with 11 employees, Neocis has completed its first-generation system and is going through the FDA process. Neocis is raising more money now.

Still, funding has been a challenge, Mozes said, because South Florida is still not seen from the outside as a typical environment for robotics and medical device innovation. But he’s happy to be seeing a growing healthcare innovation ecosystem here, with companies like MAKO, OrthoSensor, Modernizing Medicine and CareCloud among the leaders of the current generation: “It’s great to see them growing here and finding success.”

See all four healthcare startups in the spotlight here.

With Knight funding, Startupbootcamp to open digital health accelerator in Miami next year


By Nancy Dahlberg /

Startupbootcamp, Europe’s largest business accelerator operating in eight countries, will launch its first U.S. program in Miami, with $2 million in support from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

The organizations will announce Monday that the Miami program will focus on supporting and scaling startups in digital health, building on both the city’s reputation as a center for healthcare and life sciences and its position as a launchpad into Latin America.

Startupbootcamp operates 10 accelerators across Europe and one in Singapore — each focused on an industry suited to the location — and has been actively looking to expand into the United States, said Alex Farcet, who founded Startupbootcamp in Copenhagen in 2010. Since then, Startupbootcamp has supported 290 startups, of which over 70 percent have received an average of $660,000 in funding and together have created 1,160 jobs.

After three trips to Miami in the past three or four months, Farcet was sold on South Florida. “It just feels like the right time. We think we are in the sweet spot of being early but not completely pioneers. Miami itself and the health focus, access and visibility with Latin America, the support of the Knight Foundation — a lot of things came together that felt right,” Farcet said. “Miami is ready, and we are ready for Miami.”

Farcet said Startupbootcamp will put its proven accelerator and mentorship model to work helping to find, support, fund and grow 30 digital health startups over three years. Startupbootcamp Miami will invite entrepreneurs from across the globe to apply; 10 companies per year will be selected to participate in the three-month program. Applications will be due Feb. 1 and the first program will begin next spring; entrepreneurs can find more information and apply at

Each chosen startup will receive a three-month accelerator program, six months of free co-working office space, a seed investment of $20,000 with possible additional investments up to $100,000, and in-kind services from partners such as Google, PayPal and Amazon Web Services. More than 100 participating mentors will come from companies, venture firms and universities across the U.S., including Microsoft, CVS Health, MD Anderson Cancer Center, Healthways, Lyra Health, Bessemer Venture Partners, Google Ventures, MIT and Harvard.

The Miami area has a few accelerators, including the Knight-supported Venture Hive downtown, but it’s not enough to support the ecosystem, said Matt Haggman, the Miami program director of the Knight Foundation who is spearheading efforts to develop a tech and startup ecosystem. “We think Startupbootcamp is complementary to what is here because it is focused on a vertical,” Haggman said. “We have this huge healthcare system in Miami, and you are seeing some connection but not enough. This is a way to connect the dots.”

The Startupbootcamp funding is one of the top three Knight grants supporting Miami entrepreneurship. Knight has committed about $18 million to 165 organizations and projects in the past three years, including Endeavor, the Idea Center at Miami Dade College, LaunchCode and eMerge Americas.

Christian%20SealeChristian Seale will run the Miami program as managing director. Previously, he helped build Startupbootcamp’s Smart Transport & Energy accelerator in Berlin. He is also a founding member of Equitable Origin, a certification program for responsible energy production. Seale, who has an MBA from Harvard Business School, has also worked for venture capital firm Maveron, Goldman Sachs, Teach for America and has spent a year in Barranquilla, Colombia, as a Fulbright Scholar.

Seale and Farcet said the decision to focus on digital health emerged after a number of discussions with leaders in the entrepreneurship community. Startupbootcamp will look for companies at the intersection of technology, in areas such as remote-patient monitoring, population health management, personalized medicine, telemedicine, payer administration and analytics, big-data and fraud detection.

Seale hopes some of the Miami program’s startups will serve up solutions for the growing yet underserved U.S. Latino population: “Latinos soon will comprise 30 percent of the U.S. population yet fewer than 4 percent of healthcare providers speak Spanish and many do not know how to approach the cultural and economic diversity within the Latino population. More broadly, we seek to support the eradication of healthcare disparities in the U.S.”

The accelerator location hasn’t yet been selected, but it will likely be a 4,000- to 6,000-square-foot space in Wynwood or downtown Miami with room to grow, said Seale, who has been visiting the area for tech events for a couple years and is relocating to South Florida now. Miami-based Carevoyance, which provides a platform for healthcare companies to access and analyze data, and its co-founder Abhinav Gautam will be part of Startupbootcamp’s Entrepreneur-in-Residence program.

Startupbootcamp Miami will host an internship program, and it will produce educational events and pitch days open to the public as well as make training available online. One event is already planned: Startupbootcamp and the Idea Center at Miami Dade College will co-host an MIT Hacking Medicine hackathon Feb. 20-21, Seale said.

The accelerator will partner with the Frost Museum of Science to test products and services from Startupbootcamp ventures, and is working with the Idea Center at Miami Dade College and U Innovation at the University of Miami to support more local innovation. “We want to help transform Miami into a place where if you want to start a healthcare company Miami is flat out on the top of your list,” Seale said.

In addition to the Knight Foundation, Startupbootcamp is backed by Univision, Nicklaus Children’s Hospital and Microsoft’s BizSpark Program as well as Dr. Maurice R. Ferré, chairman of Insightec and co-founder of MAKO Surgical, Michael Simkins, president and CEO of Innovate Development Group, which is leading the Miami Innovation District project, Miro Ventures and Rokk3r Labs.

Farcet said that historically, the mix of teams in other Startupbootcamp accelerators has been about 80 percent international and 20 percent local, and one of the measures of success for the new program will be how many of the entrepreneurs stay and grow their companies in Miami after the program is over.

“This is a test of both Startupbootcamp and Miami’s broader startup ecosystem,” said Farcet. “There are good programs in Miami already and a lot of initiatives. We expect to inject new talent and new blood by importing people and showing that Miami is a really strong alternative to Boston and California.”

Nancy Dahlberg; 305-376-3595; @ndahlberg

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