September 28, 2016

Carlton Fields provides free legal resources to Florida tech entrepreneurs

Florida-based law firm Carlton Fields has unveiled LaunchtoThrive.com, a microsite that provides legal documents, resources, and free counsel to entrepreneurs in the technology industry.

The aim is to help startups in regional tech-growth markets – including Miami, Tampa and Orlando – master multiple business challenges by providing startup-specific legal services and support at no cost. The site has launched in English and Spanish to ensure that Hispanic entrepreneurs are provided with resources catered to their needs.

“LaunchtoThrive.com expands on Carlton Fields’ longstanding commitment to entrepreneurs in Florida and across the nation. It allows our lawyers to form new relationships and help entrepreneurs grow their businesses from the ground up,” said Joe Swanson, an attorney in the firm’s Tampa office. “Local institutions, such as the University of South Florida and the Tampa Innovation Alliance, provide further, invaluable support to our relationships with these pioneers at a time when Tampa is undergoing a startup boom.”

Carlton Fields’ commitment to local entrepreneurs has led to multiple partnerships throughout Florida.

“The Spanish language component of LaunchtoThrive.com is essential in that it allows us to reach out to a population of entrepreneurs that has been underserviced nationwide, and that is essential to Florida’s future economic growth,” said Swanson.

Hispanics are indeed at the forefront of creating businesses across sectors. A 2015 report by Geoscape and the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce revealed that Hispanics are the most likely to become entrepreneurs; in fact, the number of Hispanic owned businesses was projected to increase to more than 4.07 million in 2015, a 57 percent increase since 2007.

Free legal resources become especially crucial in light of recent data showing that less than half of all startups reach the five-year anniversary of their founding. Furthermore, legal issues are frequently cited as an impediment to success; the cost of top-notch lawyers often discourages startups from even seeking counsel – a problem Carlton Fields intends to solve.

LaunchtoThrive.com features easy-to-access links and downloads of documents such as bylaws, articles of organization and incorporation, trademark assignment and license forms, nondisclosure and employment agreements, and much more. A ‘Recent Resources’ queue includes expert articles and interviews on time management, wage and hour laws, considerations for going public, and data security preparedness, among other topics.

“We’re partnering with diverse entrepreneurs to support the comprehensive business strategies of Florida’s emerging companies,” said Jack Clabby, a shareholder in Carlton Fields’ Tampa office, who has worked with startups and other growing businesses throughout Florida.

“There’s an adventuresome spirit in Florida right now, and we’re happy to be a part of it,” added Gary Sasso, Carlton Fields’ President and CEO.

Visit LaunchtoThrive.com to learn more. Connect with us on Twitter @LaunchtoThrive.

- Submitted by Carlton Fields

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.

 

September 19, 2016

MealPass rebrands as MealPal, unveils 'Pal' feature, launches in Chicago, DC


By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

Screenshot 1 (1)When subscription lunch service MealPass launched in Miami in January, and over the next few months in three other cities, it was all about offering customers lots of lunch choices from a curated list of local restaurants. Turns out, maybe it was too many choices for some customers. 

"One of the pieces of feedback we kept getting was that it was getting increasingly difficult to select what you wanted to have for lunch because there were so many choices on the site ... We needed to make it easier," said Mary Biggins, who co-founded the company with Katie Ghelli. 

So MealPass today re-brands as MealPal, and introduces "Pal," a smart bot that uses artificial intelligence to make reserving lunch easier and more personalized. "Pal will know if you like big lunches or small lunches, if you like cheese, if you like meat or are a vegetarian, if you likes beets, etc, so it can make really good recommendations to you," Biggins said.

MealPal is an app and browser-based subscription service that offers members access to a wide selection of restaurant-prepared lunch dishes near where they live or work, while providing an efficient way for restaurants to increase revenue during their busiest hour of the day. To use the service,  MealPal subscription members visit the website or mobile app to browse the daily menu, reserve a meal by 9:30 a.m., choose a pickup time and skip the line.

In conjunction with the rebranding, MealPal also launches in Chicago and Washington, DC, today with more than 50 restaurants in each city. The fast-growing Miami-based venture-backed startup now with 22 employees followed its launch in the Brickell area with Boston in February, New York in April and San Francisco in June.  In eight months, members of the service have  now ordered over 500,000 meals from more than 1,000 restaurants. Members can use the service in any of the six cities where it’s now available.

Mealpal_beatsNew York is its biggest market, with 600 restaurants from Central Park to Wall Street, said Biggins, who also co-founded ClassPass. "New York is such a perfect market for us, with the density that works really well."

MealPal's Pal bot will ask consumers a series of questions to understand which ingredients they like and don’t like, so they will only see meal options that will please their palates. Pal will remind users to reserve lunch on any given day if they have forgotten, and will integrate lunch reservations in their calendar.

“Our goal is to eliminate the everyday hassle associated with the lunch hour rush,” said Biggins. “The new personalization features and calendar integration take the platform a step further in easing the lunch hour burden for thousands.”

MealPal in Miami offers 50 restaurants in the downtown-Brickell area and three meal plans: 20 meals per month ($5.19 per meal) for $103.80 per month; 12 meals per month ($5.39 per meal) for $64.68; or 6 meals per month ($5.99 per meal) at $35.94 per month.

"People in Miami tend to eat healthier than in the other markets," said Biggins. "There are more Latin influences -- places with authentic cuisine do very well in Miami."

Read more about Mary Biggins here.

 

 

 

 

Following up on White House pledge, Wyncode releases its graduation, placement rates

  WyncodedayWyncode bootcamps end with pitch days. This one is Pitch Day IX at The LAB Miami. Photo by David Salazar.

By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

While Miami's Wyncode Academy has been busy growing its bootcamp business, the coding education startup has also been at the forefront of a national effort to  build a strong -- and transparent -- foundation for its emerging industry.

Last year, in support of the White House and President Obama's TechHire initiative, Wyncode and nine other young coding schools formed a new trade organization called the New Economy Skills Training Association (NESTA). NESTA's purpose is  to establish best practices, standards and increase accountability for claims such as graduation and placement rates for students nationwide who typically plunk down $10,000 to $12,000 or more  to learn to code in under three months. One only has to look at the mess the for-profit college industry is now mired in to know the importance of building in  standards and transparency from the beginning.

Today, Wyncode will release its first independently verified job placement report for 2014 and 2015,  following its commitment made publicly in a letter to  President Obama in March 2015. Wyncode follows New York’s Flatiron School, San Francisco’s Hack Reactor and Austin’s MakerSquare  with its results. (Other bootcamps that have pledged are App Academy, Dev Bootcamp,  General Assembly, Galvanize, Turing School and Hackbright Academy.)

“Wyncode continues to lead the way for transparency in the coding bootcamp industry,” Wyncode co-founder Juha Mikkola said. "This is a major milestone for this type of education, not only in Florida but across the country. We are just the fourth school in the nation to release reviewed outcome results, something that is a major topic in for-profit education."

The findings, verified by accounting firm MBAF, show that  Wyncode's graduation rate is 97 percent and nearly all of its job-seeking graduates found jobs in time. Today, Wyncode is also releasing an interactive web app that allows interested parties, including potential students, to drill down using gender, ethnicity and educational background in order to visualize how students with particular  backgrounds have fared after the program, said Johanna Mikkola, the other half of the co-founding team.

Later today, find the app at http://wyncode.co/studentoutcomes/ and the job placement report at http://wyncode.co/jobs-report/.

Wyncode offers 10-week full-time coding bootcamps in Wynwood and Fort Lauderdale. The program attracts people without a programming background from a variety of careers, including chefs, lawyers, salespeople, accountants, concierges, marketing executives and entrepreneurs, and it focuses on tech skills like Ruby, JavaScript, HTML and CSS and the business skills that startups require to be successful.

Wyncode's report showed that 97 percent of its job-seeking graduates in 2014 and 2015 found work, though some took more than four months; 43 percent were placed in jobs within 30 days of graduation and 77 percent within 90 days. Of those that found work, 73 percent were fulltime jobs; the others were entrepreneurial, internships, apprentices,  part-time or  contract. The percentage of students placed in "technical" roles was 84 percent. The average age of Wyncode graduates is 30.

Here are a few other highlights of Wyncode's report for 2014 and 2015:

 * Straight out of Wyncode, more than 1 in 10 students make over $60,000 per year and 1 in 20 make more than $80,000. The average salary, based on available information from 111 respondents, was $46,200. The majority of graduates stayed in South Florida. 

 * Females graduating from Wyncode have a higher starting salary than males. Females started at an average of $2,000 more, despite the fact the technology industry is male dominated;

 * Wyncode graduates have created 12 startups and counting;

 * Post-Wyncode, students with a high school diploma perform at similar levels to those with advanced degrees and overall placement rates are similar among all ethnicities.

Wyncode Academy is licensed by the Florida Department of Education and has graduated over 300 Wyncoders. About 80 companies have hired Wyncoders and more than 30 companies hiring at least a second Wyncoder. Wyncode's campuses are in the Wynwood Arts District of Miami and Fort Lauderdale’s Flagler Arts and Technology Village, and it is the leading student reviewed in-person program on  Course Report, with over 100 reviews and a 4.7 out of 5 star rating. Current bootcamps cost $11,500.

Wyncode’s next 30-person cohorts, which always end with popular demo nights, begin in Miami on Oct. 3 and Jan. 9 and in Ft. Lauderdale on Oct. 10 and Jan. 17. Apply at wyncode.co.

“Learning to code is the new literacy,” Johanna Mikkola said. “We get a lot of questions if this is really possible after our 10 week course. This is why transparency of outcomes is extremely important to Wyncode, so that prospective students can see the real picture of Wyncode grads after graduation.”

Read more: Learn to code in 10 weeks? Try one day  

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

September 14, 2016

Startup Spotlight: Toy inventors believe ‘there’s a hero inside every boy’

BMSpotlightHeroboys0912+Fly+MSH

Whimzy Entertainment, a Miami startup, developed HeroBoys, bringing thoughtful, age-appropriate superhero fun to young boys in a line of comics and toys. But what about HeroGirls? They’re coming.

By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

Company name: Whimzy Entertainment (HeroBoys is first product line)

Headquarters: Venture Hive, Miami

Concept: HeroBoys is a line of comics and toys for young boys.

Story: Inspired by their sons, Charlie, 8, and Jamie, 6, and the lack of thoughtful superhero-related content available for young boys, Ed and Crissi Boland (pictured above) created the HeroBoys. The startup’s signature item is an 18-inch plush/plastic hero, and related comic books provide fun superhero stories for kids.

“Boys love superheroes. … But there is not much there for boys under 10 that is thoughtful, developmentally appropriate and not violent. Boys also love comic books, and it is a great tool to promote literacy because it combines words and pictures in such a dynamic way,” said Ed, a former venture capitalist with Scout Ventures.

They developed an early prototype and wrote a comic book for a Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign last fall, raising $58,000 and exceeding their goal. But more importantly, it helped validate the concept.

Two prototypes later and the Bolands have a team of six diverse HeroBoys, each with his own name and personality developed through the comic book stories. “These are designed to encourage children to find their own strengths and become the best version of themselves they can be,” Ed said. “There’s a hero inside every boy.”

The Bolands have sold more than 500 HeroBoy toys, which retail for $65. They have published four comic books ($7.99 each), which come in the mail addressed to the child, just like back in the day. In the comic book stories, the HeroBoys have to learn to work together as a team and bring their abilities to bear when the situation calls for it, because they are living in a city that is being overrun by selfishness and narcissistic behavior.

“All the comics are meant to be teachable moments and encourage the values that we want to encourage in our own children, such as compassion, humility and diligence,” said Crissi, a sales expert who managed a business for 10 years. “It is good, wholesome superhero fun.”

This Saturday at 11 a.m. at Books & Books in Coral Gables, the Bolands will give a community reading at a HeroBoys’ launch party, and the first edition of the comic book in hardcover as well as the HeroBoy toys will be for sale. The products are also available on heroboys.com, Amazon.com and will be appearing on Zulily in the fall, the Bolands said. T-shirts, caps, masks and capes are also for sale, and apps and games are in the plans.

Crissi said that during a series of readings in local schools, the girls often asked, “Where are the HeroGirls?” In 2017, the company will introduce HeroGirls. The Bolands have already started to plant them in the comic books as background characters, and some will soon be joining the team. Every year, some character will graduate and new characters will be introduced.

“It will allow us to go to a lot of places where there hasn’t been a lot of representation of superheros — girls, ethnically diverse characters, superheroes with disabilities,” Ed said. “In the comics, we can travel through time and space and worlds and countries. We can run with our imaginations.”

Launched: October 2015

Management team: Ed and Crissi Boland, co-founders, and Tom Butkiewicz, a manufacturing specialist.

Website: www.heroboys.com

Financing: Self-funded initial R&D; $58,000 raised on Kickstarter; currently closing $150,000 angel round.

Recent milestones reached: Fully launched with initial product line; exhibited at the Atlanta Gift Show; participated in the 2016 Venture Hive Accelerator.

Biggest startup challenge: Creating an end-to-end supply chain for a new product, balancing quality content creation with quality product development, manufacturing and distribution.

Next step: Making HeroBoys a “must have” toy this holiday season. To do this, the startup will focus on evangelizing early adopters, developing supplemental media content such as YouTube videos, and focusing on partnerships, marketing and public relations.

Investor’s view: “I’m the mother of five and have two boys in the target market HeroBoys is designing for. It was an easy decision for me to get involved because I know that there is great demand for an alternative option to Marvel/DC comics action figures that tend to be too violent (PG-13/R ratings) and not educating our children at critical moments in their development,” said Melissa Medina Jiménez, executive vice president of eMerge Americas and HeroBoys’ first investor. “HeroBoys has great potential not only to have a positive impact on our children, but we also believe it has an incredible opportunity to become a market leader in the action figurine and comic book series space by providing significant product differentiation through various revenue streams.”

Follow @ndahlberg on Twitter.

Read more Startup Spotlights

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

Modern OM, created mindfully

BMSpotlightHeroboys0912+Display+MSH

 

September 12, 2016

WeWork Lincoln Road launches entrepreneur support program with partners

Wework lincoln road
 
By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com
 
Co-working center WeWork Lincoln Road launched a new initiative offering Miami area entrepreneurs a chance to receive support to achieve their missions, while at the same time giving back to their local community.
 
The new program, called Mission Possible, offers  Miami area companies of all sizes, stages and industries a chance to be selected for 3 to 12 sponsored months of membership at WeWork's Lincoln Road workspace free of charge, along with other services to help them grow their companies. This is a significant value as memberships at the Lincoln Road location begin at $220 a month.
 
"It is a specific way to support Miami locals who want to impact change but also may not have the resources to join the WeWork community otherwise," said Anna Prisse, WeWork's Miami community manager for Miami. 
 
In addition to the collaborative work space, the selected companies will receive:
 
 * Programming from partners such as Refresh Miami, South Florida's largest entrepreneur and tech meetup group, Mentor Day, a new initiative offering entrepreneurs mentorship sessions with experts in their needs; and AGP Miami, an active South Florida angel investor network;

 * A chance to participate in community Demo Day pitch competition and other events;

 * Mentorship and professional advice from members and industry experts;

 * Access to a global community of over 65,000 members through WeWork's mobile app for members;

 * Reduced rates on healthcare, payment processing, accounting/legal advice, and more offered by WeWork's global partners.

What's the catch? Give back.

"We ask that Mission Possible Members donate five hours per person to a nonprofit of their choice for each month that they are part of the program," Prisse said.

More info on the program and where to apply: we.co/missionpossiblemiami 

There is not a deadline for applications, as participants will be chosen on a rolling basis but applications are open so  "the sooner the better,"  Prisse said. There is not a specific number of participants WeWork is looking for. 

"We want the program to be inclusive, not exclusive. We are going to be selecting the members based on how much we can accomplish together during the time of the program," said Prisse. WeWork and the community partners have an outline of what they would like to accomplish but they will will evaluate the needs of each applicant  and tailor the program appropriately, she said.

Mission Possible was inspired by a WeWork program in  Brooklyn called "Take Your Business to New Heights" but will be unique to Miami, particularly because of the entrepreneurial partners involved, Prisse said.

"WeWork has been a valuable partner of Refresh Miami since they entered the South Florida market in 2015," said Brian Breslin, founder of Refresh Miami. “We're very excited to extend our partnership to now include the Mission Possible program. As an organization, providing our community with the tools and resources needed to build innovative businesses is our upmost priority." 

Part of a wave of co-working spaces rolling into South Florida, WeWork Lincoln Road opened last summer and is currently at 85 percent capacity, a WeWork spokesman said. The New York-based company recently opened its WeWork South of Fifth location. At least two more South Florida locations are on the runway: WeWork has recently leased four floors in Brickell City Centre and the entire Security Building in downtown Miami.

Founded by Adam Neumann and Miguel McKelvey in New York City in 2010, WeWork is a privately held company with over 1400 employees. Worldwide, Wework has  65,000 members at more than 100 locations in 12 countries. "The mission of this program is aligned with our own mission where people work to make a life, not just a living," Prisse said.

Follow @ndahlberg on Twitter.

 

September 09, 2016

Do you like Pincho Factory? So does Endeavor

Pinchu Factory

Cousins Nedal Ahmad and Otto Othman of the Pincho Factory, a Miami-based fast-casual food company that has plans to expand. The two founded the company with Nizar Ahmad. Photo by CHARLES TRAINOR JR./Miami Herald

 

The Miami-based fast-casual restaurant chain was chosen to join the Endeavor network and will get help to scale.  

By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

The global nonprofit Endeavor tapped a Miami-based food and beverage company on Friday to join its network that will help the young company grow.

Pincho Factory is now the 15th Endeavor company from Miami, after being selected into the program at Endeavor Global’s 66th International Selection Panel in Boston this week. Endeavor, a global nonprofit that selects, mentors and accelerates high-impact entrepreneurs from all industries, opened its Miami office with Knight Foundation support in 2013. Endeavor Entrepreneurs receive services that include mentorship and access to capital, global markets and talent.

Pincho Factory, a fast-casual restaurant chain created by cousins Nedal Ahmad, Otto Othman and Nizar Ahmad in 2010, brings street food to a casual setting. The name comes from pinchos or kebabs which, along with hamburgers, are the company’s signature menu items. Pincho Factory, with about 150 employees, has already expanded to six locations in South Florida, one in Orlando and has 15 stores in the pipeline. In 2015, Pincho Factory brought in about $3 million in revenue and projections for this year are to triple that figure, due to new restaurant openings and impressive traffic gains at existing stores, the company said in a Miami Herald article in July.

“We have big plans for the future, and with Endeavor’s world-class mentorship opportunities and resources, we know that Pincho Factory will continue to thrive in Miami and beyond,” Othman said on Friday. 

Pincho Factory joins a growing number of food and beverage startups in Miami that are gaining traction. In addition to Pincho, three other local food-related companies — DeliverLean, My Ceviche and ginnybakes — are in the Endeavor global network, and more are in the pipeline, said Laura Maydón, managing director of Endeavor Miami. “We’re looking forward to offering them a suite of services to help them accelerate their growth.”

In an Endeavor Miami study last year, Endeavor found that food and beverage is one of five areas that could sizzle for entrepreneurial activity in South Florida because the ingredients are already here. There’s a foodie culture here, expertise, a talent base and educational opportunities to augment progress, as well as a strong healthy and green trend to ride upon, the report found.

Endeavor’s ISP is the culmination of a rigorous three-day selection process. Steve McKean, a serial entrepreneur, Endeavor Miami mentor and Miami Herald Business Plan Challenge judge, participated as an ISP panelist. Selected Endeavor Entrepreneurs from around the world received unanimous votes from their panels. “The founders of this company embody what it means it be an Endeavor Entrepreneur: innovative, forward-thinking and eager to foster the growth of our Miami entrepreneurial ecosystem,” said Matt Haggman, Knight Foundation’s Miami program director and Endeavor Miami board member.

Endeavor Global supports more than 1,200 high-impact entrepreneurs from over 780 companies across 25 countries. To nominate a South Florida company, visit www.endeavormiami.org.

Nancy Dahlberg: 305-376-3595; @ndahlberg

Read more: Pincho Factory’s burgers and kebabs win fans in South Florida and beyond

Read more: How millennial tastes shape a new generation of food startups

August 29, 2016

Startup Spotlight: Avenue Planet's VR puts you on world's finest shopping streets

Avenueplanet

Company name: Avenue Planet

Headquarters: Pipeline Brickell in Miami

Concept: Avenue Planet is developing a first-person, fully immersive 3D and virtual reality-based shopping experience platform. Users will be able to walk down 12 of the most famous shopping avenues on the planet (including Lincoln Road, Rodeo Drive, London’s Oxford Street and Tokyo’s Ginza), and browse and buy from some of the best stores in the world from the comfort of their own homes. Users simply plug their smartphones into a pair of VR-enabled goggles and are instantly transported to a premier, international shopping plaza.

Story: When coming up with the idea for Avenue Planet, the company’s founding members had a clear mission: to deliver content in a digital environment that feels as though it is being experienced in the real world. With today’s advances in 3D development and the recent penetration of virtual reality (VR) headsets across the global markets, the vision for Avenue Planet is becoming a reality. The company is moving ahead with plans to deliver a platform where the lines between the offline, online and real word user experience start to fade.

Avenue Planet began its Miami operations in February 2014. The company’s corporate headquarters is based out of Pipeline Workspaces’ Brickell location with a development center in Barcelona and satellite offices in Porto and London. Avenue Planet launched the world’s first virtual reality art gallery at Art Basel in 2015. “We believed the international audience and diverse attendance of this international art fair would be the perfect venue to debut our VR platform that enables artists to tell the story behind their work in a different way with a completely immersive experience,” said Kabir Frutos (pictured above), who directs the company’s North and South American business activities, its principle market, and recruits and manages the brands within the platform.

Avenue Planet recently finished its proprietary payment technology allowing for seamless in-app purchases. The company is entering its final stages of development, and its platform will be ready to launch in the coming months. The Avenue Planet team is planning its launch campaign and working to secure partnerships with headset manufacturers in order to provide users with the best possible experiences.

Founded: Avenue Planet was founded in 2011 with virtual reality becoming its main focus in 2014.

Management team: Two founding partners, Bruno Carvalho and Sanjay Daswani, with an executive team that includes Kabir Frutos, North and South America director; Franco Casado, head of design and creative director; Cesar Couto Ferreira, head of Marketing and Partnerships; Daniel Abad, technology director and head of VR payment system; Filipe Mezquita, head of brand and advertising; and Hector Zapata, strategic technical director.

No. of employees: 19

Website: avenueplanet.com

Financing: Founder funded with $450,000; $250,000 in early stage funding; and, of course, much sweat equity.

Recent milestones reached: Created final version of first virtual reality payment system that does not require the use of a keyboard or input device, allowing for seamless in-app purchases and transactions; added five prominent brands to the Avenue Planet platform; acquired three strategic partners.

Biggest startup challenge: A lack of public knowledge around virtual reality. “This means that anyone that is brought into our ecosystem must experience the platform first-hand, which can present logistical challenges as we work with brands all over the world,” Frutos said.

Next step: “We are finalizing Lincoln Road within our platform, which will feature approximately 10 brands and 15 experiences, in time for our Q4 2016 launch event. We will also be making a formal announcement to the media that will include all the exciting companies and celebrities we are working with,” Frutos said. Stay tuned.

Strategy for next step: Continue building upon current relationships and establish new ones with people, partners and brands that want to invest and/or become part of this new ecosystem that will be used by many to access great content and live unimaginable experiences.

Follow @ndahlberg on Twitter.

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