February 09, 2016

Sign up for free Business Plan Bootcamp March 7

Melissa Krinzman (2)Join us March 7 for a lively discussion and Q&A with our panel of experts sharing advice on launching your business, formulating a winning short business summary and pitching to investors. Also hear from a couple of previous Business Plan Challenge winners about their entrepreneurial experiences. You don’t have to enter the Miami Herald Business Plan Challenge to attend our Bootcamp, but of course we hope you will.

Our discussion will be led by:

Melissa Krinzman, the Managing Partner of Krillion Ventures, a $50 million Miami-based early stage venture capital firm that actively invests in financial services, transportation, logistics, real estate and health startups. Her fund has invested in 17 early-stage companies, nine of which have South Florida roots. She is also a veteran Business Plan Challenge judge.

Mark Kingdon, a three-time tech CEO (Organic, SecondLife and NiftyThrifty) and an investor in two dozen early stage companies. His portfolio includes Twitter, TheRealReal, OfferUp, Refinery20 and three Miami-based companies (EveryPost, Sktchy and HYP3R).

Mark Kingdon (1)This event will be at 6 p.m. March 7 at Miami Dade College Wolfson Campus Auditorium, Room 1261 in Building 1.

The Bootcamp is free but registration is required. When you register, the form will allow you to tell us the questions you would most like our panel to answer. Don’t be shy – this way we can tailor the program as much as possible to our audience. Here is a report on last year’s Bootcamp.

Register here: http://businessplanbootcamp.bpt.me

Questions: ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

February 08, 2016

10 startups selected for 4th Venture Hive Miami Accelerator class



By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com Heroboy

As parents of young boys, Crissi and Ed Boland found that super-hero toys on the market were associated with PG-13 rated movies and violent videogames but marketed for kids 5 and up. “There was a disconnect there,” Ed Boland said. “We thought there was an opportunity to provide meaningful, thoughtful, developmentally appropriate content for children 4 to 9.”

So they created the HeroBoys, an initial line of toys and comic books made for young boys about young boys. Last fall, the Bolands raised more than $58,000 on Kickstarter, with more than 200 backers, providing proof of concept and an initial production run. The couple had been working on the project on the side for a couple of years, but last summer Ed Boland left a career in venture capital and investment banking to launch the startup with his wife.

The Bolands’ Miami-based company is Whimzy Entertainment and they will participate in the fourth class of Venture Hive’s Miami Accelerator. “Having spent time on the investor side, I’ve seen first-hand how well prepared and ready to scale the companies that come out of Venture Hive are,” Ed Boland said. “Venture Hive is the gold standard for accelerators here.”

Each of the 10 selected companies will participate in an intense three-month acceleration program beginning Feb. 29 designed to take the companies to the next level, will get free office space in Venture Hive’s incubator for six months, and will get a $25,000 grant. Each class ends with a Demo Day, called The Swarm (pictured above).

Unlike other years when the great majority of accelerator companies chosen were international, this year there are five Miami companies in the class, along with companies from San Francisco, Argentina and Ecuador. “I think the quality in Miami was greatly improved because there was another year of companies maturing. There were dozens of Miami applicants and many were ready to take on the training we do to take a team with a validated product to the next level,” said Susan Amat, founder of Venture Hive.

“Since the Miami DDA, Mayor Gimenez, and Miami WorldCenter made Venture Hive possible three years ago, we have had startups from more than 50 countries in our programs. Our Miami Accelerator is the heart and soul of Venture Hive and the support from the Knight Foundation will help ensure this is the best program we have offered yet,” Amat added.

I n this year’s class there is a biotech company, an Internet of Things venture and a smart hardware products company. “A quarter of our applicants were logistics businesses and three were selected for the program,” Amat said (pictured below). Along with Whimzy, the other companies selected for the accelerator are:

AmatAsombro Extremo Digital (Buenos Aires, Argentina): Founded by professional illusionists and technology experts, this company aims to create stunning technological campaigns.

Big Propeller (Miami): A company designed to help agencies and brands to better manage their social media content workflow, especially when collaborating with stakeholders and clients.

Cetus Labs (Miami): A tech company that builds and sells software to simplify and streamline port terminal operations. Its first product is a Terminal Operating System.

Datil (Guayaquil, Ecuador): A company that builds digital tools to make commerce simple and sustainable for micro, small and medium businesses. by using simple point of sale, accounting and e-billing applications together with legally complaint digital certificates.

Einsof Biohealth (Miami): A biotech company focused on the discovery, development and commercialization of novel, proprietary therapies and OTC products. Its first product, Speedlyte, is an oral rehydration solution.

OneClickShip (San Francisco): A web-based platform that empowers small businesses to take control of their global supply chain. By taking control of their supply chains, small businesses take control of their profits.

SmartLoc (Miami): An asset-tracking company whose core product LugLoc will let you know the location of your device anytime and anywhere. It utilizes both GSM-GPRS and Bluetooth BTE technology to provide you with the location of your device."

Wayniloans (Buenos Aires): A peer-to-peer lending platform based on blockchain technology for the Latin American and U.S. Hispanic market. To bring access to credit for the unbanked and underbanked, Wayniloans makes financial solutions more efficient and transparent for borrowers and lenders.

Webee(Córdoba, Argentina): A smart home system that goes beyond simple home automation and remote control to also provides an entertainment box, which learns from users and programs itself.

Venture Hive also houses an incubator, virtual accelerators and high school programs at its downtown Miami hub. Venture Hive also runs an accelerator for U.S. veterans in Fort Walton Beach and a new class will begin in March. Veterans can apply though Feb. 12 at Veterans.venturehive.com/apply

Nancy Dahlberg; 305-376-3595; @ndahlberg

February 07, 2016

Miami FinTech Forum launches with pitch contest

IMG_3494 (1)

In another new program for accelerating entrepreneurship, Citi Community Development, Village Capital and Florida International University on Thursday night kicked off a Miami Fintech Forum. About 15 financial technology startups were selected to participate in a yearlong program in which they will get help through education, mentorship and access to capital from the Small Business Development Center at FIU as well as experts from Citi and Village Capital. The Forum on Thursday included a pitching event, in which the companies took part in a full day of coaching and mentoring at Building.co, and in the evening 11 of the companies pitched to the crowd and were questioned by an expert judging panel.

Through votes of the audience and fellow entrepreneurs in their cohort, two teams were awarded $10,000 grants: DocuVital, a service to organize, automate and store vital information for end-of-life planning, pitched by CEO Joel Brown (pictured above), and VestMunity, opening the real estate investing market to everyday people through crowdfunding, pitched by founder Yemani Mason (pictured below). The other companies selected to pitch were: FlyScan, Gradvisor, MedXoom, Mosaic Money, OneCloud, Qbit Solutions, RNKR.io, Settleitsoft and Tip N’ Go.

Natalie Abatemarco, managing director of Citi Community Development and Inclusive Finance, explained there would be more events and opportunities for these companies to raise capital because the partnership with Village Capital will open a lot of doors. The idea behind this venture is to reach out to the community with a strong anchor partner in FIU and level the playing field for entrepreneurs in underserved communities. Citi is also running programs in San Francisco and New York focusing on education technology and health-tech. 

“We want to help businesses to scale and help get communities the resources they need in order to survive, to thrive and really revitalize,” she said.

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February 05, 2016

Daymond John kicks off entrepreneurship contest, but first some Shark Tank advice


Photos by Jasen Delgado / www.jasendelgado.com

By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com / @ndahlberg

The American Entrepreneurship Award, a new contest for early-stage Miami-Dade entrepreneurs, used some celebrity magic to draw a standing room only audience to its launch event: Daymond John.

Daymond(3)The Shark Tank star entertained and inspired the audience Thursday with his rags to riches story – he started making urban streetwear while working at Red Lobster. He opened FUBU in 1989 and had to close it three times over the next three years because he ran out of capital. But his passion, and FUBU’s many fans, powered him forward: Now it’s a $6 billion enterprise.

Today, of course, John, who is the author of the new book The Power of Broke, has invested in scores of companies through Shark Tank, rolling up his sleeves and working closely with the companies, including South Florida's Three Jerks Jerky and AquaVault. “The Sharks all feel we are a very small part of a very huge [entrepreneurial] movement,” said John, noting that Shark Tank is one of the top shows watched by kids 5-15 and one of the top shows parents watch with kids. “We’re a part of something that will help the next generation.”

John will be a celebrity judge for the AEA award, a new annual contest offered by Libra Group and Miami Dade College’s Idea Center. It’s is open for applications at www.americanaward.com until April 29. The winner receives up to $25,000, as well mentorship and support services. In addition, Miami Dade College students will also be eligible for a separate $2,500 MDC award.

At the American Entrepreneurship Award event, Daymond John shared this advice:

* Successful entrepreneurs take affordable next steps.

* Surround yourself with like-minded friends who won’t let you quit. Seek out mentors from among the successful business people you know.

* Responsibility must be taken, not given (advice from his mom).

* Success is all about tapping into a movement. It’s about the following you create with your own authentic voice. It’s not the money that will get you there (”Money just drives your problems in a limousine”). And it is all about the hustle.

* What separates the rock stars from the rest on Shark Tank? Proof of concept first and foremost, the companies already have proved customers want the product and they have some sales. Second, the founders have failed more times than they have succeeded; they are so excited about what they are doing, they would do it for free the rest of their life if they could. And third, the business must be scalable.




January 26, 2016

New World Angels goes long with Raw Shorts, leads $1 million Series A round

Antonio-Headshot-2015 (1)

By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

New World Angels has closed an investment in Raw Shorts, a Miami tech startup that enables users to create customized explainer videos. The Boca-Raton based NWA led the $1 million Series A financing round, joined by prior investors in the company, Mosley Ventures of Atlanta, and members of Accelerated Growth Partners angel group in Miami.

Raw Shorts will use the funding to make key hires in product development and marketing in order to “scale the business that we know works and take the product from early adopter to early majority stage,” said the company’s CEO and co-founder Antonio Otalvaro (pictured above).

Explainer videos have boomed in popularity, but many businesses find them difficult and expensive to produce. Raw Shorts created an easy-to-use drag and drop explainer video builder that allows business users to make their own videos. The video builder has already been used by 150,000 businesses, and the company closed out 2015 with its highest quarter yet in terms of revenue and new accounts, Otalvaro said. He and his technical co-founder George Estrella have worked together for more than a decade on a number of prior startups.

“We’ve been impressed with Antonio’s accomplishments thus far, building out a very user-friendly tool that produces a high quality explainer video in mere minutes,” said Rhys L. Williams, co-founder and president of New World Angels.

“In addition to an exceptionally talented management team, the capability of the company’s product offering to provide scale and mass for its users is absolutely breathtaking. These factors are what initially attracted us to the Raw Shorts investment opportunity,” added Randy Wood, the NWA member who led the investment effort. Wood, a co-founder of Fort Lauderdale-based Citrix, will join Raw Shorts’ board.

Raw Shorts, housed in Miami’s Venture Hive incubator, has raised $1.35 million in total, and most of it through a supportive local ecosystem, said Otalvaro. “Venture Hive was the first to believe in us. We were an example of a company that came in with just a solid idea and a team,” Otalvaro said. As part of Venture Hive’s inaugural accelerator class in 2013, which came with a $25,000 grant, Raw Shorts worked on its business strategy and its investor pitch. After that, it received a seed investment from Miami Innovation Fund, which later led to Mosley Ventures of Atlanta investing, and now AGP and NWA, said Otalvaro.

NWA, an organization of about 60 members, funds early-stage companies based in Florida. With chapters in both South Florida and Tampa Bay , NWA typically invests $600,000 to $1.5 million as lead investor or co-investor. The organization also often makes subsequent investments in companies it funds.

In the past two years, NWA has invested in six new deals and six follow-on rounds. Along with Raw Shorts, NWA most recently led a $1.1 million investment in TAO Connect Inc. (TCI), a St. Petersburg-based company that has pioneered a Therapist Assisted Online integrated treatment platform of evidence-based tools for providing online mental health treatment. TCI, a startup from the University of Florida’s Innovation Hub, is initially focused on serving the needs of college students who suffer from depression and anxiety.

Nancy Dahlberg; 305-376-3595; @ndahlberg

Dawn Dickson a finalist for SBA’s InnovateHER Business Challenge

DawndicksonDawn Dickson, founder and CEO of Flat out of Heels, is one of 10 finalists of the 2016 InnovateHER: Innovating for Women Business Challenge, a nationwide business competition presented by the U.S. Small Business Administration.

Dickson’s Miami Beach-based companies makes and sells rollable ballet flats that can easily fit in a purse -- a convenient way for women to relieve stiletto sore feet on the go.

An executive committee of SBA officials reviewed more than 180 semi-finalist nominations and selected 10 finalists whose products and services best met the competition criteria and presented the greatest potential for success. The semi-finalists were chosen at more than 200 local competitions across the country hosted by universities, accelerators, clusters, scale-up communities, SBA’s resource partners and other local community organizations and involving more than 1,000 entrepreneurs.

These 10 finalists are invited to the National InnovateHER: Innovating for Women Business Challenge during Women’s History Month in Washington, D.C., where they will pitch their businesses to a panel of expert judges for an opportunity to win $70,000 in cash and prizes from Microsoft.

For more details on the competition and the other finalists, visit www.sba.gov/innovateHER.


January 25, 2016

Tech Talk: ClassPass co-founder's journey from the Big Apple to the Magic City


By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

Mary Biggins co-founded ClassPass, a fast-moving New York-based company that lets fitness enthusiasts pay one monthly fee to gain access to multiple specialized boutique fitness studios.

Launched in June 2013, ClassPass now has more than 200 employees and serves 37 markets around the world, including Miami, and most recently, Australia. It offers classes at 10,000 studios from the big names to small boutique neighborhood spots and has booked more than 10 million class reservations.

It’s also a venture capital darling, having raised more than $80 million in financing from Google Ventures and other firms.

So what is she doing in Miami? Not taking a vacation on South Beach, although she probably deserves one. Biggins is starting another company — but this time, it’s based in South Florida.

Along with co-founder Katie Ghelli, she launched MealPass this month in its first market, Brickell, with 50 restaurants, such as American Social, Grazionos, El Taco Loco, Novecento, Sushi Siam and Suviche. For $99, members can select online and then pick up a meal from a curated list of nearby restaurants each weekday, which works out to $5 a day if used daily. They can choose from dozens of choices such as veggie pizza, a tuna wrap, zucchini quiche or chicken teriyaki, among the offerings on one recent day.

MealPass creates efficiencies for restaurants because they will get all their orders by 9 a.m., Biggins said in an interview before the big launch day. Customers pick them up in a special line, so there’s no wait, and they will know exactly what they are getting because the photos on the website were taken by professional photographers and include detailed descriptions.

Now a team of 10, MealPass works out of Building.co, a shared workspace in Brickell. Fellow co-workers were beta testers. “We’ve been eating really well and a lot of it,” Ghelli said. “Somebody’s got to do quality control — we willingly take that on.”

Biggins and Ghelli said they expect to be launching in a lot of markets in a short period of time, including New York and San Francisco, similar to ClassPass.

Why Miami? “There’s a lot of opportunity. We see it as an interesting place to test ideas. Brickell is like a New York but on a smaller scale,” Biggins said. And yes, she also wanted to experience living someplace warm.

She began spending time in Miami last spring and found a good tech scene and less competition for talent than in New York or San Francisco. One of the first people she met here was Melissa Krinzman, co-founder of the Miami-based early-stage fund Krillion Ventures. Krillion is now an investor in MealPass.

At a Citi Fintech Meeting last week about women in technology co-hosted by the monthy meetup organization Refresh Miami and held at WeWork, Biggins shared more about her ClassPass journey — how the team went from 35 paying customers the first month (“I am pretty sure I knew 30 of them,” she said) to more than 1,000 customers and a $100,000 recurring revenue run rate in just six months. That is also about the time they began to get investors on board.

She said her experience at Vistaprint and Betterment helped prepare her for the startup life. Here are a few of the lessons learned with ClassPass that she shared at the Citi event:

* Don’t build too much technology until you have extensively tested the business model. At ClassPass, that meant doing many, many tasks less efficiently by hand, but if the company had spent time and money building out the technology at the beginning, it would have been wasted because of the numerous iterations.

* Spend on marketing, but with every channel, test, test, test. Try out different versions of ads and content to figure out what moves people to buy your product. “Once you find it you’ll know you found it. But until you find it, it could be crickets,” she said.

* Learn to sell, and the secret is it’s 99 percent listening. When ClassPass was pitching studios, it listened to what features they wanted and added them constantly, she said.

At ClassPass, Biggins transitioned from an operational role to an advisory role this past summer. She knew it was time.

“I love building things and launching things, and I have a lot of ideas,” she told the full house at the Citi event. “ClassPass has a great team in place, it’s on a great path, it knows what it needs to do.”

But she loves the startup challenge. “You don’t do that in the same way when you are a 200-person company,” she said. “You’re either a builder or an optimizer, and you need to know that about yourself.”

Nancy Dahlberg; 305-376-3595; @ndahlberg

January 12, 2016

2016, Miami calling: Why I'm leaving the Middle East for Miami

AliaBy Alia Mahmoud

Almost 5 years ago, I left home in New York City to move to Tunisia and everyone’s reactions sounded a little something like, "Really? Are you sure you want to do that?!" Now I'm leaving my adopted home in Tunis to settle in Miami and I find myself hearing a similar refrain: "You mean you're not going back to New York? Miami...are you sure?" Yes, Miami. When it comes to the startup scene, these two cities are more similar than one might think.

I moved to Tunisia in 2011 shortly after the uprisings that sparked the Arab Spring across the region. As a Tunisian-American, I was motivated to make a difference and contribute to the growth of a nascent entrepreneurial ecosystem. One that was only just being carved out of a heritage of dictatorship and state controlled business to create a space for new ideas to thrive. I had the incredible opportunity to speak about Tunisia’s “entrepreneurial revolution” in my TedTalk in in 2012.

For as long as I can remember I've been inspired by entrepreneurship, in awe of the innovation startups produce and in admiration of the hope their founders bring to society. Throughout my studies and now in my career, I have been working at the intersection of business and social good – a linkage that I no longer see as a luxury, but an imperative of the times we live in.

Most recently, as the Regional Manager for Microsoft's Corporate Citizenship Programs in the Middle East and North Africa, I witnessed first-hand the impact entrepreneurs can have when we commit to creating an environment in which they can thrive. Take Saphon Energy, a revolutionary clean-tech company who has reinvented the way we harness wind energy through a patented, bladeless wind technology or Grant Fit, a mobile application developed by students that aims at reversing the strategy to deal with type 1 diabetes by adapting insulin injections according to meals. When we collaborate across boundaries to build a community around local innovation, and then connect it to a global support system, we begin to see success stories emerge.

The Tunisians spearheading these successes are breaking from a culture of passivity and crony capitalism and setting an example as initiators, risk-takers and innovators. I highlight some of these stories and their incredible role in reclaiming our legacy of innovation in my 2015 TedxRome talk “The New Carthage.”

Tunisia still has a long way to go to fulfill that potential, but we have made great strides. No one would have ever imagined seeing Tunis on the Forbes top 10 cities to launch a startup nor ever dreamed of winning the Nobel Peace Prize in 2015. But here we are at a crossroads and it only inspires us to work harder and dream bigger in 2016.

So why Miami?

Because like Tunis, Miami is in the midst of an entrepreneurial awakening; and while the context and challenges are vastly different, the opportunity to make an impact on an emerging ecosystem is unique and timely. My conviction that the link between entrepreneurship and new technology is vital to building a robust ecosystem is only stronger now. I want to take all that I’ve learned and apply it somewhere where I can make my mark, continue to learn and, hopefully, bring value. After all, “Miami’s tech scene is heating up” so where better to land in this New Year than in the sunshine state to build a brighter future together.

So here’s to 2016! Thank you, Miami, for welcoming me with open arms. I can’t wait to see what this year will bring.

Contact Alia Mahmoud at @aleyesopen or https://tn.linkedin.com/in/aliamahmoud. 

January 11, 2016

Startups can now benefit from the R&D tax credit

Guay.Louis-Oliver_2014By Louis Guay

Startups, welcome to the R&D tax credit party.

The days of the R&D tax credit’s temporary and retroactive extensions are finally over. Thirty-five years after its original introduction as a temporary provision of the tax code, the federal R&D tax credit was made permanent by The Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes Act of 2015 (“PATH” Act) last month.

In addition, the PATH Act includes two new provisions that will make it easier for startups as well as small and medium-sized businesses to immediately benefit from the lucrative R&D tax credit. These two modifications to the credit are effective for taxable years beginning after December 31, 2015.

Immediate value for startups

The first significant R&D tax provision introduced by the PATH Act will have a major impact on emerging and early-stage startups.

Historically, these startups that have yet to generate enough income to have a federal income tax liability could not get any immediate value from the R&D credit. They had to carry forward the credit in hope of applying it against a future income tax liability.

Starting in 2016, eligible startups with less than $5 million in gross receipts will now be able to use their R&D tax credit (capped at up to $250,000) to offset payroll taxes, generating immediate value.

AMT turnoff

The second key provision removes one of the biggest limitations that had prevented certain small and medium-sized businesses from capturing the credit in the past.

The PATH Act will allow eligible businesses with $50 million and less in gross receipts (based on a three-year average) to apply the R&D tax credit against the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT). This is huge news for shareholders of qualifying pass-through entities (e.g., S corporations and partnerships) who have an AMT liability.

Act now

A common misconception about the R&D credit is that only large companies are eligible and that it’s too complicated to qualify. However, with the two major barriers discussed above mitigated or eliminated entirely, startups as well as small and medium-sized companies have an unprecedented opportunity to benefit from this valuable credit – and they need to start planning now.

Even with the changes, this credit remains one of the most challenging provisions of the tax code; therefore it’s critical for businesses to establish appropriate tracking mechanisms and documentation strategies for their research and development activities. A tax professional with R&D tax credit expertise can assist businesses with qualifying for and claiming the credit. Act now to take advantage of this new opportunity.

Louis Guay is a tax manager in Kaufman Rossin’s Boca Raton, Florida, office, where he specializes in assisting taxpayers with R&D tax incentives. Kaufman Rossin is one of the Top 100 CPA firms in the U.S. Louis can be reached at lguay@kaufmanrossin.com.

January 10, 2016

South Florida tech companies betting on CES show exposure

By Jeff Berman / Special to the Miami Herald

The first products that come to mind when thinking about the annual technology extravaganza known as the International Consumer Electronics Show (CES), which was held through Saturday in Las Vegas, are probably not medical alert bracelets and facial masks to treat wrinkles and other skin-related issues. But several South Florida tech companies touting devices like those as well as more traditional electronics products were among the more than 3,600 exhibitors this time.

The show’s increased emphasis on newer, nontraditional consumer electronics product categories is underscored by the recent decision by the Consumer Electronics Association, which produces CES, to change its name to the Consumer Technology Association. CES is clearly no longer just about audio, video and computers.


Boca Raton-based MobileHelp (www.mobile"help.com) and Sunrise-based MDLIVE (https://www.mdlive.com/) are among a growing number of companies that exhibit at the show’s Health & Wellness Marketplace as the digital health field continues its energetic growth, thanks largely to the increased role that mobile devices play in consumers’ lives.

MOBILEHELP%201“This is a really great venue to announce new products,” said MobileHelp CEO Robert Flippo. Products get great national exposure because of all the media at CES, he said. The show also provides a good way for companies to forge business relationships with retailers, suppliers and other companies, he said. The company was started in 2006 and made the MobileHelp Medical Alert System available to consumers in 2009. The company first exhibited at CES in 2010.

This time, MobileHelp used CES to introduce devices including a Bluetooth emergency button that works together with the company’s medical alert devices and the MobileHelp Connect app it introduced for mobile devices in 2014. The button can be worn around the wrist much like a watch, but it also can be easily removed from the wristband and worn around the neck or attached to a key chain, Flippo said. In case of an emergency, users just have to press the button and they will automatically be able to access MobileHelp’s trained emergency call center operators, who can send help if needed. The button costs $19.99 (plus $15 a month for full monitoring services) and is the first device that MobileHelp has offered for sale to customers, Flippo said, pointing out that his company rents its other medical alert devices. “We’re working on some retail distribution.”

Up next for MobileHelp is a planned 4G LTE Cellular Base Station, in development now, that uses the same kind of touch-screen interface as a tablet, which it resembles. It will become available to consumers in late 2016 with the same rental business model and similar pricing as the company’s current in-home base station, which costs $41.95 a month to rent with a charging cradle, Flippo said. But the 4G LTE unit won’t require consumers to use separate computers to set up alerts, like the current model does, he said. That new product “opens the door to deliver a lot more services to the end user,” he said. It should also help accomplish the company’s goal of increasing the market for medical alert devices beyond senior citizens, he said, adding, “This doesn’t look like a medical alarm system,” but pretty much like a typical tablet.

MDLIVE, meanwhile, first exhibited at CES seven years ago, when the show started its Digital Health Summit, said Randy Parker, the company’s CEO, president and founder. MDLIVE continues to use CES to expose the company’s virtual health service to as many people as possible: Lack of awareness is the “biggest challenge we have in the virtual care space,” Parker said. His company allows consumers to get “immediate access” to a board-certified physician in all 50 U.S. states by visiting the MDLIVE website or downloading its Android, iOS or Windows app, he said. MDLIVE has deals with several health insurance companies, so users enrolled in one of those plans would just make a small co-payment to use MDLIVE, he said. It costs $49 to use the service if paying for it out of pocket without a health insurance plan, he said. This year at the show, the company was “going to hand out thousands of free” virtual MDLIVE visits with a board-certified doctor, he said.


NewvertThe increased popularity of mobile-based health features also plays a major role in the growth of the wearables market, made up largely of devices that can track fitness results and also measure heart rate, pulse and other data.

This year was the third time that Fort Lauderdale-based Vert has exhibited its "Vert Wearable Jump Monitor at CES, said Martin Matak, its president and founder. The company’s initial product targeted athletes, who can clip the small, black device onto their clothing near the waste. Or they can integrate the monitor into a separate article of clothing, such as the belt that comes with the product as part of a $124.99 bundle.

When Vert exhibited at CES three years ago, in Eureka Park — the specialized exhibit area for startups — the goal was to gauge attendees’ reaction, Matak said; “I think we had a great story to tell and I think CES is a great platform to do that.” The reaction was strong enough that Vert increased the size of its CES booth each time since then.

At this year’s CES, Vert introduced Vert2, an enhanced version of its device that adds the ability to measure the intensity, exertion and stress levels of the person wearing it. The new device is expected to available to consumers in May. Vert also said it partnered with Zensah, a Miami company that specializes in apparel featuring compression technology that, according to the Zensah website, “draws sweat away from the body, allowing the garment and athlete to stay cool, dry and light.” (http://www.zensah.com/contact-us/) In addition to its own website myvert.myshopify.com, Vert has also sold its device through Amazon.com. The partnership with Zensah may allow Vert to expand into brick-and-mortar retail because of the Miami company’s relationship with dealers including Dick’s Sporting Goods, Matak said.


Although the digital health and wearables categories are growing significantly — and those trends were underscored by the dedicated sections for each of them on the CES show floor — the same thing couldn’t exactly be said for beauty-related technology products at the show, specifically the low-level laser therapy (LLLT) products fielded by Boca Raton-based Apira Science (http://www.apirascience.com/).

But Apira, started five years ago by its president, Jeff Braile, and two partners, received a significant amount of publicity when it exhibited its first product, the $695 iGrow Hair Growth System, in Eureka Park last year, Braile said. That product is worn on the head like a helmet and treats thinning hair and balding in men and women, according to the company, which says at its website that LLLT “energizes cellular activity within the follicle” to promote hair growth.

It was “one of the best decisions we ever made,” said Braile of exhibiting at CES in 2015. Apira returned this time to Eureka Park to introduce the iDerma Facial Beautification System. Like the earlier product, iDerma is a fully wearable device. But instead of being worn on the head like iGrow, iDerma slips over the face and claims to treat various skin disorders. We’ll leave it to medical experts to say whether the device indeed accomplishes those goals. After all, unlike a product such as MobileHelp, whose benefits can be confirmed in only a few seconds on the show floor, the results from using a product like iDerma would take longer to see. Apira’s website includes a link to a published medical report touting the effectiveness of LLLT. The basic iDerma system will cost about $349 and include an anti-aging mask. The company will sell additional masks – one for skin lightening and the other for acme treatment – at $100-$200, said Braile. The company is hoping to make the products available at retail in the second quarter of 2016, he said.


MatrixxThe devices shown by Miami Beach-based AdMobilize (web.admobi"lize.com/) and Miami-based Webee (webee"life.com/) at CES last week fell into a wide category that, like wearables and digital medicine, has become increasingly popular in the tech space and CES in recent years: the Internet of Things (IoT) for the smart home.

AdMobilize has followed its AdBeacon advertising analytics device that measures the effectiveness of online ads with Matrix, a device that is sort of the exact opposite in its concept. While AdBeacon was designed to focus entirely on one application, Matrix is a device targeted at application developers that was designed to make it easier for them to build a wide range of IoT apps— including motion detection, Bluetooth and GPS — in a matter of minutes, according to the company. This will significantly cut down on costs as well as time, said Rodolfo Saccoman, AdMobilize CEO and founder. AdMobilize will release Matrix to developers in May at $299.99. The company raised $104,157 for the project on Kickstarter last month, and Matrix won the 2016 CES Innovation Award in the category of “Tech for a Better World.”

Saccoman, who attended CES for three years “just to explore,” exhibited at the show for the first time this year, at Eureka Park, he said. It was too soon to gauge what kind of exposure Matrix would achieve at the show, he said last week, but it was “rewarding just to be here and show the product.”

WEBEE%201Webee also used crowdfunding for the smart home hub it spotlighted at CES. The company sought $50,000 via Indiegogo in 2014 for its Webee smart home hub and ended up raising nearly $75,000 instead, said Lucas Funes, its CEO and founder. The device allows users to control several smart devices in their homes through one mobile app. It also uses artificial intelligence to provide energy monitoring inside the home, said Funes, telling us that the device learns the user’s energy consumption patterns, then detects anomalies in energy usage and makes suggestions to save energy.

After exhibiting at Eureka Park for the first time last year, it stepped up its presence at the show in 2016 with a booth in the Smart Home Marketplace, he said. Exhibiting at CES allows the company to demonstrate its product again and keep in touch with its business partners, he said.

The South Florida company with the most traditional consumer electronics product line among these companies — computers — opted to not even exhibit on the show floor. Instead, Miami-based custom PC maker Origin PC once again set up exhibit space offsite at the nearby Cosmopolitan hotel. The company has been offsite each year since 2010 because the “more controlled environment” that’s free from the “chaos” of the show floor makes it easier to meet with business partners and reporters, said Kevin Wasielewski, CEO and co-founder.

“Not everyone that comes to CES is our customer,” said Hector Penton, chief operating officer and another co-founder. One look at the new products Origin is showing this week underscores that. They include Omni, a customizable all-in-one gaming desktop PC featuring a 34-inch curved Samsung monitor that will start at $1,999 and can climb to well over $10,000 when it becomes available this quarter. It’s targeted at computer gamers looking for a powerful, customizable PC that can handle the latest computer games. Another new product is Chronos, a small but powerful desktop PC for gaming. The latter product will become available to consumers next month starting at about $1,699 and can top out at much more than that, Wasielewski said. That’s clearly a far cry from the sub-$1,000 price point of typical consumer PCs today.

Photos  by Jeff Berman