November 13, 2017

Miami is heating up with startups. Babson GEM report sheds light on who they are.

GEM

By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

If it seems like everyone you meet is an entrepreneur these days, there’s a reason for that.

Miami has one of the highest rates of new entrepreneurial activity in the country, nearly twice the national average, according to a 2016 Global Entrepreneurship Monitor report released Monday by Babson College.

While 12.6 percent of Americans were starting or running new businesses during the past two years, 22 percent in Miami were doing so, according to the GEM report. And they are likely to be older and more educated with a higher income than their counterparts in many other cities.

Miami has long depended on small businesses more than large corporations. For the past decade, it has been a hotbed for new business creation — a trend that has caught fire as tech-related startups have increased. In South Florida, as in other areas of the country, organizations and universities have been focused on accelerating entrepreneurship with new programs, mentorship, pitch opportunities and co-working spaces. Even Babson itself has launched an accelerator for women and graduate programs in Miami recently.

 

For the first time, the highly-watched study included a city-level analysis of entrepreneurship in Boston, Miami and Detroit to provide a window into how entrepreneurship thrives locally. “It’s important to identify and monitor a city’s needs and monitor progress relative to entrepreneurship, whether that means, for example, supporting women or youth entrepreneurs or assisting ventures that introduce innovations or create jobs,” said Donna Kelley, a Babson College professor and co-author of the report.

The American Dream is alive and well, according to the study. Nationally during the past two years, more than 25 million Americans were starting or running new businesses in the United States. More than half of Americans see good opportunities around them for starting a business. That’s 57 percent versus 41 percent globally — a sharp rise from the depths of the recession in 2009, in which just 28 percent saw good opportunities.

In Miami, 65 percent perceive good opportunities around them and more ventures have international aspirations than a lot of other areas.

However, the report isn’t all sunny. Miami entrepreneurs start businesses out of necessity and don’t last more than a year more often than the nation as a whole. Miami also trails in innovation.

[READ MORE: What’s the average tech salary? How many startups are sprouting? A by-the-numbers look at Miami]

Here are some of the GEM report’s national and local findings about Americans who are starting or running new businesses:

▪ It’s not all millennials in hoodies eating ramen noodles, and that’s not because of the weather. Those most likely to start or run a new business in Miami are in the 35-54 age group and in the highest income category, above $100,000. Miami entrepreneurs are also more likely to have some graduate school education than the nation as a whole.

▪ U.S. entrepreneurs are driven most by opportunity (88 percent). Those who started businesses out of necessity nationally dropped to 11 percent. However, in Miami, nearly one in five entrepreneurs — 19 percent — are driven by necessity rather than opportunity.

▪ Thirty-seven percent of all U.S. entrepreneurs are developing and delivering innovative products or services, the highest level on this indicator in 15 years. However, in Miami, that level is just 24 percent, compared to 46 percent in Boston and 43 percent in Detroit.

▪ Miamians are most likely to start business in professional services, followed by wholesale/retail and manufacturing/transportation, the study found.

▪ The gender gap is wider in Miami — 28 percent of males versus 16 percent of females are starting or running new businesses than in the nation as a whole. Still, the slight overall rise in U.S. new entrepreneurial activity is because more women entered entrepreneurship last year than the year before, while this level has remained the same for men.

▪ Compared to national averages, Miami and Boston have more than twice the proportion of entrepreneurs who plan to have more than 25 percent of their total sales go to international markets. And in Miami, more new businesses have international aspirations than established businesses.

▪ Miamians are bullish. They are more positive about their entrepreneurial capabilities and report a lower fear of failure than the nation as a whole. More expect to add employees, too.

Now in its 18th year, GEM is the largest single study of entrepreneurship in the world. The GEM U.S. team, based at Babson College in Massachusetts, is one of 65 national research teams that conducted an annual adult population survey in their economy in the summer of 2016.

The survey results tracked similar trends found in the Kauffman Foundation’s reports, which showed the Miami metro area as No. 1 in the country for new business creation. However, Kauffman’s reports also ranked Miami near the bottom of 40 metro areas for growth entrepreneurship.

Read more about the GEM report here.

Follow @ndahlberg on Twitter.

November 08, 2017

Powerful, a fast-growing Miami food & beverage startup, attracts $4 million in funding

By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

CarlosPowerful, a Miami-based food and beverage startup offering all-natural, high-protein products for active lifestyles, has been on a growth tear the past year, doubling the number of U.S. stores the product is sold in. Now the company has raised $4 million in funding as it expands into additional product categories.

The Series B funding was led by River Hollow Partners, a lower mid-market private equity firm focused on consumer and retail brands in the natural products space. The company has also secured ABL financing through a partnership with Gerber Finance, a leading asset-based lending financial company with headquarters in New York City.

Carlos Ramirez launched Powerful (then called Powerful Yogurt) in March 2013 after years as a marketing and strategy consultant for global companies. He helped launch or expand other food products around the world, including Greek yogurt, and wondered why no one was branding the product for athletes. Although it has since expanded its focus, Powerful was the first company to market dairy products to the needs of active men, said Ramirez, a Venezuelan native who received his MBA from the University of California Berkeley.

 “The idea of a dairy product designed with active men in mind was a very controversial concept to many. It completely disrupted the dairy category and put us in the spotlight, but most importantly, it proved very successful,” said Ramirez.

 But women were big buyers too, more than half of sales, and now Powerful is a multi-category active lifestyles brand for both genders. Its  products are in 10,000 U.S. stores -- up from 5,000 less than a year ago -- and they include Walmart, Target, Kroger, Stop n’ Shop and Shoprite, as well as Amazon and the company’s website. On its own website, powerful.co, Powerful offers a subscription where customers can create a custom recurring product bundle at a discounted price.

Powerful Yogurt, Powerful Drinks and Powerful Oatmeal are part of the lineup now, all of which are high in protein and made with natural ingredients, and there's more to come, including new product lines and international expansion, Ramirez said.  “The capital provided gives us the additional resources we will use to reach our ambitious goals as we continue to expand the product offerings and increase our footprint in the U.S. and beyond.”

In early 2018, Powerful plans to add a smoothie to its lineup, in a convenient on-the-go pouch format. Each all-natural smoothie will serve up 22 grams of protein in flavors like banana, mixed berry and vanilla.  

River Hollow is Powerful’s first institutional investment partner. The new funding will further support product development, manufacturing, and sales and marketing.

“We partnered with Powerful because it is uniquely poised for success,” said Charlie Baynes-Reid of River Hollow Partners, noting Powerful's seasoned management team and clear brand vision and mission. “You typically see new companies come in and try to create their own niche specialty, but what Powerful has done really makes a significant impact through disruption in an already successful category, and that is something l saw as very compelling as a private equity partner.”

Last December, Powerful's Ramirez was the fifth Miami food and beverage entrepreneur selected to join the global network of Endeavor, a nonprofit that selects, mentors and accelerates high-impact entrepreneurs. In an Endeavor Miami study in 2015, 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: a foodie culture, expertise, a talent base and educational opportunities, as well as a strong healthy and green trend to ride upon.

READ MORE ABOUT POWERFUL HERE.

Follow @ndahlberg on Twitter.

 

Powerful

November 07, 2017

Real estate software startup Gridics raises $1.6 million

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Gridics, a Miami-based real estate software startup, announced it has raised $1.6 million in additional seed capital.  

The round was led by BH3, a real estate developer with projects in South Florida and New York City, and includes existing investor Dune Road Capital. It builds on the $1.1 million Gridics raised in April and brings its total funding to  $3.74 million.

The company will use this investment to accelerate development and sales of the Zonar.City platform to cities and real estate developers.

Gridics, short for grid analytics, was founded in 2015 to change the way cities and real estate developers interact with zoning codes.  By bringing 2D text to a visualized 3D interface, the company is streamlining an antiquated process. Miami developer Avra Jain is also an investor in the company. 

 From applications on its platform, users can visualize real estate data in order to make smarter investment and development decisions while streamlining inefficient processes in the real estate world, the company said. For example, the Zonar.City application, launched earlier this year, helps bridge the gap between the private sector development community of architects, developers and attorneys by automating development feasibility analysis and streamlining the development plan approval process.

 CEO Jason Doyle said Gridics is seeing strong early adoption of the application by city and county planning, zoning and economic development departments as well as developers, architects, commercial brokers and land use attorneys in the private sector.

 “In the coming months, we will be opening all five boroughs of New York City on the platform and expect to add several direct city contracts," Doyle said.

In April, Gridics announced a contract with the City of Miami to use Zonar to streamline the analysis and processing of development plan reviews.  

 "Using Zonar, we are able to identify new development opportunities, quickly run custom scenario analyses and view applicable variances and waivers.  That analysis used to take us days to complete and cost thousands of dollars but can now be handled in a few minutes with Zonar, " said BH3 Principal Daniel Lebensohn, in a news release.

 

November 06, 2017

Boca Raton drone software company has eye on Florida's public safety

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On the left: Rex G. Ciavola Jr., co-founder and president of EagleEye Intelligence On the right: Scott H. Adams, co-founder and CEO of EagleEye. (EagleEye Intelligence / Courtesy)

 

By Marcia Heroux Pounds

Imagine a drone swooping in to identify a kidnapping suspect’s car on a road, potentially saving a child. Or identifying a shooter targeting a crowd, such as in the recent mass murder in Las Vegas. And after a storm like Hurricane Irma in Florida, documenting damage or even helping in search and rescue.

All of those and other applications are being pursued by EagleEye Intelligence, a two-year-old Boca Raton software company co-founded by long-time entrepreneur Scott Adams.

EagleEye’s drone security systems are catching the attention of public safety and law enforcement agencies, while also attracting investors.

READ THE SUN SENTINEL STORY HERE

November 04, 2017

Nuvola brings digital white-glove service to the hotel industry

SBDC-Success-Story_Juan-Carlos-Abello-NUVOLA-1
 

By Ana Acle-Menendez

Perhaps no other industry relies as heavily on customer service as the hotel industry.

So, imagine if there was a way for guests to communicate to staff directly and conveniently through the touch of a button on their mobile phone. And imagine if guests would be notified of happy hour specials while walking by the bar in real time, allowing hotels to gather behavioral data and provide better service.

Juan-Carlos-Abello-NUVOLA-2That communication platform was imagined and created. Now, it is offered by a guest service management software developed by Nuvola, a Miami-based company founded by Juan Carlos Abello, who worked as a manager at various hotels.

But while Abello developed a solution for hotels, he needed solutions of his own to grow his new startup business.

He heard about the Miami Herald Business Plan Challenge, a contest for startup entrepreneurs, through Florida International University (FIU), his alma mater. While creating the video presentation for the contest, Abello then learned about the Florida SBDC at FIU — the small business development center at the College of Business, which provides no-cost consulting to entrepreneurs and small-business owners.

“My biggest obstacle was closing on my first customers,” said Abello, who earned an MBA from Emory University and a bachelor’s degree in international business from FIU. “In technology, if you don’t have references and you’re selling software that’s intangible, it’s a tough sales pitch. Closing on my first 20 to 30 customers was the biggest challenge.”

He specifically wanted guidance on finding an investor.  “In my particular case, I was looking to accelerate the growth of the company,” he said. “I was looking for funds and I was assigned to an advisor who had experience as an investor.”

For the next six months, he met with the expert consultant every two weeks on Saturdays, going over spreadsheets, sales pitches and the program to grow more capital.

It soon paid off.

“I was extremely satisfied because I was able to raise additional funds for the company,” Abello said. “I closed with two investors and now basically I’m living my dream.”

What started three years ago with business development and sales of $30,000 doubled every year. Now Nuvola is well over $1 million in sales this year, Abello said.

What’s more, his one-man team has now grown to 18 full-time employees.

“I would recommend the SBDC,” Abello said. “First, because they understand that you’re an entrepreneur — you don’t have a flexible schedule — and most of the time they were able to accommodate my needs.

“Second, I felt that every single member of the organization that I interacted with was professional, willing to assist and the advice they gave was definitely significant in terms of the objective that I had,” he continued.

“Lastly, it’s a free service,” Abello said. “They do understand that starting a business is not easy and you’re going to face a lot of obstacles. Most of the time they know what obstacles you’re going to face so you can anticipate them, which is great.”

Additionally, he said he made friends during the process and still keeps in touch with his advisor. He is also mentoring others so they can sell to their first 20 to 30 customers before going to investors.

By the way, in case you’re wondering, Abello and his team won first place in that Miami Herald Business Plan Challenge in the FIU Track category. That’s another feather in his cap that he can use for marketing purposes.

 

Ana Acle-Menendez wrote this article for Florida SBDC at FIU, which gave Starting Gate permission to post it.

 

READ MORE about Nuvola here. 

 

November 02, 2017

Blubeta and Healthsnap Solutions take part in MarketFit Acceleration Bootcamp in Silicon Valley

 

Marketfit

 

In partnership with Global Silicon Valley Labs (GSVlabs) and Google Developers Launchpad, MarketFit traveled to Silicon Valley with the team of co-founders from Healthsnap Solutions and Blubeta for its 2017 MarketFit Acceleration Bootcamp. For 5 days, they attended series of talks and 1-on-1 mentoring sessions in areas such as Lean Business Canvas, Product, Growth Hacking, and Fundraising, along with six other local and international startups. As part of the program, the startups spent a day at the Google Launchpad San Francisco campus discussing UX/UI and Design Sprint with Google mentors.

In total, the startups individually met over 20 local mentors, ranging from successful entrepreneurs, investors and senior level executives. The mentors spent approximately 1 hour with each startup, giving an outside look into their businesses and challenges and allowing for constructive dialogue and feedback. The Silicon Valley week concluded with a “mock” pitch competition in front of a jury of seven, including Venture Capitalists, entrepreneurs and angel investors from Silicon Valley. Yenvy Truong, CEO of Healthsnap Solutions carried the Miami pride by winning best pitch from the jury.

Back in Miami, the teams spent two additional days focusing on actionable milestones, fundraising strategy, and team structuring.

“We received a lot of feedback forcing us to look into what we have been doing so far and where do we go from here. Every startup should consider going through this program. MarketFit gave us an opportunity to reset and evaluate our position in the market. From this enriching experience, we were able to pivot and shift focus in order to scale,” stated Antonio Manueco, Co-Founder of Blubeta.

“The experience was amazing and the knowledge we brought back, we feel will trickle into the Miami system. After that opportunity in Silicon Valley, we feel as a company; we're able to take a big jump to hyper-growth,” Truong said.

“South Florida is a fast-growing startup ecosystem, and we are very excited to be part of this process, bridging the gap between Miami and Silicon Valley in partnership with GSVlabs, Google Launchpad and our team of mentors," said Roberto Machado from MarketFit.

MarketFit is currently receiving applications for the next Silicon Valley/Miami Bootcamp, which will take place late January 2018.

To learn more about the growth acceleration programs and how they are ideal for second stage startups, please visit https://marketfit.us/startup-bootcamp/.

- Submitted by HealthSnap

 

October 27, 2017

Innovation festival unbound lands in Miami Nov. 1-2

 

  Unbound

By Daniel Seal 

Daniel SealFive years ago, I saw there was a need for a forum that could connect brands and corporations with grassroots startups and the cutting-edge technology that they offer. With so much innovation and ingenuity on the start-up stage, I saw an opportunity to bridge that gap between growing and established brands and the new ideas that will inevitably shape how we live and how we do business. That is how unbound was born. For startups, festivals are the opportunity to meet individuals crucial to their future success: investors, clients and partners, and for organizations, unbound festivals are where they can build their own platforms, connect with key audience members, and deliver but also look beyond their strategic objectives.

Anchored by annual festivals in London and Singapore, we wanted to add a third festival to the roster, and Miami was the best destination for us. As the gateway to the Americas, Miami and its thriving entrepreneurial community – connecting the US and Latin America – is the perfect backdrop as it’s now on everyone’s radar, from venture capitalist firms, to funds and angel investors from across the globe.

Next week, Mana Wynwood will host the first unbound Miami festival. The two-day event kicks off on Wednesday, November 1, and will gather 100+ future-focused speakers from the worlds of fintech, adtech, AI, healthtech, eCommerce, robotics and more, as well as feature immersive brand experiences, pitch sessions and startup battles. We have assembled a prestigious lineup of speakers (from VICE Media, Twitter and Slack to Marriott, VISA and Johnson & Johnson), sessions, and partners that set this event apart from any other taking place in South Florida.

ProColombia will be using unbound Miami as a platform for its annual Colombia Bring IT On campaign, bringing together 120 Latin American startups to meet brand and corporate decision makers in Miami with experience in mobile applications, digital animation, video games, digital marketing and IT solutions.

In addition, unbound Miami will present the Female Founders Startup Challenge, which will see eight female founders battle for access to a place on the Babson College Women Innovating Now (WIN) Lab program. Claro Americas will also be hosting a startup battle to showcase the best innovations in the areas of Internet of Things, artificial intelligence, and ecommerce, among others. The winner will have the chance to visit the company’s facilities in Guatemala.

We hope you can join us and participate in what is sure to be a memorable event. Please follow this link to register and use discount code sgate50.

 

When: November 1 & 2, 2017- 9:00am – 5:00pm

Where: Mana Wynwood, 2217 NW 5th Ave, Miami, FL 33127

Who: 3,000 attendees – made up of 35% corporate and brand executives, 35% founders and entrepreneurs, 15% digital and media agencies, 5% government and trade agencies, 5% investors, 5% journalists.

 

Daniel Seal is the Founder & CEO of unbound.

October 26, 2017

Endeavor taps Miami-based Chargello to join global network

Chargello

 

By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@MiamiHerald.com

Your phone is dead – again.

In our world where a dead phone is a catastrophe, Miami startup Chargello has a solution for that. Its proprietary battery device, already available at thousands of venues worldwide, can simultaneously charge six phones three faster than a wall charger and four times faster than a battery pack.

ChargelloteamThis week, the entrepreneurs behind Chargello, co-founders Johnny Bosche and Freddy Sidi, were selected as Endeavor Entrepreneurs at Endeavor’s 75th International Selection Panel held in Sofia, Bulgaria. Endeavor is a global nonprofit organization that selects, mentors and accelerates high-impact entrepreneurs.

Bosche and Sidi, both born in Latin America, founded the ad-tech company in Miami in 2015 and began selling the product last year. Chargello is focused on building a platform to solve the low-battery problem in public places, such as restaurants, hotels and airports.

The batteries not only charge phones, but serve as an advertising platform. Chargello’s batteries can be found in about 5,500 businesses across 22 countries, and the startup is working with global brands such as Diageo, Heineken and Uber. Locally, the devices can be found at Casa Tua, Cipriani, Prime 112, Morton’s, W Hotel, Confidante, One Hotel and the Collection car dealership, among many other businesses, said Bosche, in a phone interview from Sofia. Former Miami Heat star Alonzo Mourning is a shareholder and brand ambassador.

Chargello is a team of 14 in Miami, but it has more than 200 employees through partnership businesses in the countries it sells in, Bosche said.

“We’re looking to scale globally and get access to top-tiered talent. Our goal is to be in 100 countries by the end of next year,” Bosche said. “We believe Endeavor will be an undeniable resource to us as we expand.”

Endeavor Entrepreneurs receive services that include mentorship and access to capital, global markets and talent. Based in New York City, Endeavor operates in 27 countries in Europe, Latin America, North America, Africa, Asia and the Middle East, and supports more than 1,000 entrepreneurs.

Endeavor Miami launched in September 2013 with the support of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation as the first U.S. affiliate of Endeavor Global. Endeavor Miami’s entrepreneurs are now generating close to $130 million in revenues and employ 1,600 people, according to its impact report released earlier this month.

“As we support Chargello in scaling rapidly via a robust advisory board and additional services, I am confident that Johnny and Freddy will act as role models to inspire the burgeoning South Florida entrepreneurial ecosystem,” said Laura Maydón, managing director of Endeavor Miami.

For more information on Endeavor Miami or to nominate South Florida entrepreneurs, visit www.endeavormiami.org.

October 24, 2017

Need help? Me, too. A woman's view: 'It is time we support one another and speak up'

 

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By Pilar Guzman Zavala

I consider myself a strong woman. I am the owner and CEO of Half Moon Empanadas. I am also the CEO of my home, where I am helping raise two wonderful children along with my husband and business partner.

Recently I had an interview with a panel of community leaders. The idea of this panel was to understand if I could be really someone who can commit to making a difference in Miami, to leading the way, to helping bridge the gap between the poor and rich. We talked about my experience over these years and their questions took me back to some of the most painful moments of being an entrepreneur. Like the time we suddenly got a notice of eviction, both from the business and our apartment. I left the restaurant to go to my car, sat in there and screamed. Or the time when my first child was born, I remember being at the hospital after the c-section and learning that the checks were bouncing because we did not have enough money in the bank.  I remembered how stressed and scared I was; I vividly remember the pain I felt.  I talked about how in the past two years, we tried really hard to focus on streamlining the operation and created a structure that finally set us in the path of growth, and made us the 2016 Best Concession Overall for Miami Airport. And how proudly we did it.  This also took me back to the many dark places I had been, how much I have fought, how much I had sacrificed to be where I am today, to have what I have today, to be who I am today.

During the interview, they asked me where I thought I could use help personally. I went straight to my entrepreneurial side and spoke about my operational challenges, but the panel pressed on and asked again what help I needed. Nothing else came out. 

I left the interview thinking about all of the things I didn’t say, and should have.  But there was no time to pause or think. This day was like many in my life where the responsibilities of being a mom, wife, business owner, and daughter took over. I had to pick up my kids and take them to a play date that I had promised. I was grateful to have had 20 minutes to speak with my father, which I rarely do because of time, but which I cherish so much. Then there was my Facebook feed full of friends posting #MeToo and me sharing the same two words. It was all so overwhelming.

That day I kept thinking of the question, “How can we help?” I wish I could have said “Of course! Of course, I do need help, I need help in all fronts of my life. I still feel lonely; I still would like to have a woman that I can look up to. I still would like to have another woman entrepreneur to just talk to, and for that someone to understand how I feel. I feel stressed many times. I am afraid I am not doing the right things as a mother. Am I a good example of this “working mom”, or do they need more of me? All of these questions that sometimes, more often than not, cross your mind. I wanted to tell them how hard it is to be this woman, but I couldn’t.

I had a hard time sharing my story during the interview. I talked about the hard times. I almost cried, but I controlled myself. I said that I am a true believer that entrepreneurship is the best equalizer force, that despite all the ups and downs and the sacrifices, that I truly believed my business was helping me make a difference. 

"I want to say that it is possible to have it all, just not all at once. I have learned that the life I chose as working/wife/mom/entrepreneur is about trade-offs, and that perfection doesn’t exist."

This day reminded me how strong I am, and how far I have come. I, ME TOO, struggle, and continue to stand on my two feet, despite it all. I have shared my story and days like this with other women, and I realized how lonely we all feel, and how little help we ask for.  The overwhelming statistics of gender inequality say it all.  I wanted to share this story because I understand that our lives as women, business owners, and mothers is hard.  I want to say that it is possible to have it all, just not all at once. I have learned that the life I chose as working/wife/mom/entrepreneur is about trade-offs, and that perfection doesn’t exist.  I have learned the importance of creating a support system around oneself. I continue to learn to be kind to myself, and to understand that if I take care of myself first, I will be a better at all fronts. And that quality is 10 times better than quantity with my children.

I still have a way to go. I want to be the best kind of mother my kids can have. I continue to dream Half Moon Empanadas will become a national name. I even just started a new business, and I also want to be able to make a difference in my community. I want to continue to work hard, and dream higher. I want it all.

But most of all, I decided that I am OK with being this strong woman who sometimes doesn’t have it all together, and who sometimes needs to reach out for help. I think it is time we all support one another and speak up.

Pilar Guzman Zavala is the owner and CEO of Half Moon Empanadas, based in Miami.  She is a mentor for women entrepreneurs in Miami with the WIN Lab Miami from Babson College and the FIU Startup Food Lab and is a Ricardo Salinas Scholarship recipient for the Aspen Institute and a Young American Leaders Program fellow from Harvard School of Business.

READ MORE ABOUT HALF MOON EMPANADAS IN THE MIAMI HERALD: Passion, perseverance powered empanada maker through tough start 

 

 

The SilverLogic of Boca Raton wins Money20/20 Hackathon and Visa Developer Challenge in Las Vegas

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The SilverLogic, a Boca Raton based custom software development company, ran the table at the Money20/20 Hackathon in Las Vegas this weekend, taking home both the 1st place prize for the Visa Developer Challenge and 1st place in the overall Hackathon.

The winnings: $40K in cash plus prizes.

The Money20/20 hackathon, in which more than 120 teams competed, is an annual hackathon connected to the Money20/20 conference in Las Vegas sponsored by some of the world's most recognizable FinTech companies. These companies represent teams with innovative and fun challenges that are aimed at stimulating hacking and creative-problem solving skills. The team from The SilverLogic chose to take on the challenge presented by Visa.

Visa challenged teams to re-imagine the cardholder experience in a smart city of tomorrow that is totally cashless. Developers were tasked with coming up with a solution that answered the question: “How will the customer experience in payments evolve in this setting?”

Teams were tasked with building a solution that could help card issuers and/or merchants provide seamless payment experiences through connected devices, mobile applications or other emerging cutting-edge technologies (e.g., VR or AI). They were asked to use Visa APIs along with third-party APIs, to create that solution.

The team from The SilverLogic decided to tackle the issue of scarcity in urban parking, developing a peer-to-peer parking application called “OmniPark” that would connect people who needed parking spaces with residents who have spots available. This solution would allow individuals to monetize an under-utilized resource while providing a real benefit to individuals who are struggling to find parking on our ever-congested roadways.

OmniPark implemented a two-part navigation feature allowing users first to be directed to the general vicinity of the parking spot and then to have an Augmented Reality (AR) driven map guide users directly to the exact spot they have reserved. Users are then presented with an AR version of a parking meter where they can select a time period to remain parked in that location and initiate payment to the spot owner using Visa Direct. The application also allows merchants to “sponsor” parking locations nearby for their customers using the Visa Offers Platform.

“Tackling the Visa challenge of re-imagining the smart city of tomorrow that is cashless, OmniPark was able to quickly integrate Visa APIs via the Visa Developer Platform into their urban parking solution to enable secure, seamless payments opportunities for merchants and consumers alike. Visa applauds OmniPark who has a similar vision of ushering in a new era of digital commerce and driving towards a more cashless tomorrow,” said Paul Walsh, SVP of Platform Strategy & Innovation at Visa

David Hartmann, CEO of The SilverLogic and leader of the OmniPark team, said: “I am so proud of our team here at Money20/20 for representing the best of what The SilverLogic has to offer. Our motto is ‘We Make Ideas Happen’ and nowhere is it more apparent how committed we are to that motto than in settings like this where our teams are challenged to strengthen their relationships while exercising and developing creative problem-solving skills.”