May 04, 2016

LiveNinja closes $2 million round of financing, launching messaging tool for businesses


LiveNinja co-founders: Will Weinraub, CEO, center. Emilio Cueto, CTO, left, and Alfonso Martinez, CCO. File Photo by CW Griffin of the Miami Herald.

By Nancy Dahlberg /

LiveNinja, a Miami-based technology company that provides communications tools for businesses, announced Wednesday that it has closed a $2 million round of financing, bringing its total funding to $3.5 million.

The bridge funding is from Scout Ventures, Anzu Partners, Comcast Ventures Catalyst Fund, Citi Ventures, Accelerated Growth Partners and SeedInvest.  LiveNinja will use the funding to build out its product line and expand its sales and marketing team. LiveNinja, founded in 2012, is a team of 19 people.

Along with the funding, LiveNinja announced a new product, LiveNinja Messenger, to make it easier for businesses to manage conversations, no matter where or how the customer chooses to engage. This differentiates it from the pack of applications out there, including Facebook Messenger, Twitter, Skype and others, which can’t be embedded on a company website.

LiveNinja CEO and co-founder Will Weinraub gave a demo of its newest tool at a recent weekly Waffle Wednesdays networking event that the company puts on each week at its Wynwood offices free for the tech community, most days for breakfast and one Wednesday a month after work.

“We’re entering a new era for business-to-customer communication but to do it right, we have to think about what businesses really need to make messaging work for them,” said Weinraub in the announcement. “Most messaging apps are walled-gardens that operate in a separate environment. We built LiveNinja to be more flexible. You can use it as a standalone messaging application, but you could also embed it within your existing website and share it on other channels as well.”

He showed the crowd that using LiveNinja Messenger, brands can not only start conversations on their website, but also on social media and other apps with an easy to share link. Instead of one-off conversations that frustrate customers, each of these conversations can be easily managed in one seamless thread, giving both the customer and the brand the ability to scroll up to view what they spoke about last. An iOS application makes it easy for businesses to maintain customer conversations on-the-go, he said. Part of the new funding will be used to build out new features for the tool.

Weinraub said anyone can sign up at to try LiveNinja Messenger for free for a limited time, and he encouraged feedback. In time, it will evolve into a "pay as you grow" model where brands will only pay on a per-customer engagement.

Website to iphone (1)

April 19, 2016

Announced or launched at eMerge Americas: Wyncode-Lynn U degree, World Cup of Sales, LifeWallet

Wyncode, Lynn University team up on new graduate degree program


Photo by Pedro Portal

Lynn University today announced a partnership with Miami-based coding bootcamp Wyncode Academy. The announcement comes one year after Lynn and Wyncode executives participated in the “Disruption of Education” panel at eMerge Americas, during which they identified a collaboration opportunity. 

“A traditional liberal arts education develops strategic thinking abilities, but doesn’t always provide the opportunity for technical skill development and exploration,” says Lynn President Kevin M. Ross. “Technology is evolving continuously, and the nature of bootcamps provides flexibility needed to quickly adapt to market needs. We identified a great alignment between Wyncode and Lynn’s services to enable individuals to get high-demand coding experience while earning a degree.”

The partnership makes way for a new graduate degree program comprising Lynn’s Master of Business Administration or Master of Science in Media and Communication foundation courses and Wyncode’s nine-week immersive web development program. Students who complete the bootcamp will earn nine credits toward an MBA or M.S. that focuses on web design strategies, development and management.

“The majority of Wyncode students have college degrees, so it was a natural fit for us to partner with Lynn and offer bootcamp participants the option to further their education,” says Wyncode Co-Founder Johanna Mikkola (pictured above making the annoucement at eMerge Americas on Tuesday). “In addition to learning to code at Wyncode, traditional graduate degree-seeking students will be immersed in Miami’s up-and-coming startup ecosystem, which is positioned to become a major tech center due to its entrepreneurial climate and close links to Latin America. Our accelerated nine-week schedule allows university students to complete the course quickly, like during the summer, without disrupting their traditional studies”

Wyncode has three Florida locations in Wynwood, Miami Beach and Fort Lauderdale, and Lynn’s graduate programs can be completed at its Boca Raton, Florida, campus, online or a combination of both.

World Cup of Sales launches sales platform geared to product launches

OutlookEmoji-1456423587517_WCOS_VR_Full.pngWorld Cup of Sales, a product market fit and sales platform geared toward startup companies and product launches, unveiled its platform at the eMerge Americas conference in Miami. World Cup of Sales is at booth C16.

WCOS is providing millennials social sharing tools so that they can leverage their social media followers to sell products and earn money on what they sell. Millennials already spend over 5 hours a day on social media, so it's an easy way for students to share to their networks, get some cool selling experience, and earn some money along the way. The $10,000 Grand Prize for the top seller is a massive draw for students.

What's new about WCOS is its product market fit concept that helps product owners identify their target demographic and the ideal price point for their products. The 2 week tournaments offer quick insight for new companies. WCOS ambassadors across 300 US campuses review product samples and provide feedback on look and feel, missing features, and any other info companies need to track. This type of market intelligence can save huge money by ensuring companies launch the right product to the right market.

A Rokk3r Labs’ portfolio company, World Cup of Sales aims to change the way companies launch and hopes to make Miami the place where startups go to market. “World Cup of Sales has a unique vision to engage the ‘crowd’ and create a powerful, community-driven user base,” said Nabyl Charania, CEO of Rokk3r Labs. “With an aggressive growth plan for their platform to connect the crowd with startups, World Cup of Sales is poised to create a shift in the entrepreneurial ecosystem.”

 LifeWallet unveils HealthFluence product, setting up Healthy Hub at eMerge

At eMerge Americas, LifeWallet, a leading healthcare technology company based in Miami, is introducing its HealthFluence, LifeWallet’s easy-to-use App-based solution designed to help healthcare providers take a more active role in helping individuals focus on improving their health. 

LifeWallet has an interactive Healthy Hub at the show (pictured below) and will — after key vitals are taken by onsite nurses — be able to nearly instantly provide attendees with their American Heart Association Life’s Simple 7 score using HealthFluence’s iPad App.  These include blood pressure, blood sugar, cholesterol, weight and other key healthcare components such as smoking and activityThus, HealthFluence will provide an instant, detailed ‘snapshot’ of the consumer’s health. LifeWallet will be at booth B19-B.

The eMerge Americas technology expo and conference is the first official announcement of HealthFluence, which has been three years in the making. LifeWallet is working closely with leading healthcare organizations like West Kendall Baptist Hospital to demonstrate HealthFluence at eMerge.  A Beta test of HealthFluence is slated to begin during the second quarter of 2016. 

 LifeWallet seeks to  revolutionize consumer engagement and change the face of digital healthcare with modern ‘Digital Assistants’ that enhance life.


See announcements from Monday at eMerge here.

Read daily coverage of eMerge Americas here.


April 18, 2016

Launched or announced at eMerge Americas: mPower, ChallengeStar, Z9 Capital fund

mPower Solar Generator launches Buy 1-Donate 1 model, Indiegogo campaign


mPower Solar Generator CEO Will Perego chose eMerge to launch his South Florida company and its Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign; its first product is a portable solar generator. For every generator sold, the company will donate one to a family without electricity, Perego said.

Next year, the company hopes to offer a 24-hour solar roof.  To create the products, Perego liscensed technology licensed from four universities: University of Miami, Florida International University, University of Central Florida and Georgia Tech.

Along with the crowdfunding campaign, the company also announced its challenge “Travel with Purpose—Help Us Light Up the World.”  The focus of the challenge is to find an ambassador who will represent the mPower brand in 2017. The mPower Ambassador is a one-year, salaried position, where the representative will travel with mPower and its partner to deliver solar generators to developing countries through the “Buy 1—Donate 1” program. The company plans to deliver approximately 5,000 units in 2017.

“Customers can now buy the lightest and most powerful solar generator on the market to power their outdoor activities or their next blackout while, at no extra cost, helping families in need,” Perego said.

The mPower Solar Generator is all-in-one, with two solar panels, plus battery, plus inverter, to allow users to have AC and DC power anytime, anywhere. Up until now, gas generators have provided off-grid electricity, but users complain of the noise, weight, difficulty in refilling the generator and that they have a high carbon footprint. mPower Solar Generators solve these problems by utilizing sun light, solar panels and batteries to provide electricity day and night.

Perego, pictured above in the center, participated on a planel about clean-tech at eMerge Americas Mpnday afternoon.

ChallengeStar launches charity challenge app

ChallengestarChallengeStar, a Miami-based tech startup. launched its new mobile app of the same name Monday at eMerge Americas.

The app is aimed at revolutionizing fundraising and social media competition, said Jed Royer, CEO of ChallengeStar. "People can create contests that help raise money and awareness for their causes.”

The app is free to download from either the App Store or Google Play Store, and registered users can play for a cause by setting up a “CharityChallenge” or play for themselves by setting up a “Winner Takes All Challenge.” In either instance, users create their own challenges, message their followers to participate and raise money online using ChallengeStar’s secure payment gateway via PayPal.

Supporters can also pledge from the convenience of their social media pages without having to download the app through ChallengeStar’s “EasyPledge” technology. This allows participants to click on a challenge that was shared on social media and pledge directly through that screen, without being rerouted to another page.

One nonprofit that is putting ChallengeStar to good use is the Live Like Bella Foundation, which raises money for pediatric cancer research. Live Like Bella began a “Super Selfie Challenge” where participants post photos and videos of themselves in their favorite superhero outfits.

Z9 Capital launches venture fund

z9 Capital of Boca Raton  announced the launch of its $25 million venture capital fund at eMerge Americas.

z9 invests $250K to $4M in early-stage that have demonstrated product-market fit and are seeking growth capital. z9’s investment thesis is rooted in active management and aims to provide startups with both the liquidity and the operational resources needed to thrive.

Founded in 2014, the firm has already made several investments to date; notable portfolio companies include Videoo (who came in 2nd place at last year’s eMerge Startup Showcase), Aroma360 and Public Reputation.

The firm is led by Benzion ‘Benny’ Aboud, who while in college grew a wireless phone business from a single location to 120 retail stores spanning the east coast; he later sold the business to AT&T.  Since then,. Aboud has founded and exited various companies, most notably Qology Direct.

 “My passion has always been growing and incubating early stage businesses,” said Aboud. “There’s something magical about plunging head first into the unknown; working feverishly with a core group of individuals to build something that defies conventional wisdom, accelerates change and creates a lasting impact.”

To learn more, visit

Read daily coverage about eMerge Americas here.



April 17, 2016

ClassWallet raises $1.5 million from Idea Bulb Ventures, others

ClassWallet, a platform for school funds disbursement and tracking, has closed a $1.5 million round of seed financing, bringing total fundingto date to $4.03 million, the company announced Sunday. 
The priced round was led by Idea Bulb Ventures, a U.S. based Investment company working with China’s Innovation Works, an early stage venture capital firm established by the founding President of Google China Dr. Kai-Fu Lee. Other investors include Techstars Ventures and William Guttman, as well as several education and financial technology angel investors.

“We have a number of investments in the education technology sector and we love what ClassWallet is doing,” says Chris Evdemon, partner at Idea Bulb. "We are excited by ClassWallet’s traction in K12 education and see universal application for its technology.”

ClassWallet’s patent-pending technology combines a virtual wallet with an online marketplace, the company aid. Partners such as Amazon, Office Depot, School Specialty, Scholastic, Nearpod and others in the ClassWallet marketplace accept ClassWallet as form for payment.

ClassWallet partners return SKU-level data to ClassWallet, affording school administration and funders with detailed reporting and pre-approval permissions on every item purchased, otherwise obtained through paper receipts or laborious purchase order processes.  In addition, DiscoverCard and Marqeta, the program manager behind Facebook and eBay’s card platforms, joined forces with ClassWallet to power the ClassWallet debit card for offline purchases such as professional development, field trips and more.  

Founder and CEO Jamie Rosenberg said ClassWallet’s  user base grew over 400 percent last year "and the company has already booked customers to exceed 400 percent growth in 2016.” Customers include some of the largest school districts across the United States including Chicago, Newark, and Broward.

March 28, 2016

Home61: A real estate startup powered by tech


Home61 picture

The Home61 management team in the office: Brian Paran, left, Olivier Grinda, center, and Olivier Brion, with snapshots of their happy clients are on the walls. Photo by Carl Juste.


By Nancy Dahlberg /

A Miami-based upstart is trying to shake up the way home buying and selling has been done for decades.

In buying his own condo, Home61 CEO Olivier Grinda found the experience stressful and unnecessarily complicated — “not the level of service you should expect in 2016,” he said. As a serial entrepreneur, he thought there had to be a better way.

Home61 is a tech-enabled brokerage that brings automation and transparency to the residential real estate experience. Technology enables easy scheduling of viewings, anytime access to notes and analytics and a streamlined contractual process for buyers and renters as well as sellers and agents. If agents are unburdened by administrative work, they can better focus on service, which receives star ratings on

“Our business is the client,” said Grinda, who moved from Brazil to Miami in late 2013. “We’re known as the teddy bear guys,” pointing to a large wall in the company’s Midtown Miami office adorned with snapshots of happy Home61 clients holding the bears in their new homes.

Grinda’s startup has lots of company in its greater mission. From techy brokerages like Home61 and property listing services like Zillow to commercial leasing and real estate analytics, real estate tech companies aim to transform a massive industry, according to tech research and data analytics firm CB Insights.

The multibillion-dollar real estate industry is now seeing a slew of real estate tech startups, including virtual property-viewing services, property management software and real estate investing platforms. It’s a global trend that looks to be on the upswing. Last year, a record" $1.7 billion in venture capital was injected into the sector, a 50 percent increase over 2014, and this year is on track to top that if current trends hold, according to CB Insights.

Home61 chose Miami for its launch site in September 2014 because of its location, location, location, with real estate already one of the region’s biggest industries. This year, Home61 began expanding throughout Broward County, too. Now with 26 agents, some full time and some part time, Home61 acts very much like a traditional broker in its commission structure and basic model, but the innovation comes in with the back-end technology that helps agents, and buyers and renters make appointments, track analytics and automate much of the process.

A recently added feature, called Seller Dashboard, lets property owners see in real time the total impressions and online visits to a listing, physical visits to the property, a comparative market analysis and marketing objectives. A proprietary pricing bar allows a seller to calculate the best asking price compared to the comparable properties, as well as metrics on the condo building or neighborhood, with alerts when a sale is made or another property hits the market. A calendar makes it easy to view showings or confirm appointments, and a document center stores all signed contracts.

Most of Home61’s transactions last year were rentals, but the company is making a bigger push for sales. Doris San Martín used Home61 recently to buy a home in South Miami and said she would use Home61 again and would recommend it to friends.

That word-of-mouth is mainly powering the growth of the hyper-local Home61, which was named after the record-breaking 61 points that then Miami Heat star LeBron James scored the night the co-founders were mulling company names. In 2015, the company netted 204 closings and has closed another 92 transactions since January. It has generated more than $32.5 million in gross revenue since inception, Grinda said. Home61 has raised" $1 million in funding from tech investors, including 500 Startups, Kima Ventures and a number of angel investors including Grinda’s brother, Fabrice.

In addition to traditional brokers, competitors include the heavily funded New York-based Compass, which has a sizable Miami team but focuses more on higher-end listings than Home61, Grinda said. TripleMint and Redfin are potential competitors, but for now they are focusing primarily on other markets, Grinda said.

Grinda, raised in France, had founded a number of Internet businesses in Brazil, including the venture-funded e-commerce site Shoes4You, which he closed in 2013, and a buying club, BrandsClub. His Home61 co-founder and business partner, Olivier Brion, brings real estate industry experience to the team. Brion was COO of the vacation rentals site Roomorama before it merged with Lofty, and he co-founded and ran Previsite, a cloud-based marketing solutions company for the real estate industry.

The company appeals to technology-loving millennials — many of them first-time buyers and renters — as well as international buyers and sellers.

Stefanie Schmalz said she and her husband, who were moving from Zurich, had earmarked a week to learn the neighborhoods and rent a condominium. She found Home61 on the Internet and decided to give it a shot. After submitting a request through the site, she was quickly paired with agent Carlos Gauch, who like her is Brazilian and speaks Portuguese. Schmalz said Gauch was sensitive to what her family was looking for and smart and effective throughout the process.

“Within just a few days, we found an apartment, we made the offer and submitted all the documents. Home61 gave us a really nice welcome,” Schmalz said.

Gauch, one of the company’s top-performing agents, joined nearly a year ago when he saw a Home61 ad boasting that agents could expect 20 to 25 leads a month. That sounded good to him because he was relatively new to real estate and did not have a large network.

Gauch said that 90 percent of his leads are generated through Home61, from people looking for their own rentals to investors seeking to acquire income property to rent out or flip. Lately, he has been getting more lucrative sales leads than rental leads: “I don’t bring a single piece of paper when I go to a showing. Everything is through the iPad. It makes our jobs a whole lot easier.”

There is a sense of teamwork in the office rather than every agent out for him or herself, Gauch said. “There is friendly competition inside, but everyone helps each other.”

U.S. expansion is on the company’s road map, but for now, the focus is at home. Grinda isn’t worried about a real estate slowdown.

As he sees it, Home61 could thrive in down times, too: Efficient systems will be that much more valuable, and sellers will want to keep a close eye on what’s happening with their properties.

Follow @ndahlberg on Twitter.

March 17, 2016

Flat Out of Heels founder wins 2nd place in national contest


By Nancy Dahlberg /

DawnMiami Beach entrepreneur Dawn Dickson took home second place Tuesday in the 2016 InnovateHER: Innovating for Women Business Challenge, the Small Business Administration’s nationwide business competition to highlight innovative products and services created and launched by cutting-edge entrepreneurs. Dickson won $20,000.

Dickson’s company designs 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. She has partnered with Loren Ridinger of Market America on an exclusive collection, and has won a number of contests, including a national pitch competition by PowerMoves last year.

Other winners in the InnovateHER contest were Elizabeth Caven from Upcraft Club in Des Moines, Iowa, winning $40,000 and first place, and Dr. Agnes Scoville from Scoville & Company in St. Louis, Mo., taking third place and winning $10,000.

In making the announcement, SBA Administrator Maria Contreras-Sweet said: “SBA created this challenge to empower women in the face of ongoing gender inequities in the technology and investment sectors. Women venture capital partners are stuck below 10 percent. The amount of venture capital funding that goes to women entrepreneurs is even lower — only about 4 percent. On behalf of SBA, I congratulate all of our winners and contestants. Their incredible talent is proof that America’s small businesses and entrepreneurs are launching and growing businesses that not only disrupt the status quo but have the power to improve countless lives.”

The InnovateHER Business Challenge began in August 2015 and drew nearly 2,000 competitors, who competed first in regional competitions around the country. The contest culminating in Tuesday’s live pitch competition involving 10 finalists in Washington, D.C.

Follow @ndahlberg on Twitter

March 15, 2016

Meet the 5 graduating startups of Founder Institute Miami


By Melanie Haselmayr

Over the course of 3½ months, 30 ambitious startup founders followed a strict curriculum. Only a handful of them made it to graduation day.

The Founder Institute is renowned worldwide as one of the toughest yet rewarding incubator programs. The goal of the foundation is to support early stage startups in the most crucial phases of their companies’ phases: from conceptualization to launch. The program consists of weekly meetups, mentor presentations and detailed assignments based on a lineup of topics - all in all, an orchestrated ensemble of elements that guides young entrepreneurs in achieving their milestones toward their startup launch.

Program directors Juan Meza, Gustavo Fernandez and Enrique Sierra invited some of Miami’s most outstanding business leaders to share their knowledge and insights with the aspiring newcomers, and included Cody Littlewood of Codelitt, Kevin Levy of GrayRobinson PA, Leonel Azuela of Quaxar and Nestor Villalobos of Tudor Ice Company.

Just five companies survived the rapid pace of the program and concluded the Miami semester in a ceremony  Tuesday night:

LiVi - Live Stream by Request, led by Carlos Romero, is the only live stream mobile App that gives the control to its users.  LiVi is redesigning this technology by applying peer-to-peer and on-demand models while the competition is focused on mass broadcasting, making it difficult to monetize.  

VOICE YOUR VOICE, led by Camilo Silva and Jose Aliaga, aims to encourage the public to actively engage in politics and democracy by addressing issues that impact them through a mobile platform that aims to connect the community with its respective political leaders on the city, district, county, state and national level.

IMPACT COACH, led by Coach Guillermo Juliao, is an educational coaching platform to help the Hispanic community find their passions, purpose and strengths so they can start their own companies or find their dream jobs.

DRONELANCER, led by Matt Hall, is a marketplace to connect licensed drone owners with businesses looking for aerial photos and videos. the marketplace allows clients to interview, hire and work with drone owners through its easy, transparent platform. 

TRANSPARENT, led by Melanie Haselmayr, helps renters, realtors and landlords engage in simplified rental transactions. The company helps landlords and realtors filter potential applicants, and offers an escrow service to renters to safeguard their money until move-in.

The Founder Institute is a startup incubator out of Silicon Valley that hosts programs in 110+ around the world to help startup founders build sustainable companies. For more information about the Miami program, please visit

The graduation ceremony took place Tuesday at TamboWorks, a co-working space in South Miami, located at 5790 Sunset Drive. "TamboWorks is proud to have hosted this first group of entrepreneurs who have met in our space on a weekly basis," said TamboWorks co-founder Adolfo Taylhardat.





Meet the 8 South Florida companies incubated at Founder Institute


Submitted by Founder Institute

Ten entrepreneurs from eight companies pitched their new startup at General Provision last Friday in front of their families, friends, mentors, business leaders and colleagues.

These entrepreneurs are the first graduating cohort from the Fort Lauderdale-Boca Raton chapter of the Founder Institute, a global entrepreneur training and startup program that has helped launch over 1,600 companies through chapters across 85 cities and 40 countries

For the ten graduating entrepreneurs, Graduation Day was the culmination of a 3.5 month program where they “learn by doing” and launched their company with structured training, expert feedback, and support from experienced startup CEOs. Thirty-four candidates initially joined the program in November 2015 after going through the application and ‘entrepreneur DNA aptitude’ testing process.

Rodolfo Novarini, Michel Triana and Mark Volchek, three serial entrepreneurs and business leaders, led the Founder Institute’s efforts in Fort Lauderdale and were supported by a strong network of 34 CEOs and founders in the South Florida business community.

The eight emerging startups from the Fort Lauderdale-Boca Raton chapter are:

  • GameFace (com): an ecommerce subscription-based men’s personal care called ‘Nasty’ for athlete consumers.
  • ONENESS: a solution for cities and marinas to meet their sustainability goals for water clean-up with proprietary line of green boats.
  • SpeechMED (com): a voice and video information platform that gives people the ability to see and hear their medical information in their native language (see Startup Spotlight).
  • Teak Health: the “” of medical health records striving for patient empowerment and provider solutions.
  • Velatino (com): an internet video network exclusively curated for Hispanic audiences.
  • Vendor Hive (com): centralized platform that manages information and transactions between festival event producers and retail vendors.
  • VidTec (co): automated tool for digital marketers that converts products and other website content into videos.
  • Winspire: a software solution to help people improve their people and leadership skills by partnering with Leadership Coaches.

Robert Valli, one of the graduates and the CEO of VidTec Corporation, emphasized the access to the mentor network as a key benefit of his participation. “Thanks to the new Founder Institute chapter here in Fort Lauderdale, anyone in Southeast Florida with a good idea has a very real opportunity to build a tech company—backed by their own local network—by the time they graduate, even if they had neither to start. I know, because I did it," says Valli.

The Fort Lauderdale-Boca Raton Chapter will accept applications for the next session this summer. Interested applicants can visit for more information and to join the mailing list.

Fi crowd

March 10, 2016

SpeedETab receives seed funding to fuel national expansion


SpeedETab co-founders Ed Gilmore, CTO, and Adam Garfield, CEO.  

By Nancy Dahlberg /

Kris Singh was a happy SpeedETab customer, using the app in local restaurants. Now Singh is the latest investor in the Fort Lauderdale-based mobile ordering and mobile payment startup.

SpeedETab received $650,000 in seed round financing from Singh’s AVenture Capital, a multi-family office in Miami Beach. The funding will accelerate the company’s expansion into new markets, beginning with New York this spring, and expand the company’s enterprise offerings, said SpeedETab CEO Adam Garfield.

Speedetab screenshotSpeedETab, co-founded by Garfield and Chief Technology officer Ed Gilmore, brings mobile ordering, mobile payment and analytic tools to hospitality merchants of all sizes. Its mobile ordering platform, integrated with Apple Pay, Quickbooks and other partners, identifies customers by face and name. Merchants can view real-time sales and customer data from any device, and update menus any time. Since launching in March 2015, SpeedETab is now used in nearly 100 locations across South Florida, beginning with bars but now also coffee shops, fast casual restaurants and hotels.

“SpeedETab and its founders have the technological innovation and vision required to be a leader in the sector,” said Singh, founder and managing partner of AVenture Capital, which is active in the asset management, technology, financial services, media, automotive, healthcare and materials sectors. “I fell in love with the SpeedETab app after learning about it and using it at local restaurants in Miami Beach.”

Last month, SpeedETab announced its expansion into the hotel market, including service at poolside and to beach cabanas. That included a partnership with the South Beach Group, which owns and operates 13 hotels in Miami Beach and Hollywood, including the Catalina, The Riviera South Beach, Hotel Croydon and the Whitelaw Hotel.

Garfield said the way guests typically order at poolside and beachside was archaic. “If we can take a 20-minute order process and cut it in half, that has a tremendous impact on the guest experience and on the hotel’s bottom line.”

Last summer, Garfield appeared on the premier episode of CNBC’s West Texas Investors Club program, and received funding.

March 06, 2016

Startup Spotlight: The Wynwood Yard, a hub for entrepreneurs, food and culture



COMPANY NAME: The Wynwood Yard

Headquarters: Miami

Concept: The Wynwood Yard is a vibrant first-of-its-kind outdoor space in Miami (56 NW 29th St.), showcasing food entrepreneurs and hosting a smorgasbord of food, fitness and cultural events.

Story: The Wynwood Yard grew out of the founder’s foray into food entrepreneurship.

Della Heiman (pictured above) traveled around the world as a student and young adult and for the first time was exposed to people extremely passionate about plant-based foods. “Through hours spent in kitchens and markets, upscale neighborhoods and shantytowns, schools, buses and fields, I learned how people /from/ all walks of life grew, purchased and prepared food for their families,” she said. “These new friends taught me about the importance of understanding where our food comes from, and gifted me their time-tested recipes. At the same time, I also learned of the dark side of global food economics.”

While at Harvard Business School, her classmates encouraged her to pursue her own food business, which would later become della test kitchen. “I would throw large dinner parties, and they kept encouraging me to turn my recipes into a business. They helped me focus my passions for making healthy food more accessible to all and preventing chronic illness into this concept of delicious, plant-based bowls.”

After spending more than year conceptualizing and testing her restaurant idea, she moved to Miami in late 2014 to find a brick-and-mortar location for the della test kitchen concept, but then reality set in. The real estate barriers to entry for retail concepts in Miami are quite high, and she began studying less expensive and more iterative approaches to launching her business. The vision for The Wynwood Yard was inspired by food trucks, culinary incubators, food halls and pop-up concepts around the world. 

“I wanted to create an ecosystem that would help support new food businesses in Miami since I knew the obstacles they faced,” said Heiman. “The goal is to give promising local entrepreneurs a support system and launch pad for innovative concepts.”

The Wynwood Yard, where people can come morning, afternoon or evening to dine, socialize, catch an event, sneak in some laptop time, work out or just relax, is a now a hub of food and culture in Miami. Hand-picked culinary concepts, along with a pop-up bar and a garden by Little River Cooperative, are anchored within an outdoor setting. The first round of food concepts has included della test kitchen, offering plant-based “healthy bowls of happy”; the omakase sushi food truck Myumi; Middle Eastern concept The Arabian Knife; Dim Ssam a Go Go, serving twists on Asian cuisine; and Vibe 305, a food truck and cafe with a social mission to help train inner-city youth.

Launched: Leased site in August 2015; The Wynwood Yard opened in November 2015.

Management team: Della Heiman, founder and CEO of The Wynwood Yard and della test kitchen; Ken Lyon, founder of Thyme Bar; Jesse and Sefra Levin, “Senior Cultural Chameleons.”

No. of employees: 60 people employed at The Wynwood Yard, spread out among the culinary and beverage tenants and The Wynwood Yard management team.


Financing: Bootstrapped 

Recent milestones: Worked with The Prism Music Group to launch a series of events spotlighting talented local musicians and highlighting innovative food specials. Olé! A Night of Flamenco with The Arsht Center was among the most successful, and attracted an audience of more than 1,000. Orchestrated sophisticated, multicourse dinner experiences curated by top local culinary talent, including “The Saffron Supper Club,” “Nutritious Nights — an evening of Jazz, Hand-Crafted Cuisine and Specialty Intoxicants” and “Shabbat at the Yard.” Launched several educational series, including garden tasting tours with local farmers and chefs, adult and children’s cooking classes, free craft workshops with top local artists, and innovative yoga events with live music. Launched delivery and catering programs for della test kitchen. Named to the Miami Herald’s 2016 South Florida Food 50

Biggest startup challenge: Dealing with unpredictable and unseasonably rainy weather. That stalled Wynwood Yard’s opening and created serious operational issues for weeks. “In many ways, the stormy skies ultimately ended up being a blessing in disguise,” said Heiman. “Excessive amounts of water exposed infrastructural weaknesses and gave us more time to improve operational kinks.”

Next steps: A big round of new initiatives and improvements is cooking at The Wynwood Yard, including a new bar and coffee program, aesthetic improvements to the property, new culinary vendors, creative workshops, a speaker series, pop-up dinners, and delivery/catering initiatives.

Heiman’s mentors have no doubt she has the big vision and the ability to execute. The Wynwood Yard has already been attracting crazy crowds, said Beth Kaplan, managing member of Axcel Partners and formerly president of Rent the Runway who has mentored Heiman in everything from business planning and branding to introductions and fund-raising. “She has an instinct for customers and sees ‘white space’ in the market where she can create something very special,” said Kaplan. “Della has the capability and the inner strength to figure out the next steps for her business. She is the real deal.”

Shawn Amuial, an attorney and co-founder of LegalTech Labs, has been helping Heiman strategize about various business models, arrangements with vendors and tenants and the Yard’s future direction. “Enthusiasm, passion and competence — those three qualities exude from Della and are key qualities of any successful entrepreneur,” said Amuial. “Her biggest challenge is time. Della has fascinating ideas for Miami and the food industry and she has the perseverance to execute, but there is not enough time in the day for her to achieve it all by herself, so she needs to find the right people to team up with to make it all happen.”

Nancy Dahlberg