May 13, 2017

Tech Talk: Magic Leap, Alta5, upcoming deadlines & more

NewronyBy Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

The secretive Magic Leap may be fund-raising again, and with that may pull a $6 billion to $8 billion valuation out of its hat. That’s from sources of the tech blog BackChannel.

According to BackChannel, part of Wired Media Group, Plantation-based Magic Leap is raising a Series D funding round led by Chinese ecommerce giant Alibaba. It’s not sewn up yet though. That’s from sources of tech writer/editor Jessi Hempel, who also wrote one of the first long features about the augmented reality tech company with very little about its actual technology (that NDA, you know) about a year ago in Wired.

If this funding news is true, the cash runway may have shortened up a bit. About 15 months ago, Magic Leap raised $793.5 million led by Alibaba, on top of $592 million previously raised from Google and other VCs, for a total of nearly $1.4 billion on a $4.5 billion valuation – and that’s for a company that had yet to reveal its technology to the world. At the time CEO Rony Abovitz said that money would take the company through commercial launch.

“This funding allows us to accelerate the move from product development to pilot manufacturing, manufacturing and commercial launch,” Abovitz told me in a phone interview at the time. “But beyond that, this gives the company a very long-term runway – effectively we can be sustainable. We may not need to raise capital again – it doesn’t mean we won’t – but it gives us the ability to think well beyond the initial product launch.”

Magic Leap still hasn’t launched a product, nor announced a timeline, but the fund-raise could suggest a launch is imminent – or not. In what may be another sign: Abovitz called on developers and artists to sign up to work on new content for the platform, via Twitter. Abovitz has said Magic Leap will launch its head gear when it’s ready, and with mixed reality content to wow the world.

In other Magic Leap news, as reported earlier this week, the mixed reality company has settled itse gender discrimination lawsuit, claiming a boys club culture among other things, for undisclosed terms.

Whether or not the big ML raise materializes in 2017, it will be a good year for South Florida funding. Boca Raton-based Modernizing Medicine saw to that this week, raising $231 million in funding from private equity firm Warburg Pincus and bringing its total funding to some $330 million.

Rocco

In other Miami tech news, Alta5 vaulted into the spotlight at its 500 Startups Demo Day in San Francisco on Thursday night, scoring favorable press out of the gate for the Miami-based fintech startup, which created an automation platform for individual investors. The live-streamed event attracted more than 500 investors, said Alta5 co-founder Rocco Savage (pictured above, pitching at Demo Day). TechCrunch called Alta5 one of the top eight in the batch of 41 500 Startup companies. Mattermark ranked the batch of 41 companies and found Alta 5 to have the third highest Mattermark Growth Score of the batch.

[READ MORE: Alta5 joins 500 Startups to bring automation to your online brokerage account]

Miami’s Court Buddy, a legal-tech startup also part of 500 Startups’ Batch 20 that pitched Thursday (and a former Miami Herald Business Plan Challenge winner), made the top 25 in Mattermark’s ranking. (Court Buddy co-founder Kristina Jones shown below pitching)

Courtbuddy

Considering that 500 Startups had 2,000 applicants, and just 41 were chosen for the cohort, and two of them were from South Florida, that’s a pretty good showing for Miami tech in Silicon Valley.

Deadlines coming up

WIN Lab Miami, Babson’s eight-month accelerator program for women-led businesses, is now accepting applications for its second cohort through 5 p.m. May 19 (the deadline was extended. Check out its FAQs page here and its application page here.

The first Smart & Sustainable Neighborhood Development Executive Training Program is taking place at FIU Urban Studios June 9-23. The cost is free for the 25 small business professionals selected and includes valuable accreditations if the course and exams are completed. Read more about it here. The deadline is Monday, May 15.

StartUP FIU is taking applications for cohort 3 of its Empower accelerator. The deadline is June 11. Find out more about Cohort 2’s Demo Day and where to apply for Cohort 3 here.

Nancy Dahlberg: @ndahlberg

 

May 03, 2017

StartUP FIU Pitch Day for cohort 2 of Empower accelerator is May 9

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StartUP FIU, the university-wide initiative in innovation and entrepreneurship at Florida International University (FIU), announced today the companies to pitch at their Spring Pitch Day on May 9.

The pitch event connects venture capitalist and angel investors with a group of the most disruptive companies in South Florida. The event features FIU students, faculty/staff, alumni and members of the Miami community whose companies span innovation in consumer products, medical devices, social networks and cloud computing. This group represents the second cohort of the 14-week StartUP FIU Empower Accelerator program.

“I am truly inspired by the discoveries and innovations that are coming through StartUP FIU's Empower Accelerator and especially by the startups that will take to the stage on May 9,” said Emily Gresham, Cofounder of StartUP FIU and an Assistant Vice President of the University. “One of the missions of StartUP FIU is to commercialize the intellectual property developed here in South Florida and each cohort brings us closer to that objective.”

The 14 companies that will pitch at Graham Center Ballroom on May 9 include:

·       Benbo: The most interactive, simple and easy to use business networking app that will help you create, customize, exchange and scan business cards.

·       Boatrax: Boatrax facilitates the logging experience for boat owners with a mobile app that allows them to organize their logs and share them with local service providers.

·       Cargo42: Cargo42 is a marketplace for trucking committed to reducing idle time and capacity.

·       Clutch Couture Bags: Clutch Couture Bags is a designer handbag rental service that is changing the way fashion-lovers experience luxury.

·       Extreme Weather: A national network of weather education-entertainment-resilience centers. Visitors will experience dangerous weather through immersive, experiential technologies.

·       Give Wink: First ever subscription box service for grandparents, delivering an assortment of age appropriate essentials and goodies on a bi-monthly basis.  

·       Master Honey: We empower low-income women to start their own micro beekeeping business and sell us the urban honey they produce for commercialization.

·       MmMaps: Public Transportation for Tourism

·       NIROS: NIROS Technology Inc. is developing a safe hand-held optical scanner to help wound care specialist image under the skin, to improve prognosis in wounds healing process

·       Renu Shops: Redesigning retail, Removing blight, and Empowering communities with reused shipping containers.

·       SkillCourt: SkillCourt application helps you create, perform and compare through our wireless LED Target pads.  

·       StealthSimulation: Bridging the gap between healthcare education and technology by engineering solutions for clinical simulation.

·       Viera Academy: A free Test-Preparation Playground, mentored by Guinness record holders committed to helping students play, learn and train like Champions do.

·       Wrocket: Teaching organizations recruit Millennials in their language! Candidates and recruiters video, swipe and chat themselves to the perfect match

 Click here to reserve your tickets for Pitch Day. For ongoing coverage of StartUP FIU, follow us on TwitterFacebook and Instagram or view curated content via the hashtag #StartUPFIU.

Applications for StartUP FIU’s Cohort 3  are currently open. You can apply at startup.fiu.edu to be a part of the Empower Accelerator.

StartUP FIU, a university-wide initiative, has two programs currently in operation. StartUP FIU Empower Accelerator is a formal14-week program and StartUP FIU FOOD is a year-round food incubator. A third program, StartUP FIU West Kendall, an incubator focusing on software and hardware technology, will open later in 2017.

- Submitted by StarUP FIU

10 South Florida startups selected to present at Florida Early Stage Capital Conference

The Florida Venture Forum has selected 22 Florida-based or operating companies to present at its 10th annual 2017 Florida Early Stage Capital Conference, and nearly half are from South Florida.

“We continue to receive applications from high quality early stage companies from all regions in Florida and we received a record number of applications again this year,” said Jennifer Dunham, partner at Arsenal Venture Partners, chair of the conference selection committee and a board member of the Florida Venture Forum. The conference is being held at the Omni ChampionsGate in Orlando on May 19.

In addition to company presentations and other programming, the conference award a total of $150,000 in cash awards presented to the first, second and third place winning companies, provided by Space Florida.

Presenters were selected from a pool of over 130 applicants by a committee of active Florida venture capitalists and investors. Selected companies will present to an audience of investors, other deal professionals and entrepreneurs.

The presenting companies from South Florida will be:  

Boatyard, Fort Lauderdale (www.boatyard.com), is the world's first on-demand marketplace for recreational boating. Their app provides boat owners with the ability to order fuel, boat washing, service and captains directly to their boat with a few clicks on their mobile device.

Caribu, Miami (www.caribu.co), is an education platform that helps parents, extended family, and mentors read and draw with children when they’re not together. The result is an engaging experience in a carefully designed, curated, and secure platform.

Honorlock, Boca Raton (www.honorlock.com), the company’s on-demand proctoring solution combines classic proctoring methods with a proprietary new method of multi-device detection. 

Kugadi, Miami (www.kugadi.com), allows security companies to move into the 22st century by enabling them with a mobile app and web based portal that makes their employees both more efficient and more accountable.

Neuro Pharmalogics, Boca Raton, is a Biopharmaceutical company developing/commercializing innovative therapies for people with rare (orphan) neurological diseases treatable by PKG signaling modification such as: Hemiplegic Migraine, Orphan Epileptic conditions, Neural Trauma (TBI, Spinal shock), and other Ischemic conditions.

Papa, Hollywood (www.joinpapa.com),  is a home health technology platform that allows members to connect to home health services in their community. They are working to simplify healthcare. Though the Papa Platform, they make it easy for members to access and manage health care services for their family members.

Rotation Manager, Miami (www.rotationmanager.com), is an online platform for hospitals, schools, and nurses to manage clinical rotation scheduling and compliance. Software as a Service.

Symplast, Plantation (www.symplast.com), is the first practice management platform that revolutionizes patient engagement from any smartphone. A complete eHealth solution for aesthetic practices, Symplast increases communication between patients, providers and staff. Fully functional on any computer, tablet, or smartphone, Symplast provides doctors the freedom to focus on what matters most: their patients.

Tender Armor, Fort Lauderdale (www.tenderarmor.com), CVV+ is a real-time, two-factor fraud prevention solution that authenticates cardholders conducting Card-Not-Present (CNP) transactions including e-commerce and phone transactions. CVV+ validates the authorized cardholder conducting the transaction, not just the payment card.

Whoop Wireless, Boca Raton (www.whoopwireless.com), their patented technology is used by major academic, hospitality, and corporate institutions to provide in-building cellular coverage at less than half the cost of a distributed antenna system (DAS).

The other companies are:

Admiral, Gainesville (www.getadmiral.com), offers an advanced adblock analytics and automatic revenue recovery. They provide a multi-faceted platform that enables publishers to size and solve the unique adblock problem presented by their unique userbase.

Feathr, Gainesville (www.feathr.co), is a digital marketing SaaS company focused on the vertical of live events, such as trade shows and music festivals.

Auxadyne, Keystone Heights (www.auxadyne.com), has an exclusive licensing agreement with FSU for the design, manufacture and distribution of the first commercially available auxetic foam in a variety of medical device and protective equipment applications.

Droplit, Melbourne (www.droplit.io), provides software development tools for hardware companies in the Internet of Things. With full-stack cloud infrastructure and rich developer tools, Droplit enables rapid development of IoT products, allowing product teams to accomplish in weeks what currently takes years.

RedTeam Software, Orlando (www.redteamsoftware.com), is a true cloud application built and optimized for construction by people that know the business. From collaboration through accountability, RedTeam is the most comprehensive project management and accounting solution for commercial construction.

GO PUCK, Sarasota (www.gopuck.com), GO PUCK’s founders invented the lithium starting battery, and patented the Supercharger technology used by Tesla Motors. Their work is found in every IndyCar, championship NASCAR & Formula 1 vehicles and recharge millions of Electric powered miles. They now have patented claims for the 1st Wearable Power device, with all the speed, safety and reliability trusted around the World.

Prime Medical, Largo (www.primemedical.com), is revolutionizing infection prevention in healthcare and other verticals with its complete line of SAF-T™ products and OEM capability. Using a patented fabric technology, SAF-T apparel and textiles retain a lasting shield of chlorine molecules after each laundering in EPA-registered bleach. Simple, superior and sophisticated, the chlorine-activated textiles are powered to continuously kill the colonization of harmful bacteria and viruses during use/wear, are completely safe, and feature next-gen color technology that will not fade in bleach.

QURE4U, Bradenton ( www.qure4u.com), the platform answers the need for health professionals to increase patient engagement. The interactive tools, patient monitoring and alerts enable providers and their staff members to more efficiently interact with patients, identify patients at risk, give better treatment, and reduce visits to the ER and hospital admissions as well as gaps-in-care.

SiteZeus, Tampa (www.sitezeus.com), the new evolution in location intelligence, driven by exceptionally engineered big data systems and unparalleled data visualization technology.

TripShock, Santa Rosa Beach (www.tripshock.com), is both B2B and B2C. For the B2B model, they provide booking solutions for activity and tour suppliers. They generate bookings through their distribution outlets and collect a commission for each confirmed sale.

NeuroInitiative, Jacksonville (www.neuroinitiative.com), 100% of attempts to stop or slow progression of Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases have failed. They can change that, and in the process bring relief to 57 million patients worldwide, introduce a new way to develop effective drugs, and capture sizable portions of both the $37 billion annual pharma R&D market.

Ardusat, Salt Lake City, UT (www.ardusat.com),  creates hands-on and engaging STEM experiences on earth and in space. Ardusat’s open STEM platform provides curriculum resources mapped to national and state standards, classroom management tools for teachers, and step by step guides for students to build experiments. Ardusat has operations in Florida.

 - Submitted by Florida Venture Forum

 

April 30, 2017

Startup Spotlight: Visual Blasters' FlipaClip app can make anyone an animator

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Jonathan Meson, who heads up the team behind Visual Blasters, at his downtown Miami office. The team’s app FlipaClip is a hit on Android devices and is now available on iOS. AL DIAZ adiaz@miamiherald.com


 

 

Company name: Visual Blasters (creators of FlipaClip)

Headquarters: Downtown Miami

Concept: Visual Blasters develops gaming, multimedia and animation mobile apps. “We provide high quality, intuitive apps with an eye toward making the world a better place by helping people express their creativity, discover music and have fun while doing it,” said CEO Jonathan Meson.

Story: In 2010, brothers Jonathan Meson, 33, then a software engineer for Motorola, and Marcos Meson, 38, a senior motion graphics designer at HairDirect.com, founded Visual Blasters, with the mission of designing apps that create “communities” around people’s passions and creative pursuits such as music, animation and games.

​The brothers combined their programming and design skills to create their first product, “XiiaLive,” an internet radio app that offers an uninterrupted Internet radio experience. The app has been downloaded more than 5 million times and has about 100,000 active users. “Xiialive was a success, but was more a product of opportunity, not long-term strategic planning,” said Jonathan. That changed with its next release.

Youngest brother Tim Meson, 26, a software engineer at Oracle, joined the startup to launch a free animation app for Android users in 2012 called FlipaClip. This flip-book style drawing and animation app for Android grew faster than anyone expected, quickly earning a 4.3/5.0 star rating, and over 4.5 million downloads. In less than a year, FlipaClip doubled monthly active users from 250,000 to more than 550,000.

The app, now also available for iOS, allows people to make their own animations by drawing a series of pages through the app to achieve the motion. “People are using it on social media to express their artistic side,” Jonathan said. Here’s a tip: “You don’t have to be a really good artist. We give them all the basics they need to get started.”

The company’s competitive advantage is a combined laser-focus on ease of use and simplicity, a robust set of features, and a platform that ensures products scale effortlessly. The startup makes money through in-app purchases that unlock additional animation tools and ads within the app. Plans for FlipaClip include adding audio as an animation tool.

A key milestone came in 2014, when Visual Blasters entered into a licensing agreement with Fuhu Holdings, a company that makes children’s tablets for Target and Walmart and was recently acquired by Mattel. The agreement resulted in more than 400,000 devices with FlipaClip tech pre-installed.

FlipaClip has attracted all age groups, but the brothers are seeing lots of traction among the 13- to 18-year-olds. “They are spending hours animating instead of watching video games,” said Jonathan, who created stop-motion animation with Legos when he was a kid and made movies with his brothers. “A sense of creation was embedded in us and this app was born out of that.”

In March, FlipaClip launched on iOS with the help of the Animate ‘Unravel’ Contest – a partnership with Miami-based indie band “Tell Her I Love Her” to promote its first single. The contest, underway through May 12, seeks animation entries inspired by the band’s “Unravel” song; entrants are vying for $2,000 in cash prizes. The FlipaClip team learned that the contest can be a powerful vehicle to introduce people to the FlipaClip app, earning some 72,000 views of more than 180 contestant animated videos so far.

Launched: Flipaclip (Cartoon Animation) launched 2012

Website and social: www.visualblasters.com, www.instagram.com/flipaclip and flipaclip.tumblr.com.

Management team: Jonathan Meson (CEO and co-founder), Tim Meson (co-founder and software engineer); Marcos Meson (co-founder and lead designer), Jeremiah Meccage (head of business development).

No. of employees: 8, including contractors in Argentina and the Philippines.

Financing: Self-funded. Considering seeking an angel round of financing.

Recent milestones: In February, reached 5.5 million downloads and 550,000 active monthly users with FlipaClip for Android. in March, FlipaClip went live in Apple’s App store. Also in March, launched the Animate ‘Unravel’ Contest with Miami-based indie-band “Tell Her I Love Her” to announce iOS version of FlipaClip.

Biggest startup challenge: Working with a remote workforce and communicating with developers and customer service team members in different countries and time-zones.

Next steps: “Our plan is to grow FlipaClip and slowly release new applications that fit within our product portfolio and that makes sense with our company focus,” Jonathon said. “New products experience greater growth when they have the power of an existing user base and known brand to leverage. ... In the coming years, we’re going to devote more attention to honing our marketing and brand message and activating our user community in ways that are both fulfilling to them and beneficial to us.”

Follow @ndahlberg on Twitter

FlipaClip-Team

The Meson brothers, of Miami-based Visual Blasters, and one of their company advisors, at eMerge Americas in 2015. From left: Tim Meson, Marcos Meson, Jeremy Meccage. Jonathan Meson. Visual Blasters



Read more Startup Spotlights

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Miami startup offers car washes on demand that save water too

 

 

April 25, 2017

CarHopper raises $1.5 million, plans expansion

Bora Hamamcioglu  Founder of CarHopper

By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

CarHopper, an app-enabled booking platform for luxury car rentals, announced Tuesday its plans to expand operations to Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Orlando and Fort Lauderdale.

The South Florida startup also announced it has raised $1.5 million in seed funding, raised from a syndicate of angel investors, which will help the company expand product development and sales and marketing efforts.

CarHopper recently honed its focus to a more curated inventory, sourced from boutique luxury car rental purveyors. “Latest trends demonstrate that people prefer buying experiences rather than assets,” said founder and CEO Bora Hamamcioglu, a Turkish entrepreneur who founded the company in Miami in 2016 (pictured above). In addition to private jet services and luxury homes with other services, sophisticated shoppers now have easy and streamlined access to luxury cars with CarHopper, he said.

 

April 20, 2017

Miami real estate-tech startup Gridics raises $1.1 million from developer Avra Jain and others

Gridex

By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

Efficient isn't a word most people would use to describe a planning and zoning process, but a Miami-based real estate technology startup wants to change that.

Gridics announced Thursday that it has raised a $1.1 million round of seed funding. The round was led by Dune Road Capital and included John Dyett, managing director of Salem Partners, Robert Kall, CEO and co-founder of Cien.ai, and Miami real estate developer Avra Jain. 

Gridics, short for Grid Analytics, is a real estate dataa and software development company founded in 2015. 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 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. 

"By creating a solution that can digitize and automate any zoning code, the Gridics team has created a way to streamline an antiqued process," said Peter Richards, managing partner of Dune Road Capital.

The company, which has raised over $2 million  to date, is focused on further strengthening its product and driving adoption of its Zonar.City application. 

"Our new automated compliance module allows cities and developers to quickly check development plans against site-specific zoning requirements.  Cities that integrate their code with Zonar.city will streamline their zoning approval processes resulting in faster approvals, improved transparency and significant reductions to backlogs," said Gridics CEO Jason Doyle, in announcing the funding.

Gridics is also developing a Market Intelligence application, which allows real estate professionals to conduct hyper-local market analysis.  More than 1,000 members of the Miami Association of Realtors have joined Gridics since February, the company said.

 

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April 18, 2017

PetSmart to buy Chewy.com, and the price fetched may be eye-popping

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By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

The biggest e-commerce acquisition deal in history could be going to the dogs.

PetSmart, the nation’s largest pet-supplies retailer, has agreed to acquire Dania Beach-based Chewy.com, the market’s No. 1 online retailer.

The combination of Phoenix-based PetSmart, with 1,500 stores nationwide, and Chewy will enhance both companies’ reach, the companies said Tuesday. The acquisition, which is subject to customary regulatory approvals, is expected to close by the end of PetSmart’s second fiscal quarter.

Terms of the transaction were not disclosed. However, tech media site Recode is reporting that the deal in place is valued at $3.35 billion, according to its sources. That would make the sale of Chewy the biggest e-commerce acquisition to date, even larger than Wal-Mart’s $3.3 billion deal for jet.com last year.

“We are focused on improving our customers’ experience in-store and online as we continue to execute against our long-term strategic initiatives. Chewy’s high-touch customer e-commerce service model and culture centered around a love of pets is the ideal complement to PetSmart’s store footprint and diverse offerings,” said Michael Massey, PetSmart president and chief executive officer, in the announcement.

Chewy, which had been rumored to be a candidate for going public, has seen explosive growth since it was founded by Ryan Cohen (pictured above) and Michael “Blake” Day in 2011. The privately held company registered $26 million in sales during its first full year in business and logged more than $900 million in sales in 2016, the company said.

Although it was not yet profitable, Cohen said in February Chewy was projected to increase revenues to nearly $2 billion this year — nearly a 7,600 percent growth spurt in just six years. Today it has about 5,000 employees nationwide.

[READ MORE: Chewy has seen fantastic growth, but can it keep up the pace?]

The company built its following — more than 2 million customers nationwide — on customer service. Among its many campaigns, it sends hand-painted pet portraits as thank you gifts to 700 randomly selected customers every week.

“Since we started Chewy, we have been dedicated to understanding and satisfying the evolving needs of our customers to deliver the highest quality pet products and customer service,” said Cohen, Chewy’s CEO. “Combining our strong e-commerce expertise with PetSmart’s best-in-class infrastructure, footprint and breadth of offerings including services will help us wow our customers even more.”

Chewy will operate as an independent subsidiary of PetSmart run by Cohen and will remain focused on its current business strategy, while PetSmart will continue to execute its strategic initiatives across the combined company, PetSmart said.

Chewy tried to reassured customers on social media Tuesday that Chewy wasn’t going anywhere and the level of service would not change after the acquisition.

According to 1010Data, Chewy.com holds 51 percent of the online pet food market, including 40.5 percent in direct sales and 10.2 percent in subscription sales. But Chewy always had bigger aspirations.

“If you look at where we are today in the business, we’re still scratching the surface in terms of the total addressable market. We want to be No. 1. We’re No. 1 online. We want to be the largest pet retailer in the world,” Cohen said in a Miami Herald cover story in February.

Chewy had raised several rounds of capital — about $236 million in total — to support its growth. On Feb. 1, Wells Fargo Capital Finance had become the latest investor, announcing an agreement to lend $90 million over the next five years to Chewy.

Nancy Dahlberg: @ndahlberg

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April 14, 2017

Susan Perry of SpeechMED honored by AARP for innovation helping older Americans

SusanperrySusan Perry, founder and CEO of Miami-based SpeechMED, is one of AARP’s  50+ Innovation Leaders, an AARP initiative administered by MedCity News to recognize entrepreneurs, companies and ideas behind innovative new products and services for Americans aged 50 and older.

“We are thrilled to be recognized by AARP as an innovator of audio, multi-lingual, patient engagement technology that enables seniors and their caregivers to hear their medical directions via human voice instead of in written form, which gives them a far greater chance of processing those critical directions, and always in the language that they know best” said  Perry, in a news release.

The winners of the inaugural 50+ Innovation Leaders program were revealed today during the AARP Innovation@50+ Live Pitch event by representatives of MedCity News and AARP. The full list of winners can be seen at medcitynews.com/50-plus-innovation-leaders/.

“AARP works to empower people to choose how they live as they age,” said Jeffrey Makowka, AARP’s director of market innovation. “We are pleased to join MedCity News in showcasing entrepreneurs who are driving change and improvements in the healthcare industry for the more than 100 million Americans aged 50 and older."

SpeechMED is a simple to use platform to empower patients, caregivers and their healthcare providers by removing obstacles to clear communication. "Our mission of inclusion is to make patient’s medical information understandable to them regardless of their age, vision, language preference or literacy level," Perry said. Visit speechmed.com for more information.

READ MORE: A Startup Spotlight on SpeechMED 

 

April 12, 2017

Cheers! Delivery.com buys Boca Raton-based alcohol delivery startup Klink

KlinkTeam

Klink team, from left: Jeffrey Nadel, CEO; Nicholas Bowers, CTO; Craig Bolz, COO; and Geoff Castillo, chief creative officer. Photo provided by Klink


Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/news/business/article144161594.html#storylink=cpy

By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

KlinkappRaise a glass for Klink: The South Florida-based alcohol-delivery startup has been acquired.

Klink, founded in 2013, was one of the first companies to legally provide on-demand, technology-powered alcohol delivery, said the startup’s CEO Jeffrey Nadel. On Wednesday, New York-based delivery.com, a company that also delivers food, groceries, laundry and other products and services, announced that it had acquired Klink. Terms of the transaction were not disclosed.

Klink’s first location was the University of Central Florida because two team members were students there. But the startup quickly pivoted from the college campus model and built a loyal customer base in Miami, Dallas and Washington, DC, markets that delivery.com has targeted for expansion. delivery.com has been offering food and laundry pickup and delivery in the Miami area for some time, but has never offered alcohol delivery in the area, said Nadel.

Significant recent milestones for Klink include its partnership with Total Wine & More, which included a campaign emphasizing the stories behind the products, and its campaign with Corona, in which customers could have Corona delivered by boat or jetski. For the co-founders born and raised in South Florida, the sale as a validation point for the growing South Florida tech scene is significant, too.

Klink, most recently based in Boca Raton, was part of a wave of South Florida startup companies creating concepts in just about every aspect of the spirits industry, including brewing and distilling, packaging, selling, dispensing – and delivering. Klink’s app, available on iOS and Android, brought the party to the customer, who could order beer, wine and spirits for delivery in under an hour.

But Klink was far from alone in the booze delivery game. In addition to delivery.com, Klink competed in various markets with a number of competitors, including Drizly, Velocity, Thirstie and Minibar, and recently national delivery apps Instacart and Shipt more known for delivering groceries have launched alcohol delivery in South Florida. The sale marks one of the first consolidation moves in the alcohol-delivery space.

READ MORE: South Florida’s spirited startups serve up innovation

Nadel wouldn’t disclose personnel transition plans for the Klink team of 10. “The immediate focus of the entire Klink team is working hand-in-hand with the delivery.com team to ensure the smoothest possible transition for our customers and retail partners. We are confident this will be a huge value-add for both our customers – who will be able to order food along with their beer, wine and spirits purchases – and our retail partners, who will have access to a wealth of new customers,” said Nadel, adding that Klink customers have been clamoring for an offering that combines booze and food almost since Klink’s launch.

The companies said a transition of Klink customers and merchants to delivery.com will be completed in coming weeks. delivery.com, founded in 2004, has made at least three other acquisitions over the years, the most recent being BrewDrop of Austin, Texas, last year.

READ MORE: Delivery on-demand – apps at your service

 

April 01, 2017

Startup Spotlight: Emerge.me reinvents shopping for emergency insurance

Emerge

Wes Thompson, far left and pictured below, founder and CEO of Emerge.me, a tech startup simplifying shopping and buying insurance for medical emergencies. He has assembled a management team, from left, consisting of Whitney Romanchuk, head of user experience; Mike Rolfe, head of product; and Marc Howard, head of growth marketing and analytics. They are seen in their Wynwood office, inside of Rokk3r Labs, on March 8. Carl Juste cjuste@miamiherald.com


Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/news/business/biz-monday/article142123609.html#storylink=cpy


By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

 

Startup Spotlight: Emerge.me, a Miami startup, has reinvented the customer experience of shopping for and purchasing an emergency insurance policy. Traditionally, buying a gap policy would require you to spend days corresponding back and forth with an agent or broker about your coverage needs, the available policies and the application process. That’s all changing.

Company name: Emerge.me

Headquarters: Rokk3r Labs in Miami

Concept: Emerge.me makes insurance for medical emergencies accessible, simple and easy to purchase.

Emergewes Story: Wes Thompson was inspired to create Emerge after hearing the story of a former employee who was struggling to pay medical bills for his wife’s illness. Even though they had health insurance, they could not afford the out-of-pocket costs of deductibles, special treatments, travel costs for care and lost wages. The burden of paying these costs ended up putting the family into serious medical debt.

“This isn’t just an isolated story — in fact millions of Americans are not equipped to deal with the financial reality of these emergencies even if they have health insurance,” Thompson said.

Thompson should know: He has 30 years experience in the insurance industry and most recently was president of Sun Life Financial U.S. What’s more, as an intrapreneur, he helped pave the way for a restructure of a major Philadelphia-based insurance company in the early 2000s that resulted in a new business model. This is Thompson’s first startup.

Emergency insurance solutions — supplemental or gap policies — exist to protect individuals from the risk of unexpected medical emergencies not covered by health insurance. Emergency insurance is designed to complement health insurance by providing a cash benefit that can be used for any out-of-pocket costs related to a covered illness or accident.

But here’s the problem, according to Emerge: They are neither straightforward nor easily accessible to most consumers. These products are sold essentially as an afterthought or add-on to health insurance exclusively through brokers and agents, there is no digital marketplace for customers to compare pricing for policies, get educated, get advice and apply online.

The big picture: Rising healthcare premiums are causing consumers to take on more and more risk, and medical costs are now the leading form of consumer debt in the U.S. today.

Emerge.me has reinvented the customer experience of shopping for and purchasing a policy. Traditionally, buying an emergency insurance policy would require you to spend anywhere from two days to a few weeks corresponding back and forth with a broker or agent about your coverage needs, the available policies and the application process.

That’s all changing. Before launching Emerge late last year, the company spent a year building an in-house algorithm. Now, a customer can come to emerge.me, and engage with tools, get coverage advice, compare personalized quotes, and apply online — all within 15 minutes or less, the company said. Emerge primarily markets to the consumer but sees significant opportunities in the B2B arena.

Emerge has launched with two products, critical illness insurance for financial protection against cancer, heart attack, stroke and more and physical injury insurance, which provides benefits for falls, injuries, broken bones, etc. Emerge is already planning to add other supplemental insurance products in the near future such as hospital indemnity and short-term disability.

“We have a great team and great partners,” Thompson said. “The space is ripe for disruption.”

Launched: December 2016

Website and social: emerge.me, blog.emerge.me, www.facebook.com/tryemerge/

Management team: Wes Thompson, founder and CEO; Mike Rolfe, head of strategy and product development; Whitney Romanchuk, head of product design and UX; Marc Howard, head of growth and data analytics; Cheryl Egazarian, project manager.

No. of employees: 13

Financing: Raised $1.8 million in seed funding via Thompson’s self-funding and private investors; seeking an additional $400,000 via convertible notes prior to Series A funding targeted for June.

Recent milestones reached: Emerge is now licensed in all 50 US states as an insurance broker. Digital insurance carrier partners include trusted companies such as United Health One/Golden Rule, Mutual of Omaha, Assurity, Manhattan Life and SureBridge. Secured $1.8 million in seed funding. Won second place in TechCrunch Miami Pitchoff event. Recognized by Plug&Play as a finalist for its InsurTech accelerator program.

Biggest startup challenge and why: Convincing insurance companies to innovate and participate on emerge.me, as emergency insurance products have traditionally been distributed exclusively through traditional agents and brokers.

Next steps: Seeking Series A funding in order to expand the product offerings, continue to improve the user experience and invest in customer acquisition and talent acquisition.

Follow @ndahlbergon Twitter.

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