November 27, 2016

Startup Spotlight: The Wynwood Coloring Book

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The Wynwood Coloring Book is a coloring book for adults inspired by the world famous street art of Wynwood. A second edition is planned, as well as a broader book featuring street artists from throughout the U.S.

Company name: The Wynwood Coloring Book, by AimfulMedia

Headquarters: MADE at the Citadel, 8325 NE Second Ave., Miami

Concept: The Wynwood Coloring Book is a coloring book for adults inspired by the world famous street art of Wynwood.

Story: As an entrepreneur, Diego Orlandini (pictured above) has always been passionate about ideas that are socially responsible and community-oriented and that deepen the human experience. He admires TOMS Shoes and similar companies that bring tangible positive social impact to their business models.

“Last year, when I was stressed trying to build AimfulMedia and writing a novel, my girlfriend at the time introduced me to a coloring book for adults. We imagined how cool it could be to color the murals of the city, and I saw that as the opportunity to put all my passions into one single project,” Orlandini said. Orlandini, a yoga enthusiast who traveled to India this summer, also discovered firsthand what research has shown to be true: Coloring can be a “mindful” way of relaxing and focusing.

Orlandini partnered with a number of Wynwood artists, and with the help of that community, the first edition of the $25 coloring book published in April. The 64-page book, made with high-quality environmentally friendly wood-free paper, features the work of 43 street artists, including Alex Senna, Mijares and Patch Whisky and includes a directory with information about each artist and work of art.

“The Wynwood Coloring Book is a lot of things. It’s a tool for mindfulness, to help people take a break from the hustle and remember a simpler time. It’s a souvenir for visitors who want to bring home a part of this place. And it’s a time capsule, capturing Wynwood at a pivotal moment in its young life, preserving today’s art long after it is painted over to make way for a new mural,” The New Tropic wrote earlier this year about the book.

The first printing of the Wynwood Coloring Book sold out in June and a second printing is nearly sold out. There will be one more printing before the next edition of Wynwood Coloring Book comes out featuring a new set of street artists. About 5,000 copies have been sold so far.

Orlandini also has plans to expand beyond Wynwood: “We are now embarking on the next bigger, larger project: A coloring book featuring over 100 artists around the country and a buy-one, give-one initiative that will come with it. For every book sold, we will place a textbook in the hands of schoolchildren in the developing world.”

Orlandini said he is working on a prototype for the national book now and will put out a call to artists in January.

Founded: 2015 (first book in 2016)

Management team: Diego Orlandini

Website: wynwoodcoloringbook.com

Financing: $5,000 via a successfully funded Kickstarter campaign. Hoping to raise $50,000 for a national project.

Recent milestones reached: The Wynwood Coloring Book is now available at Miami International Airport, Books & Books, several museum gift shops including PAMM, and top retailers in Wynwood, including The Wynwood Walls Shop, Glotman, Frangipani and Wynwood Letterpress. Faber-Castell approached the company and together they launched a Wynwood Coloring Book colored pencil set to accompany the book. The startup organized a coloring party at the Miami Book Fair that entertained hundreds of attendees, adults and children alike.

Biggest startup challenge: “Not having a mentor to guide me through the process was the biggest challenge,” Orlandini said. “I’m still looking for one!”

Next step: A coloring book with 100-plus artists and their street art from around the country and a buy one, give one program (for every book sold, the company will give a textbook to schoolchildren in the developing world). “Doing something like this has been a dream of mine since my college years,” he said.

Strategy for next step: With the rapid experience, important connections and growing audience as a result of The Wynwood Coloring Book, the company will implement the same lean process used to create this book, but at a much larger scale.

Follow Nancy Dahlberg on Twitter @ndahlberg.

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November 26, 2016

Cubans wake to global Castro news via free internet from Miami-based nonprofit Apretaste

ApretastelocoWithin hours of the death of Fidel Castro, Miami-based nonprofit Apretaste distributed within Cuba links to international news media about the world’s reaction.

Cubans awoke to learn the news through their phones, via Pizarra, a social network built specifically for the Cuban people that overcomes the connectivity issues on the island, said Apretaste founder Salvi Pascual.

Apretaste runs a platform out of Miami where any Cuban with a cell phone and email service can have access to any information on the internet. Shortcuts to international news sites such as cnnespanol and EFE were made available through Pizarra and Cubans immediately reacted by posting their feelings from within the island.

Posts came  with mixed feelings.  Some Cubans on the island posted hopeful messages such as "Esto es trascendental,se abre una nueva etapa quizas podremos empezar al fin a ver la luz" [translation: This is transcendental, a new era opens, maybe finally we will see the light] posted Apretaste user @yulie14. While others were honoring Castro's memory with words such as "Hoy Cuba esta de luto, el mundo tendra que inclinar su cabeza para ver el paso a la inmortalidad de Fidel." [translation: Today Cuba is in mourning, and the world will have to bow its head to view as Fidel steps into immortality] posted by Apretaste user @ynapn.

Salvi-pascual-HD“Giving a voice to the Cuban people and sharing it with the world is important to us at Apretaste, especially at a time like today when the world’s eyes are on Cuba,” said Pascual, a software developer and professor in Miami.  To learn more about what the Cuban people have to say about Fidel Castro and life in Cuba, and for a live feed of posts by Cubans via Pizarra, follow the @HeyCuba twitter page at https://twitter.com/HeyCuba.

Apretaste connects more than 40,000 people in Cuba to the web, via email, through technology designed and implemented in Miami by a community of open source software developers. Features include access to international news sites, Wikipedia, weather forecasts, Google maps and 30 more sites, all by email.

 

November 21, 2016

Startup Spotlight: After 'Shark Tank, Three Jerks Jerky manages hyper-growth, expands product line

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Three Jerks Jerky created a line of filet mignon beef jerky that is all natural and scored a Daymond John investment on Shark Tank. Now the startup has expanded, even offering burgers.

Company Name: Three Jerks Jerky

Offices: Miami, Los Angeles, New Jersey

Concept: Why should something as incredible as filet mignon be relegated to special occasions and celebrations? Friends Jordan Barrocas and Daniel Fogelson didn’t think so, so they formed Three Jerks Jerky and created a beef jerky that is and all natural and that fans say is melt-in-your-mouth delicious.

Story: After being disappointed with all of the jerky available — it was either too tough to eat or loaded with so many chemicals it was scary — Barrocas and Fogelson decided to make their own. “We didn’t want to make regular old jerky and felt that we needed something special. Filet mignon it was,” said Barrocas, who earned an MBA from the University of Miami and worked in the footwear industry before taking the entrepreneurial plunge.

After going door to door to stores with their samples they caught their first big break. “We aired on ABC’s ‘Shark Tank’ in October 2015 and partnered with Daymond John. The exposure from the show produced an overnight growth spurt and we expanded 600 percent in two months,” said Barrocas said.

[Read more: Miami entrepreneur will feed beef jerky to the sharks]

That short growth spurt brought more than a million dollars in sales but also significant challenges: They couldn’t supply the demand and maintain their production standards. “Our production partners were at max capacity and we weren’t coming close to filling our orders on time,” Barrocas said. To keep the wheels from falling off and alleviate growing pains, Daymond John introduced Three Jerks to Rastelli Foods Group, and they partnered up. “Rastelli quickly organized a supply chain for our filet mignon, improving price and reliability. They took control of managing our production schedules and sources new manufacturers for us,” Barrocas said. “Daniel and myself could get back to focusing on our brand and selling our jerky — essentially back to the Jerks we once were.”

Three Jerks Jerky is expecting to close the year up another 500 percent over last year, due to growth in the retail business, including expanding into Publix, Hy-Vee and Meijer grocery chains. Three Jerks offers five core filet mignon jerky flavors: Original (the best seller by far); Memphis BBQ; Chipotle Adobo; Maple Bourbon Churro; and Hamburger (yep, it tastes like a burger). A two-ounce pack (two servings) is $8.99 on threejerksjerky.com.

Next year, a new flavor will join the lineup. “It’s a teriyaki flavor that we developed in partnership with the company Soy Vay. They make the most amazing teriyaki sauce and I have been purchasing it for as long as I can remember. We figured the best teriyaki sauce and the best jerky were a match made in heaven,” said Barrocas, who enjoys cooking.

Beyond Jerky: The partnership with Rastelli has also helped the company introduce two burger varieties this past August: 100 percent Filet Mignon and the first-ever-to-market Pork Belly Blend (60 percent beef filet, 40 percent pork), Barrocas said. “Just like our jerky, the burgers are made from only the most premium cuts and contain no preservatives or artificial ingredients.”

Launched: October 2013

Website: www.threejerksjerky.com

Management team: Jordan Barrocas (based in Miami), Daniel Fogelson (Los Angeles), Ray Rastelli III (New Jersey)

No. of employees: Five

Financing: Primarily self-funded. Launched on Kickstarter and raised $40,000. Appeared on “Shark Tank” in 2015 and secured a deal with Daymond John, resulting in an investment of $100,000.

Recent milestones: Appeared on Shark Tank in October 2015. Secured an investment deal with Daymond John and grew the business 650 percent in 2015. Have since joint ventured with Daymond John and Rastelli Foods Group to create a partnership with strengthened supply chain and operations. Consequently, have lowered unit costs and are on pace to grow an additional 250 percent in 2016. Three Jerks has broken through in major grocery retail in the fourth quarter with Publix, Michigan-based Meijer and Iowa-based Hy-Vee.

Biggest startup challenge: Maintaining quality, consistency and on-time delivery through hyper-growth.

Next step: Deepen retail presence with continued supply chain growth and operational efficiencies with Rastelli partnership.

Follow Nancy Dahlberg on Twitter @ndahlberg

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Wyncode outgrows The LAB, will open its own campus Jan.8

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By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

Wyncode Academy, a homegrown coding bootcamp that teaches computer programming in 10 weeks, is outgrowing The LAB Miami, where it has been based, and is moving into its own stand-alone code school campus on Jan. 8. But staying true to its name and roots, the company is staying in Wynwood.

"We have loved being at The LAB and it is always going to be a special place for us. That said, we are ready to double down on Miami and move into our own dedicated campus," said Juha Mikkola, who founded the code school with his wife, Johanna (both pictured above) in Miami in 2014.

Along with the expansion, Wyncode also announced it will also be launching its first part-time course for those who want to learn how to code without leaving their jobs and offering more corporate training.

Wyncode’s new custom-designed campus, called Wynbase, is located at 549 NW 28th St. and at 3,100 square feet is more than four times larger than its dedicated space at The LAB. Wynbase, when it opens Jan. 8, will include two full-size classrooms, a smaller classroom for corporate training programs and an open concept co-working area for Wyncode students and staff, Mikkola said.

Wyncode’s intensive, immersive full-time web development course will now start every five weeks and provide prospective Wyncoders with more flexibility in terms of start dates. More importantly, this new format provides students with the opportunity to repeat the first 5-week section if they need extra time to work on their fundamentals, said Juha Mikkola. There are benefits of culture too: The more experienced students can inspire and help the newer class, he said.

Wyncode’s part-time web development course will meet three evenings a week for 12 weeks and offer career-oriented students the option to keep their day jobs while learning to build web applications at night. More information on the new program, which will start in February, is available here. Both the full-time and part-time classes will be capped at 30 students.  

Wyncode will also follow on its first successful corporate workshop with Visa and build more corporate training programs for Miami companies looking to adopt Agile methodologies and innovate their processes through automation and other technologies. 

"This is a move to centralize and strengthen the overall experience and quality at Wyncode," said Juha Mikkola. Wyncode will be consolidating its bootcamps at Wynbase but will continue to do Wyntroductions (one-day bootcamps) and other events in Fort Lauderdale, where it has held cohorts.

Wyncode Academy, now with 13 full-time and 18 part-time employees, was the first bricks and mortar coding school to be licensed by the Florida Department of Education. About 350 people have completed the programs with a 97 percent job placement rate. Over 100 companies have hired Wyncoders, who come from a variety of careers such as  chefs, lawyers, salespeople, accountants, concierges, marketing executives and entrepreneurs.  Applications for the programs are accepted on a rolling basis and interested candidates should apply at wyncode.co.

“We’re incredibly excited to launch Wynbase and provide the best possible learning environment for our students,”  said Johanna Mikkola. She and Juha were chosen as Endeavor Entrepreneurs in 2015. "We believe the future for Miami tech is bright and we can’t wait to welcome the entire tech community to Wynbase in 2017.”

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

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

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A Wyncode class, above, and a Pitch Night, which ends each bootcamp, below.

Wyncodepitch

November 18, 2016

FAU Tech Runway graduates third class of startups

Florida Atlantic University’s Tech Runway recently celebrated the graduation of Venture Class III, the third class of companies to complete the yearlong FAU Tech Runway program.

The founders of the four companies in “Venture Class III” were honored at the ceremony: Thomas Gregory of Sofla Sunwear, a lifestyle brand of clothing established to represent the unique culture of South Florida; Ray Briant of TiloTag, a patented smartphone app that allows you to discover the memories that surround you; June Adams and James Khalil of PowerCalc, the first SaaS-based software that completely automates the electrical engineering calculations for the building, construction, and facility management industries that is compliant with the National Electrical Code (NEC); and Carly Asher Yoost of The Child Rescue Coalition, a nonprofit organization that builds sophisticated technology to track child predators across the globe.

“We are incredibly proud of what this third FAU Tech Runway® Venture Class has accomplished,” said Rhys L. Williams, associate vice president for research and the managing director for FAU Tech Runway. “Several of these companies were little more than concepts when they began our program. Now they have products, customers, sales, patents, employees, and have become real businesses. For these four companies that have launched from FAU Tech Runway, the sky’s the limit.”

Tech Runway is a public-private partnership formed to foster technology startups and early-stage companies; selected companies receive a $25,000 non-equity grant, participate in a 16-week intensive boot camp, engage in a yearlong mentoring program with a team of five business mentors, and are provided workspace for one year.

Since its launch in fall 2014, FAU Tech Runway has provided financial support, strategic development, entrepreneurial education, free workspace, investor introductions, and expert mentoring for 29 startup companies. As a result of the program, 239 jobs have been created, 57 FAU students have been employed, more than $6 million in revenue has been earned, and more than $18 million investment capital has been raised.

For more information on FAU Tech Runway, visit techrunway.fau.edu.

November 07, 2016

Startup Spotlight: Eben Naturals

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Photo of Milain David by Roberto Koltun

 

 

How a trip to the Congo kickstarted a skincare startup

Company name: Eben Naturals

Headquarters: WeWork Lincoln Road

Concept: Eben Naturals is a Miami-based skincare line geared toward the dark complexion segment. Its products are meticulously crafted to address issues common to its target market, such as uneven skin tone, dry body, breakouts, excess sebum secretion and oily skin.

Story: Milain David first thought of starting a skincare company about two years ago during a trip to the Congo, his native country.

“There I noticed the widespread use of skin-lightening products by misguided consumers who had no information whatsoever about their harmful effects. As a matter of fact, they feature a high dosage of hydroquinone, a product defined as carcinogenic by the FDA. So I thought it’d be great to promote products that would encourage people to embrace their natural skin tone,” he said.

When he returned to the U.S., he began looking into the beauty industry and realized that there was a lack of beauty solutions geared towards his demographic. This was later confirmed through extensive market research. “That’s when I decided to dive in and create Eben.”

David, an alumni of the University of Miami in economics and finance, received strategic advice about business planning and researching the market from UM’s entrepreneurship resource center, The Launch Pad. “It was like getting a very good business consulting firm, but for free.”

Once he graduated in May 2015, he jumped into Eben 100 percent, putting the business plan into action. Over the next year, he hired a chemist, and together they visited farms around the U.S. and rented small labs for R&D and creating the formulations. Once David had the formulations, he found a Doral manufacturer, The Pure Source, and began testing the product with his target market. To finance the production and get more early feedback from consumers, he launched a crowdfunding campaign this past summer. He raised $16,000, which was just enough to finance initial production and create some early marketing buzz.

David said Eben’s three-step product line is all-natural, vegan and cruelty-free. The company has launched its first line of products this fall and is selling on Amazon as well as www.ebennaturals.com.

Founded: June 2015; launched first product line in October.

Management team: Milain David, CEO and Chief Financial Officer; Valeria Quiros, branding and social media; Khadija Andrews, head of marketing; Daniel Lamus, sales adviser.

Website and social media: www.ebennaturals.com; https://www.facebook.com/ebennaturals/; https://www.instagram.com/ebennaturals/

Financing: The company is mostly bootstrapped and raised $16,000 on Kickstarter.

Recent milestones: Eben received approval from Amazon to become sellers in its highly competitive and restricted “Beauty and personal care category.” Eben also has an agreement with a major beauty sampling company to be featured in their limited edition Christmas box. “This would give us a major boost in terms of brand awareness.”

Biggest startup challenge: “The biggest startup challenge we face is to garner brand awareness with a very limited marketing budget. I like to think of it as having given birth to a child no one can see just yet,” David said.

Next step: The next step is to raise a seed round to finance customer acquisition efforts and improve processes. “The strategy is to consolidate our brand identity to show potential investors that they are putting their money in a viable lifestyle company and not just another startup,” David said.

Mentor’s view: David said he met Jacques Cohen, a long-time executive in the cosmetics industry, at a friend’s Shabbat dinner. They exchanged small talk and numbers, and Cohen has offered his guidance ever since. “Milain reminded me when I started, the enthusiasm and the will to succeed. Milain recognized and accepted some of the early constructive criticism, too,” said Cohen, CEO of Prestige Cosmetics, a leading cosmetics manufacturer based in Deerfield Beach.

“Though Milain’s category is not that crowded, he is going to have to promote and make his products known. His advantage is his positioning. The ethnic market is mainly and traditionally positioned as mass market. That demographic has evolved enormously and is looking for and willing to pay for good products,” Cohen said. “Fortunately, today advertising can be done very economically through social media.”

By Nancy Dahlberg, @ndahlberg

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October 31, 2016

With $750K in new funding, what's ahead for The New Tropic? Expansion

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Photo from The New Tropic

By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

Boosted by growing community engagement and new funding, media company WhereBy.Us, publisher of The New Tropic, announced its first expansion outside South Florida. The Miami startup is taking its New Tropic business model to Seattle, “with more cities on the way,” said CEO and co-founder Christopher Sopher.

The New Tropic serves up a popular daily newletter, with about 30,000 subscribers. It offers stories and tools on its website, such as a how to decipher ballot initiatives or understand sea level rise and its engaging neighborhood guides. It also partners with organizations that run events, and produces some of its own; its recent debate watch event at Gramp's (pictured above) was packed. “Whether it is a forum on a really tough civic issue or it’s a beer tasting, these kinds of things are all happening in the same moment in Miami, and we think that is really fun,” Sopher said in an interview Friday.

Through the expansion, a Seattle team of journalists has started a sister company, Evergrey, which launched a digital newsletter last week with plans for a website and events to quickly follow. The New Tropic has raised $750,000 from Knight Foundation’s Enterprise Fund, the AGP Miami angel network, Tilia Media and other angel investors. WhereBy.Us’s staff has expanded from three to 13 in the past two years.

The funding will help Whereby.Us expand to new markets but also  continue building a technology platform for serving and engaging the Miami community. The tech tools help the team understand what gets millennials and other residents motivated to want to experience the city so that The New Tropic can  help them get connected to issues they care by  serving up information useful in these pursuits. “We take a concept where there is a lot of interest, like the voter guide, and make it into something that fits the digital behavior of people, optimized for mobile and is ready for people to explore or share. We see big opportunities for those kinds of resources,” Sopher said.

In a medium post last week, Sopher described the research that went into launching The New Tropic two years ago with Rebekah Monson and Bruce Pinchbeck: “We vetted financial models, gathered advisors, and secured a bit of funding. But nothing tests your assumptions like a sudden impact with the real world. Fortunately, somewhere between exploring Miami’s dive bars, diving into transit policy, and running Pitbull for Mayor, The New Tropic started to catch on.”

The New Tropic will be launching a new version of its website in the coming months and plans a couple of local conferences in addition to expanding to new cities next year. The community-focused mission isn’t changing, Sopher said: “We’re diving deeper into it and running faster.”

He adds, “It’s easy to get lost in the coding or scaling or fundraising or some other aspect of building a company, but at the end of the day if you don’t understand the community you serve in a deep way, it’s hard to build something that lasts.”

October 28, 2016

Brian Brackeen named Innovator of the Year at TechConneXT

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Congratulations to Brian Backeen, Kairos founder and CEO who was recently named Innovator of the Year at Black Enterprise TechConneXt Summit for his notable contributions to the tech industry. He offered attendees candid insight on fundraising, navigating challenges, and ultimately the road to excelling in tech.

Kairos is a human analytics company that uses three-dimensional data to measure human feelings and interactions, and was recently featured in Florida Trend as a promising new company. Brackeen is  an Endeavor entrepreneur, and Kairos has company, has received local funding from New World Angels, AGP and the Florida Institute for the Commercialization of Public Research as well as other Florida-based and national angel groups and VCs.

October 26, 2016

LocalBlip of Fort Lauderdale received $225K New World Angels investment

By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

Merchants who complain about using Groupon may now have a more affordable and flexible alternative.

New World Angels is investing  $225,000  in Fort Lauderdale-based LocalBlip to fund its market entry into South Florida. Through its website and mobile apps, LocalBlip provides merchants and consumers with more affordable and customizable local programming and marketing tools versus sites such as Groupon and LivingSocial that require expensive, inflexible contracts.

LocalBlip’s founder and CEO Nick Mazzio has identified the largest problem with current online couponing sites as not providing merchants the flexibility to adjust their offers in real time and being cost prohibitive for most small businesses. LocalBlip allows merchants to target local customers without long term contracts or onerous offer terms. Small businesses can now leverage the power of couponing and online marketing at a fraction of the cost of the current large discount/coupon sites.

 “New World Angels is delighted to fund the initial roll out of LocalBlip to South Florida,” said NWA President Steve O’Hara, in a news release.  “When our due diligence team, led by John Benckenstein and Randy Wood, provided its usual detailed insights, team member Barry Spiegel started using LocalBlip for his Dunkin’ Donuts franchises, affording us real time experience with the LocalBlip product.”

New World Angels is a group of 63 accredited, private investors that  provide equity capital to early-stage entrepreneurial companies with a strong presence in Florida.   NWA has invested $8 million in the last three years.

 

October 19, 2016

Miami-based CareAngel wins AARP's national $50K Challenge

AARP Foundation has announced CareAngel as the winner of the 2016 Aging in Place $50K Challenge, a startup competition for entrepreneurs with solutions to help low-income adults age 50-plus live safely, independently and comfortably in their own homes as they age. With submissions from startups throughout the nation focused on “design for all” housing and caregiving solutions, the new award competition named CareAngelHome for LifeDesign and CareAcademy as finalists.

CareAngel, based in Miami, is an AI-driven caregiving assistant that revolutionizes aging-in-place and the care of loved ones. The award winning patent-pending software technology is designed to call an older adult every day on a landline and inquires how the senior is doing, whether they took their medications, and asks about their appetite, sleep quality, blood pressure and glucose readings. With the $50,000 from AARP Foundation’s 2016 Aging in Place challenge, CareAngel will launch a Care it Forward program to provide free check-in care calls, including one year free services for 5,000 low income seniors who do not own a smartphone.

“We know that the majority of Americans want to remain in their homes as they age,” said Lisa Marsh Ryerson, AARP Foundation's president. “But we also know that there are more than 19 million older Americans living in unaffordable or unsafe housing. We need big and bold solutions like these to help meet the diverse needs of our most vulnerable seniors and allow them to remain essential members of their communities.”

As millions of older adults struggle with inadequate housing, the Foundation, in collaboration with Aging 2.0, invited startups from across the United States to submit proposals for innovative solutions to aging in place, with the winner receiving a $50,000 cash prize. CareAngel was named the winner by a panel of judges from the public, nonprofit and private sectors with venture capital, startup and innovation expertise.

The $50K Aging in Place Challenge is part of AARP Foundation’s Innovation Prize, designed to seek out promising ideas and unlock new opportunities to help solve the problems so many low-income older adults face as they age. AARP Foundation strives to create and advance effective solutions that help vulnerable older adults secure the essentials and unlock new opportunities for vulnerable older adults nationwide.

To learn more about the competition click here: www.aarpfoundationprize.org

- Submitted by AARP