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

October 18, 2016

Rokk3r Labs relocating its headquarters from Miami Beach to Wynwood


Cobuilding platform Rokk3r Labs is moving its headquarters to Wynwood, Miami's booming arts hotspot. The new office space will further facilitate creativity and cobuilding between the team, entrepreneurs, investors and other partners, its founders said.

“The move into our new headquarters provides the impetus to blend art and technology to further connect our offices, teammates, entrepreneurs, investors and partners at a global scale,” said Lorenzo de Leo, Rokk3r Labs’ managing director, in a news release. “We wanted to create more private work spaces alongside open, collaborative, areas, to help our team members find the best work environment for them. Now we plan to have dedicated space - dubbed the Decompression Zone - to help people relax, meditate and more.”

As well as the Decompression Zone, Rokk3r Labs’ new 6,000-square-foot headquarters, at 2121 NW Second Ave., will include a dedicated learning area, a rooftop patio and a “Global Dashboard” in the main work area to relay real-time data about the group’s portfolio companies around the world. Rokk3r Labs plans to eventually offer space to content creators in residencies for pre-determined periods of time. Rokk3r is the main tenant in the building and occupies much of the second floor; art galleries and a restaurant occupy the first floor. 

Rokk3r Labs, which had been headquartered in Miami Beach off Lincoln Road since its founding in 2012, has offices in London, Bogotá, Mexico City and Toronto.  the company partners with entrepreneurs to cobuild ventures, and it currently has 40 companies in its portolio, including AdMobilize, AlzhUp and Hyp3r.

October 10, 2016

Startup Spotlight: Caribé Exotic Juice offers taste of the tropics


By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@MiamiHerald.com

COMPANY NAME: Caribé Exotic Juice

Headquarters: Miami and Washington, D.C.

Concept: Build lasting supply chains to connect Caribbean and Latin American producers to the U.S. market. Right now, the company is focusing on helping small farmers in the Dominican Republic make use of excess fruit by purchasing produce the farmers ordinarily would discard and making cold-pressed juice from it. The juice is then sold in Miami and Washington, D.C., under the Caribé brand.

Story: While undergraduates at the University of Miami, Cristian F. Robiou (pictured above) and Luis Solis wondered why larger beverage companies did not source fruits at large scale "from the Caribbean and Latin America to make natural juices favored by Hispanic consumers. Passion fruit and sour sop, for instance, are popular in multicultural households, but high-quality, ready-to-drink options did not exist in the market.

That question was the intellectual genesis of Caribé. But the soul of the company developed later, as the founders tried to solve the question.

“While graduate students, we researched the question and found a suite of issues that made building a supply chain more prohibitive in this part of the world: wide-scale disorganization at the local governmental level in the Caribbean, disorganization as to the way representatives handled their duties, and even wider corruption at the EX/IM level. This angered us,” said Robiou. He was then in his first year at Harvard Law School, while Solis was in his first year at Darden Business School at the University of Virginia.

"The research project began as an aloe farm and eventually became Caribé Exotic Juice, a company selling cold-pressed juices made from exotic fruits imported from the Dominican Republic, where both Robiou and Solis grew up. Dominican farmers, who typically struggle to sell their products overseas, directly benefit. The arrangement in turn improves the social and economic conditions of thousands of agricultural workers in the DR. (article continues under photo)


“We realized there was a lot of paving to be done to make sure we could make this concept work,” Robiou said. “But we did it because we care about helping and developing the Caribbean and doing so in a way that benefits U.S. consumers.”

In 2014, Caribé launched its juice in the mid-Atlantic. The local Whole Foods picked it up. Now the company has four juices, found in all Whole Foods in Washington, D.C., and Maryland, and soon will carry the juices in New York and New Jersey. The juice will also soon be in 50 Harris Teeter supermarkets and is approved to launch in 100 Krogers.

Caribé is also found in many fast-casual restaurants and independent stores in Miami, including The Daily Creative, Spring Chicken, Jimmy’z Kitchen, Wynwood Cafe and Pinecrest Wayside Market. Robiou hopes to get into Whole Foods and Publix in South Florida. “We’re committed to Miami. We are going to make it work.”

The four flavors are Starfruit (15 calories, drink it straight up or use as a mixer), Passion Fruit, Guava and Acerola Berry. Coming soon: a Caribé coconut water (made with Dominican coconuts and a splash of lime) and a mango mix. A cold-pressed coffee drink — with a Caribbean twist, of course — is in the works. The bottles retail for $2.99 to $3.49.

Website and social media: caribejuice.com and instagram.com/caribejuice

Launched: February 2014

Management team: Cristian F. Robiou (based in Miami); Luis Solis (based in Washington, D.C.)

No. of employees: Eight full-time employees spread out among operations, marketing and sales, plus 16 part-time employees.

Financing: $750,000 from friends-and-family financing rounds. The team expects to soon complete a $2 million financing round with Dominican and American investors.

Milestones: 34 new Harris Teeter supermarkets added to accounts. Likely closing a premier natural beverage distributor in the Northeast representing 13 new states that will feature Caribé. Met with the president of the Dominican Republic in late August to discuss the impact.

Biggest startup challenge: Dealing with the Caribbean and Latin American business culture, as well as Miami’s. “It’s very much who you know and less about the numbers … and I wasn’t prepared for that,” Robiou said. “I thought that if you can prove the business case, that’s that, but that hasn’t been the case here. But being here has forced me to address that weakness in myself. It has made me, I think, a stronger leader because you can’t forget that business is fundamentally about people, about relationships.”

Next steps: Building out broader partnerships within Miami and capturing key stores to help expand markets across relevant demographics. Caribé wants to bring in more marketing employees and focus explicitly on advertising for 90 days in 2017. The team is developing more dynamic branding tied to Miami.

“We want to be the standard here in Florida. I want someone to be able to walk into a Whole Foods or a Publix and find Caribé on the shelf,” Robiou said. That kind of availability brings home the idea we had when we started Caribé, of seeing Miami as this link to the best of the Caribbean. We care very, very much about growing from here and being something that stands for good in Miami.”

Mentor’s view: Seeing the health trends, Adam Meltzer, owner of The Daily Creative, said he began carrying Caribé products in his restaurant about a year ago and sales are strong. He also introduced Robiou to Gordon Food Service, a distributor that Robiou is now working with. “When I first tried the passion fruit flavor, I was immediately impressed with the unusual, yet refreshing taste. It piqued my interest to try them all,” Meltzer said. “The challenge that he faces moving forward is to keep the buzz going, to keep the Caribé name fresh in people’s minds with social media, tastings etc. Marketing will be the key to his success from here on.”|

Nancy Dahlberg: @ndahlberg

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itopia raises $3.5 million to fund growth

Jon Lieberman Photoitopia  has secured $3.5 million in funding to accelerate its growth, the Miami-based technology company’s CEO said on Monday.

itopia, founded in 2012, is in the “Workspace-as-a-Service space and is the only technology company offering an end-to-end, cloud workspace management platform designed exclusively to help IT service providers simplify the migration to and ongoing management of cloud services from a single dashboard, said Jonathan Lieberman, itopia co-founder and CEO.

“The global market is rapidly moving to a cloud-first world where businesses are demanding that their IT service providers deliver secure and seamless access to data anywhere, anytime and on every device,” said Lieberman, in a statement (pictured at right). “Our new funding exceeded our target and the time is now to capitalize on the market growth and the potential around WaaS by providing channel partners with the technology and tools they need to lead and thrive in this new reality.”

Ubaldo Don Photo (1)itopia said it plans to use this funding for expanding channel development teams, including inside and field sales, digital marketing and partner support; enhancing itopia’s IT service provider partner program with additional training and educational resources; and accelerating itopia’s innovative engineering effort.  “With this new funding, itopia gains the resources to generate greater awareness for its proprietary Cielo cloud workspace management platform,” said Ubaldo Don (pictured at left), itopia co-founder and CTO. itopia would not disclose total funding raised.

The new funding is co-led by John McIntire and Eric Kamisher, both early investors in Open English and other ventures, and IT industry leader Sean Charnock. McIntire and Kamisher will join Charnock on itopia’s Board of Directors. Other prominent local investors who are also on itopia's board include Bill Pruitt, founding investor in Mako and VirtualStream, Sherrill Hudson, former Chairman of the Board and CEO at TECO Energy and Managing Partner at Deloitte, and Steve McKean, Co-Founder at Acceller and BillShark.

itopia has 33 employees including its software development team and plans to grow to more than 50 soon, Lieberman said. Nearly 1,500 leading enterprise software applications are certified on itopia’s platform, with new applications added regularly. Last year, itopia was just named one of the 15 coolest cloud companies by CRN, a well-respected technology industry publication.

October 03, 2016

Startup Spotlight: Bammies, for fashion as comfy as your jammies

JammiesCompany name:

Headquarters: Miami Beach

Concept: Bammies is a core collection of comfortable-chic fashion staples that elevates comfort and minimizes decision fatigue. With two collections released per year, each Bammies season includes classic, creative styles designed for ease of use, quick and stylish dressing, and comfort.

Website: www.bammies.life

Story: Who wouldn’t want to go to work in clothing as comfortable as her jammies?

Founded by Rosario Chozas and Julia Ford-Carther, the made-in-South Florida brand embodies a fashion solution for busy women. After transitioning from a creative to a corporate environment, Chozas, who has a background in fashion, developed a brand concept that allowed her to dress appropriately, yet comfortably, and without sacrificing style that was authentically her. “People would always say, ‘Rosario you look so comfortable,’ and I would say, ‘These are my business jammies,’ ” Chozas said.

Chozas met Ford-Carther through her former work with eMerge Americas developing its track and events for women, called WIT. Ford-Carther at the time was senior editor of Ocean Drive magazine. They hit it off instantly and decided to partner up on Bammies (business plus jammies). They incorporated Bammies in July 2015 and launched the first collection in January. Over the summer they added plus sizes, by popular request.

The founders say their mission behind Bammies is two-fold: to minimize morning decision fatigue for women who need to quickly and aptly dress for the various appointments they have in a day, and to help women use fashion to feel comfortable in their own skin.

The Bammies line features tank tops, dresses, blazers and pants that are woven from natural fibers and polyester blends, and all of them can be paired and accessorized with items women already have in their closets. The Bammies Collection 02, launched last week, adds new fabrics and colors such as navy, burgundy and grays. Items range from $80 to $170. “It’s the way you’ve always wanted to dress,” said Ford-Carther, who has a background in media and marketing.

The founders are also working on a video series about how to style and accessorize their clothing using color theory. The videos would also generate suggested options for a job interview, a baby shower or a wedding, for instance.

So will men get Bammies, too? “We get so many requests for that, you have no idea,” Chozas said. So stay tuned. …

Launched to market: January 2016

Management team: Co-founders Julia Ford-Carther, CEO, and Rosario Chozas, creative director

Financing: Self-funded and raised $5,000 in friends and family funding and $3,500 through an Indiegogo crowd-funding campaign. Currently not seeking funding.

Recent milestones reached: Launched an extended-size run this summer to become a size-inclusive brand, offering the equivalent of XS to 4X. Accepted into the inaugural class of Babson College’s WIN Lab Miami accelerator program for female founders. Launched Collection 02 on Sept. 26 on www.bammies.life.

Biggest startup challenge: Building and marketing a bootstrapped business that focuses heavily on digital strategy.

Next step: Building a platform for the brand. “We’re taking cues from both personal and consumer brands to create a hybridized approach to platform building,” Ford-Carther said. “Because customers these days have less time … they like to have a one-stop-shop destination. … We’re marketing a lifestyle and we are becoming spokespeople ourselves, not just about our brand but about how to live the Bammies lifestyle.”

Adviser’s view: Rebecca Fishman-Lipsey, founder of Radical Partners and a member of Bammies’ advisory board, was attracted to the passionate, “magnetic” founders and the product itself.

“Their product resonates with so many people. They’ve been extremely lean, they’ve found local ways to grow, and they’ve responded to the voices of their customer base,” Fishman-Lipsey said. “Thousands upon thousands of people are sharing and liking … and the question now is how to translate the love of the brand into massive sales. We’ve learned a lot from seeing how magnetic Julia and Rosario are on camera. People are captivated by them and their story. They’re bringing more of themselves into their brand as a result.”

Nancy Dahlberg: @ndahlberg

Read more Startup Spotlights:

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September 27, 2016

Mindful in Miami



This week my two-part package on mindful startups was published in the Miami Herald's Business Monday section.

Startups out to build a mindful Miami

By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

Miami a magnet for mindfulness? Really?

If you are reading this stuck in Interstate 95 gridlock, stressed out at work, or distressed by news of yet another senseless shooting death or an only-in-Miami fraud, you may think not. But a growing number of local startups are betting the time has come for mindfulness and well-being in the Magic City.

Consider this: While yoga classes, spas and life coaches have long been a part of the scene, the past year has brought businesses specializing in serene spaces, education and training. Product companies create clothing and accessories, even reminders to be mindful. Food product companies are taking root, and farmer’s markets and healthy, organic food restaurants are now plentiful, including Dr Smood, which launched in Wynwood and South Miami in December and is now on a fast track to global expansion. There’s a bit of mindful-tech, too: A Miami Beach startup uses biofeedback to help you change your state of mind.

Events are multiplying, with Miami’s first mindfulness festival next month and a three-day World Happiness Summit planned for March.

Read the full story and see the photo gallery here.


The Sacred Space opens a mindful world to Miami

For founder Karla Dascal, the $10 million Sacred Space renovation was the culmination of a personal journey into mindfulness and well-being. ‘It’s not for people who need it, it’s for people who want it,’ Dascal says. (Part of the garden area is pictured above.) 



What: Exploring mindfulness in Miami, Modern ŌM and The Sacred Space Miami present Modern Life, a first-of-its-kind festival offering diverse practices to help counter stress and information overload of the modern world. At Modern Life, festival-goers will not only learn how to cultivate conscious living in a high-vibration environment but will also have the opportunity to connect with like-minded doers. The curated program includes activities and workshops across meditation, music, art, fitness, food, entrepreneurship and technology led by some of the most sought-after teachers in the world of mindfulness.

Who: Scheduled speakers include rock-star shaman Alyson Charles; yogi and creator of The Sonic Butterfly Harp, Andrea Brook; Founder of 1111 Vibes, Andrew Clark; founder of Center of the Cyclone, Biet Simkin; MindBodyGreen meditation expert, Charlie Knoles; founder of Creative Insight Journey and life coach, Jennifer Grace; founder of Skanda, Ken von Roenn.

Miami’s community will also share their lessons and passions. Among them: Tony Cho, real-estate developer, will speak on building mindful communities. Ebony Smith, corporate coach, will offer a workshop on mindful leadership. Paul Toliuszis, famed yoga teacher, will discuss Oneness. Michael Capponi, nightlife impresario, will share his deep interest in humanitarianism and mysticism.

When: 9 a.m.-11:30 p.m. Oct. 15

Where: The Sacred Space Miami, 105 NE 24th St., Miami

Cost: $59-$69 for half-day passes; $109 for full day (prices rise $10 in October)

Tickets/more information: www.modernlifefest.com





September 23, 2016

Spotlight: Rising Tide Car Wash makes waves in social impact

From left, Andrew D’Eri, Donna D’Eri, John D’Eri, Tom D’Eri and Rajiv Chandrasekaran, celebrate ‘Employing the Full Spectrum,’ part of Starbucks’ new ‘Upstanders’ series.

This social entrepreneurial company focuses on employing adults with autism. 

Name: Rising Tide Car Wash

Location: 7201 N. State Road 7, Parkland

What it is: A car wash with a focus on employing adults with autism. 

Website: risingtidecarwash.com

Services provided: Washes, some cleaning services. Prices start at $6 for a simple, basic wash of the exterior and use of a free vacuum. 

How it began: An existing car wash was purchased and renovated in 2012, and then launched as Rising Tide in April 2013 in Parkland. The business gives job opportunities to people with autism. When John and his son Tom D’Eri learned that 80 to 90 percent of adults with autism are unemployed, they set out to change that statistic. The D’Eris researched options and determined a car wash would be the ideal business for creating jobs for people with autism, like Tom’s brother Andrew, who likes structure and performing repetitive tasks and follows safety guidelines to the letter. 

Management team: John D’Eri, CEO; Tom D’Eri, co-founder and COO; Tom Sena, CFO. Dr. Michael Alessandri, executive director of the University of Miami-Nova Southeastern University Center for Autism and Related Disabilities, is an advisor.

Number of employees: 42, with 35 on the autism spectrum. 

Competitors: Others are in the area including Express Car Wash in Boca Raton and Sample Road Auto Spa in Pompano Beach.

Year-over-year: Six months after it started its car-wash operation, the business had tripled its customer base of 35,000 to 40,000 and had its first profitable month in October 2013. In its first full year, Rising Tide did about 110,000 car washes. In its second year, it did 142,000. For its third year, the company projects 160,000 to 170,000 washes. 


September 2016: Starbucks is highlighting the business in one of 10 videos “about ordinary people doing extraordinary things to create positive change in their communities,” as it says in a news release. The “Upstanders” series, as it’s called, is available through the coffee chain’s mobile app, website (Starbucks.com/Upstanders) and its YouTube account. Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz and Rajiv Chandrasekaran, senior vice president of public affairs at Starbucks and the executive producer of the company’s social impact media initiatives, wrote and produced the series. Shot over two days in August, the six-minute video entitled “Employing the Full Spectrum” shows Andrew D’Eri drying cars and polishing tires with fellow employees at Rising Tide as well as scenes from D’Eri’s family’s home life in Fort Lauderdale. John and Tom D’Eri also are in the video.

Watch video below:

Upcoming: A second location in Margate is planned, with groundbreaking expected in the next two weeks. It’s projected to be completely built in about six months, with a spring opening. The new car wash  will be on 1.5 acres at 2970 N. State Road 7 that were purchased for $1.5 million and will be about one and a half times larger than the one in Parkland. It will cost about $3.4 million to get  it up and running. More than 50 people will work at the Margate location. 

Major keys to success: “You can’t do this without dedicated employees,” John D’Eri said. He cites “the dedication of all his employees, their willingness to follow proper protocol, their desire to deliver value, the fact that they treat clients with respect, value their position in the company and create a culture of acceptance” for the success of Rising Tide.

Strategy for success: John D’Eri said the company plans to replicate the success of the business locally, regionally and then nationally with a hub-and-spoke concept with the Parkland operation as a hub. In addition, he said, the company plans to analyze and use the knowledge gained to produce a superior product and delve into other businesses, using best practices as they relate to people on the autism spectrum — “the autism advantage,” he calls it.



Read more Startup Spotlights

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To see all Startup Spotlights, go to the Startup Spotlight category of this blog.


September 19, 2016

MealPass rebrands as MealPal, unveils 'Pal' feature, launches in Chicago, DC

By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

Screenshot 1 (1)When subscription lunch service MealPass launched in Miami in January, and over the next few months in three other cities, it was all about offering customers lots of lunch choices from a curated list of local restaurants. Turns out, maybe it was too many choices for some customers. 

"One of the pieces of feedback we kept getting was that it was getting increasingly difficult to select what you wanted to have for lunch because there were so many choices on the site ... We needed to make it easier," said Mary Biggins, who co-founded the company with Katie Ghelli. 

So MealPass today re-brands as MealPal, and introduces "Pal," a smart bot that uses artificial intelligence to make reserving lunch easier and more personalized. "Pal will know if you like big lunches or small lunches, if you like cheese, if you like meat or are a vegetarian, if you likes beets, etc, so it can make really good recommendations to you," Biggins said.

MealPal is an app and browser-based subscription service that offers members access to a wide selection of restaurant-prepared lunch dishes near where they live or work, while providing an efficient way for restaurants to increase revenue during their busiest hour of the day. To use the service,  MealPal subscription members visit the website or mobile app to browse the daily menu, reserve a meal by 9:30 a.m., choose a pickup time and skip the line.

In conjunction with the rebranding, MealPal also launches in Chicago and Washington, DC, today with more than 50 restaurants in each city. The fast-growing Miami-based venture-backed startup now with 22 employees followed its launch in the Brickell area with Boston in February, New York in April and San Francisco in June.  In eight months, members of the service have  now ordered over 500,000 meals from more than 1,000 restaurants. Members can use the service in any of the six cities where it’s now available.

Mealpal_beatsNew York is its biggest market, with 600 restaurants from Central Park to Wall Street, said Biggins, who also co-founded ClassPass. "New York is such a perfect market for us, with the density that works really well."

MealPal's Pal bot will ask consumers a series of questions to understand which ingredients they like and don’t like, so they will only see meal options that will please their palates. Pal will remind users to reserve lunch on any given day if they have forgotten, and will integrate lunch reservations in their calendar.

“Our goal is to eliminate the everyday hassle associated with the lunch hour rush,” said Biggins. “The new personalization features and calendar integration take the platform a step further in easing the lunch hour burden for thousands.”

MealPal in Miami offers 50 restaurants in the downtown-Brickell area and three meal plans: 20 meals per month ($5.19 per meal) for $103.80 per month; 12 meals per month ($5.39 per meal) for $64.68; or 6 meals per month ($5.99 per meal) at $35.94 per month.

"People in Miami tend to eat healthier than in the other markets," said Biggins. "There are more Latin influences -- places with authentic cuisine do very well in Miami."

Read more about Mary Biggins here.





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

  WyncodedayWyncode bootcamps end with pitch days. This one is Pitch Day IX at The LAB Miami. Photo by David Salazar.

By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

While Miami's Wyncode Academy has been busy growing its bootcamp business, the coding education startup has also been at the forefront of a national effort to  build a strong -- and transparent -- foundation for its emerging industry.

Last year, in support of the White House and President Obama's TechHire initiative, Wyncode and nine other young coding schools formed a new trade organization called the New Economy Skills Training Association (NESTA). NESTA's purpose is  to establish best practices, standards and increase accountability for claims such as graduation and placement rates for students nationwide who typically plunk down $10,000 to $12,000 or more  to learn to code in under three months. One only has to look at the mess the for-profit college industry is now mired in to know the importance of building in  standards and transparency from the beginning.

Today, Wyncode will release its first independently verified job placement report for 2014 and 2015,  following its commitment made publicly in a letter to  President Obama in March 2015. Wyncode follows New York’s Flatiron School, San Francisco’s Hack Reactor and Austin’s MakerSquare  with its results. (Other bootcamps that have pledged are App Academy, Dev Bootcamp,  General Assembly, Galvanize, Turing School and Hackbright Academy.)

“Wyncode continues to lead the way for transparency in the coding bootcamp industry,” Wyncode co-founder Juha Mikkola said. "This is a major milestone for this type of education, not only in Florida but across the country. We are just the fourth school in the nation to release reviewed outcome results, something that is a major topic in for-profit education."

The findings, verified by accounting firm MBAF, show that  Wyncode's graduation rate is 97 percent and nearly all of its job-seeking graduates found jobs in time. Today, Wyncode is also releasing an interactive web app that allows interested parties, including potential students, to drill down using gender, ethnicity and educational background in order to visualize how students with particular  backgrounds have fared after the program, said Johanna Mikkola, the other half of the co-founding team.

Later today, find the app at http://wyncode.co/studentoutcomes/ and the job placement report at http://wyncode.co/jobs-report/.

Wyncode offers 10-week full-time coding bootcamps in Wynwood and Fort Lauderdale. The program attracts people without a programming background from a variety of careers, including chefs, lawyers, salespeople, accountants, concierges, marketing executives and entrepreneurs, and it focuses on tech skills like Ruby, JavaScript, HTML and CSS and the business skills that startups require to be successful.

Wyncode's report showed that 97 percent of its job-seeking graduates in 2014 and 2015 found work, though some took more than four months; 43 percent were placed in jobs within 30 days of graduation and 77 percent within 90 days. Of those that found work, 73 percent were fulltime jobs; the others were entrepreneurial, internships, apprentices,  part-time or  contract. The percentage of students placed in "technical" roles was 84 percent. The average age of Wyncode graduates is 30.

Here are a few other highlights of Wyncode's report for 2014 and 2015:

 * Straight out of Wyncode, more than 1 in 10 students make over $60,000 per year and 1 in 20 make more than $80,000. The average salary, based on available information from 111 respondents, was $46,200. The majority of graduates stayed in South Florida. 

 * Females graduating from Wyncode have a higher starting salary than males. Females started at an average of $2,000 more, despite the fact the technology industry is male dominated;

 * Wyncode graduates have created 12 startups and counting;

 * Post-Wyncode, students with a high school diploma perform at similar levels to those with advanced degrees and overall placement rates are similar among all ethnicities.

Wyncode Academy is licensed by the Florida Department of Education and has graduated over 300 Wyncoders. About 80 companies have hired Wyncoders and more than 30 companies hiring at least a second Wyncoder. Wyncode's campuses are in the Wynwood Arts District of Miami and Fort Lauderdale’s Flagler Arts and Technology Village, and it is the leading student reviewed in-person program on  Course Report, with over 100 reviews and a 4.7 out of 5 star rating. Current bootcamps cost $11,500.

Wyncode’s next 30-person cohorts, which always end with popular demo nights, begin in Miami on Oct. 3 and Jan. 9 and in Ft. Lauderdale on Oct. 10 and Jan. 17. Apply at wyncode.co.

“Learning to code is the new literacy,” Johanna Mikkola said. “We get a lot of questions if this is really possible after our 10 week course. This is why transparency of outcomes is extremely important to Wyncode, so that prospective students can see the real picture of Wyncode grads after graduation.”

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