June 27, 2016

Startup Spotlight: Shanti Bar founders passionate about health, attract Hope Solo

Lauren Feingold_Ashanty Williams

Shanti Bar, a line of energy and protein bars sold in more than 150 venues, is created, manufactured and distributed by a Miami-based startup. The Olympic champ and soccer star Hope Solo recently endorsed Shanti Bar as her performance bar of choice.


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

Company name: Organically Raw (produces Shanti Bar line of products)

Headquarters: Miami

Business: Organically Raw is aiming to disrupt the functional food bar category by introducing superfoods to the masses, and to be the leader in the high-performance, high-protein, nutrient-dense, raw superfood space. “We want to create a revolution whereby sports and active performance nutrition is fueled by natural sources and superfoods,” CEO Lauren Feingold said. The company’s first product line is Shanti Bar. To the co-founders, Shanti Bar celebrates the raw power of female excellence and beauty and supports sexual equality.

Story: Feingold and Ashanty Williams (pictured above), who both studied culinary arts and have a passion for health and wellness, met at a local gym in Miami in 2012 and became friends. Williams asked Feingold to try a Shanti Bar she developed. “Once I did, I was hooked and the two of us formed a partnership based on a mutual dynamic skill set of the culinary arts, business management and ambition to see the endeavor through.”

Most all products in the market contained loads of unnecessary ingredients and lacked nutritional and functional health benefits, Feingold said. “We believe the consumer deserves more and should have a product they can rely on whether it is at the gym, work, traveling, or on the go.”

Shanti Bar is manufactured, produced and distributed from its facilities in Miami, and this summer, Organically Raw is set to launch Shanti Bar into mainstream retailers. While the market is crowded with competitors, this 100 percent raw, vegan and organic product has a secret weapon: Olympic champion Hope Solo.

Hope Solo (4)

Solo said “the brand represents the idea of what a powerful and purposeful woman is” and last month endorsed the Shanti Bar as her “performance bar of choice.”

“Female entrepreneurs are a very strong and vibrant community, and they want to help each other,” said Solo, who was already a fan and regular customer of Shanti Bar. “I’m excited to work with Lauren and Ashanty — they’re incredible women who want to chart their own path and have found something they love and believe in.”

The energy and protein bars are sold in nearly 150 locations in South Florida, including Tunies Natural Market, Beehive, One Hotel, The Standard, Soho House, Native Sun Grocers, Juice n Java and Miami Cafe, and are now distributed nationally in New York, Colorado, California, Georgia, Oregon and Nevada.

Company launched: March 2015

Management team: Lauren Feingold, CEO; Ashanty Williams, COO; Zussy Williams, facility manager.

Employees: 31

Website: shanti.bar

Financing: Mainly self-financed. Obtained a few equipment loans.

Milestones: Partnership with Hope Solo, a two-time Olympic Gold Medalist and FIFA World Cup Champion goalie, was announced in May. Also this year, the company further automated its production in order to manufacture mass quantities and launched a new flavor, Acai Lush, in its Shanti Bar Mini line.

Biggest startup challenge: “There isn’t anything easy about it,” Feingold said. “But probably the biggest challenge has been penetrating the natural channel’s mainstream retailers and mass market key accounts.”

Next steps: The company is working with a broker to help take Shanti Bar nationwide. It also plans to participate in various trade shows outside of its natural channel — for example, Shanti Bar could be marketed for hiking, biking, camping, skiing, etc.

“Ashanty and I are dedicated and determined to make a positive impact in the world of health and wellness nutrition and sports and active performance nutrition,” Feingold said.

Nancy Dahlberg @ndahlberg

[Read more Startup Spotlights here and here and see more small business coverage here.]

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June 23, 2016

Cooking up a combo: Hispanicize Media Group buys majority stake in Hispanic Kitchen

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HispkitchenBy Nancy Dahlberg/ ndahlberg@miamiherald.com


Hispanic Kitchen
, a Miami-based food website with a large social media following, looked mighty tasty to Hispanicize Media Group, which was looking to expand its digital media reach with brands.

“Hispanic Kitchen is a remarkable digital and social media platform for brands that want to engage audiences that are inspired by Latino culture and its passion for food, recipes and cooking in general,” said Manny Ruiz, founder and CEO of Hispanicize Media Group, the holding company for the annual Hispanicize event and DiMe Media.

Ruiz’s company recently announced it has acquired a majority stake in the Latino food media company. As part of the transaction, both Miami-based online advertising network Salvo Group and Hispanic Kitchen founder Jorge Bravo will own minority interests. Terms of the transaction were not disclosed.

This transaction is the first in a series of acquisitions that Hispanicize Media Group plans to enhance its expansion into digital media. “Combining the synergies of Hispanic Kitchen with our DiMe Media influencer network means we can now serve brands an incomparable 360-degree online solution that incorporates premium advertising, programmatic advertising, video integrations, social media engagement and influencer network marketing,” said Ruiz in the press release.

Founded in 2009 by veteran journalist Bravo, HispanicKitchen.com and its social media channels reach a combined 1.6 million monthly users. The newly re-launched website features a database of thousands of Latino recipes with 85 percent of its traffic coming from mobile devices and 90 percent driven by all major social platforms, especially Facebook, with nearly 1.2 million engaged fans.

“It's been a venture and an adventure,” Bravo said on his Facebook page. “I guess this is where I look back at what began as just an idea bouncing around in my head to where it is now, a growing, and much-loved food platform. We've had bumps along the way, but our fans have stuck with us. I value their loyalty and good wishes. I'm excited to begin this new chapter.”

Bravo, who like Ruiz formerly worked in the Miami Herald newsroom, said Hispanicize Media Group bought a minority stake in the company last year and they began working together, allowing the companies time to explore a larger partnership. “What we are trying to do is make HK the top destination for people looking for Latin flavors. This acquisition and the resources it provides ... brings the pieces together to help us get there. It’s been a seamless collaboration. ... We fully expect to be a major player in the space.”

Hispanic Kitchen will be led by Hispanicize Media Group’s Chief Operations Officer Piera Jolly. Bravo will continue as editorial director, overseeing the company’s team of writers and video producers. 

“When you start something like this you never know where it is going to go, but I knew there was a need because our fans told us so,” said Bravo. “We’re continuing to work on the product to meet that need and feed that hunger.”

June 22, 2016

SPC Cyber Security launches with multi-year investment from South Florida company

By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

With funding from a large, established South Florida security services company, a team of cyber solution consultants have formed SPC Cyber Security to assist companies of all sizes with the growing threat of cyberattacks, offering services aimed at detecting a threat, and educating companies, before a potential attack occurs.

Kent Services made a multi-year investment in SPC Cyber Security, beginning with $225,000 for year one. Kent Services oversees several brands – Kent Technologies, Kent Facial Recognition and Kent Remote Monitoring, with full-service offices in New York City, Atlanta, Houston, Dallas, Minneapolis, Portland and Seattle.

A recent survey by Gartner estimates that $77 billion in IT security was spent in 2015 with $101 billion predicted to be spent annually by 2018.  “Cyber crime is occurring online at an alarming rate especially to small and medium sized companies, with and without their knowledge,” said Regan Marock, CEO of SPC Cyber Security, adding that the SPC team is comprised of former U.S. and Israeli government agents. “The keys to detecting and avoiding these data breaches and cyber threats are to proactively assess systems and areas of vulnerability, educate employees and constantly monitor network data.”

Miami startup Bvddy, a sports players' matchmaking app, closes $1.5 million in funding


BvddyuppngThe Bvddy iOS app matches up sports buddies; funding will help fuel national expansion.

By Nancy Dahlberg / @ndahlberg


Bvddy
, an iOS app that enables sports players to connect with sports partners, announced that it has closed $1.5 million in seed capital to expand into new cities. The funding is led by Latin American IDC Group and former BlueKite CEO and current PayPal executive Bobby Aitkenhead, Bvddy said.

Bvddy (formerly called SportsBuddy, which launched in January 2015) features proprietary Smart Matching algorithms that learn about players over time, including how often they play, location, actual skill level, punctuality, and competitive spirit, to  provide the most accurate matches. Prior to closing its seed round, the company said it raised $715,000 in angel financing to develop its technology and test the concept within the sports community.

“It’s a significant challenge for adult sports players to find other people to play the sports they love with, and it can be particularly hard to find others at the same level of skill and experience,” said Bvddy founder and CEO Pedro Ast, an avid tennis player, in the press release. “Bvddy was created to solve this problem.”

How Bvddy works: Once users have downloaded the app and created a profile, they can then search for other people to play specific sports with based on location, skill level, and other criteria. Users can communicate with other players, schedule times and locations to play, review skills, as well as find local venues. They also can discover activities, create public or private sporting events, and rate opponents.

Expansion plans include Bvddy’s launch on Android, as well as in San Francisco, Los Angeles and other major U.S. cities in 2016, Ast said.

June 19, 2016

Startup Spotlight: Need a ride? Freebee revs up to expand

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By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@MiamiHerald.com

The free short-haul ride service in downtown Miami and Miami Beach has added an app, vehicles and territory. Working with the Small Business Development Center, Freebee has a multi-city expansion plan.


Company name: Freebee

Headquarters: Wynwood

Concept: Freebee is changing the way people experience Miami, moving customers short distances with free electric transportation. Each Freebee car hosts its own marketing campaign for national brands and local businesses.

Story: After graduating from the University of Miami with business management degrees and working a few sales jobs to keep financially afloat, Jason Spiegel and Kris Kimball (pictured above) quit their 9-5s and took the entrepreneurial plunge. “The mix of creativity, fun and the overhanging theme of a better, greener tomorrow were the elements that drove us to pull the trigger on Freebee,” said Spiegel. “We always had it in our minds that we would create something special.”

The co-founders purchased six open-air vehicles — think oversize golf carts — and they were off. The idea was that each vehicle would be branded for one of Freebee’s clients — some of which now include Pepsi, Anheuser-Busch, Jack Daniels, "T-Mobile, Vita Coco, Goya and Related Group. Along with advertising on the inside and outside of the vehicles — indeed, Vita Coco’s Freebees carry a custom built coconut rack on the roof — the drivers become brand ambassadors, providing riders with brand information and coupons and surveying users for feedback.

Service began in South Beach, and by the end of 2014 Freebee launched in Brickell. It now serves South Beach and Mid-Beach as well as Brickell to the Design District with 28 vehicles. Riders can hail a ride through the free “Ride Freebee” mobile app as well as flag a vehicle down.

“The app also gives tourists and locals insight into deals, discounts and “Places To Bee” in the greater Miami area,” Spiegel said. “We promote a greener tomorrow, while also spreading the word about great local establishments and national brands.”

Now the company is revving up with a big expansion strategy.

Launched: September 2012

Management team: Managing Partners Jason Spiegel and Kris Kimball; Matt Friedmann, Business Development; Operations and Logistics Managers Marcellus Johnson, Bryan Jobe and Chris Walker; Directors of Fleet Maintenance Josh Del Sol and Carlos Hernandez.

No. of employees: 43, including in-house designers who create vehicle campaigns and experiences.

Website: www.ridefreebee.com

Financing: Self-funded plus a $450,000 working capital loan from C1 Bank and a $175,000 economic development grant from Miami-Dade County.


Startup2Recent milestones reached:
Launched the Ride Freebee mobile app in October, already generating more than 15,000 downloads. About 60 percent of Freebee’s rides are now requested through the app. Added vehicles in current territories.

Biggest startup challenge: Building a team. Freebee turned to mentors from the Small Business Development Center at Florida International University for guidance on team-building and growth strategy.

Next steps: The mobile app technology has opened the door to more revenue streams, including in-app promotions and data collection, as well as the ability to scale the business to other major cities. But first Freebee’s plans are to expand further in Miami-Dade County.

Strategy for next steps: “Innovation and execution are the key,” Spiegel said. “By partnering and combining key components, we believe that we can scale this business to 50-plus cars in any market, further expanding the known marketing real estate in a given territory, as well as increasing engagement and usage activity levels.”

Follow Nancy Dahlberg on Twitter @ndahlberg. Read another Startup Spotlight here and see more small business coverage here.

June 14, 2016

Miami startup NightPro acquired by Tablelist

Nightpro

By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

Tablelist, a platform for real-time online reservations for nightclubs, lounges and bars, has acquired Miami startup NightPro.

Juan Bermudez and Francisco Quintero (pictured above) started NightPro about four years ago in a Midtown coffee shop. In fact, Bermudez pitched a very early concept of the venue management company at a HackDay Miami event in 2012. NightPro was also part of the inaugural class of Venture Hive in 2013.

 Over the years, NightPro made several iterations, but it grew into a venue/guest management platform for more than 100 venue partners worldwide, through which it has helped to manage over $250 million in reservations and 500,000 guests, Bermudez said. As revenue began spiking, so did interest from acquirers; NightPro received offers from two suitors.

But Bermudez said the company began partnering with Tablelist, based in Boston, by integrating Tablelist’s consumer sales technology into the NightPro platform, and they quickly released that their visions aligned and began talking.

 “Everything we were doing, we were heading in the same direction. It just made sense to join forces,” said Bermudez on Tuesday.

 “By merging our two platforms, we would be able to provide our partners with a one of a kind, all in one venue/guest management system that would not only streamline business operations, but also drive more business.”

NightPro’s management platform now complements Tablelist’s front-end booking application for tables at high-end clubs. Terms of the deal were not disclosed. Venture-backed Tablelist launched its service in Miami last fall, joining a number of locations, including New York, San Francisco, Boston, Washington, DC, and Las Vegas.  Bermudez said the NightPro team will be continuing to work with Tablelist to distribute the joint platform and aggressively expand.

“Together we are the leading platform for real time online reservations and venue/guest management solutions for nightclubs, lounges and bars. This is an absolute game changer for the entire industry,” Bermudez said in a blog post to NightPro customers.

June 06, 2016

Startup Spotlight: Modern ŌM, created mindfully

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Company: Modern ŌM

Headquarters: Miami and Asheville, N.C.

Concept: Modern ŌM is a lifestyle brand that uses color to infuse the seven chakra-based intentions into its products. “We bring mindfulness into people’s everyday lives through design,” said Myk Likhov, founder and CEO.

Story: Modern ŌM is a family business built on a shared passion for mindfulness. It’s not the founder’s first business. In 2007, after earning an MBA from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, Likhov founded the successful Green Monkey yoga brand at age 26. After exiting Green Monkey, he worked in consumer tech in New York City, then returned to Miami in 2014 and began working on Modern ŌM". His parents joined him in this venture with their collective 50-year background in international manufacturing and distribution.

The idea behind Modern ŌM" was to build a lifestyle product brand for people who are mindful, or spiritual in intent. “We’re creating everyday objects that people can use as reminders of how they want to live,” Likhov said. “No one is doing anything like that — and the opportunity is significant.”

Based on the color heritage of the more than 3,000-year-old chakras, Modern ŌM’s affordably priced products are infused with the meaning of seven chakra-based intentions. These ever-present cues of mindfulness are woven through Modern ŌM’s products, which include: accessories such as malas, men’s and women’s apparel, iPhone cases and sustainable beverage totes, candles and stationary. Modernom.co allows you to shop by intention — for example, Vitality, red, the energy that springs from living in balance, or Connection, violet, the joy of being present in the now — making it easy to find items containing the energy you seek.

Modern ŌM products are also carried locally at Exhale Spa South Beach and Cowshed at Soho Beach House and through the Spring app.

Modernom2

Website: www.modernom.co

Launched: Jan. 1, 2016; soft launched in October 2015.

Management team: Co-founders Myk Likhov, CEO; Marina Likhov, Chief of Product; Steven Wenig, COO.


Modernom3Financing:
$250,000 self-funding invested to date with an angel round opened this May. Seeking to raise $500,000.

Recent milestones reached: Produced the company’s first apparel line from concept to sales in high-end Italian factories. YogaWorks and Exhale, two of the largest national wellness studio brands, now retail Modern ŌM. In April, the company launched The 7, an underground meditation studio in Miami, and taught 150 students in the first month of operations.

Biggest startup challenge: “We are building a company that embodies a lifestyle, which is a much grander vision than simply making products. The biggest challenge is consumer education. Once people understand how meaning is infused into our design principles, and how having reminders of their intentions can improve the quality of their lives, they love it,” said Likhov.

Next step: To create a direct relationship with 10,000 customers. “Building awareness is a challenge for a new company. It requires creativity, passion and pursuit of a larger purpose,” Likhov said. “That’s why our strategy is all about delivering tremendous value in alignment with our mission.”

Strategies for next steps: Build The 7, an underground meditation studio, into a recognizable mindfulness resource for the Miami community by providing an immersive meditation experience, where people can recognize the value that" this lifestyle delivers to them and become evangelists/customers.

Last week, the company launched a fundraising campaign on Indiegogo to bring meditation into the prison system. The goal of this project, which continues through June 30, is to fund meditation lessons for 1,000 inmates. To accomplish this, it has created a limited edition mala (bracelet) for $29. For every one mala sold, Modern ŌM commits to funding for one inmate to learn how to meditate. “Through impact, we also build relationships with meaning-driven consumers,” said Likhov.

Oct. 22-23, the company will hold Miami’s first mindfulness festival — 7 Life — at Sacred Space, with activities, speakers, meditation classes and a party.

- Nancy Dahlberg

Follow @ndahlberg on Twitter. Photos of Likhov are by Jose Iglesias/Miami Herald 

Read more Startup Spotlights under the Startup Spotlight category of this blog.

June 05, 2016

Q&A with EcoTech Visions’ Pandwe Gibson: Going green from ground up

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EcoTech Visions team, from left: Tamara Wendt, director of sales and manufacturing, Pandwe Gibson, CEO, executive director and Justin Knight, director of marketing, at their new facility, 670 NW 113th St. in Miami, for green manufacturing companies that is still under construction. PEDRO PORTAL 

 

When Pandwe Gibson set out to build EcoTech Visions, an incubator for green manufacturing businesses, she had no team, no funding and no space. Three years ago it was only a big vision that lived on her iPad, which she shared with anyone she could get to listen.

What was the vision? EcoTech would help “ecopreneurs” in its incubator launch and grow, including connecting them with grants and other resources. EcoTech would also hold programming such as coding courses, green internship programs and fellowships to help prepare the workforce in underserved communities to transition from blue collar to “green collar” jobs.

Gibson wasted no time bringing her big idea to life.

By the end of 2014, and after knocking on many doors and winning initial Miami-Dade County and Community Redevelopment Agency funding, Gibson moved EcoTech into its first location, a small space west of Interstate 95 with communal office space and a community garden, and with a handful of incubator companies she had already begun working with. Although the building had no space for manufacturing, a key goal of Gibson’s, it served as a minimal viable product. A few months later, EcoTech secured some additional office and classroom space in another Liberty City building, which allowed the company to expand its programming. The EcoTech team began forming, and EcoTech began attracting more green companies.

Last month, EcoTech Visions began partially moving into its new Miami headquarters space it leased to own at 670 NW 113th St., in the newly designated “green corridor.” Upon buildout, plans call for the building to provide 24,000 to 25,000 square feet of multilevel co-working space, offices, event space, maker space and manufacturing facilities. EcoTech will also use its Liberty City space during buildout.

Today, 26 companies are members of EcoTech (ecotechvisions.com), and the EcoTech team now numbers seven.

EcoTech Visions recently announced the launch of Digital Citizen, a technology boot camp that aims to provide real-world technology programs and entrepreneurship training to local underserved communities, funded by $200,000 from the Knight Foundation. The first cohort will begin June 20 and will run for eight weeks in the evenings at D.A. Dorsey Technical College in Liberty City. Applications for the boot camp are being accepted at etvfoundation.org/digitalcitizen.

“This program is desperately needed not only to fill the tech staffing gap but also to combat the economic hardships and growing income gap in inner-city Miami,” Gibson, CEO "of EcoTech, said in announcing the launch and funding. “We all succeed when the best and most diverse solutions are brought to the table.”

Since its founding, EcoTech has created 15 new jobs and more than 300 students graduated from EcoTech Visions workshops and certification programs, Gibson said. It has secured $10,000 start"up prototyping grants for nine incubator companies and assisted in securing seed loans for three of its ecopreneurs, Gibson said. It was named 2016 Entrepreneur of the Year by the Beacon Council, among other honors.

By the end of the year, Gibson hopes to see buildout of its headquarters get under way and be completed in one year. Plans include an urban vertical garden across the entire front of the warehouse-style building, space for creating prototypes and light manufacturing as well as co-working and a rooftop cafe.

Appropriately, the building is planned to be entirely powered by solar energy.

“Our goal is to have a net-zero-energy building,” said Tamara Wendt, EcoTech’s director of sales and manufacturing, explaining that there is currently only one other much smaller net-zero building in Miami. “Presently, we have on-site office space and will be holding events here. We expect to have our injection-molding equipment installed by early July and will move into production, warehousing and fulfillment.”

The Miami Herald toured the new EcoTech location last month and sat down with Pandwe Gibson to discuss EcoTech Visions and what’s ahead for the company.

Q: What’s your mission for EcoTech?

A: Our mission is to create opportunities for businesses to grow and to bring green manufacturing jobs to Miami.

Q: What does success look like to you?

A: In the next two years, to have at least five breakout companies. That sounds very ambitious, doesn’t it? But we already have some companies pursuing multimillion-dollar contracts, and when we start seeing the production actually occurring from here, that is very exciting.

The first year [in this building], we will be in massive construction, but we are starting with injection molding and I think we can make a lot of progress in the beginning with that one vertical. We provide the equipment, and there are a lot of businesses that have different molds and prototypes we can help. We plan to have two different machines.

Q: How are you funding all this?

A: We have private funding and public funding. We just completed a seed round of half a million dollars. We have public funding from Miami-Dade County and the CRA totaling about half a million and are pursuing more grants from the county. We recently found out we received a grant from the Knight Foundation. It’s a combination.

Q: Is EcoTech a for-profit or a nonprofit?

A: We have two arms. The for-profit is the maker space, the physical space that you are in, and the services associated with the production equipment. … The nonprofit really focuses on helping to facilitate training, the programs we administer.

Some of those programs are coding education boot camps and a green manufacturing internship program. These programs help prepare the community and workforce for careers in green manufacturing.

Q: Tell me about a few of your incubator companies.

A: Geeks Global is an internet services provider and sustainability-focused technology consultant. Darrell Russell and his team help greenify businesses by using technology like LED lighting, windmill-powered Wi-Fi towers and other innovations. Make The Homeless Smile Miami is an organization started and led by powerhouse community activist Valencia Gunder. They transition homeless Miami residents off the streets and into self-sustained lives. HBCNS LLC, run by Dawn Davis, is a distributor of water-based, biodegradable, protective coatings including the nation’s only non-slip coating. It’s main product is called Strong Seal. (All three entrepreneurs are pictured below with Gibson)

Earthware, led by Michael Caballero, is a producer of compostable cutlery, cups and containers for a better world. The company is committed to the restoration and preservation of our planet by replacing landfill-destined products with 100 percent compostable, tree-free products.

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Q: What do you do for member companies?

A: You can do prototyping here, you can have office space here, you can hold events here, you can run your company here, prototyping and distribution — it’s a one-stop shop and it is sorely needed in Miami.

Q: Explain what the “green corridor” designation is and what it can do for the neighborhood where EcoTech is?

A: The Green Corridor was created by proclamation by the Miami-Dade County Commission and stretches along Northwest Seventh Avenue from 79th Street to 119th Street. It is the first green corridor of its kind in the United States created with the purpose of establishing a citywide, countywide, statewide and regional hub of sustainable and environmentally friendly businesses. The Green Corridor and EcoTech Visions promote economic opportunity for the community where they sit and far beyond.

Q: Where do you see EcoTech in five years?

A: In five years, we want to start multiplying. We want to be in other communities, such as Los Angeles. When you look at the two markets, Miami and L.A., there are a lot of similarities. We are already forging relationships there. California is probably the largest green-tech community in the country. Connecting the two will help infuse vitality and innovation into Miami and help move us as a country into a really great space in green technology.

Q: What is your vision for the vertical garden covering the front of the building?

A: Ted Caplow, of CappSci and Miami Science Barge, is designing a game-changing vertical farm based on work by his company, BrightFarms Inc., which creates hydroponic farms for Whole Foods amongst other clients. The vertical farm will be a hydroponic system to grow organic produce inside a glass and screened-in enclosure on the façade of EcoTech Visions’ new building located at 670 NW 113th St. Installation and ongoing maintenance and production will be managed by Urban Green Works working with marginalized resources including women recently exiting incarceration. In addition, an aquaponics system will be incorporated by Fruit of Life Organics, one of our incubator companies, to grow organic fish and produce in one system that recreates the natural water cycle.

Q: There are even plans for a rooftop café?

A: Yes, and we will serve food from our vertical garden.

Q: What’s next for EcoTech?

A: We’re taking applications to fill out our pipeline of companies, educating people on the opportunities in green technology, and educating entrepreneurs on what is available in terms of funding so they can succeed by being clean and green.

Nancy Dahlberg; 305-376-3595; @ndahlberg

Read more entrepreneurship Q&As on this blog by going to the Q&A category.

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from left, EcoTech Visions'  staff Carlos Vazquez, Kenyona Pierre, Marisabel Lavastida, CEO Pandwe Gibson, Tamara Wendt and Justin Knight, at their new facility, 670 NW 113th St. in Miami, under construction. PEDRO PORTAL pportal@miamiherald.com



 

June 01, 2016

Endeavor taps Citizen co-founders for global network

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By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com / @ndahlberg

Citizen is an early-stage Miami tech company that helps customers fill out and submit electronic government forms, including the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or the FAFSA. Citizen co-founders Guillaume Lellouche and Katie D’Amore were selected as Endeavor Entrepreneurs last week. 

With the appointment of Lellouche, Citizen’s French-born CEO, and D’Amore, 22 entrepreneurs from 14 companies from Miami have been selected for the global entrepreneurship network. Citizen was chosen by panelists at Endeavor Global’s 64th International Selection Panel held in Madrid. Endeavor Entrepreneurs receive mentorship and other services as well as access to capital, global markets and talent. 

“Citizen is a promising addition to the rising number of Miami entrepreneurs selected by Endeavor. The growth of this group corresponds with the success we’ve seen in our larger innovation ecosystem, which Endeavor continues to play a key role in helping to drive,” said Matt Haggman, Knight Foundation program director for Miami.

Endeavor’s ISP is the culmination of a rigorous selection process, where panels composed of six top global business leaders, entrepreneurs and investors, interview candidates about their businesses, high-impact leadership potential, and timing. To be selected, entrepreneurs must receive a unanimous vote. Endeavor Global now supports more than 1,200 high-impact entrepreneurs from over 780 companies across 25 countries. 

“We have already met a great group of mentors through Endeavor and look forward to meeting with more to help accelerate our growth,” said D’Amore, Citizen’s CAO.

Endeavor Miami launched operations in September 2013 with the support of the Knight Foundation and a local board of business leaders. 

May 18, 2016

A South Florida trifecta: Candidate.Guru, Symptify, Streann Media win at Early Stage Capital Conference

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By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com 

Candidate.Guru of Weston took home the top prize, $100,000, at the  Florida Venture Forum Early Stage Capital Conference in St. Petersburg on Tuesday.

The company, also the  winner of the Miami Herald Business Plan Challenge, offers a big data solution  that can predict a culture fit between corporate hiring managers and prospective job seekers without the need for surveys and assessment tools, says CEO Chris Daniels (pictured above with co-founder Steve Carter). Candidate.Guru has been part of FAU Tech Runway for the past year.

Candidate.Guru was not the only South Florida winner -- in fact all three of the top cash winners were from South Florida. Space Florida, the state’s public-private effort to grow aerospace-related businesses, provided $150,000 in prize money to the winning presenters at the conference.

Symptify of Sunny Isles Beach, which helps users figure out causes for their symptoms and where to go for help, won second place, winning $30,000; Symptify also won the early-stage competition at eMerge Americas in 2015.

Streann Media of Miami, took third, winning $20,000. Streann Media,  offers cloud-based software  that enable content providers to offer their viewers a “TV everywhere experience” on any smart device. Streann recently received funding from the Tamiami Angel Fund II.

The Florida Venture Forum  selected 20 Florida-based companies to present at its all-day Florida Early Stage Capital Conference held at the Hilton Carillon in St. Petersburg. The presenting companies -- five from South Florida -- were selected from a pool of about 100 applicants by a committee of active Florida venture capitalists and other investors. In addition to the awards, the conference offered the presenting companies the opportunity to pitch on stage to a couple hundred attendees and meet individually with investors. The 2016 conference attracted the best investor attendance in the event's nine-year history, said Kevin Burgoyne, president and CEO of the Florida Venture Forum.

This is the first time cash prizes have been awarded at an Early Stage Conference, he said. "Our partnership with Space Florida added an exciting dimension to the event, providing three worthy companies with much needed capital they can use to continue to grow and scale their businesses."

Read more about the conference from the Tampa Bay Business Journal here.

Read more about Candidate.Guru here.

Read more about Symptify here.

Read more about Streann Media here.