November 07, 2017

Real estate software startup Gridics raises $1.6 million

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Gridics, a Miami-based real estate software startup, announced it has raised $1.6 million in additional seed capital.  

The round was led by BH3, a real estate developer with projects in South Florida and New York City, and includes existing investor Dune Road Capital. It builds on the $1.1 million Gridics raised in April and brings its total funding to  $3.74 million.

The company will use this investment to accelerate development and sales of the Zonar.City platform to cities and real estate developers.

Gridics, short for grid analytics, was founded in 2015 to change the way cities and real estate developers interact with zoning codes.  By bringing 2D text to a visualized 3D interface, the company is streamlining an antiquated process. Miami developer Avra Jain is also an investor in the company. 

 From applications on its platform, users can visualize real estate data in order to make smarter investment and development decisions while streamlining inefficient processes in the real estate world, the company said. For example, the Zonar.City application, launched earlier this year, helps bridge the gap between the private sector development community of architects, developers and attorneys by automating development feasibility analysis and streamlining the development plan approval process.

 CEO Jason Doyle said Gridics is seeing strong early adoption of the application by city and county planning, zoning and economic development departments as well as developers, architects, commercial brokers and land use attorneys in the private sector.

 “In the coming months, we will be opening all five boroughs of New York City on the platform and expect to add several direct city contracts," Doyle said.

In April, Gridics announced a contract with the City of Miami to use Zonar to streamline the analysis and processing of development plan reviews.  

 "Using Zonar, we are able to identify new development opportunities, quickly run custom scenario analyses and view applicable variances and waivers.  That analysis used to take us days to complete and cost thousands of dollars but can now be handled in a few minutes with Zonar, " said BH3 Principal Daniel Lebensohn, in a news release.

 

November 06, 2017

Boca Raton drone software company has eye on Florida's public safety

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On the left: Rex G. Ciavola Jr., co-founder and president of EagleEye Intelligence On the right: Scott H. Adams, co-founder and CEO of EagleEye. (EagleEye Intelligence / Courtesy)

 

By Marcia Heroux Pounds

Imagine a drone swooping in to identify a kidnapping suspect’s car on a road, potentially saving a child. Or identifying a shooter targeting a crowd, such as in the recent mass murder in Las Vegas. And after a storm like Hurricane Irma in Florida, documenting damage or even helping in search and rescue.

All of those and other applications are being pursued by EagleEye Intelligence, a two-year-old Boca Raton software company co-founded by long-time entrepreneur Scott Adams.

EagleEye’s drone security systems are catching the attention of public safety and law enforcement agencies, while also attracting investors.

READ THE SUN SENTINEL STORY HERE

November 04, 2017

Nuvola brings digital white-glove service to the hotel industry

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By Ana Acle-Menendez

Perhaps no other industry relies as heavily on customer service as the hotel industry.

So, imagine if there was a way for guests to communicate to staff directly and conveniently through the touch of a button on their mobile phone. And imagine if guests would be notified of happy hour specials while walking by the bar in real time, allowing hotels to gather behavioral data and provide better service.

Juan-Carlos-Abello-NUVOLA-2That communication platform was imagined and created. Now, it is offered by a guest service management software developed by Nuvola, a Miami-based company founded by Juan Carlos Abello, who worked as a manager at various hotels.

But while Abello developed a solution for hotels, he needed solutions of his own to grow his new startup business.

He heard about the Miami Herald Business Plan Challenge, a contest for startup entrepreneurs, through Florida International University (FIU), his alma mater. While creating the video presentation for the contest, Abello then learned about the Florida SBDC at FIU — the small business development center at the College of Business, which provides no-cost consulting to entrepreneurs and small-business owners.

“My biggest obstacle was closing on my first customers,” said Abello, who earned an MBA from Emory University and a bachelor’s degree in international business from FIU. “In technology, if you don’t have references and you’re selling software that’s intangible, it’s a tough sales pitch. Closing on my first 20 to 30 customers was the biggest challenge.”

He specifically wanted guidance on finding an investor.  “In my particular case, I was looking to accelerate the growth of the company,” he said. “I was looking for funds and I was assigned to an advisor who had experience as an investor.”

For the next six months, he met with the expert consultant every two weeks on Saturdays, going over spreadsheets, sales pitches and the program to grow more capital.

It soon paid off.

“I was extremely satisfied because I was able to raise additional funds for the company,” Abello said. “I closed with two investors and now basically I’m living my dream.”

What started three years ago with business development and sales of $30,000 doubled every year. Now Nuvola is well over $1 million in sales this year, Abello said.

What’s more, his one-man team has now grown to 18 full-time employees.

“I would recommend the SBDC,” Abello said. “First, because they understand that you’re an entrepreneur — you don’t have a flexible schedule — and most of the time they were able to accommodate my needs.

“Second, I felt that every single member of the organization that I interacted with was professional, willing to assist and the advice they gave was definitely significant in terms of the objective that I had,” he continued.

“Lastly, it’s a free service,” Abello said. “They do understand that starting a business is not easy and you’re going to face a lot of obstacles. Most of the time they know what obstacles you’re going to face so you can anticipate them, which is great.”

Additionally, he said he made friends during the process and still keeps in touch with his advisor. He is also mentoring others so they can sell to their first 20 to 30 customers before going to investors.

By the way, in case you’re wondering, Abello and his team won first place in that Miami Herald Business Plan Challenge in the FIU Track category. That’s another feather in his cap that he can use for marketing purposes.

 

Ana Acle-Menendez wrote this article for Florida SBDC at FIU, which gave Starting Gate permission to post it.

 

READ MORE about Nuvola here. 

 

October 26, 2017

Endeavor taps Miami-based Chargello to join global network

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By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@MiamiHerald.com

Your phone is dead – again.

In our world where a dead phone is a catastrophe, Miami startup Chargello has a solution for that. Its proprietary battery device, already available at thousands of venues worldwide, can simultaneously charge six phones three faster than a wall charger and four times faster than a battery pack.

ChargelloteamThis week, the entrepreneurs behind Chargello, co-founders Johnny Bosche and Freddy Sidi, were selected as Endeavor Entrepreneurs at Endeavor’s 75th International Selection Panel held in Sofia, Bulgaria. Endeavor is a global nonprofit organization that selects, mentors and accelerates high-impact entrepreneurs.

Bosche and Sidi, both born in Latin America, founded the ad-tech company in Miami in 2015 and began selling the product last year. Chargello is focused on building a platform to solve the low-battery problem in public places, such as restaurants, hotels and airports.

The batteries not only charge phones, but serve as an advertising platform. Chargello’s batteries can be found in about 5,500 businesses across 22 countries, and the startup is working with global brands such as Diageo, Heineken and Uber. Locally, the devices can be found at Casa Tua, Cipriani, Prime 112, Morton’s, W Hotel, Confidante, One Hotel and the Collection car dealership, among many other businesses, said Bosche, in a phone interview from Sofia. Former Miami Heat star Alonzo Mourning is a shareholder and brand ambassador.

Chargello is a team of 14 in Miami, but it has more than 200 employees through partnership businesses in the countries it sells in, Bosche said.

“We’re looking to scale globally and get access to top-tiered talent. Our goal is to be in 100 countries by the end of next year,” Bosche said. “We believe Endeavor will be an undeniable resource to us as we expand.”

Endeavor Entrepreneurs receive services that include mentorship and access to capital, global markets and talent. Based in New York City, Endeavor operates in 27 countries in Europe, Latin America, North America, Africa, Asia and the Middle East, and supports more than 1,000 entrepreneurs.

Endeavor Miami launched in September 2013 with the support of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation as the first U.S. affiliate of Endeavor Global. Endeavor Miami’s entrepreneurs are now generating close to $130 million in revenues and employ 1,600 people, according to its impact report released earlier this month.

“As we support Chargello in scaling rapidly via a robust advisory board and additional services, I am confident that Johnny and Freddy will act as role models to inspire the burgeoning South Florida entrepreneurial ecosystem,” said Laura Maydón, managing director of Endeavor Miami.

For more information on Endeavor Miami or to nominate South Florida entrepreneurs, visit www.endeavormiami.org.

October 24, 2017

Maxeme Tuchman of Caribu wins South Florida award at Demand Solutions Start-up Challenge

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Maxeme Tuchman, CEO of Caribu, was the South Florida winner of the Miami Dade College – InterAmerican Development Bank “Demand Solutions” Start-up Challenge that featured nearly 20 start-ups from Latin America and Miami, most owned by women entrepreneurs.

Tuchman took home the $15,000 prize and the “Most Innovative Startup in South Florida” distinction for Caribu, described as the place where FaceTime meets Kindle, for kids.

The education platform helps parents, family, and mentors read and draw with children when they’re not together. It provides an engaging livestream shared-screen experience in a carefully designed, platform with an in-app bookstore containing hundreds of books, in six languages, and educational workbooks with interactive drawing overlays. It was also a winner in the Miami Herald Business Plan Challenge and other contests.

 Here are the other awards:

An Ecuadorian startup that created a platform for Latin American emerging writers was declared the winner of the Inter-American Development Bank's fifth pitch competition, held as part of the Demand Solutions event in Miami last week.

The event, featuring 18 innovative startups from across Latin America and the Caribbean, was co-hosted by the IDB and Miami Dade College (MDC). Demand Solutions, the IDB's flagship event on innovation and entrepreneurship, brings together creative minds from around the world to share solutions that improve lives.

The event closed with a pitch competition featuring 18 startups from Barbados, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Mexico, Peru and Miami.

Galo Vargas, cofounder of the Ecuadorian startup Inkspired, won the top prize of $30,000 for being the Creative Entrepreneur with the Highest Potential for Global Impact. Inkspired is a platform that allows emerging fiction writers from Latin America and the world to publish their books and creative series, connecting them with interested readers and providing them with metrics to improve their work and make their stories more appealing.

Ariana Green, cofounder of Couple Six from Barbados won the Disruptive Creativity for Development Award, a $15,000 USD cash prize from the IDB. Couple Six is the first videogame development studio in Barbados; it features games based on narratives of the history and culture of the Caribbean.

Ariana also won a special award by Creative Business Cup : an invitation to participate in the Global Finals competition in Copenhagen in November.

Barbara Arteaga, cofounder of Ecoplaso from Mexico, won the Creativity for Social Impact Award, a $7,000 USD award by the IDB. Ecoplaso is a Mexican startup run by 5 women who use their proprietary biotechnology to turn fruit waste into textile substitutes of leather and fast fashion fabrics.

The entrepreneurs pitched their startups' innovations to an audience of more than 300 people and a jury composed of leading specialists from Santander Universidades, the Innovation Lab of Miami Dade College, Creative Business Cup, the Cambridge Innovation Center in Miami (CIC Miami), Latam Startups, Endeavor Miami, Babel Ventures, 23 Design, Lobo Ecosystem Builders, Babel Ventures and the Inter-American Development Bank.

The startups were selected from over 300 candidates to showcase their innovative products and services at the one-day Demand Solutions event, designed to connect startups with investors, mentors and thought leaders.

One representative from each startup traveled to Demand Solutions Miami for the Pitch Competition and to take part in two days of activities with innovators, mentors, entrepreneurs and investors, organized by MentorDay.

Other awards include:

Linda Franco, cofounder of Machina, won the award for the High-Growth Woman Entrepreneur, an invitation to participate in WeXchange Annual Forum in Santiago, Chile, in December 2017.

Julio Oliveto, cofounder of Livre, won the Lean Case award: legal and accounting services directed to startups from the creative and cultural industries to expand their business to Colombia.

All 18 startups were awarded free co-working space and network connections for programmatic objectives at the Cambridge Innovation Center in Miami (CIC Miami).

The event was sponsored by Santander Universidades. Other partners included Endeavor MiamiBabson Win Lab and Americas Society/Council of the Americas.

The livestream of the startup pitches is available here.

This was the ninth edition of Demand Solutions. The next edition of Demand Solutions will take place on November 9th in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.

 

October 21, 2017

Ouch, that late fee hurt. This Miami startup wants you to never worry about parking tickets again

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From left, Jona Araujo, Charlie Melendez and Auston Bunsen of JINXD. Photo by Beyond South Beach. 

 

By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

Who hasn't forgotten to pay a parking ticket and paid the very steep price?   

Yep, been there, done that too many times. It's a fact of urban life.

JINXD, a new Miami startup, has a solution for that.

JINXD is one of only two apps in the United States that allow you to auto-pay your citations. You can simply sign up with your license plate numbers and payment info and the next time you receive a parking citation, JINXD automatically pays it, charging a small service fee.

"As you may already know, Miami is notorious for parking tickets and when you receive one, you cannot pay for it immediately on the Miami Clerk of Courts website until it populates their servers three to five days after -- another inconvenience," said Auston Bunsen, one of the co-founders.

"We're trying to be a magical background technology that you only think of when we make your life better. Our users love it when they get a notification that we saved them from getting a tow or just saved them from a $25 late fee," added Bunsen, who oversees technology. 

JINXD works with commercial clients that have large fleets such as rental car companies and automobile dealers. Braman BMW, Infiniti of Coral Gables and Mercedes Benz of Cutler Bay are customers. "JINXD for our business clients is a no-brainer as it frees up their afternoons to focus on bigger tasks at hand," said CEO and co-founder Jona Araujo, who also oversees marketing.

The  number of active customers has grown 448 percent and revenue has grown 346 percent since the beginning of this year, Melendez said. JINXD is tracking more than 2,000 license plates in Miami-Dade County among consumers and  commercial clients.

Late fees can add up quick. After two months, an $18 parking ticket rises to $63 in Miami -- ouch. And if you have five unpaid tickets, your car could be towed.

"We've found and/or paid thousands of tickets for our customers, saved our customers over $22,000 in late fees, as well as prevented dozens of customers from getting their car towed or having their registration renewal blocked," said co-founder Charlie Melendez, who oversees finance.

The team created a heat map of the most ticketed areas in Miami-Dade.

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Expansion to other cities could begin next year, and JINXD's market is sizable. The team said there is more than $200 million in unpaid parking tickets at any one time just in nine major U.S. cities that include Miami.  

Said Araujo, "We're laser focused on getting product/market fit for our existing product and expanding to other cities as soon as possible. We believe this product is helping businesses, consumers and government alike."

You can sign up at https://JINXD.co or download the 5 star reviewed iPhone app on the App Store here.

JINXD will be one of six startups competiting at Refresh Miami's Demo Day Oct. 27. Sign up to attend here

 

Finova Financial secures $102 million in funding

 

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Finova Financial, provider of flexible, affordable alternatives for the 70 million Americans under-served by the traditional banking system, announced this week that has secured $102.5 million in equity and credit facility funding. 

The financing was led by CoVenture with participation from existing Silicon Valley investors who funded Finova’s $52.5 million seed round. The West Palm Beach-based financial-technology company was founded in 2011.

Gregfinova“Seventy million Americans spend $141 billion on alternative financial services a year because they don’t have or want a relationship with traditional banks or financial institutions. This rapidly growing group feels that traditional financial services companies can’t solve their core financial needs," said Gregory Keough, CEO (pictured here). "Finova is using advanced technologies and designing innovative new financial products to serve the needs of this large and growing population. Finova’s proprietary platform delivers an all-digital financial product and experience that fits the lifestyle of the 28 percent of Americans — and growing — outside the formal financial system.”

Finova’s digital products include its flagship Car Equity Line of Credit (CLOC), providing fast emergency loans based on car equity; and its industry-first Automobile-Secured Prepaid Card, which accepts either cash or car equity to fund the card.

Finova’s CLOC, currently available in Florida, California, Tennessee, New Mexico, South Carolina, Oregon and Arizona, has earned Consumer Affairs prestigious partner accreditation for delivering up to 50 percent lower cost than the national average on title loans to consumers, instant online pre-qualification, and payment-against-principal with every payment, the company said. Finova’s Automobile-Secured Prepaid Card helps consumers avoid check-cashing fees, get their paychecks faster, and better manage their finances, the company said. The new funding will be used to expand its digital financial services.

“We look at many fintech companies but Finova has built an incredible all-digital technology platform that consumers really like and has experienced amazing traction in a short period of time,” said CoVenture Managing Partner Ali Hamed. “Finova has created a customer-centric focus for Americans outside the formal financial system that is driving strong growth, rapid consumer adoption, and opportunities for rapid national expansion, which I think is what the future of banking will look like.” 

 

October 19, 2017

The party bobs along with this Shark Tank contestant’s products

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By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

Will the “Human Bobbers” sink or swim in the Shark Tank?

Justin Rietema of Oakland Park and Doug Schultz of Coconut Creek invented the Human Bobber line of multipurpose personal flotation devices. They will appear on ABC’s “Shark Tank’ show at 9 p.m. Sunday to pitch their Bottoms Up, a dual-purpose life vest that can also be worn like a pair of shorts, and the Scuttlebutt, a saddle-like float that’s also an in-water lounge chair or kayak seat.

“We are boaters at heart, and after watersports like tubing, water skiing and wakeboading, we would often anchor up our boat and float around in the water with some drinks,” Schultz said. “Most of the guys in our group would just put on a life vest upside down and use that as a saddle for floating, but as you can imagine, life vests are not designed for that. There was foam in all the wrong places.”

Rietema and Schultz have day jobs as landscape architects, but formed H3O Sports in 2011 as a side hustle.

After creating and testing several hand-made Human Bobber prototypes, they began manufacturing and selling the Bottoms Up and the Scuttlebutt on HumanBobber.com in 2012. Both products are patented, Rietema said.

Sales were slow at first, but in 2016, Bottoms Up received U.S. Coast Guard approval as a type III flotation aid suitable for rescues in calm waters. The process took two years but was worth it, Rietema said. Before 2016, sales totalled about $60,000 in total, but with last year’s sales and this year they will likely nearly double that. Another popular item is their Beverage Bobber, which runs $16 to $18.

Today, Rietema and Schultz still have their day jobs – but their hopes are high the Sharks will bite. The Sharks have taken a liking to other South Floridians’ products, including the AquaVault and Three Jerks Jerky. On Sunday, they will face Mark Cuban, Lori Greiner, Robert Herjavec, Daymond John and Kevin O’Leary.

Like all Shark Tank contestants, these two entrepreneurs have to be hush-hush about the outcome of their time in the tank, but whatever happens they are planning to toast the journey at a watch party Sunday night at 26 Degree Brewing Company in Pompano Beach. No Beverage Bobber needed. Bottoms up!

UPDATE AFTER THE SHOW: On Sunday night, O’Leary pledged to back the inventors with $120,000.   Cuban said he would provide accounting and other business expertise. Rietema and Schulz entered the Shark Tank seeking $120,000 in exchange for 15 percent of their business. They ended up awarding 33 percent to O’Leary and 10 percent to Cuban.

 

Follow @ndahlberg on Twitter.

October 17, 2017

Magic Leap confirms it has raised $502 million in funding

By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

Magic Leap confirmed that it has raised another large funding round as it apparently readies its first product for launch.

The secretive South Florida tech startup announced on Tuesday that it has raised $502 million in a Series D round of funding led by Temasek Holdings, an investment fund owned by Singapore’s government. The round includes three other new investors, Grupo Globo of Brazil, EDBI of Singapore and Janus Henderson Investors, and existing investors Alibaba Group, Google, Fidelity Management, JP Morgan and T. Rowe Price.

“We’re excited to welcome Temasek and the other new investors in this round to the Magic Leap family,” said Rony Abovitz, founder and CEO of the Plantation-based Magic Leap, in a news release. “We also greatly appreciate the strong support and partnership from our existing shareholders.”

Magic Leap had already raised $1.4 billion, which brought a valuation of $4.5 billion at the time. The new funding brings the company’s total funding to nearly $1.9 billion, and significantly expands Magic Leap’s arsenal as it prepares to launch a long-awaited headset or pair of smart glasses with its proprietary “mixed reality” technology. Magic Leap has not yet revealed a product, and those who have seen the technology have signed a non-disclosure agreement.

Last week, a Delaware filing showed that Magic Leap authorized up to $1 billion in new shares. Last month, a Bloomberg report cited sources who said Magic Leap would be raising about $500 million from Temasek and others, and suggested that a limited launch of its product – bigger than a pair of glasses but smaller than VR headsets now on the market – may be within the next six months. The sources also said the device could be priced around $1,500 or higher, but Magic Leap has not said when it plans to release its product or released pricing details.

Magic Leap is believed to have more than 800 employees in South Florida and hundreds more in offices around the world, including Los Angeles, Sunnyvale, Seattle, Austin, Dallas, Zurich, New Zealand and Israel.

Follow @ndahlberg on Twitter.

Endeavor's impact on South Florida entrepreneurship: It's in the numbers

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EverymundoSFBJBy Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com
 
EveryMundo, founded by Anton Diego and Seth Cassel (pictured here), provides performance marketing technology for airlines. The Miami startup  has grown the team to 60 employees and has experienced double-digit revenue growth every year. It's now working with about 30 airlines.
 
Founded by Juha and Johanna Mikkola, Wyncode offers coding boot camps that prepare students for the local tech job market. It has graduated more than 450 students and more than 200 companies have hired them. It recently raised funding and opened its own headquarters space (shown above).
 
Pincho Factory, the fast-casual restaurant concept inspired by Latin American street food founded in 2010, has been on a growth spurt since the beginning of 2016. It has gone from two locations to eight, with three more are on the runway, and has added 180 employees. Today it is closing in on $14 million in annual revenue systemwide. It was founded by Otto Othman and Nedal Ahmad.
 
What the three South Florida companies have in common is they were all selected by Endeavor, the global organization that provides mentorship and services to high impact entrepreneurs, including access to talent, capital and markets on local and global levels. The Endeavor Miami chapter, the global nonprofit's first office in the U.S., opened in 2013.
 
"Endeavor has been monumental in terms of mentoring and advising us with our growth strategy. We were able to truly learn how to raise funds and how to negotiate term sheets with the help of our mentors," said Othman. "The networking component provided to us by Endeavor has been huge for us as well. Meeting other fellow entrepreneurs and successful Miami locals has played a big role in our growth. From advising to sharing best practices, these are the lessons you just simply don't learn in school."
 
FigsThese companies and others were highlighted in Endeavor Miami's just released annual impact report, which shows that the 16 active Endeavor Miami companies are booking $130 million in 2017 revenue. Together they employ 1,600 people, and that's up 37 percent since 2014 while jobs statewide were up 9.4 percent in the same period. They've raised $15 million in capital, Endeavor Miami says in its new report.
 

These include companies such as the My Ceviche fast-casual restaurant company, which has grown from two restaurants to six, including its Midtown Miami, Coral Gables and MIA locations, since the founders were selected in 2013. Powerful's yogurt and other other all-natural products are in 10,000 stores, including Target, Walmart and Kroger. FIGS, founded by Trina Spear (pictured here) and Heather Hasson, offers antimicrobial, breathable and fashionable scrubs, and is also a B Corp. that has donated more than 75,000 sets of scrubs in 26 countries. Kairos, the facial recognition and  human analytics technology startup used by a number of enterprise clients, made a strategic acquisition and has raised some $8 million in funding to power its growth.

Brian Brackeen OfficeEndeavor Miami's network of 75 mentors have donated 1,371 mentor hours to help make these successes happen, according to the report. "It’s like having a network of experts at my disposal 24 hours a day, 7 Days a week. It’s family. They would do anything to help us to win," said Brian Brackeen, founder and CEO of Kairos.

To be sure, Endeavor is part of a whole network of community organizations and university programs offering services and support to entrepreneurs in South Florida. Endeavor focuses on selecting companies that are ripe to scale and could benefit from Endeavor's help, as well as founders who are likely to give back to the South Florida community after they've found success by helping the next generation of startups through mentorship and/or investment.

Four years in since the Knight Foundation funded the launch of Endeavor Miami, the community is already seeing the give-back, with entrepreneurs like Brackeen, the Pincho founders, the Mikkolas and many others mentoring startups, offering connections and speaking around town and beyond about entrepreneurship. The organization is celebrating with a benefit gala on Saturday honoring tech visionary Salim Ismail. 

Read the Endeavor Miami impact report here.

To nominate a company for the Endeavor network, go to www.endavormiami.org