August 10, 2015

Startup Spotlight: Blue Ring Technologies a one-stop shop for inventors


Company name: Blue Ring Technologies

Headquarters:2240 SW 70th Ave., Suite J, Davie.

Concept: Blue Ring Technologies, a startup manufacturing company, specializes in helping entrepreneurs and businesses develop their ideas, manufacture their products and realize their dreams.

Story: Blue Ring Technologies began when its founder, Jay Prendes, was creating his own product, the Jayster, a keychain and app that used Bluetooth technology to find lost valuables. Having tech manufacturing experience with IBM and Motorola and a firm understanding of the development process, Prendes, a computer engineer, set out to assemble the necessary professional services to help bring Jayster to life and manufacture it in South Florida. Yet he found a lack of affordable engineering services that can help to prototype, design and manufacture plastic parts for small businesses within the immediate area.

Prendes decided to invest in 3D printing technology to help with his design process. Because of the success of his Kickstarter campaign in 2013, he was able to buy tooling equipment and injection-molding machines to help create Jayster in its product form. In the process, he began meeting fellow inventors who were seeking the same kind of services he put into place for Jayster: He saw a clear market need for a business with all the engineering services under one roof.

JaysterToday, Blue Ring Technologies handles hundreds of projects for clients ranging from individual, self-funded inventors who bring in ideas or rough prototypes for consumer products to larger companies such as Pavilion Furniture and Home Depot that may need a particular plastic part or project item manufactured. One of the products Blue Ring still manufactures is the former Jayster, which has undergone some iterations, was licensed by ShopLive, and is now called Beacon Plus.

Blue Ring Technologies provides additive manufacturing, 3D printing, rapid prototyping, product tooling and injection-molding services. In 2014, Blue Ring expanded into its 2,500-square-foot Davie facility. It has added 3D printers, CNC machines, which guide manufacturing tools by computer, and more advanced and larger-process injection-molding machines for plastic manufacturing, including with bio-degradable, eco-friendly plastics. A recent afternoon was abuzz with activity, as several of the machines were producing parts for companies, while engineers were working on designs and prototypes for other clients.

“We are most known for the ability to create products for our clients quickly and efficiently — in the most affordable manner possible,” said Prendes, 33, who worked for Motorola for seven years before jumping full time into entrepreneurship. “Though born with a focus on prototyping, Blue Ring has quickly evolved to become a one-stop shop for our clients, expertly bringing ideas from concept to finished product.”


Launched: 2012

Management: JoaquinJay” Prendes, president.

Employees: Rodrigo Lima, engineer/designer; Fernando Gomez, master machinist; Jesse Azueta, designer; Travis Pittman, machinist; Brian Fata, designer.

Financing: Raised $15,000 through Kickstarter in 2013. Now exploring raising capital for new equipment and ISO certification costs.

Recent milestones reached: “We have added CNC machines, moved into our larger Davie facility, added engineers to our team, started a tooling apprenticeship program, and signed major corporate accounts,” said Prendes, who earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in computer engineering at Florida International University. We just purchased another professional 3D printer, expanding our prototyping capability.”

Biggest startup challenge: Hiring qualified team members to serve its growing client list.Our team needs to be versatile, have experience in manufacturing and handle CNC machines. This is a very hard skill set to find,” he said.

Next step: Expansion through attaining full ISO 9001 certification, which will allow Blue Ring to pursue projects in the aerospace, medicine and government sectors. “We are seeking partnerships or investors that can help accelerate our ISO 9001 certification,” Prendes said.

Nancy Dahlberg


July 26, 2015

Startup Spotlight: Symptify


Brandt Delhamer, M.D. (left), CEO Jalil Thurber, M.D., (center) and Mazyar Rouhani, M.D. (right), started a company called Symptify which helps users figure out causes for their symptoms, what to do about them and where to go for help. | PETER ANDREW BOSCH MIAMI HERALD STAFF

Read more here:

Company name: Symptify

Headquarters: Sunny Isles Beach

Concept: Symptify is a virtual doctor. It helps users figure out causes for their symptoms, what to do about them and where to go for help.

Story: As emergency physicians, Symptify’s co-founders have seen many people make needless and costly ER visits after “Googling” their symptoms online. In many cases, an online search for answers actually led to an unfounded escalation of fears. A recent study by Microsoft found that the medical content on the Internet is skewed toward more serious conditions. This is part of the reason why “Googling” your symptoms is not the best way to arrive at a diagnosis.

The Symptify team created a proprietary, patent-pending algorithmic engine that renders virtual consultations by asking users a series of questions regarding their symptoms. Because Symptify takes into account a user’s own medical history, it gives personalized and precise results. This has helped many people become more knowledgeable regarding their health conditions, helping them avoid “cyberchondria.” Symptify also facilitates a user’s access to healthcare providers by allowing the person to transmit his or her consultation record and medical profile to participating facilities.

“Ninety million Americans go online to self-diagnose their symptoms. But they didn’t have an app for that, so we made one,” said Dr. Jalil Thurber, CEO of Symptify.

Founded: 2013.

Management team: Co-founders Dr. Jalil Thurber, CEO; Dr. Mazyar Rouhani, COO; Dr. Brandt Delhamer, CCO; Nicola Mazola, CTO; Pierre Schiro, CIO.

Number of employees: Three developers.


Financing:. The company has been funded by its founders, who have provided $1.5 million in cash and services. Seeking $2 million in additional seed funding.

Recent milestones reached: Won the eMerge Americas Startup Showcase for early-stage companies, and through that victory Symptify obtained first outside investment of $50,000. Participated in Miami’s first Healthbox Studio, a program that was sponsored by Florida Blue. Last year signed up 10 emergency rooms that renewed their contracts three months ago. Launched a Spanish version of the platform in May. Launched a doctor appointment scheduler app in February and several physicians have enrolled for this service.

Biggest startup challenge: Raising capital in South Florida.

Next step: “We have a large sales funnel and anticipate that we will announce partnerships with large and well recognized brands soon,” said Thurber.

Strategy for next step: Continue building Symptify’s brand, which emphasizes the functionality and ease of its unique medical self-assessment platform. The end goal is to brand Symptify as synonymous with an online “virtual doctor” and essentially create a new paradigm through which users self-diagnose their symptoms online, Thurber said.

Advisor’s view: “This is a company founded by people with deep subject matter expertise. That's exciting and not necessarily common. Their company is solving a real problem and will have meaningful impact on probably the most important thing in life, our health,” said Payam Zamani, board member of Symptify and chairman of Reply! Inc. “The core technology and the highly intelligent platform that allows you to diagnose yourself using your smart phone is light years ahead of anything else out there.”



July 12, 2015

Startup Spotlight: Waleteros offers mobile banking app for the underbanked


Company: Waleteros

Headquarters: Venture Hive in downtown Miami.

Concept: Waleteros, the mobile banking app for the underbanked, offers a way for the more than 60 million people in the U.S. who don’t use or have a bank account to use their smartphones as their banking solution. U.S. Hispanics represent a disproportional percentage of this population.

Story: When Etienne Gillard (pictured above) moved to t Waleteros2he U.S. from Spain two years ago, he realized that millions of people in this country don't use or have a bank account. In order to meet their financial needs, they rely on alternative solutions such as check-cashing stores that are time-consuming, extremely expensive and quite unsafe. Together with two friends with complementary professional experience, they decided to develop a mobile wallet solution that is cheaper, safer and more convenient than any other alternative, said Gillard, Waleteros’ CEO, who previously co-founded a language training company.

After completing a short registration via the app, users receive a Prepaid Debit MasterCard with no monthly maintenance, minimum balance, or overdraft fees. The card can be used to make purchases in stores domestically and internationally, online, and to withdraw money from a network of thousands of surcharge free ATMs. Through the app, users can keep track of their transactions and send money instantly to other users for a small fee.

Waleteros, part of the 2014 Venture Hive Miami Accelerator class, launched its app on Google Play on June 18. It plans to roll out an iOS version this summer.

“We are Latinos living in the U.S. and we wanted to find a way to send money for less than $10. And guess what? We did much better than that! Thanks to Waleteros, now anyone, regardless of whether you have a bank account or not, can send money anytime anywhere for only 75 cents,” Gillard said.

Founded: 2014

Management team: Co-founders Etienne Gillard and Sergio Carrera; Antonio Talledo, business development manager.

Number of employees: Six.


Financing: In March 2015, Waleteros closed a $600,000 seed round with angel investors from AGP Miami and others. The team plans to raise a Series A in 2016.

Recent milestones reached: Went live with app on Google Play on June 18; Partners with more than 100 independent cellphone dealers in Miami that are distributing Waleteros services. Raised $600,000 seed round in March. Upgraded its direct deposit solution allowing users to receive their payroll up to two days earlier than usual.

Biggest startup challenge: “Our biggest challenge is to be good at pushing the viral marketing snowball,” Gillard said. Goal: “1,000 happy early adopters!”

Next step: Running promotional campaigns in cellphone stores, taking part in events where potential users are gathering and being proactive on social networks.

Investor/advisor’s view: Thomas “Tigre” Wenrich was paired with Waleteros founders during the 2014 Venture Hive accelerator because of his prior experience owning a chain of brick-and-mortar check-cashing stores. Over the following four months as a mentor, he said he became very impressed with the team’s experience and product, and at the end of the program offered to participate alongside them as a founding investor.

“They have done a great job bootstrapping — which is important because the process from idea to launch has been an 18-month ride,” Wenrich said. “They have some innovative distribution channels to get the app in front of the people who need it, but it will take some time to build momentum. They are targeting a population that has a high penetration of smartphones, but it isn’t a group that is used to transacting online. Check-cashing store customers are generally very loyal customers, and the two biggest drivers of their decision-making are convenience and trust. Waleteros offers convenience in spades, but they will have to work on developing the trust of consumers.

“They need to find channels that already have consumer trust, where it will be easier to introduce them to this new and better concept for managing their money. That is the idea of partnering with independent cellphone dealers, and they have several other complementary channels that they will be testing soon. Once they gain critical mass, this should really take off.”

Nancy Dahlberg


 Co-founder Etienne Gillard; Antonio Talledo, business development manager; and co-founder Sergio Carrera. Photos by Jessica Bal.


June 20, 2015

Startup Spotlight: Boatyard delivers 'boater happiness' with a click

Name: Boatyard

Headquarters: Fort Lauderdale

Concept: Boatyard delivers boater happiness on-demand. Boat owners can now order fuel delivery, boat washing and any other service they need with a few clicks on their mobile device.

Story: Boatyard was incubated as a peer-to-peer boat rental platform as part of the inaugural accelerator class at Venture Hive. While building out the platform, Nathan Heber (pictured above) heard over and over again about the pains that boat owners had to endure. It wasn’t until months after demo day, right before taking final delivery of the Boatyard platform, that Heber had his “aha moment” and Boatyard changed course.

“We set our sights on a giant white space in the boat services market. The reason Boatyard exists is to deliver happiness to the boating community,” said Heber, who continued to grow the company at Thesis Ventures’ Fort Lauderdale studios.

“We knew so many people who weren’t using their boats because they didn’t want to deal with the hassle of maintenance, cleaning or taking the ride to the fuel dock,” Heber said. Some couldn’t find a good mechanic or enough free time to keep their boats seaworthy, while others shared horror stories about their experiences with unqualified and unreliable service providers. Said Heber: “We knew there had to be a better way, so we built one.”

Launched: Dec. 1, 2014


Management team: Nathan Heber, CEO, founder; Matias Penela, chief technology officer; Christian Romer, chief creative officer; Richard Smith, director of operations; John Robinson, community manager.

Financing: $25,000 grant from Miami-Dade County/Venture Hive. Raised a $250,000 seed round in September 2014 funded by Thesis Ventures. Currently raising a seed round of $500,000.

Recent milestones: Over the company’s first six months, gross revenues have increased at a compound monthly growth rate of 56 percent, with month-over-month growth of 89 percent in May. Recently partnered with the fast-growing boat-sharing marketplace Boatbound to provide its boat owners with Boatyard services, including refueling and cleaning. Named “Top Product of 2015” by Boating Industry Magazine. Featured on TechCrunch Radio Pitch-Off on May 26 and on ProductHunt on June 9.

Biggest startup challenge: Finding employee talent that is passionate about delivering the highest levels of customer service.

Next steps: Crafting new strategic partnerships, scaling the business to additional boating markets and adding new product offerings.

Strategy for next steps: Building out new features for users and vendor partners and expanding business development efforts in key markets. Features include geo-targeting and advanced customer service capabilities for servicing its vendors, Heber said. “Like we are doing with Boatbound, we are working on partnerships with broker-dealers and technology companies in the marine industry to expand our user base and scale the business.”

Advisor’s view: “Nathan Heber has a killer blend of deep passion for the domain, big vision, in the weeds tenacity, operational know-how, and a great sensibility for customer service. He understands his brand’s voice very, very well,” said Jon Vanhala of Crossfade Partners and a board member, investor and advisor for Boatyard.

He has advised Heber that great partnerships drive mutual value. “Put your empathy hat on and identify real ways to add true value to your target partners before you can expect them to do business with you or care about your needs. Look to turn your perceived competition into collaborators where it makes sense,” Vanhala said.

“We are also constantly white-boarding and brainstorming expanded product offerings in software and hardware that fit the criteria of 1) make boater's lives better … and 2) help “all boats rise” in the industry — sorry, couldn't help that one,” Vanhala said. “Boatyard turns the age old boating joke on its head such that now the two best days in a boat owner’s life are the day they buy it, and the day they join Boatyard.”

Nancy Dahlberg

June 15, 2015

Startup Spotlight: HipPOPs seals Dubai deal



Company: HipPOPs

Headquarters: DaniaBeach

Concept: Mobile, premium, handcrafted gelato on a stick that is fully customizable with different dips and unique toppings.

Story: Anthony Fellows has owned, managed and operated food service businesses for more than two decades, including experience with frozen desserts dating back to 1990. “After many years of developing stores/kiosks in large regional shopping centers, I grew tired of having to sign long, expensive leases and conform to standardized hours of operation. After noticing so many self-serve frozen yogurt concepts open, I knew I wanted to create something fresh and unique" said Fellows.

He said his aunt took a trip to Italy and told him that gelato was being sold on a stick. “Simultaneously, I was watching the mobile food industry around the country and believed if I could deliver a portable product in a mobile format, that would be fresh and fun, I could be on to something,” said Fellows.

The result: “HipPOPs is a healthier frozen dessert option that I feel good about serving to my kids and our community. We’re sourcing and hiring locally whenever possible. Our business model is interesting because we have taken all of the financial and operational inefficiencies out of the traditional frozen dessert model. I call it the Frozen Dessert Business Re-Imagined.”

Today there are two portable POPup gelato bars and one POPtruck operating in South Florida, with the next truck slated to launch in the United Arab Emirates in the third quarter of 2015.

Why the UAE? “Our truck fabricator was working with The Food Truck Company on a large project in Dubai,” said Fellows. “They are building multiple savory truck concepts and asked her to also build an ice cream truck concept for them. She introduced us to them and they really loved what we were doing in Miami and felt our brand would translate really well in Dubai. It felt right and we believe we have a great partner.”

Launched: June 2012

Management team: Anthony Fellows, CEO, and Niva Botknecht, co-founder, who handles social media and catering operations.

No. of employees: 7


Financing: $350,000 in friends and family investment.

Recent milestones: HipPOPS recently sold the master franchise development rights for the UAE to The Food Truck Company from Dubai. The company is currently developing a 5,000 square foot micro creamery in Dubai and will launch the first of 10 to 20 trucks in the third quarter of 2015; HipPOPs’ 2014 sales were up 27 percent.

Biggest startup challenge: Securing capital while also recruiting well-qualified franchisees who are passionate about building the brand.

Next step: Aggressively marketing to develop the domestic market with franchises. There are no domestic franchisees signed yet as the Dubai deal took up much of 2014, but the company is currently speaking to potential franchise candidates in Orlando, Palm Beach, and South Carolina. We are currently searching and have been speaking with potential strategic partners to assist us in our growth,” Fellows said.

Nancy Dahlberg


June 03, 2015

Magic Leap to open SDK to developers 'soon,' will build Florida manufacturing facility

Magic leap

At MIT Technology Review’s EmTech Digital conference in San Francisco this week, Magic Leap announced that it will begin to allow game makers, filmmakers and other creators to build augmented reality experiences on its platform, TechCrunch reported. The secretive Dania Beach company, which is developing a platform for its “cinematic reality” technology, opened a developers section of its website where people can sign up for access to its SDK.

Onstage with CEO Rony Abovitz and Chief Futurist Neal Stephenson, Magic Leap’s Chief Creative Officer Graeme Devine wouldn’t say when the SDK would be released but said that it would be compatible with popular game development engines Unity and Unreal.

“We’re about having a completely open platform for every app developer, artist, writer, and filmmaker,” said Abovitz, according to MIT Technology Review. “We’re going to open it up for the world.”

Abovitz also announced that Magic Leap has spent part of its $592 million in venture funding to build a 300,000-square-foot pilot manufacturing facility in Florida for its “photonic lightfield chip,” TechCrunch reported. This chip powers its augmented reality headset that works by shooting light directly onto your eye, rather than sticking a screen in front of it, TechCrunch said.

Where in Florida? “We haven't yet publicly said where it will be, but rest assured, we're not going very far,” Andy Fouché, head of public relations and government affairs for Magic Leap, told the Miami Herald on Wednesday. Magic Leap has hundreds of employees in Dania Beach with smaller offices in Mountain View, Calif., and other cities. 

According to TechCrunch, Abovitz said Magic Leap is out of the R&D phase, and needed to build its own manufacturing facility because “there is no off the shelf stuff that does what we’re describing.”

This post was updated. 

Earlier post on Magic Leap is here.

May 06, 2015

For small businesses and startups, Legal Hero launches in Miami

Legal Hero is a New York-based on-demand legal services provider for startups and small businesses that want to find quality lawyers at reasonable and fixed prices. The startup announced this week it is launching its services in Miami.

The founder and CEO,  Annie Webber, grew up in Coral Gables and went to Harvard for her undergrad and JD-MBA degrees. But she said the seed of Legal Hero was planted much earlier, talking business around the dinner table with her parents about their family's flower importing business. “I was really cognizant of how difficult it was to get good legal help at reasonable prices, but most importantly at fixed prices. It is just so hard for small businesses to manage their legal budget when they are billed by the hour,” said Webber, who spent a couple years as a lawyer before launching Legal Hero.

Founded in November, Legal Hero offers services in New York, Massachusetts and now Florida. So far, the network has 60 attorneys; 15 of them are in Florida with most of them in South Florida, Webber said. They handle issues from entity formation, business contracts and employment agreements, to immigration and intellectual property concerns, she said.

Unlike most legal services providers that rely on retainers and hourly billing, Legal Hero shows the full price of 30 common projects on the website. After a customer chooses a project, the customer is provided a selection of vetted lawyers to complete the project at that price. Legal Hero will manage a bidding process for other services; the prices may vary lawyer to lawyer, but the fee will be fixed.

Webber says her biggest competitor by far is traditional law, and she also considers do-it-yourself advocates like Legal Zoom a type of competition. But there are also a number of online startups nationally going after a slice of the $60 billion small business law services market, including Court Buddy, a Miami-based startup that launched recently and chose South Florida as its initial market.

Legal Hero secured startup funding last fall from a group of angels that includes Jose Rasco of Miami’s STRAAT.

“There is a different energy in Miami now than there was 10 to 15 years ago and I love the ecosystem that has spring up to support entrepreneurship,” said Webber, who has started to work with startup groups in the area. “We’re so excited to be a part of it, and that is why we decided to come here.”

For more information, visit

March 21, 2015

Startup Spotlight: Caribbean Journal

Caribbean journal

Guy Britton, executive vice president, and Alexander Britell, editor-in-chief/founder, of Caribbean Journal in the offices of Pipeline Brickell on March 16, 2015. WALTER MICHOT MIAMI HERALD STAFF

Caribbean Journal

Concept: Caribbean Journal is a daily digital magazine covering news and travel in what the publication likes to call the “Greater Caribbean.”

Story: Alexander Britell graduated from Harvard College cum laude and received a scholarship to attend the University of Miami School of Law, where he soon began studying Caribbean law. He had been a journalist since high school, and one night before graduating from law school, had the idea to launch a regional Caribbean news source. In 2013, Britell joined forces with longtime media executive and former Caribbean and Travel and Life Publisher Guy Britton and expanded the site with more robust travel and tourism content.

“The Caribbean is unique in the world in that it is a place that everyone wants to know about and visit, but for which there has long been a significant information deficit, even more so for people who live within the region,” said Britell, editor of Caribbean Journal. CJ aims to bridge that gap by focusing on two major areas: news (politics, economics, energy and the environment) coupled with travel and tourism, the region’s single largest economic driver. “The goal is to unite two often disparate worlds: the people who live in the Caribbean, and the people who travel and invest in the Caribbean, and to inform them about what’s happening in the region and why it matters to everyone,” Britell said.

Today, the magazine has grown to become the world’s largest website covering the Caribbean and the leading resource for news and travel information on the Caribbean, Britell said. It is read in more than 200 countries and territories, with the largest concentration (about 65 percent) in the United States.

CJ has its office at Pipeline Brickell, which has proven to a valuable collaborative resource for the company’s growth. CJ even hosts regular Rum Tasting at the space as part of its Rum Journal section.

Founded: 2011

Management team: Alexander Britell, editor-in-chief/founder; Guy Britton, executive vice president.

Number of employees: Five.


Financing: $500,000 in angel equity financing

Recent milestones reached: 460,000 visits in one month in January, just topped 44,000 subscribers (email newsletter goes out every day of the week) and 88,000 Facebook likes, 268 percent year-over-year audience growth. Won two Caribbean Tourism Organization media awards. Hired Caribbean travel expert Sarah Greaves-Gabbadon as travel editor at the end of 2014. “Among our staff, we’ve now visited every country in the Caribbean,” Britell said.

Biggest startup challenge: Building an Internet audience from scratch. In the very early days, CJ was getting 50 people a day. Now it’s 15,000, Britell said. 

Next step: Hosting conferences and small events in Miami and expanding audience development. “We believe that there’s nothing stopping us from reaching 5 million visits a month or more. But what’s important is that we stay lean and efficient and maintain our editorial vision,” Britell said.

Partner’s view: “I knew the minute I saw Caribbean Journal what a great opportunity there was to grow the audience and make it valuable for advertisers,” said Britton, who has more than 20 years of digital publishing experience and knowledge of the Caribbean. “We will continue to produce new, useful and entertaining content that attracts the right readership. Events are a great way to grow. We will continue to host rum tastings, small press conferences and accept speaking engagements.”

Nancy Dahlberg @ndahlberg

March 16, 2015

Startup Spotlight: Wyncode


Johanna and Juha Mikkola are the founders of Wyncode, which runs nine-week-long coding boot camps at its school at The LAB Miami. AL DIAZ MIAMI HERALD STAFF



Headquarters: The LAB Miami in Wynwood.

Concept: Wyncode is a nine-week development boot camp immersing ambitious individuals in a demanding and inspiring learning environment engineered to develop successful coders with business acumen. “We believe in promoting programming literacy using a disruptive education model and feel that a boot camp environment is the best way to learn practical and relevant coding skills quickly,” said Juha Mikkola, who co-founded Wyncode with his wife, Johanna (pictured above).

Story: WyncodeAcademy aims to address the need in Miami’s tech ecosystem for developer talent, which parallels what’s seen elsewhere in the country: recent estimates show that there will be a million more computer programming jobs in 2020 than candidates to fill them. The rapidly growing demand for developers provides an opportunity for a career accelerator for those determined to change their path and make an impact in the startup technology scene.

Wyncode got started after Juha Mikkola attended a development boot camp in Toronto, Canada, where he saw firsthand the power and effectiveness of the accelerated learning model. Improving upon that experience with better hiring partner relationships and a “Made for Miami” curriculum, Wyncode hit the ground running with a 14-person inaugural class in May 2014. Wyncode graduated its fourth cohort last week.

Wyncode has held four Pitch Days with each drawing an audience of about 250 people to see the app creations of Wyncode students. Last week’s Pitch Day drew 267 people and six of the students received full-time job offers even before the event.

Launched: Website went live in February 2014; first classes started in May.

Management team: Co-founders Juha and Johanna Mikkola.


Number of employees: Five full-time employees, five part-time employees, in addition to the co-founders. Wyncode’s lead instructor, Edward Toro, is an MIT graduate, veteran of six startups, and a Miami tech scene pioneer.

Financing: Self-financed. Currently raising $500,000.

Recent milestones: Nearly 70 students have graduated from the program while Wyncode has maintained a 92 percent placement rate within three months of graduation; first Code School/Development Bootcamp in Florida to receive Florida Department of Education licensing; won Tech Cocktail’s Best Company Culture Award; invited to the White House to participate in its Accelerated Learning Program panels and meet the US CTO Megan Smith, and then invited back; Wyncode and nine other coding schools nationwide recently formed a new trade organization called the New Economy Skills Training Association (NESTA) to establish best practices, standards and increase accountability in the industry.

Biggest startup challenge: Finding out that accelerated learning programs required Florida Department of Education licensing, after students joining the first cohort had already quit their jobs to attend Wyncode. “We’re fortunate that the state saw the great impact we are having and worked with us as we fulfilled the requirements, but it made for a lot of sleepless nights,” Juha Mikkola said. “Even through the difficult times all of our students stuck by us!”

Next steps: Expanding programming at flagship location in Wynwood. “We introduced our first part-time course in February, which is for iOS App Development. Next we plan to expand to our second location in Fort Lauderdale in April, pending state approval, and add more part-time courses,” Johanna Mikkola said.

Strategy for next step: “Our strategy is laser-focused on maintaining our quality no matter what we do. We will continue working closely with our hiring partners to make sure that we are teaching relevant tech skills that allow our graduates to jump straight into the workplace and contribute from day one, or build a minimum viable product and start their own tech company,” Juha Mikkola said.

Nancy Dahlberg @ndahlberg

2 wyncode021315 ADD

The Wyncode team, left to right, Walter Latimer, Damon Davison, Bryce Kerley, Frank Ortiz, Juha Mikkola, Diego Lugo, Edward Toro and Johanna Mikkola, above. Below, Alexander Moraleza and other students participate in a class at Wyncode at The LAB Miami. AL DIAZ MIAMI HERALD STAFF


February 16, 2015

Startup Spotlight: Titan Paddles

Fl titan paddles dania21b


Headquarters: 236 N. Federal Hwy., Dania Beach.

Concept: Titan Paddles was created to fill a void for quality paddles in the stand-up paddleboard market. Handcrafted in America, Titan delivers a strong, durable, yet lightweight paddle for paddleboarding enthusiasts.

Story: In 2010, Toby Grimes and Carlos Menendez set out to build a stand-up paddleboard like no other in the market. They jointly developed and patented a radically new board, which they named “Recon.” Specifically, the Recon board offers features and functionalities never before offered, such as a built-in stereo system, all-around illumination at flotation line, three waterproof storage compartments, the ability to haul cargo and a detachable fishing rod holder among other features. However, Recon requires a reasonable investment, and this project is on hold pending financing, Menendez said.

Yet, a great board requires a great paddle, the inventors reasoned, so in 2011 Titan Paddles started operations with that purpose in mind. The handcrafted paddles, which sell for $195 to $295, are sold in the United States, Caribbean and Canada, and the current generation of paddles carries a three-year guarantee, the best in the market, Menendez said.

About a third of Titan’s diverse team are military veterans. “Titan Paddles is living proof of what Americans can achieve when they work together as people regardless of descent, race, religious beliefs and/or political views — and we are very proud of it,” Menendez said.

The founders hope to manufacture the Recon someday, but for now they are busy manufacturing and selling their paddles, offered in two sizes, 10 colors and an array of designs, from their manufacturing facilities in Dania Beach. They recently received national attention when Titan Paddles was selected as one of 20 businesses nationwide in a Chase grant program that attracted 25,000 applicants. The company received $150,000, which will be used for marketing and sales, as well as for expanding manufacturing.

Launched: August 2011.

Management team: Co-owners Carlos Menendez, Toby Grimes and Sean Collins.

No. of employees: 12.


Financing: Recently received a $150,000 Chase grant; co-owners have provided all other funding to date.

Recent milestones reached: Moved manufacturing facilities to Dania Beach; signed Tom Jones, who has set two world records for distance stand-up paddleboarding, to use Titan Paddles exclusively; introduced its Graphic Paddles line; received JPMorgan Chase Mission Main Street Grant of $150,000. At Surf Expo, selected for inclusion in Boarders’ “Best of Surf Expo” video.

Biggest startup challenge: Overcoming the technical and manufacturing challenges in order to develop a quality product with limited financial resources.

Next steps: To flawlessly fulfill customers’ demands and expectations, and manage growth effectively in all operational areas. Looking into co-branding with retailers and evaluating other opportunities.

Nancy Dahlberg

Posted Feb. 16, 2015