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

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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

January 26, 2015

Startup Spotlight: Beyond Zero

01BM startup spotlight Beyond Zero_CPJ

DRINK UP: Jason Sherman, center, who founded Beyond Zero, a product that makes liquor ice cubes, is joined by team members Sean O’Brien, left, and Tim Couch. CARL JUSTE MIAMI HERALD STAFF


04BM startup spotlight Beyond Zero_CPJBEYOND ZERO

Headquarters: Midtown Miami

Concept: Beyond Zero appliances make, store and dispense pure liquor ice. Plug it in. add liquor, and just a few minutes later, it comes out like ice. It makes cocktails colder, smoother and stronger than if regular frozen-water ice cubes were used.

Story: Jason Sherman has always been a fan of bourbon and scotch and would frequently receive drinks served with too much ice, leading to a watered-down waste of alcohol. So he created a machine to easily solve the problem.

“After you mix the cubes with more liquor or a mixer, they melt, and you have this incredibly cold smooth drink that has removed the ethanol bite and left behind great flavors regardless of the type of spirit,” Sherman said. “We are fortunate to have a great team, solid investors, excellent mentors, and are looking forward to selling machines so the general public can start ‘product testing’ along with us.”

The company has three models: a single-serving unit that makes the cubes, a second unit that stores the cubes, plus another unit that does both. Currently the single-serving unit encased in a decorative barrel is priced at $5,000, but Sherman expects to bring the price down with volume manufacturing.

07BM startup spotlight Beyond Zero_CPJThe company’s startup journey has covered a lot of miles — 38,000 in the past year. With a trailer Sherman calls “the spaceship,” the team visits liquor distilleries and retailers, meets with master distillers and branding experts, and attends trade shows and industry events. On a visit to the Bourbon Trail in Kentucky, for instance, a chance meeting with an economic development official led to discussions at the state offices about possibly manufacturing the product in that state. Beyond Zero’s tagline “We Don’t Water It Down,” which Sherman said “speaks to how we live our lives,” came from Joey Reiman, a visionary who generally works exclusively with Fortune 500 companies.

“We feel very lucky to be in the situation to get really good feedback from really smart people in the industry,” said Sherman, who holds degrees in finance and law but considers himself more of a creative person.

“People are very passionate about what they drink and how it is served. These products will open a lot of new markets for millennials to try a drink that isn’t overbearing because it takes the bite out of it. ... We don’t want a fad — here today and gone tomorrow — so we have been very strategic about how we introduce this new category and getting the right people behind us.”

06BM startup spotlight Beyond Zero_CPJFounded: 2009, but product was introduced to market in ’14.

Management team: Jason Sherman, Tim Couch, Wesley Suskind, Russell Suskind, Sean O’Brien.


Financing: $750,000 in friends and family investments and from brothers Wes and Russ Suskind, Beyond Zero’s first investors.

Recent milestones reached:
Product introduced at National Restaurant Association Show in May; first patent issued in October; first sale to Beam Suntory Innovation Center in Clermont, Kentucky, in September, where the machine gets prime exposure.

Biggest startup challenge: Building a manufactured product vs. a software app.

Next steps: Developing pilot program to get the product into more businesses. Selecting a contract manufacturer and actively working with the State of Kentucky Economic Development Association about 03BM startup spotlight Beyond Zero_CPJrelocation and manufactuing. Educating the industry about the “In The Rocks” style of drinking. Raising additional capital to support growth. Considering a Kickstarter campaign.

Advisor’s view: John Christopher of Christopher & Weisberg is Beyond Zero’s intellectual property attorney and advisor. “Jason is charismatic, intelligent, organized, prepared, all the right things, and we have been working closely with him to protect his ideas. … There’s a lot of excitement about it. It’s a whole new thing, and there isn’t anything else like it.”

Nancy Dahlberg

Posted Jan. 26, 2015 

January 18, 2015

Startup Spotlight: Handprint

Headquarters: Miami

Biz 08 Two PABConcept: Handprint's first product, TravelSmart, is a rental smartphone delivered directly to the visitor’s hotel upon arrival in the United States. With TravelSmart, visitors get unlimited data, calls, texts and international calls to many destinations, at a fraction of the price of roaming with their own phones. Through its marketing analytics platform, Guidelight, Handprint collects aggregate non-identifying data about international travelers from its TravelSmart network and other resources to help local businesses better understand this demographic that spends over $150 billion every year in the U.S.

Story: Handprint’s founders met at an international high school 20 years ago in Spain. As avid travelers, all growing up in different countries, they united to solve a real problem for travelers: connectivity. Offering smart phones with relevant content allows travelers to plug into the local ecosystem and take advantage of all the services, amenities and information that would otherwise mainly be accessible to locals.

“Since we launched the service in 2013, we have put phones into thousands of travelers’ hands,” said Andre do Valle, co-founder and president, pictured here. “These connected travelers are able to make smarter decisions by being able to get better data and information. In turn our advanced data-capture and analytics tools combine to give marketers and visitor bureaus looking to reach these visitors unprecedented insights, guiding their spending decisions and illuminating this previously disconnected demographic. Destinations that better understand their visitors will be able to provide improved services and experiences and offer more attractive discounts and incentives.”

The company works at the shared workspace Pipeline Brickell, where the team has benefited from the interaction with other startups and professionals that have led to new connections and prospective partners and users.

Founded: In 2012.

Management team: Andre do Valle, president; Andrew Cordery, head of product; Jonathan Harlap, chief technology officer.

Number of employees: Six.


Financing: $300,000 in seed financing

Recent milestones reached: Signed as pilot partners the shopping complex Aventura Mall, the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau, Visit Florida, national retailer Macy’s, and a major theme park in Orlando. Established a partnership with the top five tour operators in Brazil as distribution partners to reach Brazilian travelers visiting the United States. Launched a “$45 for 15 days" promotion, which includes unlimited local and international calls, unlimited data on the phone, 2GB of Tethering data, and free delivery and return of the phone anywhere in the U.S. Recognized as one of the top three “Hottest Media Startups” for Media Sparks at The Festival of Media LatAm held in October in Miami Beach.

Biggest startup challenge: Since Handprint is the first company to market in this product category, identifying the right partners and investors is a challenge that Handprint is working to overcome by educating and training.

Next step: In the first quarter of 2015, Handprint will launch its first report that will focus on the demographics of Brazilian travelers. “We will share insights from the report with the hospitality, retail and real estate industries in South Florida to promote this piece of research and will also make it available on the Internet at:,” do Valle said.

Advisor’s view: Christian Behn, CFO of Siine and board member of Handprint, said, “Having worked with multiple startups, I was attracted to Handprint’s business model that combined a highly scalable solution with a quick time to market. I think the Handprint team has done an exceptional job of identifying the target customer and the best distribution channels to reach them. Without an existing brand presence or distribution network, Handprint has implemented a value sharing model to convince and align with partners to get its product in the hands of travelers. .<TH>.<TH>. I am very excited and pleased to be a part of a company that is really bringing a superior mobile connected experience to tourists and travelers and that through the Handprint solution literally puts a new, digital channel directly in the hands of these visitors to connect them with the best products and services during their trip.”

Nancy Dahlberg


December 29, 2014

Startup Spotlight: Rehydrate




Headquarters: Boca Raton

Concept: Rehydrate is the healthy alternative sports drink because it contains no sugar, no calories, no caffeine, no fat. It also contains three times the electrolytes and two times the vitamins of the competition. The company says it is safe for athletes, outdoor workers, children and pregnant women and is good for colds/flus and helps with hangovers.

Story: The idea for Rehydrate came to Zack Gottfried in 2008 during summer drills in West Virginia where he coached Division 1 college football for West Virginia University: “The drill was to run up and down a steep hill after workouts, in the hot summer sun with not much of a breeze. One of my quarterbacks, Jarrett Brown, experienced a full body cramp. We gave him two 32-ounce bottles of a popular sports drink to no avail. He needed to be hospitalized.”

Turns out, most of the popular sports drinks were developed almost 50 years ago. “Our way of life and our training regimen has changed considerably over that time. I thought there just had to be a better way,” Gottfried said. In doing informal interviews, he discovered that children were consuming large amounts of sugar in their sports drinks.

“They were ingesting 34g of sugar in each bottle, which is the equivalent of over two candy bars. I worked with experts and came up with an ideal formula … with 14 great tasting flavors,” Gottfried said.

Launched: Production of Rehydrate began in July.

Management team: Zack Gottfried, CEO; Scott Covitz, VP Sales; Bradley Raxenberg, VP Finance, Patrick White, Sr. VP of Marketing and Product Performance; Jarrett Brown, Sr. VP of Health & Nutritional Excellence; Coley White, Sr. VP of Promotions and Athletic Development for Rehydrate Corporate.


Financing: Family and friends investment of $100,000. Raising a $250,000 founders round.

Recent milestones: Launched production in July; executed an agreement with a Florida distributor covering 2,900 stores; product selling in more than 100 stores including 7-Elevens in Florida; executed an agreement with the largest beverage distributor in West Virginia; opening 500 new stores in January in West Virginia; launching two new flavors, orange and blue mountain; executed partner agreements with athletes. West Virginia University declared the product its official drink for football and is bringing it to its bowl game Dec. 29.

Biggest startup challenge: Educating marketing buyers for chain retail stores. From the buyer’s perspective, it’s the old adage if it’s not broke, don’t fix it. Yet, consumers are demanding healthy products, and employers want healthy workers to combat high insurance costs.

Next steps: Continue infiltrating the convenience store market via guerrilla marketing, college students hired as brand managers and strategic social media, and developing a distribution network.

Advisor’s view: John Carson, the former president of Cadbury Schweppes North America — which owned Snapple and RC Cola — has been helping the company for about a year, attracted by the passion and determination of the team. He has seen much progress in product development, packaging and leveraging contacts in the sports industry (some of whom are on Gottfried’s management team).

His advice: A category dominated by major brands is a tough place to start, so the team needs to continue to be very focused on why they are different and how they are different — a better-for-you sports drink that tastes good, too.

“Don’t be frightened of being a David against Goliath,” Carson said. “Retailers can grudgingly admire a David if you have done your homework really well. You owe it to yourself to be polished and really know your story, and you have to look at everything through your customer’s point of view.”

Posted Dec. 29, 2014

December 16, 2014

Startup Spotlight: SuperFuzion




Headquarters: Miami

Concept: SuperFuzion products are an “Outrageous Fusion of SuperFoods.”

Story: SuperFuzion is a Miami-based natural health food products company that aims to infuse the daily diets of people everywhere with an outrageous fusion of superfoods. Each product contains a variety of premium nuts, seeds, and super fruits thus creating the optimal nutritional combination of antioxidants, omega fatty acids, protein, fiber, vitamins, and minerals.

The seed for SuperFuzion was planted in founder Jacqueline Gadala-Maria as a child growing up with her father who believed passionately in the power of healthy eating to transform lives. She began pursuing her dream when she decided to build a healthy “superfoods” company with fellow dreamer and close friend Alyssa Fernandez-Isla (pair are pictured above). Inspired by a “super fusion” of family, friendship, and food, SuperFuzion was born.

Gadala-Maria handles product development and Fernandez-Isla handles operations. Gadala-Maria used to make the mix for herself and brought it to a dinner. Everyone loved it and persuaded her to start the company. With Fernandez-Isla’s help, she perfected the recipe and the team developed the labels and branding – they chose lime green and purple to make sure the labels stood out on the shelves. “We would put our products on the shelves at Whole Foods to see how the labels looked,” Gadala-Maria said. And they pursued Whole Foods hard. “We kept going until someone called us.”

Their efforts paid off as the product is now in five local Whole Foods stores, and will soon be in the new Brickell store, as well as other shops in South Florida. The company plans to expand outside the region, as well as grow its product line.

Launched: SuperFuzion products launched in local, independant stores and markets in Miami in early 2014.

Management team: Jacqueline Gadala-Maria and Alyssa Fernandez-Isla, co-founders.


Financing: Self-financed.

Recent milestones: Gained acceptance into Whole Foods Florida region to launch at six Miami-Dade County stores. Partnered with the Seed Food & Wine Festival, the first plant-based food festival in the country, Oct 15-19 in Miami. The product is also sold in Norman Brothers in Kendall, Wayside Market in Pinecrest, The Beehive on Bird Road, the Original Daily Bread on Miami and Key To Health on Key Biscayne, among other stores.

Biggest startup challenge: Curating the best suppliers, designers, facilities and professional service providers.

Next step: Make the Whole Foods launch as successful as possible so that SuperFuzion will be a solid platform for product development and geographic expansion.

Strategy for next step: Demos. “At the end of the day, our first priority is allowing consumers to taste our delicious superfood fusions and educating them about their myriad health benefits and applications. This is why we invest heavily in in-store and event demos, where we provide complimentary tastings of our products. People buy SuperFuzion because not only is it healthy, it’s tasty too,” said Fernandez-Isla.

Mentor’s view: “SuperFuzion is a great example of local motivated entrepreneurs with a great venture idea but in need of assistance to operate on solid legal footing,” said lawyer Ashley A. Juchawski, who directs the Venture Law Project for Dade Legal Aid. The Venture Law Project, founded to help startups, has provided SuperFuzion with pro bono legal assistance, filing close to a dozen trademarks for Superfuzion to protect its name, branding and logo. “Superfuzion has also been diligently working with some of our best pro bono patent attorneys to protect all of the secret formulas you know and love,” said Juchawski.

Nancy Dahlberg


Posted Dec. 16, 2014; Photos by Marsha Halper / Miami Herald Staff 

November 24, 2014

Startup Spotlight: Entopsis

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Headquarters: Hialeah Technology Center

Concept: Entopsis is developing an innovative molecular profiling platform that will allow people to diagnose themselves for diseases at home easily, cheaply and quickly using just a NuTec, a specialized glass slide the company developed, and an app on their smartphone. A liquid sample of blood, saliva or urine is placed on the glass slide, heated to cause changes in color and photographed with your smartphone or with a photo scanner. Then, the photo is uploaded through the corresponding app, which will deliver the diagnostic results through a cloud-based system in seconds.

Story: Entopsis founders Ian Cheong and Obdulio Piloto (pictured above)  met while obtaining their doctorates at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and have been friends for 12 years. Since both had scientific medical backgrounds, they knew that they wanted to work together to create a technology that would help people in a significant way. Many people in developing countries lack access to life-saving diagnostic tests, mostly due to their high cost, invasiveness and the countries’ lack of advanced medical infrastructure, so Cheong and Piloto set out to create a diagnostic platform to tackle that problem.

Ens00 Entopsis BIZ PPPThis is a testing technology that can be applied to almost any substance and across a range of industries such as food science, with food contamination and agriculture, with disease detection in livestock and for people to be tested for various diseases. Entopsis is the only company in Florida supported by the competitive Peter Thiel Foundation’s Breakout Labs.

Launched: January 2012

Management team: Obdulio Piloto, Ph.D., co-founder and CEO; Ian Cheong, Ph.D., co-founder; George Huang, Ph.D., CFA, chief financial officer; Tingjun Lei, Ph.D., lead scientist (pictured below).

No. of employees: six


Financing: “We have invested $500,000 in the business to date, including self-funding, gifts and funding from Breakout Labs and other investors for the research and development phase,” Piloto said.

Recent milestones: Entopsis has significantly improved the capabilities of its novel machine-learning system, a process that took about five months. This breakthrough in technology now allows for a quicker and more accurate diagnosis, improving the overall product. In addition, their team has also made numerous improvements to the molecular binding surfaces on the NuTec, thus allowing for the capture and visualization of even more diverse biomarkers. Entopsis also just recently expanded manufacturing and laboratory space at the Hialeah Technology Center, allowing the company to run more tests on a variety of sample types without risk of cross contamination.

Biggest startup challenge: Funding and access to patient samples. “In order to test our platform across multiple industries, we need to partner with different beta testers in each field, such as the food industry, diagnostics, and bio defense, in order to identify problems and how NuTec can potentially solve them,” Piloto said. The company can develop a new diagnostic test in less than a week: “The challenge we are encountering is gaining access to patient samples so that we can fully demonstrate the advantages of our technology.”

Next step: Finalizing the NuTec platform and developing tests for commercial use. “Right now, we have many different prototypes, so we want to take the best aspects of all prototypes and turn them into one platform to commercialize for public use, while making the testing as automated as possible,” Piloto said. “Once complete, we will offer the platform to beta-testers and further optimize before offering the platform to the consumer market. We are always looking for partners interested in co-developing tests with our team.”

Investor/mentor's view: “Breakout Labs looks for novel cutting-edge science with broad application. Entopsis is based on an entirely new way to analyze biomolecules that, if successful, could become the new paradigm for rapid molecular identification in contexts ranging from food safety to medicine,” said Lindy Fishburne, executive director of Breakout Labs, adding that Entopsis has faced and overcome a number of development challenges.

“Because we fund many platform technologies, we see that our companies very often face a theoretical embarrassment of riches in choosing the right first application. The advice we give them is to go out and talk early and often with the potential customer to understand the pain points that the technology can solve and where the practical challenges would be in its integration into existing workflows or pipelines,” Fishburne said.


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 Photos by Pedro Portal / El Nuevo Herald

Posted Nov. 24, 2014

November 17, 2014

Startup Spotlight: Yandiki


Photo of Silvina Moschini of Yandiki by Charles Trainor Jr./Miami Herald


Headquarters: The LAB Miami

Concept: Yandiki is an employment platform for the connected workforce generation. It provides immediate access to curated creative talent from around the world, in the cloud, on demand, transparently, with no hassle.

Story: Silvina Moschini has been managing public relations and online visibility projects for major U.S. corporations for more than 15 years. She has witnessed firsthand the difficulties many companies have in hiring creative talent. Top creative talent in major U.S. cities is costly and, often, not immediately available. Moschini resolved this challenge for her own agency (called Intuic) by creating TransparentBusiness — a platform that allows for hiring and efficiently managing creative talent in Argentina, Colombia, Chile and other low-cost countries. Later, she founded Yandiki to offer the same convenience to other U.S. ad agencies and companies adding curated talent and creating a marketplace of talent for hire.

With, clients can manage virtual teams seamlessly, can provide immediate feedback on all work-in-progress and access the status and cost of each project.

With, clients can find and hire creative talent at their fingertips and on demand. “The goal is to create the perfect work platform for millennials, the connected workforce,” Moschini said.

Launched: May 2014

Management team: founders: Silvina Moschini (CEO), Marcelo Altamura (chief strategy officer), Nadia Di Vito (chief creative officer).

No. of employees: 17

Financing: So far, the founders have financed the project from personal funds. “While we can continue developing the project without outside financing, finding a strong equity investor would allow for faster growth,” said Moschini.

Recent milestones reached: Within two months of its launch, Yandiki landed major clients such as International Development Bank, Cable & Wireless and MFS (a joint venture of MasterCard and Telefonica), and it recently added EMC and Sony.

Biggest startup challenge: Coping with slow payment cycles in many major corporations.

Next step: Forming a sales team to target major corporate accounts in the United States and Canada, and forging alliances with governments in Latin America to help them create curated marketplaces of qualified creative experts, and export the professional services in the cloud. For them is the opportunity to increase their GDP, keep talent at home, and create employment. “For the talent, this is their chance to access world-class employment opportunities,” Moschini said.

Strategy for next step: Yandiki is interviewing people with experience in B2B sales and working with government programs and institutions to obtain financing and implement the programs.

Advisor’s view: “As a VC, I have seen many entrepreneurs — very few are as talented and driven as Silvina,” said Vanesa Kolodsiej, founder of Nazca Ventures, who has been advising Yandiki for about six months. She applauds Moschini for making progress educating governments and corporations about the advantages of the talent cloud and attracting the best creative talent in Latin America. “My advice is to be focused and be patient. Implementing a platform such as Yandiki [across the region] can take much time and effort, but once it is in place, the payoff is enormous.”

Nancy Dahlberg