August 21, 2016

Startup Spotlight: Banana Wave hits Whole Foods, now expanding nationally

Banana milk 2

Company name: Fresh Start Beverage Co. (Banana Wave)

Headquarters: Palm Beach Gardens

Concept: Fresh Start Beverage Co. is creating a new category in the milk-alternative industry. “We are the first company to actually make milk from a universally loved fruit — bananas. We call it Banana Wave,” said H.E. Neter Kush Ben Alkebulan (pictured above), co-founder and chief beverage officer.

Story: Entrepreneurial passion can take you to places you never thought you’d go. For these co-founders, getting their business off the ground meant living in a car for a while — and success still means donning a banana suit.

Banana wave 3Fresh Start Beverage Co.’s mission is to make humanity healthy, happy and strong one refrigerator at a time, said Neter, who founded the Palm Beach County startup along with his fiancée Trendolyn Hopkins and his mother Claudette Patron. Their first product is a nondairy beverage called Banana Wave banana milk. Neter says the delicious superfood originated in Africa’s Nile Valley around 3000 B.C., and has been his family’s specialty for generations.

While attending Florida Memorial University and working three jobs in 2012, he and Hopkins went to the Nova Southeastern University library every night to learn everything they could about business plans and running a company. Saving money by living in a car for six months, they went all-in working on their business full time in 2014; their first break came that year, when they won the People’s Choice award in Florida Atlantic University’s business plan competition and a couple of others.

The winnings, plus about $727,300 raised from family, friends and angel investors after the contests, allowed them to spend most of 2014 and 2015 testing out the product in farmers markets across South Florida, including ones run by Whole Foods, gathering feedback and making tweaks, testing price points and making sales. By January of this year they had the product made commercially and began selling it.

In May, their big break came: Banana Wave is now in Whole Foods throughout the state. The couple have done demonstrations (Neter wears a banana suit) at stores throughout the summer. The banana milk is a first for Whole Foods, Neter said. “They sell a lot of products but they have never seen anything like Banana Wave.”

He has had meetings with Wal-Mart and Kroger over the summer. Wal-Mart has already said yes, Neter said, and they are discussing 2017 launch plans. “I really want to get into Publix; Publix is on my radar.”

Launched: March 19, 2013

Banan2Management team: Co-founders H.E. Neter Kush Ben Alkebulan, chief beverage officer; Trendolyn Hopkins (pictured here), chief brand officer; Claudette Patron, chairman of the board (pictured here).

No. of employees: 9

Website: bananawave.com, www.facebook.com/drinkbananawave

Financing: $727,300 raised from family, friends and angel investors.

Recent milestones reached: Expanded distribution into the Northeast, through Market Basket, into the Southwest, through HEB, and into the West Coast, through Unified Grocers. Won the Category Pioneer Award in Beverage World Magazine in July. Currently working on a chocolate version of Banana Wave.

Biggest startup challenge and why: “Our biggest startup challenge was obtaining distribution for Banana Wave. We created the new category so food & beverage distributors had no historical data to rely on to determine sales volume,” Neter said.

Next steps: Obtain a national presence within Whole Foods Market. Give back to the community by sponsoring sporting events and local festivals. Provide impeccable service to distributors and retailers, while creating healthy beverage products that add value to consumers’ lives.

Nancy Dahlberg: @ndahlberg

Read more Startup Spotlights

Octopi making waves in shipping industry

Mediconecta brings telehealth to emerging markets.

Why Hope Solo is partnering with this startup

Modern OM, created mindfully

Need a ride? Freebee revs up to expand

August 18, 2016

Ride2MD, Lyft team up to fuel patient transport

Miami-based startup Ride2MD rolled out its service in Miami-Dade and Broward, and announced a partnership with Lyft for on-demand medical transportation. 

By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

Ride2MDMiami startup Ride2MD hit the streets this summer with its new medical transport service. This week it picked up a well-known partner in the on-demand transportation world: Lyft.

Ride2MD provides efficient, technology-enabled patient transportation to doctors’ offices, outpatient facilities and hospitals. George Fernandez, Ride2MD’s CEO, believes Lyft could provide 25 percent to 40 percent of Ride2MD’s transportation needs, primarily for Ride2MD clients who do not require ambulatory or wheelchair-accessible vehicles.

“Transportation no longer needs to be an inconvenience or barrier to those who need it most,” Fernandez said. “This is another conduit to providing good service to our clients. .. It’s cheaper than sending a taxi, it’s usually faster than sending a taxi, and it is something that people are getting more and more used to as a service level.” And as to Lyft team, Fernandez added: “They get healthcare.”

Fernandez, an executive in the healthcare insurance business before launching Ride2MD, said Thursday he was impressed with Lyft’s tool called Concierge that allows third parties to book rides on patients' behalves, and its commitment to the sector, including bringing on Gyre Renwick, who used to help run Google’s industry sector for healthcare.

“Every year, around 3.6 million Americans miss or delay medical care because they lack appropriate transportation to their appointments. We want to fix that. Getting a patient to their doctor appointment can lower the cost of care and increase the quality of care,” said Renwick, head of enterprise healthcare partnerships at Lyft. “Ride2MD has a similar viewpoint so our partnership is well-aligned.”

For patients that do need wheelchair-equipped or ambulatory vehicles, Ride2MD partners with medical transport companies. 

A few weeks ago, Ride2MD began its service in Miami-Dade and Broward, and plans to move into Palm Beach and Monroe as well as Central Florida in coming months.

Ride2MD, which won second place overall in the Miami Herald Business Plan Challenge this year and also was the Challenge’s People’s Pick winner, is forecasting an aggressive growth trajectory, expecting to manage over half a million members within the next 24 months and upwards of 3 million within five years.

For now the service is for private-paying customers, but Fernandez said Ride2MD has reached agreement with two major health plans and those details will be rolled out soon. The company is also establishing contracts with assisted living facilities, nursing homes and healthcare providers.

Most of the trips so far have been to doctor’s offices but Fernandez said Ride2MD has also served patients with rides to family events. “It’s kind of evolved into patients with special needs that need a helping hand getting around,” said Fernandez. “And that’s great, that’s what I want to see.”

Nancy Dahlberg: @ndahlberg

Read more: Ride2MD: Driving a plan to vastly improve medical transport

 

August 08, 2016

Startup Spotlight: Octopi making waves in maritime industry

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Company: Octopi (formerly Cetus Labs)

Headquarters: Venture Hive, 1010 NE Second Ave., Miami

Concept: Octopi builds and sells a modern and smart Terminal Operating System (TOS) that helps seaport terminal operators manage operations, track cargo, and communicate electronically in real-time with their commercial partners.

Story: Ninety percent of everything around you was carried over on a shipping container before it reached you. It’s the industry that puts food in your plate, clothes on your back and enables the success of e-commerce globally. Yet, very few companies are trying to solve the hard problems facing this industry, says Octopi co-founder Luc Castera.

“Our company was built with the mission to help the key players in this industry operate more efficiently using modern software. We are a team of software developers with lots of experience in developing modern software tools,” Castera said.

According to the International Chamber of Shipping, about 90 percent of world trade is carried by the international shipping industry, and the United Nations estimates that the maritime industry contributes about $380 billion to the global economy. It’s also one of Miami’s dominant industries.

“When we started learning about the shipping and maritime industry, we saw that there was a big opportunity to help companies in that space be more efficient using technology,” said co-founder Guille Carlos. “Everybody is impacted by the shipping industry so we feel like we can have a meaningful impact in the world by helping the players in this industry be more effective.”

Launched: Octopi went live with its first customer in October 2015.

Management team: Luc Castera and Guille Carlos [pictured above], who have more than 20 years of combined experience developing software. Previously, Castera was CTO of Intellum and Carlos was the first tech hire of FiveStreet, which was acquired by move.com in 2013.

Website: octopi.co

Financing: Bootstrapped. The co-founders said they are not in need of funding now but have had conversations with local investors and are building relationships with them in case they decide to raise funds in the future.

Recent milestones reached: In October 2015, Octopi went live with its first customer. In May 2016, the company signed a contract with Caribbean Port Services (CPS), which manages all the terminals at the port of Port-Au-Prince, Haiti. With that contract, about 85 percent of all containerized cargo going to Haiti now goes through Octopi. In June 2016, Octopi completed its billing module, which allows the software product to interface with accounting software such as Quickbooks Online or Microsoft Dynamics GP.

Octopi (then called Cetus Labs) was also the winner of the 2016 early-stage Startup Showcase competition at eMerge Americas in April, winning $50,000, and it participated in the 2016 Venture Hive class.

Biggest startup challenge: Focus. Carlos says: “We see so many problems we could solve in the shipping and maritime industry but we must remain focused on the problem we are currently solving for terminal operators, and not get distracted by other product ideas.”

Next steps: To continue improving the product. “We love to work closely with new customers and involve them early as possible as we develop our product. This ensures that we are solving their problem and we are not developing software in a vacuum. As such, we are always looking for container terminals that have a forward-thinking executive team and that are willing to build a strong alliance with their software vendor. It’s a win-win situation: They help us build a great product, and they get a better software at a better price,” Castera said.

Mentor’s view: “This is exactly the type of startup we need more of in Miami,” said Mike Lingle, who mentors the team at Venture Hive. “My favorite thing about Luc and Guille is that they've built a sustainable business with real revenue and customers, and they don't need to raise money. They both write code, but they also take the time to learn how to run the business, drive sales and marketing, etc. ... The next step is to focus on sales and build a predictable revenue stream. B2B sales cycles are often long and involve multiple stakeholders, so it's important to focus on this sooner rather than later.”

Read more: Mediconecta brings telehealth to emerging markets.

Read more: Why Hope Solo is partnering with this startup.

Read more: Need a ride? Freebee revs up to expand

Follow @ndahlberg on Twitter.

July 11, 2016

Startup Spotlight: Mediconecta bringing telehealth to emerging markets

MKK00 Mediconecta News rk

Mediconecta, based in Miami, provides telehealth services in Latin America. The company, which won the eMerge Americas startup competition in April, now has 50 employees. Daniel Silberman, founder and CEO, and Daniel Fridzon, CTO, are pictured.

Company name: Mediconecta

Headquarters: Miami

Concept: Mediconecta.com is a telehealth innovator that provides on-demand medical consultations via videoconference. Using an in-house network of physicians and a robust proprietary platform, the company offers complete clinical resolution via web, its mobile app or telehealth kiosks.

Story: Daniel Silberman and Salomon Simkins, both engineers from Venezuela who received MBAs in the United States, started Mediconecta about five years ago and built it on the basic yet powerful premise that technology can be a pivotal element in the much-needed transformation of healthcare.

“By providing access to real time, on demand virtual medical visits that can take place anywhere the patient is located, we are able to drastically lower the constraints for delivering quality, affordable and timely medical care,” said Silberman, an industrial engineer who moved to the U.S. in 2004, received his MBA at MIT Sloan School of Management and did consulting and strategy work for a number of years before starting Mediconecta. Simkins, his co-founder and longtime friend, received an MBA from Harvard Business School and has a master’s in biomedical engineering from Penn State; he is based in Israel.

The company’s main business model is to provide telehealth services via the consumers’ insurance companies. “But what we are doing more and more is going straight to consumers through partnerships ... with channel partners who have broad reach in the mass consumer space,” Silberman said.

Today, Mediconecta is the largest telemedicine provider in Latin America with a presence in Mexico, Chile, Ecuador, Venezuela and Peru, with plans to expand into other specialties and product lines, including for U.S. Hispanics who have families in Latin America.

While Latin America is significantly behind the U.S. in telehealth adoption, “it’s really interesting how mainstream this will all become in the next few years,” Silberman said. “The business models that will exist and evolve in a few years will be different than they are today, so we are trying to stay ahead of the pack.”

Launched: July 2011

Management team: Daniel Silberman, founder and CEO; Salomon Simkins, founder and chairman; Daniel Fridzon, CTO

No. of employees: 50, most of them in Latin America.

Financing: $4.1 million in angel funding

Recent milestones reached: Mediconecta won the 2016 eMerge Americas late stage startup competition, winning $100,000 in investment as well as “giving us validation on a very credible platform” and “opening doors for investment and partnership opportunities,” Silberman said. Also, the company successfully deployed Medipunto health kiosks for employers and signed its first distribution partnership with a telecom company in Latin America.

Biggest startup challenge: Creating an entirely new service category in emerging markets. “Being the pioneers in the space, we now benefit from obvious advantages, although getting there was a lengthy process that took significant effort and resources,” Silberman said.

Next step: Mediconecta will continue to penetrate its core markets while expanding into several more countries in Latam and Spain. The service offering is also growing beyond its core in primary medical care and into other telehealth services including medical specialties and a virtual wellness hub, which provides access to virtual coaches in nutrition, fitness, maternity and other areas. The company will also be deploying more of its telehealth kiosks for employers for convenient, on-demand services.

In the United States, where the industry is growing more than 25 percent a year, Mediconecta has an opportunity to merge the medical need of Latinos in their home countries with the high quality medical care offered in the U.S. “This is a project the company will be pursuing via strategic partners, through a highly differentiated product to sell to their Hispanic customers,” Silberman said.

Nancy Dahlberg: @ndahlberg

 

June 27, 2016

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

Lauren Feingold_Ashanty Williams

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


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

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

Headquarters: Miami

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

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

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

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

Hope Solo (4)

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

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

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

Company launched: March 2015

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

Employees: 31

Website: shanti.bar

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

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

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

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

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

Nancy Dahlberg @ndahlberg

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

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June 19, 2016

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

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By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@MiamiHerald.com

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


Company name: Freebee

Headquarters: Wynwood

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

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

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

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

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

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

Launched: September 2012

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

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

Website: www.ridefreebee.com

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


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

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

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

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

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

June 06, 2016

Startup Spotlight: Modern ŌM, created mindfully

Modernom1

Company: Modern ŌM

Headquarters: Miami and Asheville, N.C.

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

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

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

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

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

Modernom2

Website: www.modernom.co

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

- Nancy Dahlberg

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

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

May 16, 2016

Spotlight: Nomads making tracks in app development, world of video

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Photo by Patrick Farrell of Kostresevic inside Miami Entrepreneurship Center, where Nomads has an office. 

 

 

Nomads, founded in 2011 by Bosnian immigrant Andrej Kostresevic, specializes in building high-scale video platforms for clients. Now the company has clients all over the country and is launching its own product, too.

Company: Nomads

Headquarters: Miami.

Concept: Nomads is an elite tribe of cloud and mobile engineering talent, specialized in building high-scale video platforms for mobile, web and connected devices. Its clients range from startups to a top U.S. sports league.

Story: At the age of 11, Andrej Kostresevic escaped Bosnia in 1992, one year after the start of the civil war, and one day after the borders were officially closed. He lived as a refugee in Serbia until about three months before the bombing campaign of 1999, when he managed to come to the U.S. The naively optimistic 17-year-old arrived alone with nothing but two suitcases and rudimentary programming skills.

“This experience is something I still draw from when the going gets tough, and I am still reminded frequently of the incredible importance of pure confidence and willingness to just go for it,” he said.

After working his way through Luther College in Iowa and then gaining more technology work experience for a number of years at Bombardier Recreation Products, Tire and Battery Corp., Myxer and other companies, he had the entrepreneurial itch. He took the plunge in 2011 and started Nomads in Miami.

“Nomads was born from an organic need I saw from the Miami community while organizing the Miami Android Developers,” said Kostresevic, CEO. “The group was getting frequent inquiries from startup founders looking for mobile engineers, as well as from engineers looking for work. I put those two together and that formed the basis for the tribe.”

The company quickly grew, as Nomads began working with startups all over the country, and it often takes equity in partial exchange for services. Today, its clients range from startups to the nation’s leading broadcast provider. Its apps have generated over $2 billion in revenue for Nomad clients and have won accolades, Kostresevic said. As one example, the work Nomads did for one of its clients was recently highlighted on stage by Google at one of its major launch events.

Nomads now also launches its own products, driven by opportunities and needs it runs into working with clients. “Our incentive is to maximize a client’s likelihood of success,” Kostresevic said. Its first product: NomadTV.

“The problems we’ve been solving for our clients over the last four years have helped us identify several interesting opportunities, which we have pursued into new proprietary products such as NomadTV,” Kostresevic said. Rather than using digital distributors such as Amazon, Hulu, Netflix and YouTube, companies increasingly wanted to get their video content directly to consumers but had limited engineering capabilities and found development costs for a custom video application too high. NomadTV allows content owners to create their own branded video apps for mobile, web, and connected devices.

“NomadTV offers a scalable, customizable, industry-standard Netflix-like experience, with no upfront engineering effort, and low up-front expense. We provide this product as a service, for the most popular mobile, web and connected devices. The end result is the ability to deploy our customers’ catalogs via a set of custom-branded apps for all major platforms, literally overnight.”

Launched: 2011.

Management team: Andrej Kostresevic; Marly Rufin; Vojkan Dimitrijevic; Giannina Amato.

No. of employees: Five employees and more than 50 contractors.

Website: www.nomads.co.

Financing: Nomads is self-funded through a fast-growing service business.

Recent milestones: 300 percent growth year-over-year for three consecutive years. Built the flagship video product for a top U.S. sports league. Expanded footprint into Puerto Rico. In addition to scaling services, Nomads launched its first product, NomadTV.

Biggest startup challenge: Scaling the revenue of a service business requires a corresponding scaling of the team. “We’ve been able to overcome this challenge by being unconstrained by geographic location, but the inherent variability of demand for services still presents some unique challenges for growth,” Kostresevic said. “While we are able to mitigate these by extensive use of independent contractors, we look forward to the type of growth we expect to achieve through our new products, which can be scaled more independently of team size.”

Next steps: Diversifying revenue sources by scaling products, such as NomadTV.

Kostresevic said his team is excited about the possibilities in this transformative industry: “We are already seeing a proliferation of content that could not exist in the traditional high-stakes broadcast world, and we believe this will have a transformational effect on our society at large. No other industry shapes our worldviews quite as much.”

- Nancy Dahlberg @ndahlberg

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NomadTV allows any content owner to create their own branded video apps for mobile, web, and connected devices (top photo). Nomads don't always work in the same physical space, but when they do, it's probably in front of a whiteboard (middle photo). Part of "the tribe" during a live taping inside one of their clients' studios (bottom photo). 

March 06, 2016

Startup Spotlight: The Wynwood Yard, a hub for entrepreneurs, food and culture

 

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COMPANY NAME: The Wynwood Yard

Headquarters: Miami

Concept: The Wynwood Yard is a vibrant first-of-its-kind outdoor space in Miami (56 NW 29th St.), showcasing food entrepreneurs and hosting a smorgasbord of food, fitness and cultural events.

Story: The Wynwood Yard grew out of the founder’s foray into food entrepreneurship.

Della Heiman (pictured above) traveled around the world as a student and young adult and for the first time was exposed to people extremely passionate about plant-based foods. “Through hours spent in kitchens and markets, upscale neighborhoods and shantytowns, schools, buses and fields, I learned how people /from/ all walks of life grew, purchased and prepared food for their families,” she said. “These new friends taught me about the importance of understanding where our food comes from, and gifted me their time-tested recipes. At the same time, I also learned of the dark side of global food economics.”

While at Harvard Business School, her classmates encouraged her to pursue her own food business, which would later become della test kitchen. “I would throw large dinner parties, and they kept encouraging me to turn my recipes into a business. They helped me focus my passions for making healthy food more accessible to all and preventing chronic illness into this concept of delicious, plant-based bowls.”

After spending more than year conceptualizing and testing her restaurant idea, she moved to Miami in late 2014 to find a brick-and-mortar location for the della test kitchen concept, but then reality set in. The real estate barriers to entry for retail concepts in Miami are quite high, and she began studying less expensive and more iterative approaches to launching her business. The vision for The Wynwood Yard was inspired by food trucks, culinary incubators, food halls and pop-up concepts around the world. 

“I wanted to create an ecosystem that would help support new food businesses in Miami since I knew the obstacles they faced,” said Heiman. “The goal is to give promising local entrepreneurs a support system and launch pad for innovative concepts.”

The Wynwood Yard, where people can come morning, afternoon or evening to dine, socialize, catch an event, sneak in some laptop time, work out or just relax, is a now a hub of food and culture in Miami. Hand-picked culinary concepts, along with a pop-up bar and a garden by Little River Cooperative, are anchored within an outdoor setting. The first round of food concepts has included della test kitchen, offering plant-based “healthy bowls of happy”; the omakase sushi food truck Myumi; Middle Eastern concept The Arabian Knife; Dim Ssam a Go Go, serving twists on Asian cuisine; and Vibe 305, a food truck and cafe with a social mission to help train inner-city youth.

Launched: Leased site in August 2015; The Wynwood Yard opened in November 2015.

Management team: Della Heiman, founder and CEO of The Wynwood Yard and della test kitchen; Ken Lyon, founder of Thyme Bar; Jesse and Sefra Levin, “Senior Cultural Chameleons.”

No. of employees: 60 people employed at The Wynwood Yard, spread out among the culinary and beverage tenants and The Wynwood Yard management team.

Website: thewynwoodyard.com

Financing: Bootstrapped 

Recent milestones: Worked with The Prism Music Group to launch a series of events spotlighting talented local musicians and highlighting innovative food specials. Olé! A Night of Flamenco with The Arsht Center was among the most successful, and attracted an audience of more than 1,000. Orchestrated sophisticated, multicourse dinner experiences curated by top local culinary talent, including “The Saffron Supper Club,” “Nutritious Nights — an evening of Jazz, Hand-Crafted Cuisine and Specialty Intoxicants” and “Shabbat at the Yard.” Launched several educational series, including garden tasting tours with local farmers and chefs, adult and children’s cooking classes, free craft workshops with top local artists, and innovative yoga events with live music. Launched delivery and catering programs for della test kitchen. Named to the Miami Herald’s 2016 South Florida Food 50

Biggest startup challenge: Dealing with unpredictable and unseasonably rainy weather. That stalled Wynwood Yard’s opening and created serious operational issues for weeks. “In many ways, the stormy skies ultimately ended up being a blessing in disguise,” said Heiman. “Excessive amounts of water exposed infrastructural weaknesses and gave us more time to improve operational kinks.”

Next steps: A big round of new initiatives and improvements is cooking at The Wynwood Yard, including a new bar and coffee program, aesthetic improvements to the property, new culinary vendors, creative workshops, a speaker series, pop-up dinners, and delivery/catering initiatives.

Heiman’s mentors have no doubt she has the big vision and the ability to execute. The Wynwood Yard has already been attracting crazy crowds, said Beth Kaplan, managing member of Axcel Partners and formerly president of Rent the Runway who has mentored Heiman in everything from business planning and branding to introductions and fund-raising. “She has an instinct for customers and sees ‘white space’ in the market where she can create something very special,” said Kaplan. “Della has the capability and the inner strength to figure out the next steps for her business. She is the real deal.”

Shawn Amuial, an attorney and co-founder of LegalTech Labs, has been helping Heiman strategize about various business models, arrangements with vendors and tenants and the Yard’s future direction. “Enthusiasm, passion and competence — those three qualities exude from Della and are key qualities of any successful entrepreneur,” said Amuial. “Her biggest challenge is time. Della has fascinating ideas for Miami and the food industry and she has the perseverance to execute, but there is not enough time in the day for her to achieve it all by herself, so she needs to find the right people to team up with to make it all happen.”

Nancy Dahlberg

 

March 02, 2016

Startup Spotlight: Ironhack coding school


BM Startup Spotlight IronHack b epfCompany name: Ironhack

Company description: Ironhack is an international coding boot camp that believes the best way to learn is by doing it. This ideology is reflected in its teaching practices, which consist of eight-week immersive programming courses aimed to graduate students as full-stack junior Web developers. Ironhack has three locations: Barcelona, Madrid and Miami.

On average, the students log in over 400 hours of work throughout the course, finishing with a final project Web app that they present to the local tech scene. After Ironhack, graduates are equipped with the knowledge and tools of the latest Web and mobile development technologies. Ironhack says it has a 94 percent job placement rate, a global alumni network of 500 graduates, and is one of the first coding bootcamps with a presence in both Europe and the Americas.

Headquarters: Miami and Madrid.

Website: www.ironhack.com.

Story: Ironhack was founded in Spain by two Wharton MBA grads, Ariel Quiñones and Gonzalo Manrique. At the time, Spain was at the worst point of its financial crisis, with unemployment for adults under 30 reaching 57 percent. Paradoxically, there were approximately 700,000 unfilled IT/coding jobs in Europe. Quiñones and Manrique saw this as fertile ground to re-train many young adults who were unemployed and place them in the jobs that were available.

The founders chose Miami as Ironhack’s next home because of its connections to Latin America, its fast-growing tech scene, and the high demand for technical talent.

Ironhack, which charges $10,000 for its coding school, is located at Building.co, a collaborative workspace for technology companies. The students are currently finishing up their final projects and preparing for the upcoming Hackshow, the cohort’s demo day, on March 4. Students have included former NFL players, lawyers and strategic consultants looking for a career change. “Although our student backgrounds are so diverse, they all share a common desire to improve themselves and their industries through the use of technology,” Quiñones said.

Launch Date: July 7, 2013 (Miami expansion in January 2015).

Management Team: Co-founders Ariel Quiñones, based in Miami, and Gonzalo Manrique, based in Madrid.

No. of employees: 22 worldwide, 9 in Miami.

Financing: Currently bootstrapped.

Recent milestones: Ironhack formed a partnership with McKinsey & Co., a management consulting firm with over 100 global offices, for its first nonprofit program, Generation, aimed to improve employment prospects through education initiatives. In April, Ironhack will be launching a part-time Web Development Bootcamp; the course is comprised of the same material as the immersive eight-week cohort, but will span six months, giving students the necessary time to maintain their jobs while taking the course. More recently, with its latest graduating cohorts in Miami and Spain, Ironhack has graduated 500 students into the global tech scene.

“I admire the fact that they're doing good and making a good business,” said Jose Rasco, co-founder of Building.co and a mentor. “Since they're in Building, I see firsthand the transformation of their students from Day 1 and the value that they get from the Ironhack program. The connection that students make with the instructors and the Ironhack team is truly impressive.”

Biggest startup challenge: Running a company across the Atlantic with a six-hour time difference has proved to be a big operational challenge. “Every one of the three cities is very unique — they each have their own cultures, languages, business environments and educational systems that are very different,” Quiñones said. This makes it a challenge to scale the product and market strategies.

Next step for Ironhack: To continue delivering high value to the stakeholders Ironhack works with in Miami, including students, employers and the wider tech ecosystem, by providing students with the specific skills that will align them with what top companies in South Florida need. Through the launch of the part-time Web Development Bootcamp, Ironhack plans to increase its offering to students that may not enroll in a full-time learning experience.

Nancy Dahlberg: 305-376-3595, @ndahlberg