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.

Website: www.titanpaddles.com

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.

Website: bzice.com

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.

Website: www.handprint.me

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: www.guidelight.io,” 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.

Website: www.drinkrehydrate.com

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.

Website: SuperFuzion.com.

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

Ena00 Entopsis BIZ PPP


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

Website: www.entopsis.com

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.


Enp00 Entopsis BIZ PPP

 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 TransparentBusiness.com, 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 Yandiki.com, 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

October 26, 2014

Startup Spotlight: Quotanda



Headquarters: Miami

Concept: Education is now global, student financing isn’t. Quotanda is changing that. Quotanda’s technology platform provides students with affordable financing options, schools with immediate cash flow and investors with strong returns.

Story: Student financing is broken, particularly for nontraditional schools and international students, said Grant Taylor, co-founder of Quotanda (pictured above). “I saw the problems my international friends were having financing their education during my MBA at IESE Business School in Barcelona. I realized it was a global issue.”

Billions of people find their potential is limited by an education finance system that caters largely to U.S. students attending traditional institutions, and at the same time, investors are searching for yield. The Internet allows us to operate in new ways, he said, and online lenders have a significant cost advantage over traditional banks: “Quotanda’s education finance platform connects lenders with qualified borrowers; it’s just more efficient.”

In 2006, Taylor invested in the seed round of his friend Andres Moreno’s business, Open English: “Andres showed me how an innovative idea and perseverance can benefit the lives of millions. I realized the best way to scale positive change was as an entrepreneur.” Taylor said his investment in Open English provided him with startup capital: “I saw it as a chance to give others the opportunity to pursue their educational dreams.”

Quotanda2Taylor worked on the Quotanda business plan while working on his MBA at IESE Business School in Spain and launched the company there last year. With his partner Lino Pujol (pictured here) now running the business in Spain, he returned to the United States and moved to Miami earlier this year. The Quotanda team continues to grow and now includes a range of globally experienced advisors and executives including Bill Hubert, a serial entrepreneur and U.S. student lending veteran.

Launched: 2013

Management team: Grant Taylor, Bill Hubert, Lino Pujol.

Website: www.quotanda.com

Financing: Self-financed so far and seeking several million for company growth. Quotanda’s student loans (approximately 35 loans with $500,000) are financed by accredited investors, including Andres Moreno and other Open English executives, as well as professors and alumni of IESE.

Recent milestones: Teamed up with Bill Hubert, founder of Cology.com (sold in 2012 to First Marblehead), one of the top origination and servicing businesses in the U.S. “He is keen to revolutionize the student lending again and I am fortunate to be working with him,” Taylor said. Joined Venture Hive in June with advisors including Moreno, Thomas “Tigre“ Wenrich and Susan Amat. Invited to the White House by the Office of Science and Technology Policy to brainstorm expansion of private financing for accelerated learning programs. A finalist in the BBVA Open Talent 2014 for North America held in Mexico City.

Biggest startup challenge: Legal complexity of a highly regulated industry.

Next step: Launching education financing programs in the U.S. in November. Quotanda is working with forward-thinking schools, not just business schools, to provide students with innovative financing options.

Mentors’ views: “Quotanda solves an international problem in education with a simple yet effective solution. Grant's leadership goes beyond a great return to investors. His goal is to help students access educational opportunities that would otherwise be out of reach. I love startups that solve huge problems, create great financial returns, and make the world better at the same time — win-win-win,” said Amat, founder of Venture Hive, an accelerator, incubator and entrepreneurial education company.

“Grant has already proven the model can work in practice. In partnering with Bill Hubert, he will now have the technology capability required to scale up quickly,” said Wenrich, a mentor, investor and former Open English COO/CFO. “The model needs a lot of capital to fund the actual loans, which is different than the situation facing most other early-stage startups. Angel investors don’t have deep enough pockets, so we are looking for institutional lenders.”

Nancy Dahlberg'

Photo of Grant Taylor taken at Venture Hive at top of post is by Patrick Farrell of the Miami Herald

Posted Oct. 26, 2014 

October 19, 2014

Startup Spotlight: IM HealthScience



IM HealthScience

Headquarters: Boca Raton

Concept: IM HealthScience is dedicated to developing medical foods for the dietary management of gastrointestinal issues where there is a high unmet need, including irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), functional dyspepsia, ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease.

Fred_Hassan_1 - reducedStory: The concept of IBgard, the first product from IM HealthScience, is the brainchild of Fred Hassan, (pictured here) the company’s founder and chairman. The former CEO of three large global pharmaceutical companies, including Schering-Plough, Hassan has been associated with many important innovations in biosciences. For many years, he has been aware of the broader use of peppermint oil overseas, and knew it had the potential to help millions of Americans suffering with IBS, or Irritable Bowel Syndrome, a condition that affects 15 to 20 percent of the U.S. population.

This led to the research and development of the company’s patented targeted-delivery technology called Site Specific Targeting, in the form of specially designed triple-coated, sustained-release microspheres. In the case of IBgard, the microspheres deliver Ultramen, an ultra-purified peppermint oil, to the small intestines.

ImhealthLaunched: 2010

Management team: Fred Hassan, founder and chairman; Syed Shah, CEO and chief innovation officer; Dr. Michael Epstein, senior medical advisor; Ellen Geisel, president. (pictured here)

No. of employees: 10

Website: www.ibgard.com

Financing: IM HealthScience is fully funded and not currently seeking investors.

Recent milestones reached: The IM HealthScience advantage comes from developing products based on its Site Specific Targeting technology. The patent was awarded in October 2013. IM HealthScience launched its first product, IBgard, a new medical food for the dietary management of IBS, in January with an exclusive distribution deal with Walgreens stores in Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties. IBgard has been available on store shelves since March. A double-blind, multicentered, placebo-controlled study with IBgard has been completed, and its findings will be presented at an upcoming medical meeting.

Biggest startup challenge: IBgard is a medical food, so it does not require a prescription, but it should be used under medical supervision. “Our biggest challenge is to educate the medical community, specifically specialists in digestive health, on the more than three decades of scientific research supporting peppermint oil and its active ingredient, L-Menthol, as an effective management tool for IBS, and why IBgard is better at getting the job done,” Hassan said.

Next step: Ramp up production and distribution for a national rollout of IBgard.

Strategy for next step: “Our strategy to achieve nationwide distribution of IBgard is to secure distribution deals with major retail outlets such as Walgreens and CVS. We also plan to educate [gastrointestinal] doctors and IBS patients around the country about the clinical benefits of IBgard in the dietary management of IBS,” Hassan said.

Nancy Dahlberg

Photos by Ellen Geisel by Charles Trainor Jr of the Miami Herald staff

Posted Oct. 19, 2014

September 22, 2014

Startup Spotlight: Splyst


Photo by Peter Andrew Bosch/Miami Herald


Headquarters: Miami, at Pipeline Brickell.

Concept: Splyst is a platform for discovering and sharing content that revolutionizes the way people interact with information. The social network leverages machine learning to curate personalized real-time Internet content for its users and gives them the ability to share that content with their follower base.

Story: Recent University of Miami grad Travis Montaque founded Splyst as a sophomore. He conceived the Splyst concept after he found a study that showed 75 percent percent of people spent more time searching for and sharing information on the Internet than they’d like to, and he realized that younger demographics relied heavily on social media as a primary means to acquire information.

Fed up with inefficient, unreliable tools to receive and share Internet content, he set out to develop a platform that would change the way people would receive and share things they found interesting. Montaque was managing two Chick-fil-A franchises at age 19 before launching into entrepreneurship. At 21, he was invited by former President Bill Clinton to give a talk to world leaders at the Clinton Global Initiative 2013 Annual Meeting on solving the global youth unemployment problem through entrepreneurship.

Splyst’s application learns its users’ behaviors and brings them what they want to see, allows them to share their reactions with friends using emojis, and allows users to collect what they like. Enjoy browsing new content on the ‘for you’ feed or follow your friends and see what they have recently reacted to.

Launched: August 2014.

Management team: Travis Montaque, CEO; Mike Ojemann, CTO; Keisuke Inoue, VP of Data Science.

Number of employees: 9

Financing: Raised a $570,000 seed round.

Recent milestones: Splyst released its iOS application in the Apple App Store on Aug. 4; formed high-profile strategic relationships in New York; closed an additional $270,000 in financing; acquired John Fanning, co-founder and former chairman of Napster, as an advisor.

Biggest startup challenge: Building a team of individuals with the correct competencies, personalities and motivations. “Everything fell into place afterwards,” Montaque said.

Next step: Splyst just opened its Series A round seeking to raise $2 million to scale up the company and achieve massive adoption.

Strategy for next step: The company is in discussions with several large media and technology firms and intends to partner with them to accelerate user adoption.

Advisor’s view: “It has been amazing to watch an energetic college kid with an idea hire a team, build a product, close investors, put a product in the market, and have real customers and users flock to it, all in an incredibly short period of time. It’s exciting,” said Fanning, chairman of Netcapital who advises Montaque on strategy, relationship introductions, connections to capital, recruiting, product development and marketing.

“The biggest challenge is getting support from the Miami community. Most companies who are able to achieve the success Travis has already achieved simply just move to Silicon Valley because they already have the people, support and infrastructure to get your early-stage company to the next level. People in that community like to have the companies within driving distance of their own office. It’s a long drive to Miami,” said Fanning. “Travis believes in Miami and has found a few great people to support him, but he needs more or he will simply have to move the company."

Posted Sept. 22, 2014

Read past Startup Spotlights in the Startup Spotlight category of this blog.