December 02, 2016

Argentina to Miami, a bridge worth building (Part 5)



JuancoceoIMG_6347By Natalia Martinez-Kalinina

Miami has a ways to go before we can truly claim the title of regional epicenter, but Argentina has long been recognized as one of the primary entrepreneurial - albeit not particularly stable - ecosystems in Latin America. Figuring out how to support Argentina’s wave of growth and appetite for engagement represents a unique opportunity to add value to the region and truly deliver on our vision as a gateway.

As a first step to test these waters, a group of us came together to co-author a full day of programming within StartupWeekBuenosAires - the largest event of its kind in Latin America-  specifically focused on how to engage with the U.S. ecosystem and market by way of Miami. Ahead of the full agenda being announced shortly, if you are interested in participating or learning more, please fill out this form.

Leading up to the event in December, we will be featuring interviews with a varied range of Argentine entrepreneurs and companies making their way to Miami. The first installments of this series have featured interviews with Balloon Group, Wolox, La Comunidad, and Oasis Collections. For the fifth feature, we spoke with Juan Lanusse (CEO), pictured at left, and Maral Arslanian (US Representative & Distributor), pictured below, of clothing brand Juana de Arco, which recently began its expansion into the US market through Miami two years ago.

Tell us about Juana de Arco. What’s the genesis story? What has been the trajectory?

Juana de Arco was born in 1998 in the iconic Palermo Viejo neighborhood of Buenos Aires, Argentina by the hands of designer and artist Mariana Cortes. Mariana was born in the small town of Arribeños, humble and interesting, she gives the brand this essence. Inspired by nature, art and the recuperation of Latin-American techniques, Mariana draws out the textiles and prints that are then hand silk screen printed in an infinite variety of color that make each piece one-of-a-kind and unique.

JuancoThe brand started off as a bikini line that Mariana sold out of a backpack on the beaches of Argentina. Today, Juana de Arco has two flagship stores in Buenos Aires and two in Japan; our products are now being distributed to specialty boutiques throughout the US and Europe.

What’s next - how do you see the company’s future growth and development?

We have always enjoyed a step by step process. Never moving too fast and we think that is what keeps us going, the steady upward slope. We take strategic first steps and then let the market decide what we need to do next.

Working with Japan came about by letting life take its course. In 2004 a Japanese businessman walked in to our very first boutique in Buenos Aires and decided to purchase all of our inventory on the spot. Our relationship with Japan began in that moment and we came to find that Japanese women appreciate and value Juana.

In regards to the US, we are steadily wholesaling our product - getting a sense of what the market likes and needs and adjusting the line to this entirely new crowd.

When did Juana de Arco come to Miami? Why?

We have been exporting to Japan for 12 years. In 2014 after analyzing a variety of markets to continue our international growth, we decided the American market was our best match. It values many core aspects of our products: design, uniqueness, and the environmental scope in our production process.

To dive into the US market, our options - logistically speaking, were going through Miami, New York or Los Angeles. As an Argentinian based brand Miami had several benefits: language, time differences, geographic location, and a city focusing in developing two industries where Juana de Arco clearly fits, fashion and art.

What kinds of opportunities were you looking for here? What aspects or risks worried you? How have those played out over your years here? How have you found your industry reflected here?

The US market is known to be one for opportunities, where if you work hard you will be successful. In our case, we are looking to grow the brand on a healthy path. That is, getting the right partners to deliver our brand to the clients that value what Juana de Arco stands for, a joyful and colorful lifestyle.

As we found in Japan, we are looking for those distribution channels and end clients that see something special in Juana.

As in any new market, risks come with the lack of knowledge. The learning process we have had in Argentina since 1998 had to be adjusted from scratch for the US fashion industry, which is immense and comes with its complexities. Making decisions on what, when, and how, saying no to certain options to focus on others has been one of the biggest difficulties we've faced.

From the perspective of a Latin American entrepreneur/founder but a long-time Miami transplant, how do see Miami today? What works, what surprises you, what frustrates you?

Miami is at an incredible moment. I can truly say that not much has frustrated me, I see great things happening and more on their way. From the public and private sectors, the support in the fashion industry is there. From an entrepreneurs perspective, I think Miami will have a very interesting and prolific next year.

In light of this perspective, what can Miami do better to become a truly value-adding “hub” for the region? (in your industry and in general)

Although, I do see this happening in many industries, especially technology, Miami could create more partnership. Places like The Lab, MADE, and CIC Miami are already on their way in focusing on specific fields and facilitating intermingling. Miami has to continue developing and reinforcing this co-working approach. It is the way to create a positive community in which we will inevitably learn from each other, pick each up, and watch each other succeed.

How has it worked to have your company straddling Miami and Buenos Aires? Any lessons or advice for companies exploring similar moves?

Both cities are in relatively close proximity, and like I stated before, we share aspects and values. It is a move that takes time. Starting a company in another country simply takes time. As entrepreneurs sometimes we wish things moved in a faster manner. So my best advice would be - patience.

Organizations like Endeavor have talked at length about the “Argentine Model,” but Argentina is also a country that has lived through rocky political and economic cycles. Is there something Miami can learn from the Argentine case study?

Our rocky political and economic cycles have had negative consequences on Argentina. On a brighter note, a positive consequence, the proliferation of entrepreneurs. When when we had the crisis of 2000, many people started to think, hey I studied, worked hard and still lost my job! The lack of opportunities led them to have to lose that fear of insecurity and become an entrepreneur. This crisis gave birth to the fashion designers that are standing strong in Argentina today.

Miami should appreciate the lack of crisis and be fearless regardless.

Do you see potential for collaboration and bridge-building between the entrepreneurial ecosystem and the creative economies in Buenos Aires and Miami? Why or why not?

Yes, I see a lot of potential. I see many aspects in which we are similar, things that bring us together. I also notice many complementary aspects. These are the spaces where working together creates value for both sides, bettering each part.  

Natalia Martinez-Kalinina is the General Manager of CIC Miami and the Founder of Awesome Foundation MIAMI. If you are an Argentine company looking to expand to Miami or a Miami-based entrepreneur/investor looking to connect with the Argentine ecosystem, please reach out to Natalia at

[This is part 3 of a series. Read part 1 here - Honey vs. Vinegar: How are we luring and keeping the companies we want in Miami?, part 2 here, part 3 here and part 4 here]


November 29, 2016

Argentina to Miami, a bridge worth building (Part 4)

  Rio - Villa

Oasis Collections' hotel 2.0 concept features properties like this one in Rio.


By Natalia Martinez-Kalinina

Miami has a ways to go before we can truly claim the title of regional epicenter, but Argentina has long been recognized as one of the primary entrepreneurial - albeit not particularly stable - ecosystems in Latin America. Figuring out how to support Argentina’s wave of growth and appetite for engagement represents a unique opportunity to add value to the region and truly deliver on our vision as a gateway.

As a first step to test these waters, a group of us came together to co-author a full day of programming within StartupWeekBuenosAires - the largest event of its kind in Latin America-  specifically focused on how to engage with the U.S. ecosystem and market by way of Miami. Ahead of the full agenda being announced shortly, if you are interested in participating or learning more, please fill out this form.

ParkerLeading up to the event in December, we will be featuring interviews with a varied range of Argentine entrepreneurs and companies making their way to Miami. The first installments of this series have featured interviews with Balloon Group, Wolox, and La Comunidad. For the fourth feature, we spoke with Parker Stanberry (pictured here), Co-Founder and CEO of Oasis Collections, a disruptive hospitality group that relocated its headquarters to Miami two years ago.

Tell us about Oasis Collections. How was the company started? What has been the trajectory? How do you see its future growth and development?

I hatched the idea in 2007 based on my own experiences as an international traveller and then expat in Buenos Aires. I just felt there was a need for a better and more immersive traveller experience than hotels could provide.

In 2008 I partnered with two other Americans who knew Buenos Aires well, put together about $20K of start-up capital, and launched in early 2009. So it was a true startup in the early days. We had some success in BA and raised $100K, then opened Sao Paulo and Punta del Este, which proved the concept enough to raise $600K. Then in 2013 that we raised a Series A and were able to really hit the gas in terms of expansion.

Now we’re in 22 cities in 12 countries, and earlier this year did a Series B with AccorHotels. With additional capital and the institutional support of a partner like Accor, the goal is to really ramp up and reach 100 markets. Our goal is to build the first global brand around this “hotel 2.0” concept.

When did you/Oasis come to Miami and why?

We decided to move the HQ here in 2014, as a natural base from which to pursue a global strategy. It’s geographically ideal, lower cost than a NYC (which would have been our other option), and obviously very international. I myself moved up here last year.

What kinds of opportunities are you looking for here? What aspects or risks worry you?

I think more than a specific opportunity, it’s the factors that I mentioned above. It just checks some key boxes for us at this stage of the company’s trajectory.

The 2 worrying aspects to me are, first, access to later-stage capital. It seems that the seed and angel stage ecosystem is developing quite well, but there aren’t any funds doing B/C/D stage rounds. That’s less a worry for us now with Accor on board and good relationships with some NY-based funds.

The other is scarcity of talent. There are certainly some great people around, but nowhere near the density of young professional talent as you’d find in a major US or European city. Now the flipside of that is that there are also fewer opportunities, so when you do find the right person, there is less competition for them and more loyalty. But I think the depth of the talent pool is something that the folks involved in trying to build this ecosystem have to put some serious thought into.

From the perspective of a Latin American entrepreneur/founder, what advantages does Miami have?

Well, I’m kind of a pseudo-Latin American entrepreneur, since I’m from the US, but sure, for the purposes of this question, I can play up the LatAm angle. Advantages are a) proximity to the region, b) tremendous amount of back and forth of people between Miami and the region, c) ability to ease in culturally, d) fact that many LatAm HQs are here, so it’s actually easier to reach regional decision makers in Miami than in BA or Mexico City or Sao Paulo.

In light of this perspective, what can Miami do better to become a true value-adding “hub” for the region?  

The city needs to find a way to get some larger funds active here. And I think that organizations doing some more explicitly cross-border focused programs, talks, workshops would be great, such as the LAB did a few weeks back with an Argentina focus.

Organizations like Endeavor have talked at length about the “Argentine Model,” but Argentina is also a country that has lived through rocky political and economic cycles. What do you think Miami can learn from the Argentine case?

I’m not an expert on this so don’t have too strong of an opinion. But when looking at the Argentine model, I do feel that the original impetus for the movement has a good bit to do with luck - a few incredible entrepreneurs happened to build great companies in the late 90s, and that lead to the network effect that Endeavor points to. The great thing was that Endeavor was there in Argentina at that time, and really able to seize the moment and amplify the effect and influence of those 3 big success stories. So while maybe you can’t will those first success stories to happen, you, as a city or group of organizations in a city, can certainly be proactive in recognizing them and capitalizing on them.

That being said, you’re right - at a macro level it’s not like Argentina has been a model, and there haven’t been any majorly impactful start-ups, on a global scale I mean, since Globant. Meanwhile Sweden, a country 1/5th the size of Argentina, has created 4-5 [need to check that] unicorns in the past 8 or so years. So obviously the macro context is important, and is certainly an advantage that Miami has over Buenos Aires.   

Do you see potential for collaboration and bridge-building between the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Buenos Aires and the one in Miami? Why or why not?

Sure, there is no reason not to. There is a lot of commonality of language, a natural affinity between the two, and certain industries that are quite important in both cities (tech, real estate, hospitality come to mind). But again, that being said, the macro context in Argentina is so challenging, which begs the question of whether there are other US cities that have thrived in the recent years (Austin for example) that would make sense to study and forge connections to.

Natalia Martinez-Kalinina is the General Manager of CIC Miami and the Founder of Awesome Foundation MIAMI. If you are an Argentine company looking to expand to Miami or a Miami-based entrepreneur/investor looking to connect with the Argentine ecosystem, please reach out to Natalia at

[This is part 3 of a series. Read part 1 here - Honey vs. Vinegar: How are we luring and keeping the companies we want in Miami?, part 2 here and part 3 here]


November 28, 2016

Industrial design experts bringing vision to life: Miami College of Design in Wynwood


By Nancy Dahlberg /

Miami’s Wynwood neighborhood, already a hub for artists, technologists and other creatives, will soon be the home of the new Miami College of Design.

It's the vision of Walter Bender and Franco Lodato, experts in industrial design. The co-founders broke ground last month on the-state-of-the-art educational facility, which will be Florida’s first accredited college focused solely on industrial design, they said. The state-licensed associate and bachelor of science curricula will focus on a mentorship model and nature-inspired design methodologies. Selected students will be able to attend on generous scholarships provided by Bender and Lodato’s IAM (Industrial Arts and Method) Foundation via donors and corporations. Lodato and Bender are aiming to open the college next fall.

“Ideas are cheap but knowing how to take an idea and make it into a product is rare,” said Bender, a longtime senior research scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who also co-founded the nonprofit One Laptop Per Child. “Miami has become a hotbed of ideas. It’s young, it’s vibrant, what we want to do is add to that.”

The new college (rendering above) will be officially announced Wednesday by Miami Mayor Tomás Regalado, along with Bender and Lodato, to kick off the Masters of Tomorrow Summit, a conference bringing together design thinkers from around the world. The conference line-up, curated in partnership with the IAM Foundation, includes talks on virtual reality in film, using big data in climate change research, wearable fashion, smart luggage, incorporating “mindfulness” in design and other topics and ends with a free concert behind The LAB Miami.

The Miami College of Design will seek to advance the integration of design, science and engineering by taking students through a design process, exploring new approaches and solutions. The aim is human-centered and nature-inspired design that enhances the human experience, and “our approach will be unconventional,” said Lodato, who previously headed design at Motorola and was a director at VSN Mobil Technologies in South Florida, among other roles, and has been collaborating with Bender on various projects for two decades..

FrancoLodatoLodato pioneered “bionics,” the theory and practice of nature-inspired design. He has served as Master Innovator of wearable technologies for Google-Motorola and he led design for Herman Miller and Pininfarina. He holds 71 patents including one for the precursor of Gillette’s Mach3, and he has also consulted for Dupont, Coca-Cola, Ferrari-Maserati, Boeing and others.

Walter benderBender, president of the IAM Foundation, is also founder of the nonprofit Sugar Labs, a collaborative learning platform, and co-founder of One Laptop Per Child, which innovated distribution of laptops in third-world countries. He headed the MIT Media Lab and founded the MIT News in the Future Consortium, which helped launch the era of digital news.

About 18 months ago Lodato and Bender embarked on this college, acquiring the property and securing a license. The  building, designed by Pompano Beach architect Fred Nagler, is under construction at 26 NE 25th St. They took off the front and rear of the two-story warehouse and expanded it, and are adding a third floor and rooftop garden as a social space, Lodato said. While the school is being constructed, the IAM Foundation will be doing workshops and seminars at The LAB Miami and other venues.

The curricula will be based on Bender and Lodato’s apprenticeship-driven education model that has close ties to industry. It will be project-based, and each student will work on a few projects hand in hand with professionals from the field who become their mentors.

“One of our goals in our model is that the students will be on 90 percent scholarships funded by industry. We already have raised funding for the first cohort of students. We really want students to focus on learning 100 percent, not on how they will pay for it. The work they do will be valuable for the industry,” Lodato said.

Miami is a natural location for the new school, they said.

“There is clearly an energy here but there is not a lot of history in the space in Miami. That means there is not a lot of rigid thinking – there is a lot more openness to ideas and new approaches,” said Bender. “It is a great opportunity for a vibrant, young community and at the same time the world has really opened up to this idea of entrepreneurship, of making, of doing. It’s the time. It’s the right time to be doing this.”

Nancy Dahlberg: @ndahlberg

Read more: Speakers, free concert, tour and art event for MOT Summit announced

Copy of Second_Floor_Test_05


Speakers, free concert, tour and art event announced for Masters of Tomorrow Summit


Bring together the maker of the brain activity measuring product Muse, the head of virtual reality for Radiant Images, the designer of the Ford GT, an expert putting big data to work in climate change solutions, and other entrepreneurs and academics in  technology and design, and what do you get? A glimpse into the future of technology and design.

MIA Collective, a Miami-based producer of events for professionals in the technology and creative industries, announced  the final set of speakers and musical acts for the inaugural Masters of Tomorrow Summit  on Nov. 29 and 30, during Miami's Art Week. Another announcement: The concert on Wednesday evening will be free and will include the unveiling of a new mural.

Masters of Design is a one-day conference Nov. 30 that will bring to Miami some of the best “design thinkers” from around the world. The conference line-up was curated in partnership with the Industrial Arts and Method (IAM) Foundation and the final agenda is available on the official website. Confirmed speakers for Masters of Design, which will be held at The LAB Miami and the LightBox Theater in Wynwood, include:

Andrew Schwartz, Head of Mixed Reality of Radiant Images, Los Angeles

Ariel Garten, Co-founder of InteraXon (makers of Muse), Toronto

Bedy Yang, Managing Partner at 500 Startups, San Francisco

Camilo Pardo, Ford GT Designer, Detroit

Diego Saez-Gil, CEO of Bluesmart, San Francisco

Dror Benshetrit, Founder of Studio Dror, New York

Eduardo Constantini, Founder of Kabinett, New York City

Evan Kodra, CEO of risQ, Boston

Felecia Hatcher, Co-Founder of Code Fever and Black Tech Week

Franco Lodato, Co-Founder of IAM Foundation, Miami

Joanna Berzowska, Associate Professor of Design and Computation Arts Department at Concordia University, Montreal

Lilia Luciano, Journalist and Documentary Producer, Sacramento

Matt Haggman, Miami Program Director, Knight Foundation

Michael Burtov, Founder of GeoOrbital, Boston

Natalia Martinez-Kalinina, General Manager of CIC Miami, Miami

Natasha Tsakos, Conceptual Director and President of NTiD, Miami

Ola Alhvarsson, Founder of Result and Sime, Stockholm

Rebekah Monson, Co-founder of WhereBy.Us, Miami

Stonly Baptiste, Co-Founder of Urban.US, San Francisco

Tomás Regalado, City of Miami Mayor, Miami

Walter Bender, Co-Founder of IAM Foundation, Miami

Masters of Sound will be a concert behind The LAB Miami that will begin about 6 p.m. and run throughout the evening after the all-day conference.  Masters of Sound will be free and open the public (get free ticket here), thanks to the support of Aunken Labs and Nativo, with music curated by III Points, Miami’s leading Music, Art, and Technology Festival.  Artists performing include critically acclaimed Helado Negro and DJ Jacques Renault.

At the concert, Goldman Global Arts and #fordistas will unveil the latest mural by ELLE, a female graffiti and street artist based in Brooklyn and LA, celebrating the role of women in science and technology.

Two new VIP events have been added. The Master Tour of Downtown Miami, hosted by the Downtown Development Authority, will take VIP guests through a tour of the district’s most important institutions; followed by Master Class @, which will feature live digital painting by artist Hugh MacLeod.  The art works created by MacLeod during Master Class, together with art donated by artists Camilo Pardo, Claudio Roncoli, Greg Gayle, Jaime Dussan and Juan Muñoz, will be sold to raise funds for the MOT Scholarship. Masters of Tomorrow has partnered with Wyncode to award one or more of its students with a scholarship to its coding program.

“The MOT Scholarship brings full circle the pay-it-forward vision of Masters of Tomorrow. We not only have the opportunity to inspire tomorrow’s leaders through our amazing speakers, but we can actually make a difference in someone’s life today via the scholarship,” said Demian Bellumio, co-founder of MIA Collective. “And what could be more magical than turning a piece of art produced by a visual arts master into an opportunity for an aspiring entrepreneur to learn the art of coding and become a future master of technology?”

This is the first MOT Summit but MIA Collective also produced Sime MIA and MIA Music Festival in years' past. Expect the same intimate conference experience, where speakers don't just fly in for their talk and leave but are available to continue conversations over lunch, in the halls or over drinks. 

Masters of Tomorrow is supported by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, as well as IAM Foundation, #fordistas, and Miami DDA.  To learn more, visit or follow the summit at, and www.twitter/motsummit.


November 26, 2016

Cubans wake to global Castro news via free internet from Miami-based nonprofit Apretaste

ApretastelocoWithin hours of the death of Fidel Castro, Miami-based nonprofit Apretaste distributed within Cuba links to international news media about the world’s reaction.

Cubans awoke to learn the news through their phones, via Pizarra, a social network built specifically for the Cuban people that overcomes the connectivity issues on the island, said Apretaste founder Salvi Pascual.

Apretaste runs a platform out of Miami where any Cuban with a cell phone and email service can have access to any information on the internet. Shortcuts to international news sites such as cnnespanol and EFE were made available through Pizarra and Cubans immediately reacted by posting their feelings from within the island.

Posts came  with mixed feelings.  Some Cubans on the island posted hopeful messages such as "Esto es trascendental,se abre una nueva etapa quizas podremos empezar al fin a ver la luz" [translation: This is transcendental, a new era opens, maybe finally we will see the light] posted Apretaste user @yulie14. While others were honoring Castro's memory with words such as "Hoy Cuba esta de luto, el mundo tendra que inclinar su cabeza para ver el paso a la inmortalidad de Fidel." [translation: Today Cuba is in mourning, and the world will have to bow its head to view as Fidel steps into immortality] posted by Apretaste user @ynapn.

Salvi-pascual-HD“Giving a voice to the Cuban people and sharing it with the world is important to us at Apretaste, especially at a time like today when the world’s eyes are on Cuba,” said Pascual, a software developer and professor in Miami.  To learn more about what the Cuban people have to say about Fidel Castro and life in Cuba, and for a live feed of posts by Cubans via Pizarra, follow the @HeyCuba twitter page at

Apretaste connects more than 40,000 people in Cuba to the web, via email, through technology designed and implemented in Miami by a community of open source software developers. Features include access to international news sites, Wikipedia, weather forecasts, Google maps and 30 more sites, all by email.


November 21, 2016

Wyncode outgrows The LAB, will open its own campus Jan.8


By Nancy Dahlberg /

Wyncode Academy, a homegrown coding bootcamp that teaches computer programming in 10 weeks, is outgrowing The LAB Miami, where it has been based, and is moving into its own stand-alone code school campus on Jan. 8. But staying true to its name and roots, the company is staying in Wynwood.

"We have loved being at The LAB and it is always going to be a special place for us. That said, we are ready to double down on Miami and move into our own dedicated campus," said Juha Mikkola, who founded the code school with his wife, Johanna (both pictured above) in Miami in 2014.

Along with the expansion, Wyncode also announced it will also be launching its first part-time course for those who want to learn how to code without leaving their jobs and offering more corporate training.

Wyncode’s new custom-designed campus, called Wynbase, is located at 549 NW 28th St. and at 3,100 square feet is more than four times larger than its dedicated space at The LAB. Wynbase, when it opens Jan. 8, will include two full-size classrooms, a smaller classroom for corporate training programs and an open concept co-working area for Wyncode students and staff, Mikkola said.

Wyncode’s intensive, immersive full-time web development course will now start every five weeks and provide prospective Wyncoders with more flexibility in terms of start dates. More importantly, this new format provides students with the opportunity to repeat the first 5-week section if they need extra time to work on their fundamentals, said Juha Mikkola. There are benefits of culture too: The more experienced students can inspire and help the newer class, he said.

Wyncode’s part-time web development course will meet three evenings a week for 12 weeks and offer career-oriented students the option to keep their day jobs while learning to build web applications at night. More information on the new program, which will start in February, is available here. Both the full-time and part-time classes will be capped at 30 students.  

Wyncode will also follow on its first successful corporate workshop with Visa and build more corporate training programs for Miami companies looking to adopt Agile methodologies and innovate their processes through automation and other technologies. 

"This is a move to centralize and strengthen the overall experience and quality at Wyncode," said Juha Mikkola. Wyncode will be consolidating its bootcamps at Wynbase but will continue to do Wyntroductions (one-day bootcamps) and other events in Fort Lauderdale, where it has held cohorts.

Wyncode Academy, now with 13 full-time and 18 part-time employees, was the first bricks and mortar coding school to be licensed by the Florida Department of Education. About 350 people have completed the programs with a 97 percent job placement rate. Over 100 companies have hired Wyncoders, who come from a variety of careers such as  chefs, lawyers, salespeople, accountants, concierges, marketing executives and entrepreneurs.  Applications for the programs are accepted on a rolling basis and interested candidates should apply at

“We’re incredibly excited to launch Wynbase and provide the best possible learning environment for our students,”  said Johanna Mikkola. She and Juha were chosen as Endeavor Entrepreneurs in 2015. "We believe the future for Miami tech is bright and we can’t wait to welcome the entire tech community to Wynbase in 2017.”

Read more: Following up on White House pledge, Wyncode releases its graduation, placement rates

Read more: Learn to code in 10 weeks? Try one day.


A Wyncode class, above, and a Pitch Night, which ends each bootcamp, below.


November 18, 2016

Employers: Salaries are going up. Tech professionals: Not fast enough.


ITPalooza, coming up Dec. 8, is a place for employers and tech professionals to network as well as learn. Photo by Nancy Dahlberg


By Nancy Dahlberg /

About half of employers said IT salaries are going up in South Florida but nearly half of professionals believed they would have to pursue new career opportunities in Silicon Valley and cities including Boston, New York and Austin to gain higher earnings, according to a local survey released Friday.

The annual online survey, conducted as part of the upcoming ITPalooza tech event on Dec. 8, isn’t scientific but provides an interesting gauge of local tech sentiment from both employers and employees; 125 South Florida tech professionals and 37 employers responded to the survey.

Of the tech professionals responding this year, 75 percent were full-time employees. Half said they would “very likely” consider new career opportunities, while 34 percent said, “maybe.” About 32 percent felt that job opportunities in the area were increasing, but 18 percent said they were decreasing, with the remaining 50 percent indicating the market was “flat.”

“The job market for software developers and system engineers is becoming increasingly internationalized,” said Alex Funkhouser, ITPalooza co-founder and CEO of SherlockTalent, a Miami IT and marketing staffing firm. “Many local IT professionals are earning above-market rates by working remotely for out-of-state companies.”

Employers’ outlooks were more sunny. Seventy-four percent of the responding employers said they will be hiring IT positions in 2017, mainly software developers or systems and network engineers. Mobile application developers, security engineers, project managers, IT managers, business analysts and sales and marketing were also on their hiring lists. Five companies said they would be looking for a CIO or CTO in 2017.

Funkhouser said he has found that starting salaries in South Florida have recently typically ranged from: $80,000 to $195,000 for software developers; $65,000 to $120,000 for mobile application developers; $62,000 to $110,000 for systems or network engineers; $77,000 to $140,000 for security engineers; and $140,000 to $300,000 for CIO or CTO.

In the survey, 52 percent of employers said IT salaries are going up (less than 10 percent a year), while the remaining respondents said they stayed unchanged. The majority (74 percent) said local universities were producing quality IT candidates, but just 8 percent of employers who responded to the survey said they were offering apprentice programs.

However, 52 percent of employers said they were considering outsourcing some of their operations, and when employers were asked if South Florida had an “ample pool” of IT candidates, 59 percent said “no” while 41 percent felt the supply was “adequate.”

Employers and potential tech talent can find one another at the 5th annual ITPalooza, which will be Dec. 8 at Signature Grand in Davie and is hosted by the South Florida Technology Alliance. ITPalooza, which attracted about 1,500 people last year, is an annual gathering of South Florida's technology professionals, CIOs and CTOs, user groups, educators and companies with an expo, keynote speeches, panel discussions, workshops, a hiring fair and an evening party. Tickets ($60 for general admission; $15 for students; free if you will bring two unwrapped toys for charity) can be registered for at or on Eventbrite.

November 17, 2016

Medical marijuana looks like cash crop to Miami’s entrepreneurs

By Nancy Dahlberg /

Real estate speculators stake out territories for what’s to come, infrastructure builders and lawyers queue up for business, investors jostle to get in on the ground floor, and tech startups seek ways to make a new industry run more efficiently.

This could be any nascent industry, but in this case it’s marijuana.

After graduating from Yale, Steve Berke (pictured below) played professional tennis. Then, after a career-ending injury, he became a medical marijuana patient. That led him to be a marijuana activist, and he ran for mayor of Miami Beach twice on a marijuana-legalization platform. After the second election loss in 2013, marijuana companies had seen his social media campaign and were reaching out to him to plug them into videos. “That’s when I realized there was no way for these companies to connect with consumers,” said Berke, and he turned to entrepreneurship to find a solution.


When one of his activist YouTube videos did not truly go viral despite pickups on Buzzfeed, Upworthy, NBC and other sites, the YouTube enthusiast learned that Facebook’s algorithms suppressed it. He thought the cannabis industry needed a different way of marketing. “I’ve been on a very organic journey to a leadership role in the cannabis business community.”

Today, Berke, 35, is CEO of Bang Holdings of North Miami Beach, which has a subsidiary that provides brand management, cannabis-related digital content and social influencer-based marketing for the cannabis industry. While major media providers restrict online marijuana advertising, Bang’s marketing networks allow cannabis companies to directly reach consumers. Today, Bang runs one of the top two or three cannabis-related Facebook pages as well as sites on Instagram, Snapchat and YouTube.

From growers, dispensaries and product makers to software developers and “the Tinder for the tokers,” entrepreneurs like Berke are taming the wild, wild west of pot.

“Cannabis is growing more mainstream by the day. This is a viable, vibrant industry, and we are seeing more and more sophisticated financial executives entering this space,” said Chris Ganan, chief strategy officer of MedMen, a Los Angeles-based cannabis firm. Ganan, who has had a long career in private equity and hedge funds, was speaking on a cannabis panel at the Real Estate Family Office and Private Wealth Management Forum in Miami this week.

Four states — California, Massachusetts, Nevada and Maine — legalized recreational marijuana Nov. 8, joining Colorado, Oregon, Washington and Alaska. Four more including Florida passed medical marijuana measures on Election Day, bringing the total number of states with some form of legal cannabis to 28. Florida voters approved allowing doctors to recommend full-strength marijuana as a treatment for a long list of conditions, including glaucoma, HIV/AIDS and cancer, and authorizing Florida’s Department of Health to license growers, labs and dispensaries.

In Florida, the medical marijuana market is expected to hit $193 million in 2018, when the law is fully in effect, and then is estimated to take off, growing to $1.6 billion in annual sales by 2020, according to an ArcView research report released this week. Cowen and Company recently joined the ranks of mainstream research firms covering the cannabis industry, forecasting that the U.S. marijuana market will grow to $50 billion by 2026 from $6 billion today, seeing a huge transition of black market sales to the legal market as more states legalize marijuana.

Still, said MedMen’s Ganan, whose cannabis firm has both a management and a $100 million capital arm: “This is a federally banned substance that is regulated by a mind-boggling patchwork of local and state regulations. Expert knowledge is key to capitalizing on business opportunities.”

Tech gets head start

Several tech companies have taken root in South Florida. Unlike growers, dispensaries and makers of cannabis-containing products that have to grow their businesses state by state under myriad rules because the plants can’t cross state lines, tech companies don’t touch the plants so they can more easily scale their businesses.

BioTrackTHC, a Fort Lauderdale software company employing more than 60 people spanning three offices nationally, tracks cannabis sales from seed-to-sale for government agencies and other organizations. Since winning its first state contract, Washington, in 2013, the company now has contracts with five states and a city, and more than 2,000 companies use its software, said CEO Patrick Vo (pictured below).


Then there’s High There!, a social connectivity platform some have called “Tinder for tokers” because of relationships made there. Co-founders Darren Roberts and Kenny Frisman moved their company back to Boca Raton from Colorado this fall in anticipation of Amendment 2’s passing and have expanded the platform to include a news feed.

They join growers and dispensaries such as Costa Farms’ Modern Health Concepts of Miami, which holds one of the six licenses in Florida to cultivate low-THC cannabis and medical cannabis but hopes to make medical marijuana in other forms now that Amendment 2 has passed. There are also specialized construction firms, security companies, product makers, consultants, even a staffing company checking out the cannabis climate in the Sunshine State. Ganan is interested in Florida, too: With a population of 20 million, lots of travelers and a large geriatric community, “the demographics in Florida make it a compelling market for the long-term,” he said.

Attorney David Black of Berger Singerman is part of a team within the Miami law firm that collaborates on cannabis business. He says Amendment 2’s passing will likely bring a greater pool of patrons and a broader range of products but cautions that since the regulations haven’t been written yet, there are still a lot of unknowns. Because state health regulators now must write the rules and Florida has until next September to begin the registration process for ID cards and treatment centers, “it’s a waiting game,” he said. Still, Black is seeing lots of interest from real estate investors seeking out blocks of industrial land that may be appropriate for growing or storefronts for dispensaries.

Medical needs

Because everyone wants to know how to get into the business, Fort Lauderdale-based law firm Kelley Kronenberg brought in speakers and hosted a meet-up group, the Medical Marijuana Business Networking Group (MMBNG), earlier this month and plans to host them regularly. The first one attracted more than 50 people, including owners of dispensaries and growers located in other states, a nutraceutical manufacturer, a cannabis investment fund, wellness centers, doctors and conference planners, said Seth Hyman, a medical marijuana activist who has a daughter with severe disabilities including uncontrolled seizures that a certain form of cannabis could help. To get help for his child and others like her, he fought for years to get Florida’s first medical marijuana bill passed as well as the much wider Amendment 2.

“I was a corporate lawyer and never anticipated going into the cannabis business until I heard [Hyman’s] story about his daughter. No one should have to go through this,” said Howard Wander. Wander, along with other lawyers and Hyman, who’s not a lawyer, are part of a practice unit at the Kelley Kronenberg firm formed in late 2013 to serve not only businesses wanting to get into the industry but also all companies with employment, workplace and security issues concerning medical marijuana. Akerman, GrayRobinson, Greenspoon Marder and other South Florida firms are also forming practice groups either locally or nationally.

Visits to other states and numerous meetings with dispensary owners, growers, ancillary companies and doctors validated their beliefs. “This is going to be a massive industry when it comes to Florida. ... And you have people who are excited to be in the industry, there’s an energy,” said Wander, who has fielded calls from software firms, consultants, and security and transportation companies from other states. “All those companies, they want to be here.”

Investors get ready

The money men and women have begun to come out of the woodwork, too. Black has begun to see potential operators and investors beginning to mix, such as entrepreneurs with capital wanting to take a minority investor role in an existing cannabis business.

Last month, San Diego-based Innovative Industrial Properties, a real estate investment trust, filed to become the first cannabis-related company to be traded in the New York Stock Exchange. Private investment firms are forming, too, including Phyto Partners, founded by Larry Schnurmacher in Boca Raton last year.

“Instead of investing in the stock market, I wanted to invest in the cannabis industry — companies that are going to be significantly important in the ... nationwide expansion and normalization of cannabis, most importantly as a medicine,” said Schnurmacher, who was a wealth manager and investment adviser for Morgan Stanley and other Wall Street firms for more than two decades.

Schnurmacher is raising $15 million for his Phyto venture capital fund, and has invested in nine companies so far. Most are early-stage technology companies. His portfolio includes New Frontier Financials, a data collection firm; Leaf, a “Plug ‘N Plant” do-it-yourself system to grow artisan pot at home; Baker, an app to reserve your cannabis and earn loyalty points, and Seed CX, an institutional trading platform awaiting regulatory approval from the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission. All of them will likely do business in Florida, including a national testing lab he’s funded, Schnurmacher said.

“These startups have the same issues that all startups have, executing their business plans, developing their footprints, making sure they don’t run out of money,” he said. “We try to be strategic partners for our investments .... providing executive assistance.”


For now, South Florida’s cannabis-tech startups are gaining ground because they don’t have to wait for regulations. In an effort to be the go-to place for cannabis news and information, High There! is rolling out early next year a revamped website with a news feed called Daily Joints featured prominently, said Roberts (pictured above with team members). There will be in-person High There! meetups, too.

“What’s happened is individuals have met, yes, for dating, but High There! has really expanded into the medicinal community …veterans who suffer from PTSD, individuals who are dealing with illnesses from anxiety to cancer — it’s really become a site to connect on multiple levels,” Roberts aid. “It’s an environment where the stigma doesn’t exist.”

The free High There! app has been downloaded a few hundred thousand times, and recently 500 to 1,600 times a day, Roberts said. Founded in early 2015, High There!, a team of nine and hiring, plans to sell “targeted, non-intrusive” advertisements and its data will be valuable, Roberts said.

As for Bang Holdings, Berke believes social media will be the dominant advertising platform of the cannabis industry for the next decade and the way to do that is to build a network of influencers. He says he has about a dozen influencers now, all with 250,000 to 10 million followers. To try to sell products via Facebook Messenger, the company recently rolled out a chatbot — but not just any bot.

As an experiment, Bang’s team recently developed a chatbot likened to Donald Trump, mainly because of the relative ease of attracting his enthusiastic supporters. The bot is called “The Donald” and it now has a Facebook following of more than 500,000 fans — and many had no idea they were chatting with a bot, Berke said. “Now that we have a proof of concept for what we have dubbed a ‘Digital Social Influencer,’ we are ready to bring our new technology to our core cannabis marketing business,” Berke said.

The Bang social community is 1.3 million subscribers strong, the pages pull in 2.5 million to 3 million views daily, and Bang is on the way to building the biggest and best cannabis-related Facebook audience, primed for monetization, Berke said. Stay tuned.

Nancy Dahlberg: @ndahlberg

November 08, 2016

From 3 to 300: CareCloud recruits three from Hackathon and looks to hire a dozen more

By Ricardo Morales

RicardocarecloudEver since I was a kid, hacking -- taking something broken and improving it to make it function again -- was my favorite thing to do. When I joined CareCloud many years ago, we were just a small team of people who believed we could take something broken -- in this case, healthcare -- and improve performance, boost productivity, and streamline workflow for healthcare professionals and patients alike.

It’s humbling to see how far we’ve come. When digital health was just taking off and the cloud was the next big disruptor, I was the third engineer to join CareCloud. It’s now seven years, tens of millions in VC funding, yet one of our biggest challenges is finding talent. We are actively looking to expand our engineering team by at least a dozen new senior software engineers and senior product managers who have the right mix of technical experience and leadership to assume key anchor positions. Finding the combination of really smart people and creating the best environment, to inspire them to push personal limits as well as push the limits of innovation is what CareCloud is all about.

Hacking Tech Talent

To find local talent and promote our local ecosystem, CareCloud hosted our very first hackathon this past August. We challenged more than 50 computer engineers, programmers, developers and designers from CareCloud and Wyncode Academy to build innovative apps designed to help medical groups grow and improve the patient experience. With the support of our team of senior engineers, designers and product experts, seven teams worked for 24 hours straight to execute actionable solutions to real problems in healthcare and bring their ideas to life using the CareCloud API.

Open APIs, like CareCloud’s, allow developers to stack on top of existing code to solve a specific problem. Because developers don’t have to start from scratch, the process is drastically accelerated. In a highly complex industry like healthcare, this is a key advantage in keeping up with the fast-changing regulations and demands of the industry.


View all CareCloud Hack Day 2016 pictures here.

The hackathon’s $9,000 in cash prizes and perks attracted intense interest and incredible talent. The winning teams were determined by a panel of judges, which included technologists Brian Breslin, founder of Refresh Miami and CareCloud CTO Josh Siegel, as well as healthcare representatives Matt Nachreiner, Dermatology Practice Administrator for Sanova Dermatology, and Dr. Angel Cuesta.

Team Nimbus, the first place finisher (pictured below), took home the grand prize of $5,000 for their deep search tool that enabled easy access to analytical data across multiple CareCloud solutions.


Second place team Fit & HAPI was awarded $2,500 for integrating FitBit data into electronic medical records. Wyncare, coming in third, won $1,000 for their natively built video chat solution, while the Most Innovative award went to The Rookies for their Uber-for-patients app.

The real hack was the opportunity for us to see talent in action—test their skills, see how well they work as part of a team, get a feel for their problem-solving skills, and note how well they collaborated and gelled with CareCloud’s staff and work culture.

Return on Community Investment

With organizations such as Refresh Miami, Wyncode Academy, Iron Hack, Launchcode, CODeLLA, Code for Miami and so many more, South Florida is generating talent that wasn’t as available just a few years ago. CareCloud receives tremendous value from supporting these and other local organizations.

Since Wyncode’s very first cohort back in 2014, CareCloud has been a dedicated hiring partner and the first company to hire a graduate from the fast-growing coding school. We have interviewed more than 100 Wyncode grads and hired nine as paid interns, seven of whom turned into full-time salaried employees. We interviewed five Wyncode participants and hired three from Hack Day alone—Fabian Pombo, Lauren Leibowitz, and Mike Gregory.

Joining the 300

Hack Day was an immense success for CareCloud, and we plan to host two per year with one open to public participation. We will continue to play an active role in the Miami tech community and cultivate talent to create new job opportunities here at home. But folks don’t need to wait till our next hackathon to join CareCloud.

Our plan to grow to 300 employees is ambitious, but that is the culture of CareCloud. We encourage those who are talented, inspired, and ambition to send their resumes to

Be on the lookout for the announcement of our next hackathon; we look forward to meeting the future 300 of CareCloud!

Ricardo Morales is part of the founding team and Vice President of Engineering, driving software development at CareCloud, the leading platform for high-performance medical groups. With over 20 years of experience in the software industry, he currently leads a diverse team of software and quality assurance engineers.

November 04, 2016

News: Manny Medina to lead new multinational cybersecurity company in Miami

By Nancy Dahlberg /

IMG_IMG_IMG_Manny_Medina_2_1_VT3348L3_L77576768Tech pioneer Manny Medina will lead a new multinational data center and cybersecurity company based in Miami.

Medina Capital, a Miami-based private equity firm led by Medina, and global private equity firm BC Partners are forming a new venture in a $2.8 billion transaction combining a worldwide network of data centers with cybersecurity and data analytics companies, the firms are expected to announce on Friday.

The new company will have more than 1,000 employees. It’s too early to say exactly how many jobs will be in South Florida, but it will be a strong presence, Medina said.

This new company, which will be named and branded at a later date, will be acquiring 57 data centers from CenturyLink, said Medina, who founded and led Terremark until its $2 billion sale to Verizon in 2011. “To put that into perspective, as big as Terremark was, we had 13 [data centers],” Medina said in an interview Thursday. At the same time, the new joint venture is acquiring four portfolio companies from Medina Capital.

“The joint venture will create one of the most advanced cybersecurity solutions in the world by combining the physical data centers with the security products of our companies,” said Medina. The fast-growing information security market is estimated by tech research firm Gartner to grow to $113.4 billion by 2020. “And what’s really, really exciting is it is all being driven out of Miami.”

Medina will lead the new company as CEO, and his top team will include executives from Medina Capital, which includes former executives of Terremark. The transaction is expected to be completed in the first quarter of 2017, pending regulatory approvals.

“This will be a very big deal for Miami and the technology ecosystem, because [big employers] are one of the things we are missing — this is Terremark on steroids,” said Medina. Medina has raised the profile of Miami’s tech ecosystem in recent years as the founder of eMerge Americas, a technology conference heading into its fourth year. “You have the fact that you have nurtured companies that are now exiting to a major joint venture, but more importantly you will have a significant worldwide company, which will be a leader in the information technology infrastructure, particularly in cybersecurity.”

In addition to the 57 data centers and associated cloud storage businesses, the companies that will be part of the new company are Doral-based Easy Solutions, a cyber-fraud fighting company, as well as Cryptzone, Catbird and Brainspace, all part of Medina Capital’s investment portfolio.

Today’s companies need greater flexibility over their IT infrastructure and for their expansive suite of applications to be securely interconnected with customers, suppliers and financial services providers, and “we are creating a secure, global infrastructure to exceed today’s information security, scale and availability challenges,” said Justin Bateman, a managing partner at BC Partners.

The new company will have more than 3,500 customers and 2.6 million square feet of data center capacity. The data centers are in the United States, Europe and the Far East, but not Latin America. “Latin America is a big opportunity for us — that will be one of our top priorities,” said Medina, who has been a proponent of the advantage Miami has as the gateway to Latin America.

“To have a technology infrastructure provider of this caliber based in Miami and led by a proven team of top managerial talent will have an unbelievably catalytic effect on the local tech ecosystem,” said Jaret Davis, co-managing shareholder of Greenberg Traurig, who led the legal team serving as counsel to Medina Capital in the transaction and is a leader in the Miami technology community.

“I’m back and I can’t wait,” said Medina. “I feel like I have been rehearsing for this my entire life.”

Nancy Dahlberg: 305-376-3595, @ndahlberg.