February 24, 2015

Magic Leap's Rony Abovitz on starting a company: Don't do it if it's not rocking, if it's not awesome


By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com 

Rony Abovitz, CEO of the mysterious Magic Leap startup, returned to his alma mater, the University of Miami, to share some secrets of entrepreneurial  success -- and just a very few snippets about the company he is currently building.

"There's a whole mystery to what Magic Leap does and I hope half the room isn't here to find that out because I am not really going to unveil it," he told the group of about 250 gathered at the UM Newman Alumni Center for the College of Engineering's Entrepreneurship Forum, part of its Engineering Week events. Instead he talked about pivotal moments in his career of starting companies, including a couple that will no doubt become part of Magic Leap lore, and what he has learned about being a leader.

Magic Leap, founded in 2011 and  based in Dania Beach, is developing "Cinematic Reality" backed with an eye-popping $542 million  from Google and venture capitalists, the third largest fund-raising round of the year last year. "I still go holy crap, I still can't really believe it," he said of the round. The company is now valued at about $2 billion. 

One of the first articles that have begun to explain the technology was published this month in the MIT Technology Review. Said the writer, Rachel Metz, who tried an early prototype of the technology: "It’s safe to say Magic Leap has a tiny projector that shines light onto a transparent lens, which deflects the light onto the retina. That pattern of light blends in so well with the light you’re receiving from the real world that to your visual cortex, artificial objects are nearly indistinguishable from actual objects."

Metz said the company is aiming to fit its technology into a "glasses-like wearable device" and that, according to Abovitz, the technology  "is not far away." He may share a few more details with the world today: Abovitz is hosting a Reddit AMA (Ask Me Anything) at 2 p.m. EST.   (Update: read it here)

The fast-growing Magic Leap is approaching "a few hundred" employees spread between Dania and Mountain View, Calif., as well as New Zealand and London, Abovitz said in a short interview before the UM talk. Abovitz said he would like to base 80 percent of the company in South Florida.

He also said in the interview he wants to help South Florida grow a technology community and would like to see UM become a Stanford of the South. Abovitz earned his engineering bachelor's and master's degrees at UM in the mid-90s and was in one of the university's first biomedical engineering programs, which he credits with stirring his interest in developing technology for the human body. Before starting Magic Leap, Abovitz was co-founder of Mako Surgical, the South Florida medical robotics company that sold for $1.65 billion to Stryker in 2013.

Abovitz believes in the next five years augmented reality technology will become widely adopted. But what sets  Magic Leap apart from its competitors is how it works with the body rather than against it, he said before the talk. "No one else is doing that.... Put the body first and engineer around it... All computing will be biomedical going forward."

 In the talk at UM, Abovitz shared some of the defining moments of his career. For instance, one day after receiving good news about funding for the robotics company, Sept. 11, 2001 happened. Another one: Going public in 2008.

During both times, the world was ending but the team kept going. In 2001, after his investors pulled out, that meant taking a van around the country, prototype robot in the back, and not coming back until the company secured funding. In 2008, Mako was known as that crazy team trying to go public during the Great Recession.  These are the times you learn what you are made of, he said.

But these defining moments also included the first time a Mako robot was used in a surgery on a human.  "That was one of the greatest moments of my life," he said of the successful surgery in a Fort Lauderdale hospital in 2006.

There have already been a few pivotal moments in the Magic Leap story, too. Abovitz said a trip with music industry mogul Chris Blackwell to Blackwell’s GoldenEye resort in Jamaica in 2011 helped to ferment Abovitz’s idea for Magic Leap. He loved being out in the environment, not staring into the phone, and realized computing had to change. “That’s where the world becomes your new desktop. … We shouldn’t bend to technology, technology should bend to us.”

 Four days after Magic Leap received the "serious capital" from Google and other investors,  Google executive Alan Eustace parachuted a record-setting 135,000+ feet from a balloon near the top of the stratosphere. Eustace had spent time in Magic Leap in May, and was one of the engineers who pushed for the funding. That was a message too: "For cool things to happen, you have to get out of your comfort zone," said Abovitz, who  took up his own challenge of becoming a javelin thrower on the UM team during his college years.

"When you are doing something neat and you’re doing it with neat people and there is that convergence, something amazing will happen," he said. "If you really want to change the world, you have to have that attitude."

On leadership, he told the engineering students and alumni, you have to be bold. "It's little like jumping off a cliff with your backpack, a bag of parts and you are building the plane wings and engine  on your way down.... You also have to be insanely tough, you'll get pummeled over and over again and you have to keep getting back up. ... And you have to attract a team that is freaking smart."

Creativity and finding a counter-balance play a big role too -- it's why he was a cartoonist for the school newspaper during his UM years and now plays in a band, Sparkydog & Friends. But he told the students the most important thing to learn is teamwork. "Starting a company is like doing 100 Iron Mans [competitions] in a row," he said. And while it requires endurance and mental toughness, have fun. "Don't do it if it is not rocking, if it's not awesome."

And don't take yourself too seriously, said Abovitz, who once gave a TED talk dressed as an astronaut.

Posted Feb. 24, 2015 

February 19, 2015

Samsung to buy LoopPay, a technology developed by Miami Beach entrepreneur

George WallnerAnother shot in the mobile wallet wars: Samsung Electronics Co. will be buying LoopPay, which turns existing magnetic stripe readers into secure, contactless receivers. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

LoopPay’s proprietary technology works with about 90 percent of existing point-of-sale terminals, with no investment in new infrastructure required by merchants, and it was developed in the Miami Beach home lab of co-founder George Wallner. Its products include an an affordable protective sleeve that fits around your smartphone, turning it into a mobile wallet. Wallner (pictured here speaking at last year's Fintech LatAm conference), is a veteran in the mobile payment industry. He is credited with developing the first credit card swipe machine as founder and CEO of Hypercom, taking that company from zero to IPO. 

As part of the acquisition, LoopPay founders Will Graylin and Wallner will work closely with Samsung’s Mobile Division. The companies believe LoopPay’s talent and technology, paired with Samsung’s world leading mobile technology, global presence and distribution capabilities, will help drive the next wave of innovation in the digital smart wallet.

“This acquisition accelerates our vision to drive and lead innovation in the world of mobile commerce. Our goal has always been to build the smartest, most secure, user-friendly mobile wallet experience, and we are delighted to welcome LoopPay to take us closer to this goal,” said JK Shin, President and Head of IT and Mobile Division at Samsung Electronics, in a news release.

Samsung had already been working with LoopPay, which is headquartered in Boston, as it was a strategic investor along with Visa and Synchrony Financial. The investment, which was facilitated by Samsung’s Global Innovation Center, helped fuel LoopPay’s MST technology development.

Posted Feb. 19, 2015


February 05, 2015

Miami startup Videoo launches #Share1Love campaign with Bob Marley family

“One love, one heart” – Bob Marley

Bob_Marley (1)A year ago, Miami startup Videoo enabled Bob Marley fans around the world to wish the late music legend a happy birthday. More than 100 people uploaded short videos, and Videoo’s proprietary technology automatically connected the clips into one crowd-sourced compilation.

“That was nice but this year we wanted to do something with a bigger positive social mission,” said Barry Stamos, co-founder and CEO of Videoo, a collaborative platform to collect and curate social video playlists.

On Friday, which would have been Bob Marley’s 70th birthday, the Marley family and Videoo are teaming up to launch  #Share1Love. The aim of the campaign: Allowing anyone to show how they share acts of love and kindness, while simultaneously igniting a feel-good social video movement with a charitable twist. “My father’s universal message of love, peace and unity continues to transcend borders, cultures and generations,” said Cedella Marley. “#Share1Love is an extension of his vision, encouraging people to unite through positivity and hope and give back to those in need.”

For every person who uploads a video showing how they share love and kindness with the world, Videoo will donate $1 to charity: water, a nonprofit that brings clean drinking water to developing countries. Stamos admits the idea was partially inspired by the viral success of last year’s Ice Bucket Challenge.

Videoo’s media technology has also come a long way in a year, and the campaign will provide an excellent use case for the startup, said Stamos. Videoo organizes user-generated social videos into playlists, allowing the community to watch, vote, add, share and remix. The app for iOS and Android is free, and an improved version with new features will hit the Apple store next week, said Stamos, who founded the company with Jorge Moreno, a Latin Grammy winner who inspired the idea, Heidi Finn Roberts, Joshua Stedman and Abraham Elias. Since last year, Videoo also revamped videoo.com and launched Videoo Pro, a platform for enterprise clients. Videoo has eight fulltime employees and another dozen contractors, Stamos said.

To fund Videoo’s development, Stamos recently raised $1.6 million, part of a $2.1 million seed round. Eleven investors came through the local angel network Accelerated Growth Partners, including Alberto Beeck, Ernest Bachrach, Peter Kellner and Thomas Wenrich, Stamos said. Locally Krillion Ventures is also an investor, and the round includes a Brazilian billionaire who prefers to remain private, he said.

On Thursday, Ziggy Marley kicked off #Share1Love with a video and the family shared it on the Bob Marley's 76 million Facebook fans; within an hour, the post garnered more than  18,000 likes. Others have already started contributing videos, which can be uploaded to bobmarley.com/share1love, where there are instructions. Participants are sharing clips on social media with the hashtag #Share1Love.

The campaign will run until June, and Stamos believes it will attract worldwide participation – and result in a hefty donation to a good cause.  “We are proud to be a Miami startup and hope everyone locally and in LATAM supports #Share1Love," he said. “Let’s get together and feel alright!"

Follow Nancy Dahlberg on Twitter @ndahlberg.

Posted Feb. 5, 2015


February 04, 2015

Mapping Miami's Financial Future: Tech, media industries take stage



As tech community leaders rally behind an effort to build a tech hub in South Florida, Miami’s Hispanic media and entertainment industry may be able to teach them a thing or two.

That’s because Miami already has become a hub for the Hispanic media industry. Speaking at a Miami Finance Forum event Wednesday called “Mapping Miami’s Financial Future,” media executives from Cisneros Group, Telemundo, SapientNitro, Imagina US and the Miami Herald (pictured above) pointed out that in their industry, the elements of a healthy ecosystem have already developed. As evidence they pointed to a critical mass of innovative companies, from large enterprises such as Telemundo and Univision to a growing group of scrappy media startups; an organic and authentic specialization in Hispanic media that few areas can duplicate; and educational projects and internship programs to attract and retain future media talent.

Is Miami the Hispanic Hollywood? Not so far-fetched, said the panelists. As an example, Telemundo executive Peter Blacker pointed to Ana Maria in Novela Land — a spoof on Telemundo’s own lifeblood, the telenovela, opening Feb. 27 in select theatres in South Florida and other cities. That project started out as a much smaller video idea but took on a life of its own bridging platforms, languages and cultures, said Blacker, executive vice president. The company is also beginning to experiment with virtual and augmented reality technologies, which he said would appear in upcoming World Cup coverage.

Nathaniel Perez, global head of social for digital media firm SapientNitro, said Miami’s Hispanic specialization is allowing the city to make its own mark. “You have Silicon Valley for tech, New York for media and you have Miami for multi-cultural,” he said.

Derek Bond, president of Imagina US, a production company specializing in the Hispanic market, agreed. “I have been here since 1997 and we have twice as many studios but I’ve got to think 10 times as much production – a huge digital play.”

Greater forces are at work, of course – namely the lightning-fast digital revolution. The Miami Herald Media Company is seeing 55 percent of its online traffic coming through mobile devices, said its president and publisher Alex Villoch.

A challenge often cited in the tech community is a shortage of talent, but that’s not a problem in the media industry because of the growing cluster of Hispanic media and entertainment companies here, said Victor Kong, president of Cisneros Interactive. "It's very easy to attract talent."

The number of content-creation companies has also grown, said the speakers. For instance, last year SapientNitro acquired La Comunidad, a small specialized Miami ad agency with deep talent. “There is a nice pool of talent sitting in Miami. This place will keep rocking, I don’t see it stopping,” added Bond.

Financeforum-medinaThe Miami Finance Forum’s half-day event also included keynote speeches by Terremark Worldwide founder Manny Medina, now a venture capitalist and founder of eMerge Americas, and Matt Haggman, Miami program director of the Knight Foundation. A panel of tech investors also participated in the forum.

In both panels, executives said the community still has to battle perceptions that Miami is more about play than work. eMerge Americas’ newly announced partnership with NBCUniversal will play a key role in exposure, both Medina and Blacker said. Under the arrangement, CNBC and other networks plan to anchor news and business programs from the floor of May’s eMerge Americas technology conference.

Building a tech hub is a long-term play that could take 10 or 20 years, said Bradley Harrison, founder of New York venture capital firm Scout Ventures. He’s bullish though; Scout recently located its first office outside New York in Miami and has made two investments, including one to Rokk3r Labs, a Miami Beach-based co-building company, that was announced at the event.

Melissa Krinzman, co-founder of Krillion Ventures, another new Miami early-stage venture fund that has so far invested in local startups EveryPost and Videoo, suggested to the crowd of about 200 finance professionals and entrepreneurs that there is a great deal they can do, including mentoring a startup or becoming its customer, making key introductions for startups and investing in them. Medina went one step further: “There is a fantastic opportunity in financial services to be the tech bank,” referring to Silicon Valley Bank’s impact on the ecosystem.

While South Florida will never be another Silicon Valley or Boston, it should aspire to find its own identity and specialization, other speakers said. For Medina and the eMerge Americas team, that goal is to become the tech hub for the Americas. Some areas that still need work, speakers said: serious transportation improvements, meaningful incentives programs, more venture firms investing in the $1 million to $5 million range and more success stories.


Matt Haggman said none of these tech and entrepreneurship conferences and events were in existence two years ago. 

Follow Nancy Dahlberg on Twitter @ndahlberg.

Published Feb. 4, 2015


February 02, 2015

Q&A with Cindy Provin: On the frontlines of cyber-security

Cindy Provin
From her perch at the helm of Thales e-Security since 1999, Cynthia Provin has been a key player in the growth of a new industry: data security.

As president of Thales e-Security, she oversees the company’s operations in the United States, Canada, Latin America and the Caribbean. She is also vice president of sales and marketing, overseeing strategy worldwide. Thales e-Security is part of Thales Group, a French multinational company that supports aerospace, defense, transportation and security with 65,000 employees in 60 countries. Thales e-Security, with about 400 employees, including 70 in Plantation, provides solutions to protect data.

“The attacks are becoming much more advanced, and firewalls and passwords are not enough. We promote encryption,” which renders the data unreadable, Provin said from her offices in Plantation.

Before joining Thales e-Security, Provin was vice president of the Product Division for Racal Data Group, managing the Racal Data Group product operations in the Americas. In the fall of 1998, she was instrumental in the sale of Racal Data Group and the formation of Racal Security and Payments, now known as Thales e-Security.

Born in Baltimore but raised in South Florida since she was 10, Provin attended CooperCityHigh School and earned a bachelor’s of business administration from the University of Miami. She met with the Miami Herald recently to talk about her work at Thales e-Security and trends in cyber-security.

Continue reading "Q&A with Cindy Provin: On the frontlines of cyber-security" »

January 21, 2015

Virtual Reality: The here and now and what's possible


By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

Will 2015 be the year virtual reality technology goes mainstream?

Industry experts speaking at The B.I.G. Summit this week in Miami Beach believe the time is right for more widespread adoption, and presented ways immersive experiences are already being used in industries such as automobile manufacturing, healthcare, sports and entertainment, retail and education.

The executives and entrepreneurs in the trenches of this technology, some for two decades, see a transformative year ahead because of the advances in quality coupled with prices of VR headsets coming down – there’s even a Google Cardboard (also available in plastic) for under $35. Samsung, Sony and other big brands are getting into VR in a big way, and much more content is being developed, they told the crowd of several hundred people at New World Center.

Much of the conference focused on what’s out there and what’s possible, and some of the innovation is grounded in Miami.

Many of the companies at the summit, some local and others from all over the world, are creating content for these technologies for a number of industries. “We are starting to see a lot of companies in the creative industries moving here and working with one another – this is an important evolution in building a technology ecosystem,” said Diane Sanchez, president of the Americas Council for the Creative Economy and a longtime technology executive in South Florida.


For instance, she said, Next Galaxy, which hosted the conference, has recently made South Florida its home. Founder Mary Spio (above) is working with Miami Children’s Hospital to create training courses using immersive technologies, said Dr. Narendra Kini, CEO of Miami Children’s.

“We want to develop the world’s first CPR course in a virtual reality environment,” said Kini. “This is a solution that is scalable – it can help millions of people so they are ready when there is a real emergency.”

Dr. Kini sees immersive technologies playing a big role in the next generation of healthcare training, an area dominated by the use of patient simulators now. Though the simulators are lifelike, the more advanced VR technology can completely immerse the students into an ever-changing medical procedure in a way no mannequin can, he believes. Could it help teach bedside manner, too, he asked?

Kini believes there are massive opportunities in healthcare for VR as well as other technologies. Not finding all the tools it needs, Miami Children’s dove in to develop some itself. “We took the risk in developing an incubator within the hospital,” added Kini. “We have three startups today. We plan to add another half dozen.”

Spio’s company works with brands to create content for VR and augmented reality, which has VR qualities but is grounded in the real world. Her company developed CEEK, a platform to access all sorts of content with one app, and CEEKARS, a 3D audio headphone that completes the VR experience, to “open up the doors to experiences that would be out of reach to most people,” said Spio.

Next Galaxy also partners with EON Reality, which has produced more than 7,000 VR applications for industry, education and edutainment and has offices all over the world. EON’s clients include Boeing, Microsoft, Lexus and Cornell University. Mats Johansson, co-founder and CEO, was named “Global Innovator of the Year” at the conference.

AvenuePlanet’s product puts you on the streets and in the stores of the world’s greatest shopping districts, bringing window shopping to a whole new level, said co-founder Sanjay Daswani, who was demoing the product. It’s launching soon and the London-based company has recently opened a U.S. base in Miami (I tried it out).


From Ford Motor Company’s multiple VR labs around the world, to the Golden State Warriors’ 12-acre ultra-high tech “campus” housing the team’s arena and more being built in San Francisco, to Lockheed Martin using VR for its advanced aircraft training, speaker after speaker gave use cases and what’s possible in the near future with the technology, including wearables. While Google recently shelved its Google Glass, Vuzix showed smart glasses that look like, well, glasses.

We have Palmer Luckey, a California high school kid, to thank for much of this. Luckey, a gamer, started buying VR headsets to see what the problems were and started building his own prototypes. Posting his plans on a message board attracted bigtime partner interest, led to important introductions and demos, and what would eventually became Oculus Rift, sold to Facebook for $2 billion, said Peter Rubin, senior editor of Wired.

The latest Oculus prototype shown at the Consumer Electronics Show has 360 degree tracking and 3D immersive audio, Rubin said. There are a number of exciting companies promising the next big thing with the technology, including Magic Leap of Dania Beach, he said. “I have not seen the technology but I have heard it is mindblowing.”


All this innovation doesn’t surprise keynote speaker Randi Zuckerberg (above), author of Dot Complicated and founder of Zuckerberg Media who directed marketing for Facebook into 2011. She believes that this is the age of the “entremployee,” and that companies should do everything they can to encourage innovation. Google, for instance, allows all its employees to spend a fifth of their company time on passion projects.

“Imagine what can happen if you gave your employees 20 percent of their week to work on passion projects?” she said. At Google, innovations from Google Adwords to Google Cardboard came out of that 20 percent.

Spio shared her own story at the conference, receiving a standing ovation. Though she was born in New York she grew  up in Ghana until she was 16. Her first job after returning to the U.S.: McDonald’s fry-maker. “When I got my first paycheck, I felt like a millionaire,” she said.

But joining the Air Force stoked the engineering fires that had always been in her, leading to her work for Boeing creating technology to digitally distribute motion pictures over the satellite and now heading her own company innovating in virtual reality and the Internet of Things. “See the world with a sense of wonder and make magic,” she told the crowd.

Follow Nancy Dahlberg on Twitter @ndahlberg.

Posted Jan. 21, 2014


January 16, 2015

Virtual reality conference in Miami Beach to feature Randi Zuckerberg

A conference next week in Miami Beach will explore how virtual reality and wearable technologies have already begun to transform healthcare, education, entertainment and other industries.

Attendees of the B.I.G. Summit will hear about real-world examples of how these technologies are already being deployed, as well as get a peek into what is under development, said Mary Spio, whose South Florida firm Next Galaxy Corp. is hosting the event Tuesday at the New World Center.

RandiZuckerbergRandi Zuckerberg, a best-selling author, founder of Zuckerberg Media and editor of Dot Complicated, will be the keynote speaker. “We've seen technology change the way that the world thinks and communicates over the past couple of decades, and I think that we are getting ready for another major shift with the emergence of virtual and augmented reality,” said Zuckerberg, who is Mark Zuckerberg’s sister and was an early executive at Facebook.

Mary-Spio-3Other speakers include Peter Rubin, senior editor of WIRED; Avi Muchnick, founder of Aviary; Diane Sanchez, executive director of Americas Council for the Creative Economy; and Dr. M. Narendra Kini, CEO of Miami Children’s Hospital. Executives from Ford, Lockheed-Martin and the Golden State Warriors of the NBA are also on the agenda. Grammy-winning record producer, songwriter and musician Teddy Riley will produce a virtual reality experience featuring a medley of Michael Jackson songs. Spio (pictured at left), a former Boeing executive best known for creating technology to digitally distribute motion pictures over satellite, will talk on “Imagining the Future.”

Spio has been running the B.I.G. Summit (Business, Innovation and Growth) since 2009, most recently in Orlando, but moved it to Miami Beach this year, as she is also relocating her company to South Florida. In temporary offices now, she hopes to move into Miami’s Film and Entertainment Complex set to open this fall and is hiring game developers and backend developers.

Spio, who after Boeing went into 2-D video and now is immersed in virtual reality and the Internet of Things, sees Miami’s potential as a tech hub for the creative industries.

“Virtual Reality is such a powerful tool in education and remote learning,” she said. “I see many opportunities here but the talent must be developed to cover the opportunities. In other areas such as the Valley, everyone is fighting for the same talent. Here, we can mold and shape them for everything we need.”

Learn more about the conference at bigsummit.biz.



January 06, 2015

Magic Leap's wizard hunt: Nearly 100 jobs open

By Marcia Heroux Pounds / Sun Sentinel

Magic Leap, the mysterious entertainment company in Dania Beach, is looking to hire "wizards."

The company, which attracted a $542 million investment last year from Google and other investors, has listed nearly 100 jobs on its website under the heading "wizards wanted." The jobs include multiple positions for high-level software engineers, game and android designers as well as human resources professionals, finance and accounting positions — even a job with the interesting title of "senior software hack-in-chief." Some jobs are based at its headquarters, others in Mountain View, Calif., home of partner Google. Job seekers can apply on the company's website, MagicLeap.com.

Magic Leap spokesman Jason Magner said there was no one available Monday to provide more information about the company's hiring. But South Florida technology recruiter Alex Funkhouser said many of Magic Leap's posted technology positions "are skill sets of the future of which very few people in South Florida or anywhere in the world have this established expertise." The jobs are so specific that they don't exist outside a handful of research institutions, said Funkhouser, president of SherlockTalent.

Read the full Sun Sentinel story here.

December 30, 2014

Inaugural Miami Bitcoin Hackathon is set for Jan. 9-11: the details

By Gianni D’Alerta

South Florida non
profit technology group Blockchain Beach will be hosting its inaugural Miami Bitcoin Hackathon. This three-day event at The LAB Miami in Wynwood starts with a reception and registration event on Friday, Jan. 9, and ends with an award ceremony on Sunday, Jan. 11.  Coders will be competing from around the tri-county area for prizes and awards in a number of categories relating to Bitcoin and crypto-currencies technology development.

Registration for the event is accompanied by a kickoff party frequented by the best and brightest in the South Florida tech scene. During the commencement ceremony, time has been allotted for networking, presentations from local experts, and business pitches from members of the local startup community. After the reception event, programming teams will begin their hacking on the following morning at 8:00 AM. Lunch and dinner will be provided to hackers, and is being supplied by event sponsors. Sunday is the final day of the event, which consists of a short morning spent on polishing the prior days code, and will be followed by presentations to the judges at 1:30. Results of the judges panel will be revealed at 4:00 PM, and will be followed by an after-party. Entry is free for all participants, as well for event spectators.

Blockchain_beach-9cac35978d9ac024641dd577d521c6caWith Miami's proximity to Latin America, and its existing infrastructure in banking and finance relations with South and Central America, Miami's community leaders are focusing on bringing attention to the region amongst crypto-currency advocates and industry leaders. The Blockchain Beach committee, which is managing the event, have recruited participants from all sectors of the local fintech economy. Notable attendees to the event include representatives from a number of the leading crypto-currency projects, including Angel Leon of the "Open Bazaar" team, and Chris DeRose of the "Counterparty" project. As crypto-currency grows from its roots as a computer science "proof of concept", and into a full-fledged remittance and payment industry, the organizers of the event believe that it is vital for Miami to remain competitive with similar institutions in New York and California.

Chris DeRose, one of the events competitors, discussed why he’s participating in the event: "People have a rudimentary understanding of this technology, and really have no concept of just how transformative Bitcoin technology will be. My hope is that by participating in events like this one, I can show members of the financial community that there are major innovations coming to their businesses". Prizes for the winners of this year's event total over $17,000 in cash (paid in Bitcoin of course), along with hand-outs and giveaways for all participating teams.

The primary sponsor of the Miami Bitcoin Hackathon is Bitstop, which is coming fresh off the heels of a "Most Disruptive Startup" award at the 2014 Refresh year-end awards ceremony. Corporate sponsorship comes from BitPay, Coinkite, Tally Capital, and the Knight Foundation. Local educational institution partners include Miami Dade College, University of Miami and Wyncode.

The Miami Bitcoin Hackathon is merely one of a number of Bitcoin themed events in Florida, happening in near-succession. The hackathon has been timed to occur two weeks after the Bitcoin Bowl in St. Petersburg, FL, and one weekend before The North American Bitcoin Conference in Miami.  The winner of the hackathon will be invited to pitch a business idea at the startup session during the subsequent Bitcoin conference. Bitstop organizer Douglas Carrillo is quick to stress the point "This hackathon is merely one step in the direction we're heading for 2015. Fans of fintech can start looking forward to a really significant year in the development of Miami, and Blockchain Beach."

For more information on the hackathon, visit the www.miamibitcoinhackathon.com website for details, rules, and a hacker registration form.

Gianni D'Alerta works as a director at ActivePBX (a local Hosted PBX phone company). In his free time, he is a Crypto Currency champion and helps with the Miami Bitcoin Meetup / Facebook Groups. He is one of the founding members of the soon to be launched non-profit Blockchain Beach.

Posted Dec. 30, 2014


December 23, 2014

New coders wow a standing-room only crowd at The LAB Miami

Wyncode pitch day


By Juha and Johanna Mikkola

Wyncode’s Pitch Day Tres brought together a standing room only crowd of over 250 people to the LAB Miami on Thursday night.

Pitch Day is quickly becoming a rite of passage for junior developers entering the Miami tech scene. It’s incredible to see the support and interest from the Miami tech community. We’re thrilled to see the quality of apps the Wyncoders are creating and that several of them already have interviews lined up!

The twenty-one Wyncoders of Cohort 3 had five minutes each to demonstrate the web apps they conceptualized and built during the last two weeks of their nine weeks at Wyncode.

Four expert panelists -- Jim McKelvey (Square & LaunchCode), Tom Lackner (.CO and POP), Zach Weiner (Cloud.com at Citrix) and Tobias Franoszek (Kipu Systems)  -- gave the students pointed feedback and selected the winning project, which was Interque, by Ray Braaf and Todd Metheny.

Try the web apps for yourself:

 Fanvio - Anuvis Mejia, Isaac Weinbach, Mark Nater
Interque - Todd Metheny, Raymond Braaf
Cruiseit - Shahana Batthacharya, Jessica Hunt
EatHow - Abraham Orellanes, Celeste Morford
ChordBuddy - Antonio Carballeira
JobCannon - Mike Nahabedian, Alex Mckeown
Twelve - Dan Kreiger
PawsForMiami - Peter Ovelmen

 For photos of each presentation, check out Wyncode’s Pitch Day album on Facebook.

Meme.menu, a start-up co-founded by four Wyncode alumni, introduced an award given to the two students from the graduating cohort who most embody the spirit of Wyncode. The award includes 3-months of co-working space at The LAB Miami and mentorship from Meme.menu’s team. The inaugural award went to Anuvis Mejia and Ray Braaf.

We made a few announcements, including:

  • * The launch of Wyncode's three part-time programs in February 2015, including iOS development, NodeJS and Digital Marketing.
  • * Plans for an additional location at General Provision in Fort Lauderdale next year  -- stay tuned for details.
  • * A Spanish language version of the Immersive Web Development course.

Also, Wyncode Academy graduate Walter Latimer recently tied for first place in HackerRank’s Bootcamp CodeSprint.

“I loved representing Wyncode and the MiamiTech community in the HackerRank CodeSprint”, Walter said. “It's cool to know I was able to do so well with the foundations I learned at Wyncode and work experience I gained at CareCloud, especially without a computer science degree."

Walter is now paying it forward as a Teaching Assistant at Wyncode. His performance in the CodeSprint is exciting for Wyncode and for MiamiTech, as he was up against students from many established code schools - including New York’s Flatiron School, Hackbright Academy and the Turing School of Software and Design.

Wyncode's next cohort a The LAB Miami begins on Jan. 12 and just five seats remain. Interested students should apply online at www.wyncode.co by clicking ‘Apply’.

Juha and Johanna Mikkola are co-founders of Wyncode.


Judges Tobias Franoszek (Kipu Systems), Tom Lackner (.CO and POP), Zach Weiner (Cloud.com at Citrix) and Jim McKelvey (Square & LaunchCode) with winners Todd Metheny and Raymond Braaf of Interque (center),

Posted Dec. 23, 2014