September 22, 2016

Endeavor Miami honors Goldman Properties CEO for vision, leadership

By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

JessicaEndeavor Miami will honor Jessica Goldman Srebnick, a serial entrepreneur who has played a major role in the development of Miami’s burgeoning Wynwood Arts District, including the expansion of the Wynwood Walls, an international attraction.

Because of her vision and leadership, Goldman Srebnick, CEO of Goldman Properties and co-founder and CEO of Goldman Global Arts, will receive Endeavor’s IMPACT Award at Endeavor Miami’s third annual gala next month, said Laura Maydon, managing director of Endeavor Miami, a non-profit that supports and accelerates high-impact entrepreneurs in South Florida.

Since 2012, Goldman Srebnick has been at the helm of Goldman Properties, an award-winning real estate and development company credited with revitalizing the Wynwood neighborhood. Founded in 1968, previously Goldman Properties spearheaded revitalizations of at-risk pedestrian neighborhoods in New York and Philadelphia.

“Each neighborhood has its own DNA and soul,” said Goldman Srebnick. “We use different forms of art to accentuate that soul and make the neighborhood more accessible and inviting to the public.”

This week, Goldman Srebnick announced the renovation of Miami’s new Hard Rock Stadium with giant street art murals through its newest company, Goldman Global Arts. Goldman Global Arts is dedicated to major art projects.

Miami is the perfect ecosystem to try new things, said Goldman Srebnick. “We are a transformational and aspirational city, one that has matured to the true international destination that still has room for growth an exploration. Together we should have a goal of making Miami the perfect case study for what happens when entrepreneurial spirit is set free.”

The event will celebrate the high-impact entrepreneurship movement in Miami, uniting more than 350 business leaders, entrepreneurs and investors. Endeavor Miami is the first U.S. affiliate of Endeavor, a global nonprofit dedicated to accelerating entrepreneurship. With the support of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, Endeavor Miami launched in 2013, and since then,15 South Florida companies – most recently Pincho Factory – have been accepted into Endeavor’s global network of business leaders, mentors and investors.

Last year, Jim McKelvey, co-founder of Square and founder of LaunchCode, and Alexandra Wilkis Wilson, co-founder of Gilt and GLAMSQUAD, were honored.

The Endeavor Miami 2016 Gala will be Saturday, Oct. 22, from 7 p.m. to midnight at Wynwood’s Soho Studios. Tickets: www.endeavormiami.org. Proceeds support Endeavor Miami.

September 19, 2016

MealPass rebrands as MealPal, unveils 'Pal' feature, launches in Chicago, DC


By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

Screenshot 1 (1)When subscription lunch service MealPass launched in Miami in January, and over the next few months in three other cities, it was all about offering customers lots of lunch choices from a curated list of local restaurants. Turns out, maybe it was too many choices for some customers. 

"One of the pieces of feedback we kept getting was that it was getting increasingly difficult to select what you wanted to have for lunch because there were so many choices on the site ... We needed to make it easier," said Mary Biggins, who co-founded the company with Katie Ghelli. 

So MealPass today re-brands as MealPal, and introduces "Pal," a smart bot that uses artificial intelligence to make reserving lunch easier and more personalized. "Pal will know if you like big lunches or small lunches, if you like cheese, if you like meat or are a vegetarian, if you likes beets, etc, so it can make really good recommendations to you," Biggins said.

MealPal is an app and browser-based subscription service that offers members access to a wide selection of restaurant-prepared lunch dishes near where they live or work, while providing an efficient way for restaurants to increase revenue during their busiest hour of the day. To use the service,  MealPal subscription members visit the website or mobile app to browse the daily menu, reserve a meal by 9:30 a.m., choose a pickup time and skip the line.

In conjunction with the rebranding, MealPal also launches in Chicago and Washington, DC, today with more than 50 restaurants in each city. The fast-growing Miami-based venture-backed startup now with 22 employees followed its launch in the Brickell area with Boston in February, New York in April and San Francisco in June.  In eight months, members of the service have  now ordered over 500,000 meals from more than 1,000 restaurants. Members can use the service in any of the six cities where it’s now available.

Mealpal_beatsNew York is its biggest market, with 600 restaurants from Central Park to Wall Street, said Biggins, who also co-founded ClassPass. "New York is such a perfect market for us, with the density that works really well."

MealPal's Pal bot will ask consumers a series of questions to understand which ingredients they like and don’t like, so they will only see meal options that will please their palates. Pal will remind users to reserve lunch on any given day if they have forgotten, and will integrate lunch reservations in their calendar.

“Our goal is to eliminate the everyday hassle associated with the lunch hour rush,” said Biggins. “The new personalization features and calendar integration take the platform a step further in easing the lunch hour burden for thousands.”

MealPal in Miami offers 50 restaurants in the downtown-Brickell area and three meal plans: 20 meals per month ($5.19 per meal) for $103.80 per month; 12 meals per month ($5.39 per meal) for $64.68; or 6 meals per month ($5.99 per meal) at $35.94 per month.

"People in Miami tend to eat healthier than in the other markets," said Biggins. "There are more Latin influences -- places with authentic cuisine do very well in Miami."

Read more about Mary Biggins here.

 

 

 

 

September 13, 2016

Launch, grow, invest: Ways to make women count in the tech ecosystem

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A sea of women entrepreneurs attends a United Way Women's Leadership luncheon. Photo by Sidonia Rose Swarm

By Alma Kadragic

First came the birth of the Miami technology ecosystem, strongly supported by the Knight Foundation and visible with the launch of e-Merge Americas in the first half of 2014. As e-Merge continued, incubators and accelerators grew together with co-working spaces like Pipeline and WeWork. And then someone realized that despite a few stars, the technology ecosystem seemed to benefit male entrepreneurs far more than women.

One answer was the launch in May of WIN Lab Miami, The Center for Women's Entrepreneurial Leadership, backed by Babson College. Starting this month 20 women - from new entrepreneurs to those with several startups behind them - will spend eight months at WIN Lab developing concepts, brands, and management to create scalable companies.

WIN Lab Director Nelly Farra moderated a panel of women entrepreneurs today, sponsored by United Way as part of its Women's Leadership Let's Do Lunch program. The panel included Mary Anderson, a tech industry senior marketing executive focusing on investing and advising early and mid-stage companies; and entrepreneurs Suzanne Batlle, founder and owner, Azucar Ice Cream Company; Marilu Rios Kernan, co-founder and president, Pepe Loves Books, working on her fifth startup; and Amanda Pizarro, co-owner, The Salty Donut. 

That more than 100 women attended the lunch at United Way's headquarters in Miami suggests that women are beginning to become visible in the technology ecosystem. Not everyone will start a company and not all of the attendees were business owners. However, they listened and applauded as the entrepreneurs shared experiences, some difficult, all of them instructive. 

As president of the Miami chapter of the National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO), I came to luncheon to see if I could find new members. Too many women in business go it alone and prefer to follow the hidden path in the woods rather than the broad avenue in the sun. I believe in exposure with all the risks that can entail. Certainly the panelists had taken and were continuing to take risks. I hope their example will inspire at least some of those 100 women to launch a business; grow their business; or invest in someone else's business - all good ways to make women count in the technology ecosystem.

Alma Kadragic is president of Alcat Communications International and president of the Miami chapter of the National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO). Follow here on Twitter @almakad.

 

September 08, 2016

Meet WIN Lab Miami's first accelerator class; 8-month program begins this fall

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By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

Fashion, food and beverage, sports, travel and hospitality, education, media, music, healthcare, technology. Women-led startups in all of these industries will be part of the first class of the WIN Lab entrepreneurship accelerator.

FarraWIN (Women Innovating Now) Lab, an eight-month early-stage accelerator program developed at Babson, announced Thursday the 24 entrepreneurs from 21 companies that will take part in the first Miami program, with $800,000 in funding from the Knight Foundation. Nelly Farra, director of WIN Lab Miami (pictured here),  said 183 entrepreneurs applied, 80 of them went through second-round interviews, and 40 pitched to a panel of entrepreneurs for the final selections.

"All the women who were accepted into WIN Lab truly are thinking big about their businesses and really are these women I feel will be the next generation of women CEOs," said Farra, adding that nearly all of the businesses have an MVP (minimal viable product) and some market traction  and most already  are generating some revenue.  

WIN Lab will kicks off at the end of this month with a retreat, and then the women will meet weekly on Tuesday evenings to learn about finance, growth planning, pitching, leadership and technology.  "What we will be focusing on is growth -- positioning their companies to scale as they build the foundations of their businesses," Farra said.

Each WINner, as the participants are called, will have a coach. Some include Cecile Alper-Leroux, Vice President of Innovation at Ultimate Software, Yamile Elias, Director of Business Innovation & Global Marketing for PepsiCo; Pamela Fuertes, Vice President of International Economic Development Programs for The Beacon Council; Julie Greiner, former Chief Corporate Officer of Macy's; and Teresa Weintraub, Managing Director at Merrill Lynch. Akerman will be sponsoring the 2016 program and providing legal education and support to the WINners.

The next WIN LAB public event will be a WIN Lab demo night on Oct. 27 at Venture Cafe, and there will be public WIN LAb  events monthly.

WIN Lab was born in the Boston area, Babson's home, in the fall of 2013. Miami is the organization's first expansion city.

Heatherjean MacNeil, co-founder and global director of WIN Lab who manages both the Boston and Miami programs, was impressed by the  high-quality applications from Miami. "Many of the applicants demonstrated high-growth potential that are eager to scale. This is very much reflected in Miami's inaugural WINners. Since the Lab in Boston focuses on the Babson student population, [Boston's] WINners are entrepreneurs that are both at the ideation and beta stage. Miami's WINners are post-proof of concept and positioned to grow."

MacNeil said the WIN Lab experience will be primarily the same in both  locations, but because of the support of the Knight Foundation, Miami's WINners also have access to CIC Miami's 24-hour co-working space in a dedicated WIN Lab area. There may be  virtual platforms to host a series of speed-networking events between both Labs  to further leverage the power of the WIN network, she said. "We look forward to raising the profile of these innovative, women leaders in Miami and beyond."

Here are the companies and the entrepreneurs who will be participating in the first group from Miami, announced at a community event  at Venture Cafe at CIC Miami Thursday night (WINners were introduced and gave their rocket pitches, pictured above).  Company descriptions provided by the entrepreneurs are provided below.

AASO: Luisa Santos

AASO believes that people want and deserve the ability to quickly make the freshest, highest-quality ice cream possible in the comfort of their home. Currently, the fastest option to make ice cream at home requires chilling a bowl in the freezer for a few hours then actively freezing for 25 minutes and delivers sub-par results. AASO enables its customers to make a serving of ice cream in less than five minutes using technology.

ALPHATECHBLOCKS: Marilu Rios Kernan

AlphaTechBlocks are traditional looking alphabet blocks that interact with our mobile apps, creating playful learning experiences for toddlers and preschoolers.

APOLLONIX: Terri-Ann Brown & Jessica Shin

Apollonix is an online exchange where dentists and dental laboratories can easily facilitate dental prosthetics transactions.

BAMMIES: Rosario Chozas & Julia Ford-Carther

Bammies is a fashion line that stands for business + jammies and is changing the way women get dressed. Bammies offers two capsule collections each year focused on minimizing morning decision fatigue as well as helping women use fashion to feel comfortable in their own skin.

BARRIO: Romina Ruiz-Goiriena

Not a network. Not an outlet. Not conforming to how you define Latino. We reach and breathe digitally—creating a Barrio of media properties.

ENDLESSLY ORGANIC: Stefani Paulinelli

Endlessly Organic is an organic buying club. Endlessly Organic sources the best farm fresh organic produce and delivers it to your home, neighborhood or workplace at a significant discount. Endlessly Organic's mission is to provide high-quality farm fresh organic produce to its members at a discount.

JAIMIE NICOLE: Jamie Nicole Shepard

JAIMIE NICOLE’s mission is to create innovative pieces of art in jewelry, by blending distinctive designs with absolute authenticity. It exists to provide its customers with a perfect mix of everyday luxury and simplicity through premium materials and product of unique elegance. Its products are thought and crafted to exceed its customers’ expectations.

LEMON CITY TEA: Gail Hamilton

Lemon City is founded and operated by first-generation American women, and strives to offer high-quality, ethically-sourced teas inspired by the crazy, complex, diverse, and exciting city we call home: Miami. Lemon City develops and curates its Miami-inspired teas with Latin American, Caribbean and South Floridian flavors in mind. From a complex summery mate, to a mango enhanced black iced tea and our soon-to-be-released signature Cafeci-té, our products proudly showcase this city's robust culture, vibe and energy.

MUNDO LANUGO: Carla Curiel

Mundo Lanugo is a children's entertainment property that helps connect kids to universal values through the lens of the Hispanic culture, and promotes the Spanish language.

PALMPRESS: Jessica Do

Palmpress is a personal craft coffee press for hot and cold brew. Superb coffee, brewed by you.

PIERCE PLAN: Kelly Pierce

The Pierce Plan is the only Learning Management System (LMS) that automates a cumbersome process to ensure high school student-athletes are academically eligible per NCAA to play in college and academically prepared to compete in the classroom.

QUVEL: Katherine Clase

Quvel is an innovative limited edition casual footwear brand that allows customers to enjoy unprecedented degrees of customization and personalization at an unmatched value in the industry. Each shoe is made to order, carefully handcrafted and delivered at record speeds.

ROOMS2NIGHT: Anemone Hartmann

Rooms2night brings hotel e-commerce to independent and local hotels in rural areas of Latin America where good internet connection is not available. Rooms2night's software allows these hotels to gain access to a new market.

SCHOOL CLIMATE SOLUTIONS: Maribel Gonzalez

School Climate Solutions (SCS) is the premier online solution for 1st to 12th grade student success related to student safety, social emotional skills, and mental health. SCS provides online educational material that helps schools and districts implement and grow successful schoolwide programs that emphasize whole child development and positive school cultures.

STOW SIMPLE: Silvia Camps

Stow Simple is an on-demand storage company designed to eliminate the hassles of traditional self-storage. Developed with the customer in mind, Stow Simple will pick up, photo-catalog and store items in a fully climate controlled facility, which can be delivered back to the customer with the click of a button. Offering easy online scheduling, clients can see and access their belongings without ever having to visit a storage facility. [Stow Simple was also a 2015 Miami Herald Business Plan Challenge winner.}

TAPTL: Mary Wolff

taptl is the world’s first company to invent, manufacture and sell customizable transparent touch-screens. Our displays can be used as windows, kiosks, directories, “TVs,” or computers for personal or business use.

THINK LIQUOR: Jamie Futscher

Think Liquor is redefining the traditional liquor store and becoming the #1 place to purchase alcohol. Bringing modern technology and premium customer service to the liquor industry. Removing the complexity and making it as easy to purchase wine & liquor online as it is for any other product.

UNA PIZCA: Andreina Morales & Ana Schloeter

Una Pizca is creating the most trusted cooking site in Latin America, offering curated recipes and cooking tips that are tested for quality and ease of use. At Una Pizca, we are bringing our love of food to every corner of Latin America, by breaking down regional language barriers.

UX GOFER: Jacqueline Stetson Pastore

UX Gofer is a web and mobile app that makes User Experience Research easier, faster, and more accessible.

ZUKE MUSIC: Arielle Cohen

Zuke Music is a networking and project management tool for music industry professionals with the ultimate goal of enabling better music discovery,collaboration, and promotion.

ZULUBOTS: Elizabeth De Zulueta

Zulubots is a consumer robotics company that focuses on the design and fabrication of assistive robots for the home.

"I am truly honored to be the director of this program  and very very excited to be be working with the caliber of the women that are in the program this year," said Farra. "This will be an exciting year for WIN Lab and an exciting year for Miami too."

Read more about the launch of WIN Lab Miami here and here.

Follow Nancy on Twitter @ndahlberg.

August 15, 2016

Q&A with Loren Ridenger: Changing the face of beauty

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By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

Loren Ridinger has been changing the face of the beauty business as well as internet shopping for more than 20 years, and the entrepreneur and senior executive has no plans to slow down. “It’s not in my blood,” she says.

With humble beginnings working out of their rental home’s garage at the time, she and her husband, JR, co-founded internet retailing giant Market America in 1992, in Greensboro, North Carolina, where the company is still headquartered. Earlier this month, the company held one of its twice yearly empowerment conferences there, hosting 25,000 people, and she gave the opening speech. Today, the Ridingers live in Miami Beach, and each February, the Market America World Conference takes over AmericanAirlines Arena in Miami, bringing about 25,000 people to town.

Market America | Shop.com has generated more than $5.5 billion in accumulated retail sales and individuals have earned more than $2.9 billion in commissions and retail profits, the company said. In addition to the U.S., the company operates in Canada, Mexico, Australia, Hong Kong, Taiwan, the United Kingdom, Singapore, Mexico and Spain.

Ridinger also founded the award-winning cosmetics line Motives, her first line. She also created the solution-oriented personal care line Fixx and the jewelry collection Loren Jewels. Her daughter Amber is also an entrepreneur, having created DNA Miracles, a line of body and wellness products designed for babies, children and expectant mothers. Loren speaks about entrepreneurship regularly and has mentored young entrepreneurs. Last year, she partnered with Miami Beach startup Flat Out of Heels to create a line of shoes for the young fashion company.

Active on social media, Ridinger blogs regularly on www.LorensWorld.com, named one of Forbes’ Top 100 websites for women, and her fashion blog, www.MyFashionCents.com, often speaking about inspiration and women’s empowerment. “I use my voice wherever I can to make a difference,” she says. “The message cannot be heard enough. Sometimes thousands of people have to read for one of them to get it, but if one of them gets it, that’s all that matters, right?”

Loren Ridinger, senior executive vice president of Market America, serial entrepreneur, fashionista, mentor, mom and grandmother with a third grandchild on the way, surrounds herself with successful people and those who want to be. She calls Jennifer Lopez and Eva Longoria good friends. Still, Ridinger is a self-described private person, who puts socializing at the bottom of her priority list as she manages her many ventures and adventures.

She took time out this month to share her views about Market America, entrepreneurship, what’s next and the importance of knowing your “why.” Here are excerpts of that conversation.

Continue reading "Q&A with Loren Ridenger: Changing the face of beauty" »

August 10, 2016

50 participate in Ironhack's inaugural We/Code: Women's Weekend

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Photographer: Mary Beth Koeth (http://www.mbkoeth.com/)

By Greyceli Marin

Ironhack2Ironhack coding school, an intensive web development and UX/UI design bootcamp, hosted its first multi-day coding workshop for women only, We/Code: Women’s Weekend. It was dedicated to teaching the fundamentals of front-end web development, guiding the attendees through building their own personal web pages from scratch.

To participate, women had to submit written applications answering the question, How will knowing the fundamentals of web development improve your professional profile? After reviewing over 130 applicants, 50 were carefully selected to attend free of charge. The lectures were helmed by Ironhack’s Head of Product, who also built the curriculum for the school’s new Front-End Web Development bootcamp.

On Saturday morning, 50 enthusiastic women made their way to Ironhack Miami’s campus inside Building.co, a collaborative workspace in Brickell where they were greeted by complimentary breakfast. Day 1 began with an introduction to HTML and CSS, their syntax and how the languages worked together on a website. Everyone was asked to download a text editor they would use to build their sites, and then went straight to coding.

The instructor coded along with the class, with his laptop connected to the big projector in front of the room. As the group built, seven assistants, ladies who were either Ironhack alumni or current students in the front-end course, were available throughout the weekend to help out.

Most of the women participating had never touched a line of code before and most of them came from non-technical backgrounds. There were entrepreneurs, project managers, designers, marketers, educators and even a 14-year-old about to enter her freshman year of high school. They all successfully built customized resume web pages using HTML and CSS.

Day 2 concluded with finishing touches on the web pages and three workshops led by industry leaders. The workshops were 30 minute presentations on how having basic coding knowledge helped them succeed in their non-technical roles, with a Q&A session at the end. Speakers included Linda Koritkoski, director of marketing at STRAAT, where her HTML and CSS competency comes in handy when prototyping, building SEO and communicating with her developer team; Alexandra Floresmeyer, lead designer at Liveanswer who works closely with web developers and says that understanding web languages helps her create more feasible designs; and Marsha Belinson, managing director at JBCConnect (and a participant in the event) who gave best practices on recruiting, interviewing and working with developers.

The weekend was a direct successor of its namesake, We/Code, Europe’s largest intro-to-coding event launched by Ironhack’s Spain Campuses in collaboration with Google for Entrepreneurs’ Campus Madrid. For more information about Ironhack and future events, visit https://www.ironhack.com/en.

June 08, 2016

In building an innovation economy in Miami, look to the arts for proven model of success

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By Olga Granda-Scott

OlgaAs an early adopter of many early initiatives in Miami’s startup scene, I’ve enjoyed several years of conversations surrounding the hows and whys of investing in a technology-enabled entrepreneurial ecosystem.

Most recently, I turned my focus to the intersection of that entrepreneurial community and the arts. What I’ve observed are the essential building blocks the arts industry has employed in creating a community which now boasts a monumental economic impact while establishing a global brand.

I believe Miami’s arts scene is a true case study for the “innovation economy.” Here’s why:

P3s. Before it was a trendy acronym, private-public partnerships were laying the groundwork for the creative powerhouse that is Miami today. From the contribution of public lands to cultural organizations to cemented affiliations with public institutions of higher education (The Wolfsonian-FIU, MDC’s Miami International Film Festival, etc), these partnerships have given each side of the relationship opportunities to maximize their scalability and impact. These are cases in which the sum is exponentially greater than the parts.

Training. To name a few, a single decade saw the creation of: the New World Symphony, New World School of the Arts, Miami City Ballet, Design and Architecture High School, YoungArts, ArtCenter South Florida, Miami Light Project, Bakehouse Art Complex, and the Rhythm Foundation.

All of these institutions, some public, some private, were founded with aspirations to achieve artistic excellence at national and international levels and have sought to develop artists and audiences, from children thru post-graduates. Alumni are now making strides at home and abroad, pointing to Miami as their seminal reference.

Financial resources. From government grant programs to private foundations, aspiring artists and potential founders know there are annual funding opportunities from a few hundred dollars into the millions. Locally, the County’s Department of Cultural Affairs, the Knight Foundation, and the Miami Foundation are exemplary entities who have led this charge with boundless ambition and sustainable results.

Want $1,000 to try out a quirky idea? Apply for a micro-grant from the Awesome Foundation. Need $5,000 to host a choreographic festival? Solicit for a grant from the Funding Arts Network. Dream of $250,000 to launch a seaside artists’ residency? Pitch 150 words during the Knight Arts Challenge.

Everyone has a place to start exploring and seek the financial resources to get off the ground -- and know those public and private supporters will be there for continued capitalization if a successful product and experience is being delivered.  Much of that funding doesn’t come with strings attached, permitting a level of self-driven independent creativity that is equally essential for success.

Millions of dollars have been pumped into the local arts industry establishing schools, residencies, companies, work spaces, museums and cultural facilities -- all because the arts transform communities. The arts transform neighborhoods. The arts transform lives.

Now read that paragraph again, replacing the word “arts” with the word “technology.”

If we want to have global stature in technology as we do in the arts, we already have a proven model for success.

Olga Granda-Scott is a Cuban-American entrepreneur, raised in Miami. Olga co-founded TheHighBoy.com, an online marketplace for antiques and art to help other mom-and-pop shop owners compete in the digital world. After having secured a 7-figure investment round and winning the Miami Herald's Business Plan Challenge in 2015, Olga chose to pursue a new venture aimed at combining her experience in the arts and business with her passion for social impact. A believer in public-private partnerships, she is currently the Executive Director of the Coconut Grove Playhouse Foundation, whose mission is to expedite the restoration of the historic site as a world-class cultural and civic anchor. Follow her on Twitter @GrandaScott.

June 05, 2016

Q&A with EcoTech Visions’ Pandwe Gibson: Going green from ground up

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EcoTech Visions team, from left: Tamara Wendt, director of sales and manufacturing, Pandwe Gibson, CEO, executive director and Justin Knight, director of marketing, at their new facility, 670 NW 113th St. in Miami, for green manufacturing companies that is still under construction. PEDRO PORTAL 

 

When Pandwe Gibson set out to build EcoTech Visions, an incubator for green manufacturing businesses, she had no team, no funding and no space. Three years ago it was only a big vision that lived on her iPad, which she shared with anyone she could get to listen.

What was the vision? EcoTech would help “ecopreneurs” in its incubator launch and grow, including connecting them with grants and other resources. EcoTech would also hold programming such as coding courses, green internship programs and fellowships to help prepare the workforce in underserved communities to transition from blue collar to “green collar” jobs.

Gibson wasted no time bringing her big idea to life.

By the end of 2014, and after knocking on many doors and winning initial Miami-Dade County and Community Redevelopment Agency funding, Gibson moved EcoTech into its first location, a small space west of Interstate 95 with communal office space and a community garden, and with a handful of incubator companies she had already begun working with. Although the building had no space for manufacturing, a key goal of Gibson’s, it served as a minimal viable product. A few months later, EcoTech secured some additional office and classroom space in another Liberty City building, which allowed the company to expand its programming. The EcoTech team began forming, and EcoTech began attracting more green companies.

Last month, EcoTech Visions began partially moving into its new Miami headquarters space it leased to own at 670 NW 113th St., in the newly designated “green corridor.” Upon buildout, plans call for the building to provide 24,000 to 25,000 square feet of multilevel co-working space, offices, event space, maker space and manufacturing facilities. EcoTech will also use its Liberty City space during buildout.

Today, 26 companies are members of EcoTech (ecotechvisions.com), and the EcoTech team now numbers seven.

EcoTech Visions recently announced the launch of Digital Citizen, a technology boot camp that aims to provide real-world technology programs and entrepreneurship training to local underserved communities, funded by $200,000 from the Knight Foundation. The first cohort will begin June 20 and will run for eight weeks in the evenings at D.A. Dorsey Technical College in Liberty City. Applications for the boot camp are being accepted at etvfoundation.org/digitalcitizen.

“This program is desperately needed not only to fill the tech staffing gap but also to combat the economic hardships and growing income gap in inner-city Miami,” Gibson, CEO "of EcoTech, said in announcing the launch and funding. “We all succeed when the best and most diverse solutions are brought to the table.”

Since its founding, EcoTech has created 15 new jobs and more than 300 students graduated from EcoTech Visions workshops and certification programs, Gibson said. It has secured $10,000 start"up prototyping grants for nine incubator companies and assisted in securing seed loans for three of its ecopreneurs, Gibson said. It was named 2016 Entrepreneur of the Year by the Beacon Council, among other honors.

By the end of the year, Gibson hopes to see buildout of its headquarters get under way and be completed in one year. Plans include an urban vertical garden across the entire front of the warehouse-style building, space for creating prototypes and light manufacturing as well as co-working and a rooftop cafe.

Appropriately, the building is planned to be entirely powered by solar energy.

“Our goal is to have a net-zero-energy building,” said Tamara Wendt, EcoTech’s director of sales and manufacturing, explaining that there is currently only one other much smaller net-zero building in Miami. “Presently, we have on-site office space and will be holding events here. We expect to have our injection-molding equipment installed by early July and will move into production, warehousing and fulfillment.”

The Miami Herald toured the new EcoTech location last month and sat down with Pandwe Gibson to discuss EcoTech Visions and what’s ahead for the company.

Q: What’s your mission for EcoTech?

A: Our mission is to create opportunities for businesses to grow and to bring green manufacturing jobs to Miami.

Q: What does success look like to you?

A: In the next two years, to have at least five breakout companies. That sounds very ambitious, doesn’t it? But we already have some companies pursuing multimillion-dollar contracts, and when we start seeing the production actually occurring from here, that is very exciting.

The first year [in this building], we will be in massive construction, but we are starting with injection molding and I think we can make a lot of progress in the beginning with that one vertical. We provide the equipment, and there are a lot of businesses that have different molds and prototypes we can help. We plan to have two different machines.

Q: How are you funding all this?

A: We have private funding and public funding. We just completed a seed round of half a million dollars. We have public funding from Miami-Dade County and the CRA totaling about half a million and are pursuing more grants from the county. We recently found out we received a grant from the Knight Foundation. It’s a combination.

Q: Is EcoTech a for-profit or a nonprofit?

A: We have two arms. The for-profit is the maker space, the physical space that you are in, and the services associated with the production equipment. … The nonprofit really focuses on helping to facilitate training, the programs we administer.

Some of those programs are coding education boot camps and a green manufacturing internship program. These programs help prepare the community and workforce for careers in green manufacturing.

Q: Tell me about a few of your incubator companies.

A: Geeks Global is an internet services provider and sustainability-focused technology consultant. Darrell Russell and his team help greenify businesses by using technology like LED lighting, windmill-powered Wi-Fi towers and other innovations. Make The Homeless Smile Miami is an organization started and led by powerhouse community activist Valencia Gunder. They transition homeless Miami residents off the streets and into self-sustained lives. HBCNS LLC, run by Dawn Davis, is a distributor of water-based, biodegradable, protective coatings including the nation’s only non-slip coating. It’s main product is called Strong Seal. (All three entrepreneurs are pictured below with Gibson)

Earthware, led by Michael Caballero, is a producer of compostable cutlery, cups and containers for a better world. The company is committed to the restoration and preservation of our planet by replacing landfill-destined products with 100 percent compostable, tree-free products.

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Q: What do you do for member companies?

A: You can do prototyping here, you can have office space here, you can hold events here, you can run your company here, prototyping and distribution — it’s a one-stop shop and it is sorely needed in Miami.

Q: Explain what the “green corridor” designation is and what it can do for the neighborhood where EcoTech is?

A: The Green Corridor was created by proclamation by the Miami-Dade County Commission and stretches along Northwest Seventh Avenue from 79th Street to 119th Street. It is the first green corridor of its kind in the United States created with the purpose of establishing a citywide, countywide, statewide and regional hub of sustainable and environmentally friendly businesses. The Green Corridor and EcoTech Visions promote economic opportunity for the community where they sit and far beyond.

Q: Where do you see EcoTech in five years?

A: In five years, we want to start multiplying. We want to be in other communities, such as Los Angeles. When you look at the two markets, Miami and L.A., there are a lot of similarities. We are already forging relationships there. California is probably the largest green-tech community in the country. Connecting the two will help infuse vitality and innovation into Miami and help move us as a country into a really great space in green technology.

Q: What is your vision for the vertical garden covering the front of the building?

A: Ted Caplow, of CappSci and Miami Science Barge, is designing a game-changing vertical farm based on work by his company, BrightFarms Inc., which creates hydroponic farms for Whole Foods amongst other clients. The vertical farm will be a hydroponic system to grow organic produce inside a glass and screened-in enclosure on the façade of EcoTech Visions’ new building located at 670 NW 113th St. Installation and ongoing maintenance and production will be managed by Urban Green Works working with marginalized resources including women recently exiting incarceration. In addition, an aquaponics system will be incorporated by Fruit of Life Organics, one of our incubator companies, to grow organic fish and produce in one system that recreates the natural water cycle.

Q: There are even plans for a rooftop café?

A: Yes, and we will serve food from our vertical garden.

Q: What’s next for EcoTech?

A: We’re taking applications to fill out our pipeline of companies, educating people on the opportunities in green technology, and educating entrepreneurs on what is available in terms of funding so they can succeed by being clean and green.

Nancy Dahlberg; 305-376-3595; @ndahlberg

Read more entrepreneurship Q&As on this blog by going to the Q&A category.

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from left, EcoTech Visions'  staff Carlos Vazquez, Kenyona Pierre, Marisabel Lavastida, CEO Pandwe Gibson, Tamara Wendt and Justin Knight, at their new facility, 670 NW 113th St. in Miami, under construction. PEDRO PORTAL pportal@miamiherald.com



 

May 05, 2016

FIGS receives $5 million in Series A funding led by Campfire Capital

 

Spear

Tina Spear, co-founder of FIGS, delivers medical apparel as part of its Threads For Threads philanthropic program.

By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

FIGS, a medical apparel startup in South Florida, received $5 million in Series A funding. The round of financing was led by  Campfire Capital, a Vancouver-based venture capital group that funds companies that combine retail and technology in their innovations.

 Founded in 2013 by Heather Hasson and Trina Spear, FIGS identified a need for alternatives to currently available products in the medical scrubs industry, the bulk of which were made up of low-quality, uncomfortable styles. Its fashion-forward designs are antimicrobial, wrinkle resistant and made from lightweight, breathable fabric. FIGS' philanthropic 1-for-1 program, Threads for Threads, has donated 75,000 scrubs to in-need health care professionals across 26 countries. FIGS, an Endeavor company selected out of Miami last year, has operations in South Florida, where Spear is based, and Los Angeles.

FIGS has raised $10 million in funding to date. The new capital will be used to increase inventory to meet demand, explore and expand new product categories, and scale its team. About Campfire Capital, Spear said, “It's been wonderful to align with a group who brings not only capital, but shares an unparalleled breadth of industry expertise and networks.”

FIGS will join Campfire’s growing list of portfolio companies, including Montreal-based menswear retailer Frank & Oak and San Francisco-based food tech startup Juicero.

 Christine Day, partner at Campfire, current CEO of Luvo and ex-CEO of lululemon, said: “In addition to capital, what entrepreneurs really need is access to the broad expertise required to build a successful retail business. We see a tremendous opportunity to leverage Campfire's collective experience and relationships to further brand and scale FIGS to transform this $9 billion unbranded industry.”

Read more: FIGS, SkyPatrol chosen for Endeavor network

Read more: Four healthcare startups in the spotlight

 

April 12, 2016

An Open Challenge to Miami’s “tough-guy" coders

 

By Tim Berthold

Yesterday I read this in the Starting Gate.  

To recap, a UM female student seeking to improve her programming skills showed up to a “hackathon” and experienced what she felt was degrading behavior from her male teammates.  According to the article, other female students have experienced similar behavior at other events. 

Some might call it mild sexism.  It might not be rampant, but it seems to show up enough to be an issue.

Either way, it ticked me off.  Here are three reasons why:

Reason #1: Miami is young.  We have an opportunity to create the kind of tech ecosystem that we want, one that differs from Silicon Valley where gender and racial biases permeate the startup culture.  Not convinced it’s real?  Listen to this episode of the Startup Podcast.    

Reason #2:  I come from the military.  A very male-dominated part of the military.  And I’m proud to see the military I left over ten years ago become the inclusive organization it is today.  It didn’t get that way by belittling women, minorities, or anyone else.  I want no part of an ecosystem that condones such behavior toward anyone.  Thankfully, these adolescent-minded coders don’t reflect the entire community.

Reason #3: The behavior described is indicative of a culture that values status over learning.  “I’m good at coding” instead of “How can I become a better coder?”  Those who have this attitude will fail.  If too many people in Miami have this attitude then Miami will fail.  Growth only comes through the willingness to put oneself out there, show up, and try to get 1% better everyday . . . regardless of the outcome and regardless of who’s watching (reference Carol Dweck’s oft-cited book Mindset).

On that note, let’s get real . . . real quick.  Knowing how to code doesn’t make you tough.  Doing what this girl did makes you tough. 

She heard about an event she knew would be male-dominated and was probably scared to put her skills on display in front of better coders.  But she showed up anyway.  

For the women out there reading, I hope you continue to “show up.”  It won’t be the last time this kind of behavior happens.  It's also one of the “tamer” stories out there that makes no mention of the elephant in the room - social and sexual inappropriateness (or awkwardness, given we’re talking about coders).

For the coding boys - I think you’re just being “boys” and probably did not intend to cause harm by your comments and behavior.  This girl seems tough enough to get past it, but what harm have you done to the Miami ecosystem that can benefit from the skills, perspective, and hustle of female coders? 

Beyond inclusion I think the biggest lesson is one you already know - that growth takes risk . . . the same risk you've already faced in your coding career. Was there ever a point when you were afraid to take up coding?  Afraid to show your work to someone, thinking it might not be any good?  If you call yourself a “coder,” then chances are you did - then you faced that resistance and pushed past it.

Maybe it’s time to revisit that moment.  Here are some ideas for doing so:

Challenge #1: Pitch your business idea or your coding skills in front of an audience of at least 20 people who you don’t know.  Then put it on YouTube.  Brave graduates of Wyncode and Iron Hack do it every few months - why can’t you?

Challenge #2: Announce to the world that you are finally going to do something about the “idea for a startup I have.”  Put it on display for everyone to see you possibly fail.  Then show up and make a little progress everyday.  Maybe you fail, maybe you don’t.  The only certainty is you’ll learn.

Challenge #3: Show up to a 6:00 am workout with my military friends and me.  We’ll videotape it.  Perhaps you’ll be humbled, perhaps you’ll impress.  What matters is that you were scared and showed up anyway.  

If you pick #3, I will reciprocate and gladly attend one of your next coding sessions where you can run Ruby circles around me while playing “one-two-three-four, I declare thumb war" with your coding buddies.

I know the behavior of these boys doesn’t speak for the whole of the Miami tech community.  And to that community I say keep doing what you’re doing: showing up, making a little progress every day, and helping others around you become better.  Let’s keep up the momentum you’ve worked so hard to build.

Tim Berthold is a Navy veteran, advisor to young & fun companies, and runs the Miami Hustle Series Podcast covering stories of Miami startups & entrepreneurs (Twitter: @miamihustleco)