February 20, 2017

Aminta Ventures launches to support women investors, plans workshop

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By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com 

The numbers say it all. 

Women make up only about 25 percent of angel investors in general, and women received just 29 percent of angel capital sought in 2015.

It gets worse as the checks get bigger. In the venture capital world, less than 5 percent of VCs are women. Only about 3 percent of venture capital goes to companies with female CEOs, and 85 percent of funded companies have no women on the founding teams.

Aminta Ventures, a new South Florida organization aimed at educating and supporting aspiring women investors, wants to attack that gap – at least locally. The big goal: a new wave of female angel investors that will ultimately help to shape a stronger, more diverse ecosystem.

“Given the powerful role that women play in leading a myriad of business, philanthropic, and community efforts in our city, it is a natural extension to think of them playing a strong role in the progress of our entrepreneurship and innovation sector,” said Natalia Martinez-Kalinina, one of the co-founders of Aminta, in a news release. “Currently, we don’t necessarily see much parity reflected in the makeup of our local investor network so our intention is to capacitate and shepherd more women to throw their hat in the ring and join the existing momentum.”

In addition to Martinez-Kalinina, the Aminta Ventures team includes Deborah Johnson, Mary Anderson, Carolina Canida, Rosario Chozas, Julia Ford-Carther,  Nelly M. Farra and Alia Mahmoud. For their first educational event, Aminta has teamed up with Startup Angels to bring an angel investing workshop to the Cambridge Innovation Center in Miami on Feb. 28 and March 1. 

The Startup Angels Workshop will provide education, strategies and tools for startup investing to investors at all levels, whether someone is writing their first $1,000 check to a crowdfunding platform or a $1 million check to a VC fund. “Miami is poised to expand its pool of investors by breaking down barriers for more women to participate,” said Leslie Jump, founder and CEO of Startup Angels.

After the workshop, the Aminta team plans to expand efforts to develop a support network for mentorship and guidance for angel investors and female-founded startups. This is not a fund, but rather a resource to help them navigate and plug into the existing ecosystem, Martinez-Kalinina said. They plan to partner with existing angel groups and investor networks in the city and the state in ongoing programming efforts, including a second workshop this year.

Speaking at the investing workshop include: Loretta McCarthy of Golden Seeds; Jaclyn Baumgarten of Boatsetter; Pandwe Gibson of EcoTech Visions; Melissa Krinzman of Krillion Ventures; Mary Anderson of GlamST; Brian Garr of Cognitive Code; and Joy Randels of New Market Accelerator. 

To learn more and buy tickets for the upcoming Startup Angels workshop, visit the event registration page at StartupAngels.com

February 15, 2017

One year later: Miami-based MealPal raises $15M, expands internationally

Katie and Mary

By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

5.5-inch (iPhone 6+) - Screenshot 1One year ago, Mary Biggins launched MealPal, a subscription restaurant lunch service, in the Brickell area of Miami, and quickly expanded to Boston, New York and four other U.S. cities. On Wednesday, Biggins announced the startup is jumping across the pond to London, its first international expansion, and it has raised $15 million in venture capital to fund its growth.

The Series A financing round was led by Comcast Ventures, the venture capital affiliate of Comcast Corp., with participation from Bessemer Venture Partners, Haystack Partners, NextView Ventures and Miami-based Krillion Ventures, said Biggins, who co-founded the Miami-based company with Katie Ghelli (both are pictured above).

“MealPal has built an exciting business in the huge, but overlooked meal takeout space, using technology to create a win-win for consumers and restaurants,” said Daniel Gulati of Comcast Ventures, in a statement. “Their early traction has been outstanding.”

In the markets it serves, Miami-based MealPal offers hundreds of affordable and curated local restaurant lunch options to its members near where they work or live for a flat, monthly fee. Every weekday, members can browse the curated list of offerings on MealPal’s website or app and pre-order the night before or in the morning and then skip the takeout line. For restaurants, it can increase revenue and exposure. In London, it launched with 125 restaurants.

With London, the tech-enabled subscription meal service is now in eight cities, including San Francisco, Washington DC, Chicago and Philadelphia. The service has facilitated more than 1 million reservations for lunch – doubling its total in the last four months – and has thousands of restaurants on the platform, said Biggins, who previously co-founded ClassPass, which offers fitness classes by subscription.

In September, the company rebranded from MealPass to MealPal and introduced “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 then.

Now? “We’ve captured preference data for hundreds of thousands of meals at this point with Pal,” Biggins said on Wednesday.

MealPal has about 45 employees, most of them in its biggest market, New York. Although Biggins travels a great deal between all MealPal locations, she and her Miami team are based at Building.co. Krillion Ventures also participated in MealPal’s seed funding round.

Follow @ndahlberg on Twitter.

READ MORE:

MealPass rebrands as MealPal, unveils ‘Pal’ feature, launches in Chicago, Washington, DC

Tech Talk: From ClassPass to MealPass, the Big Apple to the Magic City

 

February 09, 2017

WIN Lab Miami gets new director: Meet Carolina Pina

By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

CarolinaPinaWIN Lab Miami, an accelerator program for women entrepreneurs created and run by Babson College, has named a director.

Carolina Pina, an entrepreneur, advisor and philanthropist, will take over as director of the Miami program that is already in progress. Most recently she was the director of Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management. “I look forward to working with Babson College and the entire WIN Lab team to make an impact on Miami’s entrepreneurial ecosystem,” Pina said in the announcement.

WIN (Women Innovating Now) Lab was originally launched by Massachusetts-based Babson College in 2013, and expanded to Miami in 2016, with $800,000 in support from the Knight Foundation. The first cohort in the eight-month program started in the fall of 2016 and finishes this spring; another cohort will follow next fall. Entrepreneurs in the program can come from any industry. The first cohort includes startups focused on tech, food, fashion, e-commerce, shipping and other areas.

[READ MORE: Meet WIN Lab’s first accelerator class]

In addition to her Kellog School position, Pina founded Ignitus, a consulting practice that helps organizations implement social impact initiatives. Her most recent accomplishment was leading the RiseUp AS ONE concert in San Diego for Fusion Media Group. She has also held leadership roles with the New World Symphony, the Miami Film Festival, and the Lung Transplant Foundation.

Originally from Venezuela, Pina holds a bachelor’s degree in Industrial and Systems Engineering from Florida International University, an MBA from Rice University’s Jesse H. Jones Graduate School of Management, and Executive Scholars in Leadership and Management from Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management.

“Carolina brings both great managerial talent and passion for women’s entrepreneurship to this role,” said Babson WIN Lab Global Director Heatherjean MacNeil. “She has a strong vision for WIN Lab Miami and is dedicated to building an ecosystem where women founders thrive.”

January 12, 2017

Court Buddy racks up award and spot at ABA's Startup Alley

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Miami startup Court Buddy was named the winner of the 2017 American Bar Association’s BROWN SELECT award for Legal Access on Jan. 10. Roughly 6,000 people across the country voted to determine the winner.
 
To win the award, voters chose Court Buddy over 35 other nominees. Each had to meet certain criteria, which, according to the ABA’s website, included the ability to create significant improvement of the delivery of legal services and information for people of moderate income means, innovation in the development, funding or implementation of the delivery of legal services, the ability to replicate the system in other settings, and demonstrated success in the operation of the system.
 
Since 1995, the ABA’s Louis M. Brown Award has been presented annually to companies that advance access to legal services for those of moderate incomes in ways that are exemplary and replicable, according to the ABA’s website.

“This is a testament to the faith that the public has in the positive impact that we are making with this system,” said Court Buddy President Kristina Jones. “At the end of the day, creating and implementing the latest technology to help improve the lives of others is what we are really focused on.”

Court Buddy, run by co-founder couple James and Kristina Jones (pictured above), will receive the BROWN SELECT award at the ABA's midyear meeting on Feb. 4 in Miami.

Initially launched in South Florida in January 2015, Court Buddy's  platform has grown to match 10,000 consumers and small businesses with attorneys across the country, helping clients save money on legal fees by avoiding paying high retainers and hourly fees that traditional law firms charge while also helping thousands of attorneys grow their law firms.

Court Buddy, winner of the Miami Herald Business Plan Challenge People’s Pick in 2015, was also selected to participate in the American Bar Association's inaugural 2017 Inaugural Startup Alley in Chicago. “I'm sure this is going to be the first of many ABA Techshows for Court Buddy in the years to come,” said Suzie Smith, ABA’s Vice President of Sales.

The Court Buddy team will travel to Chicago to participate in the event in March 2017.

December 30, 2016

SBA's 3rd InnovateHER competition launches: Will a South Florida company win again?

Will South Florida produce another winner in the national InnovateHER competition?

The U.S. Small Business Administration today announced the launch of the 2017 InnovateHER: Innovating for Women Business Challenge, a nationwide business competition to drive attention and resources to innovative products and services that make our lives easier and longer.  Competitors vie for $70,000 in prize money provided to SBA for the InnovateHER competition through a gift from the Sara Blakely Foundation.

“The return of SBA’s InnovateHER Business Challenge presents an exciting opportunity for some of our nation’s foremost entrepreneurs and innovators,” said SBA Administrator Maria Contreras-Sweet.  “Women represent half of the U.S. workforce and control 80 percent of the nation’s purchasing power, but still make up less than five percent of venture capitalists. I decided to launch this annual competition two years ago so that we could begin to address that opportunity gap, because when women have an equal role in the marketplace and are able to chart their own paths, our nation as a whole is stronger and more globally competitive.”

The South Florida District is home to the 2nd place winners of the agency’s 2015 and 2016 InnovateHER Business Challenges.

“In 2016, Miami Beach-based “Flat out of Heels” owner Dawn Dickson took a need to provide a comfortable, yet fashionable alternative for women who wear high heels on a daily basis, and produced rollable ballet flats as a stylish alternative,” said SBA South Florida District Director Francisco “Pancho” Marrero. “Lisa Crites, inventor of the only water-resistant mastectomy garment on the U.S. market and owner of the Shower Shirt Company in Cocoa Beach was 2nd place winner in 2015.  Women and families across the country will benefit from these inventions."

The number of women venture capital partners has dropped from 10 percent in 1999 to just six percent in 2014, a trend directly correlated to women’s access to capital; only about seven percent of venture capital funding in the United States currently goes to women-owned ventures. Gender bias is well documented in this area: a Harvard Business School study asked potential investors to rate a series of pitches, some of which were narrated by women and some by men. Even when the scripts were exactly the same, only 32 percent of people said they would fund the woman, compared to 68 percent who said they would fund the man.

InnovateHER: Innovating for Women Business Challenge officially kicks off in winter of 2017 with local competitions to be hosted by universities, accelerators, clusters, scale-up communities, SBA resource partners, and other economic development organizations.  Through the competition, SBA is seeking to amplify products or services that fill a need in the marketplace and have the potential for commercialization.  SBA continues in its efforts to expand the InnovateHER Challenge, focusing on empowering more women in the investment and innovation space.  Additional details on the InnovateHER can be found on the online competition platform www.challenge.gov

Entrepreneurs selected as winners in local competitions will advance to the semi-final round.  From the pool of semi-finalists, SBA will select up to 10 finalists who will be invited to the National InnovateHER: Innovating for Women Business Challenge to be held in mid-2017.  The finalists will pitch their products and ideas to a panel of expert judges and compete for the top three awards along with $70,000 in prizes.

Over the past two decades, women entrepreneurs have been critical to growing businesses and creating jobs in cutting-edge fields such as precision medicine or cybersecurity, as well as through advances in agriculture and manufacturing.  Women across the nation will benefit from investing in research and inventions that impact their experiences.  A lack of inclusion in the innovation space leads to missed opportunities, especially when women make the majority of the buying decisions.  The SBA is encouraging organizations across the country to participate in this important business challenge.

For more information including competition rules, go to www.sba.gov/innovateHER

- Submitted by the SBA

December 13, 2016

Boatsetter reels in $13 million in funding to fuel marketing, operations

By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

Aventura-based peer-to-peer boating marketplace Boatsetter reels in a round of funding in its quest to dominate a young industry. 

BaumgartenBoatsetter announced Tuesday that it has completed $13 million of Series A funding that will help the company aggressively expand its sales and marketing efforts as well as broaden and accelerate its operations in the United States. The investment round includes existing and new investors, including Great Oaks Venture Capital, Stanford University DAPER Fund, ZG Ventures and Peninsula Ventures. 

Last year, competitors Boatsetter, founded by South Florida marine and tech industry veteran Andrew Sturner in 2014, merged with Cruzin, founded by serial entrepreneur Jaclyn Baumgarten in 2012 in San Francisco but already with a large presence in South Florida. Baumgarten (pictured here) became CEO of the combined company and Sturner is executive chairman. Like others in the boat-sharing economy, Boatsetter attempts to make the boat rental experience as seamless as booking a room on Airbnb. But Boatsetter differentiates itself by giving users access to a large network of licensed captains in addition to a global roster of boat rentals for yachting, cruising, fishing or sailing, many through marinas it partners with. 


“We've taken boating from being a rare pastime for a fortunate few boat owners to being a universally accessible lifestyle activity for anyone with a smartphone and a credit card,” said Baumgarten. Boatsetter is expected to host 10,000 high quality rental boats, activate 200 marinas and connect boating enthusiasts to 2,000 captains in 2017, she said.

Andy Boszhardt Jr., partner at Great Oaks Venture Capital, said he has watched for some time Boatsetter's growth in the boat sharing sector. “We're thrilled that its team of marine industry heavyweights and tech startup veterans is making a global push for renters to experience the yacht life, this time from just about anywhere in the world,” he said. “Boatsetter's best-in-class marketplace tool is, without doubt, an outstanding player in the sharing economy.”

Boatsetter raised a $5 million seed round earlier this year and about $2 million before that, according to venture capital database Crunchbase.

November 21, 2016

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

Wyncodefounders

By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

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 wyncode.co.

“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.

Wyncodeclass

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

Wyncodepitch

October 03, 2016

Startup Spotlight: Bammies, for fashion as comfy as your jammies

Jammies2
JammiesCompany name:
Bammies

Headquarters: Miami Beach

Concept: Bammies is a core collection of comfortable-chic fashion staples that elevates comfort and minimizes decision fatigue. With two collections released per year, each Bammies season includes classic, creative styles designed for ease of use, quick and stylish dressing, and comfort.

Website: www.bammies.life

Story: Who wouldn’t want to go to work in clothing as comfortable as her jammies?

Founded by Rosario Chozas and Julia Ford-Carther, the made-in-South Florida brand embodies a fashion solution for busy women. After transitioning from a creative to a corporate environment, Chozas, who has a background in fashion, developed a brand concept that allowed her to dress appropriately, yet comfortably, and without sacrificing style that was authentically her. “People would always say, ‘Rosario you look so comfortable,’ and I would say, ‘These are my business jammies,’ ” Chozas said.

Chozas met Ford-Carther through her former work with eMerge Americas developing its track and events for women, called WIT. Ford-Carther at the time was senior editor of Ocean Drive magazine. They hit it off instantly and decided to partner up on Bammies (business plus jammies). They incorporated Bammies in July 2015 and launched the first collection in January. Over the summer they added plus sizes, by popular request.

The founders say their mission behind Bammies is two-fold: to minimize morning decision fatigue for women who need to quickly and aptly dress for the various appointments they have in a day, and to help women use fashion to feel comfortable in their own skin.

The Bammies line features tank tops, dresses, blazers and pants that are woven from natural fibers and polyester blends, and all of them can be paired and accessorized with items women already have in their closets. The Bammies Collection 02, launched last week, adds new fabrics and colors such as navy, burgundy and grays. Items range from $80 to $170. “It’s the way you’ve always wanted to dress,” said Ford-Carther, who has a background in media and marketing.

The founders are also working on a video series about how to style and accessorize their clothing using color theory. The videos would also generate suggested options for a job interview, a baby shower or a wedding, for instance.

So will men get Bammies, too? “We get so many requests for that, you have no idea,” Chozas said. So stay tuned. …

Launched to market: January 2016

Management team: Co-founders Julia Ford-Carther, CEO, and Rosario Chozas, creative director

Financing: Self-funded and raised $5,000 in friends and family funding and $3,500 through an Indiegogo crowd-funding campaign. Currently not seeking funding.

Recent milestones reached: Launched an extended-size run this summer to become a size-inclusive brand, offering the equivalent of XS to 4X. Accepted into the inaugural class of Babson College’s WIN Lab Miami accelerator program for female founders. Launched Collection 02 on Sept. 26 on www.bammies.life.

Biggest startup challenge: Building and marketing a bootstrapped business that focuses heavily on digital strategy.

Next step: Building a platform for the brand. “We’re taking cues from both personal and consumer brands to create a hybridized approach to platform building,” Ford-Carther said. “Because customers these days have less time … they like to have a one-stop-shop destination. … We’re marketing a lifestyle and we are becoming spokespeople ourselves, not just about our brand but about how to live the Bammies lifestyle.”

Adviser’s view: Rebecca Fishman-Lipsey, founder of Radical Partners and a member of Bammies’ advisory board, was attracted to the passionate, “magnetic” founders and the product itself.

“Their product resonates with so many people. They’ve been extremely lean, they’ve found local ways to grow, and they’ve responded to the voices of their customer base,” Fishman-Lipsey said. “Thousands upon thousands of people are sharing and liking … and the question now is how to translate the love of the brand into massive sales. We’ve learned a lot from seeing how magnetic Julia and Rosario are on camera. People are captivated by them and their story. They’re bringing more of themselves into their brand as a result.”

Nancy Dahlberg: @ndahlberg

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Why Hope Solo is partnering with this startup

 

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.