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

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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

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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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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 14, 2016

Startup Spotlight: Toy inventors believe ‘there’s a hero inside every boy’

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Whimzy Entertainment, a Miami startup, developed HeroBoys, bringing thoughtful, age-appropriate superhero fun to young boys in a line of comics and toys. But what about HeroGirls? They’re coming.

By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

Company name: Whimzy Entertainment (HeroBoys is first product line)

Headquarters: Venture Hive, Miami

Concept: HeroBoys is a line of comics and toys for young boys.

Story: Inspired by their sons, Charlie, 8, and Jamie, 6, and the lack of thoughtful superhero-related content available for young boys, Ed and Crissi Boland (pictured above) created the HeroBoys. The startup’s signature item is an 18-inch plush/plastic hero, and related comic books provide fun superhero stories for kids.

“Boys love superheroes. … But there is not much there for boys under 10 that is thoughtful, developmentally appropriate and not violent. Boys also love comic books, and it is a great tool to promote literacy because it combines words and pictures in such a dynamic way,” said Ed, a former venture capitalist with Scout Ventures.

They developed an early prototype and wrote a comic book for a Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign last fall, raising $58,000 and exceeding their goal. But more importantly, it helped validate the concept.

Two prototypes later and the Bolands have a team of six diverse HeroBoys, each with his own name and personality developed through the comic book stories. “These are designed to encourage children to find their own strengths and become the best version of themselves they can be,” Ed said. “There’s a hero inside every boy.”

The Bolands have sold more than 500 HeroBoy toys, which retail for $65. They have published four comic books ($7.99 each), which come in the mail addressed to the child, just like back in the day. In the comic book stories, the HeroBoys have to learn to work together as a team and bring their abilities to bear when the situation calls for it, because they are living in a city that is being overrun by selfishness and narcissistic behavior.

“All the comics are meant to be teachable moments and encourage the values that we want to encourage in our own children, such as compassion, humility and diligence,” said Crissi, a sales expert who managed a business for 10 years. “It is good, wholesome superhero fun.”

This Saturday at 11 a.m. at Books & Books in Coral Gables, the Bolands will give a community reading at a HeroBoys’ launch party, and the first edition of the comic book in hardcover as well as the HeroBoy toys will be for sale. The products are also available on heroboys.com, Amazon.com and will be appearing on Zulily in the fall, the Bolands said. T-shirts, caps, masks and capes are also for sale, and apps and games are in the plans.

Crissi said that during a series of readings in local schools, the girls often asked, “Where are the HeroGirls?” In 2017, the company will introduce HeroGirls. The Bolands have already started to plant them in the comic books as background characters, and some will soon be joining the team. Every year, some character will graduate and new characters will be introduced.

“It will allow us to go to a lot of places where there hasn’t been a lot of representation of superheros — girls, ethnically diverse characters, superheroes with disabilities,” Ed said. “In the comics, we can travel through time and space and worlds and countries. We can run with our imaginations.”

Launched: October 2015

Management team: Ed and Crissi Boland, co-founders, and Tom Butkiewicz, a manufacturing specialist.

Website: www.heroboys.com

Financing: Self-funded initial R&D; $58,000 raised on Kickstarter; currently closing $150,000 angel round.

Recent milestones reached: Fully launched with initial product line; exhibited at the Atlanta Gift Show; participated in the 2016 Venture Hive Accelerator.

Biggest startup challenge: Creating an end-to-end supply chain for a new product, balancing quality content creation with quality product development, manufacturing and distribution.

Next step: Making HeroBoys a “must have” toy this holiday season. To do this, the startup will focus on evangelizing early adopters, developing supplemental media content such as YouTube videos, and focusing on partnerships, marketing and public relations.

Investor’s view: “I’m the mother of five and have two boys in the target market HeroBoys is designing for. It was an easy decision for me to get involved because I know that there is great demand for an alternative option to Marvel/DC comics action figures that tend to be too violent (PG-13/R ratings) and not educating our children at critical moments in their development,” said Melissa Medina Jiménez, executive vice president of eMerge Americas and HeroBoys’ first investor. “HeroBoys has great potential not only to have a positive impact on our children, but we also believe it has an incredible opportunity to become a market leader in the action figurine and comic book series space by providing significant product differentiation through various revenue streams.”

Follow @ndahlberg on Twitter.

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September 13, 2016

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

United Way Womens Luncheon

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.