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34 posts from July 2013

July 31, 2013

South Florida entrepreneurs trail-blaze under the palm trees

By Megan Tierney

South Florida; a special, eccentric, exciting and multicultural paradise. A land filled with opportunity and for the lucky, a place to call home. Born and raised in the Silicon Valley, I've lived in S. Florida for the past 6 years and have been fortunate to be a part of and witness to the emerging tech scene.

 We've seen Caffeine Spaces open, a co-working center in Boca Raton, offering startups a place to call home while getting their companies off the ground, Venture Hive's accelerator and incubator launching in Miami, The Knight Foundation, Rokk3r Labs and Brad Feld teaming up to bring entrepreneurs and the community together to share ideas and action plans for a tech driven ecosystem. The success of Miami Startup Weekend, Social Media Day and TEDx broadcasts offer an excellent educational and networking opportunity to join like minded entrepreneurs. Organizations and movements such as New Tech Community, Refresh and South Florida Social Media Club bring tech professionals together for comradery and a breeding grounds for original ideas.

 I think Wikipedia's account of South Florida resonates with our growing tech scene, "as with all vernacular regions, South Florida has no official boundaries or status, and is defined differently by different sources. " Recently, "outsiders", meaning anyone living in the US not surrounded by palm trees, year round sunshine and 80 degree weather, have been coming to South Florida to offer advice, investment and guidance as to how we should brand our tech community.

 We welcome outside talent and their brilliant ideas. It's exciting, validating and progressive that such accomplished, well respected individuals have taken notice. We've heard name suggestions to brand our tech scene and personally, I think it's a disservice to Silicon Valley and to South Florida to brand us with anything "Silicon" in the title. Just as the valley is unique to itself, so is South Florida. Give us a chance to stand on our own, become a brand that's original to our area, personalities and culture. Just as sure as the temperature is to climb, given the opportunity, you can bet on us to find our own way to shine.

Megan Tierney is an entrepreneur who is involved in tech and real estate and is currently in the process of writing a  book. She lives in Miami and California.

July 30, 2013

Emphasys Software hosts Makin’ Bacon Hackathon 2

By Matthew Nickerson

MatthewDo you consider yourself a tech savvy person? Do you enjoy prizes? Do you enjoy bacon? If you answered yes to these questions make sure to head over to the Right Space 2 Meet in Coral Gables on August 10th, 2013. This is when and where Emphasys Software will be hosting their second Makin’ Bacon Hackathon.

In a typical hackathon, the hosting company restricts the contestants to only use a selected API. The problem with this is that it is restrictive to the contestants, and sometimes the company will use the projects created by the hackathon and not give credit to the developers. However, the Makin Bacon Hackathon has a much different layout and overall goal.

In the Makin Bacon Hackathon 2, Emphasys will allow the contestants to use any API they choose. “We are hosting the hackathon to give back to the great tech community in the Miami area.” Said Rick Rues, Director of Marketing for Emphasys. “We want to provide an opportunity for the growing tech community in the Miami area to work on their own projects and be creative.”

Continue reading "Emphasys Software hosts Makin’ Bacon Hackathon 2" »

What if collaboration became a differentiating asset of South Florida's tech community?

By James Parrish  and Lenny Chesal

Parrish_HeadShotAny campaign looking to win support of any kind starts with a number of basic questions, such as “Who is our audience?” and “What do we realistically want to get that audience to do?”  One of those basic questions is also: “What differentiators can we offer to energize our audience to get on board and support the initiative?”

As the South Florida Technology Alliance (SFTA) prepares to launch a campaign to promote the growth of South Florida’s tech community, we have paid particular attention to that question.  What is so different about our community that tech start-up entrepreneurs as well as CEOs of established tech companies would want to establish, relocate or expand their operations here?  There are a number of assets we share in common with other regions also seeking to build their tech communities:  a great university system with many schools classified by the Carnegie Foundation as having high research activity, renowned private research institutes,   recognized and growing tech companies, local governments willing to negotiate incentives, etc.  These are great features to highlight, but not so different than other regions to make a compelling and unique argument for our region.  There are also many lifestyle and business environment assets that need to be featured (and will be) that are hard or impossible for other regions to flaunt, such as the great weather and the advantageous tax system here.

Chesal_HeatShotBut there is another asset that doesn’t really exist here yet, and doesn’t exist anywhere else to a great degree either.  It is an asset we can create that can become a true differentiator:  collaboration among and between the tech companies and the entire business community.  Not only is there an opportunity to banner this asset; right now we can take ownership of the culture of regional collaboration and become known as a global role model.  Now that would be a true differentiating asset!

Imagine South Florida’s reputation as a region where a business and its leaders are welcome and encouraged to work with allied enterprises, and even competitors.  Imagine a region where information is shared freely and where networks of relationships are open to all.  Imagine various organizations vigorously pursuing and fighting for their own unique niche agendas while supporting broad agendas such as the ongoing enhancement of the region’s educational system and the promotion of policies to spur innovation and entrepreneurship.  Imagine the growth of a local network of investors who work together to provide the various stages of financial support, from angel to IPO, to power the success of our region’s tech companies.  Imagine the broad business community committing to the concept that a rising tide truly lifts all ships: so law firms realize the growth of the tech community will translate into more M&A business and IPO clients, and restaurants serve more diners with bigger expense accounts, and homebuilders realize the growth of the tech community will also translate to an increase in the number of people with great jobs who can buy the houses they build.  And imagine that commitment goes beyond being just a concept to become the foundation of this campaign.

Continue reading "What if collaboration became a differentiating asset of South Florida's tech community?" »

July 29, 2013

Civic hackers 'have a great power and a great responsibility'

Here is a guest post by Robert Davis, who was recently honored by the White House. Read my earlier post on the honor here. 

By Robert Davis

RobdavisThis past week, I visited Washington D.C. as a White House Champion of Change. Myself and 14 other individuals were honored for our involvement in open government and civic hacking. This small group is a reflection of a much larger movement, and it was unfortunate that only a handful of us were able to participate on the panels. The work being done all over the U.S. and, as I learned, internationally to empower citizens to help their communities is more real than ever before. I was pleased to hear the viewpoints from Greg Fischer, Mayor of Louisville, KY, and the U.S. Chief Technology Officer Todd Park, both praising this movement that I've been lucky enough to participate in for just over a year.

A good chat with fellow community-lovers tackling tough problems always seem to re-energize me. Smart, passionate people sharing new ideas had surely made for some great discussions. Although I did not get the chance to meet our President, I was lucky enough to meet some inspiring leaders who are certainly making their mark. Below are some notes jotted as I was on the way home.

“Sharing is Caring”

First and foremost, the need for communication between working groups from different cities has never been more important. The systems or tools that are created to solve one problem, can usually be mirrored and remixed. For National Day of Civic Hacking, a fellow Miamian and developer ninja Cristina Solana and I, "forked" or copied and repurposed, the legislative tracker used in Minnesota for Florida. You can demo our tracker here, and please share feedback! The code was open, courtesy of the MinnPost and has also been reused in New York state. To reiterate, from one open source code base came three unique and useful programs in three different states. Knowing what other cities, and its citizens, are working on is vital in the effort to work smart and efficiently. Whether it is feeding the hungry or stopping gang violence through mediation, there’s no need to recreate the wheel. Learning from each other is much better than trying to figure it out for ourselves, alone and isolated, so share what you are working on!

Continue reading "Civic hackers 'have a great power and a great responsibility'" »

July 28, 2013

Entrepreneurship datebook

TecheggHere is a small sampling of events happening in the next week.

 • MONETIZING YOUR APP: Learn the tricks and trades of various mobile monetization strategies at a workshop at 6:15 p.m. Monday, July 29, at the new Miami Entrepreneurship Center, 261 NE 1st St., 5th Floor. Details:  http://www.meetup.com/JoinBEE/

•  GEEK GIRL HAPPY HOUR: WITI South Florida Regional Network’s monthly happy hour will be at 6 p.m. Monday, July 29, at three different Morton’s: the Miami, Fort Lauderdale and Boca Raton restaurants. Men are welcome, too! Details:  http://www.witi.com/southflorida/

•  ALL ABOUT IP: Broward SCORE presents a workshop called “Intellectual Property - Patent, Trademarks, & Copyright Law” from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Wednesday, July 31, at Keiser University in Fort Lauderdale. $30 in advance; $40 at door. Details:  http://www.broward.score.org (click on Local Workshops.)     

•  OPEN COFFEE CLUB: Miami’s second Open Coffee Club meetup, hosted by FIU’s Pino Global Entrepreneurship Center and MapYourStartup.co, will be 7:30-9 a.m. Thursday, Aug. 1, at RightSpace2Meet in Coral Gables. One-on-one sessions with mentors Brian Breslin (Refresh Miami), Charles Irizarry (Rokk3r Labs) and Mike Tomas (Bioheart) will be available. Details and to RSVP:  entrepreneurship.fiu.edu

•  BATTLE HACK MEETUPS: Are you a developer with big ideas for our community? To help you prepare for the upcoming PayPal Battle Hack ($100,000 grand prize), learn about the PayPal API and brainstorm ideas, attend one of these two meetups: Wednesday, July 31, 6:30-8:30 p.m. at Nova Southeastern in Davie (details:  battlehack-fll.eventbrite.com), or Thursday, Aug. 1, 5:30-7 p.m., at the Beacon Council in Miami (details:  battlehack-mia.eventbrite.com)

Nancy Dahlberg @ndahlberg   

Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/2013/07/28/3522378/entrepreneurship-datebook.html#storylink=cpy

A bike business was budding... then Google called...


VtBGl_Em_56Avery Pack was in his late 20s and getting scattered media attention for the stylish bikes the Columbia arts graduate was assembling in a 5,000-square-foot workshop in Pompano Beach. One afternoon in 2008, the phone rang. Pack (pictured here) answered and heard the kind of greeting that would make any start-up jealous.

“Hi,” the voice on the other end said, “this is Google.”

The voice belonged to the head of Google’s transportation department, an arm of the tech giant charged with getting employees from one spot to another.

Soon after, Pack’s Republic Bike was selling Google a fleet of two-wheelers painted in the Web giant’s famously bright and basic color scheme. A yellow frame, green-and-blue tires, red fenders.

Google wanted about a thousand of them to make transportation easier at its sprawling campus in Mountain View, Calif. They’re still an integral part of the cushy daily life of Google workers, who can pick up any bike and pedal off to meetings or lunch at one of the campus’ free restaurants and cafes.

“It’s a quite a joyful thing to see,’’ Pack, now 35, said of touring the “Googleplex” and seeing dozens of his bikes at every turn. “It’s a pretty unique environment that they’ve created. A lot of it has to do with all of these multi-colored bicycles zipping around. When you visit, you’re kind of struck immediately with the whimsy of it.”

San Francisco’s Museum of the Computer Age added an early model of the “Gbike” into its permanent collection on Silicon Valley. A newer model played a cameo role in the recent Vince Vaughn movie about middle-aged Google interns.

But while the Google Bike easily qualifies as the most celebrated of Republic’s creations, Pack enjoys sales success throughout the Fortune 500.

From his new 50,000-square-foot distribution center and workshop in Dania Beach, Pack presides over a small team of bike mechanics churning out customized two-wheelers for some of the biggest brands in America. The companies pay a premium to deliver employees stylized bikes clad in their corporate colors, a well-timed perk amid the push for more daily exercise and fuel conservation.


July 26, 2013

PassTheNotes teams with national educational solutions company

Ptn logoPassTheNotes, a Miami-based cloud solution provider that helps teachers and students organize and share content inside and outside the classroom, and Voyager Learning | Sopris Learning, a business unit of publicly traded Cambium Learning Group, a leading educational solutions and services company, announced a partnership.

From desktops to iPads, PassTheNotes unites cloud storage and content management seamlessly in a dynamic, social media-enabled environment that facilitates collaboration, participation and sharing online and offline. Launched in 2011,  PassTheNotes was recognized as a "Top Global Emerging Venture" at the 2011 Americas Venture Capital Conference and was one of the winners of the Miami Herald Business Plan Challenge .

"Teaming up with Voyager Learning | Sopris Learning gives PTN the opportunity to reach teachers and students on a national scale improving our ability to focus on expanding our technology,” said Frankie Coletto, co-founder and CEO of PassTheNotes. “Combining veteran educators and technology developers on our team as well as seeking feedback from teachers and students has enabled us to provide a platform for the digital classroom today. The partnership validates our business model in providing a true cloud-based solution to publishers and districts as the demand continues to increase to provide a complete digital solution in the classroom across the country.”

"We are excited about teaming with PassTheNotes and the opportunity to integrate this revolutionary, cloud-based functionality with our industry-leading portfolio of learning solutions," said George Logue, president of Voyager Learning | Sopris Learning. 


July 24, 2013

LiveNinja wins Startup World: Miami -- on to Silicon Valley for finals

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LiveNinja rocked the pitch and took home the honors at Startup World held at Venture Hive last night. LiveNinja will be competing against 20 other cities  in North and South America, Europe, Asia and Africa later this year in a global Startup World competition for the title and a host of prizes. 

LiveNinja, which targets its solution to the massive problem of the unemployed and under employed, created a platform to help people create jobs instantly for themselves -- fitness instructors, developers, guitar teachers, yoga instructors, fashion experts, etc.  "It's a real time video chat monetization platform in the marketplace. We allow you to sell the skills you have ... and we help you get clients from around the world in real time," pitched CEO and co-founder Will Weinraub.

LiveNinja -- now a team of six in Wynwood -- launched late last year, has raised $500,000 in seed funding, and recently relaunched on a much more advanced platform. LiveNinja now has more than 1,000 experts on its site, is preparing to release an iPhone app and will soon be able to allow experts to host large group sessions and webinars on the site.

LIveNinja Screen Shot 1The judges -- Rob Gonda (SapientNitro), Darius Nevin (G3 Capital Partners), Peter Martinez (Refresh Miami), Andrew Heitner (Alcon Partners), Jason Oshiokpekhai (American Airlines) and Jeff Sass (GapingVoid) -- said the competition was keen, particularly between three startups, but in the end LiveNinja was chosen not only for its innovation, business feasibility and scalable platform but because Weinraub had the best pitch that would represent Miami well at the final stage of the contest, which will be held in San Francisco. "We feel so incredibly honored to be selected Best Startup at Startup World: Miami," said Weinraub. "We promise to make our city proud when we compete and represent Miami on the global stage later this year."

Eleven companies in total pitched to a packed audience last night. Each of the semifinalists was a winner too because they were chosen from a pool of more than 100 applications, organizer Hermione Way of Startup World said. The other semifinalists were: WedWuclearCIFly In StyleRaw ShortsWeRXTabberDo You RememberGroupflixMobicon and Munchkin

Way said she launched Startup World because entrepreneurship is a global story and she and her team want to shine a light on emerging startup markets. "This was an amazing crowd and this is proof that Miami is happening," said Way. 

The crowd at Startup World at Venture Hive July 2013. Above, Will Weinraub of LiveNinja with Startup World's Hermione Way after receiving his award.
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 Photo taken to close the event is courtesy of Startup World.


July 23, 2013

South Floridian Robert Davis named White House Champion of Change

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When you speak at the White House at age 22, what do you do for an encore?

On Tuesday, the White House honored 15 leaders from around the country — including Robert Davis of Cooper City — as open government and civic hacking “Champions of Change.” These honorees build high-tech tools to help health and safety workers better serve communities, pilot programs to involve traditionally disengaged communities in local governance, and use new technologies to enhance government transparency, the White House said.

Let’s meet our local honoree.      

      Davis, a recent Nova Southeastern University graduate, is co-founder of RadSocial in Cooper City, a social media consultancy for small businesses, and works part-time at Broward College. But after hours he’s a civic hacker, helping to create tools to mine government data for the public good. He also interned at Code for America in San Francisco last year.

The Code for America internship stoked a passion for civic projects that was already burning since he was in student government at Broward College, he said. When he returned to South Florida after the Code for America internship, he wasn’t sure if he’d find a civic hacking community. But he attended the Knight Foundation’s IdeaJam in the spring, and signed up for the Hack For Change: Miami hackathon at the LAB Miami in June.

For that 24-hour hackathon, he and Cristina Solana, a local developer, created  the Florida Bill Tracker, forked from the MinnPost and redeployed to easily track Florida legislation. Davis had been thinking about developing the bill tracker for a few days before the event — he even found out that the MinnPost’s creation was developed by a fellow Code for America alum — and said he went to the local hackathon wondering if he’d find someone to team with.

“I’m not a developer, I just saw the idea, and when I spoke to Cristina, she was this developer ninja, and said we can do this, we can do that,” said Davis, who met Solana for the first time at the event. “That’s why I like civic hacking — it creates this cross community collaboration.”

After the hackathon, Davis and Solana finished up the Tracker and hope to integrate it with major media platforms, said Solana, who is also passionate about civic hacking.

Davis said he is happy to report that there is a strong civic hacking community growing in Miami. Each Monday night at the LAB Miami, the  Code for Miami Brigade gets together and he attends as often as he can (sometimes using Google Hangout from Cooper City). He’s working on starting a Code for Broward Brigade.



Here is a recent blog post from Robert about creating the Florida Bill Tracker at the Hack for Change event at The LAB Miami.

Read about other honorees here:  Download Open Gov Civ Hacking Champs Release

The White House Champions of Change program was created as part of President Obama’s Winning the Future Initiative. Through this program, the White House highlights individuals, businesses, and organizations whose extraordinary stories and accomplishments positively impact our communities. Last year, Susan Amat, founder of Venture Hive and co-founder of The Launch Pad, was named a Champion of Change for outstanding leadership in entrepreneurial mentoring, counseling, and training.

To learn more about the White House Champions of Change program and nominate a Champion, visit http://www.whitehouse.gov/champions


July 22, 2013

SafetyPay closes $7 million funding round

As reported in Miami StartupDigest, Miami Beach-based SafetyPay recently closed a significant round of funding.

IFC, a member of the World Bank Group, is investing $7 million in SafetyPay, a company that through its secure payment system gives people in Latin America access to the lower prices and increased efficiency of online commerce, SafetyPay said in its press release.

SafetyPay enables consumers who may not have a credit card to buy online goods and services using their bank account. Merchants who use the system benefit from an expanded customer base and SafetyPay’s low transaction fees. Banks can offer their customers an attractive new service and generate revenues from their online banking facility, without any additional investment, said SafetyPay CEO Manuel Montero. 

SafetyPay, which currently has partnerships with 84 banks in Latin America, is active in Mexico, Costa Rica, Brazil, and Colombia.