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57 posts from October 2014

October 31, 2014

South Florida makes strong showing in GEW competition

GEWGlobal Entrepreneurship Week  announced its annual "GEW 50" – a list of 50 innovative new companies selected as finalists of its Startup Open competition, including two from South Florida.

The GEW 50 recognizes startups from 19 countries representing an even more diverse range of industries—including biotechnology, communications, education, energy, entertainment, fashion, finance, health/medical and more.

“Entrepreneurship is more than just the latest collection of mobile apps targeted toward consumer convenience and entertainment,” said Jonathan Ortmans, president of Global Entrepreneurship Week. “It is an increasingly global phenomenon with new and young firms driving innovation and solving real-world challenges regardless of where they are located.”

 More than 600 startups from 38 countries entered the competition and were judged on their concept and growth projections for their businesses as well as their knowledge of their industries.

The Startup Open grand prize winner will receive an all-expenses-paid trip to Milan, Italy, for the Global Entrepreneurship Congress in March 2015. The GEC brings together entrepreneurs, investors, global leaders and startup champions from more than 150 countries to explore the best ways to build and strengthen entrepreneurial ecosystems. As part of the experience, the Startup Open winner will have the opportunity to showcase his or her startup on a global scale and meet with potential collaborators, mentors and others to help the startup grow.

Here are the finalists from South Florida:

Peerless Wind Systems
Boynton Beach
Jay Moskowitz

An artistic yet highly energy efficient vertical axis wind turbine has been created out of the world of kinetic art, for use in the urban environment, island nations and emerging countries where over 1 billion people have little or no electricity. Our patent-pending electric generator incorporates new technologies to increase energy efficiency, and is married with the turbine to deliver more energy than turbines of similar size. Its performance and operations center monitors the operation of every installed turbine globally.

Symptify – Symptoms Simplified

Sunny Isles Beach, USA
Jalil Thurber

Symptify is an online self-assessment tool that uses a customized algorithmic engine to help users educate themselves about causes of symptoms. It combines the cumulative experience of multiple ER doctors with current medical knowledge to create a tool that helps users narrow the causes of their symptoms, find the closest place to get care and give a heads-up when going to a facility.

For a complete list of the GEW 50, visit www.startupopen.com/gew50.


Register now for Startup Weekend, other GEW activities in West Palm Beach

GEW Startup Palm Beach is gearing up for its second annual Global Entrepreneurship Week, the world’s largest celebration of innovators and startups featuring 35,000 events across 125 countries, Nov. 14-21 in downtown West Palm Beach.Global Entrepreneurship Week is a catalyst for local startup enthusiasts and aspiring entrepreneurs to build products, launch startups and form meaningful connections with designers, developers and potential co-founders.

“West Palm Beach is still in its infancy when it comes to curating a vibrant startup ecosystem, however the foundation is ripe to create a thriving community,” said Startup Palm Beach founder, Nicholas Mohnacky. “The tax structure, quality of life, access to capital and mentorship is abundant. That’s why it’s so important to bring together local talent through events like Global Entrepreneurship Week.”

The week kicks off with Startup Weekend on November 14, 2014 through November 16, 2014, during which participants work together to create an innovative product or service to present to a panel of judges − including Paul Leone, President of The Breakers Palm Beach; Joe Cardenas, SVP of Commercial Lending at BB&T; Chris Callahan, Founder of Startup Palm Beach Capital and Chris Nielsen, CEO of Levatas − on the final evening of Startup Weekend. Winners receive non-cash prizes from Google, a Startup Weekend global sponsor, as well as follow-up support from local entrepreneurs and potential investors.

BarCamp, a casual, participant-led workshop focusing on early-stage web applications, consumer mobile and cloud solutions, will be held Nov. 18.

Events sponsors include The Studio, BB&T, Startup Palm Beach, Mohnacky Marketing, Seligman Brand Strategies, Startup Palm Beach Capital, Peter Marcus Coaching and Levatas.

For more information or to register for events, visit www.startuppb.com/global-entrepreneurship-week-wpb.

Here is a report on Startup Weekend West Palm Beach and DemoDay in July.

Wyncode Pitch Day a celebration of hard work, promising futures in tech

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By Juha Mikkola

Wyncode’s Pitch Day #2 was a day full of excitement as fourteen Wyncoders making up the Academy’s second cohort presented and demonstrated their full stack web applications to a huge crowd at the LAB Miami in Wynwood.

Just nine weeks earlier, many in this group had never written a line of code. In an intense, challenging and exciting sprint to the finish, the Wyncoders learned the fundamentals of coding through Ruby, an English-like language that’s relatively easy to learn but extremely powerful. As they progressed into the Ruby on Rails framework, students began building actual web applications, culminating in pitching the Wyncode staff on their ideas for a final project. Once their final project was determined, the Wyncoders got to work, many in groups but a few opting to take on the challenge individually. From the initial steps of creating the application structure, to final tweaks to the user interface and dozens of practice runs through their pitches, the students were ready.

As the start of the event got closer, the LAB Miami filled past capacity with nearly 200 tech leaders, hiring partners, family, friends and supporters. The Wyncode panel was made up of four influential hiring partners -- Charles Irizarry of Rokk3rLabs, Jonatan Alava from EarlyShares, Ricardo Morales of CareCloud and Bryan Dennstedt of MDLive -- who have all hired from Wyncode’s program. For the students, presenting in front of such a big crowd was a rush, especially as Wyncode announced a $1,000 cash prize to the winning application.

In order of presentation:

After the pitches, it was time for the panel to deliberate. In the meantime, PK Banks of Meme.menu, a startup he created after Wyncode’s first cohort, announced that his first hire is Jesus Brazon of Wyncode’s second cohort. The Florida Panthers Hockey Club also showed their support for MiamiTech, providing the panelists with tickets for an upcoming game.

Champs (1)The winner: Künstant, a beautiful and functional app for artists to share their work and the creative process behind it.

After Pitch Day, the team at WyncodeAcademy has wasted no time, with the third cohort starting this Monday October 20th. Wyncode has received nearly 200 applications and the third cohort is Wyncode’s first sold out class. Applications are now being accepted for January’s Web Immersive Program at www.wyncode.co

Juha Mikkola is  co-founder of Wyncode.

October 30, 2014

Asana Medical of Miami Lakes a big winner in 43North competition in New York

Asana Medical, a medical device company based in Miami Lakes, is a top finalist and $250,000 winner in New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo’s 43North, one of the world’s largest business idea competitions. Asana was chosen from nearly 7,000 applications to the contest.

The 11 finalist teams from around the world competed in front of a panel of judges today  in Buffalo, N.Y., to win one of the 43North cash prizes: the top prize of $1 million, one of six $500,000 prizes, or four $250,000 prizes. Winners also received free incubator space in Buffalo for a year, guidance from mentors in related fields, and access to other business incentive programs such as Start-UpNY. 

Asana Medical seeks to improve the quality of one’s health and therefore quality of life by providing a novel treatment for debilitating digestive diseases with a patent-pending medical device that stimulates the body to heal itself. Asana Medical offers a drug-free, surgery-free twist on a proven therapy and targets the $9 billion ulcerative colitis market. 

Asana is an early-stage company founded in May of 2013, currently with three employees and additional consultants, said co-founder and CEO Marc Ramer, who has 20 years experience as a biomedical engineer. The other cofounders are Christine Sapan, with 35 years' experience in the biopharmaceutical industry, and Gerard S. Coombs and Richard C. Bulman, who have experience starting and growing companies and have had exits, said Ramer.

Ramer said participating in the contest was "really stimulating" and a "first-rate, professional and positive experience." The other contestants as well as 43North staff were "warm and welcoming," he said.

The million-dollar winner was ASi, of Tonawanda, NY, with the rapid metal forming process that aims to transform manufacturing by providing superior performing components that cost less.

Other winners came from the New York and the Northeast, the Midwest, Canada, Scotland and Taiwan. Asana was the only other Florida company.  Many but not all were biotech, medical or healthcare companies. Other winning concepts included a clean-tech system that converts wasted kinetic energy from braking vehicles into renewable electricity; a fan-less cooling system and a productivity app.  

A total of 6,932 business ideas were initially submitted for the 43North competition’s first round, which took place Feb. 5 through May 31. From a pool of 2,603 qualified submissions, 113 semifinalists were selected to advance to the second round through a formal, month-long review period conducted by more than 269 judges from an array of professional sectors.

Eleven finalists, including Asana, advanced to the third and final round of the competition to vie for the  series of cash prizes. All winners will be required to locate their companies in Buffalo, New York, for one year under the  terms of the competition.


Posted Oct. 30, 2014


October 28, 2014

Büro coming to MiMo: Opening 3rd Miami area coworking center in early 2015

BuromimoThe wave of coworking expansion continues to roll: Büro Group will be opening its next upscale coworking center in Miami’s hip MiMo District in early 2015.

Büro MiMo, to be located in the iconic Coppertone Building located at 7300 Biscayne Boulevard, will consist of 11,000 square feet of flexible workspace designed for entrepreneurs and creative companies.

Büro MiMo will be the third location for the fast-growing young company, following its flagship in Midtown Miami in 2010, which recently doubled in size, and its expansion to Sunset Harbour last year.

“We are thrilled to be further expanding the Büro community, which now includes over 200 dynamic companies from a wide range of industries,” says Büro founder and CEO Michael Feinstein. “And we are excited to bring more talent and energy to Biscayne Boulevard’s MiMo.” In addition to occupying roughly half of the Coppertone Building, Büro is also a part-owner of the property, alongside local investor Greenstreet Capital.

Brad Safchik of Greenstreet is bullish on the rapidly changing MiMo District. “The neighborhood is clearly emerging as a hotspot and creative hub. With the recent re-development of the Vagabond and all the new restaurant openings, I think it’s a very compelling real estate opportunity.” In addition to Büro, popular local brands Jugofresh and Panther Coffee have recently announced new locations in the MiMo District as well.

Büro will be taking reservations for its  new location  starting in January.

 Posted Oct. 28, 2014

Rokk3r Labs announces details on cobuilding methodology

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Rokk3r Labs, an innovative platform for entrepreneurs to create and launch companies, today announced more details on its cobuilding methodology to transform industries. Miami-beach based Rokk3r Labs has grown to over 80 employees, with offices in Miami and Bogotá. It plan to open offices in the next few months in New York City and London, the company said last week.

In a breakfast last week for media and in its press release today, the team explained that cobuilding is the fusion of entrepreneurial vision and professional execution that transforms ideas into companies by focusing on 5 key areas:

1.     Sourcing proven entrepreneurs who understand how to build businesses.

2.     Validating the ideas that these entrepreneurs have through Rokk3r Labs’ thorough and methodical “Think Phase”, where product/market fit, technology roadmap, funding structure and go-to-market strategy are defined.

3.     Taking ideas that go through the “Think Phase” into an execution phase where the entrepreneur partners with the strategists, creatives and engineers at Rokk3r Labs to transform ideas into companies.  This involves execution of a business roadmap, user experience and interaction, product & platform design, technology build and the go-to-market strategy.

4.     Launching companies to market with proper support to ensure growth and traction.

5.     Continuing to support portfolio companies within the Rokk3r Labs cobuilding ecosystem, where expert resources in marketing, HR, future investment, partnership and business development opportunities are available. This includes partnering with  Knight Sky Capital to help with early-stage funding. 

BBB00 Bizmon News rk Leading  Rokk3r Labs are co-founders Nabyl Charania, CEO, and Germán Montoya, chief strategy and creative officer. Charania, a serial entrepreneur and mathematician with over 15 years of executive experience, and Montoya, an economist and strategic visionary with almost two decades of product delivery and business development experience, along with their co-founders, created an ecosystem for experienced entrepreneurs to partner with strategists and experienced leaders to build a company.

 “We created a platform to source and vet the right entrepreneur and deals, in a way that is profitable and results in strong equity positions,” said Charania. “At Rokk3r Labs, entrepreneurs can build their company within an ecosystem that has experience across the lifecycle of a company from an idea to execution without the risk of being on their own.”

Coming soon is a Rokk3r-produced interview series with journalist Lilia Luciano interviewing successful entrepreneurs, many from the Miami community, said Charania. Last year, it put on RokkMiami for the community.

In under two years, Rokk3r Labs has introduced 21 proven entrepreneurs into its ecosystem. Eight companies that Rokk3r Labs launched this year achieved their funding and strategic milestones. Rokk3r Labs success stories include LocalMaven, that raised over $1.4 million, and AdMobilizethat raised over $2.8 million.

 "We know we can bring together expertise to help the companies," said Charania. "Together we transform industries."

Read a recent Herald Q&A with German Montoya here.

Posted Oct. 28, 2014. Photo at top shows Rokk3r at work earlier this year and second photo shows co-founders German Montaya, Juan Montoya and Nabyl Charania of Rokk3r Labs in 2013. Photos by Miami Herald staff.

October 27, 2014

Q&A with Norma Kenyon: Powering UM innovation

By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

NormakenyonNorma Kenyon and her team are on a mission.

“When I became vice provost of innovation in 2012, the University of Miami did not have a robust history of commercialization,” said Kenyon, who is also chief innovation officer at the UM Miller School of Medicine, a veteran faculty member and a longtime diabetes researcher. “We had patents and technologies, but we did not have a focus on getting them to market. … We now have a renewed emphasis on commercialization and entrepreneurship, and while most of our technology is driven by the medical school, we are increasing our outreach to our other colleges.”

To that end, Kenyon leads U Innovation, which aims to nurture and commercialize University of Miami technologies to result in more patents, more licenses and, ultimately, more successful companies.

U Innovation consists of the Wallace H. Coulter Center for Translational Research (WHCC), focused on funding and support toward commercialization of promising biomedical research, as well as the university-wide Office of Technology Transfer, responsible for negotiating and executing agreements for commercialization of all UM intellectual property. U Innovation has an office at the UM Life Science and Technology Park.

To rejuvenate and run the Tech Transfer office, Kenyon hired Jim O’Connell away from the University of Michigan in June of 2013 because of his expertise with business development, technology transfer and startups.

So far, the strategy is working: In the past two years, there has been a dramatic spike in the numbers of companies started as well as patents and licenses issued. Some of these companies are working on treatments for cancer, spinal cord injuries, kidney disease and asthma as well as early detection of head and neck cancer and heart disease.

The Miami Herald talked with Kenyon recently about U Innovation, trends she is seeing in the life science industry, and UM’s role in the South Florida entrepreneurial ecosystem.

Q. Tell us more about your mission in your role as vice provost of innovation.

A. In this role, my mission is to support our innovative faculty in the development of their ideas, discoveries and technologies toward commercialization, building the interactions, resources and entrepreneurial energy to capitalize on UM’s creative talent across our schools and colleges.

Q. What are your metrics for success?

A. Standard metrics include the annual number of invention disclosures, patents submitted and awarded, copyrights and trademarks, license agreements, startup companies. At the suggestion of Mike Davis, one of our licensing associates, we are setting up an "ideas portal," which would allow faculty to submit their ideas for discussion with the U Innovation team. Non-standard metrics would include the number of ideas submitted/year and identification and nurturing of those ideas that have commercial potential. As we grow the innovation ecosystem at UM, another metric will be an increased number of ideas and disclosures from across the university, as the majority of our IP [Intellectual Property] is currently biomedical.

Q. What progress has been made so far?

A. Over the last two years, the number of license agreements has increased, with 19 in FY 2013 and 26 in FY ’14. We have been covering our patent expenses and intellectual property revenues have grown. We have significantly more startups as well, in various stages of development, ranging from virtual to one that had a successful IPO in July of 2013.

I attribute our success to 1) bringing in individuals with the background to look at development of IP from a business perspective, 2) refocusing the Office of Technology Transfer (OTT) on commercialization of technologies, following IP from invention disclosure through the various stages of patenting and making the difficult decisions not to pursue patents when commercial partners cannot be identified, 3) working with commercial partners to facilitate and streamline the process of licensing, 4) strengthening of the interaction between the WHCC and OTT to more fully support commercialization of our biomedical research, 5) the “Coulter process,” which provides a road map for development of technology toward commercialization, 6) a focus on customer service — we are here to support our innovators and 7) engagement of leadership and all of UM’s schools and colleges to identify next steps in the development of our innovation ecosystem, as well as involvement of business, law, communications and other students in U Innovation commercialization activities.

Q. What’s next? Are there any interesting projects on the horizon that you can talk about?

A. We need to significantly expand our outreach and role, at UM, in the local (South Florida) ecosystem and beyond. There is an interesting project on the horizon that could bring together some of our larger institutions in development of research towards commercialization. If successful, such a project would position us as a region to be considered for funding from the National Science Foundation, National Institutes of Health and other federal funding that requires “clusters” of innovation.

Q. How does the UM Life Science and Technology Park fit in to your mission and strategy?

A. The LSTP is the nexus for the commercialization of our technologies, providing an interface with the greater entrepreneurial community in Miami, the region, the U.S. and around the world. Wexford Science and Technology, our partner at LSTP, has connected UM to other Wexford parks around the country, joining forces to create an innovation ecosystem and providing information on entrepreneurial programs that have worked well. Both startups and mature companies are located at the park, thereby providing opportunities for educational and research collaborations.

Q. How many startups are you currently working with and can you tell me a little about a couple of them?

A. We are currently working with over 20 UM startups, ranging from very early stage to public. InflamaCORE is a company founded by scientists from the Departments of Physiology and Neurosurgery and the Miami Project to Cure Paralysis — Drs. Robert Keane, Dalton Dietrich, Helen Bramlett and Juan Pablo De Rivero Vaccari — and focused on diagnosis of and novel treatment for different types of CNS injury, including stroke, brain trauma and spinal cord injury; this company was awarded an NIH small business award (an STTR) and is also funded by WHCC.

Vigilant Biosciences is based on the work of a UM head and neck surgeon, Dr. Elizabeth Franzmann, and is developing a low-cost kit for assessing a person’s risk of oral cancer before any lesions appear in the mouth; Vigilant has completed a $2million Series A round and also received a loan from the Florida Institute for Commercialization of Public Research. Even further along the spectrum is Heat Biologics, based on the pioneering lung cancer vaccine work of Dr. Eckhard Podack; Heat had a successful IPO in July of 2013.

Q. How have you approached finding “CEOs” for your new startup companies?

A. We have established a mechanism to on-board “Entrepreneurs in Residence” who work with our founding scientists to develop a business plan, consider next steps and move technology out of the U. These individuals are experienced business people and entrepreneurs who are interested in working with us and willing to donate their time. If the startup succeeds, they will benefit. If not, they still will have donated valuable time and energy to UM’s innovation efforts.

Q. What are some of the trends you are seeing in the projects and companies?

A. Trends include more activities around IT in the healthcare space, including programs for assessment of wellness, tools for patient education and mobile technologies for use by healthcare providers. More programs are arising that involve multiple institutions innovating together, providing funds for projects that include members from more than one university.

Q. How do you partner with the Florida Institute for Commercialization of Public Research to help these startups get funding?

A. The Florida Institute for the Commercialization of Public Research has been an excellent partner for UM. We engage with our EIR [Entrepreneur in Residence], Alison Tanner, to discuss newly emerging companies that are based on UM IP and explore the possibility of FICPR funding. Alison talks with the founders and assists them with business advice and guidance through the steps required to be approved for a loan. To date, five of our UM startups have received dollars from the institute: Vigilant Biosciences, Biscayne Pharmaceuticals, Heart Genomics, Integene International Holdings and RxMP Therapeutics.

Q. Has UM thought about starting a fund or an incubator for these companies?

A. Yes, we are in active discussions with university leadership regarding a fund for our emerging companies. There are incubators and funding programs for tech-based startups in Miami now, but we lack a subsidized incubator/co-working laboratory space for early-stage biomedical startups in which the company can rent a bench or part of a bench and have access to shared resources — this is something that I am currently exploring. Companies that are a little more advanced in their funding have access to space in LSTP in the Innovation Center. We are proud to have a few UM spinouts and startups in the center, along with 35 other companies, ranging from early stage to mature.

Q. Finish this sentence: South Florida’s life sciences industry really needs…

A. … fundable management, i.e., experienced business people who are able to manage and attract funding, as well as capital.

Q. Do you collaborate with other South Florida or Florida universities to help propel the life sciences industry? If so, in what way, or what would you like to see?

A. Through the efforts of FIU, the Life Sciences South Florida initiative encompasses several universities and colleges, including UM, and engages in discussions and activities around education, economic development and other issues pertinent to the life sciences. Through our Clinical Translational Science Institute, we hold a research day called “CaneSearch” meant to bring together researchers from across the university; we also invite local institutions to participate. The theme for the 2015 event will be Translational Research, and speakers will include the director of the Division of Clinical Innovation in the NIH National Center for the Advancement of Translational Sciences, two industry speakers and one of our most successful entrepreneurs. Our UM Biomedical Nanotechnology Institute and FIU have started a joint funding program. More is needed and we will all benefit from collaboration.

I’d like to see more opportunities for funds at both the seed stage (e.g., to produce a device prototype) and further along the spectrum toward commercialization, similar to WHCC projects. With $2.9million for 34 funded projects, over $60million of follow-on dollars (business grants, angel investors, VC) has resulted from WHCC supported projects. Many of our UM startups have received WHCC funding and support. While UM has focused on biomedical projects, the Coulter process could be effectively applied to many types of technologies.

Q. Do you see South Florida becoming a healthcare innovation hub?

A. With over 3,300 hospital beds, more than 1.5million outpatient visits a year and several institutes that are thought leaders, the Miami Health District is a healthcare innovation hub. The infrastructure and talent are here but we need to market and leverage our institutions and capabilities to attract the right companies and investors.

We are seeing great movement in the tech sector and there is a buzz in South Florida, with eMerge Americas, tech incubators and companies founded here actually staying here. This same focused drive to create the environment for a tech hub needs to occur for the life sciences.

Follow @ndahlberg on Twitter.


At a Glance: Norma Kenyon

Title: Vice provost of innovation, University of Miami; chief innovation officer, UM Miller School of Medicine; research scientist for Type 1 Diabetes.

Oversees: U Innovation, the home of technology advancement at the University of Miami that serves to bridge in-house laboratory research and companies, entrepreneurs and investors. The office is comprised of the Office of Technology Transfer and the Wallace H. Coulter Center for Translational Research.

Board appointments: NIH Council of Councils, BioFlorida, Life Sciences South Florida, Enterprise Development Corporation.

Education: Ph.D. in immunology, Medical College of Virginia; bachelor of science in zoology, Duke University.

Best advice received: From my father, “never give up, never give up, never give up!”


Posted Oct. 27, 2014; Photo of Norma Kenyon by Carl Juste of the Miami Herald.

Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/news/business/biz-monday/article3365794.html#storylink=cpy

Reflections on Tech Weekend @ The Dolphins

Welcome to the event

By Frank E. Haggar

Tech Weekend @ The Dolphins was held on Oct 25/26th at Sun Life Stadium.  The event was filled with activities, including a Hackathon, Teach-a-thon, Coding Track, IT Track and a variety of user group meetings.  The size and layout of the event had to be seen in person, as it kept going on and on.  Just when you thought you’d come to the end, there would be more rooms and more events further down the hall. There were over 900 registered attendees.  Even with the distraction of beautiful S. Fla weather, over 450 came to the free event the first day, and 100 the second.  

Tery Howard Keynote 2Folks from all age groups were in attendance, from 5th graders to retired programmers that wanted to get back into the community.   The Ranger Kids were all dressed in matching orange T-Shirts, drawing attention as they paraded through the large stadium layout.    Tery Howard, CTO for the Dolphins (pictured here), gave a keynote address. The attendees learned, and then networked afterwards, sharing what they’d discovered.  The hackers worked feverishly to get their latest ideas into presentable form.   

The presentations included ideas like ways to help cut lines at the women’s restrooms, how to use the stadium for other events like Tech Weekend, how to use the time between plays to add extra excitement with the game by earning game tokens for trivia and micro-bets, and it even spilled out into the parking lot where an app showed how to have the perfect tailgating event.  There were so many exciting ideas that it must have been near impossible to select a winner.  Some of the strongest statements happened when an investor from the crowd told an attendee he would back her idea even before she finished her presentation.  The IT judge from the Dolphins said he’d use one of the apps as a statistician and scorekeeper for the Dolphins.  Even the event organizers jumped on board as we plan to use the app to help us organize our Tech Tailgating @ The Dolphins for the November 13th game against the Buffalo Bills.

EventsI found the best comment of all when I came to my desk Monday morning.  I’d received an invitation to connect on LinkedIn from James Stephenson, an attendee who I’d chatted with throughout the event.  He brought his daughter to the event as part of the Teach-a-thon.  She is a remarkable middle school student that was interested in the entire event.  His note to me said: "My daughter was so enthusiastic, we spent the rest of the evening together working on her projects".  As an event organizer, what more can dream for but to inspire our attendees, especially our youth, to study technology, try hard and reach for excellence?

We thank Microsoft and Citrix for their phenomenal support by staffing many of the tracks with experts and allowing us to award tickets to attendees of those tracks.    We thank the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, without whom this event would not have been possible.  And, we especially thank our hosts. The Miami Dolphins, who’s support and execution made this the largest-ever Tech Event for an NFL team, held at an NFL stadium!


DesignLab Miami: A peek into the future of Miami fashion design

  Photo (17)

Photos by Pedro Portal / Miami Herald. See photo gallery here. 

By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

Sewing machines were humming, and the young fashion designers were busily snipping, tucking and trimming, adding more artistic flair to their creations, then checking out the look in the full-length mirrors.

Some of their fashions could be selected for an event at the House of Art gallery during Art Basel. But these girls, between the ages of 5 to 15, are no strangers to shows. Their collections have been on runways in schools, at the Miami Children’s Museum and at local organizations’ fund-raisers.

They are all part of the DesignLab Miami, which has been nurturing a small cadre of designers for nearly five years under owner Angie Cohen in a studio in North Miami. Cohen, a native of Colombia, graduated from the Fashion Institute of Technology and worked as a fashion designer and in production in New York, including for J.G. Hook and Calvin Klein. “I see value in these kids. I see the spirit in their eyes,” she said, pointing to some students who were learning how to use 3D printing technology and incorporate it into their fashions.

Cohen may not realize it, but her business is a niche player in the emerging fashion industry in South Florida. DesignLab works with about 50 students during a typical week, a number that has tripled in the past couple of years. Some of her students could go on to attend Design & Architecture Senior High’s prestigious fashion program and later a design school or university, and become designers. They will be in good company: There are about 125 fashion-related companies in Miami-Dade, according to the Beacon Council.

The creative industries, including fashion design and fashion technology, is an area of focus for leaders who are trying to build and nurture a stronger entrepreneurial ecosystem in South Florida. Among other developments, a fashion incubator is planned for Miami-Dade County, a project of the Beacon Council and Macy’s.

DesignLab offers a peek into Miami’s future.

Photo (19)Zoe Goldemberg, 10, (pictured here) is just one of the young designers to watch. She’s even begun using a 3D printer to create some of the custom elements to make her designs look just so. Wearing her own fashions, she shows off her “Look Book,” with quite a line of designs. Her parents are architects, so the creative gene clearly runs in her family.

Morgan Loeb, 10, designs her own printed fabrics that look like stained glass. Showing off shorts she designed using her custom fabric, she points out the zippers on the side (I thought they would look really cool,” she said). Her collection is called Colour ML Designz.

Ariel Swedroe Weinberg, 11, got her inspiration from her grandfather, Robert Swedroe, an artist and architect. Her grandfather’s art is laser printed on her fabric, and she’s adorned some of her designs with LED lights. Her mermaid dress is her favorite, which she wore to a family Bar Mitzvah, and she made matching fashions for her mom, dad and brother. She has been designing for about three years. Is that her career aspiration? Silly question. “Yes, of course.”

Ariel (video below) plans to launch her line, called Swedroe Art to Wear by Ariel, during Art Basel. The collection includes dresses, skirts, tops, shorts and pants, and, by popular request, she is adding ties and bow ties for men and boys in her custom textiles, too. “She wants to conquer the world at 11,” said Cohen, who has been helping her get her collection ready.
National trends are fueling interest in fashion design among the young set. Nordstrom recently signed up a 15-year-old to create a collection and a new Project Runway type reality show starring kids, called Threads, started this month on Lifetime and put out a national call for participants. Cohen’s students all applied.

Cohen’s classes are two hours, typically cost $42 and include materials, and kids typically take a couple of them a week. In the classes, the kids learn the basics of sewing, measuring, pattern-making, drafting, textiles, use of new technologies, everything that goes into making a collection. “It’s learning through fun,” Cohen said.

In the summer and during school breaks, she runs weeklong camps that immerse the youngsters into the world of fashion. They start with inspiration board, learn about designers and end with a fashion show.

Cohen has a team of five instructors, all with design experience. Jordan Silver, for instance, creates fashions for people with disabilities. She got started in the business by adapting her aunt’s clothing when she found a void in the market. Then she created a whole line, AGApparel.com, which was featured in Oprah magazine.

On a recent Saturday, the kids (all girls on this day although DesignLab has male students) were creating fashions out of unusual recycled materials for a “Future of Fashion” event the House of Art in Wynwood is going to put on during Art Basel. It will feature the work of DesignLab as well as the Miami Arts Charter School. “These kids are so talented — it blew me away,” said Henrique Souza, visual artist and gallery owner of House of Art, which showcases emerging artists from around the world.

At DesignLab, Daisy Nodal and Tom Pupo of Moonlighter, a startup that is working on creating a maker space and creative lab for entrepreneurs, gave a workshop for the kids on how to make buttons and bracelets with “Doodle Pens,” or freehand 3D printing pens. Moonlighter and DesignLab also will be partnering on a hands-on exhibit at the Miami Mini Maker Faire in Wynwood on Nov.8.

Before Moonlighter’s workshop, Aitana Ortega, 11, is making a dress out of the gray mesh fabric that landscapers use to keep the weeds out. Who knew that industrial material could bring a unique modern swing to a dress inspired by the fashions of the 1950s and ’60s.

In another room are fashions made for other shows, including fashions inspired by food that kids eat. “Actually, the kids eat pretty badly,” joked Angie, as she showed off dresses, a rain jacket, even shoes made from Doritos bags, juice boxes and Koolaid wrappers.

She’s contagious, Laura Furcic, a documentary filmmaker, said of Cohen. “She motivates not just the kids but she inspires us with ideas all the time.”

Furcic got involved with DesignLab while filming a documentary about Robert Swedroe. She was just going to do a little piece of the documentary on Ariel, but quickly became a DesignLab fan and has been helping the kids with their look books. “Each kid has a story and a whole potential that Angie can recognize,” she said.

Cohen is incorporating technologies whereever she can. Many of the kids use LED lighting in their designs, and some make buttons and attachments with 3D printers.

They also silkscreen on fabrics that change color in the heat. Ralph Lauren just came out with a shirt that reads your vital signs; more and more, technology is being incorporated in fashion.

DesignLab would ultimately like to be ambassadors of empowerment to women and kids around the world, and is working with nonprofits such as Bridging Humanity. One of Cohen’s goals is to do a Kids MakerLab as a nonprofit, with 3D printing and laser cutters: “It’s going to happen, I just don’t know when.”

Cohen shows off a few creations made by her youngest student, Chloe Picard, now 6.

“Chloe came in about six months ago and said I am dreaming of a dress and I said ‘you can do it,’” said Cohen, recalling Chloe’s first day. She caught on quickly and even made a dress out of body scrub sponges. Choe’s mother, Darcie Picard, said going to the DesignLab gave Chloe confidence and the classes are a highlight of her week.

Yael Bloom, 13, made a ’60s style dress made out of plastic wrap. Turns out you can take a hair dryer to the wrap to make is shrink and crinkle in interesting ways, which she did with the bodice of the dress. A Project Runway fan, Yael started classes at DesignLab about three years ago and now is sure she wants to be a designer, said her mother Amit Bloom.

But there was one creation that was definitely in the money — quite literally. Jade Stein, 9, was creating a dress out of 150 $1 bills. 
Photo (18)
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What it is: Fashion design and sewing classes for kids and adults from beginners to advanced. DesignLab provides complete programs that teach sewing techniques, pattern making, designing and creating textiles and all aspects of fashion design. The programs incorporate both traditional techniques and new technologies such as smart fabrics, electronics, and 3D printing.

Owner: Angie Cohen

Year founded: 2010

Location: North Miami

No. of employees: Five

No. of students in a typical week: 50

Philanthropy: Several programs for the Adrienne Arsht Center, Miami Shores ‘Green Day,’ the Sewing for Smiles organization, Temple Beth Shalom, Miami Beach, and 75 years of Gratitude for Miami Country Day School.

How much it costs for participants: $42 per class.

Website: www.designlabmiami.com

Phone: 305-891-0440

October 26, 2014

Startup Spotlight: Quotanda



Headquarters: Miami

Concept: Education is now global, student financing isn’t. Quotanda is changing that. Quotanda’s technology platform provides students with affordable financing options, schools with immediate cash flow and investors with strong returns.

Story: Student financing is broken, particularly for nontraditional schools and international students, said Grant Taylor, co-founder of Quotanda (pictured above). “I saw the problems my international friends were having financing their education during my MBA at IESE Business School in Barcelona. I realized it was a global issue.”

Billions of people find their potential is limited by an education finance system that caters largely to U.S. students attending traditional institutions, and at the same time, investors are searching for yield. The Internet allows us to operate in new ways, he said, and online lenders have a significant cost advantage over traditional banks: “Quotanda’s education finance platform connects lenders with qualified borrowers; it’s just more efficient.”

In 2006, Taylor invested in the seed round of his friend Andres Moreno’s business, Open English: “Andres showed me how an innovative idea and perseverance can benefit the lives of millions. I realized the best way to scale positive change was as an entrepreneur.” Taylor said his investment in Open English provided him with startup capital: “I saw it as a chance to give others the opportunity to pursue their educational dreams.”

Quotanda2Taylor worked on the Quotanda business plan while working on his MBA at IESE Business School in Spain and launched the company there last year. With his partner Lino Pujol (pictured here) now running the business in Spain, he returned to the United States and moved to Miami earlier this year. The Quotanda team continues to grow and now includes a range of globally experienced advisors and executives including Bill Hubert, a serial entrepreneur and U.S. student lending veteran.

Launched: 2013

Management team: Grant Taylor, Bill Hubert, Lino Pujol.

Website: www.quotanda.com

Financing: Self-financed so far and seeking several million for company growth. Quotanda’s student loans (approximately 35 loans with $500,000) are financed by accredited investors, including Andres Moreno and other Open English executives, as well as professors and alumni of IESE.

Recent milestones: Teamed up with Bill Hubert, founder of Cology.com (sold in 2012 to First Marblehead), one of the top origination and servicing businesses in the U.S. “He is keen to revolutionize the student lending again and I am fortunate to be working with him,” Taylor said. Joined Venture Hive in June with advisors including Moreno, Thomas “Tigre“ Wenrich and Susan Amat. Invited to the White House by the Office of Science and Technology Policy to brainstorm expansion of private financing for accelerated learning programs. A finalist in the BBVA Open Talent 2014 for North America held in Mexico City.

Biggest startup challenge: Legal complexity of a highly regulated industry.

Next step: Launching education financing programs in the U.S. in November. Quotanda is working with forward-thinking schools, not just business schools, to provide students with innovative financing options.

Mentors’ views: “Quotanda solves an international problem in education with a simple yet effective solution. Grant's leadership goes beyond a great return to investors. His goal is to help students access educational opportunities that would otherwise be out of reach. I love startups that solve huge problems, create great financial returns, and make the world better at the same time — win-win-win,” said Amat, founder of Venture Hive, an accelerator, incubator and entrepreneurial education company.

“Grant has already proven the model can work in practice. In partnering with Bill Hubert, he will now have the technology capability required to scale up quickly,” said Wenrich, a mentor, investor and former Open English COO/CFO. “The model needs a lot of capital to fund the actual loans, which is different than the situation facing most other early-stage startups. Angel investors don’t have deep enough pockets, so we are looking for institutional lenders.”

Nancy Dahlberg'

Photo of Grant Taylor taken at Venture Hive at top of post is by Patrick Farrell of the Miami Herald

Posted Oct. 26, 2014