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Tech Talk: A rockin' year for entrepreneurship

By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

For today’s Business Monday centerpiece story, I contributed a couple of the staff’s picks for best business stories of the year, including the latest moves by the region’s emerging rock star Magic Leap and a crescendo of co-working spaces and accelerators. But it’s really the steady drumbeat of startup news I can’t get out of my head.

It was a very good year for healthcare venture deals. South Florida biotech, medical device firms and health-tech companies took 78 percent of the $241 million in venture capital that flowed into South Florida companies in the first three quarters and almost half of the state’s take. The area’s top three funding rounds were in this space: Fort Lauderdale telemedicine firm MDLIVE’s $50 million financing, Boca Raton-based electronic medical record software provider Modernizing Medicine’s $38 million financing, and Dania Beach smart orthopedics company OrthoSensor’s $19 million. (YellowPepper, a Miami-based mobile payments company, also received $19 million.)

It was also a good year for entrepreneurial infrastructure growth. In addition to the aforementioned co-working surge, 2015 saw a steady expansion of educational resources, from coding programs such as CS50X at Miami Dade College’s Idea Center, to talent matching organizations such as LaunchCode to more mentorship resources. The South Florida capital network continued to develop, though there is still much more work to be done there, as well as in attracting and retaining tech talent.

It was hard to miss the surge of national exposure, especially coming off the eMerge Americas technology conference in May. Thanks in large part to eMerge Americas’ media partnership with NBCUniversal, Miami’s tech and startup scene starred in English and Spanish-language news and business programs, magazines and blogs. eMerge Americas will be back for a third year in April.

I wrote about new (to me) and interesting South Florida entrepreneurs with innovative products and services, such as Einar Rosenberg of Creating Revolutions, Alon Mozes of Neocis, Daniel Rodriguez of Animusoft, Carmen Bigles of Coquí Radiopharmaceuticals. the trio of founders behind Nearpod and Janice Haley of Tone-y-Bands, to name just a few. Meanwhile, South Florida’s Kabaccha Shoes, Urban Drones, AdMobilize and Blackdove rocked their Kickstarter campaigns, showing South Florida entrepreneurs how it’s done.

Plenty of inspirational stories, too. I met Trina Spear of FIGS, a new Endeavor company based in Hollywood that is reinventing the common, uncomfortable and less-than-hygenic medical scrub, and for each set it sells, it gives a set to medical professionals in emerging markets. The founders of New Story, who grew up in South Florida, provided a sweet story of their own. Their Y-Combinator accelerated non-profit startup funded 151 homes, eliminating a huge tent slum in Haiti. CEO Brett Hagler said my article in the Herald drew in funding for a handful of those homes, including one by a single donor who financed an entire home.

Looking ahead, 2016 should be a good year for health-tech, with new resources coming on board such as startupbootcamp’s digital health focused accelerator and Cambridge Innovation Center setting up in the UM Life Science & Technology Park. Startups in the creative industries are beginning to make traction, as are food-oriented startups. Ed-tech, fin-tech and real estate-tech startups are emerging, too, and we will have Venture Hive, 500 Startup’s Distro program, FAU Tech Runway, EcoTech Visions, Endeavor and other programs helping to build better companies. We’ll see another huge funding round for Magic Leap, valuing the company at some $3.7 billion and assuring a good year on the venture capital front.

What’s your outlook for the year ahead? On my Starting Gate blog, you can read responses from a survey I took in October, including how some South Florida entrepreneurship leaders would pitch Miami to entrepreneurs and investors considering relocation. Let me know your thoughts.

Happy New Year, dear readers.

NANCY DAHLBERG; 305-376-3595; @NDAHLBERG

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