« March 2016 | Main | May 2016 »

26 posts from April 2016

April 30, 2016

Zumba: What the global fitness brand can teach Miami tech


Zumba filer

By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

It doesn’t get more Miami than the story of Zumba.

Perlman mug (1)Alberto Perlman, who appeared at The LAB Miami for the monthly  "Brainfood" series, is co-founder and CEO of Zumba Fitness, the largest branded fitness program in the world. He shared war stories and lessons learned.

Zumba dance fitness classes attract more than 15 million weekly participants in 200,000 locations in more than 180 countries. The brand also includes music, clothing, DVDs, video games, a charity platform and most recently its first food product.

Perlman oversees day-to-day operations, manages brand and product development, and negotiates partnerships with fitness clubs and organizations around the world. The Hallandale Beach-based company has about 220 employees and a development team of about 30. He co-founded the company with two other Albertos from Colombia, Alberto Aghion and Alberto “Beto” Pérez.

But Zumba used none of the traditional methods to grow. It hasn’t acquired any companies. Except for accepting one private equity investment, it hasn’t raised financing. Instead it was at the right place at the right time with the right idea, amid a confluence of healthy living trends, a resurgence of interest in all things Latin, and a fresh business model that relied on harnessing the passion of Zumba instructors to build the business. Today, they lead more than half a million classes every week. What’s the secret to building a worldwide movement? “You start with heart,” Perlman said at the discussion led by entrepreneur Marco Giberti on Thursday night.

Perlman said Zumba has been testing live streaming and virtual reality, and looks forward to testing augmented reality, but he told the tech audience that the live experience will always be the center of all Zumba does.

“The live experience is never going to be replaced. Face-to-face is never going away. Everything we do is to drive people to the classes.”

Not that there weren’t low points. One of them was in the downturn of 2008, when the team was running low on money and bracing for the worst. But 2008 was also an inflection point for the company because they realized that despite the recession, people were flocking to the classes to de-stress and have fun. The instructor ranks swelled also, as a means of employment in tough times. “We were there and the people found us.”

Since then, apparel has become a very big business for Zumba, which like all its products are co-created with the instructor network. Last year Zumba sold 4 million units, 90 percent of which are sold through the website, he said.

Zumba possibly would consider developing another fitness brand if it was the right fit (he said he didn’t see CrossFit coming), but it’s not a priority, Perlman said. “The Zumba brand keeps us very busy,” he said, and there is still innovation to do. For instance, in the last few years its charity platform, Zumbathon, has taken off, raising about $5.7 million. Its Zumba Stories website is packed with personal, life-changing stories. And the company this year introduced its first food product, Zumba Shake Shake Shake, a super healthy plant-based protein drink.

He said finding talent has been difficult in Miami, but he also believes that if he had started Zumba in New York or Los Angeles, it may not have gotten off the ground. Being under the radar and not having intense local competition has its advantages when you are building a company.

Perlman’s advice to entrepreneurs: “Focus on your product and customers — don’t spend all your time raising money. Customer-centric companies win.”

And perhaps he should have also added: “Listen to your mother.” She had a very instrumental part in the Zumba story, encouraging him to meet with her dance-fitness instructor, “Beto,” the accidental entrepreneur who invented the Zumba dance concept and became his co-founder. "Maybe you can start a gym together," she said then.

Nancy Dahlberg; 305-376-3595; @ndahlberg



April 29, 2016

EY announces 14 South Florida finalists for Entrepreneur of the Year

Today EY announced the finalists for the Entrepreneur Of The Year 2016 Florida Program, including 14 South Florida entrepreneurs. The prestigious awards program recognizes entrepreneurs who demonstrate excellence and extraordinary success in such areas as innovation, financial performance and personal commitment to their businesses and communities. The business leaders were selected by a panel of independent judges. The 14 finalists from South Florida by category are:

Distribution and Manufacturing

Angel Alvarez – ABB Optical, Coral Springs, FL

Financial Services

Jorge Gonsalez – City National Bank of Florida, Miami, FL

Kent Ellert – Florida Community Bank, Weston, FL

Healthcare & Life Sciences

Nestor Plana – Independent Living Systems, Miami, FL

Armando Bardisa – SMP Pharmacy Solutions, Miami, FL

Amy Tseng – TissueTech, Inc., Doral, FL

Hospitality & Leisure

Michelle Fee – Cruise Planners, an American Express Travel Representative, Coral Springs, FL

Sergey Petrossov – JetSmarter, Fort Lauderdale, FL

Rodger Bloss – Vantage Hospitality Group, Coral Springs, FL

Media, Entertainment & Communications

Jayson Dublin – Playwire, Deerfield Beach, FL

Real Estate & Construction

Vincent Signorello – Florida East Coast Industries, Coral Gables, FL

Dagan Kasavana – Phoenix Tower International, Boca Raton, FL

Retail and Consumer Products

Mario Murgado – Brickell Motors, Miami, FL


Ellen Latham – Orangetheory Fitness, Ft Lauderdale, FL

Award recipients will be announced at a black-tie awards gala onJune 9, 2016, at the Straz Center for the Performing Arts in Tampa, Florida.

April 26, 2016

EcoTech to host second #LOCALIS Digital Conference on Thursday

Submitted by EcoTech Visions

 EcoTech Visions will host the second annual #LOCALIS Digital Conference on Thursday, April 28 from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. EST.

#LOCALIS is a fun digital conference that focuses on the meaning and impact of living locally and supporting local green businesses. The goal of the event is to build awareness and engagement around eco-sustainability topics through noted virtual presenters and institutions who are creatively impacting the ways people interact with the environment and eco-business development. The conference takes place on various social media channels including: Twitter, Facebook and YouTube.

“We’re very excited for this year’s #LOCALIS Digital Conference and expect national and global participation,” says Justin Knight, director of marketing and programming at EcoTech Foundations. “Participants will engage in meaningful conversations around what ‘local is’ and ways people can encourage and further develop sustainability in their local communities.”

This year’s schedule includes a scavenger hunt with clues revealed online, plus an in-person lunch event hosted at EcoTech Visions.

Topics on this year’s agenda include:

8am-9am: Solar Power

9am-10am: Renewable Energy Technology

10am-11am: How the not-for-profit sector is advancing local change

11am-noon: Blue Collar to Green Collar

Noon-2pm: Scavenger Hunt

2pm-3pm: Benefits of Supporting Small Businesses/ How to Buy Locally

3pm-4pm: Solving for Sea Level Rise

4pm-5pm: How to make an impact with Water Conservation

5pm-6pm: A Healthier You: What is the impact of eco-sustainability on health

7pm-8pm: Tips for "Glean" Living (Green-Clean Living)

The majority of the conversation occurs on the Twitter platform using hashtag: #LOCALIS. Real-time conversations around “what #LOCALIS means to you.”

A partial listing of presenters for this year's event includes:

  • Andrew West, National Black Information Technology Leadership Organization
  • James Jiler, Urban Greenworks
  • Jen Boynton, Triple Pundit
  • Kamalah Fletcher, American Red Cross
  • Dr. Pandwe Gibson, PhD, EcoTech Visions
  • Valencia Gunder, Make the Homeless Smile
  • Victoria Fear, The Miami Foundation
  • …and more

“LOCALIS represents a unique opportunity for my business to promote the local manufacturing of environmentally friendly and sustainable products," says Michael Caballero, chief executive officer of Earthware Inc. "The benefits of my business model - economically, environmentally and to one's health - are an important message that everyone needs to hear.”

Interested participants can get in on the conversation between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. on Thursday, April 28 by using hashtag #LOCALIS.

To view the full schedule and list of digital presenters, visit: localisconference.com, and for more information about EcoTech Visions, please visit: EcoTechVisions.com.

EcoTech Visions is a green technology business incubator and accelerator that is turning blue collar jobs to green collar.


Code Art Miami funds MDC scholarship to encourage women to get into animation, gaming

Members of Code Art Miami’s event committee present MDC with a check to fund a new scholarship for Animation and Gaming students at MAGIC. From left to right: Diana Bien Aime (MDC Wolfson Dean of Academic Affairs), Josie Goytisolo, Sofia Garcia, Mauricio Ferrazza (MAGIC Chairperson), Amy Austin Renshaw, Lander Basterra, Maria Mejia, Lisa Hauser and Allison Cammack.

By Amy Austin Renshaw

For the past two years I have had the privilege to be an instructor with the Girls Who Code Club at iPrep Academy. The club was founded last school year by then junior, Maria Mejia, who was inspired to get more girls into coding after completing the Girls Who Code summer immersion program. This year Maria wanted to do even more to inspire girls to learn to code, and from that was born the idea for Code Art Miami, an event aimed at encouraging more girls to learn to code by highlighting the creative side of computer science through a student digital art exhibition and speaker symposium. 

Volunteers from three local Girls Who Code Clubs (iPrep Academy, The Idea Center @ MDC, and Pinecrest Library) and CODeLLA, a local organization that teaches coding and tech skills to Latina girls, came together to plan the event, which was hosted in early February at the Miami Animation & Gaming International Complex (MAGIC) at MDC Wolfson Campus. The event was a great success with over 300 attendees and over 150 student submissions of art-generating programs that ran on digital flat screens throughout the event venue.

In addition to the event, Maria worked to establish the Code Art Miami Scholarship fund at MDC to give back to our host and to make a positive impact on more lives. "A disadvantaged student should not be limited by finances in order to pursue an education, especially when the odds are already against her. Just as I have been fortunate enough to have an entire network of supportive friends and mentors, the Code Art Miami scholarship is my way of providing those same resources to someone else,” said Maria. 

"In setting up the scholarship, we were amazed to learn that just $7,000 would cover tuition costs for one student for both years in the two-year MAGIC program,” said iPrep math teacher and Girls Who Code Club advisor Lisa Hauser. Funds for the scholarship were raised at the event through a silent auction, which included donations from Miami Heat player Chris Bosh and artist Ahol, and through continued post-event sales of a limited-edition print donated by London-based artist Ryca. By early April, we reached our fundraising goal, and on April 20th, Maria and the rest of the Code Art Miami planning committee presented MDC with a check for $7,000 to establish a scholarship fund for women or other underrepresented minorities enrolled in one of MAGIC’s two-year programs. “Currently only about one-fifth of gaming developers are women. This new scholarship will help encourage more women to enter this field,” said Mauricio Ferrazza, MAGIC Chairperson. 

Volunteers who helped Maria make the event and the scholarship fund a reality include my event co-chairJosie Goytisolo and executive planning committee members Lander Basterra, Allison Cammack, Marina Ganopolsky, Sophia Garcia and Lisa Hauser, all of whom share a passion for education — particularly computer science eduction — and a belief in its ability to change lives. Speaking for the group, Allison said, "Coding teaches problem-solving, teamwork, and tenacity. Whatever you can dream, coding gives you the tools to build. And with imagination and determination, you can change the world.” 

Work is already underway for next year’s event. We are reaching out now to area schools to schedule information sessions and workshops in the fall for both teachers and students in the hopes of involving more girls next year. In addition to including more students, we plan to add age brackets and categories for next year’s competition. “It was incredibly difficult to choose just three winners from this year’s submissions, which came from girls in grades 4-12 and included still images, 3D-printed art, animations, and interactive art programs,” said Head Judge Marina Ganopolsky. To learn more about Code Art Miami or schedule an information session at your school or club, email amy@codeart.miami.

April 25, 2016

MentorDay: How Miami leaders are paving the way for entrepreneurs

By Juan Lopez Salaberry

Wow! Thirty less headaches for Miami entrepreneurs, and a $50,000 prize. Twenty-two industry experts helped 30 entrepreneurs solve their business problems  in 45 minute sessions for high impact mentorship across 4 venues in Miami.

MentorDay, a new made-in-Miami platform, was launched this moth to give industry leaders and experts a chance to pay it forward to the community, helping up and coming entrepreneurs solve specific obstacles in their ventures. Mentor Day allows entrepreneurs and startups to receive high impact mentorship in free one-on-one mentorship sessions with industry experts on topics ranging from marketing, venture capital, growth hacking, accounting, legal and beyond.

I have witnessed first hand how mentorship has a deep impact in one's company and also how countless opportunities to work with impressive mentors are lost because of a lack of a mentorship culture. On its first edition, MentorDay received 60 applications, gathered 30 entrepreneurs, 22 experts and solved 30 specific business hurdles.

And magic did happen! We are extremely proud and humbled to be even a (small) part of Cetus Labs’s story. This is an amazing startup from Venture Hive, who applied asking for help with their pitch deck as they had been selected to present at the early-stage competition at Emerge Americas. They won the competition and took $50,000 with them! “Thanks to Mentor Day, we had a great meeting with RJ Roshi where he helped us perfect our pitch before the eMerge Americas startup competition, which we ended up winning!,” Luc Castera, founder of Cetus Labs, told us on a written note.

We created MentorDay to provide a platform for both mentors and mentees to feel comfortable and protected (We even created rules for that purpose.) No deceitful approaches and no broad open questions. We want to educate mentees on how they need to formulate their asks and be clear about them,  while allowing experts in various areas to donate their time in an effective way. With clear expectations before coming, both will end the meeting with the satisfaction of solving one specific problem.

This also de-personalizes mentorship and takes a ‘problem focused’ approach. Instead of having a line to meet & greet with one our mentors, we can be flexible and allow anyone -from the mayor to a visitor to a local hustler, - to be able to share their expertise and pay it forward.

MentorDay started in Miami, and it will hopefully start happening in other cities soon. Silicon Valley has a mentorship culture, however the rest of the world does not look like Silicon Valley. Miami does not look like it. As most nascent and developing entrepreneurial ecosystems, we have our own strengths and areas of opportunity and we have an amazing chance ahead of us to do something about it. There is amazing talent right here and by facilitating the connections we have an amazing future ahead.

MentorDay wants to empower local communities, we want to see each other’s faces, 1-on-1 meetings, in person, for free, at least once a month and help someone else have a fair chance. We want to democratize the chances of success, regardless race, gender, or age. Whether or not entrepreneurs  are part of Endeavor,  received investment, work at a co-working space, or from home and are just starting. We can all use some help.


Photo by Al delcy

Magic happened

We had an amazing contribution from local and even guest mentors. The .CO crowd almost in full jumped in to help out, investors such as Christian Seale and RJ Joshi, entrepreneurs from Wyncode or Gasninja, among many others. Even my dear friend and former partner at 500 Startups, Cesar Salazar, who was visiting the city took one of the sessions and said: “I've been to a large number of mentorship events and this one has by far the best return on time invested.”


Photo by Al delcy

Our first go at MentorDay also received the immense support of four venues: Building.co, WeWork, The LAB Miami and Venture Hive, in which at anytime last Friday you would have found a room with 1 mentor, and 1 mentee.

Our sponsors also rocked. LateralView helped us put together our platform in record time, building.co housed us since the beginning and StartupVisa also helped with the initial funding to set this not-for-profit off the ground.

Next MentorDay

We honestly had no idea what was going to happen last Friday. We did our homework and put a lot of hard work, specially Pete Kovach who was instrumental to the success of the day. But we honestly had no idea what the response was going to be like. Now we want more.

Now that the format has been proven we want to test the frequency. Ideally we want to hold MentorDay once a month (3rd Friday of every month) but it is ultimately the market that will really dictate what will happen.

Our next MentorDay is scheduled for the 20th of May and we have already aligned some incredible mentors. Applications are now open and will close May 9th. We have also put together 5 tips to make sure mentees have higher chances at getting a session.

Get ready, Miami - we are only getting started!

Juan Lopez Salaberry is the founder of the new Miami nonprofit, MentorDay.co.

April 24, 2016

Entrepreneurship Datebook: Events, workshops in South Florida April 25-May 1

Tech eggMarketHack: The digital marketing training program presents Tricks of the Twitter Trade, 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m., Monday, Idea Center at Miami Dade College, Wolfson campus, fifth floor. More info on Eventbrite.

From Idea to Prototype: In this Gold Coast Venture Capital Association event, learn from two leaders in the prototyping industry and an entrepreneur who turned his idea into a prototype and then a funded startup, 5:30 to 8:30 p.m., Wednesday, Mindwarehouse, 111 NE 1st Street, 7th Floor. More info here.

Waffles After Work with LiveNinja: Join the Miami tech and startup community for this monthly evening version of #WaffleWednesday, 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. Wednesday, LiveNinja HQ, 120 NW 25th Street, Suite 301, Miami. More info on Eventbrite

Brainfood with Zumba: The Brainfood speaker series presents “The Zumba Case” with CEO Alberto Perlman, 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. Thursday, The LAB Miami, 400 NW 26th St., Wynwood. More info here.

MIT Enterprise Forum: Topic is “The Future of On-Demand Manufacturing: Printing 3D Products” with a panel of entrepreneurs and 3D printing experts, 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. Thursday, Florida International University, 11200 SW 8th St. (Park in Garage 6). More info and ticket information here.

If you have an event you would like considered for Entrepreneurship Datebook, email it to ndahlberg@miamiherald.com and put Datebook in the subject line.


Miami-Dade startups can apply for the American Entrepreneurship Award contest sponsored by the Libra Group. The contest comes with a $25,000 prize, and the entry deadline is Friday. Find out more at www.americanaward.com.


Find startup news and community views on the Starting Gate blog on Miami Herald.com.

April 22, 2016

YellowPepper launches #MiamiTech relief effort for Ecuador - How you can help


By Daniela Ron

As you all are aware, Ecuador was struck with a 7.8-magnitude earthquake. The powerful Earthquake killed at least 570 people, 163 are still missing and as many as 2,500 were injured.

With such tragedy, there are numerous small cities with over 80% destruction to which limited assistance has been provided, such as Jama, El Matal, La Division, Don Juan, Canoa, Camarones, and Briceño

YellowPepper has a special bond to Ecuador as it started its Latin American operation there in 2006 and it has now grown to a 20-person operation in Quito. In an effort to give back to the country that has given us so much, YellowPepper is coordinating with the Miami Tech scene and beyond to assist Ecuador in these hard times. 

Our mission as YellowPepper is to contribute to reconstruction of these vibrant cities through supplies and monetary aid. With the help of logistics of the Consulate General of Ecuador in Miami, we will be sending all of this aid directly to the ‘ Taller del Cielo”.

I, as an Ecuadorean-born, personally got in contact with several organizations and concluded that Taller del Cielo, a church located in Quito would be the best choice to distribute the donations due to their various connections. The organization already has all the logistics from to take all donations by helicopters to these small towns. 

We will receive video and photographs of all of our aid donated directly to the affected towns. The images I received of these towns (see photo of Jama above) are truly heartbreaking; they are in severe devastation and have asked for a lot of help. Our employees have already raised the first $2,500 of matching funds; we have brought on MxHero, Pinta and Isofruit as partners.

This is the link for readers to be able to support and contribute in this great effort is:


Our hope is other Miami Tech Communities also join this effort. 

Daniela Ron is office manager US / public relations for YellowPepper based in Wynwood.

April 19, 2016

Announced or launched at eMerge Americas: Wyncode-Lynn U degree, World Cup of Sales, LifeWallet

Wyncode, Lynn University team up on new graduate degree program


Photo by Pedro Portal

Lynn University today announced a partnership with Miami-based coding bootcamp Wyncode Academy. The announcement comes one year after Lynn and Wyncode executives participated in the “Disruption of Education” panel at eMerge Americas, during which they identified a collaboration opportunity. 

“A traditional liberal arts education develops strategic thinking abilities, but doesn’t always provide the opportunity for technical skill development and exploration,” says Lynn President Kevin M. Ross. “Technology is evolving continuously, and the nature of bootcamps provides flexibility needed to quickly adapt to market needs. We identified a great alignment between Wyncode and Lynn’s services to enable individuals to get high-demand coding experience while earning a degree.”

The partnership makes way for a new graduate degree program comprising Lynn’s Master of Business Administration or Master of Science in Media and Communication foundation courses and Wyncode’s nine-week immersive web development program. Students who complete the bootcamp will earn nine credits toward an MBA or M.S. that focuses on web design strategies, development and management.

“The majority of Wyncode students have college degrees, so it was a natural fit for us to partner with Lynn and offer bootcamp participants the option to further their education,” says Wyncode Co-Founder Johanna Mikkola (pictured above making the annoucement at eMerge Americas on Tuesday). “In addition to learning to code at Wyncode, traditional graduate degree-seeking students will be immersed in Miami’s up-and-coming startup ecosystem, which is positioned to become a major tech center due to its entrepreneurial climate and close links to Latin America. Our accelerated nine-week schedule allows university students to complete the course quickly, like during the summer, without disrupting their traditional studies”

Wyncode has three Florida locations in Wynwood, Miami Beach and Fort Lauderdale, and Lynn’s graduate programs can be completed at its Boca Raton, Florida, campus, online or a combination of both.

World Cup of Sales launches sales platform geared to product launches

OutlookEmoji-1456423587517_WCOS_VR_Full.pngWorld Cup of Sales, a product market fit and sales platform geared toward startup companies and product launches, unveiled its platform at the eMerge Americas conference in Miami. World Cup of Sales is at booth C16.

WCOS is providing millennials social sharing tools so that they can leverage their social media followers to sell products and earn money on what they sell. Millennials already spend over 5 hours a day on social media, so it's an easy way for students to share to their networks, get some cool selling experience, and earn some money along the way. The $10,000 Grand Prize for the top seller is a massive draw for students.

What's new about WCOS is its product market fit concept that helps product owners identify their target demographic and the ideal price point for their products. The 2 week tournaments offer quick insight for new companies. WCOS ambassadors across 300 US campuses review product samples and provide feedback on look and feel, missing features, and any other info companies need to track. This type of market intelligence can save huge money by ensuring companies launch the right product to the right market.

A Rokk3r Labs’ portfolio company, World Cup of Sales aims to change the way companies launch and hopes to make Miami the place where startups go to market. “World Cup of Sales has a unique vision to engage the ‘crowd’ and create a powerful, community-driven user base,” said Nabyl Charania, CEO of Rokk3r Labs. “With an aggressive growth plan for their platform to connect the crowd with startups, World Cup of Sales is poised to create a shift in the entrepreneurial ecosystem.”

 LifeWallet unveils HealthFluence product, setting up Healthy Hub at eMerge

At eMerge Americas, LifeWallet, a leading healthcare technology company based in Miami, is introducing its HealthFluence, LifeWallet’s easy-to-use App-based solution designed to help healthcare providers take a more active role in helping individuals focus on improving their health. 

LifeWallet has an interactive Healthy Hub at the show (pictured below) and will — after key vitals are taken by onsite nurses — be able to nearly instantly provide attendees with their American Heart Association Life’s Simple 7 score using HealthFluence’s iPad App.  These include blood pressure, blood sugar, cholesterol, weight and other key healthcare components such as smoking and activityThus, HealthFluence will provide an instant, detailed ‘snapshot’ of the consumer’s health. LifeWallet will be at booth B19-B.

The eMerge Americas technology expo and conference is the first official announcement of HealthFluence, which has been three years in the making. LifeWallet is working closely with leading healthcare organizations like West Kendall Baptist Hospital to demonstrate HealthFluence at eMerge.  A Beta test of HealthFluence is slated to begin during the second quarter of 2016. 

 LifeWallet seeks to  revolutionize consumer engagement and change the face of digital healthcare with modern ‘Digital Assistants’ that enhance life.


See announcements from Monday at eMerge here.

Read daily coverage of eMerge Americas here.


Magic Leap releases new video of its ‘mixed reality’ technology in action


Wired magazine writer Kevin Kelly received an exclusive look at the technology and reports that it worked “amazingly well.” Magic Leap also released a new video on its YouTube channel.

By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

Magic Leap, the high-flying South Florida company developing “mixed reality” technology, released a new two-minute video showing its technology, timed with the publication of an extensive report in Wired magazine.

As with other videos it has released, a Magic Leap spokesman said the video was shot directly through the Magic Leap system, and no special effects were used in its creation. It is dated April 8. See it above.

Wired’s co-founder and “Senior Maverick” Kevin Kelly received an exclusive look at the Magic Leap technology for his report in Wired’s May issue, which was also a deep dive into the world of virtual reality, augmented reality and mixed reality and the technologies of Magic Leap’s competitors. The article explained Magic Leaps’s technology and its “photonic lightfield chip” in greater detail than past reports, but the references are vague, such as these:

“The user sees the outside world through the glass, while the virtual elements are projected from a light source at the edge of the glass and then reflected into the user’s eyes by the beam-splitting nano-ridges,” Kelly wrote. “Magic Leap claims that its device is unique in the way it beams light into the eye, though the company declines to explain it further at this time. ...

“In trying out Magic Leap’s prototype, I found that it worked amazingly well close up, within arm’s reach, which was not true of many of the other mixed- and virtual-reality systems I used. I also found that the transition back to the real world while removing the Magic Leap’s optics was effortless, as comfortable as slipping off sunglasses, which I also did not experience in other systems. It felt natural.”

Natural is what Magic Leap founder and CEO Rony Abovitz is going for – technology that is an extension of the body, rather than an intrusion, “that will deliver and Internet of presence and experience and rather than just data,” he has said in past interviews. While exactly how Magic Leap’s technology will be delivered hasn’t been disclosed, it has been assumed in the tech press that it will be through some type of glasses or headset. Said Kelly: “It’s no great leap to imagine such glasses also replacing the small screens we all keep in our pockets. In other words, this is a technology that can simultaneously upend desktop PCs, laptops, and phones. No wonder Apple, Samsung, and everyone else is paying attention. This is what disruption on a vast scale looks like.”

The secretive company with more than 150 patents still gave no timetable on bringing its first product to market. Funding will not be an issue: Magic Leap has received nearly $1.4 billion in venture capital from Google and others, including $793.5 million in the first quarter in a round led by Alibaba, to develop and manufacture the technology.

Follow @ndahlberg on Twitter.

April 18, 2016

Launched or announced at eMerge Americas: mPower, ChallengeStar, Z9 Capital fund

mPower Solar Generator launches Buy 1-Donate 1 model, Indiegogo campaign


mPower Solar Generator CEO Will Perego chose eMerge to launch his South Florida company and its Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign; its first product is a portable solar generator. For every generator sold, the company will donate one to a family without electricity, Perego said.

Next year, the company hopes to offer a 24-hour solar roof.  To create the products, Perego liscensed technology licensed from four universities: University of Miami, Florida International University, University of Central Florida and Georgia Tech.

Along with the crowdfunding campaign, the company also announced its challenge “Travel with Purpose—Help Us Light Up the World.”  The focus of the challenge is to find an ambassador who will represent the mPower brand in 2017. The mPower Ambassador is a one-year, salaried position, where the representative will travel with mPower and its partner Techo.org to deliver solar generators to developing countries through the “Buy 1—Donate 1” program. The company plans to deliver approximately 5,000 units in 2017.

“Customers can now buy the lightest and most powerful solar generator on the market to power their outdoor activities or their next blackout while, at no extra cost, helping families in need,” Perego said.

The mPower Solar Generator is all-in-one, with two solar panels, plus battery, plus inverter, to allow users to have AC and DC power anytime, anywhere. Up until now, gas generators have provided off-grid electricity, but users complain of the noise, weight, difficulty in refilling the generator and that they have a high carbon footprint. mPower Solar Generators solve these problems by utilizing sun light, solar panels and batteries to provide electricity day and night.

Perego, pictured above in the center, participated on a planel about clean-tech at eMerge Americas Mpnday afternoon.

ChallengeStar launches charity challenge app

ChallengestarChallengeStar, a Miami-based tech startup. launched its new mobile app of the same name Monday at eMerge Americas.

The app is aimed at revolutionizing fundraising and social media competition, said Jed Royer, CEO of ChallengeStar. "People can create contests that help raise money and awareness for their causes.”

The app is free to download from either the App Store or Google Play Store, and registered users can play for a cause by setting up a “CharityChallenge” or play for themselves by setting up a “Winner Takes All Challenge.” In either instance, users create their own challenges, message their followers to participate and raise money online using ChallengeStar’s secure payment gateway via PayPal.

Supporters can also pledge from the convenience of their social media pages without having to download the app through ChallengeStar’s “EasyPledge” technology. This allows participants to click on a challenge that was shared on social media and pledge directly through that screen, without being rerouted to another page.

One nonprofit that is putting ChallengeStar to good use is the Live Like Bella Foundation, which raises money for pediatric cancer research. Live Like Bella began a “Super Selfie Challenge” where participants post photos and videos of themselves in their favorite superhero outfits.

Z9 Capital launches venture fund

z9 Capital of Boca Raton  announced the launch of its $25 million venture capital fund at eMerge Americas.

z9 invests $250K to $4M in early-stage that have demonstrated product-market fit and are seeking growth capital. z9’s investment thesis is rooted in active management and aims to provide startups with both the liquidity and the operational resources needed to thrive.

Founded in 2014, the firm has already made several investments to date; notable portfolio companies include Videoo (who came in 2nd place at last year’s eMerge Startup Showcase), Aroma360 and Public Reputation.

The firm is led by Benzion ‘Benny’ Aboud, who while in college grew a wireless phone business from a single location to 120 retail stores spanning the east coast; he later sold the business to AT&T.  Since then,. Aboud has founded and exited various companies, most notably Qology Direct.

 “My passion has always been growing and incubating early stage businesses,” said Aboud. “There’s something magical about plunging head first into the unknown; working feverishly with a core group of individuals to build something that defies conventional wisdom, accelerates change and creates a lasting impact.”

To learn more, visit www.z9capital.com

Read daily coverage about eMerge Americas here.