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33 posts from August 2016

August 30, 2016

WeWork to open in Brickell City Centre

BM cover tech hub 4 d epf

By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

WeWork, the fast-growing global co-working company, will be leasing four of the 12 floors at Two Brickell City Centre, one of the new massive urban development’s two office towers, Brickell City Centre’s developer Swire Properties confirmed Tuesday.

In total, WeWork @ Brickell will encompass 62,000 square feet in the tower, set to be complete by the end of the year. Details on the WeWork location and its timeline were not released. Like in its other locations, WeWork will offer its members access to private offices, dedicated desks, shared work spaces, conference rooms, kitchens, event spaces and other amenities.

“WeWork is the ideal partner for Brickell City Centre. Both share a long-term, global vision to redefine the blueprint of urban living and create a cultural shift toward a more accessible, shared and connected community,” said Gonazlo Cortabarria, senior vice president at Swire, in an email.

WeWork has been expanding rapidly in the Miami area and it’s part of a wave of new spaces for entrepreneurs opening in South Florida. The company entered the Miami market last summer with WeWork Lincoln Road. It opened its South of Fifth location, at 429 Lenox Ave., in July. The 54,000 square foot space can accommodate very large teams -- is even has an office for up to 66 -- and it includes a rooftop area for co-working and events.

WeWork recently leased the historic Security Building in downtown Miami, but the 100,000-square-foot space has not yet open. “We have no further details to share at this time,” said WeWork spokeswoman Hillary Klein. WeWork co-founder Miguel McKelvey has said five to seven locations are planned in South Florida over the next couple of years.

“We are a global business but we are also a local business. Our vision for Miami is bold and the upcoming space at Two Brickell City Centre, along with our current locations at Lincoln Road and South of Fifth, reflects our commitment to companies of all sizes who want a new way to work,” said Adam Wacenske, WeWork general manager for the Southern Region, in an email.

WeWork, founded in 2010, has raised $1.4 billion in financing and is currently valued at $16 billion. The has 65,000 members spread across more than 100 buildings in 30 cities around the world. WeWork recently began launching WeLive “co-living” spaces, with locations in New York and the Washington, D.C., area.

Brickell City Centre, a 5.4-million-square-foot mixed-use development with luxury condos, open-air retail, entertainment, office towers and a hotel, has been opening in stages.

August 29, 2016

Startup Spotlight: Avenue Planet's VR puts you on world's finest shopping streets


Company name: Avenue Planet

Headquarters: Pipeline Brickell in Miami

Concept: Avenue Planet is developing a first-person, fully immersive 3D and virtual reality-based shopping experience platform. Users will be able to walk down 12 of the most famous shopping avenues on the planet (including Lincoln Road, Rodeo Drive, London’s Oxford Street and Tokyo’s Ginza), and browse and buy from some of the best stores in the world from the comfort of their own homes. Users simply plug their smartphones into a pair of VR-enabled goggles and are instantly transported to a premier, international shopping plaza.

Story: When coming up with the idea for Avenue Planet, the company’s founding members had a clear mission: to deliver content in a digital environment that feels as though it is being experienced in the real world. With today’s advances in 3D development and the recent penetration of virtual reality (VR) headsets across the global markets, the vision for Avenue Planet is becoming a reality. The company is moving ahead with plans to deliver a platform where the lines between the offline, online and real word user experience start to fade.

Avenue Planet began its Miami operations in February 2014. The company’s corporate headquarters is based out of Pipeline Workspaces’ Brickell location with a development center in Barcelona and satellite offices in Porto and London. Avenue Planet launched the world’s first virtual reality art gallery at Art Basel in 2015. “We believed the international audience and diverse attendance of this international art fair would be the perfect venue to debut our VR platform that enables artists to tell the story behind their work in a different way with a completely immersive experience,” said Kabir Frutos (pictured above), who directs the company’s North and South American business activities, its principle market, and recruits and manages the brands within the platform.

Avenue Planet recently finished its proprietary payment technology allowing for seamless in-app purchases. The company is entering its final stages of development, and its platform will be ready to launch in the coming months. The Avenue Planet team is planning its launch campaign and working to secure partnerships with headset manufacturers in order to provide users with the best possible experiences.

Founded: Avenue Planet was founded in 2011 with virtual reality becoming its main focus in 2014.

Management team: Two founding partners, Bruno Carvalho and Sanjay Daswani, with an executive team that includes Kabir Frutos, North and South America director; Franco Casado, head of design and creative director; Cesar Couto Ferreira, head of Marketing and Partnerships; Daniel Abad, technology director and head of VR payment system; Filipe Mezquita, head of brand and advertising; and Hector Zapata, strategic technical director.

No. of employees: 19

Website: avenueplanet.com

Financing: Founder funded with $450,000; $250,000 in early stage funding; and, of course, much sweat equity.

Recent milestones reached: Created final version of first virtual reality payment system that does not require the use of a keyboard or input device, allowing for seamless in-app purchases and transactions; added five prominent brands to the Avenue Planet platform; acquired three strategic partners.

Biggest startup challenge: A lack of public knowledge around virtual reality. “This means that anyone that is brought into our ecosystem must experience the platform first-hand, which can present logistical challenges as we work with brands all over the world,” Frutos said.

Next step: “We are finalizing Lincoln Road within our platform, which will feature approximately 10 brands and 15 experiences, in time for our Q4 2016 launch event. We will also be making a formal announcement to the media that will include all the exciting companies and celebrities we are working with,” Frutos said. Stay tuned.

Strategy for next step: Continue building upon current relationships and establish new ones with people, partners and brands that want to invest and/or become part of this new ecosystem that will be used by many to access great content and live unimaginable experiences.

Follow @ndahlberg on Twitter.

Read more Startup Spotlights

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Octopi making waves in shipping industry

Mediconecta brings telehealth to emerging markets.

Why Hope Solo is partnering with this startup

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Need a ride? Freebee revs up to expand

August 28, 2016

Entrepreneurship Datebook: Events Workshops in South Florida this week


Tech eggMiami Startup Office Hours:  Get advice and guidance about business strategy and key decisions from local entrepreneurs and CEOs in this event organized by Founder Institute, 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 30, TamboWorks, 5790 Sunset Drive, South Miami. More info here.

Advertising and Public Relations for Your Business: In this free seminar in Spanish, you will learn how to effectively communicate in today’s multicultural environment, including effective strategies and plans to successfully portray your businesses to the public. The session is  offered by the Hispanic Business Initiative Fund and hosted at the Florida Blue Center in Fort Lauderdale, 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 31.  To register, click here or call 786-329-5830.

How VR and AR will Change the World: The Idea Center in collaboration with MAGIC at Miami Dade College introduces Immersive Tech Miami, a program that teaches you everything you need to know about starting your own VR and AR business. To kick it off, listen to Sivan Iram, general manager of River Studios, a company that is pushing the boundaries of VR, 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 1, The Idea Center at Miami Dade College, 315 NE 2nd Ave, Building 8, 5th Floor. More info here. 

Venture Café: Join health innovators and an expert panel of healthcare robotics specialists to discuss surgical robotics and how they shape the future of medicine. The free event is at 6 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 1, at Venture Cafe Miami, 1951 NW 7th Ave., in Miami. The organizer is Florida Health innovators. More info: http://www.meetup.com/Miami-Health-Innovators/

Coming up

Mentor Day: Mentor Day is a unique opportunity for entrepreneurs to receive free one-on-one mentorship from industry leaders in Miami. The next Mentor Day is  Sept. 16. The last day to apply is Monday, Sept. 5. Apply at mentorday.co.

[Read more about why Mentor Day got started here.]

Crowdfunding Investing Workshop: Venture Hive and the Knight Foundation will be hosting a free daylong Crowdfund Investing Workshop led by Sherwood Neiss, who spearheaded the writing of Crowdfund Investing legislation in the 2012 JOBS Act ratified by President Barack Obama and authoring preeminent “how to” guides for entrepreneurs and investors looking to raise money, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sept. 13 at Venture Hive, 1010 NE 2nd Ave., Miami. Limited seating; register here.

Have an event you would like considered for Entrepreneurship Datebook? Email it to ndahlberg@miamiherald.com. Want to see a more comprehensive listing? Check out the Community Events section of the revamped refreshmiami.com.


August 26, 2016

Finova Financial raises $52.5 million for lending platform

By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

Finova Financial co-founders Greg Keough and Derek Acree launched the cloud-based company to give consumers in need of emergency cash a loan  alternative to the triple-digit, punitive offerings in the traditional “payday” lending marketplace. The West Palm Beach-based fintech company focused on the auto-title lending industry recently announced it has raised $52.5 million in a combination of equity and debt.

The funding round was led by Silicon Valley and international venture capital firms including MHS CapitalRefactor CapitalMetamorphic Venture and 500 StartUps, as well as leading fintech entrepreneurs such as Sam Hodges, co-founder and managing director of Funding Circle, Jake Gibson, co-founder of NerdWallet and Al Hamra Group, a private company owned by the ruling family of Ras Al Khaimah, United Arab Emirates. CoVenture provided the credit facility to support the enterprises’ growth. “Finova has earned great traction, and we look forward to working closely with them as they scale rapidly, giving consumers the opportunity to get back on track financially.” said David Lee, co-founder and managing partner of Refactor Capital, in a statement.

Finova Financial_Greg Keough (2)The funding will be used by Finova to grow the all-digital lending platform serving the auto title loan marketplace while delivering up to 70 percent lower cost to consumers.  Finova Financial’s  online Car Equity Line of Credit (C-LOC) product and lending platform offers consumers a significantly less expensive auto title loan alternative, with 12 months to repay, an opportunity to repair their credit score, and a chance to earn performance points that can be used for grace periods in the repayment process, the company said.  This is in stark contrast to traditional lending models and it's the first in a series of products planned to address the needs of the hundreds of million of unbanked and underbanked consumers globally. The company successfully piloted its product in Florida.  

“Finova Financial was launched to help consumers get critically-needed cash without the traditional barriers of high interest rates, inconvenient application processes and restrictive payment terms of the auto title lending industry,” said Keough (pictured above), Finova’s CEO who has led a number of fintech ventures including MFS and RegaloCard. “As a company committed to social impact, we see Finova Financial as being an advocate for consumer financial well-being through improved access to credit, better repayment terms and lower costs.”



Radical Partners' social impact accelerator reveals next cohort of changemakers


Greetings from Cohort 2 of Social Entrepreneurship Bootcamp


By Rebecca Fishman Lipsey

Social Entrepreneurship Bootcamp, co-hosted by Radical Partners and AkermanIN, is excited to announce the innovators who have been accepted into Cohort 3.  

Amy Renshaw, Co-founder and Executive Director of CodeArt, an organization focused on increasing gender diversity in tech by highlighting the creative side of coding.

Brandon Okpalobi Founder of DIBIA, a sports development program that fosters excellence and success in life through sports and recreational training and DIBIA Dream, which brings their programming to underserved youth.   

Felecia Hatcher, Serial entrepreneur, Co-founder of Code Fever, an organization that teaches minority students ages 13-21 how to code, and Black Tech Week, a massive national conference focused on increasing racial diversity in the tech sector.

Isabella Acker, Founder and President of Prism Creative Group, focusing on strengthening Miami through the production of powerful local events, locally-conscious storytelling, and compelling content.  

Lauren Reskin, Co-Founder, President & CEO of Sweat Records, a world-class independent music store, event space, and a portal through which to discover Miami's music and cultural scenes.

Leigh-Ann Buchanan, Executive Director of Venture Cafe, a local hub focused on strengthening Miami’s local innovation sector.  They host massive weekly networking and educational events and offer support for entrepreneurs, investors, students, and innovation and educational organizations.

Michel Hausmann, Founding Producing Artistic Director of Miami New Drama, a presenting and producing organization committed to theatrical excellence and theater-making as a means of social engagement, cultural conversation and human interaction.

Pioneer Winter, Founder and Executive Director of Pioneer Winter Collective, an innovative arts organization that uses dance as an anchor for social change, development, and community engagement by providing a platform for risk-taking, progressive, and experimental arts initiatives.

Rob Biskupic-Knight, Executive Director of Engage Miami, focused on building a powerful youth voting bloc in Miami-Dade County.

Sheila Womble, Executive Director of Arts For Learning, an organization focused on making the arts a central component of every child's education. Their programs are delivered at preschools, schools and out-of-school locations throughout Miami-Dade County

Valencia Gunder, Founder and Executive Director of Make the Homeless Smile, which heals disenfranchised communities by treating them with dignity, providing them with access, and empowering them knowledge.

These innovators join two groups of alumni who are deeply committed to strengthening Miami, addressing issues from sea level rise to human trafficking.  Bootcamp kicks off  in September, hosted at Akerman’s offices in Brickell City Center.  Scholarships for Bootcamp were made available with the help of The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the Center For Social Change, and others.

More information on Radical Partners and its bootcamp:   http://www.radical.partners/


Members of Cohort 1 of Social Entrepreneurship Bootcamp participating in a team-building exercise.


Miami-based fantasy game startup scores investment from New World Angels

LetsRUMBL SPLASHBy Marcia Heroux Pounds / Sun Sentinel

Boca Raton's New World Angels has invested in a fantasy sports game startup.

Miami-based Synkt Games has a mobile app, letsRUMBL, designed to attract the nonprofessional player. They can choose to play against friends or random individuals in daily baseball and basketball games or weekly football games. The app has "tens of thousands" of users, said Synkt Games CEO Bryan Abboud.

Synkt's latest version of the app will launch through Apple's iTunes on Friday, in time for football season, he said.

An unusual investment for this South Florida  angel group? Not so, said Steve O'Hara, president of New World Angels, a 63-member group of investors who only finance companies that are based in or have a major tie to the state.

"We invest in small startup companies on the verge of exploding," O'Hara said. Those have traditionally included investments in consumer, medical and technology companies, not gaming or apps, and it has invested a total of $7.4 million since the angel group was founded in 2003.

O'Hara said he likes the app game because he's not an experienced player but enjoys competing with his son, who lives in Chicago.

But he likes the investment, $140,000, because of Abboud's gaming industry experience. Synkt Games has raised more than $1 million in total, according to CrunchBase, which tracks innovative companies and their funding.

Abboud, who also is a director at New World Angels, previously co-founded IGW Software, which provided software and tech support to the online gaming industry, and the Interactive Gaming Council, a trade association for the industry.

With letsRUMBL, Abboud said he wanted to create a game app that was more accessible to the casual player, designed to be easy to use and more affordable.

Aboud"If we play an event that's $2 each, we take 40 cents off the top and pay out the rest to the winner," he said.

Most daily fantasy sports games are over-run by "highly experienced" players, he said. However, spokeswomen for two of the most popular games, DraftKings and FanDuel — which claim 7 million and 6 million users, respectively — dispute this, saying only a small percentage of their users are so-called "pros."

New World Angels has been particularly active in 2016, with both add-on investments in portfolio companies and new investments including: Miami-based Kairos, a facial recognition software company; Newberry-based OBMedical, which has developed products to monitor fetal heart rate; and Gainesville-based Admiral, which has developed software to prevent ad blocking.

The group's biggest investment this year has been $750,000 in Polarean, a Durham, N.C., company with some Florida operationsthat has developed a device to improve the readability of lung scans.

August 25, 2016

Miami No. 2 for startup creation in Kauffman Index


By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

If you registered a new business last year, you were in good company.

The Miami-Fort Lauderdale metropolitan area again landed near the top of the Kauffman Foundation’s 2016 Index of Startup Activity, which measures new business creation. For the second year in a row, Miami ranked No. 2 of the 40 largest metro areas studied, a report on state and metropolitan data released on Thursday showed.

For the annual ranking, Kauffman’s analysts parsed government data from 2015 to determine the rate of entrepreneurs opening businesses in any given month and whether they are starting businesses because of the market opportunity rather than out of necessity. They also measure density, or the number of newly created businesses that employ at least one person per 1,000 companies. To hold on to its No. 2 ranking, Miami ticked up in opportunity share and down in both rate of new entrepreneurs and density since the year earlier; Miami’s density was second-highest in the nation. Kauffman’s index was significantly enhanced and expanded last year, but over the past decade the immigrant-rich Miami area typically has ranked in the top five nationally for new business creation in Kauffman’s research.

Before uncorking the champagne, know that the index itself is limited in what it shows. Miami may spawn a lot of companies, but how many of them grow? To measure that, Kauffman released its first annual Growth Entrepreneurship Index in June, which measured the rate of growth in companies’ first five years, the share of scale-ups that reached at least 50 employees by year 10, and high-growth company density, or the number of private businesses with at least $2 million in annual revenue and three consecutive years of 20 percent annual revenue growth. The results of the growth index for Miami were sobering: Instead of second from the top, the area ranked second from the bottom for growth among the 40 biggest metro areas in that study.

In the 2016 Kauffman Index: Startup Activity released Thursday, Austin, Texas, again ranked No 1. Following Miami at No. 2 were Los Angeles, San Francisco, Las Vegas, New York, Houston, San Jose, Denver and Phoenix. Kauffman’s data is industry-agnostic, so the businesses created range from high-growth tech startups to mom-and-pop shops and eateries and small service businesses in all industries. The Kauffman Foundation, based in Kansas City, develops and funds global research and programs in entrepreneurship.

Nationally, the key finding was that new-business activity was up for the second year in a row, said Arnobio Morelix, research analyst at the Kauffman Foundation and one of the study’s authors. “We as a country had reached the lowest level in two decades two years ago, so this second-year increase is very encouraging,” he said.

What’s driving this bounce-back? “We are seeing a return of opportunity entrepreneurship in the U.S., and that means businesses turning to entrepreneurship out of opportunity rather that necessity,” he said. The share of opportunity entrepreneurship was 84 percent, up 10 percent from the low during the recession. In Miami, the opportunity share was 78 percent.

Also nationally, Kauffman saw a narrowing of the gender gap, “but it’s still too large,” Morelix said. Females starting new businesses were 40 percent of the total in the 2016 index. More minorities are also joining the entrepreneurship ranks, and four out of every 10 entrepreneurs were minorities in this year’s index.

As for state trends, Florida ranked seventh overall but second among the 25 largest states (Texas was first). Orlando ranked 21st, up from No. 33 a year ago and one of the fastest-growing cities for startup activity. Tampa Bay ranked 19th and Jacksonville ranked 28th.

In addition to the Startup Activity and Growth Entrepreneurship indexes, Kauffman also releases a Main Street Entrepreneurship Index. In that 2015 index released in December, the Miami-Fort Lauderdale metropolitan area ranked No. 6 in the nation for small business activity, but the report also showed the region’s businesses are getting smaller, and nearly two-thirds have fewer than five employees. Together, the three annual reports aim to give a picture of entrepreneurship creation, makeup and growth in the United States.

The new report, as well as the other indexes, are available at kauffmanindex.org.

Nancy Dahlberg: @ndahlberg

Read more: Miami No. 2 for startups – but rides in second to last for scaleups

Read more: Miami area ranks No. 6 in nation for small business activity

Instacart expands on-demand grocery service to Fort Lauderdale

By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

Any grocery shopping haters in Fort Lauderdale? Thought so. Instacart, the fast-growing grocery delivery service now serving parts of Miami-Dade, is coming your way.

On Thursday, the on-demand service announced that it has expanded into Fort Lauderdale, its second market in Florida. Fort Lauderdale residents can order from retailers such as Whole Foods Market, Publix, Total Wine & More and Petco, and have their groceries delivered in as little as one hour.

Instacart's initial delivery area in Fort Lauderdale is in the following 11 zip codes: 33301, 33304, 33305, 33306, 33308, 33309, 33311, 33312, 33315, 33316 and 33334.

Founded in San Francisco in 2012, Instacart has quickly expanded to 25 metropolitan areas across the United States. In May of 2015, Instacart entered parts of the Miami area, expanded the service area a couple of months later, and it quickly became one of the company’s fastest-growing markets. Instacart General Manager Nick Friedrich noted that customer requests from Fort Lauderdale for the service have been high, so the northward expansion was a natural.

To use Instacart, customers go to www.Instacart.com or open the Instacart mobile app on their phone, select their city and store, add items to a virtual cart, then choose a delivery window (within one hour, within two hours, or up to seven days in advance) and check out. The order is filled by an Instacart Personal Shopper and then delivered. Prices are the same as in the store unless otherwise noted, Publix BOGOs are included, and deliveries typically cost $5.99.

Initially in Miami, Instacart’s service did not include Publix. In July, Instacart and Publix parterned in the greater Miami region, servicing 37 ZIP codes from Hallandale Beach to South Miami. Fort Lauderdale marks a significant expansion of the two companies’ initial collaboration.

August 24, 2016

The South Florida Accelerator, Greenspoon Marder law firm team up to foster Florida innovation

By Marcia Heroux Pounds / Sun Sentinel

The law firm of Greenspoon Marder has partnered with The South Florida Accelerator to create Innovation Florida, an advocacy organization for the advancement of technological innovation in the state.

Gerry Greenspoon, co-managing director of Greenspoon Marder, said the law firm will work to leverage strategic relationships and advocate for Florida's innovative entrepreneurs and technological pioneers. Greenspoon Marder has offices in Boca Raton, West Palm Beach, Fort Lauderdale, Miami and Miami Beach.

Innovation Florida said founding sponsors also include technology companies Levatas in Palm Beach Gardens; Citrix Systems and AAJ Technologies, both in Fort Lauderdale; and Brightstar Corp. in Miami.

The South Florida Accelerator was founded earlier this year by Christopher Malter and Thomas Buchar in Fort Lauderdale.

Read more about the accelerator here.

Does the world yearn for chicken and biscuits? Yardbird’s owner bets on it



Photo by Patrick Farrell

The owner of 50 Eggs restaurant group of Miami said Yardbirds are planned for Dubai, Singapore and Beverly Hills for 2017 and London in 2018, while additional locations are being scouted. Its fast-casual concept, Spring Chicken, is expanding in South Florida, with a Miami Beach location opening Friday and an MIA restaurant slated to open in October.

By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

Will John Kunkel’s granny’s fried chicken be a hit in Singapore and Dubai? That’s the bet the founder of 50 Eggs, the Miami-based restaurant group, is making as it wings overseas with its signature Yardbird Southern Table & Bar abroad, expands its new fast-casual concept Spring Chicken and hatches a Latin-food concept for Las Vegas.

Just as the brand’s Miami Beach and Las Vegas restaurants have been winners with tourists and locals alike, Kunkel hopes the eclectic southern-style Yardbird menu — featuring Lewellyn’s fried chicken, inspired by his grandmother’s recipe — will make a smooth landing in both international cities when they open in 2017, along with a location in Beverly Hills. He said 50 Eggs is close to securing a London location for a 2018 Yardbird opening and also is scouting sites in Washington, D.C., and New York.

“While there are amazing steakhouses and sushi and you-name-it that have expanded as national and international concepts, we don’t have another national competitor for what we do,” Kunkel said, speaking about Yardbird. “There are a lot of great mom-and-pop restaurants scattered, but we are the only ones ready to scale and that have figured out scale.” Kunkel recently returned from Singapore, where he handed out samples at an epicurean festival. “We’re growing the right way, reinvesting in the concept and varying the design and menu everywhere we go,” he said. “It’s an exciting time for Yardbird.”

Spring Chicken is also on the springboard. The fast-casual concept featuring quick-service casual dining focused on innovative menu items and fresh ingredients opened early this year in Coral Gables, and two months ago, it opened in Fort Lauderdale. This week, Spring Chicken will open in the original Miami Beach location of Lime Fresh Mexican Grill, the chain that Kunkel started in 2004, expanded to 16 locations and then sold in 2012.

Tuesday afternoon, dozens of employees were going through training for Friday’s opening. The space, at 1439 Alton Road, is smaller than the Coral Gables and Fort Lauderdale locations. The menu is more limited, too: It features chicken-tender meals, from $9.95 to family-size buckets, and a selection of sandwiches and salads starting at about $6. Also on Friday, LuLu’s Nitrogen Ice Cream is opening next door in the small three-building complex.

More than a year in the works, a Spring Chicken in Concourse D of Miami International Airport is slated to open in October. “You’ll be able to get your chicken and biscuits and a bourbon drink before your flight — that’s kind of fun,” Kunkel said. “It will help you sleep.” Over the next year, locations in Boca Raton, Pembroke Pines, Plantation and Aventura will likely open, he said, but no timetables have been set. National and international expansion is in the plan, and Kunkel said he is considering limited franchising.

In development is a new Latin concept, called Chica, in Las Vegas, with Miami executive chef Lorena Garcia, Kunkel said. The location will be announced in coming weeks and is planned to open next year. Kunkel described it as a “fun brand experience around Latin American flavors and cultures and cocktails” inspired by living in Miami.

Why so much expansion now? “With Yardbird, we see major influencer cities as a great way to build a long-term business strategy and help expose the brand, and we found the right sites and right deals,” Kunkel said. With Spring Chicken, that was a year in the making and 50 Eggs is largely using the expansion model developed for Lime, he added. “Fast-casual is the way people like to eat these days, at an affordable price point.”

"That said, it’s a challenging time for the industry, said Bonnie Riggs, restaurant industry analyst with NPD Group, which has been tracking the industry since 1976. Since March, traffic in the U.S. restaurant industry overall has stalled as business at full-service restaurants has dropped slightly and the once-hot fast-casual sector has slowed considerably. The fast-casual category in the second quarter of this year was up just 2 percent, compared to 7 percent growth a year ago, Riggs said, excluding results at Chipotle, which has been suffering financial fallout following an e. coli outbreak in 2015.

The fast-casual category is facing the same realities as its full-service brethren, she said. Cost increases have been passed onto consumers, and the price-value relationship may be getting out of whack, particularly with millennials who have been driving growth for fast-casual. “The only way to drive traffic in this market is by building brand loyalty and building frequency,” said Riggs said. “We’re still going, but we are not going as often.”

50 Eggs has about 450 employees now. With Yardbird’s three new restaurants planned for next year, the company will add another 500 employees, Kunkel said. In Miami, Spring Chicken’s growth will add about 150 employees for the South Florida economy, he added. 50 Eggs new headquarters, in a converted MiMo hotel on Biscayne Boulevard, will soon house a test kitchen and mixology lab that would be be open to the community for events.

But don’t expect Khong River House to reopen anytime too soon. The popular Miami Beach restaurant closed in 2015 and at the time Kunkel said it would reopen in Miami.

“It was one of my favorite restaurants and we still get calls in the office about it, but I’m not interested in doing anything full-service in Miami right now. I believe we are going to have a big shakeout period for restaurants — we have diluted the market in Miami,” Kunkel said. “The exception is fast casual: People are staying closer to home.”

While he wants to wait at least a year to decide on the future of Khong River House in Miami, Kunkel said there is a hunger for innovative full-service restaurants in Fort Lauderdale, and he thinks the Las Olas area is a good home for another Swine, 50 Eggs’ pork-inspired brand located in Coral Gables: “Fort Lauderdale loves their barbecue.”

Nancy Dahlberg: 305-376-3595, @ndahlberg

READ MORE: How millennial tastes help shape new generation of food entrepreneurs