« September 2016 | Main | November 2016 »

19 posts from October 2016

October 31, 2016

With $750K in new funding, what's ahead for The New Tropic? Expansion


Photo from The New Tropic

By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

Boosted by growing community engagement and new funding, media company WhereBy.Us, publisher of The New Tropic, announced its first expansion outside South Florida. The Miami startup is taking its New Tropic business model to Seattle, “with more cities on the way,” said CEO and co-founder Christopher Sopher.

The New Tropic serves up a popular daily newletter, with about 30,000 subscribers. It offers stories and tools on its website, such as a how to decipher ballot initiatives or understand sea level rise and its engaging neighborhood guides. It also partners with organizations that run events, and produces some of its own; its recent debate watch event at Gramp's (pictured above) was packed. “Whether it is a forum on a really tough civic issue or it’s a beer tasting, these kinds of things are all happening in the same moment in Miami, and we think that is really fun,” Sopher said in an interview Friday.

Through the expansion, a Seattle team of journalists has started a sister company, Evergrey, which launched a digital newsletter last week with plans for a website and events to quickly follow. The New Tropic has raised $750,000 from Knight Foundation’s Enterprise Fund, the AGP Miami angel network, Tilia Media and other angel investors. WhereBy.Us’s staff has expanded from three to 13 in the past two years.

The funding will help Whereby.Us, co-founded by Rebekah Monson and Bruce Pinchbeck, expand to new markets but also  continue building a technology platform for serving and engaging the Miami community. The tech tools help the team understand what gets millennials and other residents motivated to want to experience the city so that The New Tropic can  help them get connected to issues they care by  serving up information useful in these pursuits. “We take a concept where there is a lot of interest, like the voter guide, and make it into something that fits the digital behavior of people, optimized for mobile and is ready for people to explore or share. We see big opportunities for those kinds of resources,” Sopher said.

In a medium post last week, Sopher described the research that went into launching The New Tropic two years ago with Rebekah Monson and Bruce Pinchbeck: “We vetted financial models, gathered advisors, and secured a bit of funding. But nothing tests your assumptions like a sudden impact with the real world. Fortunately, somewhere between exploring Miami’s dive bars, diving into transit policy, and running Pitbull for Mayor, The New Tropic started to catch on.”

The New Tropic will be launching a new version of its website in the coming months and plans a couple of local conferences in addition to expanding to new cities next year. The community-focused mission isn’t changing, Sopher said: “We’re diving deeper into it and running faster.”

He adds, “It’s easy to get lost in the coding or scaling or fundraising or some other aspect of building a company, but at the end of the day if you don’t understand the community you serve in a deep way, it’s hard to build something that lasts.”

October 28, 2016

Brian Brackeen named Innovator of the Year at TechConneXT


Congratulations to Brian Backeen, Kairos founder and CEO who was recently named Innovator of the Year at Black Enterprise TechConneXt Summit for his notable contributions to the tech industry. He offered attendees candid insight on fundraising, navigating challenges, and ultimately the road to excelling in tech.

Kairos is a human analytics company that uses three-dimensional data to measure human feelings and interactions, and was recently featured in Florida Trend as a promising new company. Brackeen is  an Endeavor entrepreneur, and Kairos has company, has received local funding from New World Angels, AGP and the Florida Institute for the Commercialization of Public Research as well as other Florida-based and national angel groups and VCs.

October 26, 2016

6 South Florida startups to present at Florida Venture Forum's Showcase

Six South Florida companies will be presenting in  The Florida Venture Forum's   2016 VentureTech Showcase on Nov. 1 at CAMLS (Center for Advanced Medical Learning & Simulation) in downtown Tampa. In conjunction with Space Florida and Hillsborough County, the event is open to the public with a paid registration  and includes an education session with Troy Knauss, lead instructor with the Angel Resource Institute. More information can be found on the Forum’s website.

The 14 selected presenting companies from across Florida will compete for the Space Florida Accelerating Innovation (AI) Award totaling $150,000: $100,000 for the Winner and $50,000 for the First Runner-Up.

From South Florida, the companies are:

BDEX, LLC, (www.bdex.com), Coral Springs, stands for Big Data Exchange and is the first and largest market-driven Data Exchange Platform in the U.S.

EagleEye Intelligence (“EagleEye”), (www.eagleeyeintelligence.com ), Boca Raton, provides end-to-end, unified intelligence for public safety and security. They solve a pressing need to unify and manage real-time intelligence given complex operational eco-systems of applications, data, equipment, and growing utilization of unmanned aerial systems (“UAS”).

Honorlock, LLC, (www.honorlock.com), Boca Raton, is the next generation online test proctoring system, with the first and only multi-device detection technology.

MyMotionCalendar, LLC, (www.mymotioncalendar.com), Fort Lauderdale, provides contract attorneys nationwide to law firms, corporate legal departments and insurance carriers who attend hearings routing legal proceeding on their behalf. Their software manages the incoming reservation and auto-assigns the reservation to contract attorneys based on location, experience and compliance.

Rotation Manager.com, (www.rotationmanager.com), Miami, is nursing schedule software that offers solutions to healthcare facilities, as well as allied health and nursing colleges.

Source Molecular Corporation, (www.sourcemolecular.com), Miami, offers breakthrough genetic product/services that provide environmental managers with the most credible, accurate and fastest test results needed to address water pollution.


LocalBlip of Fort Lauderdale received $225K New World Angels investment

By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

Merchants who complain about using Groupon may now have a more affordable and flexible alternative.

New World Angels is investing  $225,000  in Fort Lauderdale-based LocalBlip to fund its market entry into South Florida. Through its website and mobile apps, LocalBlip provides merchants and consumers with more affordable and customizable local programming and marketing tools versus sites such as Groupon and LivingSocial that require expensive, inflexible contracts.

LocalBlip’s founder and CEO Nick Mazzio has identified the largest problem with current online couponing sites as not providing merchants the flexibility to adjust their offers in real time and being cost prohibitive for most small businesses. LocalBlip allows merchants to target local customers without long term contracts or onerous offer terms. Small businesses can now leverage the power of couponing and online marketing at a fraction of the cost of the current large discount/coupon sites.

 “New World Angels is delighted to fund the initial roll out of LocalBlip to South Florida,” said NWA President Steve O’Hara, in a news release.  “When our due diligence team, led by John Benckenstein and Randy Wood, provided its usual detailed insights, team member Barry Spiegel started using LocalBlip for his Dunkin’ Donuts franchises, affording us real time experience with the LocalBlip product.”

New World Angels is a group of 63 accredited, private investors that  provide equity capital to early-stage entrepreneurial companies with a strong presence in Florida.   NWA has invested $8 million in the last three years.


October 25, 2016

Knight invests $1.1 million into The LAB Miami expansion; new CEO named

Lab Miami

By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

The LAB Miami, one of South Florida’s co-working pioneers, on Tuesday announced expansion plans that include the launch of two entrepreneurship programs and a new CEO. The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation is investing $1.1 million to support The LAB’s evolution.

With the new funding, The LAB Miami will launch a venture builder called LAB.Ventures, which will work with entrepreneurs, engineers and designers to test and build promising business ideas. The program aims to incubate several technology startups by 2019, the majority of which will be run by women and minorities. The LAB Miami announced it will also launch LAB.ID, which will use educational, community programming to encourage greater collaboration between startups and established businesses.

“The LAB is evolving to match the growing needs of our community. For more than three years, it has played an integral part in connecting innovators and forging new collaborations,” said Matt Haggman, Miami program director for Knight Foundation, on Tuesday. “[The LAB] will now also work to close gaps that still exist in our startup ecosystem by helping entrepreneurs foster relationships with business players and find the funding they need to scale and grow.”

TIGRE_WenrIchThomas “Tigre” Wenrich will be the new CEO. Wenrich is an active angel investor and startup mentor who helped Open English, a online English language education company, raise over $120 million in venture capital funding while serving as its founding CFO/COO. Prior to Open English, he was a partner at The Boston Consulting Group, a leading strategy consultancy to the world’s largest companies, where he worked for 16 years. Over the years he has been a mentor for Venture Hive’s startups and he is an investor and on the board of Miami startup LiveNinja.

The LAB Miami, co-founded by Wifredo Fernandez and Daniel Lafuente, opened its 10,000-square-foot center at 400 NW 26th St. in Miami’s Wynwood neighborhood in late 2012, with $650,000 in initial funding from the Knight Foundation and a group of local investors. It offered co-working space and community programming at a time when there were few resources for entrepreneurs in Miami and co-working was coming alive in other cities. Over the years, the LAB has attracted a diverse membership of entrepreneurs, techies, nonprofits and artists, hosted hundreds of events, including its monthly Brainfood speaker series, and is the home of Wyncode, a coding school (a Wyncode Pitch Night is pictured above). The LAB currently has about 150 members, Wenrich said.

But since 2012, a wave of co-working spaces have swept in, including the global WeWork chain that has in the last year opened two 40,000-square-foot centers in Miami Beach, a 62,000-square-foot center at Brickell City Centre and has a 100,000-square-foot downtown Miami facility on the way and plans for more. The LAB has also gone through a number of management changes since Fernandez, then CEO, and Lafuente, then CFO, stepped down from the top management jobs in 2014. Wenrich replaces Ricardo Mesquita who came aboard as CEO in August 2015 and left the position about a month ago to return to Europe.

Wenrich said co-working will continue at The LAB but “we don’t view that as something we want to grow – we think that market is well served. We asked, what can we do next and how can we leverage what has been built there?”

LAB.Venture will not be an accelerator, which works intensely with startups for a set period of time to get them to market or the next level. Instead, the LAB.Ventures team, which includes Marco Giberti and Juan Pablo Cappello, will focus on solving problems for local industries and “will bring together educational resources and our own experiences building businesses to help build other successful businesses in Miami,” said Wenrich.” “We’re looking for big problems to be solved and bring them together with capital and great entrepreneurs guided by us and turn them into big companies.”

The LAB.ID will build on progress The LAB has already connecting corporations with startups. Over the years, a number of large companies have had offices at the LAB and have hosted events and workshops. This programming will be increased, and corporate partners will help LAB.Venture startups do pilot testing, Wenrich said.

“We’ll find an opportunity, invest a small amount of capital to build an initial minimum viable product and take it to our corporate partners and try to do a proof of concept. When we find something that we think has legs, we’ll invest in hiring a team to scale it up and take it to market,” said Weinrich. “Eventually we will look for outside capital for these businesses at a later stage.”

Wenrich said The LAB is in the process of raising several million dollars from private investors. Over the past three years Knight has made more than 200 investments in entrepreneurship in South Florida.


October 21, 2016

It's showtime: MDC hosts MIA Animation Conference & Festival today and Saturday

The popular annual event includes panel discussions, master classes, a pitching contest and Game Jam

Miami Dade College  is hosting the MIA Animation Conference & Festival on Friday, Oct. 21 and Saturday, Oct. 22, at MDC’s Wolfson Campus in downtown Miami. The renowned event features world-renowned speakers, technology influencers from the nation’s top animation studios, universities, and the best talent in the industry. It has become one of the most exciting and cutting edge events in Miami, alongside a community of advanced technology-explorers, decision-makers, trend-setters, software developers, and creative industry professionals.

The industry conference focuses on Computer Animation, Gaming, Visual Effects and Motion Graphics, Film, Web Design and Visual Arts.  It draws some of the world’s top leaders in animation and education, and features exhibitions, workshops and master classes.  It has been designed to be a forum for active networking and practical information exchange with strong commitment and emphasis in education while developing and nourishing new talent. 

Featured speakers at this year’s MIA Animation Festival include Bill Buckley, a senior animator on blockbuster games such as Call of Duty, NBA and Guitar Hero; Mark Anthony Austin, a supervising animator for films including Despicable Me: Minion Mayhem 3D, The Avengers and Casper; David Steinberg, senior VP production for Nick Animation Studios; and Aaron Parry, CCO and executive vice president of Deluxe 3D.

Some of the highlights include a Breakfast on Arts & Technology, the Pitching Contest and the MIA Game Jam.

A Breakfast on Arts & Technology will kick off the festival at 8 a.m., Oct. 21, where it will be explored the ways in which the arts and tech industries can work together to build a connected creative ecosystem.  The panel discussion will include: Eldredge Bermingham, Frost Science CSO); Howard Herring, New World Symphony CEO; and Juan “JC” Acosta, Viacom International EVP and COO. The keynote speaker will be Aaron Parry, EVP & Chief Creative Officer at DELUXE 3D LLC.

Participants can also compete in the Pitching Contest where all creators are encouraged to submit their projects for consideration in the animation for television and web series for adults or children. The top pitch overall will be set up with three meetings with relevant buyers and/or talent representatives, providing a great start to getting a pitch sold.  

Attendees can also take part in MIA Game Jam, a 24-hour game development event on Oct. 22 and Oct. 23 at 6 p.m. The event is organized by students from the MAGIC Club mentored by MLH (Major League Hacking). Within 24 hours, the attendees will form teams to create a video game, either a playable prototype, or formalized technical or artistic concept. Attendees will be given a theme they must follow, but can use it to make a video game of any kind on their own laptop.

The conference is free for MDC students and faculty; $135 for students and $250 for professionals.

For more information, visit miaanimation.com.

- Submitted by Miami Dade College

October 19, 2016

JPMorgan Chase grants aim to expand micro-lending in South Florida

JPMorgan Chase is more than doubling the size of its global Small Business Forward program by committing $75 million over the next three years to support women, minority and veteran-owned small businesses, including through programs that connect small business owners with alternative funding sources when they are unable to qualify for traditional loans.

In South Florida, a $250,000 two-year grant to Accion will help increase the lending organization’s capacity to serve more micro- and small-business owners, launch its Community Advantage loan program, and expand operations to include Broward County. Accion provides loans up to $50,000 and offers free financial education to small businesses.

JPMorgan Chase also will be supporting Grameen America with a two-year $500,000 as it expands to Miami-Dade County. Grameen’s pioneering microlending program will provide small loans to Hispanic women to help them build businesses, achieve higher family incomes and develop entrepreneurial skills.

Small businesses are growing fastest among people of color, particularly Latinas and African American women, yet Brookings Institution research shows minority-owned businesses rely significantly more on investments of personal or family wealth than on outside debt or equity. Moreover, only 16 percent of conventional small-business loans go to women entrepreneurs, a U.S. Senate report found, and despite the higher startup rate for African-American owned businesses, these businesses received less than two percent of SBA loans in 2013.

Launched in 2014, Small Business Forward is a global initiative to support small businesses with the potential to grow, offer quality employment, and generate financial security and economic opportunity for vulnerable populations and their communities by connecting capital with highly targeted technical assistance and support networks to help small businesses grow sustainably.

Miami-based CareAngel wins AARP's national $50K Challenge

AARP Foundation has announced CareAngel as the winner of the 2016 Aging in Place $50K Challenge, a startup competition for entrepreneurs with solutions to help low-income adults age 50-plus live safely, independently and comfortably in their own homes as they age. With submissions from startups throughout the nation focused on “design for all” housing and caregiving solutions, the new award competition named CareAngelHome for LifeDesign and CareAcademy as finalists.

CareAngel, based in Miami, is an AI-driven caregiving assistant that revolutionizes aging-in-place and the care of loved ones. The award winning patent-pending software technology is designed to call an older adult every day on a landline and inquires how the senior is doing, whether they took their medications, and asks about their appetite, sleep quality, blood pressure and glucose readings. With the $50,000 from AARP Foundation’s 2016 Aging in Place challenge, CareAngel will launch a Care it Forward program to provide free check-in care calls, including one year free services for 5,000 low income seniors who do not own a smartphone.

“We know that the majority of Americans want to remain in their homes as they age,” said Lisa Marsh Ryerson, AARP Foundation's president. “But we also know that there are more than 19 million older Americans living in unaffordable or unsafe housing. We need big and bold solutions like these to help meet the diverse needs of our most vulnerable seniors and allow them to remain essential members of their communities.”

As millions of older adults struggle with inadequate housing, the Foundation, in collaboration with Aging 2.0, invited startups from across the United States to submit proposals for innovative solutions to aging in place, with the winner receiving a $50,000 cash prize. CareAngel was named the winner by a panel of judges from the public, nonprofit and private sectors with venture capital, startup and innovation expertise.

The $50K Aging in Place Challenge is part of AARP Foundation’s Innovation Prize, designed to seek out promising ideas and unlock new opportunities to help solve the problems so many low-income older adults face as they age. AARP Foundation strives to create and advance effective solutions that help vulnerable older adults secure the essentials and unlock new opportunities for vulnerable older adults nationwide.

To learn more about the competition click here: www.aarpfoundationprize.org

- Submitted by AARP

October 18, 2016

Rokk3r Labs relocating its headquarters from Miami Beach to Wynwood


Cobuilding platform Rokk3r Labs is moving its headquarters to Wynwood, Miami's booming arts hotspot. The new office space will further facilitate creativity and cobuilding between the team, entrepreneurs, investors and other partners, its founders said.

“The move into our new headquarters provides the impetus to blend art and technology to further connect our offices, teammates, entrepreneurs, investors and partners at a global scale,” said Lorenzo de Leo, Rokk3r Labs’ managing director, in a news release. “We wanted to create more private work spaces alongside open, collaborative, areas, to help our team members find the best work environment for them. Now we plan to have dedicated space - dubbed the Decompression Zone - to help people relax, meditate and more.”

As well as the Decompression Zone, Rokk3r Labs’ new 6,000-square-foot headquarters, at 2121 NW Second Ave., will include a dedicated learning area, a rooftop patio and a “Global Dashboard” in the main work area to relay real-time data about the group’s portfolio companies around the world. Rokk3r Labs plans to eventually offer space to content creators in residencies for pre-determined periods of time. Rokk3r is the main tenant in the building and occupies much of the second floor; art galleries and a restaurant occupy the first floor. 

Rokk3r Labs, which had been headquartered in Miami Beach off Lincoln Road since its founding in 2012, has offices in London, Bogotá, Mexico City and Toronto.  the company partners with entrepreneurs to cobuild ventures, and it currently has 40 companies in its portolio, including AdMobilize, AlzhUp and Hyp3r.

Inaugural Masters of Tomorrow Summit during Art Week to merge tech, design and music

MOTsigMIA Collective, a Miami-based producer of events for professionals in the technology and creative industries, announced the launch of the Masters of Tomorrow (MOT) Summit.  The MOT Summit combines a design-focused conference and a music festival that will converge local and international entrepreneurs, investors and artists on Nov. 30, during Miami Art Week and Art Basel.

"Over the last four years, our events have undergone a significant evolution in terms of depth and quality, which has been consistent with the progress that Miami itself has experienced in the art, tech and entrepreneurial sectors," said Demian Bellumio, co-founder of MIA Collective.  "Masters of Tomorrow is meant to serve as a celebration of both local and global entrepreneurs, makers and visionaries that are building tomorrow, today. MOT Summit will be an inspiring and entertaining event, showcasing Miami's multi-cultural personality across a variety of experiences."

During MOT Summit 2016, attendees will be able to learn, network and get inspired by today's leading designers and innovators at the Masters of Design conference, and discover groundbreaking musical artists at Masters of Sound, a live music festival. 

Masters of Design is a one-day, by-invitation only conference exploring the latest trends and breakthroughs in design. Masters of Design was curated in partnership with the Industrial Arts and Method (IAM) Foundation, which promotes innovation in industrial design education by providing scholarships to gifted students and is led by industry veterans Franco Lodato and Walter Bender.

Confirmed conference speakers include:

Ariel Garten - Co-founder of InteraXon (makers of Muse), Toronto    
Christopher Sopher - Co-founder and CEO of WhereBy.Us, Miami    
Diego Saez-Gil – CEO of Bluesmart, San Francisco    
Dror Benshetrit – Founder of Studio Dror, New York     
Joanna Berzowska - Associate Professor of Design and Computation Arts Department at Concordia University, Montreal     
Lilia Luciano – Journalist and Documentary Producer, Sacramento    
Michael Burtov – Founder of GeoOrbital, Cambridge     
Michael Mansouri – Co-founder of Radiant Images, Los Angeles     
Natasha Tsakos – Conceptual Director and President of NTiD, Miami     
Ola Alhvarsson – Founder of Result, Stockholm     
Walter Bender – Founder of IAM Foundation, Miami    

Masters of Sound will immediately follow the Masters of Design conference and will bring together local and international artists that will deliver high-energy performances in Wynwood, Miami's emerging cultural and artistic center.

Masters of Tomorrow is committed to working closely with the Miami technology and creative communities. It counts with funding support provided by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, as well as, with the strategic support from a wide array of community leaders, such as AGP Miami, CIC Miami, Endeavor Miami, The LAB Miami, The New Tropic, Refresh Miami, The Idea Center and VentureCafe. It has also partnered with award winning Miami-based design studio Nativo as its  creative partner for MOT Summit. 

To learn more about Masters of Tomorrow, visit MOTSummit.com or follow it across social media at www.facebook.com/motsummitwww.instagram.com/motsummit and www.twitter.com/motsummit.  

- Submitted by MIA Collective