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11 posts from December 2017

December 29, 2017

SpringBIG, a Boca Raton-based tech startup serving the cannabis industry, raises $3.2 million

SpringBIG, a Boca Raton-based startup serving the cannabis industry, announced this month that is has raised $3.2 million in capital. The round was led by Green Acre Capital and HALLEY Venture Partners, with participation from members of The Arcview Group and other investors, and it brings the startup’s total amount raised to $6.3 million.

SpringBIG is a customer engagement and marketing platform for cannabis dispensaries and brands.  Its data-driven approach includes loyalty and rewards, personalized messaging and analytics and its customers are cannabis stores in California, Colorado, Illinois, Maryland, Michigan and Washington state.

Springbig-Jeff-HarrisSpringBIG said the funding will be used for product development, for new hires in technology development, product management, sales and support, finance and analytics and for national expansion. “Over the past year, we have established ourselves as a leader in the customer loyalty space, by integrating with over 300 cannabis retailers and providing SMS, loyalty marketing, and other tools to encourage repeat business for their locations. We look forward to continued growth as we help cannabis retailers build, retain, and grow their customer base with our world-class technology,” said Jeffrey Harris, founder and CEO of springBIG, in a press release.

Harris told the Palm Beach Post that springBIG first focused on selling its services to mom-and-pop pizzerias, yogurt shops and nail salons, but saw that cannabis dispensaries that had signed up for springBIG’s platform were far more lucrative than other types of merchants.

SpringBIG also won a $50,000 grand prize after Harris pitched at an investor conference in Palm Beach hosted by The Arcview Group in September.

 READ MORE ABOUT CANNABIS STARTUPS IN SOUTH FLORIDA

December 28, 2017

Q&A: Natalia Martinez-Kalinina weighs in on Miami’s entrepreneurial ecosystem

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By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlbergbiz@gmail.com

Two years ago, Cambridge Innovation Center announced it would be expanding to Miami, taking most of the space in the University of Miami Life Science & Technology Park, which is now called Converge Miami. And at that time it made a bold prediction: that it would quickly become a hub for entrepreneurship in Miami.

Natalia Martinez-Kalinina, an organizational psychologist and strategist focused on merging innovation, entrepreneurship and community impact, led the expansion as general manager, and CIC Miami opened about a year ago, taking up nearly 80,000 square feet for offices, co-working and events. It plans to expand another 50,000 feet in future buildings planned for Converge.

CIC already houses more than 220 organizations, a vibrant mix of startups, small businesses and nonprofits in multiple sectors. Thursday evenings have quickly become a networking hub with CIC’s nonprofit partner Venture Cafe typically hosting a dozen or so community events that are free and open to the public.

As its first year comes to a close, CIC Miami and UM have launched Converge Labs, shared wet lab spaces available to university startups and researchers. The spaces will be available to the greater community as well after Jan. 1.

CIC also now has an arts program, a Latin American soft-landing program with Chile, Colombia and Argentina signed on as partners, and it is getting ready to launch a Corporate Innovation Program that is focused at connecting corporates with startups and vice versa.

“It is something that CIC in other cities is known for, and we are taking a different spin at it here in Miami,” Martinez-Kalinina said.

“The objective of CIC Miami is not to build a building or a set of buildings, but to build a community, create a true place of convergence, and add tangible value and momentum behind our city’s progress. As such, our walls should feel permeable for anyone, not just our clients. Although a chunk of our programming is internal, most of it is either fully or partially open to the public, so we hope that any participant in the innovation, entrepreneurship, or research sectors in Miami can benefit,” she said.

The Herald spoke with Martinez-Kalinina recently about CIC and the Miami entrepreneurial ecosystem, and followed up with questions via email. Here are excerpts of the conversation.

You have said you hoped CIC Miami would become an engine of innovation and a hub of collaboration in Miami. How do you think CIC is doing?

We have a long road ahead, but are very proud of the first year that both CIC and Venture Café have had in Miami. Both organizations have designed an inclusive, comprehensive vision that is largely informed by our trajectory in other cities over the last 18-plus years, but also very specific to the moment of growth stage that Miami is in.

The feedback we have gotten from our partners, visitors, and other stakeholders has reinforced that our mission is coming to life, and our high net promoter score (88) has been an indicator that our clients feel they can thrive and grow with us.

Year one was marked by experimentation, in which your team tried many new programs. What exceeded your expectations that will most surely be continued?

The focus of our first year was all about piloting, bootstrapping, and adjusting from feedback. Fortunately, several initiatives have truly exceeded our expectations.

One was the launch of our Latin American collaborations and closed agreements with both public and private entities in Argentina, Chile, and Colombia. Since then, we've advised entrepreneurial missions, connected startups to investment opportunities, helped to soft-land entrepreneurs, and provided other resources to our partners.

Since opening, we have launched a long list of CIC-led internal and external programming, including our ongoing “Future of” series on Fintech, travel/hospitality, health, education, law, corporate social responsibility (CSR), et al. The communities that are forming around each of these topics and the high level of engagement they have brought have signaled to us that this was truly needed and is adding real value.

Along the same lines, seeking to connect South Florida’s entrepreneurs with investors, we have done several recurring events and workshops (such as AntiPortfolio) focused on activating/educating more local investors, as well as provided ongoing investor office hours.

After hearing a lot of talk about how the arts and business sectors need to come together and learn from each other, we launched The Creator’s Lounge to provide artists, makers and performers the resources they need to bring their talents to market, collaborate within diverse industries, and build the supportive community they need.

And what was most surprising or challenging?

In other cities where CIC is located, we have seen remarkable engagement from corporations. They not only house portions of their innovation, small business, or R&D groups within CIC for proximity to the entrepreneurial scene, but move significantly beyond that by designing programming that places them front and center in these conversations.

In Miami, we heard about a much-talked about disconnect between how our enterprise sector engages with innovation, and we can attest that working at this interaction has been slower than we expected.

For this reason, we have launched a Corporate Innovation program, based on a history of fruitful experiences at other CIC locations and aimed at plugging in our local enterprises into the startup ecosystem.

What’s ahead for 2018?

If 2017 was our year of experimentation, 2018 will hopefully be the year of us growing and deepening across all of our objectives. The Converge Labshared wet laboratory pilot has been so successful within its first three months that we are doubling it in size. Our investor initiatives will continue to grow, connecting local startups and entrepreneurs with more and more national and international investors via our virtual office hours and visiting programming.

Most notably, our established partnerships will begin to bear fruit. Our Latin American collaborations are due to ramp up in the volume of startups we see, joint events we execute, and the creation of our digital resource library for Latin American startups (to be housed within our Why.Miami project). And 2018 will be the first year that Babson College’s expanded graduate curriculum is operational in Miami.

More broadly, how do you see the South Florida entrepreneurial ecosystem developing?

First and foremost, I believe our next chapter will be defined by how well we learn to collaborate; this goes for our universities, institutions, public-private touchpoints, corporations, entrepreneurs.

Secondly, I see us challenging ourselves and each other to think bigger with our ideas and push outside of Miami and Florida more aggressively with funding and scaling strategies. We need to define what success looks like outside of our own backyard earlier and better.

Thirdly, I see us learning to better optimize our resources into real strategic advantages. This includes truly taking advantage of the demographic/migration patterns in South Florida and better delivering on our position sandwiched in the hemisphere. It also includes elevating the innovation narrative and focusing resources around disrupting and advancing the industry verticals that are already our strengths (logistics, health, hospitality, real estate, et al.)

From CIC sitting in the middle of the health district, have you and your team seen a need to expand programing or services for this industry?

Yes, of course. In fact, one of the pillars of our strategic plan is to be a place of convergence between the life sciences/health sector and the rest of the innovation corridor in our city, both physically and figuratively. It is the reason why have wet laboratory facilities for chemical and biological research in addition to our office and coworking spaces. It is also the reason we piloted the shared Converge Lab with The University of Miami, which has expanded to include referrals from other universities and will be open to non-university affiliated research startups starting January 2018.

Lastly, since more than 60 percent of the companies housed at CIC are life sciences or health related, we have designed ongoing programming focused on their needs — from health investor in-person and virtual office hours and working groups and sessions with pharmaceutical, hospital, and institutional representatives to our ongoing “future of health” public-facing events in collaboration with Health 2.0.

In your view, what one or two ingredients are still needed in the entrepreneurial ecosystem?

We need a much larger and more engaged/capacitated class of local pre-seed and seed investors willing to fund South Florida based companies and be active in their development. We also need more local/state government support. Strengthening innovation and entrepreneurship should be a priority for our local public sector, and that entails the deployment of funds to incentivize talent creation, new initiatives, and direct investment.

Local government should co-lead how we connect and collaborate with innovation hubs across the region in substantive ways. Several city and regional governments around the world are setting a high and thoughtful bar for these priorities, and Miami needs to follow suit.

How best can universities play a role?

Universities play several truly invaluable roles. First, they educate the entrepreneurs, professionals, thinkers and creatives of the next generation. The impact they can have by not just inspiring, but training 21st-century and entrepreneurial skills is not just important, it is imperative for the workforce of the future.

Secondly, universities should be leaders in the commercialization of research, thus helping nudge existing markets, as well as create new ones. This is part of why we are excited to have The University of Miami as such a closer partner in the broader mission of the Converge Innovation District, and are looking forward to moving this larger vision forward in 2018.

Thirdly, it has been CIC’s experience that successful innovation clusters such as Cambridge and increasingly The Cortex Innovation District in St. Louis, are heavily anchored in not just one university, but multiple institutions that choose to align, incentivize innovation, drive capacitation, and — sorry to sound like a broken record — collaborate.

Lack of diversity has been huge topic in tech nationally. From where CIC sits, quite literally, how could CIC play a role to make Miami a role model for inclusive collaboration?

CIC takes a variety of approaches to this topic, and they are different in each city, but guided by a commitment in social engagement. In Cambridge, we run the largest private high school internship program in which nearly all participants are of color. In St. Louis, we are working directly with Forward Through Ferguson to bring innovation-focused gatherings, activities and opportunities to Ferguson.

At CIC Miami, we have taken a couple of approaches to this topic thus far, from supporting/housing several initiatives that accelerate and train low-income entrepreneurs or focus on resources for minority-led businesses and creating educational programming focused on female founders, to co-designing roundtable discussions focused on the role of immigration and partnering and designing a cohort program that supports veterans in entrepreneurship (launching Q1 2018).

One of our primary avenues for engaging in each city is Venture Café, our partner community development organization, which spun out of CIC. In Boston, Venture Café has launched targeted initiatives such as Roxbury Innovation Center in addition to inclusive, large scale projects such as District Hall. In Miami, Venture Café has already become a leading convenor of gatherings, conversations, entrepreneurial support specifically focused on diversity, among a long list of other community-facing and difficult topics.

From where we sit, Miami has a unique opportunity: as an adolescent and rapidly evolving entrepreneurial hub, we can take to heart some of the lessons learned across more seasoned hubs like San Francisco and New York and leapfrog over those hurdles. That said, we can only do so if we are intentional about the access, opportunities, and resources we deploy.

Tell us one thing about you that your colleagues may not know?

I believe very strongly in the value of adult learning, and one of the ways I do this is to pick up a new hobby every year. Over the last years, these have included horseback riding, archery, and tango; stay tuned for next year’s hobby du jour!

Follow @ndahlberg on Twitter.

NATALIA MARTINEZ KALININA

Age: 31

Current: General manager, Cambridge Innovation Center Miami, leading the CIC’s expansion to Miami. She is also the founder of Awesome Foundation MIAMI and Aminta Ventures, and is on the Governor’s Commission on Community Service, a body that oversees the administration of $32 million in federal, state, and local funding to deliver high-impact educational and volunteer programs in the state of Florida.

Previous experience: Chief innovation and technology officer for Roots of Hope, a nonprofit focused on Cuba, as well as one of six product strategists for Ultimate Software.

Education: Bachelor’s in psychology and government, Harvard; master’s in organizational psychology, Columbia.

December 27, 2017

Buzzfeed and NBCUniversal discuss the future of digital advertising in the age of Google, Facebook

The Starting Gate 1 2017.12.14_BizHack_Wellington_GuzmanDSC_8355

 

Two leaders of the international expansion of some of the world’s largest and fastest growing media companies spoke in Miami about the strategic importance of their growing digital audiences overseas, particularly in Latin America. Top sales executives from NBCUniversal and Buzzfeed met before a packed audience at Venture Café Miami this month to discuss the challenge of growing their digital advertising business at a time of growing industry domination by Facebook and Google.

Silvia Bruegger of NBCUniversal said Latin America is a growth market for digital ads. Forty percent of NBC’s online video views of English-language content, such as Saturday Night Live and The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, actually comes from audiences in Latin America. These Latin American viewers account for 1.9 billion video views a year on YouTube.

“There is a sophistication of the audience in Latin America, of Colombians and Brazilians and Mexicans,” said Silvia Bruegger of Latin America TV and Digital Advertising Solutions at NBCUniversal. “They are curious to know what’s going on in the U.S. And they want snackable content they can watch on their phones.”

Bruegger said that NBCUniversal, which owns dozens of television networks and film studios, is exploring new ways to deliver digital advertising to the underserved market in Latin America. For example, NBCU offers an advertising program called Social Synch that allows brands to post promotional content on more than one thousand online social media handles it controls, such as feeds from Jimmy Fallon and other TV stars. And last year NBCU launched Audience Studio, a one-stop shop for data-driven ad targeting.

Buzzfeed, named The World’s Most Innovative Company by Fast Company in 2016 for its innovations in clickable content and native advertising, similarly sees untapped revenue in its international audience. The company has a global audience of 650 million people, half of them under age 35.

“About 50 percent of Buzzfeed’s audience is outside the U.S.,” said Matthew Drinkwater, who is Buzzfeed’s Senior Vice President of International Expansion. “But a much smaller percentage of our revenue comes from outside the U.S.”

NBCUniversal is actually Buzzfeed’s largest single investor, having invested $400 million dollars in the company.

The importance to media companies of increasing ad revenue overseas is underscored by the growing dominance of Google and Facebook at home. The IAB earlier this year estimated that Google and Facebook captured 77 cents on every digital ad dollar spent in the U.S. in 2016. And the Internet giants are growing their lead, accounted for an extraordinary 99% of every new ad dollar spent in the US in 2016. That means the average growth rate for every other media company was close to zero.

“The fact is that our part of the market share is frozen, and we’re fighting that,” Bruegger of NBCUniversal said. “It forces us to push the boundaries and reinvent ourselves.”

“It does keep me up at night,” Drinkwater said, adding that Facebook and Google “need our content to keep audiences spending time on their platforms. And the ROI [return on investment] that we get as a media content provider is not quite adequate.”

Drinkwater said the challenge to all other media companies when competing for digital ad dollars is the advertising platforms built by Google and Facebook work really well. The Facebook Ads and Google Adwords platforms are self-service, relatively easy to use and allow an advertiser to track their return on investment.

“They both built really great mousetraps,” Drinkwater said. “If I were a small or medium business owner, I would absolutely put a bunch of my budget into those platforms.”

SEE A RECORDING HERE: 

 

The event was part of the BizHack Presents speaker series and was moderated by Dan Grech, a former journalist at The Miami Herald, NPR’s Marketplace and PBS’s Nightly Business Report.

The four-year-old public speaker series about innovations in digital marketing, entrepreneurship and media has featured guests from IBM, 500 Startups, Google, Facebook, Twitter, The Washington Post, and Stanford University.

The audience of more than 100 entrepreneurs and business owners asked the speakers what lessons they could share about how Miami businesses could learn to use digital advertising to grow.

“It took six months of daily work learning on the job before I started to feel like I even knew what I was doing in digital marketing,” said Dan Grech, the founder and lead instructor of BizHack, a digital marketing academy that’s trained more than 200 entrepreneurs and business owners in South Florida. “I don’t want any other professional who decides they want to learn digital marketing to grow their business or level up to get that promotion to have to go through six months being lost in the woods.”

-Submitted by BizHack

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December 22, 2017

Streann Media’s bold bet: ‘We are here to rescue the broadcast industry’

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Startup Spotlight: Streann Media of Miami seeks to reinvent digital content for media customers and brands through distribution, engagement and monetization.

By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlbergbiz@gmail.com

Company Name: Streann Media

Headquarters: Miami

Concept: Reinventing digital content for media customers and brands through distribution, engagement and monetization.

Story: The beginnings of Streann Media trace back six years, when the paths of Giovanni Punzo and Antonio Calderón crossed during their roles with disruptive technology provider LiveU. Around this time, Netflix’s new media content business model was just emerging, and the pair of innovators discovered firsthand the struggles that other content providers were having making the shift to digital and then to streaming content. Knowing that these other providers would soon be forced to follow the Netflix model to save their businesses, they sought a new solution — and Streann Media was the result.

 “We are here to rescue the broadcast industry,” said Calderón, Streann’s chief technology officer. “Thanks to our technology, our customers are building next-generation digital networks, their own version of Facebook, Netflix, YouTube, etc. With our technology, our customers are finally really engaging with end users and most importantly they are monetizing in digital,” added Punzo, CEO.

How does a TV station or radio station make money? Selling advertising. While traditional advertising spending is down and it’s boring; digital ad spending is up and should be more engaging, said the co-founders, who previously worked in the broadcast industry. “We built a digital advertising technology that can increase digital ads revenue times 10 in live video, audio and video on demand. Our customers create campaigns like Facebook Ads Manager but the ads are in their own digital networks. Content providers are in control and they monetize,” Punzo said.

Game shows and contests are ways a radio or TV station can engage their audiences. So Streann created a new feature in the platform for content providers to create contests on mobile with cash rewards, such as video Selfie-Ads.

“Already customers like TCS Digital in Central America, Actualidad Radio in Florida, Cariflix in the Caribbean, Iriejam in New York and Puravida in Costa Rica are using our new inventions and engaging with their customers,” said Punzo. “The results have been great — new user generated content, real testimonials, real storytelling.”

Streann’s technologies touches millions of people with more than 160 digital entertainment networks deployed for Web, iOS, Android, Roku, AppleTV, Virtual Reality, streaming in 141 countries, Punzo and Calderón said.

“Streann looks at the future of television like no one else is. Its user experience and monetization platforms make companies take a huge leap in technology. They are at the forefront constantly and have a personalized and exceptional relationship with each client,” said Raúl Domínguez, digital and new business director of TCS Digital.

Founded: 2014

Website: www.streann.com

Management team: Giovanni Punzo, CEO and co-founder; Antonio Calderón, chief technology officer and co-founder.

No. of employees: 15

Financing: The company has received investment from Tamiami Angels and Florida Angel Nexus investors.

Recent milestones: Launched Inside-Ads in Q3 2017 and Selfie-Ads user-generated content in November 2017. The Selfie-Ads product attracted regional brands such as Nestle, KFC, Subway, Pizza Hut and Diana. Streann recently launched Vlixers, an influencer platform for its customer TCS-Digital. It’s a unique platform designed for millennials with original content created by millennials available on Web, iOS and Android. The company won at the Early Stage Capital Conference in 2016 and was a finalist in eMerge Americas Startup Showcase.

Biggest startup challenge: Educating content providers to make the digital switch utilizing Streann technologies.

Next step: Launching new engagement and monetization features by NAB 2018, a broadcasting trade show in April. “The soccer World Cup in 2018 will help us grow even more as many of our customers will transmit World Cup content through our platform,” Calderón said.

Advisor’s view: Eric Giler, a Boston-based serial entrepreneur and on the board of Streann, said he worked with Punzo at his previous company, and admires his vision and energy level. “Gio’s partner and co-founder Antonio Calderón is a superb technical complement to Gio’s market and business sense,” Giler said.

“A laser-like focus on the Latin American market has been key to Streann’s early success. No other company is approaching the market like Streann. The challenge will be scaling the business as they continue to expand. Building out the team and attracting capital will be important as they continue to grow.”

Follow @ndahlberg on Twitter. Email ndahlbergbiz@gmail.com

 

Pictured above: Antonio Calderón, CTO, at left, and Giovanni Punzo, CEO, co-founders of Streann Media, in their office in Doral. Jose A. Iglesias jiglesias@elnuevoherald.com

December 20, 2017

Magic Leap reveals its first product: Magic Leap One, Creator Edition

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By Nancy Dahlberg and Jane Wooldridge

South Florida’s secretive virtual reality wunderkind has finally revealed its long-anticipated technology — sort of.

On Wednesday, Broward-based Magic Leap unveiled Magic Leap One, a mixed-reality headset that allows wearers to see and interact with people and objects that aren’t in the room with them — but will appear as if they were. Unlike current virtual reality headsets that replace the experience of the physical setting, Magic Leap’s technology allows for experiences within the existing physical setting.

The version released Wednesday includes goggle-like headgear, called Lightwear, hooked to a pocket-sized Lightpack computer. It is aimed at digital creators “who could change how we experience the world,” according to the company’s website — to create interactive shopping, games and lifelike meet-ups between people in different physical spaces. (Think Star Trek’s hologram room, and you’re heading toward the right galaxy.) The technology simulates 3-D images superimposed on the real world by projecting patterns of light to the eye.

According to the company’s digital release, the technology will ship in 2018, when the company led by local entrepreneur Rony Abovitz will also reveal a “Creator’s Portal.”

READ THE FULL STORY IN THE MIAMI HERALD HERE.

December 17, 2017

Treatment for Alzheimer's Parkinson's gets big boost: Ferre's Insightec receives $150M in funding

 

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2014 Miami Herald photo by Carl Juste

By Jane Wooldridge / jwooldridge@miamiherald.com

Potential new treatments for Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s patients just got a boost.

INSIGHTEC, a medical device company led by Miami’s Dr. Maurice Ferre, has received $150 million in funding from Koch Disruptive Technologies, a subsidiary of Koch Industries.

The money will enable INSIGHTEC to expand studies of its current FDA-cleared ultrasound device to Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s patients. The company currently is conducting a Phase 1 trial into Alzheimer’s treatments and beginning at Phase 3 trial in uses for Parkinson’s Disease.

The non-invasive device uses Magnetic Resonance Imaging and focused ultrasound to target specific tissues in a procedure called Exablate Neuro. It is now used for uncontrollable tremors, called essential tremor, at 40 medical centers worldwide, including two in South Florida. The underlying technology can also be used to treat uterine fibroids and bone cancer non-invasively.

INSIGHTEC is based in Israel, with U.S. offices in Miami. Ferre, a serial entrepreneur, co-founded MAKO Surgical Corp., a leader in robotic orthopedic surgery. His father, Maurice Ferre, was a long-time mayor of Miami.

December 14, 2017

Endeavor taps South Florida startups Boatsetter, Entic and Mediconecta to join global network

Endavor

The Airbnb for boating. On-demand energy savings for enterprise. Telehealth for the Spanish-speaking world.  Endeavor Miami announced Thursday that the co-founders of South Florida companies Boatsetter, Entic and Mediconecta were selected as Endeavor Entrepreneurs at Endeavor’s 76th International Selection Panel this week in Miami.

“Boatsetter, Entic and Mediconecta exemplify the high-impact traits that we select in our Endeavor Entrepreneurs, and it is a privilege to welcome their three technology companies into the Endeavor Miami portfolio,” said Laura Maydón, managing director of Endeavor Miami, in a news release.

The selected companies will receive services that include mentorship and access to capital, global markets and talent. Here are descriptions provided by Endeavor.

Boatsetter: Founded by Andy Sturner and Jaclyn Baumgarten, Boatsetter combines the rental mechanics of Airbnb with the on-demand labor dynamics of Uber to deliver a hassle-free boat rental experience. Boatless individuals choose from vetted boats in ports worldwide to rent for excursions at competitive prices on Boatsetter’s digital marketplace. Boatsetter recently entered a strategic partnership with Airbnb to provide exclusive nautical experiences in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Miami and Barcelona.

Entic: Founded by Carlos Diaz and Manuel Rosendo, Entic offers building owners and operators a reduction in energy usage with its cloud-based, SaaS platform that implements operational intelligence, analytics and advanced sensor technology to deliver portfolio-wide savings. Customers enjoy on-demand reports and live dashboards that display current costs and achievable savings, alert customers when buildings reach high energy thresholds and analyze the overall health of energy consuming systems.

Mediconecta: Founded by Daniel Silberman and Salomon Simkins, Mediconecta is the leader in telehealth for the Spanish-speaking world. The company provides on-demand remote health services via video conference using in-house physician networks and a platform accessible by web, mobile or point-of-care kiosks. Mediconecta provides access to real-time, on-demand virtual medical visits that can take place anywhere the patient is located, offering better access to higher standards of care across the entire healthcare landscape.

More than 50 entrepreneurs from 18 countries in the Endeavor network convened for interviews, private deliberations and networking at the ISP held at various locations around Miami. To be selected as Endeavor Entrepreneurs, they had to  receive a unanimous vote from a selection panel of six global executives, entrepreneurs or investors who interviewed founders about their business model, leadership potential and timing and gave them feedback.

“Endeavor was founded 20 years ago with a belief in the power of high-impact entrepreneurs to change lives and transform entire cities and countries,” said Endeavor co-founder and CEO Linda Rottenberg. “At each selection panel we hold, I’m reminded of just how true that is -- and just how far that belief has spread across the world. The passion that entrepreneurs, panelists and staff brought to our final ISP of our 20th Anniversary year in Miami is a testament to the potential of this movement.”

Endeavor Miami launched in September 2013 with the support of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation as the first U.S. affiliate of Endeavor Global. Endeavor Miami’s entrepreneurs generated nearly $130 million in revenues and 1,600 jobs in South Florida in 2017. With the addition of its newest companies, the affiliate currently supports 19 companies and 32 entrepreneurs. Headquartered in New York City, Endeavor operates in 27 countries throughout Europe, Latin America, North America, Africa, Asia and the Middle East.

For more information on Endeavor Miami or to nominate Miami entrepreneurs, visit www.endeavormiami.org.

READ MORE: Endeavor Miami's impact: It's in the numbers

Top photo, from left: Andy Sturner and Jaclyn Baumgarten from Boatsetter; Daniel Silberman of Mediconecta; Manuel Rosendo and Carlos Diaz of Entic, after being selected Endeavor Entrepreneurs in Miami this week. Photo provided by Endeavor Miami.

Young Leaders of the Americas Initiative brings entrepreneurs to Miami for learning and collaboration

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Entrepreneur Tania Rosas of Colombia at KROMA Art Space in Coconut Grove. Photo courtesy of Global Ties Miami.

 

By Maria de los Angeles

Twelve entrepreneurs from the Caribbean and Latin America arrived in Miami this fall for a month-long fellowship program hosted by Global Ties Miami. In its second year, the U.S. Department of State’s Young Leaders of the Americas Initiative (YLAI) paired 250 emerging social and business leaders with businesses in 24 U.S. cities. A preliminary Business Plan Pitch Competition gave each fellow a potential opportunity to compete in a final round in Washington, D.C.

Established in the late 1950s, Global Ties Miami facilitates citizen diplomacy through cultural, educational and professional exchange tours. For YLAI, this local nonprofit matched 12 young entrepreneurs from Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Haiti, Mexico, Nicaragua, Paraguay, Suriname and Venezuela with businesses across Miami-Dade.

 The program was mutually beneficial for the “Entrepreneurs-in-Residence” and their host companies. Fellows applied their skills and shared their international perspectives, while their hosts provided YLAI fellows with mentoring and networking opportunities. The immersion program with local business leaders will help each Fellow’s startup venture back home.

KROMA Art Space in Coconut Grove hosted the pitch competition and was mentor to Colombian fellow Tania Rosas. The collective studio and gallery space was well suited for the organization Rosas founded, Fundación el Origen, which combines art and education to preserve the cultural legacy of Colombia’s indigenous cultures while breaking cycles of poverty.

Annette Green Alvarez, Executive Director of Global Ties Miami, says the integration of one of Miami’s artistic spaces with the YLAI program added creative energy to the event, which concluded with a tour of an exhibit Rosas curated at KROMA with local and international artists.

“We should care that Miami has all these little gems that aren’t often talked about,” she says. “The entrepreneurs are also creators and we celebrated their work in a space that supports an abundance of diversity. We make connections and these relationships developed. The space elevated what was taking place during the pitch competition.”

This year’s pitch competition winners include a tie for 3rd place with Karen Sandoval from Chile and Emiliano González from Paraguay, whose businesses focus on outdoor education in Patagonia and technology education, respectively. (González also won a VISA-sponsored hackathon with his host, Learn01, a tech and research lab located in Wynwood.) Second place went to Carolina “Nina” Guzmán of Costa Rica, whose company Hands-On! Lesco, offers training in sign language to break down discrimination barriers for the deaf.

Haitian fellow Miguelito Jerome, founder of 500Gourdes.com, won first place for the e-commerce website that works to mitigate a high unemployment rate by facilitating the sale of services and products offered by Haitians on the island to customers in the Haitian diaspora.

The website is similar in concept to Fiverr, an online services marketplace, where freelancers offer tasks and services for a starting fee of U.S. $5.  500 gourdes, a banknote in Haiti, currently exchanges for about U.S. $8.

Jerome’s host was Haitian-American Donard St. Jean, CEO and President of the Dade Institute of Technology, as well as Vice-Chairman of the Haitian-American Chamber of Commerce of Florida.

“He was a younger version of me,” says St. Jean, who has worked with the Haitian diaspora since he arrived in Florida 17 years ago. “I realized what they lacked,” he adds. “I needed to bring a higher level of technical training.” He founded the IT training and consulting institute in 2006.

St. Jean mentored Jerome on business culture in the U.S. and helped him sharpen his presentation skills, among other learning experiences that will help Jerome grow his business from Haiti.

The Miami partnership will grow. “I intend to work with him to see if we can launch this platform on a bigger scale,” St. Jean adds.

 Jerome says that YLAI made a deep impact on his personal and business life as a powerful and productive exchange program, and that Miami was the perfect location to influence his target market, the Haitian diaspora. Like the other Fellows, Jerome had a tight and full schedule of activities, which included networking events after hours.

“During my fellowship, I learned more about how to reach the Haitian diaspora, and what their needs are,” he notes. “I could observe the way St. Jean runs his business and what is required to conduct business in the U.S.”

Working with St. Jean and being in Miami helped Jerome clearly identify solutions for problems that his company seeks to solve, and to hone in on his vision. “I could think big and see the whole picture,” he adds.

Jerome has returned to Haiti and is updating and executing a new action plan, which includes making it easier for Haitian professionals and vendors to promote their products and services to the Haitian diaspora living in Miami, New York, Boston.

He hopes to expand globally to 20 countries by 2020, giving the world access to the services of professionals and vendors in the Caribbean and Latin America  “We’re creating opportunities,” he adds. “It’s a solution to stop the brain drain and economic issues in many communities.”

On November 20, about a month after Jerome returned to Haiti, the Trump administration announced that it would end Temporary Protection Status for over 59,000 Haitians who have lived and work in the U.S. since the devastating 2010 earthquake. Haitians with protection status -- about half of the estimated 110,000 Haitians living the U.S. without permanent permission -- have until 2019 to leave or face deportation. Their nearly 30,000 U.S.-born children are citizens who may remain in the country.

Jerome’s website may help maintain an economic and cultural bridge by helping skilled Haitians share their talents with other Haitians on and off the island, with a global customer reach.

“TPS will impact our country economically and socially,” Jerome says. “It’s going to be a huge repatriation.”

Independent journalist Maria de los Angeles writes for Global Ties Miami.

Gt2

YLAI pitch competition winners, left to right: Emiliano González (Paraguay), Karen Sandoval (Chile), Carolina “Nina” Guzmán (Costa Rica) and Miguelito Jerome (Haiti). Photo courtesy of Global Ties Miami.

 

December 12, 2017

#Miamitech leaders support Net Neutrality

 
Net-neutrality
An open letter to Congress:
 
Congressman Carlos Curbelo et al.
 
We are the founders & leaders of technology startups here in Miami. Collectively, we represent tens of millions of dollars in revenue and thousands of employees in Miami's burgeoning tech scene. We have a deep understanding of web technology as it is essential to our livelihood. We are writing to ask you to help stop the repeal of Title II classification of ISPs. It is unfortunate that we currently face a difficult question: Should we (the U.S.A.) repeal Title II's net neutrality protection or not?
 
We believe the answer is no. We should not repeal the Title II classification without a legitimate, well thought out replacement. As business owners, we understand the serious nature of regulation & its hampering effects on our ability to innovate. We believe these regulations are an exception to the rule. In 2015, the Title II classification of ISPs explicitly excluded more than 700 of the rules found in Title II regulation [1] for the exact reason of maintaining a "light touch" philosophy. Beyond the fact that it has indeed been a light touch approach, the most important thing to note is that there are guarantees that come with the current classification that are essential to maintaining a competitive environment for businesses like ours to thrive. Businesses like Clutch Prep which depends on open internet access to college students who use their platform to become the doctors of tomorrow [2]. Businesses like LiveNinja who depend on WebRTC communications to consumers across the entire country by customers like Apple, Samsung & HP [3]. Businesses like NomadsTV which provides OTT software to media companies [4].
 
Ajit Pai's original dissent [5] expressed valid concerns. However, the last two years have come to show that they are not currently an issue. Things like Universal Service Fund taxes are not being imposed (at least not to our knowledge), the classification has not stopped or prevented zero rating (T-Mobile is a great example of the current protections being in place without disrupting innovation [6]). Many small local ISPs are not overburdened due to this classification [7], broadband prices have stagnated or decreased in price [8]. Meanwhile, access to broadband is growing [9] [10] and speeds are increasing [11]. 
 
We believe the internet has grown and provided economic opportunity unfettered by existing regulations. However, bad behavior has arisen among ISP's covering the "last mile": providers have tried to charge companies for access to their own customers [12],  they have been caught blocking services that customers have paid for [13] [14], and found throttling traffic they deemed to be unimportant [15].
 
Because the draft order repeals net neutrality rules altogether, it allows ISPs to block or throttle lawful content, or give the highest-paying websites and apps a better ability to reach customers’ devices or to favor Internet traffic from the ISPs’ own subsidiaries and business partners, all without any legal repercussions. This could be devastating to our livelihoods and have many implications in the long term.
 
We believe Pai can and should continue to have a light touch and maintain the current Title II classification while he crafts a legitimate, better-designed replacement that guarantees no blocking of content, throttling or paid priority while providing an even less intrusive regulation than is currently in place. This is the United States of America; we can do better.
 
 
Thank You,
Auston Bunsen, Lead Instructor at Wyncode Academy
Johanna Mikkola, Co-founder of Wyncode Academy
Juha Mikkola, Co-founder of Wyncode Academy
Ivan Rapin-Smith, Managing Director at Watsco Ventures
Rob Dyson, CTO & Co-founder of Willing.com
Rebekah Monson, Co-founder of WhereBy.us
Lu Martinez, Founder of StardomUp
Mary Wolff, CEO & Co-Founder, Spacewolff
Brian Breslin, Co-founder of SimCase
Ulises Orozco, CPO of Saving for College
Maria Derchi, Executive Director of Refresh Miami
Erik Mendelson, CEO of RecordGram
Otto Othman, CMO & Co-founder of Pincho Factory
Miles Varghese, SVP of Sales for Octopi
Guille Carlos, CTO & Co-founder of Octopi
Luc Castera, Founder of Octopi
Andrej Kostresevic, CEO of Nomads
Will Weinraub, CEO & Co-founder of LiveNinja
Emilio Cueto, CTO & Co-founder of LiveNinja
Alfonso Ligares, CDO & Co-founder of LiveNinja
Brian Brackeen, Founder & CEO of Kairos
Herwig Konings, CEO of InvestReady
Alex Nucci, CEO of Gramercy
Richard Grundy, CEO of Flomio
Jose Rasco, Founder & CEO of dotHealth
Marcio Souza, CEO & Co-founder of Clutch Prep
Alain Fontaine, CTO & Co-founder of Clutch Prep
Juan Bermudez, CEO & Co-founder of Coach-HQ
Larry Ho, COO of Ziro
Javier Sarmiento, Founder and VP, Payments at Open English
 
 
4. Information on Nomads OTT product: http://nomads.co/product/whitelabelottvideo/
5. Ajit Pai's 85 page original dissent on Net Neutrality order: https://apps.fcc.gov/edocs_public/attachmatch/FCC-15-24A5.pdf
6. Get "free" streaming with a special plan from T-Mobile: https://www.t-mobile.com/offer/free-music-streaming.html
14. ISP Madison River blocking VOIP traffic FCC ruling: https://apps.fcc.gov/edocs_public/attachmatch/DA-05-543A2.pdf
15. Comcast blocking / throttling legal peer-to-peer traffic: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comcast_Corp._v._FCC#Background
 
HAVE YOUR SAY: here is more info, including how to reach all yourblocal lawmakers. Sign a petition to save net neutrality here.

December 03, 2017

From 'grandkids on demand' to apps: How Miami startups are helping seniors and their caregivers

 

By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlbergbiz@gmail.com

Who hasn’t worried about elderly family members and wished it was easier to keep up with them from afar?

Now there’s a slew of technology that offers better care for the seniors and peace of mind for the family caregivers. What’s more, some South Florida startups are at the forefront of this technology, fueled by advances in artificial intelligence, big data and voice technologies.

One Plantation company has a solution that tracks and analyzes a senior loved one’s activity and routines and will alert caregivers when something is out of the ordinary. Another Miami startup supplies “grandkids on demand” to help with transportation, chores and companionship. Still other local firms have rethought the daily phone call, supplied elder-friendly multilingual hospital discharge instructions, and matched up the elderly with others who have room in their homes. Yet another enhanced alerts for when your elder has “fallen and can’t get up.”

It’s a large and growing market; more than 50 million Americans are over the age of 65, and 10,000 more hit that mark every day. While that slice is now about 13 percent of America’s population, it will jump to 19 percent by 2030 — about 72 million people — according to a U.S. Census Bureau report. About $1.2 trillion is spent on healthcare for American seniors each year, according to government estimates.

Perhaps most importantly, this technology can keep seniors safe and independent, allowing them to live in their homes — their overwhelming preference, according to surveys. Some of the technology could also prevent life-changing injuries caused by falls. The big vision: empowering the elderly to live more safely on their own while easing the worries of their loved ones.

Through its mobile app, website or 800 number, Miami startup Papa provides assistance and socialization to seniors through young and enthusiastic team members called Papa Pals. It’s like grandkids on demand, said CEO Andrew Parker.

Olga DeMartino, 92, visits with Papa founder Andrew Parker and Papa employee, Valeria Sosa, 26, Nov. 14, 2017, in her Coral Springs home. Parker runs a startup called Papa. It provides “grandkids on demand” — basically college students hired to help elderly customers by taking them to hair appointments or to get groceries, or to do a little cleanup or cooking, or just to be a companion.

Parker came up with his startup idea from a personal need. Andrew Parker’s grandfather had been diagnosed with early onset of dementia that progressed into Alzheimer’s. As a family, the Parkers had a lot of difficulty managing his daily needs and supporting his primary family caregiver, Andrew’s grandmother.

Papa started as a simple concept, said Parker, who previously worked at telemedicine provider MDLIVE, which was founded by his father. “Our grandfather and grandmother need support; others must as well. There is a huge senior population that continues to grow on a daily basis. There are also a lot of amazing college students who want to become future nurses, doctors and other leaders. Let’s connect these inter-generational groups and I bet something amazing happens.”

So Parker gathered a small team and started Papa, to support his own grandfather, whom he called “Papa,” and other seniors. The service, which is insured, now has about 150 Papa Pals on board. Most are college students earning extra money.

Recently, Papa Pal Valeria Sosa, a 26-year-old Broward College student, took Olga DeMartino, 92, to her weekly hair appointment. After Sosa walked with her to the car and buckled her in, they chatted and joked about each other’s families.

Regina DeMartino, Olga’s daughter-in-law, said before they found Papa on social media, family members took turns taking time off work to take her to her appointments.

“She loves them – she finds them all really interesting and loves being with younger people,” Regina said of the Papa Pals. They walk her out of her appointment and always have an umbrella so her hair won’t get wet, she said. “If she needs help around the house, they do that too.”

On Valentine’s Day last year, a Papa Pal brought Olga a rose. “How sweet is that?” said Regina.

Like Papa, Room2Care also leverages the so-called sharing economy but in a different way. The Miami startup is creating a network of vetted private caregiver homes, which provide less expensive and more personalized care than assisted living, said Richard Ashenoff, who founded the company with Dr. Todd Florin.

Room2Care, a Miami Herald Business Plan Challenge winner in 2015, is licensed and doing business in five states – Florida, West Virginia, Texas, Arizona and California – and has over 5,000 users and growing daily, Ashenoff said.

While Room2Care and Papa use tech to connect seniors with humans for companionship, assistance and caregiving, technology steps in to help in all the other times, too.

Take CarePredict, an elder-care platform powered by artificial intelligence. CarePredict makes bracelets that help track an elderly resident’s every activity. Currently it is available only to large group senior-living facilities and home care agencies, but the company hopes to offer the device directly to consumers in the future.

In an office space above a Boston Market in Plantation, more than a dozen engineers and data scientists are quietly toiling away on computers in an office adorned with large portraits of senior citizens. In the next room, another worker is carefully assembling the devices.

Founder and CEO Satish Movva keeps a portrait of his own parents near his office as a reminder of his mission. His parents, who are now 90 and 80, live just 10 miles away. Still, despite frequent calls and visits, he couldn’t trust the answers he was getting from them about their health.

“No matter how many times I would call them during the week, when I showed up on Saturday I’d find new things I didn’t know about. It was frustrating,” said Movva. “I wanted a wearable device that would answer all the questions I have about them every day.”

Changes in activity and behavior patterns show up well before the underlying issues manifest into medical conditions, said Movva, who has been an innovator in healthcare technology for 23 years, including as founding CIO for Sheridan Healthcare. He wanted a system to observe his parents continuously but privately, so he could be alerted to changes early enough to intervene. After finding the existing technologies inadequate, he set out to develop CarePredict in 2013.

CarePredict’s application offers a summary page and more details when each category is clicked.

The idea is to monitor daily activities like eating, drinking, walking, bathing, cooking, sleeping, said Movva. “We couple that with contextual cues to surface insights like self-neglect, for example, due to depression.” The data can also help predict falls or suggest malnutrition, dehydration or infections before the senior or another person reports them.

Angel, an artificial intelligence- and voice-powered Virtual Nurse Assistant, can play a similar role. She reaches out via low tech but clinically intelligent phone conversations, said Wolf Shlagman, founder and CEO of Care Angel.

“You look at the aging market and 90 percent or so choose to age at home ... managing themselves the best they can,” he said. “Angel is meant to be an assistant that will help family caregivers by being able to simply call mom just as a nurse would, asking a series of questions.”

Angel asks a series of personalized questions such as “how did you sleep last night?,” “did you take your medication today?” and “what was your glucose reading today?” If it detects cause for concern, Care Angel alerts caregivers via app, text message or phone. “Our mission is to help millions of people take better care of their families for a fraction of the cost of anything else out there,” said Shlagman.

A basic version Care Angel is currently available for free for AARP members and through other partners such as health insurers. A feature-filled premium version will be available next year for about $9.95 a month.

In a recently finalized study with a Humana Medicare Advantage population, Care Angel received high marks from recipients and also had a substantial effect on clinical and financial outcomes. Results showed engagement of about 83 percent, a reduction of 63 percent in hospital readmissions and $496,000 in savings, said Shlagman, who previously founded and sold Consult-a-Doctor, a telemedicine company.

MobileHelp, founded in 2006 and headquartered in Boca Raton, took the “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up” personal emergency response system idea pioneered by Life Alert and turbo-charged it. Help can be summoned at the touch of a button worn around the neck or on the wrist; unlike the first-generation systems designed for use only in the home, MobileHelp‘s products can be used on the go since they don't require a landline phone connection. The device also detects falls so help can be summoned without a button being pressed. Its app also provides verbal medication notifications and a tracker that monitors activity levels for reports that go to caregivers.

SpeechMED is designed to demystify medical instructions. It was started by Susan Perry after her mother-in-law died of a medical mishap because she could not understand post-surgery instructions given by the hospital. The application operates in 16 languages, offering patients and their caregivers the instructions in the spoken word as well as in text in the language they understand. There’s an accompanying caregiver app, too. The SpeechMED system is being piloted at Baptist Health System.

Follow @ndahlberg on Twitter.