Want to know about Miami startups? A user's guide to this blog

Dear reader, Starting Gate has been providing and archiving South Florida startup and tech community news, views and resources since 2012. New to the Miami area? Thinking about relocating here? Just want to keep up with news, events and opportunities? We're there for you.

How to use Starting Gate: Besides scrolling the blog for the latest entries, you can access news and views by category. The "Funding" category will capture venture capital and angel funding news of individual startups as well as stories about funders. The startup categories chronicle news and my regular "Spotlights," and in Q&As you'll find interviews with CEOs and leaders in the entrepreneurship ecosystem. There are also categories for guest posts, views, accelerators/incubators, resources, events and more.

Have news? Have an idea for a guest post? Send it to me at ndahlbergbiz@gmail.com. (See my Facebook announcement here)

Thank you for your support through the years and please come back often. Follow me on Twitter @ndahlberg. - Sincerely, Nancy Dahlberg

May 22, 2017

NFTE high school entrepreneurs headed to national competition


The student winner of the 2017 NFTE South Florida Entrepreneurship Challenge owned the stage during her presentation in front of hundreds of people. She executed her pitch so perfectly, she didn't even need the cute cameo role her little sister provided (though it didn't hurt.)

That was Coral Gables Senior High School student Ashley Bellinger (pictured above), who won first place in the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship South Florida Regional Youth Entrepreneurship Challenge last week.  Hialeah Gardens Senior High School students Manny Mollinedo and Danny Martinez placed second. They will represent the South Florida Region at the NFTE 2017 National Youth Entrepreneurship Challenge in October in New York City where they will present and defend their business plans to compete for prizes totaling $20,000. 

Ashley  won $1,500 for her plan for Amber Ash, her t-shirt fashion company that celebrates diversity and individualism; her little sister modeled one of Ashley's designs during the presentation.  Manny and Danny  created Fresh Fit and won $1,000.  These students presented their plan for a company which creates and distributes liners for fitness shaker bottles. Jacqueesha Jones from Miami Northwestern Senior High School who presented her plan for The Brownie Factory, an organization that sells brownies to raise college scholarship funds for low-income students, was the third place finalist, receiving a prize of $500. 

 “NFTE activates the entrepreneurial mindset and builds startup skills in youth both to ensure their long-term success and a more vibrant economy and society,” says Shawn Osborne, NFTE President and CEO.  “Youth today are not prepared for the jobs of today or to create and fill the jobs of tomorrow.  Many of the high-growth jobs of today barely existed a decade ago and the jobs of the future likely do not exist today.  The entrepreneurial mindset is therefore key to success for any young person who wants to be ready for a fast-changing future.”            

The teens demonstrated their command of the entrepreneurial mindset, the way entrepreneurs recognize opportunities and overcome challenges.  Young people presented and defended their business plans before a prestigious panel of judges and an audience of key business and school leaders. All the finalists received mentoring before they competed, and the student winners will receive more mentoring before competing in New York this fall.

The judges for the South Florida regional competition were: Chris Caines, Miami Program Associate, Knight Foundation; Ralph Campbell, Managing Partner, 4D Associates; Ana Karina Felix, Senior Vice President, CCAR LATAM, Citi; Erik Pupo, Managing Director, Accenture; Dr. Stephanie Scott, Director of Research & Evaluation, United Way of Broward County, and Stephanie Sylvestre, Chief Programs Officer/Chief Information Officer, The Children’s Trust.

NFTE Regional Youth Entrepreneurship Challenges will take place in cities across the country supported by Microsoft and the Citi Foundation as part of its Pathways to Progress global expansion to prepare urban youth for today’s competitive job market.  Additional support for the South Florida Challenge was provided by Mastercard, along with Bank of America, Celebrity Cruises, EY, Royal Caribbean, and Santander. The South Florida regional competition was held on May 18 at Briza on the Bay in Miami.

Also part of the May 18 event was a fast-pitch contest involving about 10 students. Each gave a one-minute pitch and the audience voted.   And the winner of the fast-pitch was ... middle-school student Jonathan Jeancharles for his pitch for Extra Learning XL. Jonathan was a fan favorite for sure. Before the student fast-pitch competition started, the students networked with the audience and wore nametags that said "Ask me to pitch." Jonathan was an aggressive networker -- he didn't wait to be asked to tell us about his business idea.

The Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE) is an international nonprofit that activates the entrepreneurial mindset in young people and builds their knowledge about business startup. Students acquire the entrepreneurial mindset (e.g., innovation, self-reliance, comfort with risk), alongside business, STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math), and presentation skills—equipping them to drive their best futures in the 21st Century. NFTE focuses its work on under-resourced communities, with programs in 22 locations in 9 countries. In South Florida, thousands of students across 38 schools are enrolled in the NFTE program. This was the final event of the school year, although some of the students will be participating in NFTE summer programs.

Congratulations to the South Florida teen winners!


First place winner Amber Ash.


Second Place winners Fresh Fit.

Third Place winner: The Brownie Factory.


November 16, 2015

CappSci Inventors program awards inaugural innovation prizes

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005 CappSci Local DS

Rivah Winter, top photo by World Red Eye, presents to Miami-Dade high school students and later that evening, all the CappSci finalists, including Prasoon Diwakar, above in photo by David Santiago of El Nuevo Herald, talk with community members at their booths at Gramp's in Wynwood.


By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

To win the CappSci Inventors Prize, it wasn’t enough for the scientists and engineers to be able to present their work to fellow academics and scientific leaders — they also had to win the hearts of a group of students representing three high schools and startup community members attending “Nerd Nite” in Wynwood. That’s just one of the ways that the new prize program is unique.

CappSci, a science nonprofit that runs innovation prize programs, and the Patricia and Phillip Frost Museum of Science announced that Andrew Baker and Rivah Winter of the University of Miami and Prasoon Diwakar of Purdue University were selected as the winners of two inaugural CappSci Inventors challenges; one called for solutions for protecting coral reefs and the other was for protecting humans from carcinogens. And when the new museum opens next summer, patrons will be able to watch the innovations come to life over the course of a year.

The CappSci Inventors program will distribute $1 million over five years to 10 inventors, offering fresh approaches to solving major global problems. Winners received a $100,000 grant to support a 12-month residency at Miami’s new Frost Science to build out and test their early stage technology.

Baker and Winter, both Miami residents, won for their project on stress-hardening corals, which involves priming corals with heat-tolerant processes to increase stress resistance and make reef restoration more effective as ocean temperatures rise. At their booth at Nerd Nite at Gramp’s bar in Wynwood last week, Winter, a PhD student, said she was excited about the possibility of getting out of the lab and being able to interact with museum goers and the science community in such an interactive and public way, combining her passions for scientific research and education.

Diwakar, a resident of Indiana and a research scientist, won for his proposed Laser-induced Breakdown Spectroscopy Detector, a portable instrument for real-time detection of carcinogens in airborne material as well as solid or liquid samples. His solution, a sampling kit that can be used by anyone, is quick, effective and less expensive than existing solutions, making it accessible to schools, airports, museums, government and private office buildings and other venues, Diwakar said on Thursday while showing off his booth. He, too, likes the idea of “bringing science to the people.”

Gillian Thomas, president and CEO of Frost Science, said that the residency with the Frost Science Innovation Labs will offer mentorship, important contacts and critical feedback. “The visitor interface is a critical component of the program and showcases the capacity of the Innovation Labs to engage the entire community in addressing 21st century challenges,” she said.

Inventors will work in an open laboratory housed in the museum’s Innovation Labs, Thomas said. Museum visitors will be able to observe the inventors in action, see a real-time log of their progress and share ideas with them. Accompanying exhibits will explain the underlying science and technologies in coral restoration and carcinogen detection.

The inaugural winners were chosen from dozens of global entries and were among six finalists who participated in a rigorous final evaluation process, which included input from Miami-Dade County Public Schools students, the local startup community and an expert judging committee. Winners were selected based on their invention’s technical potential and suitability for public participation in a museum setting.

“Part of the prize is about technology, but part of it is engaging the community, and we wanted winners who could do both,” Ted Caplow, CEO of CappSci, said Monday. “There’s tremendous excitement in Miami around trying to make Miami a tech city, and CappSci Inventors is my effort to play an important role in that. We have a new and unique model to harness the power of the crowd to incubate startups and foster good ideas that have the potential for global impact.”

The other two finalists presenting coral reef research were Remy Okazaki and Benjamin Mason of the University of Washington and Steve Whalan of Southern Cross University in Australia. The other two finalists with carcinogen-detecting solutions were Vinay Bhardwaj of Florida International University and Jose Almirall and Anamary Tarifa, also of FIU.

For the carcinogen category, the judges were Norma Kenyon, University of Miami’s vice provost for innovation; Svetlana Shtrom, director of technology commercialization at the University of Central Florida; and Jon Yoo, assistant professor in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at the University of Buffalo. For the coral reefs prize, judges were Reia Guppy, assistant professor at the University of Trinidad and Tobago (Marine Sciences and Environmental Studies Department); Carrie Manfrino, founder of the Coral Reef Conservancy; and Ken Nedimyer, founder of the Coral Restoration Foundation.

Interestingly, the high school honors students from Miami Beach Senior High, Sunset Senior High and WilliamH.TurnerTechnicalSchool chose the same winners as the judges, Caplow said. 

Caplow said next year’s CappSci contest will do a better job of conveying the full spectrum of what the prize offers from a career standpoint; it’s not just money to build a technology, but the opportunity to gain professional exposure to mentors and other experts as well as investors and potential partners. He said CappSci will continue the interactive judging process. “All of our finalists said they really appreciated the opportunity to speak to school kids in the morning, adults in the evening in an informal setting, and have a more formal pitch to experts the next day. ... My hope is that anyone who is involved with any of our contests learns something and gains something.”

For more information on CappSci Inventors, visit www.cappsci.org.

In addition to the CappSci Inventors program, CappSci is also leading the Miami Science Barge project, a public floating marine sustainability lab that won the inaugural 2015 Knight Foundation Cities Challenge and will be stationed near Frost Science.

Nancy Dahlberg; 305-376-3595; @ndahlberg.

May 04, 2015

eMerge Americas announcement: Patent pro-bono program for qualified inventors

By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

At eMerge Americas on Monday, The Institute for Commercialization of Public Research will announce  the launch of the Florida Patent Pro Bono Program in partnership with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

The program links qualified inventors and small businesses with volunteer patent agents and attorneys who provide pro bono legal assistance on specific aspects of the patent process, and with Florida's launch it is now active in nearly all 50 states. In 2011, the U.S. Congress passed the America Invents Act, which called for the USPTO to establish the regional patent programs.

"We're so happy to be launching in Florida," said Jennifer McDowell, USPTO pro-bono coordinator, adding that the Sunshine State has a large number of patent filings and under-resourced inventors.

The Institute will match up low-income inventors with patent lawyers, in order to level the playing field. "It's an issue of fairness and economic development. When you unlock that innovation, that is how you make a difference," said McDowell in an interview on Friday. "And once these matches get made and the patent applications get filed, we want the inventions to turn into money making machines."

If accepted into the  Florida Patent Pro Bono Program, applicants may expect exposure to intellectual property experts, support in certain aspects of the patent application process, and partnership opportunities to enhance business development. The legal services would be free; the inventors would still need to pay the patent filing fees but could qualify for steep discounts.

“The Institute is pleased to be administering this important program for Florida inventors, which promotes entrepreneurship, job growth and innovation-based economic development,” said Jamie Grooms, CEO of the Institute. “The Florida Patent Pro Bono Program will accelerate the commercialization of important new products and enable Florida companies to compete more effectively in the global economy.”

More information on the program is available at www.florida-institute.com and www uspto.gov. the Institute is also looking for more patent attorneys who want to volunteer. The announcement is scheduled to  be made about 1:15 p.m. on the expo stage of eMerge Americas.

The Institute  is a non-profit organization that works  with  technology licensing and commercialization offices of Florida’s state universities and private research institutions to leverage a $2 billion-plus research base and form investable companies that create jobs.  Thirty-eight companies have been funded since the program’s inception.

Follow Nancy Dahlberg on Twitter @ndahlberg.

April 26, 2015

#Localis: Digital event on building a greener Miami & launch of 18 EcoTech ventures


From EcoTech Visions:

 #Localis is a day-long social-media based conference and has both virtual and live components all happening on April 30. The goal of the #Localis Digital Conference is to create awareness for the 18 EcoTech Ventures launching on April 30 and to stimulate discussions on technology, entrepreneurship, sustainability and civic engagement.  In addition to the launch of 18 EcoTech Ventures on April 30, these events are bringing together “#Localis Leaders,” politicians, popular culture trendsetters, investors, "eco-preneurs," and millennials to have important discussions around topics that affect our businesses, communities, and planet.

During the virtual and onsite #Localis events, there are over 40 “#Localis Leaders” who will be sharing tips, best practices and research on eco-preneurship and sustainable practices to build better, greener business models. All of the digital discussions can be followed and joined using the hashtags, #Localis and #EcoTechVisions1. The #Localis Digital Conference is free for participants, see the schedule of topics here.

A cadre of eco-preneurs, investors, political leaders and venture capitalists spanning the globe will lead the digital discussions and sessions, including the following:

  • * Brian Brackeen – Founder of facial recognition software, Kairos, with $5 million secured in funding and recognized as one of the Wall Street Journal’s top startup of 2013
  • * Dr. Pandwe Gibson – Founder, EcoTech Visions, a Miami-based incubator supporting green businesses
  • * Patty Soffer- founder of the Soffer collective.
  • * Shevrin Jones- Florida State Representative
  • * Oscar Braynon- Florida State Senator
  • * Myrna Sonora and Ismael Cifuentes  of the Hispanic Business Initiative Fund
  • * David "Chi Chi" Truong - Chair of the Miami Branch of the USGBC South Florida Chapter
  • * Marlin Hill- Business attorney partner at Hamilton and Miller

Additional details about #Localis and EcoTech Visions, including the schedule of events, confirmed speakers and participants, and registration information can be found at mialocalis.com.

EcoTech Visions (ecotechvisions.org) is rapidly developing as the steward of Miami’s green scene that creates and offers innovative programs and services that simultaneously impact systemic poverty and climate change. By facilitating the development of light industrial and manufacturing companies founded on green business principles.

In collaboration with Commissioner Monestime and his green corridors plan, EcoTech Visions is a growing collective of EcoPrenuers from across South Florida and the country.  They have joined forces to locate in the center of Miami.  The accelerator is located at 667 NW 90th street in Liberty City, Miami Dade County, and is hatching green manufacturing businesses with a mission of creating jobs that make both business and environmental sense.  This accelerator is the first of its kind in Florida.  It is comprised of meeting space, coworking space and offices like the others; however, it also has a Kitchen Lab for the development of topical products-- currently utilized by two companies’ RAW and Precisions Barber Club Products ; A Plastic Molding lab for Earthware  biodegradable cutlery cups and containers; A hydroponics lab and garden; and a mechanics lab currently occupied by Aeolus.

In addition to the #Localis  Digital Conference, the general public is invited to join in a live scavenger hunt, vegetarian organic lunch, networking event, and movie screening happening onsite at EcoTech Visions on Thursday, April 30. Here is more info for the onsite events:

Lunch Event: Physical and Digital Scavenger Hunt and Luncheon

Where: EcoTech Visions: 667 NW 90th Street, Miami, FL 33150

When: Thursday, 4/30, 12pm - 2:30pm

(bus departs for Scavenger Hunt at 12pm sharp, luncheon hosted at EcoTech Visions after Scavenger Hunt)

Evening Event: Networking and Film Screening of “Regeneration City”

Where: EcoTech Visions: 667 NW 90th Street, Miami, FL 33150

When: Thursday, 4/30, 6pm - 8:30pm

On Thursday April 30, take an active role in the discussions and solutions for building greener businesses, healthier communities and ending systemic poverty in Miami and our world! Register to be a part of #Localis!

April 01, 2015

Smart City Startups to bring drones, hoverboards and talking homes to Miami -- ideas that transform cities

Sharing from Smart City Startups and Knight Foundation:

Smart City Startups, the two-day urban tech conference, highlighting the startups, people, and ideas that are transforming cities, will return to Miami for its second year, with support from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and The Miami Foundation.

The conference will consist of The Festival, which will be open to the public, on April 23 and  The Summit, a private event on April 24. The Festival will host 100 startups and more than 1,000 people, including organizations that aim to transform our cities in the next decade. The featured sponsor of the event, Direct Energy, one of North America’s largest providers of electricity and energy-related home services, will present the Miami debut of its “Innovation to Inspiration exhibit at the event.

The conference, produced by Shaun Abrahamson and Stonly Baptiste, the co-founders of Urban.Us, an investment fund focused on supporting startups that make cities better, will bring together the most influential global investors, entrepreneurs, thought leaders and policymakers from cities such as Berlin, London, New York, San Francisco and Tel Aviv. Event participants will be introduced to emerging tech being used to solve pressing urban issues in areas such as energy consumption, mobility, sustainable building, governance and public safety.

Attendees will have a chance to see, try and operate devices ranging from drones used to automate building construction to next generation personal mobility devices. Demos will take place during The Festival from 1 to 8 p.m. April 23 at the Wynwood Warehouse Project and the The Light Box at Goldman Warehouse. Festivalgoers will also have the first opportunity to experience the latest innovative smart home technologies, such as those featured in Direct Energy’s smart mobile exhibit.

“We’re excited to let people see and touch the future. Much of what these startups are building was recently science fiction,” said Abrahamson. “And we’re extremely excited to have keynote speakers like computer scientist, award-winning author and Microsoft vet Ramez Naam, who believes we can achieve economic growth through innovation to reduce our rates of pollution and consumption. Naam and many other speakers will contribute to important conversations like this that impact every single one of us, whether living in Miami, London or in-between.”

“Connecting the entrepreneurs and innovators who have the power to transform cities holds tremendous opportunities for Miami and beyond,” said Matt Haggman, Knight Foundation program director for Miami. “Smart City Startups showcases the best principles of entrepreneurship, fueling ideas that make our communities stronger and encourage more engagement.”

What attendees can expect:

  • * An all-terrain course to demo Future Motion’s OneWheel Electric Skateboard, Whill’s all-terrain wheelchair, electric vehicles and personal mobility devices;
  • * SkyCatch drones that are used to automate construction around the world; people program the machines and push a button to send them to work;
  • * Next-generation Nest carbon dioxide and smoke detectors, monitors that verbally alert users when a problem occurs, and a Nest learning thermostat that automatically adjust temperature settings based on customers’ actual energy usage patterns;
  • * Automated appliances with mobile app-enabled, real-time status information;
  • * Intelligent, automated water sprinklers that function based on location-specific soil and weather conditions;


“With solutions powered by mobile apps and other new technology, Direct Energy is putting the future of energy service directly into the hands of our customers. We expect this new, customer-empowered future to accelerate as service providers, policymakers, and others work together to foster greater innovation and competition,” said Badar Khan, Direct Energy president and CEO. “Creating these opportunities for open discourse and connections to startups dedicated to advancing technology is precisely why participation in Smart City Startups is so important to us.”

“We are really fortunate to have the support of great organizations such as Knight Foundation, The Miami Foundation and Direct Energy this year that believe in our cause and believe in the importance of having conversations about the future of cities and the impactful power startups can lend to consumers to make a difference,” said Baptiste.

To view a list of participants, be a sponsor, or purchase discounted Festival tickets for $99 (offer valid until April 1, 2015) visit SmartCityStartups.com.

Read Miami Herald cover story about Urban.Us here.

Scenes from last year's inaugural conference:



December 08, 2014

New South Florida cleantech investment firm plans to launch fund

A new early-stage investment firm in the cleantech sector and based in Broward County, Power Generations, has launched a new website and welcomes cleantech entrepreneurs seeking funding as well as individuals and organizations with an interest in investing as a limited partner. Upcoming additions to the site include a blog.

Cleantech encompasses energy storage, wind power, solar power, hydrogen power, biofuels, efficiency, carbon sequestration and emissions control, enhanced agricultural practices, efficient water processing, green transportation, advanced materials and equipment innovation, and more, and growth in cleantech is driven by opportunity and necessity, the firm said. Although it is a sector avoided by some in the venture community, in 2012, venture capital firms invested an estimated $6.4 billion in cleantech accounting for nearly 25 percent of the $26 billion invested by venture capitalists, Power Generations said.

“As residents of the sunshine state, we see an enormous potential for renewable energy advances and growth through smart investments. My goal is to combine my past decades of experience in the energy and water efficiency industry working with utility companies, with my passion for a cleaner future to partner with entrepreneurs who can make real, tangible changes and improvements,” said Paul Cutler, president and managing director of Power Generations,

The firm’s initial investments will be made with private funding by the management team, with plans to launch a fund open to outside investors in the second half of 2015, the company said.

Posted Dec. 8, 2014

October 08, 2014

Report: Florida lags in clean-energy jobs

More than 130,000 Floridians work at about 14,000 clean energy businesses across the state. But that’s just 1.5 percent of all jobs in Florida, a small per-capita number when compared to other states studied, according to a Florida clean jobs census released Wednesday by a trio of business organizations.

While 130,000 is a big number, “we believe this is only a drop in the bucket to what this state can be,” said Bob Keefe, executive director of Environmental Entrepreneurs (E2), which released “Clean Jobs Florida: Sizing Up Florida’s Clean Energy Jobs Base and its Potential” with the Florida Alliance for Renewable Energy and the Florida Chapter of the Energy Services Coalition. “Florida is a state that is not living up to its potential.”

By contrast, states such as Vermont, Illinois and Massachusetts have significantly more clean-energy jobs per capita than the Sunshine State, Keefe said.

The majority of Florida’s clean energy jobs – about 100,000 or about 75 percent – are in energy efficiency, the report found, and the state lags significantly in renewable energy jobs. A notable 1,693 work in renewable fuels and fuel cells, and solar is the top renewable energy employer with 7,100 workers.

“With an existing [solar] industry that is significantly smaller than other states, and a potential for development that is significantly larger than other states, the gap between our current state and our future potential is staggering,” said Mike Antheil, founding executive director of the Florida Alliance for Renewable Energy in West Palm Beach. “Now is the time to implement clean energy policies,” as outlined in the  federal Clean Power Plan announced in June, he said.

Other report findings:

* Florida’s clean energy businesses are growing faster than other parts of the state’s economy. Over the past year, clean energy jobs grew by more than 6 percent, with 9 percent job growth expected in 2015.

*  Nearly half of all new hires in the state’s clean energy sector were reported to be ethnic or racial minorities and a quarter were women. Nearly 70 percent of the ethnic or racial minority new hires were Hispanic.

* The majority of the 14,000 clean energy businesses in the state are small businesses — two-thirds are under 10 employees.

The report is available at www.cleanjobsflorida.com


September 25, 2014

EcoTech Visions receives $172K in grants for its green-business incubator, programs

With a mission of creating jobs that make both business and environmental sense, EcoTech Visions announced it received $172,000 in grants. That brings the nonprofit closer to its goal of hatching an incubator in Liberty City for green manufacturing small businesses.

EcotechThis week, the 7th Avenue CRA awarded EcoTech Visions a $60,000 grant to build out its accelerator space and make Northwest 7th Avenue its new home, said Pandwe Gibson, EcoTech's founder (pictured here).  The CRA also awarded two young companies within EcoTech’s incubator a total of $20,000 in grants for equipment: EarthWare, a biodegradable tableware company, and Aeolus Motors, an electric motor bike company.

In July, EcoTech Visions was awarded $52,000 in Miami-Dade County County CDBG funds to provide training for its Blue to Green Collar fellowship program.  The Blue to Green Fellowship is a second-chance program for formerly incarcerated adults who have blue collar certifications such as electrician, mechanic, AC repair, carpentry and other trade skills. This fellowship is also available to veterans. “Who better to install solar panels than the electrician who already has the basic skills, who better to create electric motorcycles than the mechanics who have been toying with the idea for years,” said  Gibson, who has been working passionately on EcoTech for nearly two years. 

Gibson was also awarded the Gulf Coast Fellowship, selected as one of five fellows from a pool of 500 applicants from Texas to North Carolina to represent the region as an ambassador for Southern “Ecopreneurs.” The Gulf Coast Fellowship comes with a $40,000 award to support her research and incubator development at EcoTech Visions.   Gibson said she was also been selected by the Peter Lang international publishing group through the University of New Orleans to publish a book highlighting the work of Miami’s blue collar to green collar conversion process, with publication planned for next spring.

In collaboration with Miami-Dade Commissioner Jean Monestime and his green corridors plan, EcoTech Visions nurtures a growing collective of “EcoPrenuers” from across South Florida and the country, Gibson said.  The incubator is located at 667 NW 90th St., in Miami-Dade County's Liberty City, and will contain meeting space, co-working space and offices. It will also have a Kitchen Lab for the development of topical products, and it is currently being used by  Raw and Precisions Barber Club Products; a bio-plastic molding lab for EarthWare’s  biodegradable tableware; a hydroponics lab and garden; and a mechanics lab, currently occupied by Aeolus. Gibson believes that with nurturing, these companies can grow and provide jobs in low-income areas.

The county grants require matching private funds; EcoTech is crowdfunding for the private funds on the Global Giving platform. Donations can be made at http://www.globalgiving.org/projects/create-50-new-jobs-in-impoverished-miami-areas/ “We are so excited and so close to our goal,” Gibson said.

Posted Sept. 25, 2014

Read previous post about EcoTech here. 




July 27, 2014

Startup Spotlight: PWRstation


Headquarters: Miami, with offices in Bienne, Switzerland.

Concept: PWRstation develops pre-assembled “plug and play” retractable solar energy delivery systems engineered in Switzerland; built in the United States by Schletter, a global mounting manufacturer headquartered in Germany; and sold primarily through distribution partners to residential, business, military, mobile and off-grid end user sectors in North and Latin America as well as Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA).

Story: Co-founders Robert Albertella and Ludovic Roche saw an opportunity to “mass manufacture” pre-assembled, fully-integrated solar power delivery systems in a global sector characterized by costly custom installations. For the clean-tech startup, “our vision is to bring simplicity, accessibility and price competitiveness to residential and non-residential solar customers around the world,” said Roche, who has 15 years’ experience in business development and marketing, including as a senior vice president at Blumberg Capital Partners.

Launched: December 2013

Photo (11)Management team: Robert Albertella, co-founder and CEO, EMEA (pictured at left); Ludovic Roche, co-founder and CEO Americas (pictured above); Gianfranco Albertella, head of operations, EMEA; William Berenson, chief marketing officer (pictured above).

No. of employees: 7

Website: pwrstation.com

Financing: PWRstation completed an initial round of financing last year and currently seeking a second round for $2 million to fund operations and growth.

Image002Recent milestones reached: PWRStation has recently finalized a production agreement and finalizing a distribution agreement with Schletter, a leading global solar manufacturer. Recently joined by William Berenson, a highly experienced global marketing and communications professional. PWRstation 3.3 kWp about to complete UL2703 Issue Two Standard certification for U.S. market. Recently featured at the Intersolar Conference in Munich, where PWRStation received accolades and requests for distribution rights in Europe, the Middle East and South Africa. Also exhibited at this month’s Intersolar North America Conference. PWRstations will be available within the next three months in South Africa and surrounding countries, Roche said.

Biggest startup challenge: “As a solar company that has chosen to make its headquarters in Miami, our biggest challenge to date has been to gain the same traction in our state as we have experienced elsewhere, simply because Florida is a state unfriendly to solar,” Roche said.

Next step: Revamping/re-launching brand; Completing second round of financing to ramp up operations and distribution alliances in the U.S. and EMEA.

Strategy for next step: Complete and execute a global promotion with one of the world’s largest NGOs based in Geneva, Switzerland.

Mentor’s view: Kim Perry, an investment banker who works in London and lives in Switzerland, was attracted to PWRstation’s business model and social mission: “In the developed world, there is need for portable devices that can be transported and deployed (and folded up) easily as is the case with PWRStation. Examples include the military, emergency services and situations where severe weather conditions, such as heavy snowfall. Additionally, even for more static environments, the PWRstation device has merit because the installation costs are minimal.

“There are approximately 1.5 billion people in world who are off-grid (not connected to the electric grid). The World Bank has estimated that 70 percent of Africans are off grid and Africa spends about $10.5 billion per year on low-quality fuel based lighting such as kerosene. A PWRstation in every village would provide clean low cost electricity to the neediest and allow, for example, children to read at night and hence progress far more than they otherwise could do,” Perry said. “And PWRstation’s business model is one that allows the company to scale up quickly on a global basis.”

See all past Startup Spotlights under the Startup Spotlight category of this blog. 

April 07, 2014

Inaugural event will explore how startups can help build smart cities

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Photo of Miami by Al Diaz/Miami Herald

UrbanuslogoSmart City Startups 2014, a global gathering of entrepreneurs, investors, foundations and urban leaders, will convene on April 24 and 25 in Miami to explore how to help startups build smart cities. Hosted by Miami startup Urban.Us, the inaugural event will explore how to best support startups working on problems such as mobility, sustainable building, governance, service delivery and resilience and will showcase promising startups in these areas.

“As cities become increasingly crowded, local governments are being asked to do more with less, making an already-complex situation more difficult. Smart City Startups 2014 is a response to such challenges, aiming to understand how we can best support startups that are creating promising solutions to our biggest urban challenges,” said Shaun Abrahamson, CEO of Urban.Us , an angel investor and author of Crowdstorm.

The mission of the gathering: To share perspectives on what is working and what else can be done to support smart city startups, particularly in the areas of partnerships, procurement and funding. Strategies will be shared and participants will  be encouraged to continue working together after the event.


Co-founded by Abrahamson and Stonly Baptiste, Urban.Us helps startups that help cities by organizing a network of promising startups, early stage investors, advisors, urban leaders, foundations and academic institutions. It is also working with county leaders to help the city evolve into an innovation-driven technology hub.

“Miami-Dade County continues to grow a robust business climate, fueled not only by its privileged geographic location as the Gateway to the Americas, but also by a growing startup community that’s helping to expand economic development opportunities. We congratulate the organizers of Smart City Startups 2014 for their focus on helping to solve urban issues dealing with governance and sustainability,” said Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos A. Gimenez, in a statement.

While much of the conference, sponsored by The Knight Foundation, American Airlines, Coca Cola, The LAB Miami, Miami-Dade County and Tres Mares, is by invitation, on the evening of  April 24, participating startups will  showcase their solutions on how cities and startups can work together to solve big urban challenges.  The demo night will be at 7:30 p.m. at The Light Box in Wynwood and is open to the public.

Startups participating in Smart City Startups Demos include: Architizer (New York), BikeSpike (Chicago), Birdi (San Francisco), BRCK (Nairobi, Kenya), Citymart (Barcelona), Dash (New York), HandUp (San Francisco), Greater Places (Arlington, Va.),  Kairos (Miami),  Kiwi.ki (Berlin), Learner Nation (Miami), Loveland Technologies(Detroit), Neighbor.ly (Kansas City, Mo.),  Placemeter (New York),  Public Stuff (New York),  PWRStation (Miami), Rach.io (Denver), Republic Bikes (Dania Beach, Fla.),SeeClickFix (New Haven, Conn.), SeamlessDocs (New York), SmartProcure (Deerfield Beach, Fla.), Social Bicycles (New York), Sprav (Cleveland), The TransitApp (Montreal),WhatUpBridge (Miami).