December 02, 2016

StartUP FIU helps Miami software startup Addigy scale


Jason Dettbarn with part of his Addigy team.

By Jason Dettbarn

Addigy,  a local Miami software company that helps corporations manage their Apple Mac fleet, is preparing to expand its global reach with the help of Florida International University’s StartUP FIU.  Addigy is a quintessential Miami startup with deep roots within FIU.  As founder and CEO, I hold a Masters in Computer Science from Florida International University and cut my teeth in the industry managing worldwide sales operations at Kaseya, a major Miami tech company.  Three years ago, I left Kaseya in order to devote my full energy on creating and building the first full-stack IT management platform for managing Apple Mac computers.

Addigy is a self-funded company based on the sweat labor of extremely talented local Miami talent.  The engineering team consists fully of FIU computer science graduates who have immigrated from Cuba over the past 10 years.  Addigy was recently honored as one of the Top Ten late-stage Miami startups selected for eMerge Americas two years running and is one of the fastest growing companies in StartUP FIU's program.  Building upon Addigy’s 100-plus customers globally that use Addigy to manage their company's world-wide Mac networks, the company’s growth is expected to increase significantly in 2017. Addigy continues to expand at a record pace helping customers not only secure and manage the ever vulnerable Macs in their enterprise, but also helping them attract the top millennial talent, some of whom have never used a PC.

StartUP FIU is an intensive 14-week accelerator program that rapidly guides entrepreneurs through the paces needed to develop their new business ideas into successful growth companies. The accelerator program is open to FIU students, faculty and early-stage startup entrepreneurs in South Florida. All types of companies are welcome including traditional companies, high-tech ventures and social enterprises.

StartUP FIU has been integral to helping Addigy prepare for the next stage in funding and scaling our growth. StartUP FIU has provided us with an abundance of resources at FIU and very deep networks of talent throughout Miami.  Our mentor Mario Cruz (director of Watsco Ventures), for example, has been integral in guiding us through critical areas of the Addigy business.  There is nothing else like StartUP FIU in South Florida, period.

Keep an eye on Addigy as it breaks new ground in Miami and globally in the coming years, as well as the many other great companies being groomed for success in the StartUP FIU Accelerator program in Miami.

Jason Dettbarn is founder and CEO of Addigy, a Miami-based tech startup.

You’re invited to FIU Pitch Day on Dec. 6

Pitch Day is an important milestone for the inaugural Empower Accelerator Program cohort. By this day, StartUP FIU teams will have successfully completed the 14-week Empower Accelerator program. They would have participated in nearly 30 presentations and workshops, taken part in critical mentoring and business advice, and presented their required weekly deliverables in preparation for this one day. It will be 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on Dec. 6 at the Graham Center Ballrooms on the Modesto Maidique campus.

To RSVP, click here.

Read more about the StartUP FIU teams here. 


$10 million gift from Moishe Mana to fund new arts home for FIU


By Nancy Dahlberg /

Florida International University’s arts program will have a home in Miami’s Wynwood neighborhood starting next year, funded by a donation worth $10 million from developer Moishe Mana. The program will be known as FIU CARTA (College of Communication, Architecture + The Arts) @ Mana Wynwood.

The gift is a $2.5 million donation and the in-kind use of 15,000 square feet of studio and lab space for architecture, design, art and communications students within Mana Wynwood, a 30-acre mixed-use development. 

FIU CARTA @ Mana Wynwood will aim to attract visiting artists and designers from around the globe. It will offer FIU students and the community a variety of teaching opportunities, exhibitions, lectures, charrettes and master classes, as well as creative and research activities.

Mana’s donation will support programming, professional staff, student travel and scholarships, the university said this week. The gift will also fund two-year fellowships for Mana Innovation Fellows to work as artists-in-residence at Mana Wynwood.

“Not only do our students benefit from this exceptional opportunity to be immersed in Wynwood, but the local community will also be enriched by the innovation and creativity that emerges as a direct result of this historic partnership,” said CARTA Dean Brian Schriner.

The program will occupy temporary space at 2217 NW Fifth Ave. in Mana Wynwood beginning next June, with occupancy and classes starting as soon as fall semester 2017. The college will occupy a custom-built 15,000-square-foot space on the new Mana Wynwood campus upon full construction of the site in three to five years.

“We see this investment as the start of a mutually beneficial collaboration that will bring in more partners from around the world,” Mana said. “Our ultimate goal is to ensure that Miami and the Wynwood Arts District remain globally relevant in the contemporary world of artistic and creative visionaries.”

In 2015, CARTA opened the Miami Beach Urban Studios (MBUS) on Lincoln Road, a creative space for students and the community with design, gallery and performance space and the CARTA Innovation Lab. CARTA also recently announced it would start an arts incubator.

December 01, 2016

Startupbootcamp's Demo Day shines spotlight on startups and healthcare ecosystem


 Mediconecta, a telehealth company serving Latin America, makes a Demo Day pitch at Startupbootcamp Miami.

By Startupbootcamp Miami

Miami is home to a robust health industry and is considered one of the largest health districts in all of the United States. From Miami, Startupbootcamp and Mana Wynwood are partnering to create a unique space that capitalizes on Miami’s competitive advantage - from demographic diversity, geographic endowment bridging populations between the Americas together, and Miami’s art scene - to create a distinct and defendable ecosystem for innovation.

“Startupbootcamp has brought new talent and energy to Miami’s expanding innovation ecosystem. Building on this momentum, Demo Day is a chance for this first class of entrepreneurs to put their potential on display and show how they can contribute to the growth and success of our city,” said Matt Haggman, Knight Foundation program director for Miami.

“Miami is a perfect market for entrepreneurs working at the intersection of healthcare and technology with its highly successful clinical facilities, booming tech scene, and emerging startup ecosystem,” said Jaret L. Davis, co-managing shareholder of Greenberg Traurig Miami, who is leading the team of attorneys working with Startupbootcamp and serves as Vice Chairman of Miami Children’s Hospital. “Our firm is thrilled to play a key role in Startupbootcamp and serve as the connector with many of the key players in the market. In light of the work we were already doing with Miami Children’s Health Systems in this field, it made sense to introduce the two, and we are beyond pleased to see how this relationship has blossomed. We look forward to being a catalyst for future growth and remain confident that the success of Startupbootcamp Miami will encourage more accelerators to make their home here.”

Startupbootcamp Demo Day on Thursday  combined  innovations in healthcare technology with Miami’s Art Basel. On Demo Day, Startupbootcamp’s portfolio of digital health companies shared the insights they’ve garnered working in Miami over the past several months to a room of investors, healthcare customers and providers, press, and other esteemed guests.

“Startupbootcamp has really brought to life the technology startup scene in Miami,” said Dr. Narendra Kini, CEO at Nicklaus Children’s Hospital, an early supporter in Startupbootcamp. “By focusing on health it is really building out the ecosystem for innovation. We hope to see the next major healthcare players originate in Miami.”

In addition, the Startupbootcamp Demo Day was also paired with Miami’s Art Week, harnessing the influx of general cultural activity into an instrument for broader good. Recognizing that the worlds of Art, Health and Technology traditionally exist independently of one another, Startupbootcamp, in partnership with Mana Common, are forging an unprecedented platform for innovation.

Art is continuously playing a significant role in this development by using creativity to address healthcare and patient livelihood, and to broaden access to wellness resources. Artful thinking is increasingly becoming a meaningful and serious strategy towards better healing, as demonstrated through the partnership of Startupbootcamp and Mana Common.

The goal is to look at Miami’s competitive advantages in terms of industry – Health, Technology, and Art – to create a defensible value chain.

Here are  highlights of some of the major accomplishments that our companies have achieved over the last three months.

Aces Health:

Aces Health, one of five global finalists for the Mayo "Think Big" entrepreneurship challenge, has signed a LOI and is looking to close its pre-seed funding round led by Miami Children's Health System.


Partnered with Aurora Healthcare to build the first technology enabled Medicaid care plan that makes necessary pregnancy care available to any patient from the comfort of their own home. The product went live last week.

Additionally, Dr. Narendra Kini and the Miami Children's Health System have served as a pivotal strategic mentor and partner in the South Florida market. They are currently working together on a comprehensive Go-To-Market as well as new exciting product developments.


CareAngel as awarded 1st Place in the AARP Foundation’s $50K Innovation Challenge for its partnership with the Philadelphia Local Association of Areas on Aging to support enhanced remote care for low income and underserved populations. As part of the SBC program, CareAngel is now piloting with the University of Miami Health System around med adherence for its mammogram patients.

Keep Livin:

KL has closed several revenue generating deals in the past 90 days with substantial partners such as Univision and Florida Blue. Keep Livin will be Florida Blue’s community engagement partner, entail enrolling those in Broward County during the current enrollment period.

Mediconecta (pictured above):

Mediconecta has signed an agreement with Miami Children's Health System to support their outreach for children and their families in Miami, throughout the nation and in Latin America.

Additionally, Mediconecta is contracting with University of Miami Health System to deliver a one of a kind model that will extend their providers' reach into new care settings throughout their markets.

QoC Health:

QoC Health as signed 6 new project contracts (including Canada's largest hospital network, Canada's largest home health organization, 2 internationally recognized universities, and 1 global health organization). The projects cover a variety of content areas, including mental health, population health data collection, and chronic disease management.

With the help SBC, has pivoted their resources and technologies to a single product around patient intake.  Since then, the company has experienced more meetings and follow throughs with the investors, new strategic partnerships,  and more customer opportunities.


TruClinic has added five new customers since the beginning of our journey with Startup Bootcamp. The company also won an RFP with a Florida Children's Hospital. TruClinic has been recognized by the Journal of Health as one of the most innovative digital health companies in the world as an honoree of the 2016 Global Digital Health 100 List.


In South Florida, VoiceITT will collaborate with specialty clinicians, disabilities advocates, and therapists, including testing and research toward clinical validation of its signature product, which will be commercially available in 2017. It is in discussions with the University of Miami UHealth System, which will be the site of its first hospital pilot implementation as well as its first enterprise sale.


A panel of community experts in healthcare discuss the ecosystem at Startupbootcamp's Demo Day.

November 28, 2016

Industrial design experts bringing vision to life: Miami College of Design in Wynwood


By Nancy Dahlberg /

Miami’s Wynwood neighborhood, already a hub for artists, technologists and other creatives, will soon be the home of the new Miami College of Design.

It's the vision of Walter Bender and Franco Lodato, experts in industrial design. The co-founders broke ground last month on the-state-of-the-art educational facility, which will be Florida’s first accredited college focused solely on industrial design, they said. The state-licensed associate and bachelor of science curricula will focus on a mentorship model and nature-inspired design methodologies. Selected students will be able to attend on generous scholarships provided by Bender and Lodato’s IAM (Industrial Arts and Method) Foundation via donors and corporations. Lodato and Bender are aiming to open the college next fall.

“Ideas are cheap but knowing how to take an idea and make it into a product is rare,” said Bender, a longtime senior research scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who also co-founded the nonprofit One Laptop Per Child. “Miami has become a hotbed of ideas. It’s young, it’s vibrant, what we want to do is add to that.”

The new college (rendering above) will be officially announced Wednesday by Miami Mayor Tomás Regalado, along with Bender and Lodato, to kick off the Masters of Tomorrow Summit, a conference bringing together design thinkers from around the world. The conference line-up, curated in partnership with the IAM Foundation, includes talks on virtual reality in film, using big data in climate change research, wearable fashion, smart luggage, incorporating “mindfulness” in design and other topics and ends with a free concert behind The LAB Miami.

The Miami College of Design will seek to advance the integration of design, science and engineering by taking students through a design process, exploring new approaches and solutions. The aim is human-centered and nature-inspired design that enhances the human experience, and “our approach will be unconventional,” said Lodato, who previously headed design at Motorola and was a director at VSN Mobil Technologies in South Florida, among other roles, and has been collaborating with Bender on various projects for two decades..

FrancoLodatoLodato pioneered “bionics,” the theory and practice of nature-inspired design. He has served as Master Innovator of wearable technologies for Google-Motorola and he led design for Herman Miller and Pininfarina. He holds 71 patents including one for the precursor of Gillette’s Mach3, and he has also consulted for Dupont, Coca-Cola, Ferrari-Maserati, Boeing and others.

Walter benderBender, president of the IAM Foundation, is also founder of the nonprofit Sugar Labs, a collaborative learning platform, and co-founder of One Laptop Per Child, which innovated distribution of laptops in third-world countries. He headed the MIT Media Lab and founded the MIT News in the Future Consortium, which helped launch the era of digital news.

About 18 months ago Lodato and Bender embarked on this college, acquiring the property and securing a license. The  building, designed by Pompano Beach architect Fred Nagler, is under construction at 26 NE 25th St. They took off the front and rear of the two-story warehouse and expanded it, and are adding a third floor and rooftop garden as a social space, Lodato said. While the school is being constructed, the IAM Foundation will be doing workshops and seminars at The LAB Miami and other venues.

The curricula will be based on Bender and Lodato’s apprenticeship-driven education model that has close ties to industry. It will be project-based, and each student will work on a few projects hand in hand with professionals from the field who become their mentors.

“One of our goals in our model is that the students will be on 90 percent scholarships funded by industry. We already have raised funding for the first cohort of students. We really want students to focus on learning 100 percent, not on how they will pay for it. The work they do will be valuable for the industry,” Lodato said.

Miami is a natural location for the new school, they said.

“There is clearly an energy here but there is not a lot of history in the space in Miami. That means there is not a lot of rigid thinking – there is a lot more openness to ideas and new approaches,” said Bender. “It is a great opportunity for a vibrant, young community and at the same time the world has really opened up to this idea of entrepreneurship, of making, of doing. It’s the time. It’s the right time to be doing this.”

Nancy Dahlberg: @ndahlberg

Read more: Speakers, free concert, tour and art event for MOT Summit announced

Copy of Second_Floor_Test_05


November 21, 2016

Wyncode outgrows The LAB, will open its own campus Jan.8


By Nancy Dahlberg /

Wyncode Academy, a homegrown coding bootcamp that teaches computer programming in 10 weeks, is outgrowing The LAB Miami, where it has been based, and is moving into its own stand-alone code school campus on Jan. 8. But staying true to its name and roots, the company is staying in Wynwood.

"We have loved being at The LAB and it is always going to be a special place for us. That said, we are ready to double down on Miami and move into our own dedicated campus," said Juha Mikkola, who founded the code school with his wife, Johanna (both pictured above) in Miami in 2014.

Along with the expansion, Wyncode also announced it will also be launching its first part-time course for those who want to learn how to code without leaving their jobs and offering more corporate training.

Wyncode’s new custom-designed campus, called Wynbase, is located at 549 NW 28th St. and at 3,100 square feet is more than four times larger than its dedicated space at The LAB. Wynbase, when it opens Jan. 8, will include two full-size classrooms, a smaller classroom for corporate training programs and an open concept co-working area for Wyncode students and staff, Mikkola said.

Wyncode’s intensive, immersive full-time web development course will now start every five weeks and provide prospective Wyncoders with more flexibility in terms of start dates. More importantly, this new format provides students with the opportunity to repeat the first 5-week section if they need extra time to work on their fundamentals, said Juha Mikkola. There are benefits of culture too: The more experienced students can inspire and help the newer class, he said.

Wyncode’s part-time web development course will meet three evenings a week for 12 weeks and offer career-oriented students the option to keep their day jobs while learning to build web applications at night. More information on the new program, which will start in February, is available here. Both the full-time and part-time classes will be capped at 30 students.  

Wyncode will also follow on its first successful corporate workshop with Visa and build more corporate training programs for Miami companies looking to adopt Agile methodologies and innovate their processes through automation and other technologies. 

"This is a move to centralize and strengthen the overall experience and quality at Wyncode," said Juha Mikkola. Wyncode will be consolidating its bootcamps at Wynbase but will continue to do Wyntroductions (one-day bootcamps) and other events in Fort Lauderdale, where it has held cohorts.

Wyncode Academy, now with 13 full-time and 18 part-time employees, was the first bricks and mortar coding school to be licensed by the Florida Department of Education. About 350 people have completed the programs with a 97 percent job placement rate. Over 100 companies have hired Wyncoders, who come from a variety of careers such as  chefs, lawyers, salespeople, accountants, concierges, marketing executives and entrepreneurs.  Applications for the programs are accepted on a rolling basis and interested candidates should apply at

“We’re incredibly excited to launch Wynbase and provide the best possible learning environment for our students,”  said Johanna Mikkola. She and Juha were chosen as Endeavor Entrepreneurs in 2015. "We believe the future for Miami tech is bright and we can’t wait to welcome the entire tech community to Wynbase in 2017.”

Read more: Following up on White House pledge, Wyncode releases its graduation, placement rates

Read more: Learn to code in 10 weeks? Try one day.


A Wyncode class, above, and a Pitch Night, which ends each bootcamp, below.


November 18, 2016

FAU Tech Runway graduates third class of startups

Florida Atlantic University’s Tech Runway recently celebrated the graduation of Venture Class III, the third class of companies to complete the yearlong FAU Tech Runway program.

The founders of the four companies in “Venture Class III” were honored at the ceremony: Thomas Gregory of Sofla Sunwear, a lifestyle brand of clothing established to represent the unique culture of South Florida; Ray Briant of TiloTag, a patented smartphone app that allows you to discover the memories that surround you; June Adams and James Khalil of PowerCalc, the first SaaS-based software that completely automates the electrical engineering calculations for the building, construction, and facility management industries that is compliant with the National Electrical Code (NEC); and Carly Asher Yoost of The Child Rescue Coalition, a nonprofit organization that builds sophisticated technology to track child predators across the globe.

“We are incredibly proud of what this third FAU Tech Runway® Venture Class has accomplished,” said Rhys L. Williams, associate vice president for research and the managing director for FAU Tech Runway. “Several of these companies were little more than concepts when they began our program. Now they have products, customers, sales, patents, employees, and have become real businesses. For these four companies that have launched from FAU Tech Runway, the sky’s the limit.”

Tech Runway is a public-private partnership formed to foster technology startups and early-stage companies; selected companies receive a $25,000 non-equity grant, participate in a 16-week intensive boot camp, engage in a yearlong mentoring program with a team of five business mentors, and are provided workspace for one year.

Since its launch in fall 2014, FAU Tech Runway has provided financial support, strategic development, entrepreneurial education, free workspace, investor introductions, and expert mentoring for 29 startup companies. As a result of the program, 239 jobs have been created, 57 FAU students have been employed, more than $6 million in revenue has been earned, and more than $18 million investment capital has been raised.

For more information on FAU Tech Runway, visit

November 06, 2016

At the Idea Center, innovation is everywhere, even on skateboards

By Nancy Dahlberg /

FelixFelix Puello wanted to build a better skateboard.

When Miami Dade College’s Idea Center opened, the student signed up for the Startup Challenge, a competition designed to help student entrepreneurs at the earliest stages. A passionate skateboarder who custom-painted longboards in high school to make some extra money, Puello wanted to bring on technology to improve the experience and safety for the skateboarder. His first idea was mounting GoPro-like cameras on the boards, front and back. He won the challenge, and $5,000 to continue his project.

That led Puello (pictured at right; More photos here.), who is studying business at MDC, to enroll in CREATE, a three-month accelerator-like program at the Idea Center that teaches student entrepreneurs about finances, marketing, business strategy and how to use the resources they have to develop businesses. One speaker talked about crowdfunding, which led Puello to apply for’s recent South Florida crowdfunding initiative with the Knight Foundation. Puello was accepted, and through his campaign on and Knight’s matching grant, he raised $10,000.

At the end of the CREATE program, there was a competition, and Puello again won. In addition to a consultation with a branding agency, “I received a scholarship for the class I am in right now called Make1, which is where I am prototyping the longboards I am making.”

In the Idea Center’s Make1, Puello is learning about engineering and design tools, and has access to Moonlighter, a makerspace in Wynwood with 3D printers, laser cutters and other equipment. He’s beginning to put his winnings and crowdfunding gains to work developing his product and his company, Ontown Boards, and along his journey, he has learned that cameras aren’t the way to go because of stability issues. He now plans to tech-out the boards with sensors to track the rider’s speed, altitude, tilt and direction. Powerful LED lights in the front and rear improve safety, something no other non-motorized longboard has built in, he said.

“That’s something I thought about from experience, skateboarding home at night from school. Seventy percent of all skateboard-related deaths occur at night,” he said.

From the first pitch in the Startup Challenge, “we’ve come a long way with Onetown Boards,” Puello said. He no longer hand-paints boards, focusing instead on the quality of the decks, because so many lives depend on that. He said he dropped a pickup truck on one of his boards, and the board bent all the way down but then popped back up. The money he raised will help fund an app to allow the rider to see their metrics on a smartphone and get small-scale manufacturing started.

Puello’s entrepreneurial path, from developing his initial idea to learning about what goes into starting and running a business to now building a prototype, is what Executive Director Leandro Finol envisioned for the Idea Center, located on the Wolfson campus and serving the 165,000 Miami Dade College students with programs, often free, for all levels and stages of entrepreneurship, including design thinking, idea validation, building an idea, coding and prototyping, fundraising and marketing.

The 2-year-old Idea Center (, Miami Dade College’s hub for entrepreneurship, launched most of its programs this year and some of them this fall, including Make1, Design for Miami (design thinking), MarketHack (digital marketing - pictured below), WebDev (website development), Google Analytics Academy, Insight (big data) and Puente, an entrepreneurship program for bridging Miami and Cuba. Most are open to the community.

[Read more: Miami Dade College’s Idea Center brings on funding, partnerships]

“A key pillar of where we started was around ‘How do we help student entrepreneurs with their ventures?’ What we realized is that not only the students but the the whole ecosystem needs these programs to build these ventures,” Finol said. “We decided to build the innovation value chain — skill programs any startup needs to build a startup of substance.”

Market Hack_008

The Idea Center typically brings in experts from leading universities and companies, and “everything we do takes on the experiential learning approach,” Finol said. For instance, Stanford University’s D-School helped design the Design for Miami program, because design thinking should kick off any entrepreneurial journey. Customer discovery, value proposition and lean startup methodology are the next steps and there are programs for that, such as CREATE and Puente, and MIT experts have been involved in all of that, said Finol, who recently returned from Cuba where he taught Lean Startup techniques and plans to host Cuban entrepreneurs at the Idea Center.

Where’s the talent going to come from? The Idea Center, in conjunction with LaunchCode, a nonprofit that matches tech talent with employers, runs a CS50x coding course, based on Harvard University’s popular but demanding online course, but with in-person mentoring. For the upcoming class of 100, the Idea Center received 800 applications, Finol said.For people who don’t need that level of tech skill but want to understand the fundamentals, the Idea Center created WebDev, with funding from the Beacon Council.

Travis Kalanick of Uber and “Shark Tank” star Daymond John were among the celebrity entrepreneurs who gave talks as part of a free speaker series, and the Idea Center launched two conferences this year — Startup Nation, bringing Israel and Miami in partnership with Tel Aviv University, and Innovation M, a program with NBCUniversal about millennial impact. Both will be brought back in 2017, Finol said. Expanding Idea Center programs to other MDC campuses is in the plans.


Nancy Dahlberg: 305-376-3595, @ndahlberg

Read more:

University of Miami: UM steps up innovation strategy and renames life science park

Florida International University: Blastoff for StartUP FIU, with food, art and tech incubators on way

Blastoff for StartUP FIU, with food, art and tech incubators on way


Photo of StartUP FIU's Cohort 1. MORE PHOTOS HERE

By Nancy Dahlberg /

Bid_Aeuo_RefreshMiamisAnnualDemoDay0256 (4)Bid.Aero, a marketplace for airplane and engine parts, is ready to fly but just needs a little help.

The Miami startup is part of Florida International University’s first cohort of StartUP FIU, a new multidisciplinary, multi-campus innovation program.

“We needed mentorship and guidance. Running a startup is not the easiest thing. You never know what is going to come up with fundraising, developing the website and having to deal with business logistics, but it was the best thing possible to get into this program,” said Anthony Leon, Bid.Aero’s CEO (pictured here with his team pitching at Refresh Miami Demo Day at right. Photo by Jorge Castillo / For Refresh Miami. More photos here).

StartUP FIU ( launched this fall on the Modesto Maidique campus, but much more is on the runway. Coming in early 2017: another cohort of StartUP FIU at the main campus, free and open to students and the community, with startups in any industry as well as social entrepreneurs. The StartUP FIU team will also be opening a tech-focused incubator in Kendall’s West End and a food incubator at the Biscayne Bay campus. Planned for next fall: StartUP FIU will power the College of Communication, Architecture + the Arts’ Ratcliffe Art + Design Incubator, started with an $831,000 gift from the Ratcliffe Foundation, at the Biscayne Bay campus.

StartUP FIU is a startup itself, and its organizers were surprised that more than 300 businesses applied for the first two cohorts of its general incubator. “It’s further evidence that the market is underserved,” said Bob Hacker, director of StartUP FIU. With most entrepreneurial activity in Miami’s downtown and Wynwood areas, there has been pent-up demand for programs out west, and location is one of StartUP FIU’s key differentiators.

[Read more: Multi-campus startup FIU gets ready for takeoff.]

The tech-focused program in the West End will be held in Topp Solutions’ building that houses Alienware. StartUP FIU will have space on the bottom floor. “We’re trying to get people to cluster there. There is a lot of tech talent in West Kendall, and they commute east to go to work,” said Emily Gresham, assistant vice president for Research, Innovation and Economic Development. “The opportunity for economic development is ripe … and we want to try to spawn new companies. … It’s an interesting experiment to see if the community comes together to think differently and help each other grow their businesses.”

Food FIU will take on a different model. Food startups will go through phases: A beginning phase includes working through basic business planning with StartUP FIU and the Small Business Development Center at FIU, and then an eight-week technical program about food production and machinery. Companies past that stage will be eligible for the StartUP FIU incubator if their products are scalable and they want to grow nationally or globally; if they aren’t scalable or they would prefer to stay small, they will have access to FIU’s state-of-the-art commercial kitchen.

“We’ve met with community groups such as the Opa-locka CDC and Partners for Self Employment. They see a lot of food entrepreneurs come through that actually have zero support right now. We are working with community development people to drum up some customers,” said Gresham, who wants to serve businesses in the low- to moderate-income groups. It shouldn’t be too hard to find them — there are 8,000 food companies in Miami-Dade with four or fewer employees.

[Read more: How millennial tastes shape a new generation of food startups]

Another new initiative: A pilot group of FIU students, under StartUP FIU’s direction, will work with faculty members to hack ideas on how to commercialize their nascent technologies. Patent applications are up, too. StartUP FIU will show some of these technologies at an upcoming Beacon Council event on Nov. 15.

Hacker said the incubators may get even more specialized because there are very specific types of expertise in Miami that have never had entrepreneurial support, like arts and entertainment, for instance. But he said there will likely always be a general incubator at the main campus open to all industries.

Back at the Modesto Maidique campus in the 19-company cohort 1, Bid.Aero is getting ready for StartUP FIU’s Dec. 6 pitch day.

The three co-founders — Anthony Leon, CEO; Gabriel Martinez, COO; and Nicholas Rodriguez, CFO, all first-time entrepreneurs — were raised in Miami and have known each other since second grade. Leon graduated from FIU and majored in marketing, then worked at an airline leasing agency. Rodriguez majored in finance at FSU and then was a pricing analyst for FedEx, and Martinez is currently studying software engineering online at Arizona State.

These co-founders take experiential learning seriously. Earlier this year, they all went through Wyncode’s 10-week coding boot camp and developed an early prototype for their idea. Then Wyncode recommended that they apply to StartUP FIU to further develop it.

Bid.Aero’s b2b marketplace is up and running privately with a few clients. Bid.Aero already has suppliers and repair shops in Miami ready to put their products on its reverse-auction site, and StartUP FIU introduced them to others. In Startup FIU, Bid.Aero has learned to test assumptions and the importance of gathering feedback to make its product as customer-centric as possible. The team now works in space that StartUP FIU provided on campus. The co-founders haven’t started serious fund-raising yet, but they recently seized the opportunity to pitch to a full house at Refresh Miami’s Demo Day.

The team aims to launch Bid-Aero publicly by the end of the year.

“There’s the highs and the lows but every week that goes by we are building our own skills sets as business men,” Leon said. “There are a lot of things we think we know that we don’t.”

Nancy Dahlberg: 305-376-3595, @ndahlberg


Read more:

UM steps up innovation strategy and renames life science park

At the Idea Center, innovation is everwhere, even on skateboards


University of Miami steps up innovation strategy, renames life science park

Cropped UM new name and logo.pptx (1)


By Nancy Dahlberg /

The University of Miami Life Science & Technology Park will be renamed Converge Miami to more inclusively brand the building for what the University of Miami hopes it will become: a hub of entrepreneurship and technology reaching across industries as well as geographies.

Inside Converge Miami is the Cambridge Innovation Center, or CIC Miami, which is running a 70,000-square-foot co-working center with open work areas, offices and labs for entrepreneurs and scientists. Converge Miami also houses Venture Cafe, a nonprofit that puts on programming and events for the community, including its signature #ThursdayGathering, with talks, pitch nights, mentor and investor office hours, exhibitions and networking.

JuliofrenkWhen the Converge Miami sign goes up on the six-story UMLSTP building facing Interstate 95, it might be one of the most visual symbols yet that University of Miami leadership is serious about innovation.

“CIC has one of the most impressive records of attracting the startup community, so they are a great tenant to have there,” UM President Dr. Julio Frenk said (pictured here). “The idea is to signal that we are striving to have a space where innovators and entrepreneurs, healthcare experts, investors and established companies can all come together.”

[Read more: Cambridge Innovation Center makes big bet on Miami tech]

To be sure, the rebranding is just one piece of Frenk’s larger innovation mission for the University of Miami .

“For Miami, being the hemispheric innovation hub is a natural for economic development — Miami is the crossroads of the Americas and I do think it has huge potential,” Frenk said in an interview last week. “But if you look at any successful innovation ecosystem, there is always a comprehensive research university at its core. My aspiration for the University of Miami is that it is the comprehensive research university at the center of the Miami innovation hub … that will truly have hemispheric reach.”

He said the major Latin American cities already have critical masses of engineers and scientists but they don’t have the other elements of a successful innovation ecosystem, such as suitable regulations and access to capital: “I think Miami can play the role of housing innovators from the hemisphere. I see UM as a magnet for some of that talent. … We are partnering with the business community, government, the county and cities and other academic institutions.”

To be sure, UM has been a pioneer in innovation programs. Its Launch Pad, founded in 2008, was very innovative in its time, bringing in teams of mentors to help UM students and alumni develop concepts and connect with potential customers and funders. And The Launch Pad’s metrics are impressive.

According to William Silverman, director of The Launch Pad, since inception, The Launch Pad ( has met with entrepreneurs with ideas for nearly 2,600 incipient companies. From those meetings, 385 startup companies emerged and have been assisted by The Launch Pad. At peak employment levels, those companies created nearly 1,200 jobs. In the past five years, companies started by clients of The Launch Pad have raised more than $25 million in investment, Silverman said.

Milain David, a recent UM alumnus in economics and finance and founder of skin-care startup Eben Naturals, received strategic advice about business planning and researching the market from The Launch Pad for his. “It was like getting a very good business consulting firm, but for free.”

[Read more: How a trip to the Congo kickstarted a skincare startup.]

“The Launch Pad has become so successful that it is being replicated in other universities. It contributes to our educational mission with our students but it is also contributing to the economic development of the city and the county,” Frenk said.

The Launch Pad has been building bridges between departments and colleges to widen access to its services, and it is also starting a partnership with an incubator in Peru. “We will have opportunities to use their experts in Peru, and we’ll provide expertise to their entrepreneurs that want to break into the U.S. market,” Silverman said. “We’re going to bring people to our summer programs on campus and we will be able to send people there as well.”

Over at Converge Miami and the nearby UM Miller School of Medicine, tech transfer has ramped up under the direction of Norma Kenyon, UM’s vice provost of innovation. Kenyon leads Frenk’s HIT (Hemispheric Innovation and Technology) Initiative to identify opportunities to translate discoveries into solutions, lending help with incubation, intellectual property development and capital raising.

So far, reviving tech transfer activities is working: In the past few years, there has been a dramatic spike in the number of companies started as well as patents and licenses issued. Some of these startups are working on treatments for cancer, spinal cord injuries, kidney disease and asthma as well as early detection of head and neck cancer and heart disease.

The number of licensing agreements has increased, from 19 in 2013 to 32 this year. Kenyon’s team is currently working with 35 UM startups, up from 20 just two years ago, and they range from very early stage to one that is publicly traded.

Six UM startups have received funding from the Florida Institute for Commercialization of Public Research, including Vigilant Biosciences, which has developed a test for assessing a person’s risk of oral cancer. Vigilant recently received approval in Europe to market its product, and commercialization efforts are underway.

UM’s Wallace H. Coulter Center for Translational Research funds and supports promising biomedical research toward commercialization. These UM startups have received $2.66 million in Coulter Center funding and more than $96 million in follow-on funding, mostly from venture capitalists and angel investors, Kenyon said.

 [Read more: Q&A with Norma Kenyon, powering UM innovation]

A recent $100 million gift from Phillip and Patricia Frost is earmarked for basic science and engineering research that can translate into innovation, said Frenk, who led Harvard’s school of public health before coming to Miami.

Although 88 percent of the startups Kenyon’s team currently works with are biomedical, innovation can come from anywhere. One of them stems from the College of Education.


Healthsnap Solutions has created a powerful assessment tool for healthcare providers. After filling out a 10-minute online questionnaire, a patient can leave her doctor’s office with a report full of personalized dietetic and exercise information and advice, pulled by an algorithm from more than 500 research sources, said Yenvy Truong, CEO of the health-tech company and a UM biomedical alumna.

The inventor of the technology, Dr. Wesley Smith, is chair of the exercise physiology program at the School of Education, and two of Healthsnap’s other cofounders, Samson Magid and Chase Preston, were his students. “It started as a service-based research project at UM. We assessed almost 2,000 University of Miami employees, professional athletes and UM athletes. We collected all this data and we still have ongoing studies now,” Magid said.

Healthsnap co-founders came together with the help of Kenyon’s team, and exclusively licensed the technology at the end of last year. Since then Kenyon’s team has advised them and made introductions for the company as needed.

The initial assessment product launched in April to a group of doctors in South Florida, as the team continues to gather feedback. Now the company is working on the next version of Healthsnap’s assessment, which will likely include a shorter questionnaire and more optional categories for targeted advice in particular areas, said Truong, who has worked in the anti-aging industry and has started other diagnostic companies. When Healthsnap rolls out the software product nationally, it will sign up doctors who will pay a subscription fee to use the tool.

Healthsnap, now with 10 employees, was one of the first companies to move into CIC’s 6th floor in Converge Miami. Truong said the team likes being in the healthcare district and in a vibrant space with entrepreneurs from many industries. She also likes that UM is a strong partner in the team’s success. “We want to be an example university company.”

With Converge Miami’s Building 1 now fully leased with CIC Miami ( at 1951 NW 7th Ave., Building 2 is in the planning stages.

“Innovation and entrepreneurship need to be part of the education of every student,” Frenk said. “We owe it to our community for the economic development of Miami to play a major role in innovation.”

Nancy Dahlberg: 305-376-3595, @ndahlberg

Read more:

Florida International University: Blastoff for StartUP FIU, with food, art and tech incubators on way

Miami Dade College: At the Idea Center, innovation is everwhere, even on skateboards

PICTURED ABOVE: Healthsnap Solutions, a Miami health-tech startup that spawned from University of Miami research technology, is based at the Cambridge Innovation Center inside Converge Miami, formerly the UM Life Science & Technology Park. Back Row (left to right): Samson Magid (co-founder), Kelly Thornton, Misha Kerr (co-founder), Dr. Wesley Smith (co-founder); Front Row (left to right): Graham Salmun, Yenvy Truong (Co-founder and CEO), Celie Weaver, Chase Preston (co-founder). Healthsnap has created an assessment tool for healthcare providers. After filling out a 10-minute online questionaire, a patient can leave the doctor’s office with a report full of personalized dietetic and exercise information and advice. Photo by Jose R. Medina / for CIC Miami. MORE PHOTOS HERE. 


How South Florida universities are revving up to be engines of innovation

By Nancy Dahlberg /

South Florida’s colleges and universities have made the leap into experiential entrepreneurship education, with training and programs that go beyond the classroom, beyond the business plan contests, beyond the E-clubs. Yes, there are still clubs and contests, and entrepreneurship classes have multiplied too, but on today’s campuses, startups, growing small businesses and entrepreneur wannabes can even base their companies on campus, drawing support from fellow entrepreneurs, university resources and a South Florida mentorship community at large.

Some of these programs are solely for students and some are open to the non-student community, but all have this in common: It’s real-life entrepreneurship with a support system close at hand, and the end game is startup or scale-up development. They are part of a larger effort underway to develop an entrepreneurial ecosystem in South Florida.

Universities typically play a critical role in an ecosystem, attacting young people to an area and turning out talent, bringing thought leadership to a community and being hubs for research and collaborations that spawn companies. They can serve as anchor institutions; Stanford and MIT are often credited for sparking much of the entrepreneurial success in their areas of the country. In recent years, as South Florida’s effort to build an ecosystem got underway, some community leaders have questioned whether the region’s colleges and universities were too siloed and could be contributing more.

That may be changing.

South Florida universities are developing campus hubs for entrepreneurship, as interest in all things startup increases and economic realities make entrepreneurial skills a 21st century necessity. In addition to entrepreneurship courses in their colleges, Miami Dade College and Florida International University have started major interdisciplinary initiatives that help entrepreneurs from the idea-on-a-napkin stage to funding and scaling their businesses.

Continue reading "How South Florida universities are revving up to be engines of innovation " »