July 28, 2015

Pipeline Workspaces announces fifth location: Doral

Pipeline 3

 

Pipeline Workspaces is on the expansion track again. The Miami-based co-working company announced Tuesday that its fifth U.S. location will be in Doral.

Pipeline, which caters to entrepreneurs, startups, lawyers and international business executives with workspaces that include shared desks to private offices, has leased 13,000 square feet at Doral Concourse at 8400 Doral Blvd., in the heart of the Doral Business District and adjacent to CityPlace Doral, a mixed-use development that will add residences, more than 20 restaurants and shopping.

With the entrepreneurial movement growing rapidly in South Florida and across the country, Pipeline Doral will become the company’s fifth location. It follows Pipeline Brickell (pictured above) in Miami’s Brickell Financial District, Pipeline Philly in Philadelphia’s Center City and Pipeline Gables slated to open in September. The company also has plans to build Pipeline Co-warehousing and Creative Studios in Miami’s Little River area. Pipeline is part of a growing trend of co-working networks, where entrepreneurs can drop in with their laptop and work at a number of locations.

“Doral's growth and international population makes it an ideal community to serve as a complement to our other South Florida locations and in line with our hub and spoke model,” said Todd Oretsky, who co-founded the company with Philippe Houdard.

Pipeline’s Doral location is expected to open in the first quarter of 2016.

See a recent report on South Florida co-working spaces here.

 

Wyncode offers bootcamp scholarships in low-income communities

Wyncode Academy, which runs coding bootcamps, will provide scholarships to nine Miami-Dade County residents from low-income neighborhoods.  The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation is investing $75,000 to fund the scholarships.

Recipients of the Future Leaders of Tech scholarships will be enrolled in a nine-week Wyncode Academy cohort at its Miami campus, which is located within The LAB Miami in Wynwood.  Wyncode’s coding bootcamps are focused on project-based learning and promote hands-on education as students learn to build full stack Web applications.

“Our mission at Wyncode is to give anyone the skills and tools to begin a career in coding,” said Wyncode Academy co-founder Juha Mikkola said the scholarships “enable us to extend this opportunity to members of our community who lack the means, but certainly not the passion and drive, to follow their dreams and learn to code.”

Scholarships will be awarded on an ongoing basis, but to be considered for a scholarship in time for Cohort 7, which starts on Sept. 23, applications must be received by Sept. 2.   For more information or to apply, visit wyncode.co/futureleaders.

July 26, 2015

Q&A with Nico Berardi: Connecting startups with investors

By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

56 BM Q&A Nico Berardi 0624Accelerated Growth Partners, a Miami-based angel investment group, relaunched a little over a year ago with a couple of key goals: to expand its network of active angel investors to help bridge the funding gap in South Florida and launch investor-education workshops aimed at broadening the pool of investors interested in early-stage ventures.

With funding from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the organization began meeting and Nico Berardi was chosen to lead the effort, acting as the connector between entrepreneurs and prospective investors. Berardi, AGP’s managing director, is the former U.S. CEO for TECHO, a nonprofit that mobilizes youth volunteers to fight extreme poverty in Latin America. Under his watch, the organization expanded and fund-raising doubled.

In a short time, Berardi’s track record at AGP has been impressive, too.

AGP Miami (agpmiami.com) was not a new organization when Berardi took over, but it had slowed down considerably. The group invites entrepreneurs seeking funding to pitch their businesses, and members can decide individually whether to fund them. Since Berardi took over, membership has quadrupled to more than 80, and more significantly, members have invested in nine South Florida startups. It’s now the largest local angel group.

“We sent out a survey to all our members, and what came across the strongest was the co-investor intellectual horsepower. The group represents so many industries, there is likely someone in the group that knows the particular space. We have seen really good deal flow, and our members are engaged. At each of our pitch meetings, we have had 50-plus of our members show up,” said Berardi.

Berardi meets with roughly 450 startups a year and sends the most qualified startups through the AGP screening process. The screening committee will then decide whether they will present to the AGP membership, typically with one member championing the investment. One startup company, ClassWallet, has been funded twice. The other companies receiving funding in year one of the relaunch were: Everypost, Weebee, Videoo, Blackdove, Stadson, Hair Construction, Waleteros and Nearpod.

“Because we are an up-and-coming ecosystem, a lot of our entrepreneurs don’t understand how to work with investors, and a lot of investors don’t know how to work with entrepreneurs. That is something we can work on,” Berardi said. “The entrepreneurial team brings an entire skillset, and we bring capital and experience. Most of the time, you need both.”

To be sure, startup funding is often cited as a key missing ingredient as Miami works to build up its entrepreneurial ecosystem. While there is plenty of wealth here and family offices proliferate, the money is typically not going into technology plays and local startups.

To help begin to fill that ecosystem need and make sure AGP has a growing roster of active investors to fund more companies, as well as double down on existing investments, Berardi and the Knight Foundation, together with partners such as Northwestern’s "Kellogg School and Greenberg Traurig, launched a series of workshops this year to train potential investors.

“This was an experiment. We said, ‘Let’s start shooting information,’" space="1"” said Berardi. Each of the six educational sessions were themed and led by experts in those areas. The result: standing-room-only workshops. “People were thrilled to get the content. Now we are talking about the second cycle. Is this going to move the needle, and are we going to have 100 new investors? We don’t know yet.”

This summer, Berardi was chosen to join Class 20 of the Kauffman Fellowship, 40 emerging leaders of venture capital and angel investing organizations from around the world that will meet regularly to learn about investing and leading capital ecosystems. The Fellowship’s goal is to develop a worldwide network of innovation investors who provide smart, connected capital to fuel entrepreneurial change, and Berardi is excited about bringing back what he learns to Miami. “The better investors we can be, the better we think we can help our companies,” Berardi said.

The Miami Herald spoke with Berardi recently about AGP’s first year and what is ahead.

Q. AGP relaunched just over a year ago. What were some of the highlights of the year?

A. The highlight was to realize how much a friendly platform to connect entrepreneurs to investors in an efficient way was needed. We made 10 investments into nine companies totaling $1.8 million. Membership stands at over 80 investors.

Q. What will be your metrics for success in year two?

A. Deal flow is king. As long as we keep on finding really interesting companies being built from or moving to Miami, we will continue to be active. We aim to make 8 to 10 investments per year.

Q. Do you think the quality of deal flow will continue?

A. We’re very optimistic because of all the new things coming to town. Existing institutions like the Venture Hive and Endeavor in town continue to do good work, while many others are drawing up plans to open shop. Large conferences like eMerge Americas and SIME bring a lot of attention, which then attracts entrepreneurs and organizations. The large tech firms are also paying attention; Twitter opening its new Brickell office is a key example. Infrastructure is becoming more robust, too — service providers are tailoring their offerings, coding schools are growing, and co-working spaces have proliferated. It is the combination of all these things that make us very optimistic.

Q. What kind of companies do you look for to potentially take to the members, if they make it past the screening process?

A. We have a strong preference to invest in South Florida-based companies. In fact, all nine companies we have invested in have key strategic operations here. From a stage perspective, we look for companies raising between $250,000 and $1.5 million that are in the market already. We usually steer away from beta, prototype, pre-launch companies. In a way, we come in after friends and family and accelerators but before an institutional Series A. Once a company fits within that sweet spot, we look for a combination of really big markets or attractive vertical niches and outstanding management teams.

Q. Tell me about a couple of the companies that got funding?

A. ClassWallet is an exciting company at the intersection of fintech and edtech. Today, in the U.S. alone, there are $23 billion worth of cash transactions that occur in K-12 classrooms every year! With cash, there is no accountability, no transparency and is very time-consuming from an administrative standpoint.

NearPod is also in education. They identified that smart devices took the classroom by storm, and today they represent a learning barrier for teachers to overcome. Their technology empowers teachers to create and deliver content that leverages those same incredible devices. Their platform is bringing the learning experience to the 21st century.

Q. What advice do you have for entrepreneurs seeking investment from AGP?

A. Don’t think about building a fundable company. Focus on one thing and one thing only: building an amazing product that your customers will love. That is what will draw our attention.

Q. Why did AGP launch an angel educational program?

A. The local community of investors has not been exposed to early-stage tech investments enough. Historically, it has been mostly real estate, public securities and a bit of private equity. While we have some of the smartest investors in the world in those areas, they are very different from investors in tech. Our hypothesis was that not many people were investing in tech because they lacked the know-how to do so. The premise then was that by educating the community more, people would get involved by understanding that tech is a great way to diversify your portfolio. We wanted to solve that problem by educating the community to leverage their intellectual horsepower with the financial capabilities.

Q. And how did your first education series go?

A. We honestly did not know what to expect but had two amazing partners that believed in our premise. Having had Kellogg and Greenberg Traurig co-organize the series really helped in having people step off the sidelines. All the speakers were volunteers we got from the community, and most of the success is due to their involvement, so a big shout-out to our speakers.

Q. Do you plan to continue the series or have other plans in the education area?

A. Absolutely. Having heard the feedback from the attendees, we are back at the drawing board for a second cycle starting in the fall. Stay tuned.

Q. What do you hope to bring back from your Kauffman Fellowship experience that is just getting under way?

A. Two things, mainly. The first is technical training. As I mentioned before, tech is very new to our investment community, so having more sophisticated investors will strengthen the ecosystem. The second is being able to plug in the Miami ecosystem to the global VC world.

Funding risk is perhaps the biggest risk Miami-based startups face. It’s a win-win situation if AGP can co-invest with the best VCs at a global level. More entrepreneurs will want to work with AGP because that will increase their chances of success.

Q. From your perspective meeting with so many entrepreneurs every month, how do you think our ecosystem is progressing?

A. There’s a natural hype that comes with a growing, improving ecosystem. That means more companies in quantity but not necessarily in quality. There starts to be a lot of noise coming from “want-a-preneurs.” I take it as a great sign, and we just have to be efficient at cutting to the next cycle.

Q. And, more specifically, the capital ecosystem?

A. Definitely a lot of activity. Some funds have taken the plunge and opened offices locally, while others are peeking in, ever more "aggressively. It’s not uncommon to grab coffee with a visiting VC every other week.

Q. What role do family offices play in all this?

A. Family offices understand there’s something going on that they want to be a part of. Most are not trained in VC and haven’t yet developed a strategy that fits within their broader portfolio. From what we’ve seen, the traditional VC model has not proven very successful when it comes to engaging them. A hybrid model is needed, and it’ll be interesting to see how the story unfolds.

Q. If you could wave a magic wand and add one ingredient to the ecosystem right now, what would it be?

A. I’ll cheat and mention two. One is more accelerators. If you look at developed ecosystems, the main accelerator alone will be working with 150+ companies a year. While the Venture Hive is amazing, we need more companies to go through programs like that. The second ingredient is investors across the board. More angel investors, more seed funds and definitely more VC funds.

Follow Nancy Dahlberg on Twitter @ndahlberg.

Nico Berardi

Titles: Managing Director, AGP Miami. Kauffman Fellow.

Age: 26.

Experience: Former U.S. CEO for TECHO, a nonprofit that mobilizes youth volunteers to fight extreme poverty in Latin America, for two years, and before that was TECHO’s director of development for Latin America and the Caribbean.

Honors: Speaker at the Global Economic Symposium, TEDx Miami and the Center for Hemispheric Policy and the Americas Society/Council of the Americas. Participant in the Kellogg Innovation Network, Clinton Global Initiative and the PODER Business Awards. Selected as a Young American Leader by Harvard Business School, Top 100 Innovators of Argentina by BGH, GameChanger by the Miami Chamber of Commerce and showcased at Yahoo! The Innovators series.

Education: Bachelor’s in economics, Universidad Torcuato di Tella, Argentina.

Favorite book: ‘Outliers’ by Malcolm Gladwell.

Best advice received: There are over a thousand variables determining your success. How much effort you put in is the only one you can do anything about.

Startup Spotlight: Symptify

Symptify

Brandt Delhamer, M.D. (left), CEO Jalil Thurber, M.D., (center) and Mazyar Rouhani, M.D. (right), started a company called Symptify which helps users figure out causes for their symptoms, what to do about them and where to go for help. | PETER ANDREW BOSCH MIAMI HERALD STAFF

Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/news/business/biz-monday/article28679911.html#storylink=cpy

Company name: Symptify

Headquarters: Sunny Isles Beach

Concept: Symptify is a virtual doctor. It helps users figure out causes for their symptoms, what to do about them and where to go for help.

Story: As emergency physicians, Symptify’s co-founders have seen many people make needless and costly ER visits after “Googling” their symptoms online. In many cases, an online search for answers actually led to an unfounded escalation of fears. A recent study by Microsoft found that the medical content on the Internet is skewed toward more serious conditions. This is part of the reason why “Googling” your symptoms is not the best way to arrive at a diagnosis.

The Symptify team created a proprietary, patent-pending algorithmic engine that renders virtual consultations by asking users a series of questions regarding their symptoms. Because Symptify takes into account a user’s own medical history, it gives personalized and precise results. This has helped many people become more knowledgeable regarding their health conditions, helping them avoid “cyberchondria.” Symptify also facilitates a user’s access to healthcare providers by allowing the person to transmit his or her consultation record and medical profile to participating facilities.

“Ninety million Americans go online to self-diagnose their symptoms. But they didn’t have an app for that, so we made one,” said Dr. Jalil Thurber, CEO of Symptify.

Founded: 2013.

Management team: Co-founders Dr. Jalil Thurber, CEO; Dr. Mazyar Rouhani, COO; Dr. Brandt Delhamer, CCO; Nicola Mazola, CTO; Pierre Schiro, CIO.

Number of employees: Three developers.

Website: www.symptify.com

Financing:. The company has been funded by its founders, who have provided $1.5 million in cash and services. Seeking $2 million in additional seed funding.

Recent milestones reached: Won the eMerge Americas Startup Showcase for early-stage companies, and through that victory Symptify obtained first outside investment of $50,000. Participated in Miami’s first Healthbox Studio, a program that was sponsored by Florida Blue. Last year signed up 10 emergency rooms that renewed their contracts three months ago. Launched a Spanish version of the platform in May. Launched a doctor appointment scheduler app in February and several physicians have enrolled for this service.

Biggest startup challenge: Raising capital in South Florida.

Next step: “We have a large sales funnel and anticipate that we will announce partnerships with large and well recognized brands soon,” said Thurber.

Strategy for next step: Continue building Symptify’s brand, which emphasizes the functionality and ease of its unique medical self-assessment platform. The end goal is to brand Symptify as synonymous with an online “virtual doctor” and essentially create a new paradigm through which users self-diagnose their symptoms online, Thurber said.

Advisor’s view: “This is a company founded by people with deep subject matter expertise. That's exciting and not necessarily common. Their company is solving a real problem and will have meaningful impact on probably the most important thing in life, our health,” said Payam Zamani, board member of Symptify and chairman of Reply! Inc. “The core technology and the highly intelligent platform that allows you to diagnose yourself using your smart phone is light years ahead of anything else out there.”

NANCY DAHLBERG

 

July 25, 2015

Entrepreneurship Datebook: Events, workshops this week in South Florida

Tech eggFINTECH MEETUP: Topics include cross-border logistical challenges, marketing successes, trends and opportunities for the future for global e-commerce, 7 to 9 p.m. Tuesday, WeWork, 350 Lincoln Road. For more information: refreshmiami.com.

DIGITAL MARKETING: Venture Hive offers a weekly series of free digital marketing workshops, in partnership with W Academy, 5 to 7 p.m. Tuesday, 1010 NE Second Ave., Miami. More info: welcu.com/wacademy/free-summer-class-by-webcongres

 GCVCA EVENT: Topic is “Cracking the Code: Your Guide to Coding and Code Schools in South Florida,” 5:30 to 8 p.m. Wednesday, Embassy Suites, 661 Northwest 53rd St., Boca Raton. More information here.

LATAM TECH MEETUP: Theme of inaugural event is “funding a startup.” 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. Wedesday, WeWork, 350 Lincoln Road, Miami Beach. (Sold out.)

PITCH CONTEST: Tech.Co hosts its Startup of the Year Competition and Mixer, 6:30 to 9 p.m. Thursday at WeWork, 350 Linoln Road, Miami Beach. For more information: tech.co/miami.

HACKATHON: The National Urban League, in partnership with Digital Grass, will host the free TechConnect: Hack-A-Thon for Social Justice on Thursday and Friday, Broward County Convention Center, 1950 Eisenhower Blvd., Fort Lauderdale. Register here: nultechconnect.digigrass.com.

CREATIVE MORNINGS: Speaker series features Stonly Baptiste or Urban.us, 8:30 a.m. to 10 a.m., Friday, Palm Court Event Space, 3rd level, 140 NE 38th St., Miami. RSVP: creativemornings.com/cities/mia

STARTING GATE

Keep up with startup news and events, and find tools and resources on the Starting Gate blog on MiamiHerald.com/business.

Nancy Dahlberg @ndahlberg

July 23, 2015

Idea Center, LaunchCode expand CS50x training to MDC's North and Homestead campuses

To serve more communities, the Idea Center at Miami Dade College, in partnership with LaunchCode, a nonprofit focused on technology education and job placement, will expand its CS50x Miami program to additional locations in Homestead and Northern Miami-Dade County, as well as the Wolfson campus. CS50 is an introduction to computer science offered online through edX and HarvardX, and the Idea Center complements the course with in-person mentors.

Registration is now open for the 20-week class, which provides students with a foundational understanding of computer science principles and includes six weeks highlighting web and mobile application training. Classes, which are open to the community, begin Aug. 31. The $299 course fee covers all materials and expenses.

LaunchCode and The Idea Center will offer free information sessions at the CS50x Miami locations:

Friday, July 31, 6 p.m. - 7:30 p.m. at The Idea Center @MDC

Monday, August 10, 6 p.m. - 7:30 p.m. at MDC  Homestead Campus

Tuesday, August 11, 6 p.m. - 7:30 p.m. at MDC North Campus

“We’re making better jobs accessible through world-class education,” saysLeandro Finol, executive director of The Idea Center at MDC. “Now, with three locations and extended supplemental tracks, CS50x Miami is poised to offer even more expertise and support to students pursuing technology careers.”

For more information and to register, please visit www.launchcode.org/cs50xmiami

 

July 22, 2015

Modernizing Medicine to buy Weston-based gMed

Health-tech company Modernizing Medicine announced Wednesday that it will acquire Weston-based gMed to strengthen its product line. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Modernizing Medicine, based in Boca Raton, is developing specialty-specific elecronic medical records products, including the flagship Electronic Medical Assistant. The acquisition is expected to increase Modernizing Medicine’s gastroenterology market share with the addition of gMed’s electronic health record (EHR) system, endoscopy report writer, practice management solution, patient portal, data analytics tool, revenue cycle management -- and its 120 employees, said Dan Cane, CEO and co-founder of Modernizing Medicine.

“As a provider of EMR systems plus billing, revenue cycle management and inventory management solutions for medical specialties, the acquisition of gMed fits ModernizingMedicine’s specialty-specific focus and strengthens our product portfolio,” said Cane, adding that gMed’s gGastro product complements Modernizing Medicine’s EMA Gastroenterology EMR system. Cane said after the acquisition, Modernizing Medicine will grow to about 420 employees and $65 million in annual revenue.

Modernizing Medicine’s acquisition of gMed is subject to certain customary conditions for closing; but Modernizing Medicine anticipates the transaction will close in the third quarter. Dr. Joe Rubinsztain, CEO and founder of gMed, will be president of gMed and become a part of the Modernizing Medicine senior management team following the closing.

“This acquisition aligns with our mission to offer the best gastroenterology-specific solutions and allows us to capitalize on our joint successes in the specialty EMR system market,” said Rubinsztain.

July 21, 2015

National Urban League 'hacking' a path to social justice in Fort Lauderdale

Some of the nation’s brightest minds in tech will be working around the clock at the National Urban League 2015 Conference, designing original applications to alleviate the most pressing social issues of our day.

“More and more, the fight for social justice is being waged online,” said Marc H. Morial, President and CEO of the National Urban League. “The new face of civil rights is young, educated and tech-savvy. And these 21st-Century civil rights defenders are developing the 21st-Century tools they need.”

Hosted by the National Urban League in partnership with Digital Grass, the two-day “TechConnect: Hack-A-Thon for Social Justice,” presented by Comcast NBCUniversal, will take place from 5 pm Thursday, July 30, to 6:30 pm Friday, July 31.

 "Digital Grass is honored to help with civic hacking in our community" Digital Grass Founder and CEO Michael Hall said.  "It's important to not just develop social apps but software and applications that can help with civic innovation and improve the quality of life for our core urban community. This event is the right step in that direction."

TechConnect provides a space for innovators to design original social justice applications, specifically those in tune with this year's Conference theme, “Save Our Cities: Education, Jobs, and Justice.” At least one of the top resulting application/software will be implemented by the Urban League to enhance civic engagement, voting, education equity, housing, health, justice and job creation in urban communities

Developers, designers, civic leaders and creative thinkers are all invited to be among the first to create solutions to Save Our Cities and compete for $2,500 in cash and $25,000 in prizes.

WHAT: “TechConnect: Hack-A-Thon for Social Justice,” to develop innovative and impactful tech solutions to address some of the nation's biggest problems in the areas of public safety, voting, education, jobs, housing or health. 

WHERE: Greater Fort Lauderdale / Broward County Convention Center, 1950 Eisenhower Blvd. • Fort Lauderdale, Florida 33316

WHEN: Intro and Information will take place July 30; the Hackathon will take place July 31.

COST: Free Entry Fee for Competitors

TO REGISTER:  nultechconnect.digigrass.com

Press release supplied by Digital Grass

 

 

Miami-based BoatDay launches with new twist on boat-sharing concept

Boatdayapp

BoatDay has joined the boat-sharing party, launching recently in the sizzling hot and increasingly crowded Miami market. However, this Miami-based company says it has a new take on the concept: per-person pricing. 

While other services make it easy to rent a boat or even a yacht for a day of fun in the sun, the BoatDay app connect potential passengers with boat owners, what it calls “Hosts,” who are willing to take guests out for a "BoatDay" for such activities as cruising, fishing, sailing or water sports. “We created BoatDay to provide all those interested in boating experiences with a more convenient, reliable, and affordable way to enjoy a day on the water,” said BoatDay founder Kimon Korres, who practiced corporate law at White & Case before launching BoatDay.

According to BoatDay, here’s how it works: Users download the iOS app and can choose from boating activities to partake in.  Filters will match users with BoatDays meeting their criteria, including the hosts willing take them out on the water. Boat owners essentially get paid to take out their boats rather than handing over the keys to strangers, BoatDay says.

BoatDay, which is only available in South Florida so far, says its hosts are fully screened, including criminal background checks. Like other boat-sharing services, hosts and guests provide ratings and reviews. BoatDay requires its hosts have their own private boat insurance, and BoatDay provides $500,000 in liability coverage, less than some of its competitors. Emergency on-water assistance is accessible through the app. More info: boatdayapp.com.

As of now there are just 10 listings on the BoatDay site, which include  $35 for four hours of fishing or paddle-boarding to $66 for sailing and $136 person on a 50-foot yacht. There are no user reviews so far for the current version of the app or the hosts.

Which of the boat-sharing companies will make the biggest splash? We'll have to wait and see. But I guess my high school friend and his "brother with a boat" were ahead of their time when they would charge us $5 or $10 to sign up for one of their weekend "short or long" boat trips. They made a killing -- long before the Internet. 

 

July 20, 2015

Q&A with Kim Gramm: FAU Tech Runway's journey has only just begun

Kimgramm2

By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

Like the entrepreneurs it supports, Florida Atlantic University’s entrepreneurship hub for students and the community is very much a startup, too.

Tech Runway launched just a year ago. Its second accelerator class is underway and a third will be joining in the fall. But for Kimberly Gramm (pictured above), Tech Runway’s co-founder and associate vice president, it has been a six-year journey, and she has big dreams for the entrepreneurship center.

Tech Runway’s physical space next to the Boca Raton campus and executive airport is impressive — and unfinished, but ready for possibility. The 27,500-square-foot warehouse, where hurricane glass windows were once made, is now an open canvas. Most of the large garage doors have been replaced with glass to let the natural light in and watch the planes taking off. There is plenty of open space for events, and 15 work areas have been glassed in to create areas where resident startups can brainstorm with their teams on whiteboards, practice pitching, meet clients or hold meetings with their board of mentors. A 5,000-square-foot section off to one side is the “Tech Garage,” which hosts high school and college students weekly for robotics. Gramm envisions a full-blown maker space to come there. Once a year, engineering students build an electric race car from scratch in the space (a garage door was left so it can get in and out). Open rafters present possibilities of a mezzanine for more creative meeting areas — the sky’s the limit.

“We are putting together renderings and talking to architects to build out the space so that it becomes the hub we envisioned it to be,” said Gramm, while giving a tour of the facility. “The idea is to be a home for Tech Runway companies as well as a place for FAU to prepare innovative minds to become an entrepreneurial pipeline to Tech Runway.

“Exposing the high school and university students to this space is really important to us. You get students applying their STEM learnings in robotics programs, creating prototypes, even building electric race cars that compete. Spaces like this allow the mentors, the investors, the entrepreneurs and the students to have these creative collisions.”

Gramm was hired about six years ago to develop an entrepreneurship program. She started as the director of the Adams Center for Entrepreneurship with a handful of programs including the FAU Business Plan Competition.

“That was really a proof of concept,” she said. “What we found is what the marketplace wanted to see was more support and resources to entrepreneurship being driven by the university. The idea was to create an internal ecosystem, a gateway to launch.”

At Tech Runway, companies get a real-life curriculum in customer acquisition, developing a minimal viable product and attracting first round capital. Tech Runway gives each company a $25,000 grant, a 16-week bootcamp and collaborative workspace for a year, she said.

Tech Runway also provides structure and connections. Companies develop a series of milestones with their mentors whom they meet with weekly, and they don’t pitch to investors until they are ready. Tech Runway helps them get their first sales. After about a year, Tech Runway companies will typically graduate, once their lead mentors agree they have met their milestones. But the space is continually being restocked because there will be two classes — Tech Runway calls them Venture Vintages — accepted each year going forward. It is also growing its programming for students and supporting faculty startups.

“The university is committed to making this a longstanding resource for our community,” she said.

We spoke with Gramm recently at the Tech Runway offices. Here are excerpts of that conversation:

Continue reading "Q&A with Kim Gramm: FAU Tech Runway's journey has only just begun" »