EcoTech Visions, an incubator for green startups, opens its doors in Miami

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 EcoTech Visions, a green business incubator and accelerator, opened its doors to the public, with an open house on Thursday attended by more than 100 business people, government officials, community leaders and entrepreneurs.

At 70 percent capacity, Ecotech already houses seven companies in the incubator: Crafting Electronic Motorcycles, EarthWare, Geeks Global Lab, Precision Barber Club, SHE3T, Raw Health and Beauty, Urban Greenworks and Aquaponics Lab. EcoTech, located at 667 NW 90th St. in Miami, features four labs, five private offices, eight co-working desks, a mezzanine, a green classroom and conference room. The laboratory co-working spaces feature an injection molding lab, a product development lab, a green lab for aquaponics and a mechanics lab.

EcoTech, a project two-plus years in the making, was founded by Pandwe Gibson, pictured below. For more information: ecotechvisions.com.

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Posted Nov. 21, 2014


Give Miami Day's goal: $5 million to make the community better


The Miami Foundation staff cheers after reaching a milestone last year.

We interrupt our regularly scheduled programming for this important message: Give to your favorite nonprofit today.

By Carli Teproff / cteproff@maimiherald.com

Nearly 16 years ago, Keri Brooke Heiken lost her life in a horrific car accident as she and four friends headed back to the University of Florida after spending a weekend in South Florida.

Since her death in 1998, her family has worked to keep Keri’s memory alive by giving $2,500 scholarships to high school seniors who have helped the community and want to make a difference in the world.

This year, the Keri Brooke Heiken Foundation, which in the past has held dinner and raffle fundraisers, is reaching out for donations in a new way.

It has joined The Miami Foundation’s Give Miami Day — a 24-hour period in which donations can be made online to more than 500 charities. The blitz begins 12:01 a.m. Thursday and runs for 24 hours.

“It’s an opportunity to reach a lot more people,” said Keri’s mother, Lori Heiken. “We have been working hard to spread the word.”

Give Miami Day, now in its third year, has gained popularity with each campaign, with more and more charities coming on board. This year, Give Miami will include 115 new charities — among them Goodwill Industries, the South Beach Chamber Ensemble, the South Florida SPCA Horse Rescue and Honor Flight South Florida.

Miami Foundation CEO Javier Alberto Soto said the momentum has been incredible. This year the foundation, a philanthropy incubator that helps charities with their fundraising, has even planned a block party from 6 to 9 p.m. in the West Plaza of the Miami Marlins’ stadium in Little Havana to give people a chance to mingle.

“I think we have created an event people look forward to each year to make our community better,” Soto said. “It’s about civic pride.”

And the pride has been contagious.

Returning charities including Miami Lighthouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired Inc., Miami Herald Charities — which benefits the Wish Book project — and Shake-A-Leg Miami have been blasting the message through Facebook and through other social media platforms.

The Arsht Center, which is raising money for its Arts Education programs, has planned Dance Party on the Plaza to spotlight Give Miami Day and has encouraged the staff effort to raise money. Others including Heiken will hold an open house to thank supporters.

The way it works is simple: People can visit givemiamiday.org, look at the profiles of each charity and make a donation. Donations between $25 and $10,000 will qualify for a bonus for the recipient, distributed based on how much is raised and how much is collected in the bonus pool. The Miami Foundation, Knight Foundation and other sponsors have contributed as an “incentive” for giving, Soto said.

There are also about 20 prizes throughout the giving period to boost donations. The gifts include the $1,500 Early Bird Gets the Worm prize for the organization that receives the most individual gifts from midnight to 1:30 a.m., the $500 Good Morning, Sunshine prize for the organization that receives the gift made closest to the official sunrise at 6:43 a.m., and the $500 Giancarlo Stanton Home Run prize for the organization that receives the gift made closest to 1:54 p.m. celebrating the Miami Marlins all-time career home run leader.

Last year, Give Miami Day received more than 10,000 individual gifts and raised $3.2 million to support 407 local nonprofit organizations. The Greater Miami Jewish Federation topped the leader board with $207,362.

Soto said the goal is to continue to have an “impact on South Florida.”

“There are a lot of charities doing a lot of great things and we want to recognize that.”

To Donate

What: The Miami Foundation’s Give Miami Day

When: Thursday through Friday

How: Visit givemiamiday.org and either click on the charity of your choice or search through the database. Donations between $25 and $10,000 qualify for a percentage of the bonus pool.

Social media: @MiamiFoundation on Twitter and Instagram and #givemiamiday.

For more information: givemiamiday.org.


WeXchange returning to Miami, plans two-day event

  WeXchange, a forum designed to advance the work of high-impact women entrepreneurs from Miami, Latin America and the Caribbean, is back for its second year. Organized and led by the Multilateral Investment Fund, a member of the Inter-American Development Bank, with $40,000 of support from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the forum will be held from Dec. 11-12 at Miami Dade College.

Investors and women entrepreneurs who focus on Latin America or the Caribbean are encouraged to apply to attend WeXchange 2014. The event aims to empower women entrepreneurs, promote them as role models and help them connect to expand their networks and build impact. It will feature networking opportunities with investors, coaching sessions, workshops, and a pitch competition, in which 6 pre-selected finalists present their business ideas to a jury of international experts.

Foto Susana-1“Our research and experience show that women in Latin America and the Caribbean are highly motivated to start businesses and can be just as successful as their male counterparts, but face many barriers related to limited access to finance and weaker networks,” said Susana Garcia-Robles, principal investment officer of the MIF’s Early Stage Equity Group, in a news release. “WeXchange is seeking to break down those barriers by building a powerful community for dynamic women entrepreneurs. We are very much looking forward to returning to Miami — the most important city for doing business in and with Latin America and the Caribbean — for the second WeXchange forum.”

Research conducted by MIF, such as its WEGrow study of high-growth women entrepreneurs, show that women entrepreneurs tend to face more challenges than men in the region, mostly due to the lack of strong networks, which can limit access to capital. Other research such as the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor’s 2012 Women’s Report found that women-owned businesses attract less than 5 percent of venture capital funds worldwide.

Support for WeXchange programs is part of Knight Foundation’s efforts to invest in fostering an entrepreneurial community in South Florida. “By helping to propel the work of women entrepreneurs in Miami, WeXchange is providing some of the main assets they need to scale and grow — strong networks, access to investors, as well as mentorship and support opportunities,” said Matt Haggman, Knight Foundation program director for Miami.

Visit www.wexchange.co for more information and to register.

Read last year's guest column by Susana Garcia-Robles

Posted Nov. 20, 2014



How about a label for Miami Tech? Oui, Oui, Oui

UnnamedN2HWD3X3France wants to spotlight its high-growth-potential startups and to do that the French government has announced the creation of a new “French Tech" label.  “The aim is to do our utmost so that the Googles of the future are created and develop here in France,” summed up Fleur Pellerin, Minister of Culture and Communication, who launched the French Tech Initiative last autumn. With its new label, the government is also going to seek to spotlight cities that encourage high-growth-potential startups to develop in their territories.



ContractRoom of Miami launches its platform at DEMO Fall 2014

LogoContract Room, a Miami startup that offers a complete digital transaction management solution, announced it will launch its business collaboration and contracting platform at DEMO Fall 2014 in San Jose, Calif.

ContractRoom, founded in 2012, is the first end-to-end, cloud-based platform to streamline agreement and contracting for buyers and suppliers for any business transaction, enabling people to collaborate, structure and capture all negotiation data during the contracting process.

EmilMost contracting processes are still highly manual, paper-intensive and error-prone, causing over $150 billion a year in missed savings, plus billions more in potential financial, operational and legal risk, the company said. “Most transactions in the business world are stalled by endless negotiation and redlining, with almost zero control or visibility. ContractRoom makes it faster and more likely to reach agreement, while leveraging transactional data for increased productivity and better decision making,” said Emil Stefanutti, cofounder and CEO of ContractRoom.

ContractRoom will give a four-minute demonstration of its Digital Transaction Management platform on the DEMO Fall 2014 stage Wednesday morning in San Jose, and will host live demonstrations at Booth 8 in the DEMO Fall 2014 pavilion.

After vetting hundreds of companies, Demo chose ContractRoom as one of just 40 companies  to launch new products solving big problems at DEMO Fall, said Erick Schonfeld, executive producer of DEMO, which is well-known for launching innovative companies in mobile, cloud computing, consumer and social media technologies. ContractRoom was just one of five selected in the Enterprise category.

ContractRoom has a team of 11 spread between Miami, a small office in New York City and development in Warsaw and will soon be hiring, Stefanutti said. The startup has raised $1.2 million in seed financing. It offers a freemium buisness model. Pricing for customers who use ContractRoom to start and track business negotiations starts at $30 per month. Their counterparts who are invited to collaborate with their teams in ContractRoom use it for free. "We'll be launching additional free services for small businesses and freelancers soon," Stefanutti said.
Posted Nov. 19, 2014


MDC Idea Center, NFTE launch partnership


Teen entrepreneurs and business coaches descended on Miami Dade College’s newly opened Idea Center on Monday, for the launch of Global Entrepreneurship Week to share their ideas in the World Series of Innovation  competition. The World Series of Innovation  is an annual event organized by the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship  and presented by Microsoft that challenges young people to think creatively and invent new products or services that address every-day market opportunities.

20141117_110240_resized_1Monday also marked the formal launch of a partnership between NFTE and the Idea Center. Over the past 8 years, NFTE has been active in more than 30 South Florida public schools instilling an entrepreneurial mindset in young people from low-income communities. By teaching the entrepreneurial mindset, NFTE provides young people with tools and attitudes to overcome adversity and address future personal, economic, community and global challenges. 

Through the partnership with the Idea Center, NFTE students will now have the opportunity to continue their entrepreneurial journey once they graduate from high school.  At The Idea Center, students from a range of disciplines will have the opportunity to collaborate and grow their skills and ideas, working with business experts and state-of-the-art resources. NFTE will locate its offices within the Idea Center on MDC’s Wolfson Campus Building 8, starting in December. 

“I am thrilled that our students will be exposed to the Idea Center’s cross-curricular approach to entrepreneurship,” said Alice Horn, NFTE South Florida executive director. “NFTE students receive the motivational spark which launches them on a pathway to success. Now they will have the ability to continue their entrepreneurial journey at the Idea Center, regardless of the type of business they have chosen.”

Leandro Finol, executive director at the Idea Center, said that by partnering with NFTE, the Idea Center can begin interacting with students in high school and hopefully those students will continue their entrepreneurial pursuits at MDC after graduation. The Idea Center has also partnered with  Goldman Sachs’ 10,000 Small Businesses program for existing growing business. "Through these partnerships, we are able to nurture entrepreneurs all the way from high school to college, and finally help them to grow significant businesses as adults,” he said.

  WSI Group

Posted Nov. 17, 2014

RiseUp hackathon: Amazing ideas for a better world

By Daniel Suárez Pérez

Innovative and disruptive ideas to make a better world were the result of the social hackathon RiseUp. This event was held this past weekend in New York and Miami, as a pre-event to the RiseUp Fusion summit to be held in Washington, D.C. on Nov. 19th.

 This Saturday and Sunday more than 30 participants from different professions gathered to create projects aimed at solving problems related to education, poverty, climate change, gender inequality, corruption and health.

 The attendees -- developers, journalists, scientists, activists, designers, teachers, artists, entrepreneurs and other creatives -- worked on 7 projects that connect and empower citizens through technology. Thinking about solutions for their communities, the participants created tools to track the sea level rise in South Florida; incentivize citizen trash pick-up; improve the connection between citizens, community leaders and government; make conversations around social literacy fun; connect people with alternative medicine doctors/providers; and a vertical farming workflow management platform. Click through to read more about the projects in New York and Miami.

Riseup2"The more input from different people you have, with different perspectives, the better you are in the right solution," said Alfonso Mendez, a programmer that developed Pppin, an app that geolocalized problems and needs of the community.

Gabriela Sánchez-Silva, social media manager and first timer in hackathon, said "Our responsibility as part of a community is to try to have healthy environment for all and help people to find solutions if they need." Sánchez-Silva worked with Paola Cruzalegui to develop an alternative medicine platform connecting providers with their patients.

DSC03075Some attendees brought in projects already in development and sought to ideate on their designs. Sean Arunti, founder of Emrals, a real-life game empowering citizen trash-pick-up, lead a team that developed a localized version of the game, giving power to communities to feel more inclined to participate. “We went local due to the conversation here at the hackathon,” said Arunti.

Susan Jacobson, a professor at Florida International University who leads a team of professors and students for Eyesontherise.org, featured the project at the hackathon to get a feedback about user experience and design. Eyesontherise.org's mission is to help inform residents of South Florida about sea level rise.

 Here is a closer look at the projects:

DSC03049*Eyes on the rise: Aims to raise awareness and to educate South Florida communities about the impact, challenges and threats of sea level rise to create possible solutions for a sustainable future. The app includes a crowdsourced data collection tool where citizens may document flooding, a side-effect of climate change that is under-reported, and a visualization of increasing heights of sea-level rise. 

Hackathon challenge: Improve the user interface/user experience of the app to help residents of South Florida better understand and document the impact of sea level rise on their homes.

 *SociaLit: We are all born into the world and very quickly marked with certain social constructs: gender, race, class, ability. Social literacy is understanding that we exist in connection to our social conditions. Challenging people’s assumptions and understanding parallels between privilege can be difficult. SociaLit repurposes the childhood game Fortune Teller to create a playful and safe space to open difficult conversations. Unfold your fortune to reveal a QR code that brings you to a video that helps players think critically about the topic.

 Hackathon challenge: Develop a game experience and critical thinking exercise around social literacy.

 *BeAlternative: Connect alternative medicine providers and low income families and individuals to receive alternative medicine and create awareness.

 Hackathon challenge: Ideation. Create a web and/or mobile app to connect holistic medicine doctors providers with their clientele to jointly offer free services to the people with low income (poverty level) of their community.

*Emrals: Seeking to incentivize citizen trash pick-up, Emrals is a real-life game and eCan connected device that empowers citizens to clean their city. Emrals is a digital currency for civic good. The team developed a localized version of Emrals launching in Bed-Stuy to deepen citizen investment and engagement.

 Hackathon challenge: Ideate on the design of Emrals and develop a localized site to target people at the neighborhood level starting in the Bed-Stuy community.

 Pppin: With this web app people can pin the problems that are most relevant to them and improve their situation. The app is connected with government and groups that can provide solutions.

 Hackathon challenge: It’s a project that has 18 month of development, the goal is get feedback about user experience.

 *Vertical Farming: Vertical farming is cultivating plant life within a skyscraper greenhouse or on vertically inclined surfaces. The modern idea of vertical farming uses techniques similar to glass houses, where natural sunlight can be augmented with artificial lighting. It provides a workflow management platform to address future agriculture needs.

 Hackathon challenge: Ideation on platform and distribution strategy.

 *Red Phone: An app that connects citizens' needs/problems with community leaders able/willing to solve them.

 Hackathon challenge: Ideation. Integrate the app with existing city apps.

Posted Nov. 17, 2014 

Startup Spotlight: Yandiki


Photo of Silvina Moschini of Yandiki by Charles Trainor Jr./Miami Herald


Headquarters: The LAB Miami

Concept: Yandiki is an employment platform for the connected workforce generation. It provides immediate access to curated creative talent from around the world, in the cloud, on demand, transparently, with no hassle.

Story: Silvina Moschini has been managing public relations and online visibility projects for major U.S. corporations for more than 15 years. She has witnessed firsthand the difficulties many companies have in hiring creative talent. Top creative talent in major U.S. cities is costly and, often, not immediately available. Moschini resolved this challenge for her own agency (called Intuic) by creating TransparentBusiness — a platform that allows for hiring and efficiently managing creative talent in Argentina, Colombia, Chile and other low-cost countries. Later, she founded Yandiki to offer the same convenience to other U.S. ad agencies and companies adding curated talent and creating a marketplace of talent for hire.

With TransparentBusiness.com, clients can manage virtual teams seamlessly, can provide immediate feedback on all work-in-progress and access the status and cost of each project.

With Yandiki.com, clients can find and hire creative talent at their fingertips and on demand. “The goal is to create the perfect work platform for millennials, the connected workforce,” Moschini said.

Launched: May 2014

Management team: founders: Silvina Moschini (CEO), Marcelo Altamura (chief strategy officer), Nadia Di Vito (chief creative officer).

No. of employees: 17

Financing: So far, the founders have financed the project from personal funds. “While we can continue developing the project without outside financing, finding a strong equity investor would allow for faster growth,” said Moschini.

Recent milestones reached: Within two months of its launch, Yandiki landed major clients such as International Development Bank, Cable & Wireless and MFS (a joint venture of MasterCard and Telefonica), and it recently added EMC and Sony.

Biggest startup challenge: Coping with slow payment cycles in many major corporations.

Next step: Forming a sales team to target major corporate accounts in the United States and Canada, and forging alliances with governments in Latin America to help them create curated marketplaces of qualified creative experts, and export the professional services in the cloud. For them is the opportunity to increase their GDP, keep talent at home, and create employment. “For the talent, this is their chance to access world-class employment opportunities,” Moschini said.

Strategy for next step: Yandiki is interviewing people with experience in B2B sales and working with government programs and institutions to obtain financing and implement the programs.

Advisor’s view: “As a VC, I have seen many entrepreneurs — very few are as talented and driven as Silvina,” said Vanesa Kolodsiej, founder of Nazca Ventures, who has been advising Yandiki for about six months. She applauds Moschini for making progress educating governments and corporations about the advantages of the talent cloud and attracting the best creative talent in Latin America. “My advice is to be focused and be patient. Implementing a platform such as Yandiki [across the region] can take much time and effort, but once it is in place, the payoff is enormous.”

Nancy Dahlberg

Pipeline to open coworking center in Coral Gables

95 Merrick Way

The wave of new coworking spaces for entrepreneurs continues to roll in, with Pipeline Workspaces announcing Monday that its third U.S. shared-office location will be in Coral Gables.

PipelinePipeline opened its first shared-workspace location on Brickell two years ago (shown here) and is opening a site in Philadelphia’s financial district next month. Now it has leased the third floor — 14,000 square feet — at 95 Merrick Way (pictured above), an office complex that also houses Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. Pipeline was one of the pioneers in bringing the concept to Miami’s entrepreneurial community, and Pipeline sees Coral Gables as an underserved market. Coral Gables is home to Latin American headquarters, more than 20 consulates and government offices, more than 140 multinational corporations and numerous banks.

Pipeline Gables, with a planned opening this spring, will feature a mediation center that caters to the large legal community in Coral Gables, as well as entrepreneurial shared spaces starting at $200 per month, private offices starting at $600, and amenties such as conference rooms suitable for weekend corporate retreats and member access to all Pipeline locations. Like they saw with its center in Brickell, which has about 250 members and caters to startups, serial entrepreneurs and service professionals, Pipeline’s cofounders saw an opportunity to create another space that would draw a diverse group of people to connect and build a broader network.

“Pipeline is built on the theory that diversity positively impacts success. Geographic diversity draws people with different networks and expertise and being a member of Pipeline gives you one degree of separation from anybody else within the community, while serving as a catalyst to further grow the city’s business community,” said Todd Oretsky, who co-founded Pipeline with Philippe Houdard, in a news release. Members “can share perspectives, exchange ideas, create business opportunities, and develop meaningful business relationships,” he said.

Posted Nov. 17, 2014


Entrepreneurship Datebook: Global Entrepreneurship Week events and more

  Static.squarespace LEARN TO LAUNCH: An FAU Tech Runway and Adams Center for Entrepreneurship info session on available resources, 3 p.m. - 4 p.m. Monday, Research Park at FAU Tech Runway headquarters, 901 NW 35th St., Boca Raton. Register at learntolaunch.eventbrite.com. See more FAU events here.

STARTUP RESOURCES FAIR: Find out about resources available to entrepreneurs at The Launch Pad’s rair, 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. Monday, Whitten University Center, University of Miami campus. More info: thelaunchpad.org.

GAME CHANGERS: For Global Entrepreneurship Week, a panel discussionwith startup founders changing the game in their industries, 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Monday, Miami Dade College Meek Entrepreneurship Education Center, 6300 NW 7th Ave., Miami. More info here.

LAUNCH PAD GEW EVENT: Todd Ehrlich, a former Navy SEAL and founder of Kill Cliff and BAM Worldwide, addresses “What Makes a Successful Entrepreneur,” 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Tuesday, University of Miami Student Activities Ballroom. More info: thelaunchpad.org.

MICRO VC CLUB: Entrepreneurs pitch their companies at this “Shark Tank” meetup, 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. Tuesday, UM Life Science & Technology Park, 1951 NW Seventh Ave., Miami. More info: www.meetup.com/microvc

ONE MILLION CUPS: To celebrate Global Women’s Entrepreneurship Day, founders from Munchkin Fun, Komuns, Venture Hive and UXRD will share their experiences, 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. Wednesday, Venture Hive, 1010 NE snd Ave., Miami. More info: 1millioncups.com/miami. See more Venture Hive GEW events here.

TECH COCKTAIL: Miami Sessions event will feature Melody McCloskey of StyleSeat and Ed Boland of Scout Ventures, 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. Wednesday, The Stage, 170 NE 38th St., Miami. More info: tech.co/miami.

SPEED MARKETING ROUNDTABLES: Free meetup by Social Media Club South Florida (SMCSF) combines the executive roundtable with speed networking for dynamic conversation, 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. Wednesday, R House Wynwood, 2727 NW Second Ave., Miami. More info here.

ENTREPRENEURS IN TECH: Women in tech are featured in this FIU/Tech Group speaker series, 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday, College of Business Complex, Special Events Center, Room 232, 11200 SW 8th St.. Click here to register

FIU PINO CENTER SHARK TANK: Sign up to pitch in front of judges or observe; prize is summit pass to eMerge Americas, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., Friday, FIU Downtown on Brickell. To register to pitch, click here. If you were a participant in the Miami Herald Business Plan Challenge, you can participate free; email ndahlberg@miamiherald.com for promo code. To register to observe (free), click here.

If you have GEW-related events, please email ndahlberg@miamiherald.com.


Catch up on Starting Gate for lots of news last week, including an exit by CorQuest Medical, large funding rounds by Modernizing Medicine and Healthcare.com. In addition, Venture Hive and Paul Singh’s Disruption Corporation teamed up, and the Citi Mobile Challenge held its Miami Demo Day on Friday, with three Miami companies in the finals. Read more plus community views on the Starting Gate blog on MiamiHerald.com/business.

Nancy Dahlberg @ndahlberg