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

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

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

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

October 19, 2017

The party bobs along with this Shark Tank contestant’s products

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By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

Will the “Human Bobbers” sink or swim in the Shark Tank?

Justin Rietema of Oakland Park and Doug Schultz of Coconut Creek invented the Human Bobber line of multipurpose personal flotation devices. They will appear on ABC’s “Shark Tank’ show at 9 p.m. Sunday to pitch their Bottoms Up, a dual-purpose life vest that can also be worn like a pair of shorts, and the Scuttlebutt, a saddle-like float that’s also an in-water lounge chair or kayak seat.

“We are boaters at heart, and after watersports like tubing, water skiing and wakeboading, we would often anchor up our boat and float around in the water with some drinks,” Schultz said. “Most of the guys in our group would just put on a life vest upside down and use that as a saddle for floating, but as you can imagine, life vests are not designed for that. There was foam in all the wrong places.”

Rietema and Schultz have day jobs as landscape architects, but formed H3O Sports in 2011 as a side hustle.

After creating and testing several hand-made Human Bobber prototypes, they began manufacturing and selling the Bottoms Up and the Scuttlebutt on HumanBobber.com in 2012. Both products are patented, Rietema said.

Sales were slow at first, but in 2016, Bottoms Up received U.S. Coast Guard approval as a type III flotation aid suitable for rescues in calm waters. The process took two years but was worth it, Rietema said. Before 2016, sales totalled about $60,000 in total, but with last year’s sales and this year they will likely nearly double that. Another popular item is their Beverage Bobber, which runs $16 to $18.

Today, Rietema and Schultz still have their day jobs – but their hopes are high the Sharks will bite. The Sharks have taken a liking to other South Floridians’ products, including the AquaVault and Three Jerks Jerky. On Sunday, they will face Mark Cuban, Lori Greiner, Robert Herjavec, Daymond John and Kevin O’Leary.

Like all Shark Tank contestants, these two entrepreneurs have to be hush-hush about the outcome of their time in the tank, but whatever happens they are planning to toast the journey at a watch party Sunday night at 26 Degree Brewing Company in Pompano Beach. No Beverage Bobber needed. Bottoms up!

Follow @ndahlberg on Twitter.

Miami is bursting with startups. Problem is they aren’t growing, Kauffman study shows

Miami

By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

Good news, bad news: Miami is exploding with startups, but they are not scaling up.

That was again the conclusion of an annual Kauffman Foundation study released Thursday that showed that the Miami-Fort Lauderdale metro area ranked near the bottom of the pack for the entrepreneurial growth of so-called scale-ups, or fast-growing companies.

Still, ranking 36th out of 40 metropolitan areas nationwide for entrepreneurial growth is an improvement over 2016, when the metro area ranked 39th.

News of the index ranking comes in the same year that Miami ranked No. 1 in the nation in Kauffman’s 2017 Index of Startup Activity, a separate measure of new business creation that was released in May. Some years it ranks No. 2 or 3, but South Florida has always been in the top five of this national ranking for a decade.

The 2017 Kauffman Index of Growth Entrepreneurship used 2016 data on employment and revenues to rank states and metro areas in three areas: the rate of startup growth in the first five years; the percentage share of scale-ups that have reached at least 50 employees by year 10; and high-growth company density, or the number of private businesses with at least $2 million in annual revenue and three consecutive years of 20 percent annual revenue growth.

Miami ranked at the bottom of the pack for share of scale-ups, and in the bottom quartile for the other two categories. In Florida, Tampa (No. 26) and Orlando (No. 29) ranked higher than Miami. Only Jacksonville ranked lower, coming in at No. 40.

The top 10, in order: Washington, DC; Austin; Columbus; Nashville; Atlanta; San Jose’ San Francisco; Boston; Minneapolis; and Indianapolis.

The sobering ranking reflects the reality that the Miami area has historically had far more micro-businesses — those under four employees — than most other metro areas, and it still does. But it comes amid Miami’s ongoing efforts to address this issue and develop a robust entrepreneurial ecosystem, a process that takes time. In the past five years, the Knight Foundation has committed more than $28 million to more than 200 entrepreneurship projects and organizations in the city. Several organizations focused on scaling up companies have expanded to Miami in the past few years, including Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses, Endeavor and the Babson WIN Lab for women-led companies and are already showing progress.

Endeavor Miami’s impact report, released last week, shows that its 16 Endeavor companies have generated 1,600 jobs and are booking $130 million in 2017 revenue. Other South Florida tech companies, too, that started in the past five to 10 years are now employing hundreds of employees, including Modernizing Medicine, CareCloud, MDLive, Chewy and Nearpod, to name a few, and a number of other startups are on their way.

On a national level, the Kauffman index showed, entrepreneurial growth continued to rebound from the Great Recession slump, across different industries and geographies.

“What this shows us is that, while Silicon Valley, Boston and New York City tend to grab national headlines, other areas of the country have been flying below the radar, quietly growing their ecosystems and nurturing entrepreneurial activity in their back yards,” Bobby Franklin, president and CEO of the National Venture Capital Association, wrote in the report.

The report also found that startups are growing more rapidly and reaching scale at higher rates than in the years following the Great Recession. Yet, fewer companies are growing to become medium-sized or larger in terms of employment when compared to the levels in the 1980s and 90s.

“These findings are cautiously promising. We are seeing a new model of economic development emerge — one that infuses entrepreneurship into the economy and removes barriers to starting and growing businesses,” said Victor Hwang, vice president of Entrepreneurship at the Kauffman Foundation, in a news release. “Our research indicates that high-growth firms, particularly of young firms, are important to job, output and productivity growth. However, because businesses are creating fewer jobs, it’s more important than ever to empower people to control their own economic destinies.”

Among the 25 largest states, the five posting the highest entrepreneurial growth activity were Virginia, Georgia, Maryland, Massachusetts and Texas. Florida ranked 24th, the same ranking as in last year’s report.

Find the report at www.kauffmanindex.org.

Nancy Dahlberg: @ndahlberg

October 17, 2017

Magic Leap confirms it has raised $502 million in funding

By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

Magic Leap confirmed that it has raised another large funding round as it apparently readies its first product for launch.

The secretive South Florida tech startup announced on Tuesday that it has raised $502 million in a Series D round of funding led by Temasek Holdings, an investment fund owned by Singapore’s government. The round includes three other new investors, Grupo Globo of Brazil, EDBI of Singapore and Janus Henderson Investors, and existing investors Alibaba Group, Google, Fidelity Management, JP Morgan and T. Rowe Price.

“We’re excited to welcome Temasek and the other new investors in this round to the Magic Leap family,” said Rony Abovitz, founder and CEO of the Plantation-based Magic Leap, in a news release. “We also greatly appreciate the strong support and partnership from our existing shareholders.”

Magic Leap had already raised $1.4 billion, which brought a valuation of $4.5 billion at the time. The new funding brings the company’s total funding to nearly $1.9 billion, and significantly expands Magic Leap’s arsenal as it prepares to launch a long-awaited headset or pair of smart glasses with its proprietary “mixed reality” technology. Magic Leap has not yet revealed a product, and those who have seen the technology have signed a non-disclosure agreement.

Last week, a Delaware filing showed that Magic Leap authorized up to $1 billion in new shares. Last month, a Bloomberg report cited sources who said Magic Leap would be raising about $500 million from Temasek and others, and suggested that a limited launch of its product – bigger than a pair of glasses but smaller than VR headsets now on the market – may be within the next six months. The sources also said the device could be priced around $1,500 or higher, but Magic Leap has not said when it plans to release its product or released pricing details.

Magic Leap is believed to have more than 800 employees in South Florida and hundreds more in offices around the world, including Los Angeles, Sunnyvale, Seattle, Austin, Dallas, Zurich, New Zealand and Israel.

Follow @ndahlberg on Twitter.

Endeavor's impact on South Florida entrepreneurship: It's in the numbers

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EverymundoSFBJBy Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com
 
EveryMundo, founded by Anton Diego and Seth Cassel (pictured here), provides performance marketing technology for airlines. The Miami startup  has grown the team to 60 employees and has experienced double-digit revenue growth every year. It's now working with about 30 airlines.
 
Founded by Juha and Johanna Mikkola, Wyncode offers coding boot camps that prepare students for the local tech job market. It has graduated more than 450 students and more than 200 companies have hired them. It recently raised funding and opened its own headquarters space (shown above).
 
Pincho Factory, the fast-casual restaurant concept inspired by Latin American street food founded in 2010, has been on a growth spurt since the beginning of 2016. It has gone from two locations to eight, with three more are on the runway, and has added 180 employees. Today it is closing in on $14 million in annual revenue systemwide. It was founded by Otto Othman and Nedal Ahmad.
 
What the three South Florida companies have in common is they were all selected by Endeavor, the global organization that provides mentorship and services to high impact entrepreneurs, including access to talent, capital and markets on local and global levels. The Endeavor Miami chapter, the global nonprofit's first office in the U.S., opened in 2013.
 
"Endeavor has been monumental in terms of mentoring and advising us with our growth strategy. We were able to truly learn how to raise funds and how to negotiate term sheets with the help of our mentors," said Othman. "The networking component provided to us by Endeavor has been huge for us as well. Meeting other fellow entrepreneurs and successful Miami locals has played a big role in our growth. From advising to sharing best practices, these are the lessons you just simply don't learn in school."
 
FigsThese companies and others were highlighted in Endeavor Miami's just released annual impact report, which shows that the 16 active Endeavor Miami companies are booking $130 million in 2017 revenue. Together they employ 1,600 people, and that's up 37 percent since 2014 while jobs statewide were up 9.4 percent in the same period. They've raised $15 million in capital, Endeavor Miami says in its new report.
 

These include companies such as the My Ceviche fast-casual restaurant company, which has grown from two restaurants to six, including its Midtown Miami, Coral Gables and MIA locations, since the founders were selected in 2013. Powerful's yogurt and other other all-natural products are in 10,000 stores, including Target, Walmart and Kroger. FIGS, founded by Trina Spear (pictured here) and Heather Hasson, offers antimicrobial, breathable and fashionable scrubs, and is also a B Corp. that has donated more than 75,000 sets of scrubs in 26 countries. Kairos, the facial recognition and  human analytics technology startup used by a number of enterprise clients, made a strategic acquisition and has raised some $8 million in funding to power its growth.

Brian Brackeen OfficeEndeavor Miami's network of 75 mentors have donated 1,371 mentor hours to help make these successes happen, according to the report. "It’s like having a network of experts at my disposal 24 hours a day, 7 Days a week. It’s family. They would do anything to help us to win," said Brian Brackeen, founder and CEO of Kairos.

To be sure, Endeavor is part of a whole network of community organizations and university programs offering services and support to entrepreneurs in South Florida. Endeavor focuses on selecting companies that are ripe to scale and could benefit from Endeavor's help, as well as founders who are likely to give back to the South Florida community after they've found success by helping the next generation of startups through mentorship and/or investment.

Four years in since the Knight Foundation funded the launch of Endeavor Miami, the community is already seeing the give-back, with entrepreneurs like Brackeen, the Pincho founders, the Mikkolas and many others mentoring startups, offering connections and speaking around town and beyond about entrepreneurship. The organization is celebrating with a benefit gala on Saturday honoring tech visionary Salim Ismail. 

Read the Endeavor Miami impact report here.

To nominate a company for the Endeavor network, go to www.endavormiami.org

October 15, 2017

Startup Spotlight: LifeWallet helps consumers take control of their health

 

Lifewalletteam
From left: Norberto Menendez, CEO and founder of Life Wallet; Anthony Alviz, software engineer, Scott Johns, design lead, Yaismel Miranda, software engineer; and Kyle Carriedo, engineer manager, at the company offices at 14591 SW 120th St. in Miami-Dade. 
Roberto Koltun rkoltun@miamiherald.com

 

Company name: LifeWallet

Headquarters: Miami-Dade County (Kendall)

Concept: LifeWallet aims to change the healthcare delivery model, enabling consumers to own their health.

Story: Using the LifeWallet HealthBook app, a 59-year-old locksmith recently lost 17 pounds in three months and his blood glucose reading dropped enough that he was no longer considered pre-"diabetic. “You have to do it for yourself,” he said, adding that the app helped him stay on track because “someone is always looking at your readings and you’re accountable.”

That’s just one example of LifeWallet at work.

LifeWallet, a South Florida-based startup, creates digital health assistants in the form of apps and care programs. “We empower consumers and communities to lead healthier lifestyles and take control of their health,” said Norberto Menendez, LifeWallet’s founder and CEO.

Menendez, 55, was born in Cuba, graduated from South Miami High School and the University of Miami, and then went to Silicon Valley to work for Apple. He returned to Miami in the mid-1990s to take care of his ailing father.

As he continued to work remotely for Apple while caring for his father, frustrations with insurance, the healthcare system, access to medical records, lack of communication between healthcare providers and the high costs of healthcare led him to take the entrepreneurial plunge with LifeWallet.

Menendez believed that technology focused on empowering consumers with control of their health could save lives as well as solve many of the systemic problems of the industry. He recruited several members of his top management team from Apple.

LifeWallet offers a consumer product, its HealthBook app, as well as products for healthcare providers and health insurance plans. Customers have included Baptist, where LifeWallet has done nearly 20,000 health assessments with West Kendall Baptist Hospital, GE, the City of Doral, YMCA, and Indiana Health University. It will be working with Athlete’s Health and the NFL Players Association, where it will be doing assessments for concussions and the health of athletes, Menendez said.

One of LifeWallet’s programs is Sugar Smart for Life, in which the locksmith participated. It is a collaborative effort between the GE HealthyCities Leadership Academy, LifeWallet and West Kendall Baptist Hospital, a one-year pilot program designed to engage consumers diagnosed as pre-diabetic create healthier lifestyles and prevent the onset of Type II diabetes. It recently received a grant from AstraZeneca to continue the program.

Re-imagining the Healthy Hub at West Kendall Baptist Hospital is another program. Consumers go through a simple health screening process at this free one-stop screening and referral-to-care kiosk. Within minutes, consumers receive a Healthsnap, or snapshot of their health, sent to their cellphones.

In August, Doral Mayor Juan Carlos Bermudez challenged his residents to take the StepUp Your Health Doral Challenge. He’s trying to get his citizens to walk a billion steps in the next year. LifeWallet created the app that keeps track of residents’ steps, adds them to the community total and provides individual rankings.

What’s next? LifeWallet is working on strategic initiatives with Florida International University, connecting with Watson Health of IBM and doing work using artificial intelligence and predictive analytics. It aims to create a digital health store where consumers can purchase health assessments they can take from the comfort of their own homes and care plans that can be monitored by health and wellness coaches, Menendez said.

“We’re talking to major healthcare systems throughout the country ... about how the LifeWallet platform can save them, and consumers, billions of dollars a year, particularly in the fight against chronic diseases that account for 86 percent of the costs of healthcare,” Menendez said.

Website: www.lifewallet.com

Launched: 2014

Number of employees: 15

Management team: Norberto Menendez, CEO; Kyle Carriedo, leads engineering team; Ben Sharpe, development; Scott Johns, designer; Edwin Rivera, brand evangelist.

Financing: $6.5 million in private financing from family and friends. Currently seeking Series A financing of $10 million.

Recent milestones: Grant from AstraZeneca to continue its Sugar Smart for Life program with West Kendall Baptist Hospital. Pilot with KeepLivin, Jessie Trice Community Health Center and Health Choice Networks for diabetes prevention and management to help manage patients affected with diabetes. Collaboration with Athlete’s Health to assess and track the course of concussions and overall health in former NFL players and young athletes and to promote health screenings in the community with local organizations, hospitals, schools and companies in 32 cities throughout the U.S. Partnership with AgaMatrix to facilitate preventative care and remote monitoring in populations at risk of developing diabetes.

Biggest startup challenge: Funding in South Florida. “We’re talking to various funding sources in the Northeast and in Silicon Valley, but South Florida still remains a challenge,” Menendez said.

Next step: Continuing to enhance the LifeWallet platform and getting the word out to healthcare providers and insurers.

Mentor’s view: “I always look first at the opportunity and then the team. LifeWallet is at the forefront of the change from traditional healthcare to patient-centered wellness management, one of the biggest possible opportunities. A team of ex-Apple programmers was a very attractive plus,” said Bob Hacker, director of StartUP FIU, startup advisor and professor. “The challenge is picking the early commercial partner — whether it be an insurer, hospital group, large local employer or government organization — to leverage the SAAS platform to scale LifeWallet. I like the insurers as the first customer segment.”

Follow @ndahlberg on Twitter.

READ MORE STARTUP STORIES

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Need affordable travel in Latin America? Voyhoy has the ticket

Planning a party? Created by a chef, PartyTap app is at your service

 

 

October 12, 2017

Magic Leap could raise another $1 billion in new funding round

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A revamped Magic Leap website appears to be dropping hints of what's to come.

 

By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

Magic Leap could soon be flying high as a $7 billion company – without having yet launched a product.

Magic Leap, the secretive South Florida startup that has strongly hinted that its “mixed reality” technology may soon be revealed, is seeking to raise up to $1 billion in fresh funding from investors, according to reports of a new corporate filing on Thursday.

The company, based in Plantation, has authorized the sale of more than 37 million shares of Series D stock at $27 each to raise about $1 billion, according to the Oct. 11 filing with the State of Delaware obtained by venture data company CB Insights.

The filing does not mean that the company will raise that much, but it could, and it did not mention any investors. The filing also did not mention how much the company has raised so far. Magic Leap has declined to comment.

When asked if he was raising another large round, Magic Leap’s CEO Rony Abovitz said in June that the company is always in fund-raising mode. However, Bloomberg reported last month that the company has held talks with Temasek Holdings, an investment firm owned by the Singapore government, to join a $500 million investment.

The new financing round comes as Magic Leap readies a long-awaited debut product, believed to be a headset or pair of glasses that will integrate computer graphics onto the real world through its proprietary technology, making for a more natural experience for users, Abovitz, who founded the company in his garage, has said. Bloomberg’s sources said the new product could cost as much as $2,000 and product shipments may begin within six months. In the past couple of weeks, though, the company has unveiled a new logo, a website that proclaimed “we are taking you on this journey to launch” and a new promo video about Magic Leap’s beginnings.

Magic Leap has already raised $1.4 billion from investors such as Google, venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz and e-commerce company Alibaba, giving it a valuation last year of $4.5 billion. The new funding could raise the company’s valuation to about $7 billion, reports said.

The company, which has offices worldwide and at least 800 employees in its South Florida headquarters, has nearly 200 open jobs listed for its Plantation office alone.

Follow @ndahlberg on Twitter.

October 11, 2017

Florida venture capital surged in Q3 MoneyTree Report, but that's thanks to one mega-round

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By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

Florida venture capital looked strong in the third-quarter, but it was mainly due to one company’s outsized funding round. And it wasn’t Magic Leap.

According to the MoneyTree Report from PricewaterhouseCoopers and CB Insights released Wednesday, the $1 billion funding round by Fanatics, a sports fan e-commerce company based in Jacksonville, pushed the state’s numbers to $1.08 billion across 15 deals. In August, Softbank’s Vision Fund led the round in Fanatics. Q3's total was up sharply from $299 million in Q2.

Other companies receiving investment in the third quarter included Neutral Connect Networks of West Palm, a late-stage telecom company, $30 million; Plum of Dania Beach, maker of a high-tech wine appliance, $9 million; internet company Intelligence of Boca Raton, $3.4 million; advertising-tech company Bidtellect of Delray Beach, $3.2 million; and Miami fintech company Dvendo, $1.5 million.

Nationally, quarterly dollar funding to VC-backed companies in the United States edged past Q2 2017’s tally for an eight-quarter high. In Q3, investors deployed $19 billion to VC-backed companies across 1,207 deals, nearly the same exact total as last quarter. Funding activity was driven by another strong quarter of mega-rounds of $100 million or more, as Q3 2017’s total reached 26. The deal total was just one short of the tally in Q2 2017, just above the 8-quarter low seen in Q4 2016. New York-based WeWork was the No. 1 mega-deal, followed by Fanatics.

MoneyTree Report results are available at www.pwcmoneytree.com.

“With 40 percent of value coming from mega-deals, Q3 2017 saw the largest quarter for deal value in two years,” said Tom Ciccolella, PwC’s US Venture Capital Leader. “Three of the quarter’s five largest occurred outside of California, further demonstrating the overall health of the venture capital ecosystem across the U.S.”

On Tuesday, Pitchbook and the National Venture Capital Association released their report. They use a different methodology that includes angel fundings, and doesn’t include private equity so the Fanatics mega-deal wasn’t included. The Pitchbook/NVCA report showed Florida pulled in $162 million across 38 deals, down sharply from $286 million in Q2. Download the Pitchbook/NVCA report here.

Follow @ndahlberg on Twitter.

October 10, 2017

Miami Dade College hosting MIA Animation Conference & Festival this weekend

  MIA Animation 2015_028

 

Miami Dade College  will again host the renowned MIA Animation Conference & Festival on Friday, Oct. 13 and Saturday, Oct. 14, at MDC’s Wolfson Campus in downtown Miami. The renowned event features world-renowned speakers, technology influencers from the nation’s top animation studios, universities, and the best talent in the industry. It has become one of the most exciting and cutting edge events in Miami, alongside a community of advanced technology-explorers, decision-makers, trend-setters, software developers, and creative industry professionals.

The industry conference focuses on Computer Animation, Gaming, Visual Effects and Motion Graphics, Virtual and Augmented Reality.  It draws some of the world’s top leaders in animation and education, and features exhibitions, workshops and master classes.  It has been designed to be a forum for active networking and practical information exchange with strong commitment and emphasis in education while developing and nourishing new talent. 

Featured speakers at this year’s MIA Animation Festival include Matt Shumway, animation supervisor at ILM and 2016 Oscar Nominee for “The Revenant”; Aliki Theophiloupolos, supervising producer at Dreamworks; Leah Hoyer, vice president of creative at Telltale Games; and Kat Thorson Good, director at the Walt Disney Company.

Some of this year’s highlights include the Arts & Technology Breakfast, which will explore the ways in which the arts and tech industries can work together to build a connected creative ecosystem.   Also, exploring the power that creativity can bring to everything it touches, specifically to amplify technology as a true connector and catalyst for innovation. This year’s breakfast topic will focus on virtual reality storytelling for areas like gaming, journalism, broadcasting and animation.

Another highlight is Game On, the third annual indie game competition, which is sponsored by MIA Animation and the Idea Center @ MDC.  The competition was created to encourage independent game development and fresh voices in the video game industry. The winner will receive a consulting meeting at the IDEA Center. The finalists will be showcased at the MIA Animation Festival where attendees will be able to play the prototype. 

The MIA Animation Festival will also hold a Pitching Contest for applicants to submit animation projects for a TV animated series.  The top submissions in both categories will be invited to pitch their idea in person to a panel of animation industry experts and professionals. The top pitch overall will be set up with interviews with major animation studio execs in Los Angeles.

Another highlight of the MIA Animation Festival is the Students and Young Directors competitions, which are currently taking submissions for animated films to be judged for conceptual, technical, and aesthetic innovation and excellence. 

The conference is free for MDC students and faculty; $65 for students and $195 for professionals.

For more information: visit miaanimation.com or contact (305) 521-3429

 - Submitted by Miami Dade College

October 08, 2017

StartUP FIU: Your chance to change the world

StartupfiucohorteUntitled design (38) (1)
 

By Kate Sackman

What do fair trade yoga pants, paying off student loans, and promoting minority businesses have in common? Yep, all of these opportunities, and more, are being addressed by the StartUP FIU Empower Accelerator companies.

An exciting array of startups are in the third cohort of companies now going through the fall 2017 Empower Accelerator on the main campus of Florida International University.  This 14-week intensive program guides early stage companies rapidly through the key analyses and decisions for building a strong company foundation and scaling. Of the eleven companies in Cohort 3, six are FIU-affiliated (students, alumni, and faculty) and five are from the Miami community.  All of the companies at least have a prototype in development and four of them are generating revenue. The industries represented include apparel, food service, finance, ecommerce, supply chain monitoring and digital marketing

Companies in Cohort 3 are working to provide fair incomes and humane treatment of garment workers in Sri Lanka, help people get out from under crushing debt, and reduce fraud at construction sites.  Cool technologies such as artificial intelligence, the internet of things, and predictive analytics are being applied by companies to improve consumer intelligence, make online marketing more fair and efficient, and yes, help you get fit.

Here are the companies in Cohort 3:

Alana Athletica: Alana designs and sells yoga pants made to employ and empower women in Sri Lanka who are abuse survivors.

Aromas del Peru: A successful Peruvian restaurant chain in Miami that plans to franchise nationally.

CoinStash: An automatic savings plan that helps users pay off student and credit card debt by automatically rounding up their purchases to the nearest dollar and applying the difference to their debt.

Ekkobar: A sophisticated application of machine learning, Ekkobar enables companies to analyze their digital media in real time and interact directly with their audience.

Lunchology: A healthy meal delivery service for schools using only fresh, local ingredients.

Major Marketplace: An online marketplace for minority businesses and those who want to support them.

Merkari: A digital marketing company that enables companies to run multi-channel campaigns across any device.

Mettosof: Mettosof makes InstanRate, a SaaS system that expedites customers’ review process and helps business operators analyze customer feedback   to improve their operations.

Origo: A blockchain-based web platform that allows businesses to validate the true identity and fair trade practices of traders in the Americas.

Smart Barrel: Provides rugged, solar-powered IoT products for construction jobsites that enable construction workers to punch in and out without an RFID tag or other device and enables project managers to oversee and plan construction sites more efficiently.

Sodima Solutions: A chatbot company that provides customer management and a lead generation fitness assistant for the Facebook business page of fitness professionals and gyms.

APPLICATIONS OPEN FOR NEXT COHORT

Applications are now open for Cohort 4! Aspiring entrepreneurs from throughout South Florida are invited to apply.  Companies that have a prototype in development and a good understanding of their customers and market are eligible. Preference is for companies with some revenue, but companies at any stage are welcome to apply. You can apply on the StartUP FIU website: http://startup.fiu.edu. Cohort 4 begins in January 2018.

On the website you can also find StartUP FIU workshops, speakers, and other programs for the public. Upcoming workshops by leading experts include A Beginner’s Guide to Crowdfunding (October 5), and Sea Level Rise Mitigation (October 12). 

Kate Sackman is the director of the StartUP FIU Empower Accelerator and a seasoned entrepreneur.  She has a background in finance, marketing, high-tech, and media. She is also a consultant and a professor of Global Social Entrepreneurship at FIU.

 

October 06, 2017

Hallandale Beach's EasyPeasie a finalist in national SBA InnovateHER contest

The U.S. Small Business Administration announced the 2017 finalists of the SBA’s InnovateHER Business Challenge, the nationwide competition highlighting innovative products, services or technology developed by visionary entrepreneurs that have a measurable impact on the lives of women and families, and in the marketplace.

Sisterly duo and Hallandale Beach natives, Dr. Jamelah Tucker and Dorielle T. Price, a pediatrician and electrical engineer, respectively, co-founded “EasyPeasie” Veggie Blends, a custom blend of all natural vegetable powders.  The company initially pitched their undetectable veggie products during an event sponsored by Miami’s Mindwarehouse before advancing to the final round of competition.

“We are extremely proud to have a South Florida company recognized amongst the finalists for the 2017 InnovateHER competition,” said South Florida District Director Francisco “Pancho” Marrero. “Over the last couple of years, our District has been home to the second place overall winners in both 2015 and 2016.

South Florida is a breeding ground for innovation, and creating an undetectable veggie product as a way to get children to eat their vegetables is a testament of just that,” he added. “I wish them the best of luck in the next round of judging and with all their future endeavors."

The 10 finalists were selected through a rigorous nationwide competition held by host organizations, including universities, accelerators, and SBA Resource Partners that ran local area competitions through June 3, 2017.  Next, an executive committee of SBA officials evaluated more than 120 semi-finalist nominations and chose 10 finalists to participate in the National Pitch Competition, whose products and services best meet the competition criteria and present the greatest potential for success. 

The InnovateHER Business Challenge finalists are invited to conduct a marketing pitch before a team of expert judges at the National Pitch Competition held on October 26, 2017, in Washington, D.C., as they compete for the top three awards totaling $70,000 in prize money, provided by the Sara Blakely Foundation.

For details on the competition and to read about the other finalists, visit www.sba.gov/innovateHER