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

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

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

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

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

February 17, 2018

How LaunchCode is tackling the tech talent gap in Miami with the help of community partnerships

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By Matt Mawhinney

Air Force veteran Judy Rincon was balancing her transition back into civilian life and being a single mother when she saw a newspaper article about LaunchCode, a nonprofit creating pathways for driven people seeking careers in technology. Although coding was something she never considered, Judy took the free class, honed her skills and started her journey on the path to become a developer.

“Being completely new to coding was frightening,” Judy admitted, “but the devoted LaunchCode staff made this new journey an effortless one for me.” This week, Judy was thrilled to find out she has been placed with MasterCard and will begin as an apprentice next month. “Working hard and staying focused throughout the program wasn’t easy, but well worth it in the end.”

Judy’s story is not uncommon to the staff at LaunchCode, which opened an office in South Florida in 2015 thanks to a grant from the Knight Foundation. LaunchCode provides free technology education to aspiring technologists like Judy looking to get their foot in the door without having to go into debt.

LaunchCode was founded as an innovative solution to the shortage of talent to fill tech jobs in America. Code.org estimates there will be 1 million more computing jobs than applicants who can fill them by 2020. By creating pathways for nontraditional students to enter the workforce, LaunchCode gives employers a low-risk way to add fresh, diverse talent to their teams and in turn, reduce this gap.

But the tech talent gap is an issue that no one individual or organization can solve alone. LaunchCode works closely with community partners in South Florida who are equally invested in creating career pathways in the region. The CodeCamp program, where Judy gained her skills, was funded by CareerSource South Florida and supported by Employ Miami-Dade and the Neighbors and Neighbors Association.

Judy’s apprenticeship marks the 120th career which began as a result of LaunchCode’s innovative training program in South Florida. In 2018, the mission to launch tech careers of even more Floridians continues. With the help of its partners, LaunchCode will continue to provide both technical and soft-skills training free of charge to make careers in technology as accessible as possible.

It takes a village to solve the shortage of tech talent in our region and when community partners come together, the success is shared by all.

Matt Mawhinney is the Candidate Engagement Manager - South Florida for LaunchCode. Find out more at:  https://www.launchcode.org.

 

February 15, 2018

Fort Lauderdale insure-tech startup ChronWell raises $4.5 million in funding

ChronWell, a Fort Lauderdale startup that is developing a technology-enabled platform company for the workers’ compensation insurance industry, raised $4.5 million in Series A funding, the company announced this week.

The investors were not disclosed.

ChronWell was launched in September 2017 by long-time veterans in the healthcare information technology and insurance industries. Dr. Joe Rubinsztain, ChronWell's CEO, and his brother Sam Rubinsztain, VP of Product Development, together founded Weston-based gMed in Weston in 1997, which was sold to Modernizing Medicine in 2015. ChronWell's president, Salomon Sredni, was formerly president and CEO of TradeStation, one of the largest online brokers in the U.S.

The company said that it aims to be the first line of care for injured workers, while getting them back to work faster and reducing costs.

 “Our mission is to use technology to bridge the gap between employee, employer and insurance company,” said Joe Rubinsztain. “In making the process more efficient, we will improve outcomes and help injured workers receive the care they deserve. Everyone agrees the workers’ compensation market is long overdue for disruption, and this is the right time to do it.”

The funding will support the first phase of the company’s innovative platform, which covers triage, on-site care, care coordination and personalized assistance service, the company said. When an employee is injured on the job, a ChronWell healthcare professional backed by Artificial Intelligence will determine the best course of action by recommending self-care, on-site care or a health care facility. The service provides follow-up with the worker and manages the claim.

“The current workers’ comp system is broken,” said Sredni. “We strongly believe in bringing compassion and empathy back into a system that is failing to serve those most in need.”

February 12, 2018

Future of Travel Summit: And the winners are ...

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South Florida startups proved Miami is more than tourism and hospitality -- it's tourism-tech too.

Hundreds of entrepreneurs and professionals from the travel and hospitality industry gathered at The LAB Miami and the LightBox in Wynwood on Monday for the inaugural Future of Travel Summit produced by LAB Ventures, The LAB Miami's venture builder. Between panel discussions and keynote talks on everything from AR/VR to digital nomads to blockchain by executives from Ritz Carlton, Marriott, Visa, SeaTrade, JetBlue, Kayak, Spirit and others, 10 startups selected from around the world pitched for the opportunity to present at SeaTrade as well as other prizes.

Read about the 10 startups here.

And the winners were... both South Florida startups. Perhaps that shouldn't be a surprise given it is one the biggest industries here and a number of travel-tech companies have already blossomed in the Miami area, including Amadeus, Oasis, EveryMundo, Local Measure, Boatsetter and Nobox. 

Voyhoywinners

Voyhoy took the grand prize, selected by the judges. Voyhoy is an online booking platform that allows users to compare and buy plane, bus, ferry, and train tickets throughout Latin America. It offers simple and secure ways to acquire the best deal among thousands of travel tickets.

Read more about Voyhoy in the Miami Herald here. Also Platform.Miami recently named it a 2018 Startup to Watch: Read it here.

Daycation

Daycation was the People's Choice winner. Daycation allows users to book day-by-day access to various hotel amenities, such as the pool or spa, starting at $25 a day. It allows for membership as well as individual day pass purchases. (I haven't written about this startup yet, but I will).

Will Future of Travel be back next year? Absolutely, said Tigre Wenrich, CEO of LAB Ventures and The LAB Miami.

LAB Ventures has made a mission of bringing together startups and corporations. It's also running a Pitch to PERY (Perry Ellis International) fashion startup competition. There's still time to enter Pitch to PERY, but the deadline is Feb. 21. More info here: https://www.pitchtopery.com/

 

February 08, 2018

WeWork opens in Coral Gables, its fifth Miami area location

WeWork Ponce de Leon_1

Just two and a half years after signaling it is bullish about the Miami market, WeWork is opening its fifth location.

WeWork, the global co-working company, has opened the doors to WeWork Ponce de Leon in Coral Gables, at 2222 Ponce de Leon, which occupies more than 31,000 square feet across six floors and accommodates a community of about 550 members.

Coral Gables Mayor Raúl Valdés was on hand for the ribbon cutting celebration: “It takes innovation and entrepreneurship to make Coral Gables a younger city and that is what WeWork does, providing space for people to collaborate and be creative together,” said the mayor.

Like its other Miami-area properties, WeWork Ponce de Leon (pictured above) offers a collection of workspaces, including private offices, dedicated hot desks, conference rooms and quiet phone booths, in a design that fits the vibe of the location. The Coral Gables location also includes a large outdoor patio. WeWork will host a Grand Opening Launch Party for WeWork Ponce de Leon tonight (Feb. 8) from 6-9 PM. For more details and to RSVP, visit we.co/ponceopeningparty.

WeWork opened the doors of WeWork Security Building in December. That location (pictured below) occupies more than 100,000 square feet on 15 floors of the historic downtown Security Building at 117 NE 1st Ave., and will accommodate more than 1,250 members, making it the largest South Florida location so far. Originally designed by New York architect Robert Greenfield, the 1926 Security Building still contains a majority of its original façade and details like brick columns, concrete ceilings and terrazzo flooring, as well as a vault. Curated by WeWork to fit the downtown location, WeWork Security Building also exhibits custom wall murals, neon signs and collages by local artists.

 The two new WeWorks join the company’s first two locations in Miami Beach and the Miami Brickell City Centre location that opened a year ago. Co-founded by Adam Neumann and Miguel McKelvey in New York City in 2010, WeWork services more than 200,000 members at locations around the world.

 In an interview in 2015 during the opening of WeWork’s original location off Lincoln Road, McKelvey said WeWork was bullish on the Miami market and planned to open five to seven locations, even though Miami was already served by a growing number of work spaces.

Wework security

February 07, 2018

New World Angels kicks off 2018 with first investment

New World Angels jumped out of the gate with its first transaction of 2018. This follows a record year in 2017 when the Boca Raton-based structured angel group made seven investments in seven companies totaling $4.4 million.

The first investment of the year is a $1.3 million investment into Clarke Industrial Engineering’s $10MM Series B Preferred Stock offering.  Miami and Rhode Island based Clarke is the manufacturer of the Shuttervalve, which is innovating the $84 billion valve industry with new performance features at lower costs. With this fifth investment in Clarke, NWA has invested over $4.1 million in the company.  The Series B round was led by Saudi Aramco Energy Ventures and Chevron-Texaco Technology Ventures.

“We are very pleased that the venture capital arms of industry leaders Saudi Aramco and Chevron also recognize Clarke’s potential in this $84 billion market,” said Steve O’Hara, president of NWA, in a press release.  “We remain committed to helping Clarke achieve its lofty goals.”

In 2017, NWA added four new companies and invested in three existing portfolio companies.  In Q1, NWA invested a total of $1,487,500 in existing portfolio companies Tao Connect, a Tampa-based online counseling solution for universities and private payers, and Clarke’s A-3 round. In Q2, NWA invested a total of $1,985,000 in RecordGram, a Miami based innovative software solution provider allowing artists and musicians to collaborate on-line to provide greater opportunity to starting performers; Source Molecular, a Miami-based DNA-based water analysis company helping municipalities and utilities test and understand water pollution challenges; and Rewired Solutions, a Sarasota-based human resource solution provider for large employers seeking to identify potential new hires.  Also in Q2, NWA invested another $347,500 into its portfolio company Kairos, a Miami-based software as a service human analytics platform. In Q4, NWA funded Switchboard Live with $557,500, an Orlando-based company providing a live broadcast streaming alternative for publishers. 

[READ MORE: This Miami startup brings a recording studio to your phone]

O’Hara said nearly all of NWA’s 65 members participated in at least one due diligence team in 2017. “Our not so secret sauce is our diverse collection of members ranging from doctors to CEOs, lawyers to entrepreneurs, and technology to old school manufacturers, which provides us with a stable of talent we can offer our portfolio entrepreneurs to call on for advice and counsel.”

Since 2014, NWA has invested $14 million in companies that either are based in Florida or have a strong presence in the state. NWA has chapters on both in South Florida and on the state’s west coast.

February 06, 2018

Miami startup’s just-launched mystery box for crypto sells out - twice

 

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Three Miami coders were just messing around one Friday night and thought, "what if we could build a Birchbox for crypto?"

And they did.

Mario Aguayo, PK Banks and Auston Bunsen launched CBlocks, a mystery box of cryptocurrency, on Jan. 16. Their idea: To give anyone access to investment in cryptocurrencies without being a blockchain expert.

Despite January being a wild ride down for Bitcoin, the Miami startup still sold over 320 CB Wallets worth $17,000 in just two weeks, selling out twice.

“I have been interested in cryptocurrency for some years now in my personal life,” said Bunsen, in a press release. “But we’ve realized that the process of getting started was too difficult and fairly risky because you have to trust online exchanges with your private keys.”

How it works: Users choose how much to invest from the four CB Wallet tiers available ranging from $75 to $500. A proprietary algorithm loads your CB Wallet with a unique set of five alt-coins at random from the top 300 on CoinMarketCap. Your CB Wallet in the form of an encrypted USB arrives at your house by mail in a collectors case until you decide you want to open it. 

While Bitcoin’s rise and recent plunge has grabbed the headlines, CBlocks loads the mystery box with so-called alternative coins (alt-coins), a lesser-known but fast-growing segment that accounts for roughly $11 billion in daily transaction volume.

CBlocks takes $50 for processing, so a CB Wallet costing  $500 wallet would contain $450 worth of cryptocurrency. Because of demand, the startup has temporarily paused orders and hopes to start accepting orders again within the next three to five days.

“We think this is a no-brainer way to get started in crypto,” Aguayo said. More info: https://www.cblocks.io

Pumped up to save money in 2018? 'Priceline for gas' launches in South Florida


Getupside
From Uber drivers to I-95 commuters to soccer moms, Floridians spend an average of $2,900 annually on gas. What if there were a Priceline-like app to slash that cost burden?

Now there is. On Tuesday, GetUpside launched service in Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach County, where more than 400 gas stations are offering exclusive deals through the app.

How does it work? With the free GetUpside app, users see discounted prices from dozens of nearby gas stations – deals offering up to 25 cents cash back per gallon. Users can pick their station, pump and pay using a credit or debit card, and then upload a photo of their receipt to the GetUpside app. The cash back savings accumulate in users’ online accounts and can be cashed out at any time via check or PayPal.

The venture capital-backed startup was founded by a pair of former Googlers in 2016 in Washington, DC, where it already has 130,000 users who have saved more than $1 million dollars in cash back deals, the company said.  GetUpside incentivizes businesses to compete with one another on price in return for bringing more customers to their stores. In Washington, the app also offers deals on groceries and restaurants.

“With year-round tourism and status as a transportation hub, Florida was an obvious choice for GetUpside’s first market expansion. We are committed to helping consumers here save and businesses here grow,” said GetUpside co-founder/CEO Alex Kinnier in a press release.

By the end of 2018, more than 1,500 gas stations throughout Florida are expected on the GetUpside platform. More info: www.getupside.com

 

February 02, 2018

Exit news: Plantation-based e-Builder acquired for $500 million

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e-Builder CEO Ron Antevy in gameroom of Plantation headquarters. Miami Herald File Photo

 

South Florida construction-software company e-Builder has been acquired by Trimble, a global technology company based in Silicon Valley, for $500 million, the companies announced Friday.

Founded in 1995 by brothers Ron and Jon Antevy, e-Builder today is a company with $53 million in annual revenues and about 220 employees, sprouting from Jon's idea to transform construction technology explored in his University of Florida master’s thesis.

e-Builder has been growing at about 20 percent a year, but the Antevys wanted to expand further and believed they needed a partner to do that, CEO Ron Antevy told the Sun Sentinel. Trimble was approached but pitched the acquisition instead.

e-Builder will remain in Plantation, where it is headquartered, with the Antevys at the helm. Many of the employees reportedly had stock options so they will benefit financially from the deal, too.

Publicly-traded Trimble, which had $2.4 billion in 2016 revenues and is based in Sunnyvale, Calif., is the buyer in the cash transaction. The company provides technologies in the construction, agriculture, transportation, logistics and other industries, and it operates in 35 countries.

READ THE FULL STORY HERE.

 

January 31, 2018

With Wyncode's new UX bootcamp, students pay after they land jobs

Wyncode Academy has added a new bootcamp to its offerings: an  eight-week immersion course to help individuals jump-start careers in technology and digital design. What's more, students in the inaugural cohort will not have to make a single payment toward their tuition until they have finished the course and gained employment.

In the bootcamp, qualified students will collaborate through hands-on learning, user testing practices and client interactions led by UX specialists and career designers. Students will learn the fundamentals of UX/UI design and methodologies such as Lean UX and Design Thinking while working with design programs Sketch and InVision. The program will be led by Director of Product Design Gessica Tortolano, who has worked with companies such as Google, Samsung and the Miami Heat and recently relocated from San Francisco.

“Creating an accelerated UX/UI program was a no brainer considering Miami’s rich design presence,” said Johanna Mikkola, co-founder of Wyncode Academy. “Miami is home to an infinite talent pool of creatives, artists and designers who are seeking to elevate their careers and break into more technical roles as the city transforms into the tech capital of the sunshine state. This model shows our confidence in our team and curriculum to ultimately land Wyncode graduates jobs quickly after graduation."

After completing the program, Wyncode’s staff will place UX/UI graduates in jobs with Miami-Dade hiring partners where they can begin careers at the intersection of design and technology. "Now is the best time to tap into South Florida's growing technology market,” said Jenna Blake, Director at Wander Agency. “As a California based UX/UI specialized agency, we are excited to partner with Wyncode on their first UX/UI course to help grow Florida's technology market together."

Wyncode's hiring partners include some of South Florida’s leading companies and startups such as Royal Caribbean, Watsco Ventures and CareCloud. Per Wyncode’s independently verified outcomes report, 91 percent of Wyncode graduates in the Immersive Web Development program find jobs as programmers.

 To find more information on the UX/UI Bootcamp Course or to apply, click here.

- Submitted by Wyncode Academy

READ GUEST POST BY GESSICA TORTOLANO

LAB Ventures announces 10 finalists for Future of Travel startup pitch competition

After carefully reviewing hundreds of applications, LAB Miami Ventures has chosen the 10 most disruptive startups to pitch at the first annual Future of Travel summit. At this unique event, guests will hear keynotes and panel discussions from travel industry leaders, meet startups set to shake up TravelTech, and mingle with investors - all on Feb. 12 at the Lightbox & The Lab Miami in the Wynwood Arts District.

LAB Ventures, a company-builder that designs and launches new digital businesses, held an open call for innovative TravelTech startups and received applications from five continents.  The 10 finalists offer services ranging from rental car meta search and multi/modal travel booking, to interactive city guides and hotel management systems: Viajala (Colombia), Axle (NY, US), VoyHoy (Chile), RentingCarz (FL, US),  Porter and Sail (NY, US), Daycation (FL, US), Simplenight (FL, US), PurpleCloud Technologies (PA, US),  Soundwalkrs (Colombia) and Hotel Online (Kenya).

The startups are competing for a chance to attend Phocuswright’s Startup Battleground in Las Vegas, a spot on stage at Seatrade Global, and over $20,000 of other prizes.  The panel of expert judges include Kerri Zeil, Director of Amadeus for Startups; Noam Beno, Corporate Strategy at Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd; Seth Cassel, President of EveryMundo; Andrew Sturner, Founder of Boatsetter; and Parker Stanberry, Founder of Oasis Collection.  

A limited number of tickets are still available at futureoftravel.miami.

Meet the finalists:

Axle Travel (NY, US)  provides door-to-door ground transportation for long-distance travel. Axle works with bus companies to ensure the fastest, safest, most affordable and enjoyable trip possible.

Daycation App (FL, US)  allows users to book day-by-day access to various hotel amenities, such as the pool or spa, starting at $25 a day. Daycation allows for membership as well as individual day pass purchases.

Hotel Online (Kenya) is cloud-based reservations management and marketing system to help smaller hotels access more than 100 online sales and marketing channels.

Porter and Sail (NY, US) provides guest services technology to boutique and luxury hotel properties. These services include e-commerce platforms, guest-facing front-end mobile applications (iOS and Android), back-end operational dashboards, and industry-first analytics and data insights.

PurpleCloud Technologies (Philadelphia, US) offer a suite of mobile software products primarily for the hospitality industry. Their mobile software "Cielo" comprises of housekeeping, management, engineering and front office modules, and provides the fastest access to room status and guest information possible.

RentingCarz  (FL, US)  allows residents from Latin America and the Caribbean to compare all major car rental brands and get the lowest price when renting a car anywhere in the world.

SIMPLENIGHT (US) enables any company to provide a one-stop-shopping experience to search and book everything there is to do in any city. SIMPLENIGHT acts as merchant of record and takes commission on all inventory sold, pays transaction fees and shares the net revenue with the distribution partner.

Sound Walkrs  (Colombia) is a smartphone app that allows users to discover a new city through a series of GPS-guided, audio walks led by fictionalized versions of historical figures from a city’s past. Users can create and share their own personalized maps and find and bookmark exciting things to do within the city.

Viajala (Colombia) enables LATAM travelers to search dozens of travel sites at once, including local online travel agencies and airlines that cannot be found elsewhere. Viajala gives travel brands the opportunity to distribute and advertise their offers in front of a premium audience of LATAM travelers.

VoyHoy (Chile) is an online booking platform that allows users to compare and buy plane, bus, ferry, and train tickets throughout Latin America. VoyHoy offers simple and secure means to acquiring the best deal among thousands of travel tickets.

- Submitted by LAB Ventures Miami