June 29, 2016

Code for Fort Lauderdale to host civic hackathon July 23

By Code For Fort Lauderdale

Code for Fort Lauderdale, a local civic technology group, along with coding bootcamp Wyncode, are proud to host the Fort Lauderdale Civic Hackathon (#FTLCivicHackathon) Saturday, July 23, 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. at Axis Coworking Space in downtown Fort Lauderdale. This event is the first locally organized civic hackathon open to developers, designers, urban planners, and creatives of all types (technical and non-technical).

“We want to create an opportunity for new ideas and collaborations to emerge,” said Rob Davis, Code for Fort Lauderdale co-organizer. “Civic Hackathons are a great way for citizens to get hands-on with civic information and meet others who share the same passion for programming and volunteering.”

Participants are tasked with pitching an idea, forming a team, and attempting to build a prototype to present at the conclusion of the event. Key Challenge themes include Transportation, Water & Outdoor Recreation, Upcycling/Recycling, Non-Profits and Open Challenge.

The City of Fort Lauderdale is a proud supporter, providing not only key open data sets instrumental in addressing these challenges, but also food, drinks, and snacks to keep teams fed and energized.

Kevin Keimel, Applications Manager for the City of Fort Lauderdale and a judge for the event added, “While this is our first involvement in a local technology event, we’re excited to see what the local community can do.”

A team of local technology leaders will act as judges and will critique final presentations on Saturday evening. Related prizes will be unveiled during the opening kick-off at 8:30 a.m.

An exciting element of the event will be the presentation of practical problems from local non-profit organizations that participants will have the opportunity to tackle. Sea Turtle Oversight Protection and The Fort Lauderdale Historical Society are just two of the participating non-profits.

At the recent National Day of Civic Hacking, hosted by Code for Miami, demonstrated projects included a data visualization using White House Promised Zones data, a Facebook Chat Bot whose goal is to make it easier starting a business in Miami, and a website for affordable housing information.

“We expect to see that same ingenuity at Fort Lauderdale’s Civic Hackathon,” Rob Davis added.

Eager Civic Hackers can register at http://FTLCivicHackathon or http://ftlcivichackathon.eventbrite.com (one per guest).

Sponsorship opportunities are available at http://ftlcivichackathon.com.

EVENT DETAILS

Fort Lauderdale Civic Hackathon

Date: Saturday, July 23, 2016

Time: 8:00 a.m. - 8:00 p.m.

Location: Axis Space Coworking, 333 Las Olas Way CU 1, Fort Lauderdale, FL 33301

Registration: http://ftlcivichackathon.eventbrite.com

Web: http://ftlcivichackathon.com

June 27, 2016

Startup Spotlight: Shanti Bar founders passionate about health, attract Hope Solo

Lauren Feingold_Ashanty Williams

Shanti Bar, a line of energy and protein bars sold in more than 150 venues, is created, manufactured and distributed by a Miami-based startup. The Olympic champ and soccer star Hope Solo recently endorsed Shanti Bar as her performance bar of choice.


Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/news/business/#storylink=cpy

Company name: Organically Raw (produces Shanti Bar line of products)

Headquarters: Miami

Business: Organically Raw is aiming to disrupt the functional food bar category by introducing superfoods to the masses, and to be the leader in the high-performance, high-protein, nutrient-dense, raw superfood space. “We want to create a revolution whereby sports and active performance nutrition is fueled by natural sources and superfoods,” CEO Lauren Feingold said. The company’s first product line is Shanti Bar. To the co-founders, Shanti Bar celebrates the raw power of female excellence and beauty and supports sexual equality.

Story: Feingold and Ashanty Williams (pictured above), who both studied culinary arts and have a passion for health and wellness, met at a local gym in Miami in 2012 and became friends. Williams asked Feingold to try a Shanti Bar she developed. “Once I did, I was hooked and the two of us formed a partnership based on a mutual dynamic skill set of the culinary arts, business management and ambition to see the endeavor through.”

Most all products in the market contained loads of unnecessary ingredients and lacked nutritional and functional health benefits, Feingold said. “We believe the consumer deserves more and should have a product they can rely on whether it is at the gym, work, traveling, or on the go.”

Shanti Bar is manufactured, produced and distributed from its facilities in Miami, and this summer, Organically Raw is set to launch Shanti Bar into mainstream retailers. While the market is crowded with competitors, this 100 percent raw, vegan and organic product has a secret weapon: Olympic champion Hope Solo.

Hope Solo (4)

Solo said “the brand represents the idea of what a powerful and purposeful woman is” and last month endorsed the Shanti Bar as her “performance bar of choice.”

“Female entrepreneurs are a very strong and vibrant community, and they want to help each other,” said Solo, who was already a fan and regular customer of Shanti Bar. “I’m excited to work with Lauren and Ashanty — they’re incredible women who want to chart their own path and have found something they love and believe in.”

The energy and protein bars are sold in nearly 150 locations in South Florida, including Tunies Natural Market, Beehive, One Hotel, The Standard, Soho House, Native Sun Grocers, Juice n Java and Miami Cafe, and are now distributed nationally in New York, Colorado, California, Georgia, Oregon and Nevada.

Company launched: March 2015

Management team: Lauren Feingold, CEO; Ashanty Williams, COO; Zussy Williams, facility manager.

Employees: 31

Website: shanti.bar

Financing: Mainly self-financed. Obtained a few equipment loans.

Milestones: Partnership with Hope Solo, a two-time Olympic Gold Medalist and FIFA World Cup Champion goalie, was announced in May. Also this year, the company further automated its production in order to manufacture mass quantities and launched a new flavor, Acai Lush, in its Shanti Bar Mini line.

Biggest startup challenge: “There isn’t anything easy about it,” Feingold said. “But probably the biggest challenge has been penetrating the natural channel’s mainstream retailers and mass market key accounts.”

Next steps: The company is working with a broker to help take Shanti Bar nationwide. It also plans to participate in various trade shows outside of its natural channel — for example, Shanti Bar could be marketed for hiking, biking, camping, skiing, etc.

“Ashanty and I are dedicated and determined to make a positive impact in the world of health and wellness nutrition and sports and active performance nutrition,” Feingold said.

Nancy Dahlberg @ndahlberg

[Read more Startup Spotlights here and here and see more small business coverage here.]

SHANTI Bar_Group

June 26, 2016

Entrepreneurship Datebook: Workshops, events in South Florida this week

Tech eggStartup Funding 101: Do you have a business idea or product that needs funding? A Founder Institute beginner fundraising workshop, 6:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. Tuesday, June 28, WeWork, 350 Lincoln Road. More info: http://FI.co/events

Founder Institute Graduate Startup Panel: Network with local graduates of the Founder Institute Fort Lauderdale chapter and learn about the program, 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Tuesday, June 28, General Provision, 525 NW 1st Ave., Fort Lauderdale. More info: http://FI.co/events

Dawnings: A new event with meditation and yoga, discussions with mindful entrepreneurs and healthy networking to start the day, 6 a.m. to 9 a.m. Wednesday, June 29, The LAB Miami, 400 NW 26th St., Wynwood. Tickets and more info: dawnings.co

Waffles After Work: Evening networking event modeled after the weekly morning #WaffleWednesday, 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Wednesday, June 29, LiveNinja, 120 NW 25th St., Loft #301, Miami. More info on Eventbrite.

StartUP FIU: Free speaker series will feature Startup FIU Director Bob Hacker and Wyncode coding bootcamp co-founder Johanna Mikkola; will include a coding 101 session, 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Thursday, June 30, FIU’s Ryder Building. More info on Eventbrite.

The State of Miami’s Tech Hub: Real or Hype? The second quarterly panel discussion and Q&A with tech community leaders hosted by Jurnid Sessions will be 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Thursday, June 30, Building.co, 120 SW Eights St. More info on Eventbrite.

StartupBlink June Networking Event: Meet new people and build your network at this StartHub Miami event, 7 p.m. Thursday, June 30, 766 W Flagler Street, 9th Floor, Miami. More info on meetup.com

Have an entrepreneurship-focused event listing you would like considered for Entrepreneurship Datebook? Email it to ndahlberg@miamiherald.com and put “Datebook” in the message line.

Starting Gate

Find startup news and community views on the Starting Gate blog on MiamiHerald.com/business.

Nancy Dahlberg @ndahlberg

 

June 23, 2016

3 South Florida companies make Forbes’ list of innovative growth companies

South Florida companies Ultimate Software in Weston, Mednax in Sunrise and Opko Health of Miami made Forbes' 2016 list of the 100 "Most Innovative Growth Companies" in the world.

Ultimate Software, which provides software for human resources, ranked No. 8; Opko Health, a pharmaceutical company ranked No. 21; and Mednax, a national physician network, came in at No. 65.

For Ultimate Software, it was the third year in a row ranking in the top 10; Ultimate ranked 7th in 2015 and 8th in 2014. “We remain focused on innovation and growth, consistently investing approximately 20 percent of our annual revenue in research and development and are committed to creating a culture that encourages new ideas,” said Scott Scherr, Ultimate Software’s CEO, president, and founder, in a statement.

To make the list, companies with seven years of public financial data and a total market value of $2 billion to $10 billion were ranked by a formula that includes the company's income and anticipated growth.  No. 1 on the list: Rightmove, a London-based residential and commercial property company.

To see the full list, go here.

Read more about Ultimate Software here. To see a Sun Sentinel slide show of Ultimate Software’s new building, go here.

Cooking up a combo: Hispanicize Media Group buys majority stake in Hispanic Kitchen

Hispkitch2

HispkitchenBy Nancy Dahlberg/ ndahlberg@miamiherald.com


Hispanic Kitchen
, a Miami-based food website with a large social media following, looked mighty tasty to Hispanicize Media Group, which was looking to expand its digital media reach with brands.

“Hispanic Kitchen is a remarkable digital and social media platform for brands that want to engage audiences that are inspired by Latino culture and its passion for food, recipes and cooking in general,” said Manny Ruiz, founder and CEO of Hispanicize Media Group, the holding company for the annual Hispanicize event and DiMe Media.

Ruiz’s company recently announced it has acquired a majority stake in the Latino food media company. As part of the transaction, both Miami-based online advertising network Salvo Group and Hispanic Kitchen founder Jorge Bravo will own minority interests. Terms of the transaction were not disclosed.

This transaction is the first in a series of acquisitions that Hispanicize Media Group plans to enhance its expansion into digital media. “Combining the synergies of Hispanic Kitchen with our DiMe Media influencer network means we can now serve brands an incomparable 360-degree online solution that incorporates premium advertising, programmatic advertising, video integrations, social media engagement and influencer network marketing,” said Ruiz in the press release.

Founded in 2009 by veteran journalist Bravo, HispanicKitchen.com and its social media channels reach a combined 1.6 million monthly users. The newly re-launched website features a database of thousands of Latino recipes with 85 percent of its traffic coming from mobile devices and 90 percent driven by all major social platforms, especially Facebook, with nearly 1.2 million engaged fans.

“It's been a venture and an adventure,” Bravo said on his Facebook page. “I guess this is where I look back at what began as just an idea bouncing around in my head to where it is now, a growing, and much-loved food platform. We've had bumps along the way, but our fans have stuck with us. I value their loyalty and good wishes. I'm excited to begin this new chapter.”

Bravo, who like Ruiz formerly worked in the Miami Herald newsroom, said Hispanicize Media Group bought a minority stake in the company last year and they began working together, allowing the companies time to explore a larger partnership. “What we are trying to do is make HK the top destination for people looking for Latin flavors. This acquisition and the resources it provides ... brings the pieces together to help us get there. It’s been a seamless collaboration. ... We fully expect to be a major player in the space.”

Hispanic Kitchen will be led by Hispanicize Media Group’s Chief Operations Officer Piera Jolly. Bravo will continue as editorial director, overseeing the company’s team of writers and video producers. 

“When you start something like this you never know where it is going to go, but I knew there was a need because our fans told us so,” said Bravo. “We’re continuing to work on the product to meet that need and feed that hunger.”

June 22, 2016

Two Thiel Fellows are gaming entrepreneurs from Fort Lauderdale

Two Fort Lauderdale men were among  The Thiel Foundation's 2016 class of 29 Thiel Fellows announced today. The fellowship provides young people with $100,000 to learn by doing rather than by following conventional paths like college. This year’s cohort was selected from more than 6,000 applications received from around the world.

“We launched the fellowship in 2011 to test a simple thesis: college isn’t right for everyone—especially for young people who want to create new things,” said Blake Masters, president of the Thiel Foundation. “This has been proven true—by the successes of our past fellows, by the new applications we get every year, and by the growing numbers of young people who are creating their own career paths outside of college, with or without a fellowship from us.”

Thiel Fellows receive mentorship and guidance from current and former fellows, as well as from the Thiel Foundation’s network of technology entrepreneurs, investors, and scientists. The Fort Lauderdale fellows, both involved in gaming startups,  are:

Joey Levy (now living in New York)
Quizr
Sports Gaming
Joey founded Draftpot, a daily fantasy sports platform, from his dorm room in 2014. He is now working on Quizr, a sports betting application that launches in Europe in late 2016.

Matthew Salsamendi (along with James Boehm) (now living in Seattle, WA)
Beam
Social Gaming
Matt and  James co-founded Beam, an interactive live-streaming platform for gamers. Beam lets viewers of live-streamed video game sessions get involved in the game, influencing gameplay in real time.

 

 

SPC Cyber Security launches with multi-year investment from South Florida company

By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

With funding from a large, established South Florida security services company, a team of cyber solution consultants have formed SPC Cyber Security to assist companies of all sizes with the growing threat of cyberattacks, offering services aimed at detecting a threat, and educating companies, before a potential attack occurs.

Kent Services made a multi-year investment in SPC Cyber Security, beginning with $225,000 for year one. Kent Services oversees several brands – Kent Technologies, Kent Facial Recognition and Kent Remote Monitoring, with full-service offices in New York City, Atlanta, Houston, Dallas, Minneapolis, Portland and Seattle.

A recent survey by Gartner estimates that $77 billion in IT security was spent in 2015 with $101 billion predicted to be spent annually by 2018.  “Cyber crime is occurring online at an alarming rate especially to small and medium sized companies, with and without their knowledge,” said Regan Marock, CEO of SPC Cyber Security, adding that the SPC team is comprised of former U.S. and Israeli government agents. “The keys to detecting and avoiding these data breaches and cyber threats are to proactively assess systems and areas of vulnerability, educate employees and constantly monitor network data.”

Miami startup Bvddy, a sports players' matchmaking app, closes $1.5 million in funding


BvddyuppngThe Bvddy iOS app matches up sports buddies; funding will help fuel national expansion.

By Nancy Dahlberg / @ndahlberg


Bvddy
, an iOS app that enables sports players to connect with sports partners, announced that it has closed $1.5 million in seed capital to expand into new cities. The funding is led by Latin American IDC Group and former BlueKite CEO and current PayPal executive Bobby Aitkenhead, Bvddy said.

Bvddy (formerly called SportsBuddy, which launched in January 2015) features proprietary Smart Matching algorithms that learn about players over time, including how often they play, location, actual skill level, punctuality, and competitive spirit, to  provide the most accurate matches. Prior to closing its seed round, the company said it raised $715,000 in angel financing to develop its technology and test the concept within the sports community.

“It’s a significant challenge for adult sports players to find other people to play the sports they love with, and it can be particularly hard to find others at the same level of skill and experience,” said Bvddy founder and CEO Pedro Ast, an avid tennis player, in the press release. “Bvddy was created to solve this problem.”

How Bvddy works: Once users have downloaded the app and created a profile, they can then search for other people to play specific sports with based on location, skill level, and other criteria. Users can communicate with other players, schedule times and locations to play, review skills, as well as find local venues. They also can discover activities, create public or private sporting events, and rate opponents.

Expansion plans include Bvddy’s launch on Android, as well as in San Francisco, Los Angeles and other major U.S. cities in 2016, Ast said.

June 21, 2016

A case study for helping companies grow: Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses

Locally, 10,000 Small Businesses at Miami Dade College has helped 230 companies grow their businesses, adding revenue and jobs. Revenues have more than doubled for Miami entrepreneur Enrique Torres’ business, Excellent Fruit & Produce. Still, challenges remain for small businesses, as a new study by Babson College shows.

Enrique

Enrique Torres, owner of Excellent Fruit & Produce in Miami.

 

By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

Nearly 62 percent of small businesses in America have four or fewer employees, and we know in South Florida that number tops 90 percent.

Helping small businesses scale offers enormous, and largely untapped potential in creating new jobs and generating economic development, according to a new report titled “The State of Small Business in America” by Babson College.

“We all benefit if we are able to foster a vibrant entrepreneurial ecosystem that best supports ongoing small business growth and job creation in America,” said Babson College President Kerry Healey. “Public and private sectors must work together to support small businesses, which comprise 99 percent of all U.S. employer firms and which account for more than half of the private sector’s net new jobs over the past two decades.”

More than 1,800 businesses across the United States were surveyed for the report. Most of them were participants in Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses, a national program available in South Florida that helps existing small businesses grow. Key findings included:

Obtaining capital remains a big hurdle. Small businesses are four times more likely to go to a bank for capital needs. Looking across all sources of capital, survey respondents apply for a median amount of $100,000, but receive only 40 percent of what they seek. Businesses say they need more flexible loan terms.

Business owners find regulation both difficult and time-consuming. On average, four hours per week is spent dealing with government regulations and tax compliance, which totals over 200 hours per year.

The skills gap is overwhelmingly a small business owner’s No. 1 issue with respect to hiring. Over 70 percent of respondents find it difficult to hire qualified employees because they say potential candidates lack the requisite skill sets — over and above competition for talent, salary requirements, and the provision of benefits.

This new report comes out on the heels of the Kauffman Foundation’s Index of Growth Entrepreneurship ranking the Miami area as second to last among metro areas for scale-up businesses. Yet the 10,000 Small Businesses Program, among other programs, is directly addressing the very issue of helping existing small businesses to scale, including assistance with capital raising, navigating government regulations, and team building.

And it’s working.

Nationally, over about six years, 10KSB with program locations in 22 states has now served more than 6,100 businesses, representing more than $5 billion in total revenues and more than 80,000 employees. Nationally, more than 60 percent of program alumni have added jobs 30 months after graduating with average job growth at the rate of 114 percent, and 82 percent of program alumni have increased revenues by an average rate of 106 percent within 30 months.

John Hall, executive director of the 10,000 Small Businesses at Miami Dade College program, said the growth trends of local 10KSB graduates have been consistent with the national averages. The local, free 16-week 10KSB program, which uses Babson’s curriculum and supplements the education with individual mentorship and a sharp focus on growth strategy, kicked off its first cohort in early 2014.

Enrique Torres, who owns Excellent Fruit & Produce in Miami, was part of Cohort No. 1. Since graduating in May 2014, he said his company, a fresh produce distributor to restaurants, hotels and hospitals in the region, has more than doubled revenues and employees. Through the program’s workshops, “I discovered the identity of my company,” he said, and that resulted in a complete re-branding, from new trucks to the design of the produce boxes.

Torres said he learned how to hire smarter, professionalize procedures, add technology to make the company more efficient and, in essence, “using all the tools to attain your goals.” Networking with fellow entrepreneurs who are outside his industry was also very valuable, he said. The homegrown company that he has owned since 2005 now has 16 full-time employees.

Locally, 39 companies are enrolled in Cohort 8, the largest class yet for the business education program that launched at Miami Dade College in September 2013 with $5 million in funding from Goldman Sachs.

“The local program has served a total of 230 businesses to date, representing more than 3,900 jobs throughout Greater Miami and more than $340 million in aggregate revenues,” Hall said.

The 10KSB program at Miami Dade College’s Wolfson Campus runs several cohorts every year. Applicants should own or co-own a business in operation for at least two years, with at least $150,000 in revenues in the most recent fiscal year. To apply, visit http://www.10KSBapply.com or call or call 305-237-7824.

Babson College is also involved locally in launching the Women Innovating Now (WIN) Lab, a new Miami accelerator program that aims to help female entrepreneurs start and grow businesses. Find out more about WINLab here.

Follow Nancy Dahlberg on Twitter @ndahlberg. Read more small business coverage here.

June 19, 2016

Startup Spotlight: Need a ride? Freebee revs up to expand

Startupspotlight

 

By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@MiamiHerald.com

The free short-haul ride service in downtown Miami and Miami Beach has added an app, vehicles and territory. Working with the Small Business Development Center, Freebee has a multi-city expansion plan.


Company name: Freebee

Headquarters: Wynwood

Concept: Freebee is changing the way people experience Miami, moving customers short distances with free electric transportation. Each Freebee car hosts its own marketing campaign for national brands and local businesses.

Story: After graduating from the University of Miami with business management degrees and working a few sales jobs to keep financially afloat, Jason Spiegel and Kris Kimball (pictured above) quit their 9-5s and took the entrepreneurial plunge. “The mix of creativity, fun and the overhanging theme of a better, greener tomorrow were the elements that drove us to pull the trigger on Freebee,” said Spiegel. “We always had it in our minds that we would create something special.”

The co-founders purchased six open-air vehicles — think oversize golf carts — and they were off. The idea was that each vehicle would be branded for one of Freebee’s clients — some of which now include Pepsi, Anheuser-Busch, Jack Daniels, "T-Mobile, Vita Coco, Goya and Related Group. Along with advertising on the inside and outside of the vehicles — indeed, Vita Coco’s Freebees carry a custom built coconut rack on the roof — the drivers become brand ambassadors, providing riders with brand information and coupons and surveying users for feedback.

Service began in South Beach, and by the end of 2014 Freebee launched in Brickell. It now serves South Beach and Mid-Beach as well as Brickell to the Design District with 28 vehicles. Riders can hail a ride through the free “Ride Freebee” mobile app as well as flag a vehicle down.

“The app also gives tourists and locals insight into deals, discounts and “Places To Bee” in the greater Miami area,” Spiegel said. “We promote a greener tomorrow, while also spreading the word about great local establishments and national brands.”

Now the company is revving up with a big expansion strategy.

Launched: September 2012

Management team: Managing Partners Jason Spiegel and Kris Kimball; Matt Friedmann, Business Development; Operations and Logistics Managers Marcellus Johnson, Bryan Jobe and Chris Walker; Directors of Fleet Maintenance Josh Del Sol and Carlos Hernandez.

No. of employees: 43, including in-house designers who create vehicle campaigns and experiences.

Website: www.ridefreebee.com

Financing: Self-funded plus a $450,000 working capital loan from C1 Bank and a $175,000 economic development grant from Miami-Dade County.


Startup2Recent milestones reached:
Launched the Ride Freebee mobile app in October, already generating more than 15,000 downloads. About 60 percent of Freebee’s rides are now requested through the app. Added vehicles in current territories.

Biggest startup challenge: Building a team. Freebee turned to mentors from the Small Business Development Center at Florida International University for guidance on team-building and growth strategy.

Next steps: The mobile app technology has opened the door to more revenue streams, including in-app promotions and data collection, as well as the ability to scale the business to other major cities. But first Freebee’s plans are to expand further in Miami-Dade County.

Strategy for next steps: “Innovation and execution are the key,” Spiegel said. “By partnering and combining key components, we believe that we can scale this business to 50-plus cars in any market, further expanding the known marketing real estate in a given territory, as well as increasing engagement and usage activity levels.”

Follow Nancy Dahlberg on Twitter @ndahlberg. Read another Startup Spotlight here and see more small business coverage here.