Asana Medical of Miami Lakes a big winner in 43North competition in New York

Asana Medical, a medical device company based in Miami Lakes, is a top finalist and $250,000 winner in New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo’s 43North, one of the world’s largest business idea competitions. Asana was chosen from nearly 7,000 applications to the contest.

The 11 finalist teams from around the world competed in front of a panel of judges today  in Buffalo, N.Y., to win one of the 43North cash prizes: the top prize of $1 million, one of six $500,000 prizes, or four $250,000 prizes. Winners also received free incubator space in Buffalo for a year, guidance from mentors in related fields, and access to other business incentive programs such as Start-UpNY. 

Asana Medical seeks to improve the quality of one’s health and therefore quality of life by providing a novel treatment for debilitating digestive diseases with a patent-pending medical device that stimulates the body to heal itself. Asana Medical offers a drug-free, surgery-free twist on a proven therapy and targets the $9 billion ulcerative colitis market. 

Asana is an early-stage company founded in May of 2013, currently with three employees and additional consultants, said co-founder and CEO Marc Ramer, who has 20 years experience as a biomedical engineer. The other cofounders are Christine Sapan, with 35 years' experience in the biopharmaceutical industry, and Gerard S. Coombs and Richard C. Bulman, who have experience starting and growing companies and have had exits, said Ramer.

Ramer said participating in the contest was "really stimulating" and a "first-rate, professional and positive experience." The other contestants as well as 43North staff were "warm and welcoming," he said.

The million-dollar winner was ASi, of Tonawanda, NY, with the rapid metal forming process that aims to transform manufacturing by providing superior performing components that cost less.

Other winners came from the New York and the Northeast, the Midwest, Canada, Scotland and Taiwan. Asana was the only other Florida company.  Many but not all were biotech, medical or healthcare companies. Other winning concepts included a clean-tech system that converts wasted kinetic energy from braking vehicles into renewable electricity; a fan-less cooling system and a productivity app.  

A total of 6,932 business ideas were initially submitted for the 43North competition’s first round, which took place Feb. 5 through May 31. From a pool of 2,603 qualified submissions, 113 semifinalists were selected to advance to the second round through a formal, month-long review period conducted by more than 269 judges from an array of professional sectors.

Eleven finalists, including Asana, advanced to the third and final round of the competition to vie for the  series of cash prizes. All winners will be required to locate their companies in Buffalo, New York, for one year under the  terms of the competition.

Ramer was apartment shopping on Thursday. Asana and the other finalists will relocate by Jan. 1, just in time for winter! 

Posted Oct. 30, 2014



Büro coming to MiMo: Opening 3rd Miami area coworking center in early 2015

BuromimoThe wave of coworking expansion continues to roll: Büro Group will be opening its next upscale coworking center in Miami’s hip MiMo District in early 2015.

Büro MiMo, to be located in the iconic Coppertone Building located at 7300 Biscayne Boulevard, will consist of 11,000 square feet of flexible workspace designed for entrepreneurs and creative companies.

Büro MiMo will be the third location for the fast-growing young company, following its flagship in Midtown Miami in 2010, which recently doubled in size, and its expansion to Sunset Harbour last year.

“We are thrilled to be further expanding the Büro community, which now includes over 200 dynamic companies from a wide range of industries,” says Büro founder and CEO Michael Feinstein. “And we are excited to bring more talent and energy to Biscayne Boulevard’s MiMo.” In addition to occupying roughly half of the Coppertone Building, Büro is also a part-owner of the property, alongside local investor Greenstreet Capital.

Brad Safchik of Greenstreet is bullish on the rapidly changing MiMo District. “The neighborhood is clearly emerging as a hotspot and creative hub. With the recent re-development of the Vagabond and all the new restaurant openings, I think it’s a very compelling real estate opportunity.” In addition to Büro, popular local brands Jugofresh and Panther Coffee have recently announced new locations in the MiMo District as well.

Büro will be taking reservations for its  new location  starting in January.

 Posted Oct. 28, 2014

Rokk3r Labs announces details on cobuilding methodology

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Rokk3r Labs, an innovative platform for entrepreneurs to create and launch companies, today announced more details on its cobuilding methodology to transform industries. Miami-beach based Rokk3r Labs has grown to over 80 employees, with offices in Miami and Bogotá. It plan to open offices in the next few months in New York City and London, the company said last week.

In a breakfast last week for media and in its press release today, the team explained that cobuilding is the fusion of entrepreneurial vision and professional execution that transforms ideas into companies by focusing on 5 key areas:

1.     Sourcing proven entrepreneurs who understand how to build businesses.

2.     Validating the ideas that these entrepreneurs have through Rokk3r Labs’ thorough and methodical “Think Phase”, where product/market fit, technology roadmap, funding structure and go-to-market strategy are defined.

3.     Taking ideas that go through the “Think Phase” into an execution phase where the entrepreneur partners with the strategists, creatives and engineers at Rokk3r Labs to transform ideas into companies.  This involves execution of a business roadmap, user experience and interaction, product & platform design, technology build and the go-to-market strategy.

4.     Launching companies to market with proper support to ensure growth and traction.

5.     Continuing to support portfolio companies within the Rokk3r Labs cobuilding ecosystem, where expert resources in marketing, HR, future investment, partnership and business development opportunities are available. This includes partnering with  Knight Sky Capital to help with early-stage funding. 

BBB00 Bizmon News rk Leading  Rokk3r Labs are co-founders Nabyl Charania, CEO, and Germán Montoya, chief strategy and creative officer. Charania, a serial entrepreneur and mathematician with over 15 years of executive experience, and Montoya, an economist and strategic visionary with almost two decades of product delivery and business development experience, along with their co-founders, created an ecosystem for experienced entrepreneurs to partner with strategists and experienced leaders to build a company.

 “We created a platform to source and vet the right entrepreneur and deals, in a way that is profitable and results in strong equity positions,” said Charania. “At Rokk3r Labs, entrepreneurs can build their company within an ecosystem that has experience across the lifecycle of a company from an idea to execution without the risk of being on their own.”

Coming soon is a Rokk3r-produced interview series with journalist Lilia Luciano interviewing successful entrepreneurs, many from the Miami community, said Charania. Last year, it put on RokkMiami for the community.

In under two years, Rokk3r Labs has introduced 21 proven entrepreneurs into its ecosystem. Eight companies that Rokk3r Labs launched this year achieved their funding and strategic milestones. Rokk3r Labs success stories include LocalMaven, that raised over $1.4 million, and AdMobilizethat raised over $2.8 million.

 "We know we can bring together expertise to help the companies," said Charania. "Together we transform industries."

Read a recent Herald Q&A with German Montoya here.

Posted Oct. 28, 2014. Photo at top shows Rokk3r at work earlier this year and second photo shows co-founders German Montaya, Juan Montoya and Nabyl Charania of Rokk3r Labs in 2013. Photos by Miami Herald staff.


Q&A with Norma Kenyon: Powering UM innovation

By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

NormakenyonNorma Kenyon and her team are on a mission.

“When I became vice provost of innovation in 2012, the University of Miami did not have a robust history of commercialization,” said Kenyon, who is also chief innovation officer at the UM Miller School of Medicine, a veteran faculty member and a longtime diabetes researcher. “We had patents and technologies, but we did not have a focus on getting them to market. … We now have a renewed emphasis on commercialization and entrepreneurship, and while most of our technology is driven by the medical school, we are increasing our outreach to our other colleges.”

To that end, Kenyon leads U Innovation, which aims to nurture and commercialize University of Miami technologies to result in more patents, more licenses and, ultimately, more successful companies.

U Innovation consists of the Wallace H. Coulter Center for Translational Research (WHCC), focused on funding and support toward commercialization of promising biomedical research, as well as the university-wide Office of Technology Transfer, responsible for negotiating and executing agreements for commercialization of all UM intellectual property. U Innovation has an office at the UM Life Science and Technology Park.

To rejuvenate and run the Tech Transfer office, Kenyon hired Jim O’Connell away from the University of Michigan in June of 2013 because of his expertise with business development, technology transfer and startups.

So far, the strategy is working: In the past two years, there has been a dramatic spike in the numbers of companies started as well as patents and licenses issued. Some of these companies are working on treatments for cancer, spinal cord injuries, kidney disease and asthma as well as early detection of head and neck cancer and heart disease.

The Miami Herald talked with Kenyon recently about U Innovation, trends she is seeing in the life science industry, and UM’s role in the South Florida entrepreneurial ecosystem.

Q. Tell us more about your mission in your role as vice provost of innovation.

A. In this role, my mission is to support our innovative faculty in the development of their ideas, discoveries and technologies toward commercialization, building the interactions, resources and entrepreneurial energy to capitalize on UM’s creative talent across our schools and colleges.

Q. What are your metrics for success?

A. Standard metrics include the annual number of invention disclosures, patents submitted and awarded, copyrights and trademarks, license agreements, startup companies. At the suggestion of Mike Davis, one of our licensing associates, we are setting up an "ideas portal," which would allow faculty to submit their ideas for discussion with the U Innovation team. Non-standard metrics would include the number of ideas submitted/year and identification and nurturing of those ideas that have commercial potential. As we grow the innovation ecosystem at UM, another metric will be an increased number of ideas and disclosures from across the university, as the majority of our IP [Intellectual Property] is currently biomedical.

Q. What progress has been made so far?

A. Over the last two years, the number of license agreements has increased, with 19 in FY 2013 and 26 in FY ’14. We have been covering our patent expenses and intellectual property revenues have grown. We have significantly more startups as well, in various stages of development, ranging from virtual to one that had a successful IPO in July of 2013.

I attribute our success to 1) bringing in individuals with the background to look at development of IP from a business perspective, 2) refocusing the Office of Technology Transfer (OTT) on commercialization of technologies, following IP from invention disclosure through the various stages of patenting and making the difficult decisions not to pursue patents when commercial partners cannot be identified, 3) working with commercial partners to facilitate and streamline the process of licensing, 4) strengthening of the interaction between the WHCC and OTT to more fully support commercialization of our biomedical research, 5) the “Coulter process,” which provides a road map for development of technology toward commercialization, 6) a focus on customer service — we are here to support our innovators and 7) engagement of leadership and all of UM’s schools and colleges to identify next steps in the development of our innovation ecosystem, as well as involvement of business, law, communications and other students in U Innovation commercialization activities.

Q. What’s next? Are there any interesting projects on the horizon that you can talk about?

A. We need to significantly expand our outreach and role, at UM, in the local (South Florida) ecosystem and beyond. There is an interesting project on the horizon that could bring together some of our larger institutions in development of research towards commercialization. If successful, such a project would position us as a region to be considered for funding from the National Science Foundation, National Institutes of Health and other federal funding that requires “clusters” of innovation.

Q. How does the UM Life Science and Technology Park fit in to your mission and strategy?

A. The LSTP is the nexus for the commercialization of our technologies, providing an interface with the greater entrepreneurial community in Miami, the region, the U.S. and around the world. Wexford Science and Technology, our partner at LSTP, has connected UM to other Wexford parks around the country, joining forces to create an innovation ecosystem and providing information on entrepreneurial programs that have worked well. Both startups and mature companies are located at the park, thereby providing opportunities for educational and research collaborations.

Q. How many startups are you currently working with and can you tell me a little about a couple of them?

A. We are currently working with over 20 UM startups, ranging from very early stage to public. InflamaCORE is a company founded by scientists from the Departments of Physiology and Neurosurgery and the Miami Project to Cure Paralysis — Drs. Robert Keane, Dalton Dietrich, Helen Bramlett and Juan Pablo De Rivero Vaccari — and focused on diagnosis of and novel treatment for different types of CNS injury, including stroke, brain trauma and spinal cord injury; this company was awarded an NIH small business award (an STTR) and is also funded by WHCC.

Vigilant Biosciences is based on the work of a UM head and neck surgeon, Dr. Elizabeth Franzmann, and is developing a low-cost kit for assessing a person’s risk of oral cancer before any lesions appear in the mouth; Vigilant has completed a $2million Series A round and also received a loan from the Florida Institute for Commercialization of Public Research. Even further along the spectrum is Heat Biologics, based on the pioneering lung cancer vaccine work of Dr. Eckhard Podack; Heat had a successful IPO in July of 2013.

Q. How have you approached finding “CEOs” for your new startup companies?

A. We have established a mechanism to on-board “Entrepreneurs in Residence” who work with our founding scientists to develop a business plan, consider next steps and move technology out of the U. These individuals are experienced business people and entrepreneurs who are interested in working with us and willing to donate their time. If the startup succeeds, they will benefit. If not, they still will have donated valuable time and energy to UM’s innovation efforts.

Q. What are some of the trends you are seeing in the projects and companies?

A. Trends include more activities around IT in the healthcare space, including programs for assessment of wellness, tools for patient education and mobile technologies for use by healthcare providers. More programs are arising that involve multiple institutions innovating together, providing funds for projects that include members from more than one university.

Q. How do you partner with the Florida Institute for Commercialization of Public Research to help these startups get funding?

A. The Florida Institute for the Commercialization of Public Research has been an excellent partner for UM. We engage with our EIR [Entrepreneur in Residence], Alison Tanner, to discuss newly emerging companies that are based on UM IP and explore the possibility of FICPR funding. Alison talks with the founders and assists them with business advice and guidance through the steps required to be approved for a loan. To date, five of our UM startups have received dollars from the institute: Vigilant Biosciences, Biscayne Pharmaceuticals, Heart Genomics, Integene International Holdings and RxMP Therapeutics.

Q. Has UM thought about starting a fund or an incubator for these companies?

A. Yes, we are in active discussions with university leadership regarding a fund for our emerging companies. There are incubators and funding programs for tech-based startups in Miami now, but we lack a subsidized incubator/co-working laboratory space for early-stage biomedical startups in which the company can rent a bench or part of a bench and have access to shared resources — this is something that I am currently exploring. Companies that are a little more advanced in their funding have access to space in LSTP in the Innovation Center. We are proud to have a few UM spinouts and startups in the center, along with 35 other companies, ranging from early stage to mature.

Q. Finish this sentence: South Florida’s life sciences industry really needs…

A. … fundable management, i.e., experienced business people who are able to manage and attract funding, as well as capital.

Q. Do you collaborate with other South Florida or Florida universities to help propel the life sciences industry? If so, in what way, or what would you like to see?

A. Through the efforts of FIU, the Life Sciences South Florida initiative encompasses several universities and colleges, including UM, and engages in discussions and activities around education, economic development and other issues pertinent to the life sciences. Through our Clinical Translational Science Institute, we hold a research day called “CaneSearch” meant to bring together researchers from across the university; we also invite local institutions to participate. The theme for the 2015 event will be Translational Research, and speakers will include the director of the Division of Clinical Innovation in the NIH National Center for the Advancement of Translational Sciences, two industry speakers and one of our most successful entrepreneurs. Our UM Biomedical Nanotechnology Institute and FIU have started a joint funding program. More is needed and we will all benefit from collaboration.

I’d like to see more opportunities for funds at both the seed stage (e.g., to produce a device prototype) and further along the spectrum toward commercialization, similar to WHCC projects. With $2.9million for 34 funded projects, over $60million of follow-on dollars (business grants, angel investors, VC) has resulted from WHCC supported projects. Many of our UM startups have received WHCC funding and support. While UM has focused on biomedical projects, the Coulter process could be effectively applied to many types of technologies.

Q. Do you see South Florida becoming a healthcare innovation hub?

A. With over 3,300 hospital beds, more than 1.5million outpatient visits a year and several institutes that are thought leaders, the Miami Health District is a healthcare innovation hub. The infrastructure and talent are here but we need to market and leverage our institutions and capabilities to attract the right companies and investors.

We are seeing great movement in the tech sector and there is a buzz in South Florida, with eMerge Americas, tech incubators and companies founded here actually staying here. This same focused drive to create the environment for a tech hub needs to occur for the life sciences.

Follow @ndahlberg on Twitter.


At a Glance: Norma Kenyon

Title: Vice provost of innovation, University of Miami; chief innovation officer, UM Miller School of Medicine; research scientist for Type 1 Diabetes.

Oversees: U Innovation, the home of technology advancement at the University of Miami that serves to bridge in-house laboratory research and companies, entrepreneurs and investors. The office is comprised of the Office of Technology Transfer and the Wallace H. Coulter Center for Translational Research.

Board appointments: NIH Council of Councils, BioFlorida, Life Sciences South Florida, Enterprise Development Corporation.

Education: Ph.D. in immunology, Medical College of Virginia; bachelor of science in zoology, Duke University.

Best advice received: From my father, “never give up, never give up, never give up!”


Posted Oct. 27, 2014; Photo of Norma Kenyon by Carl Juste of the Miami Herald.

Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/news/business/biz-monday/article3365794.html#storylink=cpy

Reflections on Tech Weekend @ The Dolphins

Welcome to the event

By Frank E. Haggar

Tech Weekend @ The Dolphins was held on Oct 25/26th at Sun Life Stadium.  The event was filled with activities, including a Hackathon, Teach-a-thon, Coding Track, IT Track and a variety of user group meetings.  The size and layout of the event had to be seen in person, as it kept going on and on.  Just when you thought you’d come to the end, there would be more rooms and more events further down the hall. There were over 900 registered attendees.  Even with the distraction of beautiful S. Fla weather, over 450 came to the free event the first day, and 100 the second.  

Tery Howard Keynote 2Folks from all age groups were in attendance, from 5th graders to retired programmers that wanted to get back into the community.   The Ranger Kids were all dressed in matching orange T-Shirts, drawing attention as they paraded through the large stadium layout.    Tery Howard, CTO for the Dolphins (pictured here), gave a keynote address. The attendees learned, and then networked afterwards, sharing what they’d discovered.  The hackers worked feverishly to get their latest ideas into presentable form.   

The presentations included ideas like ways to help cut lines at the women’s restrooms, how to use the stadium for other events like Tech Weekend, how to use the time between plays to add extra excitement with the game by earning game tokens for trivia and micro-bets, and it even spilled out into the parking lot where an app showed how to have the perfect tailgating event.  There were so many exciting ideas that it must have been near impossible to select a winner.  Some of the strongest statements happened when an investor from the crowd told an attendee he would back her idea even before she finished her presentation.  The IT judge from the Dolphins said he’d use one of the apps as a statistician and scorekeeper for the Dolphins.  Even the event organizers jumped on board as we plan to use the app to help us organize our Tech Tailgating @ The Dolphins for the November 13th game against the Buffalo Bills.

EventsI found the best comment of all when I came to my desk Monday morning.  I’d received an invitation to connect on LinkedIn from James Stephenson, an attendee who I’d chatted with throughout the event.  He brought his daughter to the event as part of the Teach-a-thon.  She is a remarkable middle school student that was interested in the entire event.  His note to me said: "My daughter was so enthusiastic, we spent the rest of the evening together working on her projects".  As an event organizer, what more can dream for but to inspire our attendees, especially our youth, to study technology, try hard and reach for excellence?

We thank Microsoft and Citrix for their phenomenal support by staffing many of the tracks with experts and allowing us to award tickets to attendees of those tracks.    We thank the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, without whom this event would not have been possible.  And, we especially thank our hosts. The Miami Dolphins, who’s support and execution made this the largest-ever Tech Event for an NFL team, held at an NFL stadium!



Startup Spotlight: Quotanda



Headquarters: Miami

Concept: Education is now global, student financing isn’t. Quotanda is changing that. Quotanda’s technology platform provides students with affordable financing options, schools with immediate cash flow and investors with strong returns.

Story: Student financing is broken, particularly for nontraditional schools and international students, said Grant Taylor, co-founder of Quotanda (pictured above). “I saw the problems my international friends were having financing their education during my MBA at IESE Business School in Barcelona. I realized it was a global issue.”

Billions of people find their potential is limited by an education finance system that caters largely to U.S. students attending traditional institutions, and at the same time, investors are searching for yield. The Internet allows us to operate in new ways, he said, and online lenders have a significant cost advantage over traditional banks: “Quotanda’s education finance platform connects lenders with qualified borrowers; it’s just more efficient.”

In 2006, Taylor invested in the seed round of his friend Andres Moreno’s business, Open English: “Andres showed me how an innovative idea and perseverance can benefit the lives of millions. I realized the best way to scale positive change was as an entrepreneur.” Taylor said his investment in Open English provided him with startup capital: “I saw it as a chance to give others the opportunity to pursue their educational dreams.”

Quotanda2Taylor worked on the Quotanda business plan while working on his MBA at IESE Business School in Spain and launched the company there last year. With his partner Lino Pujol (pictured here) now running the business in Spain, he returned to the United States and moved to Miami earlier this year. The Quotanda team continues to grow and now includes a range of globally experienced advisors and executives including Bill Hubert, a serial entrepreneur and U.S. student lending veteran.

Launched: 2013

Management team: Grant Taylor, Bill Hubert, Lino Pujol.

Website: www.quotanda.com

Financing: Self-financed so far and seeking several million for company growth. Quotanda’s student loans (approximately 35 loans with $500,000) are financed by accredited investors, including Andres Moreno and other Open English executives, as well as professors and alumni of IESE.

Recent milestones: Teamed up with Bill Hubert, founder of Cology.com (sold in 2012 to First Marblehead), one of the top origination and servicing businesses in the U.S. “He is keen to revolutionize the student lending again and I am fortunate to be working with him,” Taylor said. Joined Venture Hive in June with advisors including Moreno, Thomas “Tigre“ Wenrich and Susan Amat. Invited to the White House by the Office of Science and Technology Policy to brainstorm expansion of private financing for accelerated learning programs. A finalist in the BBVA Open Talent 2014 for North America held in Mexico City.

Biggest startup challenge: Legal complexity of a highly regulated industry.

Next step: Launching education financing programs in the U.S. in November. Quotanda is working with forward-thinking schools, not just business schools, to provide students with innovative financing options.

Mentors’ views: “Quotanda solves an international problem in education with a simple yet effective solution. Grant's leadership goes beyond a great return to investors. His goal is to help students access educational opportunities that would otherwise be out of reach. I love startups that solve huge problems, create great financial returns, and make the world better at the same time — win-win-win,” said Amat, founder of Venture Hive, an accelerator, incubator and entrepreneurial education company.

“Grant has already proven the model can work in practice. In partnering with Bill Hubert, he will now have the technology capability required to scale up quickly,” said Wenrich, a mentor, investor and former Open English COO/CFO. “The model needs a lot of capital to fund the actual loans, which is different than the situation facing most other early-stage startups. Angel investors don’t have deep enough pockets, so we are looking for institutional lenders.”

Nancy Dahlberg'

Photo of Grant Taylor taken at Venture Hive at top of post is by Patrick Farrell of the Miami Herald

Posted Oct. 26, 2014 

Entrepreneurship Datebook

Tech eggIMPORT/EXPORT BASICS: This SCORE Miami-Dade workshop called “Develop Your Import/Export Business” is 6 to 8 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 28, Innovation Center, 1951 NW 7th Ave., Miami. $40 in advance. To register, email events@scoremiami.org or call 786-425-9119.

A CONVERSATION WITH INNOVATIVE WOMEN: A panel discussion with Dawn Dickson of Flat Out of Heels, Felecia Hatcher of Code Fever, Fatima Lalani of Blo Blow Dry Bar, and Christine Johnson of DiversiTech at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 29, at 6:30 p.m., Pipeline Brickell, 1101 Brickell. Register here.

MIAMI OPEN COFFEE CLUB: The periodic meetups are back with a new mentoring format: fireside chats and plenty of Q&A time. This month’s club will feature Xavier Cossard from Plarity and Charles Irizarry from Rokk3r Labs, 7:30 to 9 a.m. Thursday, Oct. 30, FIU Downtown on Brickell, 1101 Brickell Ave., 10th Floor. More info: Miami Open Coffee Club on Facebook.

TIGERDIRECT’S TECHBASH: TechBash will welcome 20,000 to Marlins Stadium from 7 to 11 p.m. Nov. 7 for a free event that will feature more than 150 vendors, entertainment, food, exhibits, opportunities to purchase the latest technologies at Black Friday-like prices and “many surprises,” say the organizers. For the first time, the event will also include the finals of the Build Your Own PC Race For Charity. Info: tigertechbash.com

MIAMI MINI MAKER FAIRE: This all-day, family-friendly celebration of the maker movement is back to a second year in Wynwood Nov. 8 and will include a street festival with more than 120 makers, including artists, engineers, entrepreneurs and educators. Info: makerfairemiami.com


Find posts about Endeavor Miami, eMerge Americas, Magic Leap, Scout Ventures, the Enterprise Development Corp., #305Pitch, Venture for America, MooVooZ, Jobly, Wyncode and much more last week on the Starting Gate blog. Keep up with startup news and community views on the Starting Gate blog on MiamiHerald.com/business.

 Nancy Dahlberg@ndahlberg


From Wynwood to White House, message is clear: Coding is about passion

Turns out Miami tech was well represented at the White House recently. Thank you, Johanna Mikkola, for providing an inside report. Read on...


By Johanna Mikkola

JohannaCoding is about passion.

Earlier this month, as part of Vice President Biden’s “Ready to Work Initiative,” the White House invited the founders of coding boot camps, innovative lending platforms and employers to a brainstorming session focused on increasing access for all Americans to accelerated IT learning programs like my company, Wyncode Academy, and identifying pathways for graduates of these programs to tech jobs. The Obama Administration is focusing on this effort because according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics there will be 1.4 million additional IT jobs by 2020 and only 400,000 computer science students to fill those jobs. That is a large gap to fill— and many believe that the pace of growth of these jobs is only increasing.

Throughout the day-long brainstorm, participants shared ideas with the newly appointed U.S. Chief Technology Officer Megan Smith (shown below) and Deputy Director of the National Economic Council, Byron Auguste.

CTOMeganSmithSpeaksWithGroupBrian Forde, Senior Advisor to the U.S. CTO, and Ryan Burke, Policy Advisor in the National Economy Council, helped moderate the discussion throughout the day. Brian noted, “Coding bootcamps have shown significant early success preparing students with the skills needed by employers, and the next challenge is to find ways to ensure everyone, especially those from underserved communities, have access to these training opportunities.”

At the conclusion of the day, the group agreed that to be successful as a developer, the primary ingredient needed is not an aptitude for math or calculus, but passion for the subjects.

As Adam Enbar, Co-Founder and CEO of The Flatiron School in New York City said, “It’s all about grit; passion and perseverance.” Flatiron is one of the leading code school institutions in the US and routinely receives thousands of applications for their limited available spots in their course.  

Given the demand for developers nationwide, having the passion to learn software development skills can open the doors of opportunity for a broad demographic of people from different backgrounds. Michael Rosenbaum, CEO of Catalyst IT Services, said “We have worked with major corporations and found zero correlation between college degrees and being a good software engineer.”

Becoming a developer requires hard work, passion, and a knack for problem solving. What is evident is that there could not be a better time to take the plunge and learn these skills. Employers are looking for more than just a technology expert; they are looking for a well-rounded applicant with both intellect and zeal.

“There are increasingly more roles in today’s world which can utilize developer skills,” says Tony Scott, CIO of VMware from Palo Alto, “For enterprise, the challenge is where do we find these people? Coding skills are not enough, business skills are also needed.”

Connecting employers and developers is an important link in this system. LaunchCode, an organiztion whose founder and now-resident of South Florida, Jim McKelvey,  wants to bring to Miami, was on hand to provide insight into this element of the pipeline. The LaunchCode team is working to build strong pathways to economic opportunity and upward mobility through apprenticeships and job placement in technology.

Given that motivation is the key element/factor to success in coding and that employers are ready to hire, the final area of discussion centered on the financial aspects. Quotanda, another Miami-based startup, was one of the companies that presented on this topic at the meetings. Headed by Grant Taylor, Quotanda seeks to broaden access to education by helping students connect with affordable financing.

Most states require code schools be licensed and operating for a period of multiple years before student financial aid and/or grant money applies. Wyncode Academy became the first coding bootcamp licensed by the Florida Department of Education’s Commission for Independent Education. It is an important step toward increasing access to this type of education for all students who have the grit to become tomorrow’s leading developers. 

An era where anything can be created, optimized or improved with code is just beginning. Technology is seen changing the way Americans live and conduct business every day. Flatiron’s Enbar sums up our current world when he said “if you know how to code, you have a super power!”

Find out more at www.wyncode.coWyncode Academy’s next Pitch Day event is Thursday, December 18th, 6pm at The LAB Miami. Come see what is possible after 9 weeks of coding education. Next cohort starts Jan 12, 2015, applications open now.

Johanna Mikkola  co-founded Wyncode Academy in Wynwood along with her husband, Juha. They both participated in the White House roundtable event.

Posted Oct. 25, 2014


DeliverLean, ginnybakes tapped to join Endeavor network

Four South Florida “foodpreneurs” were selected Friday to join the Endeavor network.

Www.endeavormiami.org (1)Scott Harris of DeliverLean, a fast-growing delivery service for healthy gourmet meals, and Ginny, Steve and Mike Simon of ginnybakes, maker of organic, gluten-free cookies and other treats, were selected after an intense three-day vetting process during Endeavor’s 55th International Selection Panel in Isanbul, Turkey. Entrepreneurs representing 23 companies in 12 countries were selected at this panel.

The entrepreneurs also join My Ceviche restaurant group, and technology companies KidoZen, Leapfactor and LearnerNation, all South Florida companies selected this year as Endeavor Entrepreneurs. The global nonprofit Endeavor selects, mentors and accelerates high-impact entrepreneurs around the world

“DeliverLean and ginnybakes are exemplary entrepreneurs that with their passion and the support of Endeavor Miami will have an impact in our city as we help them accelerate their growth,” said Laura Maydón, managing director of Endeavor Miami, speaking from Instanbul.

Endeavor’s International Selection Panel is the culmination of a rigorous selection process, where panels composed of top business leaders interview candidates about their businesses, high-impact leadership potential, and timing. In order for an entrepreneur to be selected, he or she must receive a unanimous vote. Endeavor Entrepreneurs receive targeted services including mentorship and access to capital, markets and talent.

DeliverLean launched in 2011 with a menu of caloricly balanced meals delivered to consumers’ homes and businesses, and has been vastly expanding its offerings. It recently opened the OnJuice BAR in Aventura, the first of several retail juice bar locations to be rolled out in South Florida. the company also launched DL Snacks, a line of raw, vegan dehydrated snacks, and expanded into the grab-and-go market, starting with salads and snacks at Juan Valdez Cafes in downtown Miami.

Next month, DeliverLean plans to launch DL revAMP, what it says is the first organic five-day plant-based food detox program on the market. DeliverLean’s expansion into New York and other major markets is on the horizon. Headquartered in Oakland Park, the company has more than 120 employees.

“Endeavor provides access to an amazing group of board members,” said Harris, DeliverLean’s founder and CEO (pictured below with his chefs),  from Istanbul. He said Endeavor has already helped him with strategy and business direction. “There’s no manual for business ... they give me advice based of hundreds of years of experience.”


Based in Miami, ginnybakes makes cookies, bars, baked mixes and other treats that are organic, gluten-free, kosher and vegan and sold locally in Publix, Whole Foods, The Fresh Market and a long list of independent retailers and restaurants. But the company, founded in 2010, is also expanding into markets all over the United States. Its products will be available in the 180-store national chain called Sprouts, for instance, as well as H&B Markets in Texas and Fairway in the New York region. Three new flavors are coming soon. Also, ginnnybakes recently ranked as the No. 2 gluten-free cookie of natural organic chains globally, said Ginny Simon. With Endeavor’s help, perhaps it could soon be No. 1.

“Endeavor makes us bigger, stronger and better in every way and we have already felt the impact of their guidance,” said Ginny Simon, CEO, who runs the company with her husband, Steve, who is the president, and her son Michael, executive vice president (pictured below). In a phone interview from Turkey, she said with Endeavor’s help, ginnybakes made a key hire, its chief operating officer, and attracted an investor from Bain Capital and plans to assemble an extraordinary advisory board.


About the new Endeavor Entrepreneurs, Matt Haggman, Miami program director of the Knight Foundation said: “It’s absolutely thrilling. It illustrates the amazing entrepreneurs we have in Miami. It also shows the power of the Endeavor network at work,” noting the feedback and advice from panelists from around the world. “This marks a terrific first year of Endeavor Miami.”

Haggman and Alberto Chang Rajii, both on Endeavor’s board, also served as panelists at the selection panel, interviewing and helping to select entrepreneurs from around the world. Haggman and the Knight Foundation were instrumental in bringing Endeavor to Miami, the first U.S. location for the global nonprofit that is in 20 countries, and provided $2 million in funding. The last selection panel of the year will be held in Miami in December.

It wasn’t lost of any of them that food-related companies are getting noticed in South Florida. Three of the six Miami-area companies selected so far have been of the culinary flavor.

“It’s exciting,” said Harris. “Miami is becoming a hub for foodpreneurs.”

Follow @ndahlberg on Twitter.

Posted Oct. 24, 2014 

UM student entrepreneur going to national GSEA finals

Entrepreneurs’ Organization – South Florida  has awarded four college students for their start-up business plans and potential, advancing the young achievers to the national finals of a global student entrepreneur competition.

Connor newAmong the winners: Connor Masterson (pictured here), a sophomore at University of Miami. Masterson, who is from Cleveland, is the founder of Jobly, an online platform that connects college students and employers.

The winning students were among nine region finalists from colleges and universities throughout the nation’s East Coast who presented in a TV Shark Tank-style test in front of EO-SOFLO judges at the Dadeland Marriott in Miami on Thursday.  The four winners will advance to the national round of the Global Student Entrepreneur Awards next month in Chicago, with a chance at the global finals in Washington, D.C. in April, 2015. EO will provide mentoring and pay all expenses (plus some pocket money) to  the winning students. 
The grand prize recipient will earn winnings worth $25,000 in cash, products and services such as office equipment and technology, web design, marketing and public relations, accounting and other professional support to develop his or her business.

In addition to Masterson, the winners from the South Florida competition include:

*  Ben McIntyre, Belmont University

*  Ian Worrall, University of South Carolina

*  Khalid Al-Dhubaib, Case Western Reserve University

“All of our finalists had fantastic ideas and were impressive young men and women,” said Barry Kates, a competition judge and president of EO-SOFLO.  “We told them all that they are already achievers and entrepreneurs, and it was  tough decision for the judges to name the winners.”

Other EO-SOFLO judges included Victor Arocho of Potential Sales Group in Fort Lauderdale; Jason Bowen of Consumer Information Bureau in Pompano Beach; Arnie Girnun of New Horizons Computer Learning Center in Miami; Marcell Haywood of Dirt Pros in Fort Lauderdale; Val Major of Targetwide, LLC in Miami; Robert Newman of National Planning Corporation in Miami; and F.W. Pearce of South Florida Weight Loss, Inc. in Boca Raton.

EO-SOFLO is one of the world’s largest EO chapters with about 150 members from Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties who run companies that account for more than 25,000 jobs and $1 billion in annual revenues in the region. Globally, EO has more than 10,000 members, all of whom are principals in companies with at least $1 million in annual revenues.  The organization has chapters in 46 countries.

For more information on the event or EO-SOFLO, visit eonetwork.org.

Pictured above: Connor Masterson of University of Miami, one of the winners, is flanked by judges Barry Kates, president of EO South Florida (left) and Jason Bowen, EO member and president of Consumer Information Bureau in Pompano Beach. 

Posted Oct. 24, 2014