NewMe Accelerator Puts Spotlight on Florida Startups

Published by Hispanic Business
NewME brought its first Popup Accelerator to Miami last week, and together with the Knight Foundation and LAB Miami, gave 65 South Florida participants a two-night pitch workshop, a one-on-one mentoring session with a Silicon Valley venture capitalist or NewME expert and the opportunity to present their ventures at Demo Night.

On Wednesday evening, 38 startup teams pitched to a crowd filling the risers of The Light Box Theater in Wynwood, and competed for tens of thousands of dollars in prizes. On the intimate stage, the teams made their two-minute pitches, each one accompanied by a pitch deck of 8 to 10 slides.

“Can’t you feel the energy? This is super exciting,” said Matt Haggman, program director of the Knight Foundation’s Miami office, which has been supporting and funding projects to help the startup community. “What’s going on here clearly shows there is something special happening and we look forward to contributing to it further.”

After the pitches, which were judged by two investors and Angela Benton, founder of NewME, Benton announced the winners:

— First place: Sew Love, pitched by Sabrina Scandar., founded by sisters Sabrina and Silvia Scandar, is a platform for crowdsourcing fashion design. The Scandars want to raise $300,000 to help them continue developing their platform, make some key hires and fire up a marketing strategy. They won a prize package worth $45,000 in goods and services to help them build their startup, plus they were accepted into NewME’s 2013 Accelerator class.

— Second place: Gozump, pitched by Charleston Malkemus. Gozump is a platform to help people buy homes, which will begin by targeting the military market. “We are Marines on a mission to change the way real estate works forever,” Malkemus pitched. Gozump won $23,000 in goods and services.

— Third place, Indira, pitched by Carrie Ann Mantha: Indira is a fashion tech platform that creates personalized fashion and decor for weddings. It has a factory running in Little Haiti and is launching next month. Indira won $7,000 in goods and services.

Honorable mentions: ToddlerTV, SkillU, GoGeekster and NightPro. “We thought the judging process would be a lot easier. There was a lot of great technology,” said Benton, speaking Friday by phone after returning to San Francisco, where the NewME Accelerator is based.

All winners received co-working space at LAB Miami, which is soon moving to a larger space in the Wynwood neighborhood. All participants received a one-month “connect” membership to LAB Miami. Read more about the NewME PopUp here.

Many of the PopUp participants said getting the opportunity to mingle with other startups in South Florida was also valuable.

“We were really excited to meet more of the startup tech community,” said Mantha, who moved Indira from New York City to Little Haiti about six months ago. “It is much more dynamic than we realized.”

Last week was also big for other entrepreneurs taking the stage. Several hundred women attended the two-day Women’s Success Summit, where summit founder Michelle Villalobos and her business partner Jessica Kizorek laid out a system for work/life balance (hint: It starts with scheduling in your playtime, involves firing your least-profitable clients and includes developing strong systems for efficiency.)

In addition, many speakers and panelists were invited to inspire women business owners to maximize their potential. One of the many highlights was a panel on growing and scaling your business from four local women — Carol Fenster of Baby Abuelita, Leila Chang Pipich of Florida Dental Benefits, Susie Taylor of Bibbitec (watch for her on Shark Tank) and Ginny Simon of Ginny Bakes — who did just that. Read more on that post plus a post about what not to outsource on The Starting Gate blog on

Social entrepreneurs were the focus of the Americas Business Council Foundation’s Continuity Forum. Participants were treated to A-list speakers such as Kofi Annan, Steve Wozniak and Chris Hughes Hip-hop artist Emmanuel Jal even had the suits in the audience dancing in the aisles (see accompanying photos). One key focus was the showcase of 32 social entrepreneurs, who presented their ventures and are seeking grants from the council. On Tuesday, the council will announce who of the 32 will be funded. Read more about the speeches on Starting Gate and watch the blog for the results on Tuesday.

Many events are coming up including the Emerging Technology Business Showcase on Nov. 30, WebCongress on Nov. 29-30, Incubate Miami’s Demo Day Dec. 6, Tekfight on Dec. 7, HackDay on Dec. 8-9, ITPalooza Dec. 12, Wayra’s Demo Day also on Dec. 12, the Americas Venture Capital Conference (AVCC) Dec. 13 and 14 and others.