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By Nikki Cabus

$300K in winnings announced at Florida Venture Forum’s Early Stage Venture Conference

Read Time 6 Minutes

The 16th annual Florida Venture Early Stage Conference brought together over 400 investors and entrepreneurs and announced the recipients of $300,000 in award dollars and investment this week.

The Florida Venture Forum is Florida’s largest statewide support organization for investors and entrepreneurs, helping fast-growth companies connect with sources of capital from across the country. Since 1984, over 2000 companies have presented at Forum events and raised upwards of $16B in equity capital, producing billions more in economic value to Florida. The Forum’s 500+ members represent a “who’s who” of venture capital and private equity dealmakers, including equity and debt investors at all stages, major law, accounting, and investment banking firms, and large corporates active in the innovation ecosystem. The Forum provides programs and programming statewide throughout the year in addition to hosting major annual conferences like the Florida Venture Capital Conference, the Statewide Collegiate Startup Competition, the Early Stage Venture Conference, and industry-focused events including aerospace and healthcare.

A record breaking year for attendance, the Florida Early Stage Venture Conference featured presentations from 40 selected early stage companies, as well as keynote speakers, educational sessions, and other networking opportunities. The two-day conference also included the Space Florida AeroTech Summit, featuring presenters and programming relevant to the space and aerospace industries, and the Forum’s Statewide Collegiate Startup Competition, during which startup teams from 10+ Florida colleges and universities competed for award dollars. A panel of judges evaluated each eligible company’s presentation and supporting materials.

The funding below was provided by Forum members Space Florida, DeepWork Capital, and Florida Power & Light’s Innovation Hub, 35 Mules.

Kevin Burgoyne, President and CEO of the Florida Venture Forum, said, “Congratulations to our winning companies – and all our presenters, who were chosen from hundreds of applicants in a very competitive process. And thank you to our partners and members at DeepWork Capital, Florida Power & Light Company, and Space Florida, and to all our sponsors, attendees, staff and volunteers.”

“We extend our congratulations to the winning Florida startups and all those who participated,” said Danielle Mousseau, Manager of Florida Power & Light Company’s 35 Mules Innovation Hub. “Their success not only reflects their dedication and talent within the ecosystem, but also emphasizes the innovation thriving within Florida and in the emerging technology industry we have here.”

Rob Long, president and CEO of Space Florida, said, “We extend our congratulations to all six companies that were awarded investment dollars at this week’s Early Stage Venture Conference. Innovators like these are crucial for meeting the demand of the burgeoning commercial space industry, and we look forward to seeing the great work they will do to propel Florida forward.”

THE WINNERS ARE:

  • X-Lumin (Merritt Island, FL) – Accelerating Innovation Award – $75,000 from Space FloridaX-lumin is powering the widespread use of wireless communication services to enable others to digital, secure, and exchange data “from light.”  They provide turn-key systems for ground to space laser communication, land based optical wireless communication, and space situational awareness with advanced integration capabilities.

 

  • HelixVM (Boca Raton, FL) – Grand Prize – $50,000 from Florida Power & Light
    HelixVM has built a software platform that dramatically increases physician productivity while increasing patient access. There are two go-to-market strategies- the first being the “Uber of Healthcare,” known as the HelixVM Marketplace. The HelixVM Marketplace provides rapid health care, often without a video visit, to patients across the US. As patients enjoy health care at any time, physicians appreciate significant income opportunities. In 2024, HelixVM will introduce the second strategy, leveraging its platform and marketplace expertise to extend these dramatic productivity enhancements into physician practices.

 

  • Algas Organics (Miami, FL) – Runner Up – $20,000 each from Florida Power & Light and Space Florida
    Algas Organics addresses the deforestation and sustainability challenges faced by packaging, paper, and pulp companies by replacing traditional deforestation-derived wood-based fiber with a novel, cost-effective seaweed-based solution. Their low-cost seaweed-based pulp fiber can be blended with wood pulp to produce paper and packaging whilst reducing deforestation.

 

  • Lonestar Data Holdings Inc. (St. Petersburg, FL) – Runner Up – $20,000 each from Florida Power & Light and Space Florida
    Lonestar Data Holdings’ goal is Global Backup, Global Refresh, and Global Restore. Their mission is to apply abundance thinking and exponential technologies to the endless possibilities of lunar data storage for the human race, and in so doing to the exploration of the Moon and beyond. Lonestar’s vision is fueled by remarkable investors led by Scout Ventures, 2 Future Holdings, Seldor Capital, and the Veteran Fund. Irongate Global Capital, Atypical Ventures, Kittyhawk Ventures, and Backswing Ventures. Lonestar is committed to a carbon negative future.

 

  • Unbound Disability Claims Inc. (Orlando, FL) – Collegiate Award (University of Central Florida)– $5,000 each from Florida Power & Light and Space Florida
    Unbound Disability Claims is on a mission to transform the Social Security Disability (SSD) application process, providing a lifeline to the 62% of applicants facing improper denials.

 

  • NanoSense (Boca Raton, FL) – Collegiate Award (Florida Atlantic University) – $5,000 each from Florida Power & Light and Space Florida
    NanoSense stands at the forefront of accessible medical diagnostics, spearheading a revolution in healthcare through its groundbreaking nanosensor array technology.

  • X-Lumin (Merritt Island, FL) – Capital Investment – $125,000 from DeepWork Capital
    X-lumin is powering the widespread use of wireless communication services to enable others to digital, secure, and exchange data “from light.” They provide turn-key systems for ground to space laser communication, land based optical wireless communication, and space situational awareness with advanced integration capabilities.

Perhaps most impressive is this year’s Collegiate Winner, Abigial Sinu, from NanoSense who competed against all traditional college students as a high school student from Florida Atlantic’s A.D. Henderson University School & FAU High School which just received top honors in the 2024 Niche ‘Best Schools’ rankings, earning No. 3 as best high school within the state of Florida. Abigail is dual enrolled at Florida Atlantic University and involved in the FAU Wave Program, an NSF I-Corp participant, and Won First Place at the FAU Business Pitch Competition (Undergraduate Student Track) earlier this year. Abigail is dual enrolled at Florida Atlantic University and with aspirations to graduate with a Double Concentration in Medical Biology & Neuroscience and Behavior, expected in the summer of 2025.

One company, X-Lumin received not one, but two awards, and one of which was Capital Investment from DeepWork Capital, the Orlando-based capital investment firm known for launching and leading the Florida Opportunity Fund.

DeepWork Capital, invests professionally managed committed venture capital in growth-oriented, early-stage companies in the technology and life science sectors. We partner with visionary entrepreneurs building disruptive companies. DeepWork works closely with other investment groups and takes a hands-on approach with its portfolio companies.

“The presenting companies showed why the early stage ecosystem in Florida is alive and well,” said Benjamin Patz, Manager of DeepWork Capital. “We were impressed with the quality of the companies presenting and will be reaching out to several for further discussions.”

Kevin Burgoyne, CEO of Florida Venture Forum, also shared, “This year’s conference shattered several records, including beating our prior attendance record by 25+%! We take this a very positive sign for Florida’s startup ecosystem.”

To learn more about Florida Venture Forum, visit www.flventure.org

By Nikki Cabus

Meet the 7 new startups welcomed into the 3rd 35 Mules cohort at FPL

Read Time 3 Minutes

Seven new startups were just welcomed into the 3rd cohort of FPL’s 35 Mules innovation hub program.

35 Mules is the first in-house innovation hub backed by a global energy leader, Florida Power & Light, that provides startups of any age with cross-industry subject-matter expertise, advanced technology solutions, business services, world-class facilities and access to Fortune 500 corporate and technology leaders.

The 35 Mules program is an innovation hub designed to help startups grow and scale their businesses. The startups will work on their respective ventures at the NextEra Energy facilities in Juno Beach, gain access to subject-matter expertise and advanced technology solutions, and make valuable connections in the Florida business community.

The program is approximately 15 months long. agnostic to industry, and welcomes companies from around the world. What’s most special about the program is the non-dilutive cash grant of $100,000 to each startup company that makes it into the program.

Meet The Startups:

• AeonCharge – Enables EV drivers to access any charging station in North America through their preferred interface.

• Cambio – Software that helps commercial real estate companies and their corporate tenants decarbonize their buildings by ingesting simple building data normally manually collected by building engineers to measure the carbon footprint of each building and provide data-driven retrofit recommendations.

• Chemergy, Inc. – Builds solutions to solve our environmental and energy challenges by converting organic and plastic waste into green hydrogen.

• Cypienta – An AI solution that correlates seemingly disparate events and uncovers coordinated attacks that would otherwise go unnoticed and impact our infrastructure.

• Fire Neural Network – Uses cutting edge AI to save lives, protect property, and help fight against climate change. FNN quickly and accurately locates lightning-initiated wildfires and powerline damages.

• Noteworthy AI – Provides fleet vehicle-mounted smart cameras and AI that help utilities evaluate the condition of the electric distribution grid at-scale while reducing O&M costs.

• Ocellott – An electronics engineering company that creates innovative solutions to electrify the current and the next generation of aircraft, the eVTOL “electric takeoff and landing” in a safe manner.

“At NextEra Energy, Inc. we are passionate about fostering a culture of innovation and growth. Our innovation hub, 35 Mules, serves as a creative melting pot, where new ideas mix with the expertise of our dedicated employees,” Deborah Caplan, EVP, Human Resources and Corporate Services, wrote in a recent social media post.

“The energy and drive each cohort of startups brings is truly invigorating. Their unique perspectives, groundbreaking solutions and innovative methodologies provide an invaluable opportunity for both sides to learn and grow. We’re honored to be part of their journey, and I’m incredibly excited about the transformational impact we can achieve together! Welcome to 35 Mules!”

To learn more about 35 Mules, visit https://www.35mules.com

By Nikki Cabus

Miami-based Kind Designs wins Florida Venture Forum’s Aerospace + EmergingTech Forum 2023

Read Time 5 Minutes

The Florida Venture Forum and co-host, Space Florida, hosted the 2023 Aerospace + EmergingTech Forum awarding over $200,000 in cash and VC investment.

The event is a capital acceleration competition and business networking event featuring presentations by some of Florida’s most promising early and mid-stage tech companies bringing together aerospace and tech enthusiasts and investors. The closing reception for the Aerospace Innovation awards was held on June 8th at the newly expanded Groundswell Startup Incubator in Melbourne, Florida. The reception featured speakers, panel discussion, and pitches from the finalists.

The panel discussion featured area tech resources and successfully funded entrepreneurs from companies such as Embry Riddle Aeronautical University, Groundswell Startups, Sensatek Propulsion Technology, Inc. and Helicon. It was moderated by Danielle Mousseau, Manager of Economic Development at 35 Mules, an innovation hub started by Florida Power & Light Company (FPL), a subsidiary of NextEra Energy. FPL was the Title Sponsor of the evening.

Florida Venture Forum is Florida’s largest statewide support organization for investors and entrepreneurs, helping fast-growth companies connect with sources of capital from across the country. Since 1984 more than 2000 companies have presented at Forum events and have gone on to raise upwards of $16B in equity capital, producing billions more in economic value to Florida. The Forum’s 250+ members represent a “who’s who” of venture capital and private equity dealmakers, including equity and debt investors at all stages, as well as major law, accounting, and investment banking firms, and large corporates active in the innovation ecosystem.

The finalists were chosen from a pool of over sixty applicants. The panel of investors reviewed each company’s presentation along with additional supporting materials giving insight into the company’s growth potential. Selected presenting companies were innovative and have a focus in aerospace and/or emerging technologies. This year’s event was one of the most competitive to date.

“The selection of companies from the long list of qualified applicants was made by a committed group of early stage investors. A special thanks to the selection committee for their hours of work and an equal thanks to the companies that provided information and presentations, and made this selection process the most competitive to date,” said Ben Patz, Managing Partner of DeepWork Capital.

“We were incredibly impressed by all the presenting companies and are excited about the opportunities for continued investment in this space,” said, Benjamin Patz, managing partner, DeepWork Capital. “Investing in cutting-edge sectors that stem from the transformative power of emerging and aerospace technology is a strategic move and critical to driving success.”

The “Final Four” winning companies are listed below:

GRAND PRIZE WINNER ($40,000) | Kind Designs

Miami Beach headquartered, Kind Designs (www.kinddesigns.com), is addressing the rising sea-level challenge by 3D Printing structural seawalls that both protect coastal communities and function as artificial reefs, sequester CO2 and have built-in sensors to track essential water quality data. The Living Seawalls are exponentially cheaper and faster to produce and permit than any conventional seawall products on the market.

It’s estimated that by the year 2100, Miami will be completely submerged by water. Kind Designs founder, Anya Freeman, a Ukraine native, lived in Israel before coming to Miami to study law. The love of technology drew her to 3D printing. Originally interested in building 3D-printed homes, Any changed her focus towards seawalls once she learned about the ability to mitigate the effect of climate change and rising sea levels.

In addition to the cash prizes awarded, DeepWork Capital, an early-stage venture capital firm based in Orlando, is announced they will invest $100,000 in Kind Designs.

1ST RUNNER UP ($30,000) | Zulu Pods, Ft. Lauderdale, FL., www.zulupods.com, is an aerospace and defense company who design and manufacture decentralized fluid delivery systems. The company is focused on unitizing part counts on components such as jet engines and/or geartrains, thereby reducing cost, reducing weight and increasing performance. With their patented pod technology, they can drastically reduce part counts for expendable jet engines (think of engines that power drones or missiles) or back-up emergency lubrication systems (think of helicopters or single engine fighter jet engines).

2ND RUNNER UP ($20,000) | Ainthoven, Cocoa Beach, FL., www.whoweplayfor.org, the company is bringing life-saving electrocardiogram (“ECG”) heart screenings to pediatrics and young adults in the United States and beyond.

3RD RUNNER UP ($10,000)Gigantor Technologies, Inc., Melbourne Beach, FL., www.gigantor.com/, provides an AI accelerator that can speed up neural network models to speeds nVidia, Tesla, that the company says – others cannot touch. If the process latency is reduced to a fraction of other solutions it can enable Deep and Convolutional neural networks (computer vision, radar, lidar) to work with any frame size, HD, 4K and above with no data loss, it also reduces power by over 90%.

Event co-host, Space Florida, was created to strengthen Florida’s position as the global leader in aerospace research, investment, exploration and commerce. As Florida’s aerospace development organization, we are committed to attracting and expanding the next generation of space industry businesses. With its highly trained workforce, proven infrastructure and unparalleled record of achievement, Florida is the ideal location for aerospace businesses to thrive – and Space Florida is the perfect partner to help them succeed.

“This year’s applicants exhibited exceptional innovation and leadership, and we believe they are poised to make an impact on the aerospace industry in today’s business climate,” said Space Florida President and CEO Frank DiBello. “To date, capital accelerator programs supported by Space Florida have attracted more than $600 million in funding and investments for companies. We are proud be the financial propellant that helps new ideas take off.”

“Congratulations to Kind Designs, Zulu Pods, Ainthoven, and Gigantor Technologies from this year’s forum,” said Kevin Burgoyne, president and CEO of the Florida Venture Forum. “Through our work and collaborations, we continue to be on the forefront of driving innovation and progress with early-stage companies across various industries.”

To see the images of all winning companies, click here.

By Nikki Cabus

First ever Ignite Florida launch to Global Entrepreneurship Week in South Florida

Read Time 4 Minutes

With the end of November comes the close of National Entrepreneurship Month. From Global Entrepreneurship Week to Small Business Saturday, startups and entrepreneurs were celebrated all month long both statewide, national and around the globe.

South Florida Tech Hub and Synapse Florida were nominated the statewide organizers for Global Entrepreneurship Week or “GEW” 2022 in Florida. The first ever Ignite Florida Startup Summit, presented by South Florida Tech Hub, helped launch Global Entrepreneurship Week in the state. From a statewide calendar, social media posts about activities each day during the week, and organizations from all across the state getting involved in activities in their cities, GEW Florida was a huge success.

Ignite Florida was hosted in collaboration with the Boca Raton Innovation Campus (BRIC), RaiseLink, and sponsored by 35 Mules, an Florida Power & Light innovation incubator. The 2-day event was held on Friday and Saturday, November 11th and 12th just prior to GEW held November 14th – 20th, 2022.

 

DAY 1

The event was launched on Veteran’s Day, November 11th, and featured speakers, founders, and judges who were all veterans including keynote speaker, Rhys Williams, retired Detachment Commander in U.S. Army Special Forces, Steve Edwards, former Army Specialist in the 82nd Airborne Division, U.S. Army, and John Riley III, former Desert Shield/Desert Storm Infantry Corporal in the United States Marine Corps.

The City of Boca Raton is the birthplace of the personal computer, many patents still being used today, and home to many of South Florida’s major companies and growing startups. Recently re-elected Mayor Scott Singer of the City of Boca Raton helped open the event during welcome remarks alongside the Olympic Heights Community High School’s JROTC Color Guard led by Master Sergeant Wayne Byron with The Pledge of Allegiance, National Anthem, and an official proclamation presented to Nikki Cabus, South Florida Tech Hub’s CEO.

In addition to proclaiming, November 11th & 12th, 2022 as the launch to GEW Florida 2022 right here in South Florida at the Boca Raton Innovation Campus, the document and Mayor Singer recognized “the contributions of city and regional ecosystem partners including South Florida Tech Hub, Research Park of Florida Atlantic University, FAU Tech Runway and Florida SBDC at FAU, all providing programs that support job creation, education, innovation, and economic growth in our community.”

Throughout the first day, guests heard from speakers about entrepreneurship, the importance of supporting our veterans as they integrate back into the local community, start businesses and look for work, and veteran-owned startup pitches. Dr. Marlon Atherton, Founder and CEO of ATEAM Solution Services won the Friday night veteran-owned pitch contest.

“As a veteran, supporting our military veterans is very important to me. I was recently a judge in the IGNITE Veteran Pitch contest, it hammered home how important it is to support veteran-owned companies, especially veteran-owned start-ups,” said John Riley III, VP of Gov’t Services at Orion Innovations and USMC Veteran.

“For many veterans just getting out of the service, the transition to civilian life can be very challenging and even more when they are trying to start their own businesses. For them to have access to mentors and groups like South Florida Tech Hub that can align them with potential opportunities and investors will be of great benefit to many new veteran entrepreneurs in the future.”

 

DAY 2

The second day kicked off with coffee and breakfast for all and a keynote by the event’s presenting sponsor, Danielle Mousseau, Manager of Economic Development at 35 Mules. The day’s agenda included panels, guest speakers, an workshop on startup law, and pitches from all sorts of tech startups from healthcare to web3.

Startup exhibitors showcased their tech to all attendees. From Big Motion Studios in the metaverse to Chargefon, a power bank rental service, and Fitness At Your Door, an app bringing healthand fitness right to your living room on demand.

Panel topics included Trends in Florida’s Investment Landscape ( sponsored by Tahl Milburn), Avoiding Common IP Mistakes for Startups (sponsored by Greenberg Traurig), The People Asset (sponsored by Focus GTS), South Florida Entrepreneur Journeys (sponsored by Semantix), and the Value of Accelerators & Incubators which featured accelerator program leaders from 35 Mules, 1909, Broward Colllege’s BECx Program, and the Eglavator (sponsored by Egla Corp.)

Almost twenty startup founders who applied through the newly launched RaiseLink platform, pitched their ideas to a panel of judges. RaiseLink Founder, Boca Raton IBM tech historian and local celebrity, Pete Martinez and and RaiseLink’s CEO, Chris Houghtlaing, facilitated the picthes. Local Boca Code students built the application used for judging and it was quite impressive to see the numbers totaled in real time!

Those startups were:

Roomaters Modern Trials Everwood (a Desafío Ambiente Chile brand)
Rosi Giving Boca Code Show Agents
Fearless Mind Pet HealthCare Innovations™ 2nd Vault
EpiPaws Beach Box ARC LLC.
Synchronix Owwll EVQLV
Coping Card Inc. Mind+
Big Motion Studio Walky

In the end, Chris Ochner, Co-Founder of Modern Trials and Dr. Marlon Atherton, Founder and CEO of ATEAM Solution Services (from Friday’s pitches) both took home almost $20k in services to support their startups. Those services included everything from a South Florida Tech Hub annual membership to consulting services with IP lawyer, Howard Gitten from Lewis Brisbois to pitch review and practice with Nate Vasel from Las Olas Venture Capital and more!!

This year was a kickoff to something great, but stay tuned for GEW 2023 which kicks off November 13th, 2023!

By Nancy Dahlberg

Member Spotlight | FPL & 35 Mules

Read Time 4 Minutes

Business: Florida Power & Light Company is the nation’s largest energy company, serving more than 5 million customer accounts across Florida. FPL’s typical 1,000-kWh residential customer bill is among the lowest in the U.S.

Parent Company: NextEra Energy

HQ: Juno Beach

President and CEO: Eric Silagy

Senior Director of Economic Development: Crystal Stiles

What’s new: 35 Mules, an innovation hub for selected startups in energy or energy-related industries.

 

This September, 20 startup entrepreneurs with game-changing ideas will move into FPL’s Juno Beach headquarters, in a collaborative workspace being designed for them. For 12 to 18 months, they will be part of FPL’s inaugural cohort of 35 Mules, an incubator and innovation hub.

In addition to the workspace, the companies will have access to subject matter experts in solar, renewables, innovation and smart grid, and free coaching from FPL executives, along with a grant of at least $50,000 to help scale their ventures. In total, in this first year, this is a commitment from FPL of about $2.5 million.

“We are looking for big, bold, brave, game-changing, world-changing ideas. We will be looking for things we have not thought of, products we have not heard of, solutions that seem 5 or 10 years down the road,” said Crystal Stiles, FPL’s senior director of economic development. “If we find a startup with a game-changing idea in any industry we will consider it, but we are really focused in the energy and energy-adjacent areas because that is where the expertise in our company lies.”

 

Rooted in History

The name of the program is a nod to the humble beginnings of NextEra Energy, FPL’s parent company. Because of FPL’s innovative culture and its focus on being a driver and a promoter for the state’s economic development efforts, the startup incubator was a natural project to launch.

“We started our company 95 years ago with an ice plant, a sponge fishing boat, and a herd of 35 mules among a few other assets and 95 years later we have grown into a company that is globally significant. We are… the world’s largest renewable energy company and we are the country’s largest utility by retail energy sold. We have a lot to be proud of and we have a lot to share with these startups. We’d like to take some of these ideas coming from brilliant individuals in our community and outside our community and help them grow into businesses that we can ideally plant right here in Florida,” said Stiles.

 

Spirit of Innovation

The 20 companies have not been selected yet, but the decision will be difficult. Strong applicants hail from within Florida and beyond – at least 7 states and 3 countries, Stiles said.

35 Mules plans to customize the program to each entrepreneur in the incubator. “All of the startups will be at different stages … We want to work with each individual entrepreneur and make sure we are putting together a program of success that moves their company to the next level, whatever that next level is for them,” Stiles said.

In addition to cultivating industry-changing ideas, the program will also complement FPL”s spirit of innovation. The company has run internal Shark Tank competitions and offers a number of programs supporting innovative thinking. This culture has spurred internal innovations such as augmented reality training on safety equipment and the deployment of drone technology for line inspections that have made FPL’s jobs safer. “Bringing brilliant minds outside our organization will help inspire the brilliant minds inside our organization to think even bigger,” Stiles said.

 

The Big Florida Picture

In addition, FPL plays a strong role in supporting the state’s economic development efforts, Stiles said. “Our headquarters is here, our home is Florida, and we want to see Florida’s economy vibrant and thriving and strong. It makes sense to add an entrepreneurial or startup focus to the typically more traditional economic development programs we have offered over the years.”

Bigger picture: 35 Mules can help drive Florida’s already strong culture of entrepreneurship forward, Stiles believes. “I believe Florida can compete on that level with all the other areas of innovation in our country including Boston, Silicon Valley and New York,” Stiles said.

The idea is to add to what is already being offered by entities like Palm Beach Tech, FAU Tech Runway and other organizations, she said.

“We would love to see the next wonderful technology that is going to transform the energy industry as a whole. From our company’s standpoint, we are always striving for excellence, we are always looking to change the way we do things. If there is disruption on the horizon, we’d love find it, see it, nurture it and see what happens.”

FPL hopes to continue the incubator program with more cohorts down the road, Stiles said. “Get involved, stay tuned and come see us when the facility is open and it is safe to do so.”

$300K in winnings announced at Florida Venture Forum’s Early Stage Venture Conference
Meet the 7 new startups welcomed into the 3rd 35 Mules cohort at FPL
Miami-based Kind Designs wins Florida Venture Forum’s Aerospace + EmergingTech Forum 2023
First ever Ignite Florida launch to Global Entrepreneurship Week in South Florida
Member Spotlight | FPL & 35 Mules