South Florida Tech HubSouth Florida Tech Hub

By Nikki Cabus

South Florida-based BrandStar acquires Lens End Media with production presence in Washington D.C. market

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South Florida-based BrandStar, a production and strategic marketing company, has acquired Lens End Media, a full-service video production agency. 

BrandStar is a solutions-driven, fully horizontally and vertically integrated production, marketing, public relations and digital agency. They offer everything you would find at a full-service marketing firm, but with a twist –  focusing on positively impacting people’s lives. Fueled by the collective passion of entrepreneurs, creatives, technologists, and thinkers, BrandStar prides itself in being “Marketing Matchmakers” – connecting people with brands to do life better. Utilizing a combination of creative storytelling, marketing strategy, results-driven media, technology innovation, and unrivaled television production capabilities, BrandStar has succeeded in giving startups a national footprint, and national companies a global one.

Founded in 2020 by Ibrahim Zafar, Lens End Media excels in holistic high-impact video production services, creating and producing high quality content. Through use of the latest technology, inclusive of AI, Lens End Media is optimizes processes across digital channels as well as integrates the ads across impact campaigns that drive results. Serving clients across the music, sports, nonprofit, live events and auto industry sectors, Lens End has earned a reputation for their ability to create high-impact content in a cost-effective manner.

“I am so proud to partner with BrandStar and its diverse ecosystem,” said Ibrahim Zafar. “Collaborating with the existing BrandStar Studios production team, along with tapping into the organization’s ecosystem of top marketing agencies makes this a win/win for us.”

BrandStar, which has helped pioneer virtual and mixed-reality production, has three studios across the tri-county area of South Florida. With Lens End Media, BrandStar now has a production presence in the coveted Washington, DC/Maryland/Virginia market and surrounding communities. Lens End Media is based in Washington, DC, with clients across the U.S. and globe, covering music, sports, nonprofit, live events and auto industries.

Some notable clients include Walgreens, Deloite, Stellantis, LEGO Group, Georgetown University Hospital, Red Nose Day, NBA and former NFL athletes. Lens End Media will continue to operate out of its current location, with Ibrahim Zafar as CEO of the organization, along with its current staff of video professionals.

“We are very excited to be working with Ibrahim and his team,” said Mark Alfieri, Founder & CEO of BrandStar. “In a very short period of time, he has established a reputation for delivering excellence and true innovation across many facets of the production spectrum. He is a wonderful addition to our full slate of production offerings.”

BrandStar is also acclaimed for its award-winning TV programming winning awards such as the 44th Annual Telly Awards in 2023. The BrandStar programming airs on Lifetime Television, Bloomberg, FOX Business, and numerous syndicated outlets, and includes shows such as Military Makeover with Montel, Designing Spaces, The Balancing Act, Inside the Blueprint and Access Health.

The acquisition of Lens End Media complements recent additions to BrandStar’s ecosystem of companies, which includes Indiana-based Britton Marketing & Design Group, and Ft. Lauderdale-based Wizard Digital.

To learn more about BrandStar and their portfolio of companies, visit www.brandstar.com/companies

By Nikki Cabus

Endeavor Miami’s New Wave of Diverse Entrepreneurs with Spring 2024 ScaleUp Cohort

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Endeavor Miami, a pivotal force in the entrepreneurial landscape, is thrilled to introduce the Spring 2024 Endeavor ScaleUp cohort.

Endeavor Miami is part of the global Endeavor network established in Miami in 2013 with the support of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. The initiative aims to highlight 17 visionary founders leading 10 rapidly growing companies. As the first U.S. affiliate of the global Endeavor organization, Endeavor Miami is committed to identifying and supporting high-impact entrepreneurs who have the potential to transform industries and drive economic growth in Florida and beyond.

Endeavor Miami offers a unique mix of mentorship, access to capital, and an extensive network of industry leaders and peers, helping to catalyze the success of these entrepreneurs. The initiative fosters innovation and creates job opportunities within the region and worldwide.

The Spring 2024 cohort stands out for its diversity and innovative spirit. Notably, 53% of the participants are from underrepresented ethnic backgrounds, and 20% are women founders. These entrepreneurs demonstrate a strong commitment to South Florida, with 67% moving to the city in the last three years. This reinforces the region’s status as a burgeoning hub for innovation and entrepreneurship in the United States.

The cohort spans key sectors, including Fintech, Enterprise Software, Mobility & Supply Chain, and Healthcare, reflecting South Florida’s economy’s broad spectrum of innovation. These companies are at various stages of growth and have collectively seen a remarkable 250% growth rate. Their resilience and adaptability post-COVID underscore the potential for transformative impact on the local and global stages.

These entrepreneurs have raised over $35 million in funding, enabling expansion across the Americas and Europe. They collectively employ nearly 240 people and generated revenue of over $17 million in 2023. With plans to exceed $41 million in revenue this year, their success exemplifies the significant economic contributions they bring to the region. It highlights South Florida’s role as a critical launching point for ambitious companies poised for global influence.

Endeavor Miami is proud to support these exceptional entrepreneurs as they continue to scale their businesses, innovate within their industries, and contribute to the economic development of Florida and beyond. Endeavor is committed to being a platform for impact by amplifying these founders’ stories, sharing their successes, and inspiring the next generation of entrepreneurs.

Here is a full list of the Endeavor ScaleUp Cohort:

  • FIT:MATCH (Ft. Lauderdale, Broward County, South Florida) – Uses patented, 3D body-shape technology to match consumers with the garments that fit them best, eliminating guesswork and driving conversion and loyalty, while reducing returns. The technology has proven applications beyond retail, including healthcare, and sports science.
  • Haddy (St. Petersburg, Pinellas County, Tampa) – An applied additive manufacturing company transforming the furniture supply chain. It delivers durable, beautiful, and cost-efficient products, reshaping production through regional manufacturing and scalability.
  • Infinity Doctors (Miami, Miami-Dade County, South Florida) – An international “one-stop shop” health platform for enterprises’ customers and employees.
  • KashIO (Miami, Miami-Dade County, South Florida) – A platform as a service for digital payments and bill automation in LATAM. Their platform allows companies and institutions to automate their accounts payable and accounts receivable processes with Open Banking Technology in the cloud.
  • Koywe (Miami, Miami-Dade County, South Florida) – Building the best Payment Ecosystem for cross-border businesses in Latin America, allowing their customers to operate across markets in an easy, cheap and fast way.
  • KUSHAE (Boca Raton, Palm Beach County, South Florida)- The 1st & only women’s health brand developed by an OB/GYN, creating innovative and effective non-toxic topical & internal products for all stages of a woman’s life, from menstruation to menopause.
  • MagicLog (Miami, Miami-Dade County, South Florida) – A white-labeled platform designed to modernize and digitize the end-to-end customer experience of SME logistics providers, reducing operational costs and increasing new and retained sales revenue in weeks.
  • RealGrader (Miami, Miami-Dade County, South Florida) – Measures, manages and maximizes digital presence for real estate professionals. Their most popular product is the Instacard – The Digital Business Card, used by over 500,000 real estate agents.
  • Simplenight (Miami, Miami-Dade County, South Florida) – Enables hyper-personalized booking and ordering of anything, anywhere, anytime. Simplenight’s omnichannel platform for travel, lifestyle and more is utilizing generative AI and providing the booking digitalization and infrastructure to shape the future of commerce and data.
  • Spontivly (St. Petersburg, Pinellas County, Tampa) – A data analytics tool that integrates with a company’s suite of tools to allow for greater insights and efficiencies. Our goal is to make data easily accessible by empowering teams with simple data dashboards.

To learn more about Endeavor Miami, visit www.endeavormiami.org

By Nikki Cabus

Guest Blog: Digital Transformation South Florida Style at TECHpalooza

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I was privileged to be invited to participate on a panel for the CIO Breakfast as part of the recent TECHpalooza event here in South Florida (Ft. Lauderdale to be exact). The panel was entitled, “The Future of the AI Revolution.”

I must admit I had modest hopes for the discussion taking place at the ungodly hour of 7am, but I was pleasantly surprised – not only with the sophistication and maturity of the state of digital transformation at the companies represented on the panel, but equally so by the companies represented in the audience.

Having lived in South Florida for almost 22 years now, I have come to accept that this isn’t Silicon Valley, Boston, Austin or any of the other hot tech markets. However, due to Covid, digital nomads and the hard work of local organizations like Tech Hub South Florida, that isn’t the case anymore.

There is a vibrant tech scene stretching from Miami, past Ft. Lauderdale and all the way up to Northern Palm Beach County – and even beyond.

Besides myself, on the panel was Michael Fowler, who is a VP and business unit CIO at Florida Power and Light (FPL), Sam Jaddi, SVP and CIO at ADT, Caroline Roche, VP and Senior Partner IBM’s Transformation Services, and Chad Simpson, the CIO for City Furniture. The panel was moderated by Colby Brannan and Lee Buchness, senior partners at Culture Partners.

Also not able to join us, and missed, were John Machado, the CTO of UKG and Tamecka Mckay, CIO of the City of Ft. Lauderdale. The audience had an equally impressive roster of well-known brands, as well as a good mix of consultants, smaller companies and startups.  All attendees were pre-approved and had to be a CIO or of the equivalent level to attend.

Though the discussion centered primarily around how the attendees were using AI or planned on using AI in their organizations, I was struck by the state-of-the-art technology that was being used almost universally across the board. These companies were almost all hybrid cloud users, shifting more and more of their infrastructure to the cloud.

To a person, they all were deep into DevOps and Cloud Native. Because several of them were in highly regulated industries, security and compliance processes were also very sophisticated. The level of digitization of these businesses was remarkable. ADT, for instance, is looking at how the smart home of the future will function and how they can be the hub of that. FPL is extremely forward thinking in communication with their customers via an app and being able to monitor their grid using every technology within their reach. Even City Furniture is digital first, with supply, shopping and delivery services all highly automated and digital.

We tend to think of our local companies, as just that – local. But hearing how they have transformed in the last few years and what their plans are to harness AI and other technologies to become the providers of tomorrow was extremely uplifting. The panel ran for near 90 minutes, as the standing room only audience would not let us off the stage.

Many members of the audience shared their own transformation stories with us. One interesting fact shared was that near 75% of the audience was already using gen AI in their business. Near 100% were well ahead on their digital transformation journeys. Another surprise for me was that their budgets for these initiatives were full speed ahead. I deal so much with tech tool vendors and venture backed companies that I have become used to hearing about budget cuts and delays on projects; but these participants whose companies are not generally thought of as “tech companies” were full speed ahead on their transformations.

We should remember that in the tech world. There is a big economy out there of companies doing exciting things around transformation. More than that, they are really jazzed about what else is coming down the pike and what that can mean as they seek to transform the very fabric of our day-to-day lives – not just in South Florida, but in the entire US and the world beyond that.

Shout out to the South Florida Tech Hub folks for putting on an amazing event.

 

Posted with permission from TechStrong Group and Digital CXO. Visit their website here.

By Nikki Cabus

Successful Ft. Lauderdale-based Enhance Health acquires local JET Health Solutions

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JET Health Solutions, the sister company of Ft. Lauderdale-based OZ Digital, recently announced they were acquired by Enhance Health. 

Established in 1997, JET Health Solutions is the healthcare product division of IT systems integrator and consulting firm OZ Digital Consulting. The company is a premier Enhanced Direct Enrollment (EDE) platform and has been equipping healthcare payers and providers with the technology tools they need to surge ahead of the competition in a rapidly changing healthcare marketplace such as break-through automation systems for both payers and providers that boost productivity, improve operational efficiencies, accelerate sales, and bolster the bottom line.

Enhance Health is a digital health insurance brokerage and care navigation platform. The acquisition reinforces Enhance Health’s commitment to serving its members and scaling its operations effectively through technology. Enhance Health was founded in 2021 by industry veteran Matt Herman and backed by Bain Capital Insurance and has experienced rapid growth due to the record number of Americans enrolling in ACA health plans in 2022. Enhance Health has grown its membership base to hundreds of thousands, and is rapidly expanding into other insurance business lines.

Enhance Health has gained much visibility through recent partnerships such as NASCAR, Floyd Mayweather Jr., and the recent official partnership agreement with the Miami Dolphins and Hard Rock Stadium.  The multi-year partnership provides wide-spread visibility for the rapidly growing insurance organization between two offices in the Fort Lauderdale area.

“Enhance Health is committed to helping as many people as possible in South Florida access quality healthcare through great health insurance, often at little or no cost. The partnership with the Miami Dolphins will help us spread the word and ultimately get more people covered, given the team’s widespread popularity and dedicated fan base,” said Matthew Herman, CEO and President of Enhance Health.

“We are thrilled to announce the acquisition of JET Health Solutions. Since Enhance’s founding, we’ve been committed to leveraging technology in new ways to simplify the enrollment process. JET’s advanced EDE platform improves our already best-in-class member and agent experience.”

JET Health Solutions’ flagship product, JET Insure is the enterprise-class online private exchange and marketplace quote-to-card insurance automation platform that empowers health plans to sell multiple lines-of-business — individual/family ACA (on/off-exchange), small group, large group, fully/self/level-funded and specialty products — faster and more profitably, all on a single system leveraging all sales channels including brokers and direct to consumer sales. JET Insure is a single platform for all your insurance products sales, and policy management needs.

With hundreds of thousands of members enrolled in Affordable Care Act (ACA) plans as well as Medicare Advantage plans, Enhance Health has established itself as a trusted partner in the healthcare industry. The acquisition of JET empowers Enhance Health to fully own the enrollment process, enhancing its capabilities and expanding its services with one of the few CMS-certified Phase 3 EDEs available in the market.

“Joining forces with Enhance Health is an exciting opportunity to drive meaningful change in the healthcare industry,” said Asad Shamim, Founder and Managing Partner of JET Health Solutions. “Together, we are well-positioned to revolutionize the enrollment process and improve healthcare access for individuals and families across the nation.”

With partners such as Microsoft, Xamarin, Mulesoft, and IBM, JET Health has successfully equipped healthcare payers and providers with cutting-edge tools to excel in the ever-evolving healthcare marketplace.

“Integrating an EDE into our technology stack solidifies Enhance as the leader in the digital health insurance space,” said Jeff Tang, CIO of Enhance Health. “Fully integrated with our CRM and other agent systems, this platform will fundamentally change the way we interact with our members through streamlined agent workflows, actionable data, and enhanced data security.”

By Nikki Cabus

City of Ft. Lauderdale CIO Tamecka McKay named Top Ten City CIO 2023

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Government CIO Outlook, announced their Top 10 City CIOs of 2023 and a South Florida CIO made the list!

As part of their civic outreach efforts, Govt CIO Outlook, recognizes the technology leaders across the country in their annual prestigious listing of the Top Ten City Govt CIOs who have played an important role in understanding and implementing both technological and operational processes seamlessly within their cities.

Government CIO Outlook is a technology magazine which reaches out to subscribers across globe It is the go-to resource for senior-level government officials and decision makers to learn and share their experiences with products/services, technologies and government technology trends.

The Top 10 City Govt CIOs of 2023 are:

  • Bill Zielinski | City of Dallas, TX
  • Craig Poley | City of Arvada, CO
  • Jason Sankey | City of Atlanta, GA
  • Justin Fair | City of Goodyear, AZ
  • Kevin Gray | City of Burbank, CA
  • Sabra Schneider | City of Bellevue, WA
  • Tamecka McKay | City of Ft. Lauderdale, FL
  • Tony Batalla | City of Oakland, CA
  • Travis Cutright | City of Mesa, AZ
  • Tyson Morris | City of Chattanooga, TN

Tamecka McKay, Chief Information Officer for the City of Ft. Lauderdale, the largest city in Broward County, oversees the City’s entire Technology Infrastructure and Services. The City of Ft. Lauderdale is currently investing over $1 Billion to enhance and maintain their infrastructure network!

The City has launched “LauderWorks” which is an online service that tracks ongoing projects throughout the City which can be filtered by neighborhood, commission district or even the type of project. This allows City residents and interested parties to get details on what the project includes, how much money is being invested and the phase of the overall project. It’s all part of the City’s commitment to transparency in public service.

Her responsibilities include cloud, and on-premise Data Centers, Network, Storage, Systems, Telephony, Mail and Print shop, Audio/Visual, ERP, GIS, Business Applications, Service Desk and Desktop Support services, Mobile technology (tablets, iPad, cell phones) as well as Public Safety technologies including Automatic Vehicle Locaters (AVL), License Plate Readers (LPR), Body Worn Camera technology, Security Surveillance and mission-critical Radio Communications networks for emergency responders and external local government departments.

As an industry certified IT professional, Tamecka has over 23 years of experience. She holds a master’s degree in Public Administration, a bachelor’s degree in Technology Management, and dual associate degrees in Psychology and Computer Information Systems (with honors). As a life-long learner, Tamecka is also currently pursuing her PhD in Public Policy at Florida International University.

Learn more about the City of Ft. Lauderdale here

By Nikki Cabus

Hi-tech production BrandStar Studios expands to Miami-Dade through new multi-year partnership

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BrandStar Studios has inked a multi-year agreement to offer virtual production capabilities at GRUP MEDIAPRO’S facilities in Miami, Florida.

One of South Florida’s largest and most experienced production studios, BrandStar Studios has state-of-the-art cinematic technology and a dedicated team of artists and engineers that produce original content with stunning in-camera visual effects (ICVFX) rendered in real-time – allowing creatives to see their scenes unfold as they are captured and composed on set.

The venture will be called ‘BrandStar Studios at GRUP MEDIAPRO,’ and is BrandStar’s first studio facility in Miami-Dade County, complementing its existing Broward County location and Palm Beach County studio within Lynn University. BrandStar established itself in Miami-Dade in 2021 through a merger with Coral Gables-based KrepsPR & Marketing, who will be supporting the partnership through its integrated services.

With locations in Ft. Lauderdale, Palm Beach and now Miami, BrandStar Studios offers five Virtual Production stages, feature state-of-the-art LED video walls capable of providing In-camera Virtual Production with immersive environments for producing TV shows, movies, commercials, music videos, podcasts, hybrid events and much more all powered by Unreal Engine software, the world’s most advanced real-time 3D creation tool.

Spain-based GRUP MEDIAPRO, a multimedia conglomerate with expansive experience in content creation, production and distribution for television and film, has had a presence in the U.S. for more than 25 years, and boasts a team of 200 broadcast professionals. They currently offer production services out of their studios in Miami for entities such as ESPN, CNN, beIN Sports, HolaTV, Hemisphere Media Group, CONCACAF and many others.

The agreement calls for BrandStar to design, build and install the largest LED Wall in South Florida in their new 9,900 sf studio, along with providing management and support services needed to operate fully the in-camera Virtual Production system. It also includes a revenue sharing component along with 2,000 square feet of office space to house BrandStar’s staff.

“We are extremely pleased to have reached an agreement to further GRUP MEDIAPRO’S vast offerings,” said Irantzu Diez-Gamboa, CEO, MEDIAPRO North America. “BrandStar has a stellar reputation as an industry leader in- Production with a specialty in real time Virtual Production, and we’ve no doubts that this will be an extremely positive relationship.”

The fully operational studio includes a 1,000 panel LED wall that measures 100 feet long and 23 feet tall and is capable of providing immersive environments for filming movies, series, TV shows, commercials, music videos and hybrid events. The system will feature Unreal Engine software, the world’s most advanced real-time 3D creation tool, allowing real-time shooting while exponentially reducing editing and post-production work. The LED volume uses the latest technology allowing for state-of-the-art resolution.

“This state-of-the-art masterpiece is set to transform your creative visions into captivating realities. Get ready to step into immersive worlds and bring your visions to life like never before,” posted BrandStar Studios.

“The film industry is one of Miami-Dade’s most special economic drivers,” said Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava. “Expanding the footprint of Miami-Dade County’s film and production capabilities is one of our key strategic initiatives, and we are honored to see this new partnership bring a first-of-its-kind studio to our county. I look forward to seeing a new level of production coming into Miami-Dade thanks to this new partnership.”

“As Miami-Dade County emerges as a hub for innovation and creativity, the development of virtual reality redefines the boundaries of TV and film,” said Senator René Garcia, County Commissioner District 13. “Harnessing the power of technology paves the way for a future where imagination knows no bounds and offers unparalleled opportunities for our workforce.”

“Almost 80% of all of Florida’s TV and film production is realized in Miami-Dade County,” said Marco Giron, Film and Entertainment Commissioner, Miami-Dade County Office of Film and Entertainment. “The world of virtual production/reality offerings is changing literally by the day, so having this level of technology being offered within the County will only expand our region’s capabilities and reach.”

“BrandStar is absolutely thrilled to open a facility in Miami-Dade County, expanding our services to an entirely new audience,” said Mark Alfieri, Founder & CEO of BrandStar. “The ability to combine our expertise of producing over 300 episode of Television and over 1,000 commercial video projects per year with GRUP MEDIAPRO’s team of industry professionals is sure to create exponential opportunities for Miami-Dade’s TV and film industry. A true win/win for all.”

In a previous press release, Alfieri had stated that, “There’s a reason the technology leverages ‘Unreal. It allows us to create super high-end productions quickly, utilizing the same in-camera virtual environments that major studios are deploying to film their most technology-intensive programming. We will use this technology to produce music videos, virtual events, high-end commercials, television shows, feature films, basically anything anyone can dream up, we can produce it.”

BrandStar is using this advanced technology in production of their own shows, which include The Balancing Act and Military Makeover with Montel, airing on Lifetime and with some of their largest clients in the industry.

To learn more about BrandStar Studios, visit www.brandstarstudios.com

By Nikki Cabus

Ft. Lauderdale-based CloudHesive, an Amazon Web Services (AWS) Premier Partner, acquires Eplexity

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CloudHesive, an Amazon Web Services (AWS) Premier Consulting Partner, announced the acquisition of fellow Premier Partner Eplexity, with additional investment from Strattam Capital. 

The combination creates one of the top “pure play” AWS partners in the United States and Latin America, with deep Amazon Connect and application modernization expertise underpinning a focus on helping customers get the most from their cloud investments.

Eplexity is one of the fastest-growing Amazon Web Services Partners with expertise in managed services, large-scale legacy to cloud migrations, and automation through DevOps pipeline implementation and management. Their CXOS Cloud Management Services Platform is built to AWS best practice standards utilizing DevOps tools and practices. CXOS enables customers to provide faster cloud adoption through proven, secure, cost-effective, and optimized migration methodologies, which increase performance and reliability.

The combined company will serve over 500 clients across a diversified set of industries, including oil and gas, logistics, travel and hospitality, healthcare, high-tech, and the public sector.

This milestone will drive growth and elevate the service quality of the combined company’s growing customer list. “The acquisition of Eplexity brings together two AWS Premier Consulting Partner ecosystem leaders to deliver a pure-play solution of scale to the market,” said Jim Walker, CEO, CloudHesive.

“The Eplexity team’s proven success in the small to mid-size market, combined with CloudHesive’s strength at enterprise scale, gives us unmatched capabilities delivering products, services, and solutions to help customers achieve their AWS goals.”

This investment represents the second acquisition for CloudHesive. In 2022, CloudHesive acquired Dextr Cloud, the industry’s most powerful customer service and performance contact center, as a service solution developed on the AWS service eco-system. This was rebranded ConnectPath CX Contact Center as a Service (CCaaS) platform, powered by Amazon Connect. The acquisition of Eplexity is critical to help CloudHesive grow its Contact Center, AI/ML, Big data, and application optimization practices. This acquisition will increase CloudHesive’s footprint in the United States to include an office in Denver, Colorado, and add additional Amazon Web Service Partner Programs and Competencies to its portfolio.

CloudHesive is an Amazon Premier Partner and an Amazon Managed Services Partner founded in 2014 by veterans in the cloud technology space. We help our customers adapt and transform their organizations by leveraging the power of the public cloud ecosystem through consulting, and next-generation managed services with a focus on Operational Excellence, Security, Reliability, and Application Optimization. We service global customers and have headquarters in Fort Lauderdale, FL, and offices in Norfolk, Virginia, Santiago, Chile, Bogota, Colombia and Buenos Aires, Argentina.

“Joining forces with CloudHesive allows us to merge their cutting-edge technologies and service solutions with our Managed and Application Modernization Services,” said John Clendennen, CEO of Eplexity. “This powerful combination will provide unique, customized solutions for customers looking to modernize or transition to AWS environments.”

Strattam Capital first invested in CloudHesive in 2021 to enable CloudHesive to accelerate its pace of innovation while continuing to provide best-in-class services to its high-profile customer base. In addition, the investment provided CloudHesive with the resources to expand its operations and sales team, supporting customers in both the public sector and commercial space, and to pursue rapid geographic expansion.

Click here to learn more about CloudHesive

By Nikki Cabus

Ft. Lauderdale’s FIT:MATCH honored as high impact tech startup in the international The Lead 100 List 2023

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The Leading 100 List 2023, the highly anticipated international annual research list recognizing innovative tech start-ups driving the future of brand-to-consumer has been announced and the local Ft. Lauderdale-based FIT:MATCH has made the list.

FIT:MATCH is a ‘Digital Twin Matching Platform’ for B2B apparel brands enabling them to match their customers with the best-fitting products. The company’s patented algorithms derive a shopper’s 3D body shape, or “digital twin,’ using augmented reality and LIDAR-powered devices, to make personalized product recommendations in hard to fit categories. FIT:MATCH is designed to eliminate brands’ and consumers’ questions about fit in order to drive conversion and loyalty, while reducing returns.

The Leading 100 List, produced by The Lead, recognizes high impact technology start-ups that are transforming the direct-to-consumer business model and driving business value for brands as well as retailers. These young companies are venture capital funded and predominantly in their seed or series A round of financing. The Leading 100 companies are solving business problems, powering growth, and helping brands deliver on customer expectations through innovative, accessible, and powerful technology solutions. All companies were vetted and selected using a rigorous methodology which measured Innovation, Business Impact, Commercialization & Customers, Teams & Experience, Competition, Media Buzz, and Investor Value Creation. Company data was collected via a combination of CEO interviews, company nomination data, and publicly available market data.

FIT:MATCH, the digital twin platform, recently partnered with disruptor brand Savage X Fenty, in collaboration with Intel to launch the next generation of its award-winning, patented body shape technology. The product, dubbed Fit Xperience, gives shoppers the opportunity to get scanned in an in-store fitting room using Intel’s RealSense technology and the Intel Distribution of OpenVINO toolkit.

Within seconds, customers are matched with the best-fitting Savage X styles based on their exact body shape. This first-of-its-kind experience is available exclusively at Savage X Fenty retail stores, debuted at its new Lenox Square Mall location in Atlanta, Georgia in February.

This new experience weaves together augmented reality, computer vision and artificial intelligence, creating a re-imagined in-store fitting room experience. Shoppers who take part in Fit Xperience step into the fitting room where Intel RealSense depth sensors create an anonymized avatar based on their exact body shape. The technology then compares the shopper’s body to the database of digital twins (bodies that have been scanned previously), and – with an AI assist from Intel OpenVINO – recommends the best-fitting products to the shopper. By using depth sensors, and not cameras, to generate a mapping of a shoppers’ shape, FIT:MATCH has ensured the entire experience is both safe and private, with no videos and pictures taken or stored. The process is also extremely fast — it takes less than 30 seconds from beginning to end — saving time, both for the shoppers and the store associates.

Savage X Fenty closed a strategic investment in FIT:MATCH last year to accelerate expansion of the AR-powered technology, which solves the fit challenge that has long plagued brands and consumers by utilizing body shape data rather than just standard measurements.

This is the type of “high impact technology” that The Lead is looking for in their startups honored in The Lead 100 List 2023.

“Capitalizing on the learnings from the initial Fit Xperience rollout, we wanted to take the entire experience to the next level. This new product leverages Intel’s RealSense technology, as well as OpenVINO software to deliver a powerful, fast, and immersive shopping experience,” said Haniff Brown, Founder and CEO of FIT:MATCH. “We truly believe this is the most frictionless in-store fitting experience on the market.”

Companies from across the value chain all around the world — including marketing, ecommerce, customer experience, stores, data, AI, last mile, checkouts and payments, sustainability, merchandising, and Web3 — were nominated & considered. All companies were vetted and selected using a rigorous methodology which measures Innovation, Business Impact, Commercialization & Customers, Teams and Experience, Competition, Media Buzz, and Investor Value Creation. The selection committee, led by The Lead’s Chief Content Officer, Sonal Gandhi, conducted the analysis and final selection.

“The pace of change in the fashion, beauty and consumer industries has become dizzyingly fast, even for the industry leaders,” says Gandhi. “The companies selected for The Leading 100 list represent some of the best examples of how technology innovation is helping address the needs of this rapidly evolving business environment. Some are helping brands get the best out of the latest advances in powerful technologies such as AI, while others are creating solutions to optimize efficiency and productivity across the value chain.”

The Leading 100 List of 2023 is presented in partnership with RILA, NYFTL, XRC Ventures, Plug & Play, The Robin Report, and SUBTA. The Leading 100 Selection Committee includes: Pano Anthos, Founder & Managing Director, XRC Ventures; Jackie Trebilcock, Managing Director, New York Fashion Tech Lab; Nicholas Ahrens, Senior Vice President of Strategy, Innovation & Content, RILA; Nick Reasner, Director, Innovation & Customer Experience, Simon Property Group; Chip Korn, Partner & Co-chair, Emerging Company & Venture Capital Practice Group, Foley Hoag; Ken Pilot, Founder, Ken Pilot Ventures; Will Decker, Head of Brand & Retail, Plug & Play Tech Center; Christine Russo, Principal, RCC Agency; Tom Barbaro, Co-Founder, Cogent; Juan Mejia, Managing Director, BrightTower; Ian McGarrigle, Chairman, World Retail Congress; and Robin Lewis, Founder & CEO, The Robin Report.

“At XRC Ventures, we are excited about new technologies that empower brands and retailers to innovate,” says XRC Ventures Founder & Managing Director, Pano Anthos. “The Leading 100 List includes startups that are doing just that by developing and leveraging new approaches in AI applications, spatial intelligence, supply chain redesign, sustainably-focused methods, and more. I look forward to seeing these startups help lead our industry into the future.”

The Leading 100 will be honored at The Lead Innovation Summit on July 12th & 13th, The Lead’s flagship event where the entire fashion, beauty, home, CPG, food, beverage, health, wellness, and retail innovation community will converge to engage the future of the direct-to-consumer business model. The annual event will bring together executives from enterprise brands and retailers, challenger DTC brands, innovative unicorns, technology start-ups, enterprise technology, investors, dealmakers, analysts, and stakeholders that comprise The Lead’s network.

 

 

The Leading 100 List of 2023

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By Nikki Cabus

Miami Metro Region has the lowest unemployment rate in the Florida – below national average

Read Time 4 Minutes

The Miami Metropolitan region (Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach) came in with the overall lowest unemployment rate in the state at 2.2%!! 

Last month Governor Ron DeSantis announced that Florida’s economy continues to work for Floridians with February’s unemployment rate remaining at a low 2.6 percent, while the national rate increased to 3.6 percent.

Furthermore, Florida’s unemployment rate has decreased by 0.7 of a percentage point over the year and has remained lower than the nation for 28 consecutive months since November 2020. In February 2023, Florida’s private sector employment grew by 5.0 percent (406,600 jobs) over the year. Between February 2022 and February 2023, Florida’s labor force grew by 247,000 (2.3 percent), which is faster than the national labor force growth rate of 1.5 percent during the same time period.

“Florida’s economy continues to be number one in new business formations while growing our labor force and creating jobs faster than the national rate,” said Governor Ron DeSantis. “As the federal government continues to flounder on key issues like inflation, Florida will continue to get the fundamentals right.”

All ten major industries experienced positive over-the-year job growth in February. Florida’s private sector employment increased by 0.4 percent over the month (+34,800 jobs) in February 2023, faster than the national rate by 0.2 percentage point over the month and 2.0 percentage points over the year. In February 2023, Florida employers have added jobs for 33 months since May 2020, with the exception of October 2022. Florida’s over-the-year private sector job growth rate has exceeded the nations’ job growth rate for 23 consecutive months since April 2021.

“Thanks to Governor DeSantis’ ongoing commitment to investing in infrastructure enhancements and workforce development initiatives across the state, Florida’s economy continues to fire on all cylinders,” said Meredith Ivey, Acting Secretary of the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO).

“Florida gained nearly 35,000 jobs over the month in February 2023 and our state’s unemployment rate remains consistently low. DEO is committed to continuing to champion Governor DeSantis’ mission through its partnerships and programs to ensure Florida sustains its economic success.”

In February 2023, trade, transportation and utilities gained the most jobs among all major industries, adding 12,800 jobs (+0.7 percent) over the month, followed by education and health services, adding 11,400 jobs (+0.8 percent), and leisure and hospitality, adding 10,700 jobs (+0.8 percent).

Data from the month of February continues to indicate there are many job opportunities available for Floridians throughout the state, with more than 409,000 jobs posted online.

The industries gaining jobs over the year included:

  • leisure and hospitality (+104,700 jobs, +8.7 percent)
  • education and health services (+89,400 jobs, +6.5 percent)
  • professional and business services (+67,300 jobs, +4.4 percent)
  • trade, transportation, and utilities (+62,100 jobs, +3.3 percent)
  • financial activities (+25,200 jobs, +3.9 percent)
  • total government (+20,800 jobs, +1.9 percent)
  • construction (+19,700 jobs, +3.3 percent)
  • other services (+18,300 jobs, +5.4 percent)
  • manufacturing (+16,700 jobs, +4.1 percent)
  • information (+2,400 jobs, +1.6 percent)

Floridians in search of work and new job opportunities are encouraged to turn to the CareerSource Florida network for help. Floridians can find guidance on how to register with Employ Florida and search listings of available local job openings. Career seekers also can improve their employability by perfecting resume writing and interviewing skills, establishing career goals, and pursuing customized career training. These services are provided at no cost to job seekers.

In February 2023, Monroe County had the state’s lowest unemployment rate (1.6 percent), followed by Miami-Dade County (1.7 percent), St. Johns County and Gulf County (2.2 percent each), and Wakulla County and Okaloosa County (2.3 percent each). In February 2023, all of 24 metro areas in Florida had over-the-year job gains. The areas with the largest gains were Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater (+68,700 jobs, +4.7 percent), Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford (+68,300 jobs, +5.0 percent), and Miami-Miami Beach-Kendall (+53,800 jobs, +4.4 percent).

The entire Southeast Florida region, or Miami Metro region, came in with the overall lowest unemployment rate in the state at 2.2%!! The Miami-Miami Beach-Kendall metropolitan division came in first for the lowest unemployment rate in the state at 1.7%. The Fort Lauderdale-Pompano Beach-Deerfield Beach tied for second place for the lowest unemployment rate in he state at 2.5% and West Palm Beach-Boca Raton-Delray Beach came in at th8ird -place for the lowest unemployment rate in the state at 2.6%.

To view the February 2023 employment data, visit: www.floridajobs.org/labor-market-information/labor-market-information-press-releases/monthly-press-releases. Visit Florida Insight for more information on labor market and economic data. Additionally, the Department has provided a video to assist users in explaining the data provided through Florida Insight.

 

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Miami Metro Region has the lowest unemployment rate in the Florida – below national average