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By Nikki Cabus

Securitize announces $47 Million Strategic Funding Round led by BlackRock

Read Time 5 Minutes

Securitize, the leader in tokenizing real-world assets, announced the successful completion of a $47 million funding round led by BlackRock.

Miami-based Securitize is driving the compliant digitization of financial assets through next generation blockchain technology. Securitize, or through its subsidiaries, is a registered broker dealer (member SIPC) and operates a primary marketplace, an alternative trading system as well as a top 10 transfer agent and has an exempt reporting adviser.

This investment which also includes funding from Hamilton Lane (Nasdaq: HLNE), ParaFi Capital, and Tradeweb Markets (Nasdaq: TW), underscores Securitize’s industry pioneering efforts in digitizing capital markets with blockchain technology. The contributed capital will fuel Securitize’s continued innovation and expansion as it further solidifies its position as a leader in the digital asset securities ecosystem.

“At BlackRock, we believe that tokenization has the potential to drive a significant transformation in capital markets infrastructure. Our investment in Securitize is another step in the evolution of our digital assets strategy,” said Joseph Chalom. “We are pleased to lead this investment round alongside other participants and help foster innovation that will help meet the future needs of our clients.”

BlackRock (Nasdaq: BLK) is a global asset manager and technology provider with a purpose of helping more and more people experience financial well-being. They help millions of people invest to build savings that serve them throughout their lives making investing easier and more affordable. BlackRock advances sustainable investing because they have a conviction to deliver better outcomes for investors contributing to a more resilient economy that benefits more people.

As part of the investment, BlackRock’s Global Head of Strategic Ecosystem Partnerships, has been appointed to Securitize’s Board of Directors.

“We are thrilled to have the support of such distinguished investors as we continue to drive the digitization of capital markets through tokenization,” said Securitize Co-Founder and CEO Carlos Domingo. “In our view, the transformative potential of blockchain technology to reshape the future of finance in general – and tokenization in particular – is promising.”

Juan Delgado, Hamilton Lane Co-CEO, commented: “Hamilton Lane has a deep history with Securitize, having partnered initially in 2022 and since then enabling access to our Senior Credit Opportunities Fund (SCOPE) as well as our Equity Opportunities Fund V. We are committed to making the private markets accessible to a broader set of investors, including through digital first, token-based technology. Securitize continues to be a leader in this space and we are thrilled with this investment and excited to continue our collaboration.”

Hamilton Lane (Nasdaq: HLNE) is one of the largest private markets investment firms globally, providing innovative solutions to institutional and private wealth investors around the world. Dedicated exclusively to private markets investing for more than 30 years, the firm currently employs nearly 700 professionals operating in offices throughout North AmericaEuropeAsia Pacific and the Middle East. Hamilton Lane has approximately $903 billion in assets under management and supervision, composed of $120 billion in discretionary assets and nearly $783 billion in non-discretionary assets, as of December 31, 2023. Hamilton Lane specializes in building flexible investment programs that provide clients access to the full spectrum of private markets strategies, sectors and geographies.

“Securitize has built cutting edge infrastructure that enables traditional assets to move onto the high speed, modern rails of blockchains — enabling greater transparency, immediate settlement, reduced counterparty risk, and heightened programmability,” said Ben Forman, Founder and Managing Partner of ParaFi.  “At ParaFi, we’ve invested broadly across digital asset and tokenization infrastructure and are thrilled to partner with Carlos and the Securitize team to enable this vision of the future.”

ParaFi Capital is a leading alternative asset management firm that operates hedge fund and venture capital strategies focused on the digital asset ecosystem. Founded in 2018, ParaFi was among the earliest investors in the blockchain industry and has evolved into a trusted partner by leading institutions globally. ParaFi’s investment and technology team pursues idiosyncratic opportunities across venture, liquid, and quantitative strategies with a focus on bridging traditional capital markets and blockchain technology. As a firm, ParaFi is committed to a culture of rigorous research, technical development, and institutional underwriting to enable exceptional results for our partners and portfolio companies.

“Tokenization has the potential to drive greater efficiency and accessibility across financial markets,” said Tradeweb Chief Product Officer Chris Bruner. “Securitize’s expertise in digital asset securities aligns nicely with Tradeweb’s focus on delivering cutting-edge technology that strengthens market infrastructure for our clients.”

Tradeweb Markets Inc. (Nasdaq: TW) is a leading, global operator of electronic marketplaces for rates, credit, equities and money markets. Founded in 1996, Tradeweb provides access to markets, data and analytics, electronic trading, straight-through-processing and reporting for more than 50 products to clients in the institutional, wholesale and retail markets. Advanced technologies developed by Tradeweb enhance price discovery, order execution and trade workflows while allowing for greater scale and helping to reduce risks in client trading operations. Tradeweb serves more than 2,500 clients in more than 70 countries. On average, Tradeweb facilitated more than $1.5 trillion in notional value traded per day over the past four quarters.

Other strategic investors in the round include Aptos Labs, Circle and Paxos. Securitize will leverage the proceeds of the funding round to accelerate product development, expand its global footprint, and further strengthen its partnerships across the financial services ecosystem.

The funding round coincides with the launch of BlackRock’s first tokenized fund issued on Ethereum, the BlackRock USD Institutional Digital Liquidity Fund (BUIDL), available to investors by subscribing to the fund with Securitize.

BUIDL seeks to offer a stable value of $1 per token and pays daily accrued dividends directly to investors’ wallets as new tokens each month. The Fund invests 100% of its total assets in cash, U.S. Treasury bills, and repurchase agreements, allowing investors to earn yield while holding the token on the blockchain. Investors can transfer their tokens 24/7/365 to other pre-approved investors. Through Circle, BUIDL holders can transfer their shares to Circle for USDC through its smart contract functionality.  Fund participants will also have flexible custody options allowing them to choose how to hold their tokens.

To learn more, visit www.securitize.io

By Nikki Cabus

CommerceTech platform smartBeemo receives $6 million in funding to support Latino online businesses

Read Time 3 Minutes

smartBeemo received $6 million in funding to continue their mission of supporting the growth of Latin eCommerce businesses. 

Founded in 2014, smartBeemo is a CommerceTech platform dedicated to assisting Latin individuals in launching and growing their own ECommerce stores. Through education, community engagement, access to solutions, and direct access to China, the company has served over 100,000 paying users to date. They are striving to play a significant role in e-commerce in Latin America.

Targeting entrepreneurs, professionals in business with digital presence, and marketing students, smartBeemo offers education solutions through online courses and diplomas, virtual and face-to-face events, digital and printed books and business consultancies. 

On February 12th, SmartBeemo announced their pre-Series A funding round that closed Dec 2023. The company was able to raise $6 million with Redwood Ventures leading the round. The round included nine different investors including existing Redwood Ventures, Simma Capital, and New Ventures, but also new investors Aluna Partners, EaglePoint Capital, Angel Hub, Impact Ventures, Promotora Social México, and RGMA Holdings de Multifamily EPC.

The Latin American-born company began in Colombia, South America and now has a Miami presence having gone through the Endeavor ScaleUP program. ScaleUp is an initiative by Endeavor, a global organization that supports high-impact entrepreneurs in 40+ countries. Endeavor ScaleUp is a cohort-based initiative that equips high-growth founders in Florida with the network and resources to gain clarity on their path to scale.

Endeavor ScaleUP participant, Michel Edery, Co-founder & CEO of smartBeemo, wanted to leverage the Spanish language for the good and bringing a ray of hope for the Latin Americans. In a world where English is in a class of its own, there are people who are still having a hard time understanding the language, and in turn, it acts as the major barrier in their learning process. Michel recognized this problem and developed smartBeemo only for such people, breaking the language barriers that affect their learning.

In an Endeavor Miami podcast episode, Michael shared his experience growing his company, the insights he’s gained by being part of an entrepreneurial community, and the happiness that comes from doing what he loves. He spoke of how he belives that humans are always building stating that “We as human beings always need to work on something and build something. There are people who build gardens [his neighbor] and there’s people who build companies. I build companies.” You can listen in to the full conversation here.

Michael had previously shared how business is booming in Latin America and that the pandemic forced people to look to the internet allowing them the knowledge of how easy it can be to connect and even launch their own ecommerce businesses. He stated, “Over here, there is a bridge between e-commerce and digital marketing major due to the language barriers as all the great content out there is in English. But now I think people are starting to learn and understand more about social media, e-commerce and I can now see thousands of people launching their businesses.”

According to statista.com, Latin America harbors more than 300 million digital buyers, a figure forecast to grow by more than 20 percent by 2027.

Although e-commerce adoption in this part of the world is still lower than in other regions, online retail sales in Latin America were estimated at nearly 168 billion U.S. dollars in 2022 and set to account for almost 20 percent of total retail by 2026. On a regional level, Brazil and Mexico are vying for the lead, each accounting for close to 30 percent of the Latin American e-commerce market. However, other economies such as Argentina, Colombia, and Peru have been drawing increasing attention due to their swift growth.

To learn more about smartBeemo, visit www.smartbeemo.com

By Nikki Cabus

Las Olas Venture Capital announced their latest investment in Miami startup Letterhead

Read Time 4 Minutes

Las Olas Venture Capital, or “LOVC,” has announced their latest investment in a South Florida startup – Letterhead.

LOVC is an early-stage venture fund investing in B2B software companies based in the Eastern US. Founded in 2016 by former entrepreneurs and headquartered in Florida, LOVC is now investing out of its $50M Fund II and typically leads $37M rounds with $1.52.5M checks in businesses with early commercial signals of product-market fit (typically $200K+ ARR). Their low-frequency and high-conviction investment approach (3-5 companies per year) allows us to be deeply collaborative and hands-on with the founders we partner with.

Miami-based Letterhead is a software platform for automating the creation and management of email newsletters, streamlining newsletter creation, distribution, and monetization for publishers and marketing teams to help produce meaningful content at scale. The company aims to revolutionize newsletter content automation. The company was founded in 2020 by Rebekah Monson, Bruce Pinchbeck, and Christopher Sopher.

“Rebekah and Chris have brought a unique content-centric perspective to the world of email communication, building a compelling solution for organizations of all sizes to leverage the power of personalization to communicate on the most enduring first-party channels there is,” said Sim Blaustein, Partner at BDMI.

Leveraging AI, Letterhead empowers users to manage multiple newsletters with the workflow of one, improving efficiency and scalability while retaining the ability to create quality, personalized, and bespoke products. Letterhead’s software works with a customer’s existing content management system and email service provider, enabling any company to use its tools with minimal switching costs.

“Our vision is to help every company engage their audiences with meaningful media content,” said Christopher Sopher, co-founder and CEO of Letterhead. “As changes to cookies and privacy rules make owning your audience more critical than ever, we think it should be way easier for teams to create quality content products for every segment of their community. Our first step is making it possible for any business to create great newsletters in a fraction of the time.”

Letterhead is trusted by the publishers of over 1,800 newsletters, indicating a strong market fit and demand for more intelligent audience engagement software. Customers include leading brands like Techstars and Salon.

The $5.3 million seed funding round, led by LOVC, is joined by Reign Ventures with participation from BDMI, Florida Opportunity Fund, and McClatchy. Letterhead will use the fresh infusion of capital to continue developing the platform, expand the team, and accelerate growth as it continues to innovate how newsletters are produced and managed. 

The Letterhead investment serves at LOVC’s 26th portfolio company and the 5th one for the 2023 year. 25 of the companies are currently active and the 26th being an exit. 20% of the active portfolio companies are in the state of Florida. LOVC currently has one additional deal expected to close soon and a second pending. 2023 was a big year for the firm and they expect to grow even more into 2024!

The Letterhead team is looking to make some critical hires across product, engineering and sales. Interested parties, can check out LOVC’s Portfolio Jobs & Careers Page and apply to the positions that match your qualifications at any of their portfolio companies.

“While there are many traditional email marketing products, none are focused on content-driven engagement like Letterhead is,” said Nate Vasel, partner at LOVC. “We were impressed with the team’s vision for an owned audience future powered by AI and automation and their consistent execution to grow the business.”

Born out of pure necessity, Letterhead is actually a spinoff of a product created for the co-founders other business, WhereBy.Us which launched the local Miami media site, The New Tropic. Once it began focusing on email newsletter formats, the business took off. People would ask about the tools used and ask the team if they could use them. After enough no answers, they decided to find a way to say yes and turn it into a business.

Media companies, nonprofits, higher education institutions, professional associations all began using the Letterhead tool increasing profits through AI, data analytics, integrations and the ability for clients to implement paywalled subsections, newsletters advertisements, easy-to-use templates and more.

To learn more about Letterhead, please visit https://letterhead.ai/

By Nikki Cabus

GOVO Venture Partners Co-Leads $5M Seed Round in Climate-Tech Startup Kind Designs

Read Time 3 Minutes

GOVO Venture Partners, along with M4 Investing and the Florida Opportunity Fund, is co-leading a $5M seed investment round in Miami-based Kind Designs.

This is the third portfolio company investment GOVO has made since announcing the launch of its venture fund, GOVO Fund I, in January.

It’s estimated that by the year 2100, Miami will be completely submerged by water by 6 – 10 feet “resulting in mass migration,$217 Billion in lost homes and Miami being submerged,” according to the Kind Designs. Empowering nature with technology, Kind Designs is a climate-tech startup that’s addressing rising sea-levels by revolutionizing the outdated and traditionally toxic seawall construction industry.

Through its use of innovative,  patent-pending 3D printing technology, and eco-friendly materials, Kind Designs is producing the world’s first 3D-printed Living Seawalls™️. The Living Seawalls™️ mimic coral reefs and mangroves which protect coastal communities from floods and storm surges, while creating marine habitats that host biodiversity and improve the quality of the water, The Living Seawalls sequester carbon and collect essential water quality data through embedded sensors.

Anya Freeman, Kind Design’s founder and CEO shared, ”we are thrilled to have a Florida-based firm with deep roots in the community and government expertise lead our round, enabling us to protect all coastal cities with Kind’s Living Seawalls and grow far beyond our home state of Florida.”

In a recent social media post, Anya also shared this sentiment, “Your team of investors knows how to get stuff done. It’s GO TIME in Miami!!”

Rob Panepinto, GOVO’s managing general partner, said of the investment, “In response to sea level rise, government agencies throughout the world will seek to adopt policy and guidance for ecologically responsible sea walls. By applying its proprietary and innovative technology, Kind Designs is setting the standard and solving a global problem. We look forward to collaborating with our co-investors and the Kind Designs team as they work to become the market leader in the space.”

 

GOVO Venture Partners is a Winter Park, Florida based company. GOVO Fund I is a venture fund that invests, seed round through series A, in early stage companies for which doing business with government or navigating government regulations is an important success factor.

4 Investing is a Florida based family office that owns and operates a diverse portfolio of companies. The firm also invests in real estate, private equity funds, and direct venture capital.

Earlier this summer, The Florida Venture Forum and co-host, Space Florida, hosted the 2023 Aerospace + EmergingTech Forum awarding over $200,000 in cash and VC investment and Kind Designs took home $40,000. In addition to the cash prizes awarded, DeepWork Capital, an early-stage venture capital firm based in Orlando, is announced they will also invest in Kind Designs.

Read more here.

By Nikki Cabus

Renowned Celebrity Chef Robert Irvine invests in Boca Raton-based restaurant tech company

Read Time 3 Minutes

GRUBBRR, the industry-leading provider of self-ordering technologies that are revolutionizing the way commerce is transacted globally, announced today a new partnership and investment with celebrity chef, restaurateur, and TV host Robert Irvine. Together, they will tackle challenges plaguing the restaurant industry, including labor shortages and rising food costs, and help restaurant owners navigate the future of the industry.

Robert Irvine is a world-class chef, entrepreneur, and philanthropist. He is best known for saving failing restaurants on his hit show, Restaurant: Impossible and for his commitment giving back to our nation’s defenders through the Robert Irvine Foundation.

The new partnership will combine GRUBBRR’s cutting-edge self-ordering technology and Robert Irvine’s expertise in the restaurant space to create an unparalleled solution for restaurants. The self-ordering solutions will provide customers with an efficient and convenient ordering experience, while improving general restaurant operations.

The residual effects of COVID-19 have continued to wreak havoc on the restaurant industry as owners navigate inflated food prices and staff shortages. To combat these obstacles, restaurants are turning to technology to increase operational efficiencies and save money.

“I am thrilled to be partnering with GRUBBRR to bring their solution to restaurants to help improve operational efficiencies and overall performance,” said Irvine.

“The industry has been struggling to recover from the pandemic, and for many restaurants, there is a dire need for transformation and innovation. This partnership will help us turn restaurants around, making the seemingly impossible recovery – possible.”

Headquartered in Boca Raton, GRUBBRR is a global self-ordering solutions and POS systems provider at the forefront of self-ordering technologies. GRUBBRR’s award-winning eco-system, including kiosks, mobile ordering, POS, online ordering, KDS, contactless smart lockers and more, are proven to help businesses maximize revenue, decrease labor costs, and increase operational efficiency while improving the consumer experience. GRUBBRR’s solutions are adaptable and beneficial to a multitude of businesses, and power both enterprise-level and small and medium businesses across verticals such as quick-service restaurants, fast casual restaurants, stadiums, movie theaters, casinos, micro-markets, retail, and more.

Bhavin Asher is the founder and Chief Technology Officer of GRUBBRR®. He founded GRUBBRR with the mission of changing the way commerce is transacted by automating both the consumer and business experience through artificial intelligence and machine learning.

He joined forces with Sam Zietz, CEO of GRUBBRR in November 2018. Under Sam’s leadership, GRUBBRR has been the recipient of multiple awards and accolades for its self-ordering kiosks and contactless ordering solutions.

“We are proud to be working with Robert Irvine to revolutionize the restaurant industry,” said Sam Zietz, CEO of GRUBBRR.

“Robert’s expertise and his commitment to the industry and innovation makes him the perfect partner for GRUBBRR as we continue to raise awareness of the benefits of self-ordering technology for restaurant owners and customers alike.”

For more information about the partnership between GRUBBRR and Robert Irvine, or to learn more about GRUBBRR’s self-ordering technology, please visit www.grubbrr.com.

 

By Nikki Cabus

CAST AI Receives $20M in New Funding Led by Early-Stage VC Creandum

Read Time 3 Minutes

The intelligent cloud-native automation and cost management startup, CAST AI, has announced the closing of a $20M investment round.

The investment round was led by Creandum, an early-stage venture capital investment firm behind companies like Spotify, neo4j, and Klarna. Creandum invested $15M, joining CAST AI’s original lineup of investors which injected an additional $5M, signaling renewed enthusiasm for advanced AI-driven cloud cost optimization solutions.

Founded in 2003, Creandum is a leading pan-European early-stage venture capital firm whose portfolio of 120+ companies includes some of Europe’s most successful tech companies across a wide range of industries. Today, every sixth company is a unicorn. Creandum’s advisory teams are based in Stockholm, Berlin, London, and San Francisco and offer extensive operational expertise to support the funds’ portfolio companies from seed to exit to become global category leaders. Learn more at www.creandum.com.

With this investment, CAST AI is ready to take advantage of the significant opportunity as the market for cloud-native solutions is experiencing hypergrowth and, at the same time, facing the challenge of sustainable cost management. In a recent ‘State of Kubernetes Report” released by CAST AI, it showed that companies overspend by 60% due to overprovisioning containerized applications.

CAST AI Co-Founders, Laurent Gil (CPO), Leon Kuperman (CTO), and Yuri Frayman (CEO), started the company out of their own personal frustration with rising cloud costs. They had just sold their previous startup, Zenegade, which was acquired by Oracle and they stated that they couldn’t get it out of their head that there must be a better way to manage costs. And so came, CAST AI.

The Co-Founders told South Florida Tech Hub, “We are proud to be a part of Miami ecosystem and will expand our operations and our presence in the region. We will also continue to be active in the community by participating in events, helping other startups and sharing insights and know-how we’ve learned along the way.”

Headquartered in downtown Miami, CAST AI also has a European branch in Vilnius, Lithuania. The company has raised $38M from investors including Creandum, Cota Capital, and Uncorrelated Ventures.

CAST AI is an all-in-one cloud-native automation platform that cuts cloud bills in half for AWS, GCP, and Azure customers. Powered by AI, it analyzes multiple data points to find an optimal cost-performance ratio. The company founders are serial entrepreneurs who successfully led previous startups to acquisitions by Google, Comcast and Oracle. The CAST AI platform employs AI and automation to analyze compute resources and optimize them in minutes. By connecting their Kubernetes clusters to the platform, organizations can see suggested recommendations and use powerful cloud-native automation techniques for immediate cost reduction.

Recently, the platform has helped the social media unicorn ShareChat, the Adtech company Iterable, and the global mobile analytics leader Branch to start saving millions of dollars annually.

“This funding is just in time to take advantage of the tremendous opportunity in the market as more and more companies transition to containerized applications in the cloud,” said Yuri Frayman, CEO of CAST AI.

“With this investment, we can further grow our position as a leading provider of intelligent cloud optimization solutions globally as well as expand our all-in-one platform capabilities to more cloud-native ecosystems and use cases.”

Since the platform launch, CAST AI has experienced quarter-by-quarter revenue growth of over 220%, based on the company’s ability to provide optimization solutions that simplify cloud-native application management, a much-needed service in today’s tech-driven world.

Carl Fritjofsson, General Partner at Creandum, commented “CAST AI’s explosive growth is unheard of in this macro market.

This demand really shows how unique and powerful the company’s solution is. We believe the needs for DevOps automation will only grow from here, and can’t wait to see CAST AI become the leader in the cloud optimization space.”

CAST AI positions itself as an all-in-one platform for cloud-native applications. Users can benefit from the full-suite of solutions including cost monitoring, autoscaling, spot instances automation and container security.

For  more information on CAST AI, visit https://cast.ai/

By Nikki Cabus

CITY Furniture announces equity stake in Palm Beach County-based PeakActivity

Read Time 3 Minutes

Broward-based CITY Furniture, a family-owned American furniture and mattress retailer, fine upholstery manufacturer, and one of America’s Top 20 furniture retailers, announced it has recently taken an equity stake in PeakActivity, a digital acceleration and technology services company based in Palm Beach county that enables progress for businesses at every point of their digital journey through modernization, optimization, innovation, and engineering services.

As long-time partners, CITY’s equity stake, which represents a minority position, is a win-win for both parties. For CITY, this investment solidifies their position as a pioneer in Home Tech, integrating technology into everything they do. PeakActivity will use this investment to accelerate their overall growth and fund further innovation in the home furnishings category.

With shared goals and shared financial outcomes, the partnership between the companies will be strengthened to a level they have not had previously and is a testament to the quality of the work they have done together over the past five years.

“CITY is working hard to build a world class organization that is best in class in technology. The future of the home industry and all industries hinge on technology and innovation,” said Andrew Koenig, CEO of CITY. “Our partnership with PeakActivity is more important now than it has ever been. We are convinced that taking a position in PeakActivity will accelerate our technological advantages in the market and result in a better customer and associate experience overall.”

CITY Furniture operates over twenty-two showrooms from Miami through Vero Beach, and in Southwest and Central Florida, as well as fourteen Ashley Home Store showrooms as the brand’s Southeast and Southwest Florida licensee. The company is one of the country’s top furniture retailers and continuing to grow.

As technology becomes more and more fundamental to everyday business and everyday living, CITY looks to embrace it and actively learn about the opportunities that tech provides businesses. CITY looks to be a driving force in taking the home furnishing world from “old school” to “industry cool” by investing in their long-time tech partner, PeakActivity.

As part of its investment, CITY looks forward to their ability to share knowledge, ideas, and strategies, while leveraging both companies skilled tech teams to work on some of the best home projects in the industry. Given their long-standing client-agency relationship, the companies are already working on several projects together in the areas of ecommerce, AR Design, CITY Moves, and more, that will continue to grow and expand as their relationship advances in the months and years to come.

“CITY has been one of our longest standing and best clients, driving us to innovate, to think, and work both faster and better,” said Manish B. Hirapara, CEO of PeakActivity.

“With this investment, our relationship becomes even more significant and is unlike that of any other client relationship we have. I expect that we continue to grow together and thrive together in the future. We are stronger than we’ve ever been before now as true partners.”

PeakActivity is a digital strategy and implementation company, partnering with businesses to accelerate their growth through eCommerce, Digital Marketing, and Technology solutions. By leveraging its unique methodology of Dream, Deliver, Elevate, PeakActivity simultaneously focuses on short-term wins with a constant eye towards longer-term innovation and business growth.

This relationship with PeakActivity just further reinforces CITY’s long-time commitment to being tech forward for both their internal stakeholders and external stakeholders. For CITY, seamless technology integration is just as important to a customer looking to furnish their living room in Miami, as it is to a warehouse worker in Orlando and a corporate employee in Tampa. Over the years, the company has enjoyed significant success building out their own tech department, making all of areas of the company better, faster, easier, and safer, while building out teams for e-commerce, data analytics and cybersecurity.

With tech at the forefront of CITY’s business strategy from the start, this relationship is an investment in the success of CITY’s tech-focused future and a step towards achieving their long-term goals.

By Nikki Cabus

Office Depot’s back-to-school Start Proud initiative kicks off

Read Time 4 Minutes

It’s official, Start Proud!, the national back-2-school philanthropy campaign of ODP (parent of Office Depot) kicked-off on August 6th, 2022.

In Summer 2018, Office Depot launched Start Proud! to help foster brighter beginnings for schools in low-income communities, nationwide, and to give students, parents and teachers the supplies they need to start the year confident, prepared and proud.

Start Proud! is hosted at elementary schools in underserved communities in the 15 largest markets across the country: Atlanta, Austin, Chicago, Columbus, Dallas, Denver, Detroit, Minneapolis, Orlando, Philadelphia, Phoenix, San Francisco, Seattle, Southern California, and right here in South Florida, where the Office Depot headquarters are located. 

Through its banner brands Office Depot®, OfficeMax®, ODP Business Solutions™, Varis™ , and others, the company offers its customers the tools and resources they need to focus on their passion of starting, growing and running their business. . . or classroom.

The program kicks-off in July with Backpack Bundling Bashes, where associates, friends and family members come together to assemble backpacks full of school supplies for the deserving students of the select Start Proud! schools. 

August through September, Start Proud! comes to life at Celebratory Assemblies across the nation. These inspiring campus celebrations include an exciting program and inspiring event for all with remarks from Office Depot’s senior executives, school’s principals, the district’s superintendents, National PTA representatives and other special guests.

The special day includes hundreds of excited students gathering, cheering, and receiving brand-new backpacks and school supplies; classroom supplies donated to all the teachers of the school; and one ‘All-Star Teacher’ from each school celebrated for their extraordinary efforts in the classroom and surprised with a package of premium classroom supplies including new furniture, teaching supplies, technology and tech services from Office Depot valued at almost $2000.

In 2021, over $3.8 million worth of educational supplies were donated. Associate volunteers assembled 18,000 premium backpacks filled with over $1.8 million worth of school supplies like notebooks, composition books, crayons, pencils, highlighters and more, to provide to students at more than 25 Title I schools nationwide. With support from Boise Paper and Domtar Paper, each backpack also included one $20 Office Depot gift card for families to purchase additional supplies for their child. Let’s see what 2022 will bring!

“After the great challenges of these past three years, nothing could be more important than supporting and celebrating our public school students and teachers as they head into the 2022 back-to-school season,“ said Alex Price, National Director of Community Investment for The ODP Corporation (parent of Office Depot),

“As we traverse the traverse the U.S. adopting Title 1 schools, supporting families in need, and celebrating teachers who are our superheroes, this Start Proud! campaign will shower the most economically distressed schools with everything they need with a special commitment to our home community of South Florida,” added Price.

Did you know that YOU can help make a difference this school year just by purchasing the supplies you need from Office Depot? Simply make a purchase of qualifying school supplies, provide your school’s ID at
checkout (in store and online) and your designated school will receive 5% back in credits for FREE supplies! It’s a small act that can make a huge difference and anything that can help stretch a school’s budget allows them to provide the best education possible.

Office Depot also leverages its retail footprint to provide customers with the opportunity to support a local Title I school in their area, through a partnership with Round It Up America® (RIUA). Simply round up your purchase to the nearest dollar. With these additional funds, selected school representatives can enjoy a shopping spree at their local Office Depot or OfficeMax store to get additional learning essentials, technology and personal protective equipment (PPE) into the hands of the teachers, students, and school administrators who need them.

The Start Proud! campaign is part of Office Depot’s community investment initiative called #depotdifference. As our company continues to change and evolve in exciting ways, so too has the way in which we support the communities where we live and do business. #depotdifference brings an employee-centric, hands-on approach to empower us all to make a difference through robust employee volunteerism and philanthropic giving. To learn more about Office Depot’s investment in local communities nationwide, visit depotdifference.com

 

Securitize announces $47 Million Strategic Funding Round led by BlackRock
CommerceTech platform smartBeemo receives $6 million in funding to support Latino online businesses
Las Olas Venture Capital announced their latest investment in Miami startup Letterhead
GOVO Venture Partners Co-Leads $5M Seed Round in Climate-Tech Startup Kind Designs
Renowned Celebrity Chef Robert Irvine invests in Boca Raton-based restaurant tech company
CAST AI Receives $20M in New Funding Led by Early-Stage VC Creandum
CITY Furniture announces equity stake in Palm Beach County-based PeakActivity
Office Depot’s back-to-school Start Proud initiative kicks off