South Florida Tech HubSouth Florida Tech Hub

By Nikki Cabus

GrowFL Celebrates Induction of Members into Prestigious Mentoring Program

Read Time 4 Minutes

Florida’s entrepreneurial landscape gets a boost as GrowFL inducted its fourth class into the prestigious American Academy of Entrepreneurs (AAE) program on May 6, 2024.

GrowFL is Florida’s leading organization dedicated to empowering second-stage companies. We achieve this by providing them with the focused resources and connections they need to thrive. Through our programs, second-stage companies gain access to a network of experienced leaders and industry professionals, along with the tools and guidance to navigate growth. GrowFL is committed to fostering a vibrant second-stage community that fuels Florida’s economic diversification and prosperity. Second-stage companies, as defined by GrowFL, are those with at least 6 employees, and $750,000 in revenue, and a desire to scale beyond second-stage.

A program created by the Edward Lowe Foundation, AAE was launched in 2020 in partnership with GrowFL, to empower the next generation of business leaders in the state of Florida. Through the support of Stankowski Advanced Strategies, the American Academy of Entrepreneurs offers a unique opportunity for a select group of second-stage business owners. Participants benefit from personalized mentoring by experienced entrepreneurs, comprehensive business management education, and exclusive leadership development opportunities.

The American Academy of Entrepreneurs, a testament to the enduring legacy of Edward Lowe and GrowFL’s commitment, is dedicated to fostering the success of Florida’s second-stage businesses. The culmination of the six-month program is marked by a prestigious induction ceremony, celebrating the participants’ achievements and the strides they’ve made in expanding their businesses. This event officially inducts participants into the American Academy of Entrepreneurs, recognizing them as a select group of business leaders endorsed by GrowFL and the Edward Lowe Foundation for their dedication to their businesses and entrepreneurship in Florida.

Edward Lowe believed America was built on the backs of entrepreneurs and was passionate about supporting them. As an entrepreneur himself and the inventor of Kitty Litter, Lowe understood first-hand the challenges entrepreneurs face. He and his wife, Darlene Lowe, launched the Edward Lowe Foundation in 1985 to provide entrepreneurs with greater support and resources.

“Stankowski Advanced Strategies is proud to partner with GrowFL and the Edward Lowe Foundation to support the American Academy of Entrepreneurs program,” said Barbara Stankowski, CEO of Stankowski Advanced Strategies.

“As an entrepreneur myself and an AAE inductee, I am thrilled about the achievements of these entrepreneurs. Their induction into AAE is a testament to the tireless spirit that defines the entrepreneurial journey. Along with GrowFL, I celebrate your ingenuity, tenacity, and unwavering belief in the power of ideas.”

This esteemed group of five mentors and mentees join others inducted into the Academy from Florida, Louisiana, and Michigan.

To participate as a mentee, you must be a second-stage business owner with at least 6 employees and $750,000 in revenue. For mentors, you must currently be or have previously owned and exited a second-stage business and are willing to sponsor a mentee to participate. Mentors and mentees who qualify for the AAE program have previously participated in programs of GrowFL and/or the Edward Lowe Foundation and successfully completed the application process.

Owner of Tank Wizards, and 2021 GrowFL Florida Companies to Watch Honoree, Wendall Stroderd notes that “The mentors in the American Academy of Entrepreneurs program are business owners, or former business owners, who just want to give back, and share their experiences and talents to help other entrepreneurs to flourish rather than flounder.” Furthermore, Founder and CEO of Impresiv Health and 2020 GrowFL Florida Companies to Watch Honoree, Marcus Fontaine, encourages other CEOs to participate, “Anyone who is the founder and CEO/President of a second-stage company would benefit from the program as long as they put the effort into what they expect to receive.”

GrowFL is thrilled to celebrate the induction of our 2024 American Academy of Entrepreneurs class – both esteemed mentors and inspiring mentees. These talented individuals are vital in propelling Florida’s entrepreneurial ecosystem forward,” stated Pete Previte, Board Chair for GrowFL and Commercial and Investment Banking M&A, CRES Corp International.

“The mentors bring invaluable wisdom and guidance, while the mentees represent the future. This exchange of knowledge and experience fuels innovation and sets the stage for continued growth.”

The American Academy of Entrepreneurs proudly welcomes the following accomplished Florida business leaders into its esteemed ranks:

MENTEES:

  • Bill Zachary, Zgraph (Daytona)
  • Jeremy Valverde, Affinity Tech Solutions (Eustis)
  • Jonathen Warren, Critical Frequency Design (Melbourne)
  • Marcus Fontaine, Impresiv Health (Longwood)
  • Nancy Crews, Ph.D., Custom Manufacturing & Engineering (Pinellas Park)
  • Wendall Stroderd, Tank Wizards (Melbourne)

MENTORS:

  • Ashley Schappert, MG Business Consulting LLC (Ocala)
  • Barbara Stankowski, Stankowski Advanced Strategies (Orlando)
  • David Hartmann, TheSilver Logic (Boca Raton)
  • Jayson Meyer, Synergy Billings (Holly Hill)

“I have mentored for multiple organizations and enjoy guiding other entrepreneurs on their journey to help avoid some of the pitfalls and detours I’ve taken over the last 12 years,” mentor, past GrowFL Company to Watch nominee, and CEO of The SilverLogic, David Hartmann, told South Florida Tech Hub.

“There are so many details to pay attention to that can be tremendously helpful to have someone to talk to about. Plus some topics, it takes a fellow entrepreneur, as talking to your team how to make payroll or how to structure benefits might not feel as comfortable. Since I discovered the value of peers and mentors for myself, I give back whatever my time allows to similarly help others.”

To apply as a mentor or a mentee for future programs, visit https://growfl.com/business-growth-program/american-academy-of-entrepreneurs/.

By Nikki Cabus

GrowFL celebrates top 50 second-stage companies in Florida at 13th annual awards

Read Time 6 Minutes

The 13th GrowFL Florida Companies to Watch Awards Celebration honored 50 outstanding second-stage companies from throughout the state for their innovation, growth, and communit impact. 

The annual event was held February 15th, 2024 at the Hard Rock Live, Universal CityWalk in Orlando, Florida with Duke Energy Florida, a subsidiary of Duke Energy Corporation, as this year’s presenting sponsor.

GrowFL, through diverse programs and services, provides proven methods to help overcome unique challenges facing second-stage companies as they grow. The organization is Florida’s only organization focused exclusively on supporting second-stage businesses. The awards program honors impressive second-stage companies from throughout the state for developing valuable products and services, creating quality jobs, enriching communities, and broadening new industries throughout Florida.

Second-stage growth companies have at least 6 employees and $750,000 in revenue and possess the intent and desire to grow beyond second-stage. This small but mighty group of companies make up only 12% of the businesses in Florida yet create 34% of the jobs in our state. In fact, from 2019 to 2022, the 13th Annual GrowFL Florida Companies to Watch Honorees generated close to 2 billion dollars in revenue and created more than 870 jobs. These businesses, beyond their startup phase, play a significant role in boosting regional economies.

50 honorees were selected after a final round of judging by a panel comprised of past honorees, economic development leaders and corporate partners of GrowFL. Companies were judged on a number of criteria including growth in number of employees; impact of the business in the job market; increase in sales and/or unit volume; current and past financial reports; innovativeness of the product or service; response to adversity; and contributions to aid community-oriented projects.

“GrowFL Florida Companies to Watch was designed to celebrate the spirit of entrepreneurship and to shine a spotlight on the most deserving companies,” said Jennifer Taylor, president, and CEO of GrowFL.

“Second-stage businesses are the lifeblood of our state’s economy, driving innovation, creating jobs, and fueling prosperity. This year’s Honorees span 20 different counties, represent 18 different industries and 32% of them are woman, veteran, or minority owned. This diverse group of honorees can only mean one thing – Florida is the place where entrepreneurs thrive!”

Of the 50 honorees, there were five companies from South Florida represented. Those companies are:

  • Hollywood Woodwork (Broward) – manuafacturing
  • Pointer Construction Group (Broward) – construction
  • Spot Pet Insurance (Miami-Dade) – finance & insurance
  • Streann Media (Miami-Dade) – information technology
  • Weedoo Greenboat, Inc. (Palm Beach) – manuafacturing

South Florida Tech Hub member company, Streann Media, took home an award. Their Founder and CEO, Gio Punzo, made a ststement on social media, “We are super excited about the award that we received. Thank you, GrowFL, for giving us the award and having us attend the wonderful event.”

“What’s amazing about the reward is not just about the products that we have created that are touching millions of users. It’s about the jobs that our technology has created. Millions of people around the world are using our technology, but there’s thousands of people that are working thanks to the technology that we built. We are very blessed that through our technologies, our company is helping communities around the world create new jobs. We are forever grateful.”

“As Chair of GrowFL’s Advisory Board, I am honored to witness the remarkable growth and ongoing success of Florida’s businesses year after year,” said Pete Previte.

“These companies truly embody the true spirit of entrepreneurship and resilience. Like the 600 Honorees before them, they have overcome challenges, continued to innovate, and successfully lead their team. Their inspiring stories of triumph stand as a testament to the exceptional business environment that thrives here in Florida. It is our privilege to celebrate them and their remarkable achievements.”

As an annual awards celebration since 2011, GrowFL Florida Companies to Watch celebrates growing second-stage companies headquartered in Florida. Companies to Watch was developed by the Edward Lowe Foundation as a unique way to recognize and honor second-stage companies that demonstrate high performance in the marketplace with innovative strategies and processes, making them “worth watching.” To date, 650 companies across the state have been recognized as Honorees. Many of the past honorees have now grown their companies to stage 3 and stage 4 businesses employing more than 500.

In his congratulatory letter to the 13th Annual GrowFL Florida Companies to Watch Honorees, Dan Wyant, President and Chairman of the Edward Lowe Foundation, highlighted how second-stage companies are truly our most valuable players.

“Historically, this group has been underserved in economic-development circles where the majority of effort and investment is spent on recruiting large companies from other regions or states. Yet when it comes to job creation, second-stagers punch above their weight, generating more than double their market share. Case in point: In 2022 second-stage companies represented 16% of all business establishments in the United States, but they generated 38.5% of all jobs, according to YourEconomy.org. This is even more pronounced in Florida, where second-stagers made up only 11.9% of the state’s companies in 2022 but represented 34% of all jobs.” You can read the full letter here.

The Edward Lowe Foundation was established in 1985 by Ed and Darlene Lowe to leverage entrepreneurship as a strategy for economic growth and community development. The foundation’s entrepreneurship initiatives focus on second-stage companies, which are growth-oriented firms that have moved beyond startup but have not yet reached maturity. Its peer learning, leadership education, and strategic information programs are geared to help these companies continue growing.

Below is the list of the companies named 13th Annual GrowFL Florida Companies to Watch Honorees:

Company Name County Industry
Alternative Repair & Machining Services Duval Other Services (except Public Administration)
AME International Hernando Wholesale Trade
Aspire Communications Seminole Telecommunications
Baker Design Build Duval Construction
Billed Right LLC Seminole Other Services (except Public Administration)
BlueWind Technology LLC Escambia Manufacturing
Charter Research Sumter Scientific Research and Development
Cigent Technology Inc. Lee Information Technology
Continuum Health IT St. Johns Scientific and Technical Consulting Services
Cromulence LLC Brevard Scientific Research and Development
DACKOR Orange Manufacturing
Data Graphics Inc. Lake Manufacturing
Delamere Industries Inc Hernando Manufacturing
Design Interactive, Inc. Orange Scientific Research and Development
Fort Myers Brewing Company Lee Manufacturing
Fox Logistics Bradford Transportation and Warehousing
GRACE Aerospace, LLC Duval Manufacturing
HOLLYWOOD WOODWORK Broward Manufacturing
Integrated Security Consultants Hillsborough Utilities
INTELLITEC PRODUCTS LLC Volusia Manufacturing
International Insulation Products Orange Manufacturing
Kinley Construction Brevard Construction
KMI International Orange Other Services (except Public Administration)
Macrocap Labs Seminole Manufacturing
Mainstream Engineering Corporation Brevard Manufacturing
Martin Aquatic Orange Architectural, Engineering, and Related Services
Martinez Construction Services Brevard Construction
McGaw.io Orange Management Consulting Services
NLP Logix Duval Information Technology
Nona Scientific Laboratory Marion Health Care and Social Assistance
Optimus Energy Solutions Lake Construction
Paragon Cyber Solutions, LLC Hillsborough Information Technology
Pem-Air Turbine Engine Services Hernando Manufacturing
Pointer Construction Group Broward Construction
Pro-Tec Plumbing Collier Other Services (except Public Administration)
ProfileGorilla Duval Information/Media
PVM, Inc. Pinellas Information Technology
Spot Pet Insurance Miami-Dade Finance and Insurance
SSM Enterprises Duval Manufacturing
Streann Miami-Dade Information Technology
SunBlest Gardens Wakulla Wholesale Trade
SwiftPaws Brevard Retail Trade
SYL Roofing Supply Orange Wholesale Trade
Tech Rage IT Seminole Information Technology
The Association Partner St. Johns Advertising, Public Relations, and Related Services
Thompson Pump Volusia Manufacturing
TruPoint Communication Solutions Seminole Telecommunications
Volt Lighting Hillsborough Manufacturing
Weedoo Greenboat, Inc. Palm Beach Manufacturing
Young Innovators Academy Seminole Educational Services

By Nikki Cabus

Global Ventures at Florida Atlantic™ Welcomes Four New Recruits Into Second-Stage Incubator

Read Time 4 Minutes

Global Ventures at Florida Atlantic™ is excited to announce the addition of four new company recruits. 

A leading international soft landing incubator based at the Research Park at Florida Atlantic in Boca Raton, Florida, Global Ventures provides support and resources to post-startup, or second-stage companies, that have established themselves in their industry and are ready to scale up to the next level of growth. They seek to assist technology-based companies with an interest in developing links to FAU that have achieved approximately $1 million in annual sales and employ at least six (6) people, as well as graduates of FAU Tech Runway®.

The new arrivals are:

  • Fenway Group, led by CEO Martin Santora. The Fenway Group crafts customized solutions that empower businesses to take charge of their digital transformation journey, giving students real world experiences as they go through their educational careers.
  • InfraSite, led by CEO Vitaliy Pereverzev, is revolutionizing the digital infrastructure landscape with innovative solutions that seamlessly integrate 5G, data centers and edge computing facilities into urban environments. Its innovative Smart Vault solution allows for the safe and sustainable placement of digital infrastructure practically anywhere.
  • Salus Water, led by president Marcelo Costa, is a company specialized in residential water filtration and purification systems. With a strong presence in the market, the company is recognized for offering cutting-edge technology and providing a comprehensive solution to ensure the quality of the water you and your family consume daily.
  • Signalic, LLC, led by founder & CEO Arash Andalib, is a biomedical tech venture dedicated to personalized pain management solutions using data-driven approaches, to reduce the number of individuals suffering pain or addicted to opioids.

The new recruits, who are poised to make a significant impact in their respective industries, were screened through Global Ventures’ thorough application process and were selected based on their innovative approaches, proven records, interest and ability to partner with Florida Atlantic University, as well as their potential for growth. The group includes companies from a variety of industries, including software technology, healthcare, and smart cities infrastructure. These entrepreneurs will have access to a range of resources, including mentorship, networking opportunities, and funding guidance as well as facilitated introductions to specialized Florida Atlantic faculty and students, to help them scale their businesses to become multi-million-dollar enterprises.

“We are thrilled to welcome these talented individuals and companies to our second-stage incubator program at the Research Park at Florida Atlantic,” said Ryan Lilly, Global Ventures Program Manager.

“Our goal is to provide a supportive and collaborative environment for these promising companies to thrive and succeed. We believe that their innovative approaches and track records hold significant potential for South Florida’s economic growth and make a significant impact in the business world. We are excited to be a part of their journey.”

A South Florida Tech Hub member, Fenway Group has been traveling back and forth from their headquarters in Texas for the past few years in an effort to learn about the South Florida community, forge local relationships and support regional tech talent efforts. Their move to open a South Florida office is a huge step for the company and an important resource for the South Florida tech community.

Fenway Group help companies tackle their most ambitious projects and build new capabilities. Analyze, architect, build and co-create. Their emphasis on delivering solutions entails serving clients with a purpose and fostering novel ideas and innovation. One of those deliver approaches is their FenwayPipeline™ for technology services integrated with a talent acquisition strategy where companies can incorporate next-generation technologists whose skills are specifically tailored to relevant technology stacks and environments.

The international soft landing, second-stage incubator program has a proven track record of success, with several of its alumni going on to long term partnerships at Florida Atlantic and retaining significant presences in the Research Park at FAU. With the addition of these new recruits, Global Ventures is confident that the program will continue to foster the growth and success of second stage businesses in South Florida. The incubator is committed to supporting and nurturing these entrepreneurs as they work towards building successful and sustainable businesses.

“Global Ventures and the Research Park at FAU are proud to welcome these new recruits to our second-stage incubator program and we look forward to facilitating their continued growth. The program is a testament to the thriving tech entrepreneurial ecosystem in South Florida and our commitment of the Research Park at FAU to support and foster the growth of innovative businesses,” stated Andrew Duffell, president of the Research Park at FAU.

Global Ventures at Florida Atlantic™ will host its annual open house on March 20th at 5:30 PM for the community to meet its entrepreneurs and learn more about their growing companies.

For more information about the Global Ventures at Florida Atlantic™ international second-stage incubator program, please visit www.ResearchParkFAU.com/Global-Ventures. Rare vacancies from 100 sq. ft. – 1,000 sq. ft. are on offer as a result of recent successful graduations.

By Nikki Cabus

Finalists Announced for the 13th Annual GrowFL Florida Companies to Watch

Read Time 3 Minutes

GrowFL just announced the Finalists for the 13th Annual Florida Companies to Watch Awards and nine South Florida and Treasure Coast companies made the list!

A prestigious recognition program celebrating high-performing second-stage companies that demonstrate innovative business strategies and excellent potential for future growth, the 13th Annual GrowFL Florida Companies to Watch is brought to you by Duke Energy and Nperspective CFO & Strategic Services, in association with the Edward Lowe Foundation.

Companies to Watch is a unique way to acknowledge the remarkable achievements of second-stage companies that contribute significantly to the state’s economic vitality. These companies have successfully navigated through challenges and exhibited outstanding entrepreneurial leadership and innovation, creating a positive impact on their communities and industries. Since 2011, GrowFL has recognized 600 companies with this prestigious award. Many of the past honorees have now grown their companies to stage 3 and stage 4 businesses employing more than 500.

More than 150,000 high-growth second stage companies headquartered in Florida represent nearly 4 Million jobs. That’s almost 30% of the jobs from less than 5% of the state. Second stage companies are no longer worried about failing, but focused on growth and job creation bringing real economic impact to their geographic regions.

To qualify for the award, companies must have between 6 and 150 employees and revenue between $750,000 and $100 million in 2022. The finalists were selected from more than 550 nominations from throughout Florida and represent a diverse group of growing companies representing a variety of industries. Together, they reported a total of more than 2,770 jobs and generated close to $813 million in revenue in 2022. These companies anticipate growth of 29 percent in revenue and 21 percent in employment by the end of 2023.

“The companies selected as Finalists are a testament to the resilience and creativity of Florida’s entrepreneurs. They are thriving in an ever-changing business landscape, and their accomplishments inspire others to strive for excellence,” said Jennifer Taylor, president and CEO of GrowFL.

“Each finalist has demonstrated outstanding growth and innovation, positioning them as leaders within their industries. We are honored, year after year, to celebrate the outstanding success of the entrepreneurs in our state.”

One of the second-stage company Finalists in the running is Streann Media, a content-creation and streaming company, disrupting the content landscape. The company has built the most complete OTT platform in the world with a powerful Content Management System, Content App Editor and 150 tools to distribute, engage and monetize live and on demand content. Streann’s innovations include proprietary integration with Artificial Intelligence and Patent Technologies for Monetization. The Miami-based company has won multiple industry awards, has millions of active users and has been deployed in 141 countries.

Founder and CEO of Streann Media, Gio Punzo, told South Florida Tech Hub, “We are thrilled to be selected as a Finalist for the GrowFL Florida Companies to Watch Awards. This reconfirms the dedication and expertise of our talented team who consistently strive to provide innovative solutions and exceptional service to our clients.”

He continued, “We are delighted to be a part of Florida’s thriving business community and look forward to continuing our growth trajectory. We have grown to 70 million unique viewers in 141 countries around the world thanks to our breakthrough technology made in Florida.”

Finalists undergo a second round of judging before the top 50 companies are selected and emerge as Honorees. Honorees will be announced in early October and will be recognized at the awards ceremony on Thursday, February 15, 2024, at the Hard Rock Live, Universal CityWalk in Orlando, Florida. Tickets will go on sale in September.

GrowFL is driven by one goal – to cultivate second-stage growth companies across the state. Second-stage companies are the backbone of Florida’s economy and the definition of economic success and prosperity. Through our diverse programs and services, GrowFL provides proven methods to help overcome unique challenges facing second-stage companies as they grow.

Congratulations to the 12th Annual GrowFL Florida Companies to Watch Finalists from South Florida & Treasure Coast:

  • Flexxbuy (St. Lucie)
  • HelixVM (Palm Beach)
  • Hollywood Woodwork, Inc. (Broward)
  • Loupe Tech, Inc (Miami-Dade)
  • Pointer Construction Group LLC. (Broward)
  • PUR-FORM (Palm Beach)
  • Spot Pet Insurance, LLC. (Miami-Dade)
  • Streann Media (Miami-Dade)
  • Weedoo Greenboat, Inc. (Palm Beach)

To view the full list of Finalists, click here.

GrowFL Celebrates Induction of Members into Prestigious Mentoring Program
GrowFL celebrates top 50 second-stage companies in Florida at 13th annual awards
Global Ventures at Florida Atlantic™ Welcomes Four New Recruits Into Second-Stage Incubator
Finalists Announced for the 13th Annual GrowFL Florida Companies to Watch