Miami startups to present at national Tech Cocktail event

CanUStart co-founder Kwame Ampem introduces his project at TechCocktail. Photos: Ezequiel Williams.

Tech Cocktail Miami introduced six promising startups to potential funders over drinks at The Stage Wednesday night in an effort to inspire intentional collisions between entrepreneurs and investors.

More than 200 people attended the group’s second pitch competition and  showcase and chose two winners to pitch at a national conference in Las Vegas next month.

Phones in one hand and drinks in the other, attendees voted for the best one-minute Tech Cocktail pitch. FiNe, a business rewards program, won the live popularity vote. An online poll that took place earlier in the week selected MyCircles, a social network, as a Tech Cocktail “Readers’ Choice” winner.

The two startups will compete during Tech Cocktail Celebrate in Las Vegas Oct. 6-7. Two additional Tech Cocktail Miami winners from this past June, Flat Out of Heels and Kloset Karma, will also participate.

MyCircles received more than 70 percent of the “Readers’ Choice” votes this past week.  The social network combines business and personal identities into one platform. Founder Leon Gomez said he has been fine-tuning the concept and design for more than 10 years.

“It’s rewarding to see the hard work of fellow Miami-based entrepreneurs finally pay off at well-attended events like this,” Gomez said. “I’m glad to see South Florida is supporting us as a community and growing us on a national scale.”

The pitch for FiNe won the live poll with 28 percent of the votes at The Stage, which was good news for CEO Diogo Duarte, who said he quit his job at the law office this past Monday to pursue the endeavor full time. FiNe is a “fidelity program” that helps businesses reward their loyal customers with discounts that continue to increase each time a client returns to the shop. “This is just the beginning,” Duarte said, adding that the win complements a recent feature story in TechCrunch magazine.  

Since 2006, Tech Cocktail, a community-based media and events company, has inspired the startup ecosystem across the country. Business developer Ezequiel Williams said Tech Cocktail has hosted events in Boston, Chicago, D.C., Los Angeles, San Francisco and more. As a result of Knight Foundation’s sponsorship, Miami joined Tech Cocktail’s three other hub cities, Chicago, Washington, D.C., and Las Vegas, this year.

“Miami is very much an emerging space with a strong innovation community,” Williams said. “There is a lot of room here for a pioneering spirit to blow it up.”

One of the investors in the crowd was Jonathan A. Mayer, who said he typically deals in larger real estate and private equity investments. Mayer said he sees significant growth opportunity for tech startups in the city.

“What you have in Miami is the nexus of young smart entrepreneurs and a strong Latin America influence,” he said.

Mayer nodded toward the crowd and said that an event like this would never have taken place two years ago in this city.

“The growth of capital markets was not the foundation of our business in Miami,” he said. “But, regardless, when you’re a geographic gateway for other countries also drawn to tech, the money follows that.”

The founder of Fly in Style, Amanda Anthony, said that after more than three years of presenting and redeveloping her online app, she’s a seasoned pro when it comes to making a pitch in Miami. She said she was impressed by the event turnout.

“For years, I would attend a startup [Miami] event and I recognized every face in the crowd,” Anthony said. “Today, I attend an event like this and I don’t recognize anyone. I only know one person here. It’s huge now.”

An hour into the mingling, emerging Miami startups took the stage.

Other presenters included:

CanUStart: connects hiring managers with the most qualified applicants for the job and offers a solution to industries with high staff turnover.

Fly In Style: provides a personalized airport shopping experience where consumers connect with their favorite brands and retailers from the moment they check in at the airport.

Grruv: a new alternative to ecards, offers an emotional and personal connection to those you love by allowing individuals to share personalized notes and songs.

Haute Dining: offers a 20 percent discount to members who frequent restaurants within the Haute network.

PropelU: provides a platform for personal and business development via shareable self-help information and quotes.

PROsimity: raises awareness about local networking events and offers LinkedIn access to the individuals who have submitted an RSVP, allowing you to arrange to connect via instant message before, or after an event. PROsimity also presented at the first-ever Tech Cocktail mixer this past June.

The event was supported by three national organizations: American Airlines, DotCO and Knight Foundation. Local supporters included Feverish Pop and Webcongress. Another Tech Cocktail event  will take place Nov. 19 and feature a discussion with Melody McCloskey, co-founder and CEO of StyleSeat and one of Fast Company’s Most Creative People in Business in 2014.

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