Caribbean startups hone skills; big night ahead for health-tech

From waste to wealth — finding affordable and sustainable systems for recycling and creating energy. Bringing the faces and voices of the Caribbean to books and film. Mixing aquaculture and hydroponics to improve the quality and production levels of local organic produce.

These were just a few of the concepts that startups pitched at Venture Hive, the downtown Miami accelerator and incubator. But instead of South Florida, these teams were from Trinidad, Dominican Republic, Barbados, Jamaica, St. Lucia, the Bahamas and other Caribbean nations.

Last week, 19 Caribbean entrepreneurs took part in BoomCamp, part of the Caribbean IdEA Program, an initiative of the U.S. State Department, US AID and the International Diaspora Engagement Alliance (IdEA). There they received intensive pitching instruction. Most entrepreneurs taking part were focused on their markets, such as, a mobile solution for the unbanked; another team presented a fashion platform for Caribbean designers. Jamaican Leo Williams’ company, JAE, combines the stock market with agriculture, seeking to cut out the middle men and bring more value to the farmers.

On Thursday, 12 companies pitched to a full house of invited guests from the South Florida business community, many of Caribbean heritage. “Stay in touch with these entrepreneurs,” Susan Amat, Venture Hive founder, advised the crowd. “Whether it is through these companies or their next ones, they will go on to do great things for their countries.”

The idea for BoomCamp at Venture Hive was spawned during the Caribbean IdEA Marketplace last spring in Jamaica. The finalists and semifinalists there were invited to hone their presentation skills at this four-day workshop, one of many events the US State Department and Venture Hive have been involved with to help Diaspora entrepreneurs and bridge communities. BoomCamp also inaugurated a new 4,500-square-foot event space at Venture Hive. With individual work areas, communal tables and a colorful lounge area, the new space will be used for the high school tech-entrepreneurship magnet program starting in January, as well as events like BoomCamp, Amat said.

Health-tech takes stage

Can South Florida build a health-tech hub, or does the region already have one? That likely will be the buzz at this week’s first annual Miami Health-Tech Showcase on Thursday night. Six South Florida startups will demo their companies for the crowd, and there will also be panel discussions with some of Miami’s healthcare, financial and tech leaders.

There will be a panel on raising capital in healthcare, with leaders from OPKO Health, Neuterra, CareCloud, Kairos and Ladenburg Thalmann. A panel on innovation will include Netsmart, ProjectLift, Miami Children’s Hospital, UM Hospital and Knight Foundation. Manny Medina, who is launching the eMerge Americas conference next spring, and Norma Kenyon of UM’s Miller School of Medicine will also be speaking.

The goal of the Miami Health-Tech Showcase is to highlight all the activity of health-tech in South Florida, said Robert Chavez, co-founder and executive director of ProjectLift and one of the organizers of the showcase. The showcase is also designed to create excitement and funding opportunities for the presenting companies, four of which just graduated from the ProjectLift Miami Accelerator, which focuses exclusively on health and technology. “We have seen tremendous interest from the South Florida healthcare community in this event and the quality of the speakers and companies presenting speaks to that,” said Chavez. “We are trying to engage a broader segment of the community and take the conversation to the next level.”

The showcase is 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 12, at the Miami Innovation Center in the UM Life Science and Technology Park. Tickets:

On the radar

Tech Cocktail is coming to town, bringing its Miami Mixer and Startup Showcase to Miami Dade College on Oct. 1. Tech Cocktail says its mixers combine a party-like networking atmosphere with a fast-paced, informal pitch event. Want to pitch? Apply by Sept.15. For tickets or to apply to pitch:

Have startup or technology news? Email me at and follow me on Twitter @ndahlberg. Find my Starting Gate blog on

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