Business Monday

South Florida startups take the spotlight

Master Branch: Uwe Cerron, Irvin Steve Cardenas, Juan Daniel Alvarado and Daniel Doherty.
Master Branch: Uwe Cerron, Irvin Steve Cardenas, Juan Daniel Alvarado and Daniel Doherty.

As Global Entrepreneurship Week gets under way around the world this week with a mission to highlight entrepreneurship, South Florida startups have been stealing the spotlight in national and global events.

Three companies based or with offices in South Florida — Decentral Bank, Monipulse and Centric-Consulting — are finalists in the Citi Mobile Challenge, a global competition that invited developers to reimagine digital banking and present solutions. There were finalist competitions in Silicon Valley, New York and on Friday in Miami. Up for grabs: a $100,000 cash prize and having their solutions launched by Citi.

The three companies were among the 20 that presented at a Demo Day in downtown Miami. For example, Master Branch, the team’s name for Decentral Bank, are a group of three FIU students, Uwe Cerron, Irvin Steve Cardenas and Juan Daniel Alvarado, and a fourth student from Stone Hill College, Daniel Doherty, with experience developing decentralized Bitcoin applications, hyper-scale distributed financial system, robotics, developing machine learning and artificial intelligence algorithms, they said.

To be chosen as a finalist wasn’t easy. The Citi Mobile Challenge received participation from more than 3,000 developers across 740 teams from 62 countries in North America, Latin America, Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Asia. Winners will be announced Dec.2.

“Citi is reaching out to the developer community because we believe that the next generation of solutions will come from collaboration with a rich ecosystem of like-minded innovators,” said Heather Cox, Citi’s Chief of Client Experience for Global Consumer Banking. “The response from developers has been astounding, and we are excited to accelerate some of these ideas and bring them to life for our clients all over the world.”

Jorge Ruiz, who heads Citi’s Business Development and Digital Banking, a division based in Miami, said this Challenge grew out of one Citi ran for Latin America in the summer; Citi is working with three of the winners in that Challenge now to bring the concepts to market.

Ruiz, who also runs Citi’s digital acceleration global program, said he has seen growing interest in fintech here as shown by the growth of companies like Miami-based mobile banking and payments company YellowPepper. Citi will be lauching a series of meetups in Miami and around the country to bring together the fintech community. The first one will be at The LAB Miami on Dec.3, he said.

These South Florida companies getting global recognition are not alone. Venture Hive, an accelerator, incubator and entrepreneurial education company started in Miami in 2013, was honored at the White House last week as one of the 50 winners of the inaugural nationwide Growth Accelerator Fund competition by the U.S. Small Business Administration. Venture Hive was selected from a pool of more than 800 applications. The prize comes with a $50,000 SBA grant.

While in Washington, Venture Hive also announced a partnership with the DC-based tech and venture firm Disruption Corporation founded by VC Paul Singh. It’s a move aimed at expanding opportunities for early-stage entrepreneurs and investors.

PWRStation, a Miami-based clean energy startup with an innovative “solar in a box” solution, was invited to present its products at a two-day conference this week held by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Geneva, said co-founder Ludovic Roche. PWRstation develops preassembled retractable solar energy delivery systems for residences, businesses, governments and humanitarian organizations around the world. “We have been receiving great feedback from installers and industry peers and are looking forward to start shipping products in February,” Roche said.

Two South Florida companies were honored as part of Global Entrepreneurship Week’s annual “GEW 50.” a list of 50 innovative new companies selected as finalists for its Startup Open competition. Peerless Wind Systems of Boynton Beach, maker of an artistic yet highly energy efficient wind turbine for urban environments, and Symptify of Sunny Isles Beach, an online self-assessment tool for symptoms. I

Global Entrepreneurship Week is a global movement started by the Kauffman Foundation in 2008. There are a number of GEW-related events this week in South Florida. See the Starting Gate blog for a list.

Follow @ndahlberg on Twitter.