We're pleased to present the winners in the 2018 Miami Herald Business Plan Challenge.
Much has changed since we launched our first challenge 20 years ago. Miami has moved into first place nationally for startup activity, as co-working spaces boom and incubators nurture a generation of entrepreneurial business leaders.
This year's winners include concepts for elegant dinner parties, online marketplaces and an app identifying potentially harmful chemicals in products. Some of the most intriguing ideas came from students; they included a rolling travel wardrobe, soccer shoes with interchangeable soles and a sensor for notifying parents who have left a child in a car.
This year, more than 150 entries competed in three tracks. As in years past, Florida International University's Pino Global Entrepreneurship Center was our presenting sponsor. This year for the first time, we're hosting a free community-wide celebration May 10 at Venture Hive; it features trend-watching author Mark Penn and is sponsored by Miami advisory and accounting firm Kaufman Rossin. Our Challenge Community Track winner will also receive mentorship, onsite marketing and free work space at The Shops at Sunset Place for one year, courtesy of Federal Realty, Grass River Property and Comras Company.
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The three-page plans were judged by local experts — entrepreneurs, investors, coaches and executives. One twist from year's past: This year's Community Track finalists competed in live pitches, hosted at the Pipeline Brickell coworking space. Some businesses that looked good on paper didn't fare as well when presented before the judges. Others really came alive. As one investor-judge pointed out, the energy and dedication of the founder are as important as the concept.
Once again, readers weighed in, reviewing online videos and voting online for the People's Pick Award.
And this year's winners are:
COMMUNITY TRACK: Luxe Fête, turn-key designer party-in-a-box service founded by Nathalie Cadet-James, won first place. Second place went to VillaKey, an autism-friendly vacation-rental platform. founded by Alice Horn. Third was KlickEngage, an app to help at-risk children monitor their emotional status and develop coping skills, that was submitted by Samantha Pratt.
FIU TRACK: First place went to Redify, an app that identifies product ingredients and scans for potentially harmful chemicals. It was submitted by co-founders Karina Villalba, Victor Okoh and Bruce Bennett. VDrill, an app to help athletes train more effectively, won second; it was submitted by Tyrone Walker. Taking third was Major Marketplace, an online marketplace for minority businesses founded by Leyanis Diaz.
TEEN TRACK: Judging by the results, you might think that all the region's teen entrepreneurs attend Gulliver Preparatory. It's not true, but the school's entrepreneurship educators do nourish strong contenders that this year swept the top three places. Taking first was Väska, a travel wardrobe carrier on wheels submitted by John DeLappe, Leonardo Gorgatti and Tadeo Acosta Rubio. Second place went to SOL, signs of life, an app-supported sensor system detecting when a child has been left in a car; it was submitted by Alexandre Roth, Carolina Freund and Santiago Vergara. Taking third was Aptad, interchangeable shoe soles with cleats specific to turf, grass and indoor sports surfaces. Submitted by Karim Rahman, Johnny Ehrling and Ben Abrahams.
PEOPLE'S PICK: Thousands reviewed videos and voted online in the People's Pick Award. First place went to Redify, the clear favorite with more than 2,000 votes. Luxe Fête also had a strong showing with more than 1,400 votes, putting it in second.
CELEBRATE MIAMI'S STARTUP SUCCESS
Join us Thursday, May 10 at a free event celebrating 20 years of the Miami Herald Business Plan Challenge and our city's growing startup movement. We'll introduce the winners of this year's challenge and recognize individuals and organizations that have played key roles in creating Miami's entrepreneurship culture.
We'll also look to the future with a conversation with Mark Penn, famed political strategist, communications executive and author of newly published "Microtrends Squared: The New Small Forces Driving the Big Disruptions Today."
Collaborating in this community-wide event are the Knight Foundation, Wynwood Lab, Refresh Miami, Endeavor Miami, Venture Cafe, CIC Miami, Pipeline, WeWork, The Miami-Dade Beacon Council, Miami-Dade Chamber of Commerce, and the Downtown Development Authority.
The evening is free; please register at https://mhbusinessplanchallenge20yrs.eventbrite.com. (We gotta get the munchies!)
What: Miami Herald Business Plan Challenge Startup Celebration
Where: Venture Cafe, 1951 NW 7th Avenue
When: May 10, 6 p.m. (networking, 6th Floor); 6:30 p.m. program (ground floor)