Business Plan Challenge

Cyber security to baby blankets: Meet the winners of the 2019 Startup Pitch Competition

Three tracks. Hundreds of pitch decks. Twenty-seven judges and 37 live presentations. Seven first-place winners.

After 20 years, the Miami Herald shook up its signature entrepreneurship outreach to reflect today’s startup culture. After consulting with our collaborators at the the Knight Foundation and Melissa Krinzman, managing partner at Krillion Ventures, we decided to focus on five verticals critical to the local economy.

For the teen track, we partnered with the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship. Florida International University’s Pino Center for Entrepreneurship was once again our sponsor and organized the FIU Track for students, faculty and alumni.

The larger business community embraced the effort, coming in as sponsors, mentors and executive judges. Thanks to them all!

The result: stronger strategies, more scalable businesses and smoother pitch presentations.

That last improvement is thanks to the efforts of Krinzman, who has worked with the Miami Herald’s competition for the past eight years. This year, she coached Community Track finalists in a very long day of pitch polish sessions.

Overall, she said, “The most notable differences in regard to the submissions between that first year and now is the increase in the number of technology focused companies versus traditional small business submissions as well as the increase in female-founded companies. Both of these are national trends that began to gain steam within the past decade and are now visibly playing out in South Florida.”

This year, we also partnered with NFTE, the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship, to benefit its programs in Miami’s under-served schools.

On May 3, we’ll be celebrating South Florida’s entrepreneurial spirit and the Herald’s 2019 competition with a free community event including the winning pitches, awards and free beer. Our keynote presentation will be a rare opportunity to hear Brightstar founder, investor, former Sprint president, SoftBank executive and Beckham soccer partner Marcelo Claure in a fireside chat. (See details, page 3G.)

Over the past few weeks, we published the names of our finalists. (You can find them at

The field was so strong that in some cases, the judges decided to designate a second company for a special call-out. And now — drumroll — the winners are:


Fintech, sponsored by Wells Fargo


MENTOR: Wells Fargo

JUDGES: Marcelo Claure, COO of SoftBank Group Corp; Oti Roberts, managing director and senior private banker with Deutsche Bank in Miami; Jorge Villacampa, South Florida region bank president for Wells Fargo.


WINNER: Open Seed. Jonathan Marcoschamer, CEO and Founder

MENTOR: University of Miami’s Miller School of Health

JUDGES: Allan Daisely, managing director of Startupbootcamp Digital Health SCALE; Arjun “J.J.” Desai, chief strategic innovation officer, INSIGHTEC; Norma Sue Kenyon, Ph.D., vice provost for Innovation at the University of Miami and Chief Innovation Officer of the Miller School of Medicine; and Frank Steslow, president of Miami’s Phillip and Patricia Frost Museum of Science.

Real Estate

WINNER: Tap2Open

MENTOR: Douglas Elliman


JUDGES: Danet Linares, vice chairman of Blanca Commercial Real Estate; Jay Phillip Parker, CEO of Douglas Elliman’s Florida brokerage; Carlos Rosso, presidnet of the Related Companies’ condo division; Tigre Weinrich, co-founder of LAB Ventures.

Trade & Logistics, sponsored by Ryder System Inc.


MENTOR: Ryder System Inc.

SPECIAL MENTION: Mikello Ventures

JUDGES: Desmond Alufohai, Director of Protocol & International Airport at Miami International Airport; Bob Brunn, vice president of investor relations, corporate strategy and product strategy for Ryder System; Raul Moas, Miami program director for the Knight Foundation; Loretta McNeir, aviation expert.



SPECIAL MENTION: Wynwood Whiskey

MENTOR: Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd.

JUDGES: Bob Diener, co-founder and president of; Marco Gilberti, co-founder of LAB Ventures; and Jason Liberty, executive vice president and chief financial officer, Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd.



SECOND PLACE: Guru Financial


JUDGES: Sheri Colas-Gervais, vice president economic development and urban intiatives at the Miami-Dade Beacon Council; Orlando Espinosa, co-founder of Miami’s Emineo Media; Anna Etienne, program director of the food incubator at Startup FIU; Seema Pissaris, clinical professor of management at FIU; and Ricardo Weiz, founder of Interim HealthCare.


WINNER: High School Artists. Adam Stiefel, Billy Swann, Chloe Bogen and Dalen Michaels of Saint Andrews School in Boca Raton.

SECOND PLACE: CAMBLOK! Holly Steinberg and Nicole Bremer of Ransom Everglades in Coconut Grove.

THIRD PLACE: Luv by Lex. Lexi Ginsburg, Spanish River HIgh School in Boca Raton.

JUDGES: Jacqueline Bueno Sosa, regional director of the Florida Small Business Development Center at FIU; Romi Bhatia, executive director of the Idea Center at Miami Dade College; Stephanie Sylvestre, chief programs officer / chief information officer of the Children’s Trust.

This effort isn’t possible without the assistance of so many. Our deep gratitude to our partners The Knight Foundation, The LAB and the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship; to Melissa Krinzman and Raul Moas of the Knight Foundation for wise counsel, and the Rubell Family Collection for providing the space for our May 3 celebration.

Thanks to Pipeline Brickell, Cambridge Innovation Center, Venture Cafe, WeWork Brickell and WeWork Security Building for allowing us to use their spaces for competition sessions, pitch polishes and information events.

Our collaborators are helping to spread the word about our May 3 celebration. They are the Cambridge Innovation Center, eMerge Americas, Endeavor Miami, FAU Tech Runway, the LaunchPad at the University of Miami, Idea Center at Miami Dade College, Refresh Miami, Miami Angels, Venture Cafe Miami and Venture City.

We’ll see you there.

Related stories from Miami Herald