Business Plan Challenge

Accidents keep happening on South Florida jetties. These techies have a solution

Greg Mikusinski had had enough.

A yachting provisioner, Mikusinski roams South Florida, the Caribbean and Spain supplying boaters with food, fuel and gear.

But after moving to the Florida Keys a couple of years ago, he found he kept running into unmarked crab traps. Once, his boat had to be towed after a buoy line throttled his propeller.

There had to be a better way, he thought. That’s when he checked in with his boyhood friend Dax Bello, a Miami lawyer and fellow boater, with an idea.

“He calls me up and says, I think I’ve got something,” Bello said.

Judges thought so too. Their company, Mikello Ventures LLC, won Special Mention in the Logistics vertical in the Miami Herald 2019 Startup Pitch Competition.

“[They were] my first choice because of their patented product; marketing plan; ready developed market through [U.S. Coast Guard], and law enforcement agencies; and cruise industry sales possibilities,” said Loretta McNeir, senior civil aviation security adviser at consulting firm The Wicks Group.

The team brought on another friend, Matthew Tilghman, a Stanford-trained engineer and Miami native, to serve as product lead, and began developing the idea while holding onto their day jobs.

The concept: Install battery- or solar-powered beacons atop buoys to create a navigation system for objects too small to be picked up by existingtechnologies from a significant distance. The installation costs would be offset by revenues from their proprietary Buoy Beacons Navigation System. That technology would be licensed to existing marine navigation companies.

Bello believes the technology could go beyond simply eliminating crab-trap headaches. The company has initiated discussions with the U.S. Coast Guard and state and local politicians about setting up the system in South Florida. They hope to go live by the summer of 2021, and are seeking to raise at least $4 million by that date. They have already self-funded with $65,000 in startup capital.

Such a system might help avoid tragic accidents such as collisions with a South Florida jetty that have resulted in fatalities.

“Our message is simple,” Bello said. “This technology will saves lives.”

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