By Luisana Zambrano, Campus Director, Hult Prize at FIU

Hult Prize is the biggest social entrepreneurship competition around the world. For the last 10 years, the Hult Prize Foundation has funded about 9 different companies, deployed more than $50M in seed capital and mobilized more than one million young people to rethink the future of business.

The Hult Prize process begins with the On-Campus competitions where teams are selected to represent their universities in any of the world regional competitions. The winning team of the regionals will then win a spot in the summer incubator program at the Castle in Ashridge, UK. The top six teams of the incubator will be selected to compete for the grand prize of $1M to fund their startups.

Hult Prize has been a part of FIU for the last five years. For the last three years FIU has been hosting the On-Campus competition with the support of StartUP FIU, a university-wide initiative to foster innovation and entrepreneurship to pursue opportunities in the Fourth Industrial Revolution. For Hult Prize at FIU 2018-2019, 19 teams registered to compete with 67 students from different majors from STEM to Business and Social Sciences.

“I had the opportunity to participate in last year’s Hult Prize at FIU On Campus competition and was able to represent FIU at the Boston Regionals 2018. For me it was a very enriching experience that helped me to grow as a student and future professional. I wanted more students to have the same opportunity of growing and thinking about the future through the Hult Prize. This is the reason why I took the challenge of becoming Campus Director for Hult Prize @FIU for 2018-2019” says Luisana Zambrano, Campus Director for Hult Prize at FIU for 2018-2019.

During the Fall 2018 semester the Hult Prize at FIU team held design thinking sessions, problem identification process, solution ideations based on the global challenge, storytelling and pitching practice workshops, as well as mentor hours and one-on-one sessions for the teams to prepare for the On-Campus competition held on December 7, 2018 at StartUP FIU. The Hult Prize at FIU team also focused on spreading the word about social entrepreneurship by collaborating with StartUP FIU in hosting two information panels with local social entrepreneurs and social impact enthusiasts:  Launching a Business for Social Good, with the FIU Social Media Association and Global Entrepreneurship Week event, Doing Well by Doing Good: A Discussion About Social Entrepreneurship.

“I’ve been involved in the Hult Competition for five years. When it started it was a project in the FIU Honors College. Today through StartUP FIU it is university wide and we have made so much progress under Luisana Zambrano’s leadership.” Director of StartUP FIU, Bob Hacker.

Vikaas, the winning team of the Hult Prize at FIU On Campus Competition, led by three undergraduate students Yashaswi Tapadia, Economics major, Arquimides Perez-Leyva, Computer Science major and Paula Perez a Mechanical Engineering major, will represent FIU at one of the Regional Finals next Spring 2019. StartUP FIU will work hand in hand with the team to support their preparation for Regionals next semester in hopes of bringing home a win.

Vikaas revolutionizes the agriculture industry in India through its scientific practices, while also empowering the rural communities it serves by providing a stable income to otherwise financially insecure farmers.

Pitch Night Cohort 4 Empower Accelerator May 1, 2018

If you are yearning to explore your inner entrepreneur, StartUP FIU’s Pitch Night on May 1st is the place to be inspired!

The intrepid entrepreneurs from Cohort 4 of the Empower Accelerator are preparing their investor pitches for Pitch Night.  Going through the intensive 14-week Accelerator program has pushed them to the limit in refining their business models through rigorous and continuous testing of their assumptions about what it will take to be successful. On May 1st, you can see the fruits of their labor, as they each have 5 minutes to tell their stories to inspire potential investors to want to take a risk on them.

Here are the Cohort 4 companies preparing to pitch:

Safe Emissions Systems: Designs and builds a life-saving muffler for portable generators that eliminates 99.1% of the toxic carbon monoxide fumes.

CivicPro: Provides an online customizable database to track public meetings and legislation across cities.

MDocLive: Developing a platform that provides direct communication between health care providers and a patient or family member, including critical patient care instructions.

Ecological Atlas: Offers visually beautiful and flexible data-driven graphic mapping tools to enable landscape designers, gardeners, and environmentalists understand the bloom times, colors, and seasonality of their local environment.

Visional Forensics: Manufactures easy-to-use onsite crime scene detection of dangerous substances. Developed by career forensic lab experts.

Kangowrite: Provides digital learning tools to help students write research assignments in less time with less stress.

Mandatum: Enables consumers to name their own price for products they buy online.

Metastatic AI: Diagnoses the presence or absence of breast cancer with 99% accuracy by using deep machine learning.

NestNotes:  Provides a website and app for families to make it easier to record and print keepsakes.

Owletpass: Enables parents to find and register, online, their kids in a wide-range of activities on a one-time or continuous basis.

SunVessel:  Provides network of solar charging stations that enable people to easily rent, return, and charge personal mobility devices for fast and fun urban transportation.

SmartsAid:  Enables refugees, homeless, and other people in need to easily access aid services using a mobile app.

To see these teams pitch and get inspired, please join us for Pitch Night on the evening of May 1stat 6:30 pm on the main campus of Florida International University, SASC Auditorium, room 160. You can register here.

For more information, contact:
Kate Sackman, Director of the Empower Accelerator


StartUP FIU’s EcoAtlas Finalist for Fast Company World Changing Ideas 2018 Awards

Miami, FL  April 9, 2018 – Fast Company, a leading innovation and entrepreneurship publication, announced today that Studio Roberto Rovira, a Miami company founded by an FIU faculty member and creator of the EcoAtlas, is a finalist in this year’s World Changing Ideas 2018 award. As a finalist in the Photography and Visualization award category, Rovira’s EcoAtlas joins a prestigious group that in 2017 included winners IDEO, the world-renowned design firm, and the Nature Conservancy. The EcoAtlas is a comprehensive open source design and visualization platform that communicates vast amounts of information about the natural world through simple and engaging data maps.

The EcoAtlas is the creation of Roberto Rovira, Associate Professor and former chair of the Department of Landscape Architecture and + Environmental and Urban Design at Florida International University in the College of Communication, Architecture + The Arts (CARTA). “The issue of environmental sustainability is in many ways an information issue and the EcoAtlas brings alive the consequences of decisions like sea level rise on plants and animals in a visually compelling way,” states Rovira, “The EcoAtlas enables overwhelming amounts of data about complex natural patterns to be intuitively understandable.”

Trained as an engineer and landscape architect, Rovira was quite comfortable creating the design and functionality of the EcoAtlas, but when he thought about commercializing his product, he turned to StartUP FIU. Rovira was admitted into Cohort 4 of StartUP FIU’s Empower Accelerator, which started classes in January 2018.  The intensive 14-week program designed to help students, faculty and community members scale their idea, invention or company. Says Rovira, “It’s been an intensely rewarding experience that has provided multiple resources to build momentum for the successful launch and execution of my vision.”

Rovira is part of a new movement led by StartUP FIU to increase support for innovation and entrepreneurship at FIU. “It’s wonderful to see faculty in the Cohorts,” says Kate Sackman, Director of the Empower Accelerator, “They have such a wealth of information and domain expertise. We just need to demystify the entrepreneurial process to help them commercialize their ideas and research.”

Rovira agrees, “It is an honor to be recognized as a finalist by such a prestigious publication and awards program that values innovation aimed at addressing real world problems. My ambition has been to achieve maximum impact and global reach with the EcoAtlas. With support from StartUP FIU and now the Fast Companyrecognition, I can see a path towards achieving that goal.”


About the World Changing Ideas Awards

World Changing Ideas is one of Fast Company’s major annual awards programs and is focused on social good, seeking to elevate finished products and brave concepts that make the world better. A panel of judges from across sectors choose winners and finalists based on feasibility and the potential for impact. With a goal of awarding ingenuity and fostering innovation, Fast Company draws attention to ideas with great potential and helps them expand their reach to inspire more people to start work on solving the problems that affect us all.


About StartUP FIU

StartUP FIU is a university-wide initiative at Florida International University (FIU) to foster and develop innovation and entrepreneurship that pursues opportunities of The Fourth Industrial Revolution. These opportunities include the development of breakthrough technologies, the pursuit of enterprises that close social or environmental gaps and the creation of companies that can create meaningful jobs of the future. StartUP FIU is focused on developing traditional and social entrepreneurship among students, faculty and staff, alumni and the South Florida community, leveraging the university’s strengths to stimulate commercial investment and job growth in the process. For more information on StartUP FIU, visit

About EcoAtlas

EcoAtlas communicates the seasonal changes of the natural world and serves as a comprehensive design and visualization tool. It bridges art, science, design, and technology, and connects the power of data and technology to help designers, planners, and anyone interested in better understanding and transforming the environment. By using intuitive, graphic mappings that can convey changes in bloom times, deciduous tree patterns, produce seasonality, animal migrations, and other time-dependent phenomena, the Ecological Atlas facilitates a comprehensive understanding of the environment. For information, contact Roberto Rovira ( Associate Professor, Department of Landscape Architecture and Environmental and Urban Design (LAEUD), College of Architecture and the Arts, Florida International University.

Meet the entrepreneurs in Cohort 2 of StartUP FIU accelerator

By: Nancy Dahlberg

StartUP FIU is launching its second cohort of its 14-week accelerator, Empower, this month. The cohort includes entrepreneurs from 17 businesses or concepts in a variety of industries, including music, fashion, shipping, health, and education. It also includes a number of social entrepreneurs. The free program accepted entrepreneurs from the idea stage to revenue-producing companies; it includes community members as well as FIU students and alumni. Read more about the program here: Multi-campus StartUP FIU gets ready for takeoff

Who’s in Cohort 2 of StartUP FIU?  Find the list below: 

Audio EP

Founder: Stephen Sullivan

Audio EP provides music students interactive exercises to develop various music related skills essential to music production and songwriting in today’s digital age. It also connects students with music instructors through the online platform for coaching services.


Founder: Jorge Arias

BECOS produces handbags, book bags, wallets and others, with recycled materials in order to create conscience within our customers. The recycled materials are from cement bags and food sacks for animals, and these bags are put together by employees with disabilities. In addition to that, 15% of annual profit will support children that have been displaced by violence.


Founder: Carolina Hoyos

BENBO is a new interactive, simple and easy to use business networking app, where we try to simplify the user’s interaction when sharing business cards.  BENBO lets you: Create and customize your very own business card, uniquely designed, in just a few seconds.


Founder: David Villegas

Boatrax facilitates the logging experience for boat owners with a mobile app that allows them to organize their logs and share them with local service providers to purchase right-on-time services using our marketplace platform.


Founder: Francine Gervazio

Cargo42 is a marketplace for trucking committed to reducing idle time and capacity. We seek to provide shippers (local businesses) a more competitive rate and simplify the shipping process, while carriers (local trucking companies) enjoy an additional revenue stream and maximize the trucks productivity.

Clutch Couture Bags

Founder: Jordan Johnson

Clutch Couture Bags provides a luxury handbag rental service that serves US customers via an online store. We provide a service that allows fellow fashion-lovers to experience the luxury of carrying some of the world’s most sought-after handbags, while paying a fraction of the price on a monthly basis.

Container Retail

Founder: Charles Sims

Retail Incubator space developed with reused shipping containers located in (Liberty City) Miami, FL. The hope is that a sustainable model can be created and deployed in similar communities throughout the U.S.

Extreme Weather Experience

Founder: Erik Salna

Extreme Weather Experience is a one-of-a-kind concept to develop an immersive, experiential, interactive, hands-on weather education theme park attraction with entertainment, retail, restaurants, a weather forecast center and a media broadcast center.

Give Wink

Founder: Francine Delarosa

Give Wink is a full-service boutique that provides added value services such as full space planning and design, nursery set up and reveals, customization and personalization of many products, gift registries and educational classes/events


GlanceHouse Cloud

Founder: Andrew Ritch

GlanceHouse allows businesses and organizations to automate the backup and archiving of video surveillance data to the Cloud. Users can store that data from 30 days to an indefinite amount of time.


Founder: Cristina Rodriguez

Mind&Melody has designed a proprietary music curriculum with three goals: to deliver live musical performances; teach music theory concepts in a simple, fun and artistic way; play sheet music and create original composition through our color-coding system. Our program is highly individualized to reach and engage different levels of dementia and musical ability.

SkillCourt LLC

Founder: Gudmundur Traustason

SkillCourt is an athletic training system consisting of pads built with LED lights for cue targets. The goal of the illuminated targets is to be hit with an object like a soccer ball through a timed sequence. Inside each pad are sensors that provide feedback for detailed performance which reports performance information to the SkillCourt app.

Stealth Simulation

Founder: Christian Gutierrez

Stealth Simulation by Boorpus™ LLC was born out of the need to increase the fidelity of standardized patient physical examination. We focus on technology-driven innovative solutions aimed to improve medical simulation while maintaining the highest degree of realism of virtual patient encounters.

Viera Academy

Founder: Carlos Raul Garcia

Viera Academy provides a playground e-learning platform that specializes in Standardized Tests, as well as world level Mental Math and Memory courses, developed by Guinness World Record holders.


Founder: Dorothy Peck

WeWomen is aiming to solve the lack of feminine hygienic pads in refugee camps. Their solution is using banana leaves from banana trees to produce hypoallergenic and environmentally friendly menstrual pads. Providing women with a product that will allow them to work, go to school and be productive members in society


Founder: Sergio Klarreich

Worcket is a millennials-ready phone app and a cloud service that enterprises use to recruit University and College students or professionals for employment opportunities, in the US first and then worldwide. It leverages disruptive technologies like Video Profiles, Machine Learning, and Artificial Intelligence. We are a truly innovative Seattle based start-up, that is part of the Microsoft BizSpark incubation initiative. Our first production release will be ready in mid-December.

No Name Company

Founder: Megan Twomey

The idea presented here is for a novel class of Nitric Oxide (NO) probes that are based on unique metal photoluminescent complexes that directly react with NO to provide highly sensitive and cost-effective detection. This novel class of probes would benefit the scientific and medical communities by advancing the understanding of NO’s biological roles and subsequent pathological conditions that arise from NO dysfunction.