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ROAD TO REGIONALS: HULT PRIZE AT FIU 2018 – 2019

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.

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 startup.fiu.edu.

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 (rovirar@fiu.edu) Associate Professor, Department of Landscape Architecture and Environmental and Urban Design (LAEUD), College of Architecture and the Arts, Florida International University.

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Entrepreneurs hit the mark with potential investors at StartUP FIU’s first Pitch Day.

By: Jane Schreier Jones

Let’s say you’re an entrepreneur and you have five minutes to pitch your idea to dozens of potential investors, an idea you may have been working on for a year or more. Go! 

Entrepreneurs got to participate is this high-stakes situation at the first “Pitch Day” event presented by StartUP FIU, held December 2, 2016, at the Modesto Maidique campus of Florida International University (FIU). StartUP FIU is a collaborative initiative for FIU students, faculty and early-stage startup entrepreneurs across South Florida.

“More than 30 angel investors and venture capitalists were on hand at Pitch Day to consider the presentations from the StartUP FIU entrepreneurs,” says Robert H. Hacker, co-founder, and director of StartUP FIU. “The presentations were on-target, exciting, and done very well. Each entrepreneur also fielded questions from the investors.”

The entrepreneurs were members of Cohort 1, the inaugural class of The Empower Accelerator, StartUP FIU’s comprehensive, 14-week program to develop scalable traditional and social entrepreneurship ventures. The program provides coaches, skills training, advisors, access to speakers, cutting-edge workspace and a wide range of additional resources to first-time as well as more accomplished entrepreneurs.

“Prior to Pitch Day, I had only pitched my idea to potential customers — not investors,” reports Jason Dettbarn, founder, and CEO of Addigy, a cloud-based IT Management platform for managing Mac computers. “Through StartUP FIU, I learned tons about pitching to investors. In fact, the presentation I made was at least 80 percent better than the one I started with, thanks to the input I got from my mentor, classmates, and others at StartUP FIU. When it was time to make my pitch, I was relaxed and comfortable.”

With his presentation, Dettbarn made an impression and is in continuing talks with a member of the Keiretsu Forum, a global angel investor network at the event.

“Our entrepreneurs were given a proven presentation template to make sure they nailed all the initial information investors need to go to the next level,” says Hacker.

Nineteen entrepreneurial enterprises were members of StartUP FIU’s Cohort 1, ranging from beekeeping and honey business to a virtual reality system for the physical therapy industry. The Empower Accelerator curriculum takes the entrepreneurs through a comprehensive and in-depth analysis and development of their entrepreneurial idea.

The first four weeks of the curriculum deal with proof of concept, problem and customer value. Weeks five through seven help entrepreneurs define their competitive advantage, solution and customer value (CVP). During the final six weeks, entrepreneurs delve into refining their business model and their financial model and learn to pitch to investors.

Fourteen of the 19 teams were able to use Pitch Day in December to try their new skills. (The other five will participate in the Spring 2017 Pitch Day event.)

“Companies or individuals selected for each cohort bear no costs for The Empower Accelerator program, and retain 100 percent of the equity in their venture,” says Emily Gresham, co-founder of StartUP FIU and AVP of Research in the Office of Research and Economic Development, FIU. “We welcome everyone from a student testing an idea, to an accomplished academic researcher or the owner of an operating company. Our goal is to provide the necessary support to bring dreams to fruition.” 

“On a scale of 0 to 10, I’d easily give The Empower Accelerator program at StartUP FIU a 9 or a 10,” says Anthony Leon, one of the founders of Bid Aero, a secure marketplace for aftermarket aircraft parts. “The staff didn’t waste our time; rather, the information was on target with what we need.”

Leon says the in-depth program prepared his team for Pitch Day. “Engineers and developers don’t make the best public speakers, but somehow we learned how to present ourselves and our idea well,” Leon says. 

At Pitch Day, following the presentations and the question-and-answer periods, the entrepreneurs got a chance to interact socially with the investors.

“For these entrepreneurs, this might not have been their first pitch, and it probably won’t be their last,” says Hacker. “One pitch doesn’t lead to an offer.  But the feedback we’ve gotten from investors who participated — a fairly frank group — has been very positive.”

Twenty-two companies have been selected to for the second cohort of The Empower Accelerator program which starts Januarys 31st, 2017. For more information on StartUP FIU and their accelerators and incubators, Visit startup.fiu.edu.