STACHE Investments Exceeds $1 Million Dollar Commitment To 2013 OneSpark Companies

Shahid Khan, STACHE Investments, Florida startups, OneSpark, accelerator

Last Spring we  were one of the national media partners for one of the most incredible startup related events we’ve ever seen. That event, the OneSpark crowdfunding festival in North Florida, saw over 130,000 attendees throughout the course of the week. The event was like taking Kickstarter or Indiegogo, pulling them offline, and putting the creators into a five day festival.

We saw startups, art projects, art installations, music projects, visual arts, and a variety of amazing, but unclassifiable ideas. All of the participants were looking for crowdfunding in person at the event and to earn the OneSpark prize money or get an investment from Jacksonville based STACHE investments.  STACHE investments is the investment arm of Shahid Kahn’s company. Kahn is the automotive entrepreneur who purchased the Jacksonville Jaguars in November of 2011 and took up residency in Jacksonville.

Since that time he has been very active behind the scenes in Jacksonville’s startup and entrepreneurial community. Khan quickly got involved with the OneSpark festival, committing $1,000,000 in follow on funding for the most promising ideas during the festival.

Late last month it was announced that not only had STACHE Investments (named after Khan’s legendary mustache) reached and exceeded their $1,000,000 commitment, but they committed to 2014 and also helped back a new accelerator in Jacksonville called KYN.

KYN will launch with four companies in its inaugural class and will leverage its resources to support numerous One Spark creators that have been in talks with the STACHE Investments Corporation. KYN has also partnered with the University of North Florida to help train students in design and development. The accelerator’s inaugural class are all businesses who participated in the wildly successful One Spark festival.

“We are impressed by the outpouring of talent we witnessed at One Spark earlier this year,” Jim Zsebok, Chief Investments Officer at the STACHE Investments Corporation said in a statement. “STACHE has provided the seed capital for KYN because we view it as an essential component of the entrepreneurial ecosystem that Elton and his team is creating in Jacksonville which began with CoWork Jax, then One Spark and now KYN. So today, via KYN we announce the 4 companies who will participate in the inaugural class at KYN and we will continue to work with several other Creators we met at One Spark who require different resources, including Heritage Farms, Workout Navigator and Chair to Share.”

The companies who participated in One Spark and are receiving funding at this time are:

  • Heritage Farms

  • Pure Treats

  • Floppy Entertainment

  • Original Fuzz

  • Hatchware

Pure Treats, Floppy Entertainment, Original Fuzz, and Hatchware are the four companies who will be in the inaugural class and receive funding directly from KYN.

Nearing the completion of the 16-week program at KYN, the companies will have an opportunity to participate in a demo day where other venture capitalists and angel investors interested in their companies will review opportunities to invest in the companies.

“This is a natural outgrowth of what we hoped to achieve with the inaugural One Spark festival, and the next step in supporting great startups in Jacksonville,” said KYN Co-Founder, Elton Rivas. “Our selection of downtown to house this accelerator is further commitment to the continued support and growth of Jacksonville’s thriving startup community in the heart of our city. We couldn’t be happier to be working with the STACHE Investments Corporation in support of the growth of this ecosystem for Jacksonville.”

In addition to the accelerator program, KYN has also announced their partnership with the University of North Florida. KYN will hire select students to participate in a semester long apprenticeship program where they will earn course credit, learn web development, and user interface and design, all while working directly with KYN startup companies.

The accelerator will soon begin selecting applications for its second 16-week class, slated to begin January 2014. All information for the application timing and process can be found on the KYN website at

“We’re focused on linking early stage companies in technology, health and fitness and hard goods with seed money, tools and great mentors to support the rapid growth of their business,” co-founder, Rivas said. “This intensive 16-week program provides access to mentors, developers and designers, workshops, work space and a collaborative community while also training nearly a dozen UNF students that could be potential future hires for these companies. It’s a great model.”

Find out more about KYN here and check out our 2013 OneSpark coverage here.

Check out this enormous conference 100% devoted to startups “everywhere else”

image: Shahid Khan

Florida Reverse Accelerator Program Draws Hundreds Of Applications

StartupQuest, Florida startup, florida entrepreneurA new Broward County program has drawn hundreds of applications in southern Florida. Startup Quest is a new program being offered under a statewide grant through WorkForce One, reports the Sun Sentinel.

The program reads like a reverse accelerator of sorts. Not a “decelerator,” of course, but Startup Quest is targeting a different segment than a typical accelerator that vets young startups.

First off, Startup Quest is looking for college graduates or veterans who are out of work at any age.

Like most programs Startup Quest is fueled by a mentor network of established entrepreneurs and business people throughout the region. However, unlike other programs Startup Quest has also vetted patented ideas from Florida International University, Nova Southern University, University of Florida, and NASA.

The mentors are going to pick from the pool of chosen participants and assign them ideas to work on and hash out plans to bring these already-patented technology ideas to market.  The program has already received 400 applications and 130 will be chosen to work on these projects.

The participants will formally gather once a week to hear from a variety of speakers. The rest of the time will be spent focusing on the projects and their commercialization plans.

The program will end with a “Shark Tank” style demo day where the participants will pitch their ideas to venture capitalists and other entrepreneurial leaders in the region.

They hope to start notifying participants next week.

You’ve gotta check out this event for startups everywhere else.

Jacksonville Startup Path.To Finds The Path.To Startup Failure, Shares Ways to Avoid It, Jacksonville startup,startups, startup failure“Failing gracefully.” That’s a topic that comes up a lot in the startup world. We are all too familiar with the failure rate of startups: depending on who you ask, 70-80% of startups fail. On Tuesday we found out that Jacksonville startup will be shutting down on July 19th.

Almost a year ago we interviewed’s CEO Darren Bounds after reporting the previous month that they had expanded their “e-harmony for jobs” startup to include Chicago, Boston, and NYC.  For a while everything looked great for They were rewriting the boring old job search platform and making it more intuitive with algorithms and indepth profiles.

Not only that, but the team is incredible. We met most of them just a few months ago during Jacksonville’s OneSpark festival. A few of the team members were helping music discovery startup Aurora while others were helping social event tracking startup #eventhash.  During the event, organizer Elton Rivas told us that the team were very active in Jacksonville.

“Failing sucks – especially when it comes to your startup. It’s like being kicked hard in the shins right after being dumped, all while standing in the pouring rain with no cabs in sight, only to have a huge truck drive by and splash mud all over you,” community manager Jill Felska wrote on the company’s blog.

What happens next for the team? Well naturally they’ll continue being innovators, entrepreneurs, and members of Jacksonville’s thriving statup scene. Specifically though, Fileska reports that many of the team will continue innovating in the hiring space and making it a happier space by working at Ignite, a job industry idea incubator also based in Jacksonville.

While the ride is officially over tomorrow, the team shared these six valuable lessons they learned during the two years they were building

1) Don’t wait to solidify your monetization strategy.

“A ‘build it and they will come’ mentality has taken over the startup space. And yes, we were included in that camp. The problem is, it rarely works that way.

We started out with the strong belief that if we could build up a large, impressive user base, that the customers would follow. Unfortunately, we were wrong. We underestimated the amount of education that would be needed to sell our product – and then were very slow to give it the sales attention it really needed.

Monetization can’t be an afterthought when it comes to startups. Shiny products are great only if they’re solving a real problem that customers will pay for.” – Pete Cochrane, President

2) Technology alone isn’t the solution. 

“When the product isn’t succeeding like you expect it to, working to make sure you are providing the core service to the customer is more important than continually adding features, optimizing site-speed, and conversion funnels. Perfecting the tech stuff is fun for some of us, but it is only worthwhile if it adds value to a service that people are finding useful.” – Charlie Cauthen, Technical Architect

3) Two-sided markets are a bitch.

“Building a two-sided market is hard. Really, really hard. If I had a do-over, I would start in just one or two key cities, then wouldn’t expand past them until we had built a strong community of both job seekers and businesses who saw value in our product. Becoming a go-to product or service in your launch city not only validates your idea, but also helps drive engagement in future cities.” – Jill Felska, Chief Community Officer

4) Build for the customers you already have.

“We spent a lot of our time trying to make Path.To better by adding new features, adjusting our pricing strategy and trying to make it available to as many people as possible. While important, it’s the existing customers that really matter. If you remember to focus and appreciate the users that you have, they’ll do the work of sending more people your way.” – Kristin Gattis, Path.To People Person

5) Team communication and trust is key.

“Communication is possibly your most important organizational asset. You can have the best team of engineers and designers in the world, but it means nothing if you can’t work together and solve problems. Poor communication drives down morale and can seed resentment that persists until the issue is resolved.

Learning to surface and resolve issues quickly was one of the most important lessons we learned throughout this process. While we could not identify and resolve every problem, creating an environment of open communication and feedback was crucial.

Just as you have processes to monitor the health of your product and servers, someone in your organization should also to pay attention to the the human aspect of the product.” – Joey Marchy, Project Manager

6) Test, test, test…and then learn to let go. 

The biggest thing I learned throughout the process is to test your product’s efficacy as often as possible. Constantly ask yourself whether you’re really solving someone’s problem at the core or if you’re just making current processes slightly better. Accepting that something isn’t working and changing course is more important than getting it right the first time.” – Dennis Eusebio, UX/UI Designer

Hindsight certainly is 20/20 isn’t it? The funny thing is, these lessons aren’t breaking news. They’ve all been written about before.

The problem is that it’s hard to absorb them and look critically at your business when you’re in the trenches. When things are getting done and moving along everyday.

If our team was to challenge you to just one thing, it would be this: take a step back and really look at what you’re building. What advice from mentors, articles, and your customers could impact your business for the better today? It may just save you the trouble of closing your doors someday down the road. We truly hope it does.

OneSpark was one of the biggest startup events we’ve ever seen, check out our coverage here.


Tampa Startup Wants Fuse To Be Your One Social App

Fuse Laicos, Tampa startup, California startup,startups, startup interviewRyan Negri, the founder of Negri Electronics and now a startup called Laicos, and Kyle Mathews, the co-founder of Laicos believe that everyone is “one social person” so they should only have one social app. They are hoping that app is Laicos’ first app, Fuse.

Fuse is a social aggregator of sorts that combines all of your popular social networks into one feed. Where platforms like Hootsuite allow a user to peruse multiple social feeds at one time through individual streams, Fuse, has one big stream for all social interactions. Right now Fuse will bring together Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn so that you can cross post, cross read and share all at the same time without having to open and close multiple apps.

Both entrepreneurs know that there are services, like Hootsuite described above, that do what they want to a degree, but Fuse is the only platform that views everything in one big feed.

Mathews is based in Tampa Florida while Negri is based in California. Neither co-founder is a stranger to working remotely. Negri talks about launching his successful electronics business in Wisconsin and then working remotely from California even after relocating that company to Nevada.

Negri’s electronics business specializes in mobile devices, and even imports some of the more high end “unlocked” devices from overseas his customers there are typically early adopters on all aspects of technology. That’s where Negri became so intrigued with solving this social problem, telling us he’s surprised no one has done it this way before. Fuse makes a lot of sense.

Check out our interview with Negri below and for more information check out Fuse’s website here.

seriousWhat is your startup called?


What does your company do?

Laicos was created to focus on social application development, mostly in the mobile app arena.

Who are the founders, and what are their backgrounds?

The founders of Laicos are Ryan Negri (@ryannegri) and Kyle Matthews (@kylematthews)

Ryan is the founder of With over 40,000 unique and satisfied customers during more than seven years of operation, Negri Electronics has become a leader in the high end unlocked wireless industry. Before starting Negri Electronics, Ryan, our CEO, was just an avid fan of new technology, excited about the seemingly certain and infinite growth of mobile capabilities and intent on being the first to get his hands on the latest devices. Today, Ryan is still that same fan, and he offers a platform for others, like him, to get the very best wireless devices before anyone else in the world. In June of 2006, Negri Electronics began operations from an apartment in Northern Wisconsin as a distributor of high end unlocked wireless devices through a variety of third-party retail channels. It wasn’t long before the small business was overwhelmed by demand and faced with the opportunity to expand. Ryan leased his first office space, hired his first employee, and launched the first version of The business met the inevitable challenges each new business faces and overcame them because of Ryan’s dedication to his vision. He knew that an opportunity existed for a company that could offer exclusive devices with outstanding customer service if the price was right. The market was responding and Negri Electronics had expanded its team to five before Ryan made the decision to move from his Wisconsin roots to an area of the country that was closer to his customers and new suppliers and full of entrepreneurial energy. Ryan moved from Wisconsin to Southern California and ran the business remotely with the help of a loyal Wisconsin-based operations manager that had been with the business from the start. The business continued to grow by adding team members in finance and marketing roles, but as time passed, the advantages of operating a business in Nevada became apparent.Negri Electronics relocated its Wisconsin operation to a newly rented warehouse in Las Vegas, Nevada to take advantage of the lower costs of doing business and to make a positive impact in the Las Vegas community. Through local hiring efforts, the Nevada team added energetic and talented warehouse and customer service professionals and, within one year, the company outgrew its space once again. Today, Negri Electronics is a privately owned corporation headquartered in a nearly 6,000 square feet facility in Las Vegas, Nevada with an office in Southern California that houses administrative, finance, and marketing functions. The business offers nearly 5,000 products through a redesigned website and ships to over 190 different countries around the world. Ryan is still in touch with many of his first customers who count on him for his expertise, and they remain loyal customers and valued friends of Negri Electronics. The entire team is extremely proud of the progress to date and remain enthusiastic and optimistic about the possibilities ahead.

Kyle Matthews is the co-founder of ModMy, LLC. Their main website,, is the largest iPhone customizing community on the internet, with over 850,000 members and over 1 million daily page views. Kyle has been involved in the modifying scene for over a decade, starting with Motorola phones just before the release of the Razr, and continuing this passion for do-it-yourself modifying of devices and software into the iPhone scene. When ModMyi launched in 2007 along with the release of the first iPhone, it was home to many of the first iOS developers in the world – long before Apple released an official SDK or App Store (remember the first year of iPhone had native apps only!). Cody Overcash, the other co-founder of, created the first iPhone “theme” ever, starting the hugely popular iPhone theming community. Thousands of talented digital artists helped to grow by creating beautiful third-party UIs and themes for Apple’s flagship device, which they continue to do. The ModMy sites began as purely a hobby, with both the founders having separate jobs. As the community grew, we experienced rapid growth and learned quite a bit about running large online communities, from best practices on management, to server tweaking and creating custom software to enhance the tools we were already using. ModMy quickly became a full time job for both Kyle and Cody, and has now expanded to include daughter companies like ModMedical, which creates iPad apps for medical device companies, and Brooks Motorsport Composites, which takes the customization mindset to the physical world in building custom carbon fiber aero solutions for race cars. Kyle is also very active in the non-profit world, as the co-founder and executive director of Because of Ezra. Because of Ezra was formed in 2011, after the 2010 loss of Kyle and his wife Robyn’s son, Ezra, to neuroblastoma, the most common cancer in infants. Ezra lived exactly 800 days. Neuroblastoma in stage 4 (the most commonly diagnosed staging) has only a 40% cure rate, and relapsed neuroblastoma has no current cure. Because of Ezra seeks to fill some of the large gaps in funding for neuroblastoma research. Since 2011 they’ve give over $130,000 to fund relevant, patient-affecting research into a cure. With a focus on creating exciting online projects with beautiful designs, Kyle has a large skill set relating to most web and mobile development and design projects.

Where are you based?

Tampa, FL, and Costa Mesa, CA.

What’s the startup scene like where you are based?

The Tampa startup scene is brand new, and rapidly growing. A burgeoning digital crew are beginning to pop up, and a host of medical companies also exist.

The Southern California Startup scene is rapidly expanding. With many new startups opening offices in Santa Monica, it’s slowing becoming “Silicon Beach”. We are excited to be a part. We have not yet tapped into the Vegas Startup Scene, but are excited to do so once we get a little more traction and Tony (Hsieh) starts replying to my requests to coordinate. Negri Electronics is based out of Las Vegas – a Tech Ecommerce site 7 years in the making – with similiar values as Zappos.

What problem do you solve?

With Fuse, our flagship product, we solve the problem of social presence fragmentation. Our tagline is “You’re one social person. Get one social app.” As you interact with the social networking world, we find people are increasingly maintaining multiple presences, requiring multiple apps to manage. Fuse brings together all your social networking in one beautiful, unified experience. Interact with your Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn contacts all at the same time. We have future plans to incorporate more networks as we grow.

Why now?

Managing your social presence is taking more and more time as multiple networks vie for your attention. A few solutions exist to interact with multiple networks, but they still fragment the experiences within the app. Fuse solves that issue.

What are some of the milestones your startup has already reached?

We’ve launched our first product, Fuse, in the App Store!

What are your next milestones?

Laicos’ next milestones are acquiring users. We’re also a month or so away from launching a major redesign, which better matches the flat design seen in iOS 7. An Android version of the app is also in the future musings.

Where can people find out more? Any social media links you want to share?

You can find out more about Fuse here, and by downloading the app on your iPhone from the iTunes store here.


Knight Foundation Refreshes Miami Startup Community With $150K For Refresh Miami

Refresh Miami, Knight Foundation, Miami startupRefresh Miami, an organization that supports startups and entrepreneurship in Miami, has been connecting entrepreneurs to each other, growth capital, and resources since 2005, since before it was “cool”. The 5,000 member organization has held over 1000 events since it’s inception 8 years ago, according to Florida Technology Journal.

Now the organization is the recipient of $150,000 from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. The Knight Foundation is a philantrhopic cousin to the Knight Ridder newspaper family. They often support startups and startup communities, especially in the areas of media.

That’s where this funding will come in handy. Refresh Miami is looking to revamp its web offerings by generating more content for entrepreneurs, founders, and investors. They’re also looking to connect their user base to a an event calendar, job listings, and even member profiles.

“Its great to be a part of the growing climate for innovation in Miami, and we hope to contribute more with this support from the Knight Foundation,” said Brian Breslin, Refresh Miami founder and co-director.

“Through this expansion Refresh can continue on its mission of growing and refreshing the technology and entrepreneurial community in the city,” said Peter Martinez, Refresh Miami co-director.

“Miami’s start-up ecosystem continues to gain momentum, but people need the right connections and a central place for ways to learn and engage in the community,” said Matt Haggman, Miami program director for Knight Foundation. “Refresh Miami will fill this gap by providing entrepreneurs with the opportunities they need to build their ideas and inspire others to participate.”

Find out more about Refresh Miami.


Florida Entrepreneur Turns Love Of Theme Parks Into New Media Startup ThrillGeek

Thrillgeek, Florida startup,startup interview

For a lot of kids who grow up in Florida or move to Florida at a young age, the novelty of theme parks wears out. I have a bunch of friends from Florida in their 20’s and 30’s who can’t stand the thought of Disney parks. The traffic, the congestion of people, and prices that are driven up because of a year-round flocking of tourists make residents run away when it’s vacation time.

That’s not the case for Clint Gamache. Gamache loved thrill rides, roller coasters, and theme parks when his family moved to Florida 20 years ago, and today he still does. In fact he loves theme parks so much he started a new media company called ThrillGeek.

Gamache, who is a data collector for a major rental company by day and an Android fan and developer by night, decided to forego the typical technology blog and launch ThrillGeek.

ThrillGeek combines Gamache’s loves of photography, videos, and story telling with his love of theme parks into a simple, easy-to-understand and navigate website for anyone to find out about the latest rides, park news, and specials. Theme park operators are starting to catch on as well, and they’ve been giving Gamache access to new ride launches and early news.

Just in time for 4th of July vacation planning, we got a chance to catch up with Gamache. Check out our interview below:


What is your startup called?

Our startup is called

What does your company do?

We are a website dedicated to covering and sharing the world of theme park news.  We are a simple, straightforward theme park news website.  We report videos, photos and even some sounds from the theme park world, all in a simple to read blog format.


Who are the founders, and what are their backgrounds

The founder of Thrillgeek is Clint Gamache.  Clint has been into theme parks ever since his parents have moved me down here to the sunny state of Florida almost 20 years ago.  Ever since his first visit to the theme parks here in Orlando, I have found myself fascinated with everything they have to offer.  From the rides, shows and everything in-between, they are a fascinating place to visit and explore.  I enjoy photography, videography and of course, spending time at our local theme parks here in Orlando, Florida.

Where are you based?

Thrillgeek is based in the sunny state of Florida!  Home to some of the best theme parks in the world!

What problem do you solve?

I created Thrillgeek with the mindset that many other theme park blogs are extremely busy and are overwhelming.  You go to some of the other theme park blogs and you are overwhelmed with vacation planning information, reservations and other information that some of the more hardcore theme park nuts like me don’t really want to see.  We just want the breaking theme park news!

Why does it matter?

Millions of people visit theme parks every year.  There are a select few people though that enjoy reading theme park news.  That is where Thrillgeek comes in.  Many theme park websites out there offering many things, such as vacation planning, and other stuff that the theme park nuts do not want.  We matter because we want to be a simple theme park news, photo and video website in a simple to read blog format.

What are some of the milestones your startup has already reached?

We started off fairly small as all blogs do, but we are growing every month and have increased our viewers every month.  We started almost 4 months ago and started with about 3,000 hits the first month.  June is coming to a close and we are already passed 6,000 viewers with a little bit of time to go in the month.  We recently have covered major grand openings of some of the biggest area theme parks, including the grand opening of Transformers: The Ride 3D at Universal Orlando and the new Antarctica attraction at SeaWorld Orlando.

What are your next milestones?

Thrillgeek has begun building media relationships with the local area theme parks.  Our next event will be at Legoland Florida to cover the grand opening of their new ride.  We are currently funding a indiegogo crowdfunding program to help raise money for new camera equiptment.  Over the past few months we have doubled in viewership, and I hope this growth continues.

Where can people find out more? Any social media links you want to share?

Thrillgeek has all of the social media platforms.  Our Facebook page can found here, our Twitter here and our Flickr page can be found here.


Our Twitter handle is @thrillgeek

Now check out Aspiredu the Florida startup that won $25,000 at 







Florida Startup World Housing Solution, Quick, Strong And Green!

World Housing Solution, Orlando Startup, Florida startup,startup interview, startup video, SouthlandI gotta tell you, one of the most interesting startups I’ve seen at a startup conference is World Housing Solution. This Orlando based startup has created a way of making extremely strong, quick to build shelters out of Structural Insulated Composite Panels.  The company’s founder, Ron Ben-Zeev tells us that SICPs, are like a super strong sandwich made out of fiberglass bread and a foam center.  Ben-Zeev and his team have found a way to quickly and effectively use this material for shelter.

The SICPs make World Housing Solution shelters great for emergency needs like the aftermath of a natural disaster. They are also great for deploying in emerging countries. For instance, the scale model of the structure they showed off at Southland is actually being deployed to the horn of Africa as a hospital for women. That project calls for five of WHS’s structures to function as a maternity ward, delivery room, clinic, kitchen and rest rooms. In this case the structures deployed will be permanent but it will take days rater than weeks, months or years to get the hospital off the ground.

In addition to being extremely quick to set up the WHS shelters are hurricane resistant (up to 155mph), earthquake resistant (up to 7.8 richter), they don’t mold, mildew or rot, they’re fire resistant and bullet proof. Ultimately this makes the WHS shelters ideal for fast implementation in civilian, government and military installations.

Although he has no formal “construction” experience, Ben-Zeev is actually a Wharton educated executive with a background involving strategic consulting for Fortune 100 and 500 companies. He also served as Strategic Counsel to the North American CEO and President of Siemens Information Systems.

Check out our interview with Ben-Zeev in the video below. For more information visit

Here’s more of our coverage from Southland in Nashville Tennessee.



After Win, AspirEDU Keeps Proving They’re Not A One Hit Wonder

AspirEDU,Florida Startup,,Startup Weekend, Southland

Last year when Kim Munzo went to the Startup Weekend EDU event in Florida, she didn’t know what to expect. The career long educator had a problem and the solution, and with fingers crossed she hoped for the best. She had no idea what a ride it would be.

Munzo has worked in online education for the past 15 years. For those keeping score, that’s just about when online education became accepted as a legitimate source of education. In her position she found that there were a lot of people who dropped out. They get too busy, they get bored, and sometimes they just didn’t feel like continuing.

Munzo was at The Startup Conference, we weren’t able to see much of her business. Fortunately, at Southland we found out the big picture behind this Florida startup.

Munzo developed an analytical system that can predict which online students are at risk of dropping out. An online student can elect to take one class, or a whole degree program online. Some students choose to get multiple degrees. At that rate, the tuition adds up and the revenue for online institutions is in play. A drop out, depending on the cost of their tuition and programs offered, can cost an institution up to tens of thousands of dollars.

AspirEDU lets online institutions know which students are at risk. Then the institution can follow up in a variety of ways. AspirEDU co-founder Kevin Kopas also told us that they are developing features that will automatically send online students at risk emails or text messages to get them re-engaged with their online education. The end result is less attrition for online institutions and students who finish their degrees and certifications.

Following a win at that Startup Weekend EDU event, AspirEDU started taking their show on the road, exhibiting at conferences, pitching in pitch contests, and submitting business plans for business plan competitions. All of those avenues proved to be great for the company.

AspirEDU won $25,000 in cash in the Best of Village pitch contest at The Startup Conference I. After that they won the Florida Atlantic University business plan competition which included $55,000 in cash and services prizes. All of which came in handy for the bootstrapped startup. They also came in 7th place in a global business plan competition.

Although the entire team is still employed elsewhere full time, they are working 40-70 hours more per week on AspirEDU.

“I’m taking off from my day job to be here at Southland,” Kopas told us. Kopas works for a major domain name provider during the day, and dedicates all of his free time to AspirEDU, time he used to use to enjoy the waters of Florida.

AspirEDU is a certified partner with Canvas by Instructure and the team will be traveling to Utah next week to present in a conference with 9 other certified partners.

While the education space is filling up rapidly, there’s no other startup that is using analytics to help keep students enrolled. While it’s a great idea and great technology, the team is leery of taking an investment right now. They already have clients and some major deals with big institutions across the globe in the works. Munzo and Kopas are hoping that they can start creating substantial revenue and not have to give up any equity, at least in the short term.

An investor told us that anyone can make a $4 million dollar business; we want to hold off on an investment in case we need it to get to the $100 million dollar mark. That’s a good possibility with the online education industry counting for billions of dollars on a global scale.

Munzo and Kopas credit Startup Weekend and the people they’ve met while traveling all over the country to promote AspirEDU with where they’ve gotten thus far.

You can find out more about AspirEDU here at and by watching the interview video below.

Check out more of our Southland coverage here!


Team Led By 14-Year-Old Wins Startup Weekend Tampa

Tampa Bay startup weekend, teenpreneur, teenager,

Last weekend Startup Weekend came back to Tampa. Startup Weekend attracts developers, designers, and entrepreneurs of all ages to a 54 hour hackathon to build out company and startup ideas. Teams go beyond a business plan and 54 hours later strive to have a working product.

That’s just what happened for 14-year-old Nathan Eyal and his team that worked on Live Warfare. The team that built out this mobile game also included Eyal’s dad Omer, who brought him out for the 54 hour hackathon.

According to 83degreesmedia, the product is a person-to-person video game that allows players to take a picture of someone and then digitally “shoot” them. Once they’re shot a notification is sent to their phone. Think of it as virtual paintball.

Ed Glarza, Akira Mitchell, Ken Morris, and Matt Saulding rounded out the younger Eyal’s team. “We focus on the team, and I think their team was really strong,” Ryan Sullivan, co-organizer for Startup Weekend told 83degrees. “Because Nathan was so passionate about the idea, he kept the team moving forward and making decisions.”

Nathan pitched his Live Warfare idea to a packed house at the University of South Florida, St. Petersburg on Friday evening. That’s when participants have 60 seconds to pitch their idea. After the initial pitches they go around the room with poster board signs and the people in the audience vote (typically with a colored sticker) on what projects they think should be developed. At the end of the vote, the projects with the most votes are hacked out over the remaining time.

During that time, Nathan and his team were able to build out the app. They also tested it out with friends and got real feedback on the idea. By the time final pitches occurred on Sunday afternoon Live Warfare was a finished product.

The second and third place finishers were both based on crowdsourced data. BuySignal came in second place. Their startup monitors Twitter feeds to find “indicators” that someone is about to make a purchasing decision. The third placed finisher, StreezWize, is an app that allows people to provide real time feedback about potential crimes.


See how these 10 year olds are sparking happiness and entrepreneurship.







Overnight Carriers Probably Owe You Money, This Florida Startup Will Get It For You

71lbs, Fedex,Ups,overnight shipping, Florida startup,startup interview

Every year more than $2 billion is wasted in unclaimed shipping refunds. While many people know that there are “guaranteed delivery times” for all of the major overnight carriers, very few actually know what those times mean and how they affect your bottom line.

Sure “guaranteed by 3pm” means guaranteed delivery by 3:00pm. Typically though, when a package arrives at 3:05pm we brush it off, thankful that the package arrived at all. What many folks don’t know is that UPS and FedEx both offer 100% refunds if a package is delivered even 60 seconds late. The package delivery time is scanned by the delivery driver, and chances are, if you ship a lot, you’ve even looked at packages that have been late and not thought a thing about it.

Well Jose Li, who at one point led FedEx’s retail and e-commerce practices, has started a company of his own that helps shippers get the money rightfully owed to them by the major overnight carriers.

71lbs is a software platform that analyzes customer’s shipping data and audits shipments against their guaranteed delivery times. 71lbs then retrieves the refund for the customer and takes a small commission when the refund is retrieved.

The service is free and according to the company it takes just 45 seconds to sign up. The rest is automatic. The best part is it’s totally legal and totally ethical.



What is your startup?

71lbs is a software technology company that is making it easy and automated for small businesses to claim shipping refunds. So when your FedEx or UPS package is delivered 60 seconds late, both companies have policies that entitle you to a 100% refund. Lots of people don’t know about this or don’t have the time to go through the tedious claim process. More than $2 billion dollars is wasted in unclaimed shipping refunds every year.

This inspired former FedEx executive, Jose Li, to create 71lbs, a software that automatically analyzes customer’s shipping data, audits shipments against guaranteed time commitments, and retrieves refunds for the customers. It’s totally free to use, takes 45 seconds to sign up, and is growing like crazy. 71lbs only collects a percentage fee when a refund is successfully claimed.

The company believes all businesses should have access to the same tools and resources that the “Fortune 500” utilize today. 71lbs also believes technology and software should enable small businesses to become as efficient, if not more, than their Fortune 500 counterparts.  71lbs believes in democratizing shipping. 

Who are the founders and what are their backgrounds?

Jose Li, former FedEx executive, has 15 years in the shipping, logistics, and e-commerce industry. He experienced first-hand the lack of tools and resources while managing Jamba Juice’s supply chain of 450 stores, and also wore the carrier’s shoes, running a business unit for FedEx.

The management team has decades of experience in the shipping, software, and technology industries, with companies such as FedEx, DHL, and Tangoe Software to name a few.

Where are you based?

Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.

What is the startup culture like where you are based?

South Florida is gaining a lot of activity in start-up and tech, through a number of anchors like The Lab Miami, The Knight Foundation, universities, incubators and workspaces.

What is one challenge that you’ve overcome in the startup process?

Two particular challenges – raising funds and recruiting. We don’t call victory yet. It’s an on-going process. We call this ABR – Always Be Raising, and Always Be Recruiting. Being in South Florida the investor community is not as dense as other start-up tech places like Silicon Valley, New York City, Chicago, or Austin. So it just means we have to work harder at it. We leveraged a number of resources – old work colleagues, University alumni, networking, introductions, travel, conference calls, AngelList, LinkedIn, etc to share our story and mission with a number of potential investors. We were fortunate to get accepted into what is now Techstars Chicago and met a group of our investors there.

We faced and continue to face similar challenges with finding great people. We have taken the approach of sharing our story with community members, local media, Universities and continue to interview and recruit tech and business people to join 71lbs.

A.B.R. Always be recruiting. Always be raising.

What are some of the milestones your startup has achieved?

We were able to average over 50 customer sign ups per week and we hope to build on that momemtum.

What are your next milestones

We would like to continue developing our technology and go live with our next software release which includes invoice auditing.

 Who are your mentors and role models?

I’ve been fortunate to have a number of mentors throughout my years. One piece of advice I was told early on my career was to recruit a personal “board of advisors”, which I personally invested a lot of my time and effort into making happen. Most recently, my former boss at FedEx was instrumental in helping me develop a number of skills, like leading without authority, influence and persuasion, and presentation.

What’s next for your startup?

We would like to continue to grow and offer additional cost saving products and services for our customers. We are working on adding a number of partners to our ecosystem, which will allow us to increase reach and distribution.

Where can people find out more, and what is your Twitter username?


This Chattanooga startup aims to simplify your social life


Florida Startup Ziipa Helps You Navigate The Ocean of Apps

Ziipa, Florida startup,startup interview

Sure there are a lot of app discovery startups out there, but ziipa, a startup based in West Palm Beach Florida, is helping people discover the diamonds in the rough. In the application discovery space there are two users, the app developers and the actual app users. Most app discovery platforms do one of those users well, but not both.

Ziipa is using their proprietary algorithms to help users really dig deep and find the apps that they need and want. It’s also helping app developers reach out and fund users they couldn’t’ get from a quick spike in the iTunes app store or Google Play store.



“This results in discovery of sites and applications that would most likely not have been discovered. The outcome is a benefit to the user as well as the developer,” ziipa founder Lee Starusta told Nibletz.

Starusta founded ziipa after getting frustrated that his other apps were hard to discover. Not only are there a lot of apps in the marketplace, but there are hundreds of new apps and startups coming out daily. Add to that the fact that a lot of the other app discovery platforms are “gameable” and the deck gets stacked against you quickly.

“Ziipa ranks applications using a passive approach that eliminates bias and cheating,” Starusta said.

Check out this Q & A ziipa below:




In layman’s terms, how does it work? (In other words how would you explain it to your grandmother)

Just go to ziipa and search for applications in a field of interest. As a user surfs ziipa for applications, ziipa identifies a users interest and anticipates any change in interest and recommends sites and applications to the user. This results in discovery of sites and applications that would most likely not have been discovered. The outcome is a benefit to the user as well as the developer.

Who are the founders and what are their backgrounds?

Lee Starusta – Founder & CEO. Creator, dreamer and out to disrupt! Industrial engineer by education, entrepreneur by genetic predisposition. self employed for 25 Years with loads of experience. 100% ziipa

Hugo Aponte – co-founder & CTO. Technology guru! Crazy amounts of experience running technology startups, patent holder and loves mathematics and artificial intelligence. (Who doesn’t!!)

Where are you based?

ziipa is based in West Palm Beach, Florida, United States.

How did you come up with the idea for ziipa?

The genesis for ziipa came from personal experience in trying to launch, run, and grow several internet start-ups. It is very difficult to get noticed and acquire customers as the underdog. ziipa offers a platform that gets you noticed quickly and connects applications with users based on interest.

Why now?

The explosion in mobile and web applications requires that there be more than a few players in the space. In addition ziipa offers a different approach to solving the problem of how to be found. ziipa helps by shortening discovery time, increasing the long tail and fairly ranking applications without money and bias.

What sets you apart from any of the other hundred+ app discovery platforms out there?

The main differences are as follows:

1- ziipa ranks applications using a passive approach that eliminates bias and cheating.

2- ziipa can recommend users not only based on interest but it can anticipate a user’s change in interest. This dynamic approach to recommending helps content stay fresh and relevant to the users.

What are some milestones you’ve achieved?

Considering that our marketing budget is zero, we are very proud of the fact that we have experienced steady growth and that tens of thousands of visitors find awesome apps on ziipa every month. Acceptance is a key metric, and I feel that our approach is certainly paying off for users as well as app developers.

What’s your next milestone?

ziipa will be rolling out a marketplace for applications where developers will be able to sell their applications.

Who are some of your mentors and business role models?

I could mention many and some would be obvious. I have been an entrepreneur for over 20+ Years and my mentors and models have to be the everyday person with a dream who actually stops talking and does it. Without these entrepreneurs life would be very boring!

Where can people find out more and what is your Twitter username?  @ziipa


Love Florida? Check out this developers conference on Atlantic Beach.


Florida Startup IntelligentM: The Sensor Packed Handwashing Police

Florida startup, HealthTech,Mhealth, IntelligentM, Sensor, startupHospital Acquired Infections, or HAIs, are a very serious problem and very serious business. Over 100,000 people in the U.S. die every year from infections they acquire once they are admitted to the hospital. The biggest culprit in the passing of infections in the hospital is improper hand washing.

While it’s such a critical part of patient care, doctors, nurses, techs, volunteers, and other hospital caregivers either skip hand washing all together or quickly run their hands through water without washing them thoroughly.

IntelligentM is trying to fix that problem using sensors. The Sarasota startup has been through the BluePrint Health accelerator in New York, the GE Startup Health program, and the SXSW accelerator program.

The sensors, actually in this case RfiD tags, are embedded in a bracelet that hospital care givers wear. Sensors are also installed at hand washing stations and most points where a caregiver needs to administer care.

The water safe bracelet, similar in size and material to a “Live Strong” bracelet, communicates with the sensors on the hand washing stations. The bracelet can tell how long it’s been at the hand washing station. They emit a buzz or vibration that tells the caregiver to wash their hands and gives a shorter signal when hands have been washed.

The bracelet also has a microUSB connection that can output historical hand washing information for hospital administrators.

With the introduction of “ObamaCare” HAIs became an even bigger focus area. Hospitals will now have their infection scores posted publicly, and infection rates will play into reimbursement rates for hospitals.

The IntelligentM has been testing at a Sarasota hospital since last year.

Find out more at

Image: GizMag

Gainesville Startup Fracture Secures $500,000 Investment For Their Photo To Glass Platform

Fracture, Florida startup, Gainesville startup, funding

Fracture, a Gainesville Florida startup, specializes in preserving digital photos on beautiful glass works of art.

The end result is a stunning piece of art you can hang on your wall or put on your desk. It comes out a lot nicer than the canvas prints you can order from places like Walmart. The do-it-yourself ordering system is simple enough for anyone who has a basic grasp of taking and printing digital pictures to handle.

A user simply creates an account on, chooses the picture they want printed, decides on the size of the printout, pays and–voila–their picture is turned into a stunning piece of glass. Prices range from $15 to $125. Printing takes between 24-48 hours and orders are shipped shortly after.

On Monday, the startup, created by two University of Florida students in 2009, announced a $500,000 angel investment from Tamiani Angel Fund. They also raised $430,000 from TAFI in May of 2012. The Miami Herald reports that they also received a $530,000 convertible debt investment, of up to $1 million dollars from the Florida Opportunity Fund.

“We are grateful for the support the Tamiami Angel Fund has given to our burgeoning company,” Abhi Lokesh, co-founder and CEO of Fracture, told the Herald. “It’s clear they share our vision and appreciate the growth potential of the printed photo display market – a multi-billion dollar market that InfoTrends predicts will grow 40% by 2017.”

Fracture reports that revenue was up 211% in Q1 2013 from the previous year.

Check out Fracture here.

Startup Tips: 11 Tips For Increasing Customer Loyalty


Miami Startup Geopon Prefers “Mobile Advertising” Over Coupons, Loyalty & Rewards

Geopon,Miami startup,TechCrunch DisruptWhile we were at TechCrunch Disrupt NY 2013, we got a chance to talk with Ido Meos, co-founder of Miami startup Geopon. As he explains it, Geopon is a mobile advertising platform, not to be confused with coupons, loyalty and rewards.

Obviously loyalty & rewards is the cramped up space this year, along with anything social, local and mobile. Meros says that Geopon, which offers mobile coupons, offers, and reward based digital punchcards, is actually a lot different. According to him, Geopon’s edge is that they are serving up menus for restaurants when they give away a restaurant coupon. When they have an offer or a loyalty deal with a movie theater, they also deliver the latest showings.

So Geopon is an all in one shop for merchants. They are able to create mobile advertising campaigns based on which engagement platform they, and the merchant feel, are the best to reach their customer base.

They also try and touch the users at least twice from every engagement. They want to give out a coupon to get a customer in the door and then help the merchant retain the customer through loyalty/reward based incentives.

Each of the individual spaces are pretty crowded, but providing a one stop destination for local businesses to try various programs could prove profitable for Geopon.

Check out our video below and for more information visit

Check out over 30 more startup stories from TechCrunch Disrupt NY 2013.