Wanted: Entrepreneurs looking to make a difference


StartUP FIU recruiting the second group of ventures

With the first group of entrepreneurs already working on their ventures, StartUP FIU is recruiting the Spring 2017 cohort of South Floridians with a great idea and the passion to launch the next successful venture.

“We have a very interesting mix of talent, prototypes and businesses in the first group,” said StartUp FIU Director Robert Hacker. “We have students working alongside alumni, faculty and community members, which we know enriches the experience and increases the likelihood of these ideas becoming successful and scalable ventures.”

The 19 projects that make up the inaugural class, selected from more than 160 submissions, include 3D printing of artificial limbs for low-income patients, a virtual reality system to assist in physical therapy, a multi-function chair and a new way to experience flavors. Throughout the 13-week program, the teams will receive hands-on coaching, skills training, mentoring and lectures to take their businesses from “idea to investor ready.” During the final week of the program teams will pitch their ideas to a panel of potential investors.

The entire program is funded through grants from the Community Progress Makers Fund by Citi Foundation and the State of Florida Department of Economic Opportunity and comes at no cost to the participants. The program welcomes applications from entrepreneurs at the idea, prototype or revenue-generating stage.

StartUP FIU launched in June and will eventually operate three cohorts per academic year, as well as an accelerator program. The university initiative includes hands-on assistance and guidance from advisors and seasoned business professionals with an eye toward launching a greater number of long-term sustainable businesses.

The initial group is made up of teams of FIU students, alumni, faculty and local residents.

The projects include:

  • FIU alumnus Christopher Skull wants to produce affordable prosthetics using 3D printing. Collaborating with other FIU alumni and a current student, Skull hopes to address the issues of high costs, long wait times and insurance complications that pose obstacles for low-income amputees.
  • FIU computer science student Jose Maldonado is blending virtual reality and healthcare. He’s creating a low-cost system to allow physical therapy patients to complete their exercises at home, using their computer.
  • Xavier Gonzalez is an MIT grad who interned at El Bulli – a restaurant famous for turning different liquids into “flavor pearls.” While there, he soon realized even the best chefs and mixologists were unable to make these pearls quickly enough to meet the demand. His company, MPG (Molecular Pearl Group) wants to solve this problem by creating a machine that would produce these pearls. He’ll be working on a team with Juan Manjarres, an FIU mechanical engineering student.
  • FIU student Brandt Labastille is developing a portable –and foldable – desk chair with a writing table and a rechargeable battery pack to charge handheld devices and laptops.

For more information about StartUp FIU or to apply to be part of the Spring 2017 cohort, please visit http://startup.fiu.edu or call 305-348-7156.