Last week, eight Miami startups pitched at Demo Day, hosted by Refresh Miami and HelloDotMiami at Miami-Dade College’s Wolfson Campus. With just five minutes to pitch, each company stood to win $200,000 in prizes and mentorship from SoftLayer. Companies selected to pitch included Record Gram, Birdie Fantasy Golf, Flow KPI, Woolton, and Room2Care. We sat down with the winners to talk about what it’s like to run a startup in Miami.
Bringing home both the grand prize and the people’s choice award was My Style Blox, an agency-free modeling and styling company started by a former talent manager Mario Aguayo and professional model Sandy Kacura. It serves as a marketplace where freelance models, photographers, makeup artists, hairdressers, stylists, and assistants can book each services directly, cutting out the agency middleman.
What’s the next feature you would like to bring to the site?
Kacura: We would like to book the complete package in one transaction.
Aguayo: We want to be able to give the solution where a client can book all members under one ticket so they only have to focus on one budget.
How do you think this business model will change work for freelancers?
Aguayo: I think it will open the opportunity for them to take control of their careers more. Right now when you deal with someone who’s a freelancer they have a notebook, a pen, and whole bunch of emails, and they’re hoping they can keep everything on track. There’s really no tool for them to build it all together and actually make it work, which is what we are trying to give them. We think this will empower them to be their own boss.
Will you eventually expand to other creative industries?
Kacura: Yeah, we want to do acting as well. You can hire an art director, or anyone that encompasses a production house.
Aguayo: We want to just open it up to anyone who has a talent so they can produce and be able to be hired. All these talented individuals, whether they are actors, models, singers, acrobats, or whatever, need a way to handle their business professionally. And with all these regular social network sites, it’s not a good solution. We want to be able to give them professional tools. I think because we are a small company, we will be able to quickly adapt and make sure the tools are good for them. In the beginning of next year, we want to be able to open up the fields to a lot more people to get in there and be able to manage their own careers.
Yodel, a rebrand of Tracks, won second place. The video messaging app, cofounded by 24-year-old Princeton graduate Seth Forsgren, along with Evan Knight and Rey Hernandez, captures instant reactions as messages are received and then allows users to send back and continue the conversation at their own leisure.
How does Yodel differ from an application like Snapchat, where a couple of seconds can be recorded and sent to someone instantly?
Forsgren: It’s a very different experience because that’s entirely one sided. So that moment when you recorded and sent it, you don’t have any idea how that person felt and reacted when you sent it right? We’re talking right now and there are two sides to this conversation. When you use Yodel you actually get that other side. You get that depth of seeing someone as you talk to them. Reactions are a new thing, but even the reactions are fun and exciting, too. There’s a lot of moments when you are talking to someone and you see that person thinking of what they are going to say next, or making a mistake or fumbling and coming back to you with their real response in real time, and those are meaningful moments. You miss those when you send a text or a snap or whatever — everything is a curated version of yourself — and we are a much more authentic messaging experience and much more fun, too.
Do you think being a millennial give you an edge in the market?
Forsgren: I don’t think its necessarily being a millennial, but it’s great to make a product I want to use everyday. There’s a power to waking up every morning and pulling up the thing you’re working on all day, and if it doesn’t work, I want to go and fix it, because I want to use it the next morning. We do see bigger uptake in millennial and younger generations getting excited about it and wanting to share it with their friends, so it helps to be in the same conversations.
What’s next for Yodel?
Forsgren: Right now in the app store is the version called Tracks, which is the limited experience. Once Yodel launches in a couple of weeks, its going to have lot more attributes, and a lot more flexibility to edit photos from your camera roll and videos, [and add] gifs and texts on top of your video.
Tesser Health placed third in the competition. The company strives to bring price transparency to medication and talked about the recent spike in the price of Daraprim by Turing Pharmaceuticals. Riyaad Seecharan the managing director of operations, pitched the project at Demo Day.
What are your seeking to do on a fundamental basis?
Seecharan: It’s not short to say we save lives. Our managing director and business developer Dr. Ali Khoshnevis had a patient die because he could not afford to pay for his medication. From a macro picture, our goal is to play in healthcare and make it better with design, with forethought, with software, with big data, that’s what we do fundamentally as an organization.
Who are your customers?
Seecharan: Self-insured companies buying healthcare packages for their employees. As a company, you don’t have a lot of oversight of the pricing of medication because prices are locked in for the year. We do the research for them and find the lowest cost.
Essentially, are you creating a platform where companies can compare the price of medication and the places that sell it in order to save companies money?
Seecharan: We source prices across the market. That’s what gives us the clarity in price. We have relationships with a bunch of providers. This is really a data problem. This is “how do I get the best price in real time for my drug?” What we are talking about doing is giving you real time market pricing as its happening. It’s called price transparency.