South Florida entrepreneurs gave their pitches this week to potential investors at the Startup Expo in Boca Raton. About 300 people — 20-somethings to 70-somethings — attended the inaugural Startup Expo organized Wednesday by the Gold Coast Venture Capital Association to help entrepreneurs connect with investors.
From a comfortable high heel and an odor-free toilet, South Florida entrepreneurs gave their pitches this week to potential investors at the Startup Expo in Boca Raton.
About 300 people — 20-somethings to 70-somethings — attended the inaugural Startup Expo organized Wednesday by the Gold Coast Venture Capital Association to help entrepreneurs connect with investors.
Fred Beyerlein came from Fort Myers to check out the companies. He has invested in or helped grow 14 companies, he said — "sometimes as the CEO or COO, or board member. Or sometimes I'm an investor," he said.
While he prefers high-technology or medical device companies, a couple of businesses at the Startup Expo caught his eye.
Beyerlein said he admired the moxy of Ilene Greenberg, one of the few women pitching their businesses. At similar events in Boston and San Francisco, about half of the entrepreneurs are women, he said.
Greenberg, of Design Comfort Shoes in Boca Raton, talked about the engineering of her high-heeled shoe for comfort – and wore them for more than three hours to prove it. The entrepreneur, who said she has a large personal investment in the design, developed the shoe for women who have trouble with bunions but still want to feel fashionable.
"This is not a hobby," she said. Her shoes, which features stretch and cushioning material, now sell online at designcomfortshoes.com.
Beyerlein also liked the app pitched by former University of Florida student Aiden Augustin. His conference app, Feathr, was bought by the Gold Coast Venture Capital Association that night to help connect startups with registrants. He shows how, with the tap of a mobile phone, a conference attendee can connect on LinkedIn with an entrepreneur at the event.
Feathr said he launched the event-networking business last May and has revenue from conference organizers around the country.
In 2010, app developers Dan Thibodeau and Justin Gaither successfully launched Roomsurf, which connects potential college roommates. Their new iPhone app, JoinU, is designed to help people connect with others who enjoy the same hobbies. And maybe find dates.
"We're seeing what it does," said Thibodeau, a University of Miami graduate.
Shopping also was the theme for entrepreneur Amanda Anthony, CEO of Flyinstyle in Fort Lauderdale. She developed an app to help travelers shop at airports in the Americas. The app, scheduled to launch in a couple weeks, will provide special offers from duty-free and other airport vendors
Travelers will be able to place their orders for food or goods and have them ready for pick-up between flights, said Anthony, who came up with the idea from her experience as regional sales director for Procter & Gamble.
Brazilians, for example, often come with a shopping list for friends and family when they're visiting the United States, she said. Long layovers and canceled flights also provide shopping opportunities.
"People don't realize how much people are spending at airports," she said.
Some of the entrepreneurs' companies are just beyond the startup stage, with revenues and experienced management teams – two items that investors often look for before parting with their money.
Boca Raton-based AppwoRx provides a private mobile app for doctors and patients to communicate through photos and texts. The business already has a network of doctors using its app and has been building revenues, said CEO Jim Clark.
Another company on its way is Deliver Lean, a custom meal delivery service in South Florida founded by Scott Harris and Olga Kuzenkov. The company expanded last year into Miami-Dade County and now employs 130 people.
In Fort Lauderdale, BarMaxx has developed an inventory system to help bars and restaurants better track and measure liquor and beer pours, and protect a business against losses.
The company has $380,000 in annual revenues so far, said John Zevgolis, CEO. Local clients include City Hall and The Forge restaurants in Miami.
Probably the most unusual startup at the event was Cogswell Innovation, whose display featured a commode – "the Dyson of toilets," a company representative said.
Fort Lauderdale resident David Cogswell said he has a patented technology for the odor-free toilet device, a battery-operated air purifier. The toilet also features an LED light around the rim for ease of late-night visits.
But does it clean itself? The next model also will eliminate germs, Cogswell said.