WILL THE NEXT ‘CHIPOTLE’ COME OUT OF SOUTH FLORIDA?

Date: 30th October, 2014

Food Startups Take Center Stage at Annual Emerging Technology Business Showcase

MIAMI – Oct. 30, 2014 – What do you get when you cross South Florida’s diverse restaurants with today’s emerging technology?

The chance to get in on a burgeoning tech-and-food industry either as the owner of a new startup business or as an investor seeking new — and profitable — opportunities.

That was the topic discussed by six culinary entrepreneurs on a special panel featured last week (Oct. 23) during the Emerging Business Technology Business Showcase. The non-profit Enterprise Development Corporation sponsored the event that drew those looking to start new businesses as well as investors and technology experts to Miami Dade College’s Wolfson Campus in downtown Miami.

Investment in the tech-and-food industry has flourished in recent years, growing from $10 million a quarter in 2010 to over $200 million in the first quarter alone in 2014, according to CB Insights, a Venture Capital Database that charts such growth.

In South Florida, the tech-and-food business is in its early stages. Panel moderator Rob Strandberg, president and CEO of the Enterprise Development Corporation, asked panel member Irene Revelas: “Why Miami, and why now for the tech-and-food movement? Is the next Chipotle going to come from South Florida?”

As the publisher and editor of the food magazine Edible Palm Beach, Revelas has insights on developments locally.

“I think we are in a really unique time and place right now for food and beverages, especially local food, in South Florida,” she said. “When I first launched Edible magazine, I had the impression that Florida was behind the market in terms of connections with local foods.”

“We’re not behind — we’re just starting. … I think what’s exciting is that we have the opportunity to create something really new at the intersection of fresh, local food, artisanal and small batch food products, and technology.”

What is helping fuel this revolution both locally and nationally?

“McDonald’s profits have declined by 30 percent over the past year,” Strandberg said. “The question is: Where are those sales going and what is the opportunity for South Florida startups?”

As explained by panel members, food businesses and technology are now connecting in various ways.

Panelist Roger Duarte, co-founder of the very quickly growing My Ceviche, a fast-casual Miami startup, sees his expansion possibilities as limitless. “We’re taking a proven method and injecting innovation into it. Our goal is to reach $100 million in revenue, so we’re strategizing to take the correct steps to get there,” he said.

Panelist Andre Melo is CEO and cofounder, with his wife, Flavia Melo, of FoodOozle, a web-and-mobile-app-driven food delivery service that partners with a local restaurants to deliver meals to customers at home.

“We saw an opportunity in the delivery sector, because we knew that customers want to be able to order more than just Chinese food or Pizza,” said Melo.

“However, delivery services like us were not cost-effective until smartphones and connectivity were prevalent. FoodOozle takes advantage of this new intersection of demand-and-technology to deliver healthier choices, affordably and on-demand.”

Panelist Marc Elkman is a former body-builder who has also seen an opportunity to bring people healthy food while maintaining the convenience fast food offers. He founded Fresh Meal Plan, a South-Florida based company that prepares and delivers health-conscious meals cooked by the company’s resident chefs, including paleo, gluten-free and vegetarian options.

Elkman realized that there was a tremendous opportunity in South Florida to make what used to be viewed as “diet food” delicious.

The biggest way technology factors into his referral-driven business, he said, is through the power of social media.

“People eat with their eyes,” he said. “We use social media and all of the brand advocates and fitness advocates gives us hundreds of thousands of eyes on our product.”

Panelist Cesar Quintero is the founder and COO of Fit2Go and has been a pioneer in the fresh meal delivery space for more than nine years. Quintero started his business by focusing on busy professionals who desired healthy choices delivered to their office. Now, all of his clients place and customize their orders online.

“Seventy-five percent of customers want to be able to order their food from a restaurant online,” Quintero said.

The panel also included Andres Dominguez, the founder and CEO of Natural Sins, a startup company that produces a dried fruit chip product.

In closing the discussion, Strandberg noted the enthusiasm and savvy of the panel members.

“One thing that I’ve really been impressed with, with all of you, is that you aren’t just passionate about food — you’re numbers-driven business people,” he said. “I’ve talked with each of you individually and you know the metrics of your business and the kind of growth you know it will take to scale to a national level. And you have a plan for that.”

About Enterprise Development Corporation

Enterprise Development Corporation provides advisory and support services to help position entrepreneurs, investors, and partners for success and grow South Florida’s start-up ecosystem. As part of its mission, the nonprofit organization actively facilitates connections between entrepreneurs and investors, organizes impactful events, attracts capital, and helps shape a regional agenda to strengthen the local entrepreneurial community. For start-ups, the EDC provides mentorship, strategic advisory services, and connections to capital. For investors, the EDC helps identify, prepare and present opportunities with promising companies. For partners, the EDC provides strategic development, assistance and management of incubator programs, and general advisory services. Since 1994, it has helped more than 300 companies per year, and its total economic impact in South Florida has exceeded $500 million. For more information, visit http://www.edc-tech.org.

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Editors Notes:                  Interviews and event photographs are available upon request.

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