FIU students & alumni won top spots in The 2017 Miami Herald Business Plan Challenge.

FIU students & alumni won top spots in The 2017 Miami Herald Business Plan Challenge.

FIU students & alumni won top spots in The 2017 Miami Herald Business Plan Challenge.

More than two dozen FIU students and alumni competed in the FIU track of this year’s Miami Herald Business Plan Challenge, which offers entrepreneurs a chance to turn their business idea into reality or grow an existing business.

The FIU Track finalists showcased concepts for education, the sharing economy, healthcare, finances and technology. The 2017 winners:

  1. Nuvola – creator of guest management software that helps hotels monitor and respond to hotel and guest needs
  2. MunchSquad – a mobile app that enables restaurants, bakeries and supermarkets to reduce surplus food by selling it to hungry college students
  3. Use Your Words – an app used by parents to teach language and communication to their pre-verbal and nonverbal children on the autism spectrum.

Miami Herald Business Plan ChallengeNow in its 19th year, the Miami Herald Business Plan Challenge is sponsored by FIU’s Pino Global Entrepreneurship Center. The competition, which also includes a general community track and a high-school track, is open to anyone with a business idea or startups that are less than two years old.

With finalists and winners featured in the Miami Herald, the competition allows entrepreneurs to receive exposure that could lead to partnerships and funding that may get a venture off the ground or help grow an existing business.

“Knowing what we didn’t know, this competition pushed us into uncovering crucial information involved in financials and market size,” said MunchSquad co-founder Tara Demren. “This was immensely useful in helping us make our vision much more tangible.”

Winners and finalists were selected based on the quality of the business plan, including the viability of the idea and its investment potential. They were judged by executives, investors, entrepreneurs and academics who focused on the market opportunity of the venture and a realistic financial analysis.

Lessons and exposure.

In addition to improving their odds for securing investors’ dollars, many contestants said another driver for entering the competition was the guidance provided by experts and entrepreneurs.

“The competition with the Miami Herald taught us a lot about how we want to conduct our business, where we will be going to market it, and how we can reach more and more children in need, said FIU graduate Yanesa Montenegro of Use Your Words. “Most of all, the competition taught us how to turn a great idea into a full-functioning company.”

The FIU Track finalists

This year’s submissions included ventures related to occupational therapy, hospitality industry, music, healthy living, social gaming and food. The top six entries in the FIU Track pitched their ideas before a panel of judges on April 3 at the Miami Herald headquarter in Doral. The finalists were:

Maurice Pinto (BS ’90)
Maurice Pinto (BS ’90)

DoUCare

Presented by Maurice Pinto (BS ’90)

The venture is a cloud-based platform for caregivers to tend for assisted living families seeking nonmedical home-care services for elderly loved ones.

May Nunez and Dennis Diaz (BS ’05)
May Nunez and Dennis Diaz (BS ’05)

Ketamine Health Centers LLC

Presented by May Nunez and Dennis Diaz (BS ’05)

Ketamine provides ketamine infusions, a new treatment modality for patients suffering from mental-health disorders.

FIU Students Tara Demren and Eliana Alba
FIU Students Tara Demren and Eliana Alba

MunchSquad

Presented by FIU Students Tara Demren and Eliana Alba

This mobile app allows food vendors to sell at a discount to students in an effort to reduce the amount of surplus food that is thrown out each day.

Juan Carlos Abello (BS ‘09)
Juan Carlos Abello (BS ‘09)

Nuvola

Presented by Juan Carlos Abello (BS ‘09)

Provides guest management software that helps hotels monitor & respond to hotel and guest satisfaction.

Rich Rudner & Carlos Alberto Garcia (MS ’12)
Rich Rudner & Carlos Alberto Garcia (MS ’12)

SettleiTsoft

Presented by Rich Rudner & Carlos Alberto Garcia (MS ’12)

This free, web-based debt negotiation platform is designed to facilitate communication between debtors and creditors.

FIU Students Pablo Gomez and Yanesa Montenegro
FIU Students Pablo Gomez and Yanesa Montenegro

UseYourWords LLC

Presented by FIU Students Pablo Gomez and Yanesa Montenegro

This mobile app is used by parents to teach language and communication to their pre-verbal and nonverbal children on the autism spectrum.

For more information on how to participate in the 2018 Miami Herald Business Plan Challenge, email entrepreneurship@fiu.edu.

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