Online ventures topped the list of winners in the FIU Track of this year’s Miami Herald Startup Pitch Competition, which offers entrepreneurs a chance to turn their business idea into reality or grow a business that is less than two years old.
More than a dozen FIU students and alumni participated in the competition, showcasing ventures that help with employee hiring, money-lending and ride-sharing as well as delivery services for local retailers and delivered meals prepared by actual chefs. This year’s winning companies were created by FIU alumni.
The 2019 winners:
- Uflex – schedule-based service to connect employers with potential employees
- Guru Financial – an incentive-driven payday lending service
- Tripper – ride-sharing in upscale, trendy newer model cars
Now in its 21st year, the Miami Herald Startup Pitch Competition is presented by FIU’s Pino Global Entrepreneurship Center and the College of Business. The FIU Track, one of three tracks in the competition, is open to all FIU students and alumni.
The competition, which also includes a general community track and a high-school track, allows entrepreneurs to receive exposure that could lead to partnerships and funding that may get a venture off the ground or help grow a young startup. Winners are featured in The Miami Herald.
Trouble finding a job or an employee?
Eric Louet and his daughter, FIU alumna Charline Louet (BA ’15), developed an online platform to help employers hire full- or part-time workers. Uflex matches job seekers with open positions based on their schedule and availability to work.
“We can help match the best candidates and make the hiring process a breeze,” said Louet. “Our next steps are to promote the tool, commercialize it, get financial support or sponsorships and get it to market.”
Payday loans with benefits.
A mobile lending app, Guru Financial seeks to assist “underbanked” consumers, those with little to no credit, who have limited options to fairly and efficiently borrow money. The company will reward borrowers for on-time payments, lowering the interest rate incrementally as payments are made.
Next steps for founders Arturo Garcia (BBA ‘16) and Warren Krupp (BS ’14) are to get the platform, now in beta-testing mode, launched and live on the app store.
“From the whole process, we have learned to be patient and flexible. Entrepreneurship is NOT EASY,” said Garcia. “It is glamorized on shows like Shark Tank etc. and people think they can jump right in and think they will be immune to the setbacks, letdowns and challenges that you will face along the way to building a successful company from scratch.”
Securing a trendy ride.
David Yohros is no stranger to ride-sharing, but something was missing. Services like Lyft and Uber weren’t targeting customers’ lifestyle so he and Federico Gil (MBA ’16) developed Tripper. The service will feature trendy, newer-model cars. Additionally, drivers must have a minimum of 10 years driving experience and are closely screened.
Tripper has been in development for the last year and it will be ready shortly, Yohros noted. Participating in the Miami Herald Startup Pitch Competition wasn’t an easy ride, he added, but the experience can open new opportunities for his venture.
“The biggest lesson I learned from this challenge is that nothing is as easy as you think,” said Yohros. “The hardest part about the competition was tying everything together so I could present something cohesive for the judges.”