Miami Tech & Startup News

4 things to know in #MiamiTech: Verizon to buy TracFone, FPL launches incubator & more

4 things to know in #MiamiTech: Verizon to buy TracFone, FPL launches incubator & more


1 Verizon to buy South Florida-based TracFone: $6.9B deal

Verizon has agreed to acquire the pre-paid mobile phone provider TracFone  in a deal valued at about $6.9 billion in cash and stock.

Verizon is acquiring the Medley-based company from Mexico City’s América Móvil, headed by Carlos Slim. The deal is expected to close in the second half of 2021, subject to regulatory approvals.

“Since its launch, TracFone has developed strong consumer brands and has established itself as a clear leader in the value mobile segment,” said Ronan Dunne, executive vice president and group CEO of Verizon Consumer Group, in a statement. “This transaction firmly establishes Verizon, through the Tracfone brands, as the provider of choice in the value segment, which complements our clear leadership in the premium segment.”

Now the U.S.’s largest reseller of wireless services, TracFone was founded in 1996 as Topp Telecom by FJ Pollak and David Topp and Slim acquired majority control in 1999. It currently has about 850 employees and a network of more than 90,000 retail locations. It serves about 21 million U.S. customers through its Straight Talk and other brands and generates revenues of $8.1 billion.

According to the South Florida Business Journal, through this deal, Verizon Itplans to offer its 4G LTE and 5G networks to Tracfone customers and aims to expand Tracfone’s distribution channels and market opportunities.

In other big company news, the Miami Herald reported that SoftBank is selling Miami-based wireless group Brightstar to  Brightstar Capital Partners, a private equity firm founded by a former Brightstar exec. Terms of the deal were not disclosed but it is expected to close in the first quarter of 2021.  Once a high flyer but now struggling, Brightstar was founded by Marcelo Claure, who is now Softbank’s COO and overseeing WeWork.

2 FPL’s new incubator called 35 Mules launches first class. Who’s in?

This moth, six startup companies were inducted into FPL’s inaugural incubator and innovation hub called 35 Mules. The program will last 12 to 18 months, and a collaborative workspace has been designed for them at Juno Beach headquarters.

In addition to the workspace, the companies will have access to subject matter experts in solar, renewables, innovation and smart grid, and free coaching from FPL executives, along with a grant of $100,000 to help scale their ventures. In total, in this first year, this is a commitment from FPL of about $2.5 million.

“We started our company 95 years ago with an ice plant, a sponge fishing boat, and a herd of 35 mules among a few other assets and 95 years later we have grown into a company that is globally significant. We are… the world’s largest renewable energy company and we are the country’s largest utility by retail energy sold. We have a lot to be proud of and we have a lot to share with these startups. We’d like to take some of these ideas coming from brilliant individuals in our community and outside our community and help them grow into businesses that we can ideally plant right here in Florida,” said Crystal Stiles, FPL’s senior director of economic development, in an interview earlier this year with Palm Beach Tech Association.

35 Mules plans to customize the program to each entrepreneur in the incubator. FPL hopes to continue the incubator program with more cohorts down the road, Stiles said.

The first six companies, most of them from South Florida, are:

  • Hygge Power: of Boulder,  on a mission to make cleaner, more reliable, comfortable energy storage as simple for the consumer as plugging it in.
  • Neptunya, Boca Raton, on a mission to tap the world’s oceans for clean energy while protecting the habitat.
  • Purivy, of Fort Lauderdale, no information available.
  • SustainaBase, West Palm Beach, anr online platform used by governments andcompanies for collection, analysis, monitoring, sharing, reporting, control & management of sustainability data.
  • Switched Source, Vestal, Ny, developing the next generation of power system automation technology for large commercial and industrial customers and electric utilities.
  • Synergy Research Labs, Wellington, no information available.

3 Miami to get free WiFi for neighborhoods that need it

Consulting company Ignite Cities has launched a COVID-19 Wi-Fi Relief Program in the US to provide free Internet access for those struggling with inadequate connectivity during the pandemic. Miami is on the roadmap.

The initiative was launched in July, and Ignite is now rolling it out in parts of Miami, New Orleans and Columbia. The program aims to bring Internet access to students who are unable to access remote learning, and to families looking for employment and local COVID-19 assistance. The temporary deployments use outdoor, solar-powered Wi-Fi devices from Mesh++ which don’t require any trenching or cables. The service is provided at no cost to the city or its residents.

 “Every family should have Internet access and we need to do everything possible to resolve this across the country.  We have students who have been unable to fully participate in remote learning and partners looking for work. This program provides a quick option as we work toward a larger plan,” said Miami Mayor Francis Suarez in a statement.

4 Take this survey to help inform our state about entrepreneurial might

Have a few minutes? Share your insights about Florida’s entrepreneur community by taking the 2020 Florida Entrepreneur Community Survey by Embarc Collective. Your responses will help develop meaningful reports to raise awareness on how to help make Florida a better place for entrepreneurs to build thriving companies. Take the survey here:

Embarc Collective will be taking responses at least through the end of the month and wants more participation from Miami.  This year the Tampa-based entrepreneurship organization has expanded its survey to encompass Florida to better determine how the state can identify and improve opportunities to help Florida’s regional entrepreneur community thrive. Results will be shared throughout the state.

Got news? Email Nancy Dahlberg at [email protected] and follow her on Tiwtter @ndahlberg.

Follow me