Miami Tech & Startup News

5 things to know in #MiamiTech: Moonlighter, Magic Leap, Shark Tank, 8base, Manny Medina

5 things to know in #MiamiTech: Moonlighter, Magic Leap, Shark Tank, 8base, Manny Medina


1 Moonlighter, Fairchild, NASA team up

It’s a beautiful thing when I get to write about social entrepreneurs and gardens. With Moonlighter Makerspace partnering with Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden on a cool, new innovation studio focusing on the technology of growing food, I get to do just that.

This summer, Fairchild and Moonlighter will be opening the Growing Beyond Earth Innovation Studio, the first makerspace in a botanic garden. In preparation for that, Fairchild and Moonlighter are offering classes in design thinking, 3D printing and basic circuitry so the community can get a head start.

Once it opens, visitors will have the opportunity to design, create and experiment using technologies to solve issues related to food production. The Innovation Studio will be the first public facility dedicated to NASA’s food production challenges and the first project to leverage community input, Fairchild said.

“The first makerspace at a Botanic Garden ever – who wouldn’t want to be a part of shaping that?” said Tom Pupo, who co-founded Moonlighter with Daisy Nodal (pictured below). “The prospect of working on an initiative that connects local learning and making opportunities to projects that NASA is actively working on implementing in the International Space Station definitely piqued our interest. It may be a specific focus and application of the maker movement, but it provides a clear example of the real world application of broad maker skills.”

Of course, Moonlighter hosts its own makerspace and has been hosting events in the community and been involved in the Maker Faire for years, but this will be a whole new challenge for the team.

 “We are hosting educational workshops at Fairchild – so we’re hoping to reach a whole new community with the educational content we’ve been developing over the last three years. There are also national challenges we are coordinating with NASA and Nation of Makers so that maker spaces across the country can participate in crowdsourcing the development of ideas and products to help the mission of growing plants in space. So we’re working on both a hyper local and national effort to get makers involved in solving real world and out-of-this-world problems,” Pupo said.

 Got a kid? Know one? You will want to sign them up for the following classes being offered on Sundays from now until the end of April at Fairchild, 10901 Old Cutler Road in Coral Gables. To register, visit Fees apply.






According to Fairchild, the studio will focus on specific challenges related to NASA’s food production initiatives, including how to grow plants more efficiently in zero gravity with the limited resources available on spacecraft, and using automation to plant, harvest, and maintain crops with little or no intervention from astronauts.

Also involved in the project is the Nation of Makers, a nonprofit organization. NASA is among the biggest funders.

“I think a lot of people are going to be blown away by the research and maker initiatives that will be rolling out of Fairchild in the next 3+ years,” Pupo said.

2 Up, up, up the national ranking goes Magic Leap

Magic Leap makes Pitchbook’s 25 Most Valuable VC-backed companies in the U.S list. Magic Leap, with it’s $6.4 billion valuation, comes in at number 16. It’s got quite the company, among tech industry giants like Airbnb, Peterest, SpaceX and Stripe. Leading the list: Uber ($72B), WeWork ($47B) and Juul ($38B).

While we applaud Magic Leap, another Pitchbook report out this week had some sobering news: investment into women-led startups has not budged since 2017: still just 2.2 percent of all venture funding goes to women-led startups.

3 Ready to jump in the Shark Tank?

Miami, this is your chance, tweets Daymond John. There’s an open casting call for #SharkTank February 13 and here are the details.

Miami is becoming a good hunting ground for Shark Tank. Miami-area entrepreneurs are on the show fairly regularly now and some have been funded and are companies I have covered, including Three Jerks Jerky and AquaVault (both lured investments by @theSharkDaymond himself. Jonathan Kinas, co-founder of AquaVault, offered some advice to entrepreneurs in a recent email: “Being tenacious and persistent are two qualities that every entrepreneur needs. … Based on my experience, an entrepreneur is better prepared if they can condition themselves to expect the unexpected, be very nimble and embrace the roller coaster they will inevitably experience. The moment you become complacent marks the beginning of the end.” 

4 & 5 Ecosystem news: 8base selected for Startup Grind’s Silicon Valley accelerator; Manny Medina honored

8base, founded and recently launched by Albert Santalo, has been selected as one of 60 startups worldwide to participate in 2019 Accelerate program. 8base will also be a featured startup at the 2019 Startup Grind Global Conference held in Redwood City Feb. 12-13. 8base is a developer acceleration platform that empowers web and mobile developers to create software applications on a serverless back-end. “The 8base team is thrilled to participate in this premier Silicon Valley event where we will be sharing how we are transforming the speed in which enterprise software is built and run,” said Santalo in an email. … Last but not least, Manny Medina, chairman of Cyxtera and Medina Capital and founder of eMerge Americas and Teremark, was honored with a “Lifetime Achievement Award” from the South Florida Business Journal, which will be bestowed April 18. Past winners include the late H. Wayne Huizenga, Jorge Perez, Mike Jackson, Eduardo Padron and Normal Braman. Congratuations!

READ MORE ON REFRESH MIAMI: Albert Santalo’s 8base releases its first product and it is more Miami than you think

Got news tips or feedback? Email Nancy Dahlberg at and follow her on Twitter @ndahlberg.

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