Miami Tech & Startup News

6 things to know in #MiamiTech: At least $653M in VC in October alone; Papa on a roll; Wix expands and more news to note

6 things to know in #MiamiTech: At least $653M in VC in October alone; Papa on a roll; Wix expands and more news to note


We just had a huge month for #MiamiTech VC, but that’s not all…

As we head into the busiest two months of the year for #MiamiTech, let’s look back at the incredible month that was October.

At least $653 million of venture capital flowed into South Florida tech startups in October – and that is just what we know about. Let that sink in.

To put that into local context, about $2.4 billion was raised by companies in the Miami-Fort Lauderdale area in the first nine months of this year, according to both Pitchbook and CB Insights, and that was already a greatly accelerated pace.

But we know funding is not everything, right? #MiamiTech also had at least two SPAC exits — one announced and one completed. A couple of new funds launched, and we can’t keep up with all the relocations and expansions these days but we reported on a few of them. We spotlighted a number of early-stage startups, including the female-led healthtech Opcion YO and the Startup Showdown winning Virtual Badge, plus startups innovating with autonomous drones and ocean power (find many more under the Startup Spotlights category).

Refresh Miami’s Riley Kaminer rounded up all the mobility-related moves being made in recent months – and there are a lot of them, from scooter stations, to autonomous deliveries, to air taxis and tunnels.  He also caught up with Taxfyle, one of Miami’s OG fintechs that has seen explosive growth this year. In October, you also got to learn more about a 14-year-old girl who is doing AI and neuroscience research and launching startups. And did you know a Doral startup has created a smart bedpan? Now you do.

Altogether, Refresh published 41 stories in October. In light of the stand-out month, here’s a look back at some of the biggest news stories among them, from earliest to latest:

Thank you for reading and supporting Refresh Miami and keeping us posted on #MiamiTech news, which includes all three counties of course.


Papa on a national roll with more health plans, more exec hires

Papa, a curated platform of companionship and support for older adults, families, and other vulnerable populations, has added 25 health plans since its $60 million Series C announcement in April, and is now collaborating with more than 65 health plans serving members covered under Medicare Advantage, Medicaid, and employer health plans.

This growth comes amid significant investment from health plans to address members’ social determinants of health, including social isolation and loneliness, that are shown to have a direct link to negative health outcomes. Papa pairs its trained workforce, called “Papa Pals,” with older adults and others who need support services to help with critical day-to-day tasks ranging from social activities, household help, and local transportation, to technology literacy and more. With more than 700 visits between Papa Pals and members happening each day, Papa is lessening the public health risk tied to loneliness.

Papa also announced it hired. Craig Ogg as Chief previouslTechnology Officer. He has led tech and data teams at organizations, including Zip Recruiter,, and True Car. Papa also hired Liz DeMatteis as Chief Marketing Officer, who previously help leadership roles for healthcare companies Aetion and Ground Rounds, and Priyanka Gupta, as Head of People and Culture, who led high growth organizations like Amplitude and AbleTo.


Wix plans to grow its 300-member Miami Beach workforce by 50%

 Wix announced that it will be adding about 150 employees over the next three years. The Tel Aviv-based tech company has surpassed 210 million users globally with its cloud-based web development platform.

“Miami Beach has the workforce and the space we need to grow,” explained Joe Pollaro, the company’s U.S. general manager, in a statement. “Our company has experienced immense success since expanding in Miami Beach back in 2018, and we are looking forward to this opportunity to continue to be a part of this amazing community for years to come.” 

Indeed, Wix already has approximately 300 employees at its 1691 Michigan Ave. location in Miami Beach, which it moved into in 2018, and has had a presence in Miami Beach since 2015.  Earlier this year, Wix acquired #MiamiTech SpeedETab and absorbed its leaders and team.

Wix’s Miami Beach office houses its main customer service unit for the US. The company will  receive incentives if it meets its hiring goals. Read more in the Miami Herald here.

This week we profiled a startup that is also relocating to Miami Beach. Read about CourMed here.


FIU receives $3M grant to train students for energy, cybersecurity careers

Florida International University’s College of Engineering and Computing received a $3 million U.S. Department of Energy three-year grant to lead an initiative to prepare minority students for careers with national security entities. The grant from the National Nuclear Security Administration will create the Consortium for Research and Education in Power and Energy Systems for Sustainable STEM Workforce. Overseen by the Department of Energy’s Minority Serving Institution Partnership Program, two other Minority Serving Institutions also are part of the consortium – Alabama A&M University and the University of Texas at El Paso.
“FIU is the ideal institution to lead this important consortium given its academic offerings and multidisciplinary research capabilities in STEM,” said John L. Volakis, dean of the College of Engineering and Computing. “With almost 80 percent of its student body formed of minority students, FIU is also uniquely positioned to recruit and train a diverse student population for the future workforce NNSA seeks.”

Students, faculty members and researchers at the three universities will collaborate with the Sandia National Lab and the Lawrence Livermore National Lab. CREPES, one of 24 NNSA consortiums across the country, is unique in that it focuses on power and energy education and research at the system level of electric power infrastructure. Both play key roles in preserving the U.S.’s domestic and economic security, as they are essential to safeguarding the nation’s citizens and infrastructure.
CREPES will train 48 undergraduate and six graduate students, in addition to one postdoctoral researcher and two tenure-track assistant professors.


A double helping of news from the Florida Funders front

CB Insights this week again highlighted Tampa-based Florida Funders, the venture firm with a growing presence in Miami, as the most active venture firm in the state. Florida Funders is a hybrid of a venture capital fund and an angel investor network that funds early-stage tech companies, and it has been a repeat performer on these lists. Earlier this year, the firm expanded into the Magic City.

That’s not the only news from Florida Funders. Our own Maria Derchi Russo has been promoted to Florida Funders’ VP of Platform and Community, in a role in which she will be working closely with Florida Funders portfolio companies,  leveraging the Florida Funders network to help them with subject matter experts, talent, potential future investors and customers. We wish her well in her new role, but don’t worry, she will also continue as our beloved Executive Director of Refresh Miami.

Congratulations, Maria!


Opportunity knocks

  • The Florida Venture Forum is calling for high growth companies to apply to present at the 2022 Florida Venture Capital Conference, taking place at the Dr. Phillips Center in downtown Orlando, February 8-9, 2022.  The Conference, now in its 31st year, is one of the largest gatherings of venture investors in the Southeast, attracting 500+ attendees, including 200+ active venture investors. In addition to company presentations the event features panel discussions, keynote speakers, and multiple networking and social events. Learn more and apply here.
  • The Tech Hub Hackathon is a virtual event Nov. 5-7 where participants form teams, vet ideas, create a project, then present their work to an expert panel of judges. Teams will consist of developers, designers, project managers, and entrepreneurs, with successful teams having a mix of these areas of expertise and winners walking away with a combination of cash and in-­kind prizes. This year’s theme is “Hack for Inclusion” with each project addressing issues of bias, diversity, accessibility and overall inclusion. Teams will collaborate to build a solution to combat DE&I struggles within an organization and/or municipality. Learn more here.
  • BrainStation is accepting early applications for its January bootcamps until Nov. 19. Applicants can choose between a User Experience Design or Web Development bootcamp. The company, formerly the homegrown Miami bootcamp Wyncode, recently partnered with CareerSource South Florida to offer full scholarships valued at up to $15,000 for eligible Florida residents to either of the courses. For more information about BrainStation’s scholarship opportunities, please visit BrainStation to speak to a Learning Advisor.
  • FIU’s Honors College, the Shrimp Society and “The Human Cloud” author Matthew R. Mottola will hold an event on Nov. 9 about a new program to connect students with paid micro-internships from Microsoft and Miami companies for immediate job needs. The Shrimp Soviet says startups can sign up for interns here and job-seekers, startups (and other community members) can also come to the event Nov. 9th to meet interns.

Got #MiamiTech news to share? Email Nancy Dahlberg at and follow her on Twitter @ndahlberg

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