6+ things to know in #MiamiTech: Feast on REEF news, FTX’s Miami plans, scooter use makes tracks and more


A heaping helping of REEF news (and wings from DJ Khaled)

REEF Technology, the Miami-based global operator of virtual restaurants, announced a collaboration with Grammy-winning artist and record producer DJ Khaled on what they say is the biggest restaurant launch in history, Last week, Another Wing launched internationally across 3 continents, in 5 countries, and 18 states with over 150 locations.

“Everything I do is big,” said DJ Khaled. “My team and I are focused on launching new partnerships, new ideas and spreading love to my fans all around the world. Partnering with REEF for this launch is another new exciting venture which allows me to introduce some amazing wings, to everyone, everywhere.” 

The wings are also available for a limited time at Wynwood Marketplace, the Miami Herald reported.

We promised a second helping. REEF also recently announced its entrance to the Middle East and North Africa region through the acquisition of iKcon Restaurant (Innovative Kitchen Concepts). The acquisition of iKcon marks REEF’s first major transaction in the MENA market and is part of its broader strategy toward global expansion. ”We are excited to welcome iKcon and its team members to REEF’s global proximity platform,” said Tommy Rosen, Head of Development at REEF. “The Middle East and North Africa are crucial markets in the rapidly evolving F&B and retail industries, and our acquisition of iKcon will position REEF to become a leader in the region.”

iKron brings a network of innovative kitchens in prime locations and over 800 employees. REEF, backed by a group of investors including SoftBank Vision Fund, Mubadala Capital, the asset management subsidiary of Mubadala Investment Company, and Target Global, focuses on transforming urban spaces into proximity hubs that create jobs and bring new goods, services, and experiences to neighborhoods across the globe.

REEF was founded in 2013 (formerly ParkJockey) and reimagines spaces like parking lots and rooftops for neighborhood hubs, with so-called “ghost kitchens” and other services such as health clinics. It recently partnered with air taxi companies for future vertiport locations and announced it would be adding 1,000+ jobs in Miami over the next couple of years.


 More details on FTX’s Miami  hiring plans

Refresh Miami has reported that FTX, the SoftBank backed unicorn, planned to expand in Miami, but Bloomberg News had some details. Beyond already owning the naming rights to the Heat basketball arena, FTX US  is building a permanent space with capacity for 16 to 18 employees in the Brickell financial district, an increase from the four people now in a temporary office nearby, Avinash Dabir, FTX US’s vice president of business development, told Bloomberg. 

Dabir told Bloomberg that  FTX’s role is in cutting out friction in the conversion and payment process and the Miami office is primarily focused on business development, partnerships and derivatives. Recent Miami-related partnerships, including one with Property Markets Group, will facilitate local real estate transactions involving cryptocurrency.

But he envisions a time when property titles could be non-fungible tokens, or NFTs; escrow accounts could be handled through smart contracts; and crypto could help improve the entire real-estate process. “I can’t think of a better place to do that” than Miami, he said. Read more here.


City of Miami’s scooter program on track to beat 2019 record for ridership

The City of Miami’s scooter program has recorded over 1.2 million rides in 2021 and is on track to beat the previous ridership record of 1.3 million rides set in 2019 before the end of November, according to a report by the Miami Riders Alliance.  

For the last three years, Miami has hosted seven scooter operators in its Scooter Pilot Program, with 2,300+ scooters and more than 100 designated parking corrals in City District 2. The program to date has had a considerable economic impact on the City: scooter operators have created 150 local jobs, paid $6.8 million in local wages and signed six long term real estate leases throughout Miami-Dade, the report said.  Most notably however, the pilot program has generated over $3 million in city revenue, which has helped fund new protected bike lanes in downtown Miami, said Kevin Amezaga, Miami Riders Alliance Executive Director.  The report also cited Lyft’s 2020 Miami Multimodal Report, which found that 37% of Miami scooter riders do not own or lease a personal vehicle and are fully dependent on public transportation modes.

Miami’s scooter program is preparing to move from “Pilot” to “Permanent.” Last month, the City of Miami received more than 10 responses to the Request for Proposal for Shared Motorized Scooter Services, from which they will select up to three scooter operators to deliver a permanent program for the next five years over the next few months, the report said. Read the report here.

READ MORE: Miami’s menu of mobility modes multiplies. How can tech-enabled support our growing region?


FAU receives $1M NSF grant for first networked-AI testbed

A new generation of networked, cooperating robots being developed by researchers in the Center for Connected Autonomy and Artificial Intelligence (ca-ai.fau.edu) at Florida Atlantic University’s College of Engineering and Computer Science and Institute for Sensing and Embedded Network Systems Engineering (I-SENSE) is all about “teamwork.” The Center received a $1 million grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to develop the nation’s first-of-its-kind testbed platform that connects robots using extremely high-speed millimeter wave links. These high-frequency radio waves (30 to 300 gigahertz), until more recently, were primarily used for remote sensing, radio astronomy, automotive radar and security screening. Read more here.


StartUP FIU Food receives $750K Wells Fargo grant

This week, Wells Fargo awarded an Open for Business Fund grant to Florida International University  to launch a robust, virtual platform at StartUP FIU Food, a small business incubator that serves food and beverage micro-entrepreneurs in South Florida. The $750,000 grant is projected to offer online resources to more than 1,000 small businesses to help them recover and emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Small business owners who currently participate in StartUP FIU Food have access to state-of-the-art kitchens and facilities at FIU’s Chaplin School of Hospitality & Tourism Management, as well as the expertise of food scientists and mentors, who advise on product development, strategy, financials, e-commerce and more. Wells Fargo’s Open for Business Fund grant will help StartUP FIU Food formalize and expand these counseling and technical assistance resources into a virtual platform that will become a permanent facet of its programming.


Opportunity knocks

  • The Florida Panthers and the Alan B. Levan | NSU Broward Center of Innovation located at Nova Southeastern University are launching  the ‘Magical Hockey Stick Challenge’ to identify local startups with research and projects of note in the sports technology industry. There are three focus arenas included in the challenge: The future of wearable technology; Fan experience; and Consumer insight products. The Challenge invites startups, but also individuals, students and groups to submit an application by Nov. 30. After the application process closes, three applicants will be selected as finalists and a winner will be determined by members of the Florida Panthers executive team and representatives from the Levan Center of Innovation. The winner will receive tickets to an upcoming Panthers game at FLA Live Arena, a custom Panthers jersey and in-game recognition for their winning solution. Apply here.
  • 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.

PSA for #GiveMiamiDay! Please give early and often

Give Miami Day is Nov. 18 and you can begin making donations to your favorite local nonprofits starting today – and yes, we hope Refresh Miami is one of your favorites! For more than a decade, Refresh Miami has been  solely supported by donations and sponsorships so we hope you include Refresh in your giving plans. With the funding, Refresh plan to continue to bolster our news team, fully return to our schedule of in-person events, improve the resources we offer on our digital channels, and staff up the team to “to handle the incredible momentum we are seeing,” says Maria Derchi Russo, Refresh Miami ‘s Executive Director. Help her out with a donation here:  https://www.givemiamiday.org/refreshmiami. Thank you!

Have news to share? Please email Nancy Dahlberg at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @ndahlberg


Nancy Dahlberg