Taking the stage: 500 Startups Miami’s Batch 1 for Demo Day. Here’s to many more.

Fitpal, of Bogota, is a subscription-based fitness passport for Latin America and a management system for gyms. The startup has just signed a contract with largest health insurer in Colombia.
Apptite, from Sao Paulo, is a marketplace of homemade and hand-crafted food delivered to your doorstep, empowering micro entrepreneurs and independent chefs to sell their meals directly to their customers.
Yalochat , of Mexico City, is a conversational AI that builds relationships between companies and their users in emerging markets.
What these startups all have in common is that they were all part of 500 Startups Miami’s first Demo Day at its 500’s Miami offices.   
What was 500 looking for in Batch 1? Startups from Miami, LatAm and the U.S. Southeast with the potential to transform their industries, said Ana Paula Gonzalez, director of 500 Startups Miami.
“We talked to every investor, accelerator, founder, partner, friend, anyone we could find and said give us your best companies in Southeast US and LatAm. We ended up with 200 applications and in the end we have a truly special group of founders from Brazil, Argentina, Colombia, Mexico, Miami and Texas,” she told the crowd of more than 100 investors, business, community and government leaders and of course entrepreneurs at 500’s new office and event space in Mindwarehouse in downtown Miami. “From fintech to adtech to sports tech to AI for enterprise communications and others, they all share this: A great founding team with solid experience and great traction and disrupting a large and growing market.”
Miami was well represented, with 3 South Florida based startups in the batch:

  • Option Alpha, is an all-in-one platform for trading, education and community, helps investors make smarter trades. “The problem is we haven’t seen any meaningful innovation since the early ‘90s. We enable investors to make smarter, more profitable option trades via our industry first auto trading,” said Rocco Savage, co-founder and CRO. Traction? Check. In the past three years, 1,000 percent growth. “We are signing up 200 members per day … with incredibly low customer acquisition costs,” said Savage, part of a 4-person co-founding team with experience in the markets and tech. Option Alpha ranked #215 on Inc. 5000 fastest growing companies this year and was also part of 500’s accelerator in San Francisco (Batch 20.)
  • BabySparks builds tools and programs to help parents engage their babies and toddlers in the critical areas of early development. Said co-founder and CEO Gustavo Rodriguez: “There are 400 million children 0 to 3 and half of them have parents with smartphones. And that’s why we started BabySparks.” Baby Sparks, launched in December 2016, is a mobile platform to help parents support the needs of their children as if they had a team of experts next to them, said Rodriguez, who was inspired to create the company based on his own experience with parenthood. With just $25,000 invested in the business, traction has been impressive: more than 2.5 million parents have downloaded BabySparks and annual sales are currently running $1.4 million. Said Rodriguez, “We are growing fast and our users are engaged.”
  • Fanatiz, also of Miami, is the Netflix for live sports, distributing Latin America’s best soccer games to global audiences. “More than 200 million Latin Americans struggle to watch the sports they love,” said Matias Rivera, CEO and co-founder of his fifth venture. A year ago, Fanatiz launched its easy to use subscription based service starting at $9.99 a month. With 30 percent month-over-month growth, it has 40,000 registered users in 80 countries and is generating $75,000 in monthly revenue. Fanatiz is currently negotiating 150 new content deals and is closing telco distribution partnerships to enable the startup to reach 200 million new clients, Rivera said.

500 Partner Bedy Yang had been coming to Miami for quite a few years, flying in to speak at conferences and taking meetings during layovers. In recent years, 500 began dipping its toe in the market by holding a Pre-Money conference here and a growth marketing accelerator popup at Building.co. “The Miami ecosystem really opened their arms. … Amazing partners started reaching out to us and said stop making this your American Airlines hub and make it your home,” she said at the Demo Day last week. And that’s what they did.
Said Gonzalez: “Miami is a very important place where we believe we can build a fully global and diverse hub for tech, innovation and entrepreneurship. We are building training programs for founders, investors or corporates, spaces where the community can come together, we’re bringing in our managers from Silicon Valley and our global network, we are trying to bring the best of our resources to make Miami where any founder can come and build a successful business.”
Follow Nancy Dahlberg on Twitter @ndahlberg and email her at [email protected].

Nancy Dahlberg