It was a night of revelry, networking, and entrepreneurship. But last week’s Startup Showdown in Miami, hosted by venture capital firm Panoramic Ventures, was particularly epic for South Florida startup Virtual Badge. The team left Wynwood nightclub Le Rouge, the event’s oh-so-Miami location, with an investment of $120,000 from Panoramic Ventures.
“It still doesn’t feel real,” Virtual Badge co-founder and CEO John Simion told Refresh Miami.
“When they announced that we won, the crowd went wild. Just hearing the announcement, I didn’t believe it at first,” added co-founder and COO/CTO Georges Duplessy. “It was pretty crazy.”
Simion and Duplessy founded the startup in 2019 after having worked together at a West Palm Beach-based disaster response company. The original idea for Virtual Badge came to them while working at this firm. They realized that there was a need to provide credentials to people showing up at disaster scenes.
During the chaotic environment surrounding a disaster, explained Duplessy, it’s common to have community members show up and try to help. “But a lot of times those people will not have the credentials required to actually help. They’ll tell you, ‘Oh, I have medical training.’ And then it turns out that they don’t even know the Heimlich maneuver.”
Virtual Badge provides site managers with a digital solution to prevent these exact issues. The primary use case is construction sites. Simion and Duplessy underscored the principal-agent problem, in which project managers and owners want to ensure full compliance on safety on their site, whereas contractors can be willing to cut corners to work quickly and move onto the next job.
“Construction companies use Virtual Badge to make sure that every worker coming on gets clocked in so they can know who is on site and to make sure that everybody has the proper credentials,” said Duplessy. Ultimately, it’s all about safety: “With these credentials, we can make sure that John Smith is not on a forklift when he has no clue how to drive it, because a lot of accidents happen that way.”
Other example use cases include verifying the background checks of referees for youth sports leagues and displaying negative Covid tests for staff during major events.
The funding from Panoramic Ventures will form part of the broader seed round that Virtual Badge is currently raising. While Simion and Duplessy are currently running Virtual Badge by themselves, they hope that the funding will enable them to expand the team. Top of the list is finding a sales guru to help catalyze Virtual Badge’s growth in the construction industry and beyond. But they also plan to hire for other sales and marketing roles, as well as engineering talent in 2022.
Simion and Duplessy, who are graduates of the EndeavorLab accelerator and members of Shrimp Society’s early stage founder cohort, are excited about further developing their product. In particular, they hope to work on an integration with Procore, one of the major software providers in the construction industry. Duplessy said that this product development would enable Virtual Badge “to go after companies that already use Procore and offer them Virtual Badge as an add-on for their active projects.”
Both Simion and Duplessy are South Florida tech veterans. Duplessy, a native of Haiti who has spent more than a decade in the region, expressed excitement about the “new blood coming in that is very passionate about technology.” However, he underscored the importance of “making sure that that growth reaches the actual Miami natives that have grown up here.”
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