Gourmet waffles, spiced Cuban coffee and Miami tech are free every Wednesday in Wynwood where free breakfast is served alongside startup pitches and presentations.
The event is hosted by Live Ninja, a locally based video chat company that has raised over $1 million in venture capital and secured sponsorship for this series of breakfasts from the Knight Foundation.
The event is free and open to the public. All are welcome, and weekly presentations from local startups, usually two or three, are the norm. On a recent Wednesday morning, breakfast was a lively scene of young entrepreneurs with expertise in Bluetooth, coding and design thinking.
Alfonso Martinez is co-founder and chief creative officer of Live Ninja. “We are a full-fledged Miami tech networking event sponsored by the Knight Foundation," he says. "The presentations are my favorite part of this event. People come and share ideas with the community and feed off the synergy. People meet business partners, look for designers and start companies. And if nothing else, they get great waffles.”
Ty Mathen is the founder of UpValet, a tablet-driven sales solution for car dealerships that aims to speed the time it takes a customer to purchase a vehicle. He learned about Waffle Wednesdays through Johanna Mikkola, co-founder of Wyncode, an intensive coding bootcamp a few blocks away.
He is moving from Tampa to Miami to be closer to his girlfriend, but admits “Miami is a bigger city with a great tech scene, and there’s more money here” than in the Cigar City. His business model intends to disrupt automotive auctions in the dealer space and also use social media integration to generate new leads for his customers, who participate through a monthly fee program.
In the audience are Mariana Rego and Jessica Do (pictured above, sitting). The pair met while on the couch at a previous Waffle Wednesday. Now they have a company together, Design Thinking Miami, a non-profit that hosts networking and social events to foster "design thinking" and innovation. Jessica (right) says, “We were born at Waffle Wednesday. ... I moved here from New York. I work in finance, remotely. Miami has an amazing energy and the opportunity to shape the startup scene while it’s young, ripe and energetic is great.”
Mariana says design thinking is “a methodology that can be used for understanding and building ideas into companies. And it can help you figure out if you’re pursuing the right idea, one that people have a need for, through prototyping.”
Tom Borrup is the faculty director at the University of Minnesota. He is also a PhD candidate attending Waffle Wednesdays for scholarly research. He has traveled to Wynwood to study social and organizational networks in the neighborhood as he is doing in other art districts around the country.
He says, “I’m studying the layers of how people connect. The difference between Wynwood and say, Leimert Park, Los Angeles, is that here it’s less political with the neighborhood groups. It’s more of a free-for-all that’s wide open and accepting of different people doing tons of stuff.”