South Florida startups had another record year in 2022, with local companies capturing $5.5 billion in venture capital funding. So, there's a lot to live up to in 2023.
Our second annual Startups to Watch feature includes businesses making waves in the technology sector from a variety of verticals, such as clean tech, healthcare, construction tech and influencer marketing. We looked at the startups operating in Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties and selected 23 ventures we're keeping an eye on this year.
We chose the startups based on past reporting, conversations with industry veterans, fundraising information and tech industry trends.
What it does: The Miami startup connects businesses with online influencers who can produce digital content for their brand.
Why to watch it: Last year, Influur raised $5 million in a seed funding round backed by celebrities including actress Sofia Vergara and music producer Tommy Mottola. More brands are turning to influencer marketing to stay relevant with younger consumers, a trend that is reshaping the way businesses spend advertising dollars.
What it does: The startup is the creator of the Doroni H1, an electric takeoff and landing vehicle(eVTOL) designed for personal use.
Why to watch it: Doroni Aerospace stands out from other eVTOL companies focused on building commercial air taxi businesses. The Coral Springs-based venture operates a 12,000-square-foot research and development facility in PompanoBeach, where it tests and manufactures the H1.
What it does: Founded in 2020, OppZo provides working capital to small and medium government contractors based in designated opportunity zones.
Why to watch it: Almost 16% of South Florida’s commercial assets are located in opportunity zones.The federal program offers tax breaks to investors who purchase property in those designated areas and then hold onto that investment for at least five years.
OppZo intends to make it easier for small government contractors to receive financing to grow in those neighborhoods.
What it does: TheMiami-based sports betting app makes it possible for fans to bet on specific moments of a sporting event – for example, whether a baseball team will score in a half-inning – rather than the final outcome of the game.
Why to watch it: Founded by local Joey Levy and social media superstar Jake Paul, Betr launched in August with $50 million in venture backing. Sports betting is legal in more than 30 states, including 26 that permit online wagers - a prime market for Betr.
What it does: The Miami-based fintech builds payments infrastructure for cryptocurrency, making it easier to buy and sell digital currencies.
Why to watch it: MoonPay captured headlines in late 2021 when it closed a $555 million seriesA investment round backed by Tiger Global Management and Coate. In January, former Time magazinePresident Keith A. Grossman joined the company as president of enterprise.
What it does:The Miami-based company produces compostable food containers, utensils and plates that are 100% free of plastic.
Why to watch it: Lean Orb is responding to rising demand for safe and sustainable household products like tableware. The company’s mission is to eliminate all single-use plastics, which are responsible for about half of the planet’s plastic production. Most of that material is not recycled and ends up in landfills.
What it does: The construction tech startup uses AI and machine learning to automate construction estimates for contractors.
Why to watch it: Togal.AI captured first place at the 2022 eMergeAmericas Startup Showcase and won the startup pitch competition at The Big 5, a global construction industry event in Dubai. The startup was founded in 2019 with seed funding from Miami’s Coastal Construction.
What it does: The West Palm Beach-based clean tech startup creates air-conditioning systems for commercial buildings that can reduce annual electricity consumption by 60%.
Why to watch it: Air conditioners and electric fans account for 20%of all electricity used in buildings worldwide and is an enormous source of carbon emissions. At the same time, rising global temperatures mean there will be more demand for air conditioning in the years to come. Backed by a $20 million investment by Bill Gates-founded investment firm Breakthrough Energy Ventures,Blue Frontier aims to reduce the carbon footprint of air conditioning while still cooling buildings efficiently.
What it does: The Miami company provides shipping and logistics services for direct-to-consumer perishable items.
Why to watch it: Founded by Juan Meisel, former ButcherBox head of logistics, Grip launched in November after raising $2 million in pre-seed funding. Food and beverage e-commerce is a growing sector projected to hit $150billion in U.S. sales by 2026.
What it does: The Miami-based startup uses artificial intelligence to improve efficiency for small interstate trucking fleets.
Why to watch it: SmartHop aims to make routes more efficient and help truckers find the most convenient, high-paying loads right from their smartphones. Truck driving is a challenging profession that can tax drivers both physically and mentally, so finding ways to improve working conditions is essential to businesses. There was an 80,000-driver shortage in 2021, a trend that could result in supply-chain shortages if not addressed. Last year, SmartHop raised $30 million in a seriesB round, bringing its total funding to $46 million.
What it does: The startup is a Web3 and entertainment brand based in Miami.Founded in 2021,Doodles is a collection of 10,000 NFTs made up of images by digital artist Scott Martin, known as Burnt Toast.
Why to watch it: Doodles is building a franchise of digital collectibles that spans the animation, gaming, merchandise, music and live events industries. The goal is to create one of the most recognizable brands in Web3, a term that refers to a future version of the internet that will be powered by blockchain technology. The company closed a $54 million funding round last year and recently announced it will purchase Golden Wolf, the Emmy-award winning animation studio that has created content for brands such as Disney and Meta.
What it does: The Boca Raton startup manufactures an additive that absorbs carbon dioxide from the air and stores it permanently in concrete, essentially turning the building material into a carbon- capturing sponge.
Why to watch it: Carbon Limit completed a $1 million pre-seed round and was part of Google for Startup’s ClimateChange Accelerator in 2022.Finding ways to limit carbon emissions is a concern for cement and concrete manufacturers. In 2021, 40 of the largest cement and concrete makers pledged to cut carbon dioxide emissions by 25% in the next eight years, with a goal to reach net zero emissions by 2050.
What it does: The company is the developer of an AI-powered vision diagnostics software for use on commercially available virtual reality headsets.
Why to watch it: Heru’s software makes it possible for VR headsets to replace vision diagnostic machines and instruments typically used by physicians during exams – equipment that can cost at least $200,000. The startup, a spinoff from the University of Miami's Bascom Palmer Eye Institute, has raised $32 million from investors.
What it does: The Miami digital media startup builds and acquires profitable websites in niche verticals such as education, personal finance, home improvement and sports.
Why to watch it: VentureKite provides a path to digital exits for founders building consumer-centric brands online. In November, it raised $30 million in credit financing in a round led by CoVenture.
What it does: The Plantation company is the maker of a wearable bracelet for seniors that uses remote monitoring to detect changes in activity and behavior. The device can use that information to predict whether the user is exhibiting signs of depression, unsteady walking, urinary tract infections and more.
Why to watch it: CarePredict is among a wave of new companies focused on improving health care and living conditions for the elderly. CareGuide, the startup’s remote patient monitoring solution, was named a CES 2023 Innovation Awards honoree in the digital health category.
What it does: The Miami startup is the maker of an online lost-and- found platform for businesses.
Why to watch it: Founded in 2021, Boomerang officially launched last year after securing $2.8 million in seed funding.The company recently partnered with Savannah/Hilton Head International Airport and Syracuse HancockInternational Airport to help them streamline their lost and found operations.
What it does: The Miami company is the maker of a handheld, point-and-click device that can capture cellular-level information from skin lesions to check patients for skin cancer.
Why to watch it: DermaSensor's technology is already being used in international markets such as Australia and New Zealand.
Although not yet available for sale in the U.S.,the company received a Breakthrough DeviceDesignation from the U.S. Food andDrug Administration in 2021. The designation indicates a device has a reasonable chance of providing more effective treatment than the current standard and should be expedited for patient access.
Neptunya Ocean Power
What it does: The Boca Raton-based early-stage startup is designing prototypes for floating offshore wind turbines.
Why to watch it: About two-thirds of potential offshore wind energy in the U.S. exists in waters too deep for fixed-bottom wind turbine foundations that must be secured to the sea floor. To get around that,Neptunya aims to build floating platforms that can access that wind energy. The company was the winner of the 2022 Cade Prize from the Cade Museum for Creativity and Invention in Gainesville.
What it does: The Fort Lauderdale-based startup develops tools to help small businesses discover and secure contracts with public- sector agencies.
Why to watch it: Founder Shakeia Kegler is an alumna of Endeavor Miami’s EndeavorLAB program, an accelerator that helps entrepreneurs scale their ventures. GovLia’s software is particularly focused on helping women-owned, veteran-owned and minority- owned businesses win and fulfill contracts with government agencies.
What it does: The Miami venture creates financial products, like credit and debit cards, for gamers.Users can earn points on all purchases that can be redeemed at Best Buy, PlayStation, Nintendo and more.
Why to watch it: Last year, Ugami raised $4.8 million in a seed round led by Harlem Capital Partners and ULU Ventures. The U.S. alone is home to more than 200 million video game enthusiasts, giving the startup a large pool of potential customers to draw from.
What it does:Founded in 2019, the company's property management platform lets landlords lease properties, manage work orders, collect rent and more.
Why to watch it: The startup recently relocated to a larger headquarters in Miami Beach to accommodate its growing workforce.DoorLoop has raised $30 million from venture capitalists, including a $20 million round last year led by AlpineSoftware Group.
What it does: The Miami startup makes and deploys last-mile autonomous delivery robots at college campuses.
Why to watch it: It's been a busy year for Kiwibot: In February 2022, it closed a $7.5 million investment round and signed a $20 million contract with its lead investor, Sodexo. And this year, it entered into a $10 million financing agreement with Kineo Finance to more than triple its fleet of delivery robots and enter new markets.So far, its robots are used to dispatch restaurant meals at 28 U.S. college campuses.
What it does: The Fort Lauderdale start up is building a platform its calls “the world’s first healthy social network.”
Why to watch it: Currently in beta mode, Sparkseeker is an alternative to people who need a break from the “likes” on platforms such as Instagram and TikTok. The video-centric model is free of "likes" and"follows," and instead builds community around conversation-starter topics and live video discussions.