In The Silicon Tropic

By South Florida entrepreneurs, for South Florida entrepreneurs. All things tech in the sunny Silicon Tropic.

Meet: Dr. Pandwe Gibson of EcoTech Visions

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I would vote for her if she ran for President. This woman has not only touched the lives of students and improved the quality of education nationwide, she has now helped many startups. If she believes in something, it will happen. This is a must read. Tagged by Aurelia Crews.

Who are you? Dr. Gibson, and I’m from Earth. I grew up between Chicago and New Orleans. I say Earth literally because from high school forward, I’ve lived in Boston, California, Los Angeles, Cuba, Haiti, Paris, and that’s not all. I always had an interest in environmental finance and as someone who paid their own way through college, finance classes were quite expenses, plus a lab.”

Woah. But your recent non-startup positions were in education? “I got my PhD at Harvard and focused on education, and I then worked as an Assistant Principal. At that time, I saw what happened in Katrina and I wanted to help, and I thought I knew how. I wrote a charter with the focus on rapid scaling in business and industry as it related to schools. That was very successful, and we ultimately decreased class sizes in multiple schools, very quickly.”

Tell us about scaling schools very scaling a startup: “I used the same strategies with EcoTech: put the money with the people with the expertise.”

Tell us about EcoTech Visions: Ecotech is a makerspace and incubator and it is really emerging in those two spaces. We are one of the few spaces that focuses on seed stage startups. It’s purpose to facilitate the growth of green tech innovation. We provide our startups with the equipment to make the product and the technical assistance to develop it. They have 15 months with us, and the goal is to get them to SBA Standards. That’s $150k in revenue, then we hand them off to Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses or Rokk3r.”

When did it launch? 2014, we didn’t physically get a space open until Nov. 20, 2014.”

How many people are on your team? 23 partners in the incubator and 4 EcoTech team members.”

What does the application process look like? You apply through the website and fill out the application. Then, a selection committee reviews the application, and we select companies that we feel we are most capable of supporting.”

What is your job? Founder, CEO.”

So you went from building schools to effect social change to creating an incubator. Why? Incubators are an effective play, people are focused on digital businesses and not enough are looking at the opportunities within the energy sector and green technology. It really is the answer to how we’ll address issues of poverty and climate change. We look at the future and focus on how do we create economic opportunities and create exponential growth.”

Where is your office located? 90th and 7th Avenue, in the Green Corridor.”

What’s the Green Corridor? “We began speculating this area’s potential and moved there about 3 years ago. Since we’ve been there, a library, a new yacht company, a new juice bar and more have popped up. There’s a lot of new activity, and one of our startups even grew out of our facility and into a building a few blocks away. Our goal is to populate this area and attract some of the movement from Wynwood. Many people are being pushed out of Wynwood.”

So if you have a green startup, it’s like an incubator city-block. Startups like that should move there? If you’re a green company, get in now and establish longer term leases. Green Corridor is about being committed to sustainability. To not have Wynwood happen again, we want people to try and purpose.”

Have you raised money? Yes. We started out mostly with grants, but now we are raising money through a convertible note. We are also about to launch a new fund.”

A new fund? The point is to invest in the EcoTech startups. We are raising this fund now so that can do it ourselves, directly. The way it is now, we help them get grant funding. We’ve helped more than half of our startups get $10,000 grants to get their prototypes off the ground. With the new fund, we want to inject $50,000 to $150,000 in exchange for equity.”

What productivity apps does your team use? Evernote, and we really rely on Google Calendar and Drive.”

What was the worst thing that happened to your startup, and how did you overcome it? We’ve had a pretty charmed first experience. We’ve had to push against the tide of getting people to see the value in the communities that we work in. As we develop, and Miami scene develops. I guess trying to show Miami that there’s more than just apps, in terms of entrepreneurship and innovation, has been difficult.”

Best marketing trick/strategy: What we’ve found is that we’re product based, we built partnerships with major buyers. Our best strategy is to develop B2B and B2G [business to government] so you’re not going after the individual consumer. When a lot of people think of sales plan, they think about their end user. It takes the same amount of work to market to a user as it does to market to a reseller or distributor.”

What do you think Miami needs to become the next startup hub? More access to capital. The talent is here, and the talent is coming here. If you look at Kaufman’s assessments of South Florida, we have the highest number of startups. Our issue is access to capital so they can develop their products out and bring them to market.”

What makes Miami a great place for a startup? No place better than Miami for a startup. The opportunities for trade and transport, and the cultural diversity are both key factors that can help startups thrive through opportunity. It’s also the gateway to South America, and #2 in terms of startup activity.”

How are you helping the startup ecosystem? Fundamentally it is our goal and purpose. We try to serve as a resource. Our mission is to create jobs, protect the planet. We want to facilitate the best innovations in Miami. If you have a great idea, if you need help with R&D, we have engineers on staff, come see us. If you need support, come to us. We want to know how we help the community; you. We have a coding class, we can train you to code. We have a solar panel discussion on Jan. 13, where an accomplished panel will be discussing the new changes in legislation and the movement to solar power. Solar will be striking gold, the Gold Rush of our generation. We want to become the repository space. All of our classes are open to the public, you find out about everything on our website. Sign up for our mailing list too.”

What? Miami has no duplication yet; Rokk3r late stage companies that are late. Rokk3r passes people off to us. Venture Hive focuses mostly on foreign companies.”

There aren’t a lot of women in tech, especially in technology. What has it been like being a woman in your field? Of course there are differences, just like any other industry. I think the benefit that we have in this particular movement [South Florida] is that it’s small and close-knit. There is more of a desire to get the innovation out in Miami than there is a concern of ‘who’s doing it.’ Yes, it’s equality and equal representation of women in tech is a huge issue, and it’s something we need to work on together.”

The current startups at EcoTech Visions are:

  1. Aeolus
  2. Andromeda District
  3.  R Kitchen
  4. Design Lab Miami
  5. Earthware
  6. Culito de Rana
  7. Elizabeth’s Secret Beauty Bar
  8. Fruit of Life Organics
  9. Geeks Global
  10. Precision Barber Club
  11. Inner City Youth Performing Arts
  12. Pretty Fresh
  13. Jacq’s Organics
  14. Urban Greenworks
  15. Wisebuys Publication
  16. D-Squared
  17. Innovative Kids Arts Studio
  18. HBCNS, LLC
  19. Make the Homeless Smile Miami
  20. TRND
  21. DIBIA Athletic Development
  22. Global Acquisitions & Investments
  23. Radio Pep LA

What book are you currently reading/the last book you read: Right now, Cradle to Cradle, Remaking The Way We Make Things, by William McDonough. Brilliant book about the opportunities if you start to think of production or manufacturing. The book itself is made out of a synthetic polymer, as opposed to paper.”

Instead of coffee, what’s the best tea in Miami: Shoutout to Lemon City Tea. Local tea company that developed out of Lemon City in Little Haiti.”

Best place for a business lunch near downtown Miami? City Hall.

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This entry was posted on January 14, 2016 by in People and tagged , , , , , , , .
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