By Nancy Dahlberg

This is part of a series of news roundups about startups and organizations in the South Florida tech community navigating the COVID-19 pandemic in different ways. Send items for consideration to ndahlbergbiz@gmail.com and please stay healthy and keep your families safe.

STEPPING UP: Nearpod offers free access to schools when they need it most

As the COVID-19 pandemic sends millions of students from their classrooms to learn in their homes, schools are facing unprecedented challenges delivering the learning.  Nearpod, the South Florida-based ed-tech company, is stepping up by offering its engaging learning experiences for free to thousands of schools.

The company, co-founded by  Guido Kovalskys and Endeavor Entrepreneurs Emiliano Abramzon and Felipe Sommer, extended free access to its Flocabulary and Nearpod platforms for schools impacted by closures. In addition to access to the platforms, Nearpod is providing live daily webinars: including those specifically focused on helping educators adjust to school closures, as well as parent resources and coronavirus-related lessons.

 “We’ve provided access to thousands of schools facing closures globally because of COVID-19, and the number increases daily. Our entire company is engaged to support educators and students impacted by this pandemic, and we’re honored to be doing this important work,” said Abramzon and Sommer, in an Endeavor blog post. 

This week, Nearpod, now led by CEO Pep Carrera, also announced its first statewide contract, with the Utah Education Network. The partnership ensures that all 41 Utah school districts and 100 charter schools have access to Nearpod, meaning that more than 658,000 students in grades K-12 and their teachers can use the company’s Nearpod platform until 2024. Utah and Nearpod fast-tracked this launch in order to bring timely resources to educators looking for remote learning solutions.

Nearpod’s instructional platform merges formative assessment and dynamic media for live and self-paced learning experiences. The company, headquartered in Dania Beach, now offers more than 7,500 ready-to-run lessons created in partnership with leading brands such as Common Sense Education and Smithsonian. Nearpod acquired Flocabulary in 2019.

CROWDFUNDING: SunVessel’s campaign is on the move despite the pandemic

Equity crowdfunding is difficult in the best of times, but what about during a pandemic?

Miami-based SunVessel, a micromobility startup founded and led by Sebastian Gomez-Puerto, is closing its successful crowdfunding campaign on WeFunder on April 13, 2020.  With about four days to go, so far the campaign has raised more than $51,000   from 33 investors.

SunVessel is developing a network of smart charging stations for electric and robotic personal mobility devices installed in partnering hotels, offices, and apartment buildings. “We are the next generation transportation amenity. Our stations lock, charge, and teach users how to ride in a seamless manner. Users can come up to our stations to unlock our mobility devices and take short trips in a city without the need of a car,” CEO Gomez Puerto said on the campaign page. “SunVessel’s mission is to change the way we move.”

But hasn’t micro-mobility been particularly hard hit in the pandemic? Bird and Lime have announced massive layoffs recently. But Gomez-Puerto says while traditional business models such as scooters have not held up well, about two months ago, SunVessel made a critical decision to significantly change its business model and product offering.

SunVessel is creating a flexible new product offering that will be better suited to deal with the pandemic. This new model increases the company’s opportunity to penetrate more markets with smaller footprints such as hospitals and closed campuses, among other locations, said Gomez-Puerto.

“We strongly believe there will be increased demand for hand-free personal transportation in the near future as people move away from public transportation and shared rides. Actually, we see demand creating a new customer group for us in essential businesses which need hand-free mobility such as delivery, sanitation workers, and even folks working in hospital campuses who need to have access to their hands as they move,” he said.

He says its new product offering has been well received and the company will be revealing more about its offering and partnerships in the future.

Find SunVessels WeFunder campaign here

GETTING HELP: New resources for startups and small businesses

AXIS HELPS: A new website, Axis South Florida, has brought together a list of community resources that businesses can access, depending on their need. This multi-lingual tool emerged from a collaboration between the local offices of Microsoft and the Citi financial institution. Its section for businesses asks whether they need money to continue in business, to pay employees, to remain open or help employees in other ways. When the businesses respond, they are transferred to pages that list the organizations offering the type of assistance they may need, as well as video tutorials on how to fill the applications. Axis South Florida also partnered with gener8tor, an educational and mentoring company, to offer virtual programs and video conferences for small businesses impacted by the COVID-19 outbreak. Interested businesses must register to access the online offerings.

FACEBOOK: Facebook announced earlier that Facebook was offering $100 million in cash grants and ad credits to small businesses globally. As part of the program, Facebook will award $150,000 in grants to 38 Miami-area small businesses. Who can apply? Small businesses with two to 50 employees that have been in business over a year and have experienced financial challenges due to the pandemic. Go to Facebook.com/GrantsforBusiness to apply. New tools also allow businesses on Facebook to promote digital gift cards and announce temporary service changes on their pages.

How is #MiamiTech surviving and thriving through this pandemic? Tell us. Email me at ndahlbergbiz@gmail.com. We’ll publish occasional roundups throughout this pandemic.

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DeliverLean teams with Alonzo Mourning to deliver thousands of free meals to kids, plus news from GenoSur and 1909.

Nancy Dahlberg
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