December 18, 2023

Innovation Under the Miami Sun

We’ve been busy.

The whole team just got back from a transformative 10-day trip to host two pivotal events during the bustling Art Basel season. After weeks of prepping and planning, it was extremely cathartic to finally launch the Build Day X Hackathon Tour and host our 4th “No Pressure” Pitch Competition in the Miami heat.

What did that look like? Let us recap for you.

Arrival and Preparation Begin

We got settled into our AirBnB and discussed our plan of attack for our first event: Build Day X. Granted, we weren’t new to this. However, we were new to Miami. This was a different playing field, but we were ready and eager to enter a new arena with our partners Brainstation and Tech Equity Collective, a Google Initiative.

Build Day X Hackathon materials

The day was a flurry of activity as we gathered materials for the hackathon and checked in with our partners at Brainstation to make sure we covered our bases. Each item, from office supplies to catering arrangements, was carefully chosen to ensure a seamless and innovative experience for all participants.

As the rest of our team trickled in, spirits ran high as the team roster filled up, setting the stage for a week of innovation and collaboration. We even had our very own George Suarez, Founder of and Cohort 4 alumnus, to co-facilitate as an AI expert in his field.

Build Day X Kicks Off at Brainstation

Participants check in at Brainstation

The anticipation reached new levels as we got ready to open doors at 2pm. What we didn’t expect was for people to show up early! The atmosphere was charged with creativity and potential. Final touches were added, transforming the space into a hub of innovation, ready for the brilliant minds that would soon fill it. Check-in and registration went smoothly as participants finished up the ACT Assessment to learn about their skill archetype, innovative mindset, and team dynamics.

Participants receive their Archetype bands

Then, it was nonstop.

Dominick Ard’is, CEO of ACT House, welcomes participants

From welcoming the participants, launching the first workshop, ideating, pitching, voting, and teaming up–the first 8 hours were a blur of conversation and community.

Innovators get in line to pitch their idea in hopes to recruit team members
Participants listen to ideas and get to know one another

After the teams were formed, the late hours were meant for building. The breakout workshops helped the teams divide and conquer in skill development while a pitch prep session was slotted for 2 am.

Some other key highlights that our team absolutely loved:

  • Several people drove hours or hopped on a plane to come to BDX
  • More than 40 people pulled up while nearly half of them pitched an idea
  • Pitch winners put in real work to recruit the team they wanted
  • Team bonding and collaboration ran deep
  • Food and refreshments stayed on point and on time
Participants wait to have final teams pitch to compete for cash prizes

For judges, we had a stacked lineup:

And they did not hold back on challenging the teams with poignant questions about market penetration, industry knowledge, and competitor analysis. In the end, only three teams walked away with cash prizes to be used for their growing startup.

1st Place Winner of $10,000: Caviar, a software platform enabling restaurant operators through automation and predictive AI

Juan Zamudio, Whitney Sherrill, Brian Cliette, and Hunter Christerpher

2nd Place Winner of $5,000: Car Sensei, a car care app that empowers drivers to understand and maintain their vehicles with confidence and connects them with trusted mechanics

Abby Pollack, Kevin Aristhomene, Justin Hendricks, and Paulette Blanc

3rd Place Winner of $2,500: Flamingo Frameworks, an AI customer service for disaster recovery for energy clients

Maurice Wallace, Edwin Carvajal, Connor Stone, Pablo Padillo, and Dan Garzon-Moreno

BDX Debrief and Miami Explorations

After the 24-hour event, the team had a chance to rest. But first, we had to debrief. It was rewarding to be present with each other to share and learn everyone’s perspectives on the event, while working to plan how we can get 2% better on the next one. The BDX debrief brought valuable insights and fresh perspectives, fueling our passion and driving us forward.

Later, we indulged in a day of rest and exploration, immersing ourselves in the vibrant culture of Miami, a city as dynamic and diverse as our team.

House Vision, Culture, and Goals

With a few days before our next activation, the team took turns on digging deep into focused days of strategic planning and collaboration in Product, Storytelling, and Venture.

After a long year and another one looming, the benefits of deep dives and vision alignment was pivotal for the teams to execute on the things that matter most. The collaborative efforts led to breakthroughs and innovative ideas during the retreat.

The “No Pressure” Pitch Competition and Celebratory Moments

The “No Pressure” Pitch Competition is one of our favorite activation events we host. In partnership with Black Ambition Prize, this was our fourth one, but first one in Miami. Not only was there an overwhelming response to the event, with tickets selling out in record time, but there were multiple founders and team who had flocked to Miami from all over just to make it to the event. One pair in particular had flown in from Puerto Rico and had been waiting there since the morning just for a chance to pitch. Now that was the type of energy that we love to admire.

Participants applaud for the next pitch

Although we had to cap pitches at 30 for time’s sake, we had a beautifully diverse range of students, early-stage founders, and industry veterans. The differences in expertise, ethnicity, and experience made the event even more electrifying as the crowd got to hear 30 original pitches that impressed the audience and judges.

The judges panel comprised Felicia Hatcher, CEO of Black Ambition Prize, Gena Smith, CHRO, LVMH North America, and LaNiece Douglas, VP Retail of Adidas.

From left to right: Felicia Hatcher, Gena Smith, and LaNiece Douglas

They had a hard decision to make, but they took careful notes during the competition and thoughtfully deliberated to determine the winners:

1st Place: Kwame Terra, bEHR Health Systems

bEHR Health Systems takes home $10,000 cash prize

2nd Place: Estrella Quiroz, Last Farewells

Last Farewells takes home $7,000 cash prize

3rd Place: Yunielis Clemente and Xavier, Tool It

Tool It takes home $5,000 cash prize

Crowd Favorite: Gera Baano, Simp

Simp takes home $3,000 prize as the Crowd Favorite

Other surprise winners included Pamela Slaughter (People of Color Outdoors) and Damien McDuffie (Black Terminus AR) as they won the Judge’s Choice Awards and received $1,000 a piece!

Miami Reflections and Remote December

As most of the team headed home after the No Pressure event, we had a long weekend of rest and stillness as we regrouped and reflected the following week. We shared memorable highlights like watching the BDX teams transform an idea into an MVP in 24 hours, shared dishes and dance moves at 1–800-LUCKY, and celebrating our teammate’s birthday at a beachside restaurant and ocean walks.

After spending multiple days together and rubbing elbows in shared meals and intense collaboration, we gladly rolled into our Remote December. This was our “work from anywhere” month where some took flight across the pond, stayed in Miami, or simply enjoyed the choice to be home.

Miami, it was an absolute pleasure to serve you. We don’t know when we’ll be back but we do know that we’re bringing BDX to another city in early 2024 ;)

To keep updated on events and announcements, make sure to sign up for our newsletter to connect with ACT House and be a part of future innovative and transformative events.

Special thanks to our remarkable partners at Tech Equity Collective, Brainstation, Florida Power & Light, Center for Black Innovation, Black Ambition Prize, Adidas, and LVMH who helped shape the Miami activations.

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