September 20, 2023
ATS Miami Feb 2020
A car drives through an area in Key Largo that flooded after a high tide on the heels of a storm.

Photo: Joe Raedle / Getty Images

ATS Miami Feb 2020
Medley-based Cuban bakery chain Vicky Bakery plans to expand from its current 15 stores in Miami-Dade and Broward counties to 50 locations across the U.S.

Miami-Dade Roundup

Online platform Genius Plaza helps Florida students teach each other


Creating Student Teachers

An entrepreneur’s platform helps students teach each other.

Ana Roca Castro founded online platform Genius Plaza to give students around the world a forum to create eBooks, games, videos and other media. The company, she explains, turns teachers into facilitators and conveners of learning — they bring the initial knowledge, and students then use the Genius Plaza platform to teach the course material to each other.

In creating Genius Plaza, Roca Castro, the company’s CEO, used the latest research into how students learn, moving beyond simply putting traditional learning materials — books, quizzes, etc. — online. “The most efficient way of learning is peer-to-peer,” Roca Castro says. Students who use Genius Plaza, she says, “move from being passive learners to actually being protagonists of their own learning. They become the ones creating the exercises and the games and the books.”

Roca Castro, who was born in the Dominican Republic and came to the U.S. at 14, founded the company in 2013. Today, the platform serves students from kindergarten through high school in 30 countries and in 80 languages. Content is customized to be culturally relevant. The company has more than 200 employees, with about 100 in Miami and the rest in offices around the world, including three more in the U.S., three in Africa, two in Latin America, one in Malaysia and one in Madrid.

Monroe County asked the state for $150 million to raise roads, homes and buildings — a fraction of what would be required to elevate the 150 miles of roads in the county that are susceptible to major flooding from sea-level rise in the next 20 years. In a meeting last fall, county administrator Roman Gastesi suggested that “we’re going to have to retreat from some areas.” The state has already allocated more than $20 million to the county to buy and demolish homes damaged by Hurricane Irma.


Garth C. Reeves Sr.

About 500 people attended the funeral of the publisher emeritus of the Miami Times in December. Garth C. Reeves Sr. was 100.

Reeves used his voice at the newspaper to challenge Miami’s political establishment and advocate for issues important in the African-American community. Stories in the Times called for the termination of Police Chief Walter Headley over a stopand- frisk policy that raised racial tensions in Miami. He fought to desegregate the city’s beaches and in 1993 was a leader in calling for a boycott of Miami Beach hotels that cost Miami’s tourism industry tens of millions of dollars.

Reeves took over as publisher of the Miami Times from his father, running the newspaper from 1970-94. He was inducted into the National Association of Black Journalists Hall of Fame in 2017.


  • Phoenix-based Advisor Group will acquire broker-dealer operator Ladenburg Thalmann Financial Services in a cash-for-stock deal valued at $1.3 billion.


  • Viacom Media Networks promoted Pierluigi Gazzolo to president of OTT International and Viacom International Studios, where he will oversee the company’s international networks, internet streaming services and studio operations. He retains his role as executive vice president of Nickelodeon International.


  • HCA Healthcare named Charles Gressle head of its east Florida division, overseeing 14 hospitals. He replaces the Michael Joseph, who is retiring after holding that position for 12 years.
  • San Diego-based investment firm ShareMD paid $33.2 million for two medical office buildings in South Miami and Coral Gables and will turn 8,500 square feet of vacant space into co-working space for physicians, with furnished medical offices and patient rooms that can be rented by the half-day, week or month.


  • Miami-Dade County, Miami Beach technology conference eMerge Americas and the MIT Institute of Medical Engineering and Sciences opened the Global Co-Creation Lab Miami, which aims to help turn the county into a hub for health-care technologies. The lab is a hub for entrepreneurs, university scientists and investors.
  • MetLife will purchase Miami-based online will and estate plan-creation startup Bequest, which does business as Willing.


  • Netherlands-based Global Center on Adaptation is opening its first U.S. office in Miami. It will help Miami develop strategies to improve resilience.


  • Jon Paul Perez, the son of Related Group founder and CEO Jorge Perez, started a company that will acquire and renovate existing properties and convert them to affordable housing. Perez, who will continue in his role as Related Group executive vice president, is partnering with Patrick Plunkett, founder of an affordable and workforce housing ownership company called Federal Housing Solutions.
  • The Miami Association of Realtors launched the first commercial multiple listing service that consumers can access online through a partnership with Florida Power & Light and the Beacon Council, the county’s economic development partnership. The service covers Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties.


  • Data center and infrastructure security company Cyxtera promoted Nelson Fonseca to CEO; founder Manuel D. Medina moved into the position of executive chairman of the company and its cyber-security spinoff AppGate.


  • Edwin W. Stephen, who founded Royal Caribbean Cruise Line in 1969 and was its longtime vice chairman, died in November. Airbnb competitor Domio signed a 10-year lease for a 175-apartment building in Miami’s Wynwood neighborhood; it is called Domio Wynwood.


  • In a transaction valued at $75 million, auto retailer HGreg purchased the largest Nissan dealership in the U.S., which is in Palmetto Bay and now called HGreg Nissan Kendall.
  • Bacardi acquired Los Angeles-based vodka, whiskey and bourbon maker Stillhouse. It first invested in the company in 2014.
  • London-based gold and silver seller Direct Bullion opened a Miami store, its first outside the United Kingdom.

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Tags: Miami-Dade, Education, Technology/Innovation, Feature

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