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Empowering Women in Technology Startups

Written By: Chris Eversole

Sindia Rivera-Jimenez is an aspiring entrepreneur – championing her husband’s discoveries of new uses of nanoparticles in diagnosing disease and targeting medication.

She got a jump-start on commercializing the research over the past 10 weeks while participating in the Empowering Women in Technology Startups program, sponsored by the University of Florida’s Office of Technology Licensing, UF Tech Connect, the Innovation Hub, and the Al & Nancy Burnett Charitable Foundation.

“I now have a vision,” Rivera-Jimenez said. “Before it was just an intention.”

Rivera-Jimenez was among the Ewits participants brimming with excitement at the program’s concluding session for 2016, held at the Innovation Hub at the University of Florida on Thursday (April 14).

Ewits pounded home to Rivera-Jimenez that a pitch must get to the point – return on investment. “Investors want to know how much they’re going to get,” she said. “Who cares about your invention if you can’t sell it?”

Rivera-Jimenez and her husband, Carlos Rinaldi (a UF professor of biomedical engineering), moved here from Puerto Rico four years ago. She’s juggling a teaching position at Santa Fe College with working on commercializing Rinaldi’s research.

As she works on the business, she plans to tap the expertise of people she met through Ewits.

“Gainesville has provided me with a spark,” she said. “I have a lot more opportunities for mentorship than I had before.”

Rivera-Jimenez worked on one of seven Ewits teams in developing a pitch for a handheld device a UF researcher developed that is a low-cost and safe alternative to mammograms.

Her group’s mentor, Dana Nemenyi, took a sense of satisfaction from the team’s work. “How perfect for us to work on something that will help women,” she said.

Nemenyi, the director of UF Health Business Development, said she was pleased to help other women learn about business development. “It’s great to help give them confidence about doing whatever they dream about,” she said.

Ewits is open to women who have at least a bachelor’s degree. The 250 participants over the four years of the program have included graphic artists, marketers, social science professors, accountants, patent agents, engineers and women from many other professions, said Jane Muir, the program’s founder and Director of the Innovation Hub.

Ewits is on the verge of going national. A nonprofit organization headed by Kelly Markey of the Kemlar Group consultaning firm is in negotiations to offer the program this fall in several other potential cities, such as Nashville, Austin, Jacksonville and Raleigh.

“Expansion is in line with our mission, which is to educate, inspire and empower women to pursue leadership roles in technology companies worldwide,” Markey said. “Our experience enhancing the program in Gainesville puts us in the position to partner with others to make the maximum impact.”

As this year’s Gainesville program concluded, Muir challenged the participants to make firm plans on next steps. “Don’t let what you learned slip,” she said. “Plan things to do to maximize the investment you made in yourself and that we made in you.”



Ewits Coordinator Anne Favre is pictured with participant Sindia Rivera-Jimenez, Ewits co-founder Jane Muir and Gainesville Area Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Susan Davenport.

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