SoFla: the next entrepreneurial hotspot?

After attending the inaugural Entrepreneur Awards, hosted by the South Florida Business Journal and EO South Florida, I came away with a new appreciation for our region’s up and coming businesses.

Places like Austin, TX and Silicon Valley get their due of attention as entrepreneurial hotspots, but the fact is that we have our share of promising companies here in South Florida.

From restaurateurs and internet pioneers, to bright legal minds and ambitious bankers, you need not look far to find a business person eager to take risks.Here is a snapshot of some of this year’s honorees:

light bulbStraat Investments creates and acquires country code-specific domain names. For example, the firm provided the initial funding for the popular .co domain. When it launched in July 2010, the domain saw 200,000 registrations in the first 24 hours. Today, .co is utilized by companies from Google and Twitter to

Among the most recent success stories spotlighted during the event was Apollo Bank, which launched in mid-2010. Few new businesses took flight during the recession; even fewer did so successfully. But co-founders Eddy Arriola and Richard Dailey believed in their business model and the region’s economy, and today Apollo Bank is finding its niche as a service-oriented community bank.

The Fresh Diet, now in its fifth year, began with only three clients and has grown to more than 4,500 customers across the US. Interestingly, the company’s founder, Zalmi Duchman, keeps kosher and cannot consume the food cooked in Fresh Diet kithcens.

Kudos to all the companies honored as part of this year’s awards. We’re looking forward to tracking their progress. Read about the finalists here.