FIU Business alum lands a top prize at eMerge Americas Start-up contest.

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Charles Masters Rodriguez (MBA '23), founder of Autoket. Photo courtesy of eMerge Americas.

FIU Business alumni Charles Masters Rodriguez (MBA ’23) and Meredith Vey (MBA ’02) pitched their ideas at the 2024 eMerge Americas Global Startup Accelerator + Showcase in April. A global technology conference and expo, eMerge showcases the latest in tech trends and connects startups with investors.

Masters made it to the top 5 where he pitched on the main stage, claimed the win for the university track and earned a $30,000 grant to scale his venture, Autoket, an online auto parts marketplace.

“I still feel like it’s a dream,” said Masters. “I had a lot of sleepless nights preparing for four minutes that would hopefully change my life, and it all paid off.”

Autoket is an evolution of his first venture, MK3 Industries, which he launched while attending FIU Business in the Professional MBA program. The venture is a B2B marketplace for everything automotive, connecting to a vast database of reputable auto-parts suppliers and streamlining the purchasing experience for customers all over the world.

Masters, a veteran of the U.S. Army, who has a military family legacy with relatives in the armed forces dating back to the Civil War, formed his new venture with another veteran from the U.S. Navy, and plans to continue recruiting talented veterans for his team.

Meredith Vey, along with Bonnee co-founders, Vanessa Sanchez and Martiza Sanchez Schubert.

Meredith Vey (MBA '02), along with Bonnee co-founders, Vanessa Sanchez and Martiza Sanchez Schubert.

“MK3 Industries was my first company and as I was building it, I was noticing a huge gap in the market for both auto parts suppliers like me and the auto shop customers that I so dearly love,” said Masters. “I really wanted a marketplace that could connect us where both of us could increase our sales and then decrease all the problems that we had, and then that's when the Autoket idea was born.”

Masters looks back at his time at FIU, where he took advantage of resources for entrepreneurs.

“It's literally a crawl, walk, run,” he said. “And FIU helped me throughout the entire process from StartUp FIU Local, StartUp FIU doing my Lean Canvas business model, and then the Florida SBDC at FIU Business along with the Apex Accelerator for the government side. It's been astronomical.”

Clothing swap app Bonnee, co-founded by Vey, was also in the top 110 Global Startup Accelerator + Showcase. Their pitch didn’t make it through to the next round but showcasing their business at eMerge was an accomplishment.

“eMerge happens two days out of the year, but it's really an all-year thing,” said Vey. “eMerge has really created Miami as this startup ecosystem. And I give them a lot of credit for empowering founders like us, we're three female founders especially, and they really put their words behind you.”