February 07, 2016

Miami FinTech Forum launches with pitch contest

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In another new program for accelerating entrepreneurship, Citi Community Development, Village Capital and Florida International University on Thursday night kicked off a Miami Fintech Forum. About 15 financial technology startups were selected to participate in a yearlong program in which they will get help through education, mentorship and access to capital from the Small Business Development Center at FIU as well as experts from Citi and Village Capital. The Forum on Thursday included a pitching event, in which the companies took part in a full day of coaching and mentoring at Building.co, and in the evening 11 of the companies pitched to the crowd and were questioned by an expert judging panel.

Through votes of the audience and fellow entrepreneurs in their cohort, two teams were awarded $10,000 grants: DocuVital, a service to organize, automate and store vital information for end-of-life planning, pitched by CEO Joel Brown (pictured above), and VestMutiny, opening the real estate investing market to everyday people through crowdfunding, pitched by founder Yemani Mason (pictured below). The other companies selected to pitch were: FlyScan, Gradvisor, MedXoom, Mosaic Money, OneCloud, Qbit Solutions, RNKR.io, Settleitsoft and Tip N’ Go.

Natalie Abatemarco, managing director of Citi Community Development and Inclusive Finance, explained there would be more events and opportunities for these companies to raise capital because the partnership with Village Capital will open a lot of doors. The idea behind this venture is to reach out to the community with a strong anchor partner in FIU and level the playing field entrepreneurs in underserved communities. Citi is also running programs in San Francisco and New York focusing on education technology and health-tech. 

“We want to help businesses to scale and help get communities the resources they need in order to survive, to thrive and really revitalize,” she said.

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Entrepreneurship Datebook: Events, workshops in South Florida

Tech eggThe 3 Pillars of Entrepreneurial Success: A panel discussion on improving business systems, maximizing partnerships, accessing capital and launching your business or startup, 11:45 a.m.-1:30 p.m. Monday, WeWork, 350 Lincoln Rd., Miami Beach. More info on Eventbrite.

Startup Grind: The featured interview is entrepreneur/investor Christian Seale of Startupbootcamp Miami, the first digital health accelerator and seed fund focused on diverse and underserved communities, 6-9 p.m. Tuesday, Venture Hive, 1010 NE Second Ave., Miami. Free with SUPX promotional code. Register here: startupgrind.com/miami.

Creating a Killer Pitch Deck: Show up with your pitch deck to get advice and hands-on training, 12:45-2:30 p.m. Wednesday, WeWork, 350 Lincoln Rd., Miami Beach. More info: Refreshmiami.com (click on events).

Google Ad Words and Pizza: Join members of Google and the MEC team for an AdWords, Analytics and SEO educational workshop, 7-8:30 p.m. Thursday, Miami Entrepreneurship Center, 261 NE First St. Register: mec261.org/events-list/#!event-list.


Black Tech Week: A weeklong series of activities including a summit, pitch competitions and networking events , Feb. 15-20, multiple locations including FIU’s Biscayne Bay Campus. Find schedule and order tickets at blacktechweek.com.

SUP-X, The Startup Expo: Expo, speakers, panel discussions and startup competition with $50,000 in prizes, Feb. 16-17, Broward County Convention Center. Find schedule and order tickets at sup-x.org.

Word Camp Miami 2016: This 8th annual conference for entrepreneurs, bloggers, markets and others wanting to learn more about digital media, Feb. 19-21 at Florida International University. More info here.

Miami Mini Maker Faire: Celebration of the maker movement, with exhibits, demos and a Music Maker Showcase, Feb. 20-21, YoungArts Campus in Miami. Find schedule and order tickets at MakerFaireMiami.com.

MIT Hacking Medicine: Startup Bootcamp Miami and the Idea Center at Miami Dade College host a hackathon for hacking the obesity crisis, Feb. 20-21 at the Idea Center.  More info here.


Read an interview with Rony Abovitz of Magic Leap and more startup news on the Starting Gate blog, MiamiHerald.com/business.

Nancy Dahlberg @ndahlberg

February 06, 2016

Miami Mini Maker Faire expands programming, receives more Knight funding

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The Miami Mini Maker Faire, a festival for all ages celebrating creativity and innovation, will expand activities and programming in its third year to feature a “Music Makers Showcase” highlighting regional musicians.

Produced by MIAMade in association with Maker Media, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation is investing $250,000 to support the Miami Maker Faire and other activities during the year to help build a network of regional makers and connect them to the global maker movement.

Launched in 2013 with Knight Foundation support, the Miami Mini Maker Faire is one of several MIAMade events happening throughout the year, including Maker Saturdays, Miami Make Week and Wynwood Maker Camp. This year’s Miami Mini Maker Faire will feature interactive exhibits from over 100 regional makers and entrepreneurs specializing in everything from 3D printing, robotics and do-it-yourself science and technology, to traditional handcrafts, design and visual arts. It will be held Feb. 20-21.

“These events provide a space for collaboration, where creative people come together to celebrate their passions, from arts and culture to emerging technologies and design,” said Matt Haggman, Miami program director for Knight Foundation.

Havana-based singer and instrumentalist X Alfonso and Miami dance duo and band Afrobeta will perform as part of the Music Makers Showcase, a free concert being held on Feb. 20 at the National YoungArts Foundation, said Ric Herrero, founder of MIAMade and lead producer of Miami Mini Maker Faire.

X Alfonso is a classically trained musician and one of the pioneers of Cuba’s hip-hop and afro-rock scenes. Native Miami dance duo and band Afrobeta brings a distinct blend of electro-funk and colorful pop culture-inspired costumes, props and theatrics to stages across the globe, Herrero said.

Miami Mini Maker Faire takes place from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Feb. 20-21, at the National YoungArts Foundation campus. Tickets are on sale now at makerfairemiami.com. The Music Makers Showcase is 5 p.m.-10 p.m. Feb. 20. The concert is free for attendees of Miami Mini Maker Faire, though limited complimentary tickets for the concert only are available via makerfairemiami.com.  

February 05, 2016

Daymond John kicks off entrepreneurship contest, but first some Shark Tank advice


Photos by Jasen Delgado / www.jasendelgado.com

By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com / @ndahlberg

The American Entrepreneurship Award, a new contest for early-stage Miami-Dade entrepreneurs, used some celebrity magic to draw a standing room only audience to its launch event: Daymond John.

Daymond(3)The Shark Tank star entertained and inspired the audience Thursday with his rags to riches story – he started making urban streetwear while working at Red Lobster. He opened FUBU in 1989 and had to close it three times over the next three years because he ran out of capital. But his passion, and FUBU’s many fans, powered him forward: Now it’s a $6 billion enterprise.

Today, of course, John, who is the author of the new book The Power of Broke, has invested in scores of companies through Shark Tank, rolling up his sleeves and working closely with the companies, including South Florida's Three Jerks Jerky and AquaVault. “The Sharks all feel we are a very small part of a very huge [entrepreneurial] movement,” said John, noting that Shark Tank is one of the top shows watched by kids 5-15 and one of the top shows parents watch with kids. “We’re a part of something that will help the next generation.”

John will be a celebrity judge for the AEA award, a new annual contest offered by Libra Group and Miami Dade College’s Idea Center. It’s is open for applications at www.americanaward.com until April 29. The winner receives up to $25,000, as well mentorship and support services. In addition, Miami Dade College students will also be eligible for a separate $2,500 MDC award.

At the American Entrepreneurship Award event, Daymond John shared this advice:

* Successful entrepreneurs take affordable next steps.

* Surround yourself with like-minded friends who won’t let you quit. Seek out mentors from among the successful business people you know.

* Responsibility must be taken, not given (advice from his mom).

* Success is all about tapping into a movement. It’s about the following you create with your own authentic voice. It’s not the money that will get you there (”Money just drives your problems in a limousine”). And it is all about the hustle.

* What separates the rock stars from the rest on Shark Tank? Proof of concept first and foremost, the companies already have proved customers want the product and they have some sales. Second, the founders have failed more times than they have succeeded; they are so excited about what they are doing, they would do it for free the rest of their life if they could. And third, the business must be scalable.




February 03, 2016

6 takeaways from Startup Grind talk by GasNinjas co-founder


By Peter Kovach

Brandon Timinsky is CEO and co-founder at GasNinjas, a service that brings gas to your car, all at the ease of pressing a button on your phone. Brandon’s first business was a third party Twitter app that helped twitter users gain more followers. He is a lifelong problem solver and entrepreneur. Last month Jason Ibarra, of Startup Grind, sat down with Brandon for a fireside chat at WeWork @ Lincoln Rd. They discussed Brandon’s young and successful entrepreneurial career and how his past experiences can help guide other entrepreneurs. Here are six takeaways from their conversation.

* Put your idea out there.  You have a great idea, but you're scared someone will steal it, so you never tell anyone. As a result, your idea never materializes into a booming business, instead it joins the countless of other what-if-ideas. Even worse, you build a company before getting feedback from your target customers, the product launches, it’s off target and you fail. You are more likely to find a supporter, partner or an investor than a competitor from just talking about your idea. In fact, it can help you gauge the interest in the product, find out which demographics are more likely to use your service and help form a better business from the feedback. Finally, putting your idea out there is a necessary step in proving to yourself that you are serious about this business.

* Micro Marketing - Marketing is key, the more you can expose your product to potential clients the better. Many companies struggle with social media marketing. An active presence is essential to successes. It allows you to interact directly with users. However, many people may see a post from your account and overlook it because there is no personal connection. Instead, incentive your customers to post about their positive experiences with your service. People are more likely to read content from a familiar and trusting face, and as a result it creates better exposure to new clientele.

* Follow other entrepreneurs -  Go on LinkedIn, TED Talks or just explore the web for people who inspire you. Find their blogs and read what they have to say about life, success and most importantly, failure.  In today’s age, there are an unbelievable number of ways to connect and learn from others. It is important to leverage these tools to find motivation from someone who has been there before and can relate to challenges you need to overcome. In place of watching TV every night, watch educational content.

* Hiring a freelance programmer - If you are unable to code your project and don’t want to want to give up equity to bring on a CTO, you can always a higher a freelance programmer. Hiring a freelancer is not as easy as it seems. Brandon on multiple occasions hired people who were not as qualified as they promoted. As a result, Brandon paid these programmers for a job not well done. He learned that in order to protect himself he needed to change the way he worked with freelancers. He decided to do milestone payments. Instead of paying the developer in full upfront he would pay him after a certain milestone was completed. This protected him financially and ensured he was coming away with a product.

* Know your business - It's essential to understand your business in and out and in again. Do your research on what demographics find your product most useful; this will help you focus your attention on the right clientele to grow. Become familiar with your key performance indicators (KPI’s) or the aspects of your business that are essential for growth. Knowing and watching your KPI’s will help you make calculated and logical decisions. You should be able to recite your stats in your sleep.

* Great client service - Ensuring your clients have a great experience is essential to growth. If your clients are left with a bad taste in their mouths, they are less likely to reuse the service. Yes, your company is young and there are opportunities to improve the product, but it is key to be responsive to your customer. A client may report a problem with your product and if you respond quickly, you demonstrate that you care about the person, and are dedicated to improving your business, that person will be more likely to come back.

Peter Kovach is a recent graduate from Loyola University of New Orleans. He moved to Miami to be a part of the rising tech scene and is currently an associate at building.co.

NEXT UP: Christian Seale of Startupbootcamp will be speaking at Startup Grind in Miami on Feb. 9. More info: startupgrind.com/miami

Pine Crest School 7th graders win Best in Nation, $20,000 grant in Verizon Innovative App Challenge

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This winning team will also get help from MIT to develop their app that helps measure, manage concussions in football.

A team of South Florida students have earned Best in Nation honors, a $20,000 grant and wireless tablets in the Verizon Innovative App Challenge for their new technology concept that aids in the study and management of concussions and brain injury in football.

The seventh-graders from Fort Lauderdale’s Pine Crest School also have won the opportunity to work with top developers from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) to turn their Force Transmission Data Collector  idea into a working wireless app.


The technology would incorporate a sensor in each player’s helmet to record and send real-time data on collision force.  The information would be immediately available to coaches, trainers, parents and others.

The concept was one of eight Best In Nation winners selected from more than 1,200 submissions nationwide.

A team from Miami’s  Dr. Michael M. Krop Senior High won a Best In State award and a $5,000 grant from Verizon for their LanguaSign  concept, which would help the hearing impaired translate sign language into speech.


 The competition, created by Verizon in partnership with the Technology Student Association, and presented in collaboration with MIT Media Lab, challenged student teams across the country to come up with ideas for mobile apps that could solve a problem in their schools or communities, with no coding skills required.

"Each year, students have raised the bar for the App Challenge and we are continuously impressed by their thoughtful solutions to such a broad range of societal issues," said Justina Nixon-Saintil, director of education and technology programs for the Verizon Foundation.

 In June, members of the Pine Crest team and the other Best In Nation winners will present their apps in person at the National TSA Conference in Nashville, courtesy of Verizon.

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February 02, 2016

Magic Leap lands $793.5 million in mega-funding round led by Alibaba


By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

Magic Leap’s future is coming into focus, as a historic mega-round of funding could sharply accelerate its path to commercialization.

The secretive South Florida technology company working on a computing platform that simulates reality has raised $793.5 million in a new round of venture capital financing led by Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba Group.

In the largest funding round of its kind, Magic Leap’s Series C investors also include Warner Bros., Fidelity Management and Research Co., JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Morgan Stanley Investment Management, Magic Leap said Tuesday. Existing investors Google, which led a previous funding round of $542 million in late 2014, and Qualcomm Ventures also participated. Alibaba Executive Vice Chairman Joe Tsai will sit on Magic Leap’s board, joining Google CEO Sundar Pichai.

The latest round pushes Magic Leap’s total funding to almost $1.4 billion. The funding will give Magic Leap a post-money valuation of $4.5 billion – that’s for a company that has yet to reveal its technology to the world.

“This funding allows us to accelerate the move from product development to pilot manufacturing, manufacturing and commercial launch,” said Magic Leap founder and CEO Rony Abovitz, in a phone interview Tuesday morning. “But beyond that, this gives the company a very long-term runway – effectively we can be sustainable. We may not need to raise capital again – it doesn’t mean we won’t – but it gives us the ability to think well beyond the initial product launch.”

It also brings Magic Leap a strategic partner in Alibaba, which will help introduce Magic Leap's technology to the Chinese market and the more than 400 million people using Alibaba's platforms.

“We invest in forward-thinking, innovative companies like Magic Leap that are developing leading products and technologies,” said Tsai, in a statement. “We believe Alibaba can both provide support to and learn from such a partner, and we look forward to working with the Magic Leap team.”

Abovitz called Alibaba his “first-choice strategic partner,” adding that “Google re-invested in this round significantly so we will have a great Internet company in the West and a great Internet company in the East helping us fulfill our mission of creating the next computing platform.”

Magic Leap, a company Abovitz founded a few years ago in the proverbial and literal garage, is currently headquartered in Dania Beach and is building a massive facility in Plantation. The company is developing a computing platform that will enable people to seamlessly combine and experience their digital and physical lives, said Abovitz on Tuesday, without revealing specifics about the technology.

“We want the digital world to bend to your physical life, your real emotional life as a person, and we don’t want you to bend to computers,” he said. “We are forcing our technology to fit people’s lives the way it was before computing. I think of this as a conceptual computer, a computer based on context and awareness that will help you be more intelligent. It will make you smarter, not a machine, and it will deliver an Internet of presence and experience rather than just data.

“Computing today is like watching a shark on an iPhone, but when you are snorkeling you are experiencing it in the present, it is really there. We want to do that on the tech side,” added Abovitz, who grew up snorkeling and scuba diving in Florida. “We want this to bring you joy and emotion, experiences that you may never be able to have.”

Calling its technology “mixed reality,” a combination of virtual and simulated reality, the company is reportedly creating a wearable device, perhaps a headset, that would use a type of light-field technology to simulate 3-D images superimposed on the real world by projecting patterns of light to the eye. It is different from Facebook’s Oculus or Microsoft’s HoloLens, Magic Leap says.

As an example, Abovitz said the technology will bring film, games and books to life like never before, but it will also allow you to buy a must-have pair of Italian shoes, bringing the runway in Milan to you.

“All this means we have had to invent and create a lot of new technologies, some of which we will be mass fabricating here in our factory in Plantation; others we will be fabricating in our supply chain around the world.”

Abovitz has not yet disclosed when its first product would be hitting the market and few outside the Magic Leap family have seen the technology – which is highly unusual for a tech company attracting this range of venture capital. Likening it to how artists or film directors deliver their creations to the world, or even to the Beatles, his favorite band, Abovitz said the world will be happy it waited to see the finished product.

“I’m a big believer in really putting our heart and soul into the product, crafting it so that when we do launch it is finished and it is great. .. It should be like the Beatles making Sergeant Pepper and then they drop it ... The public got to hear Sergeant Pepper in its full glory and that was really fun ... Hopefully in our own way we will do something along those lines.”

Although funding rounds have been getting larger, this size round is historic for a company at this stage. Nikhil Krishnan, tech analyst with CB Insights, a data-analysis firm that closely tracks the venture capital industry, said Magic Leap's round of $793.5 million is the largest Series C round that CB Insights has tracked, with the next largest being $500 million rounds raised by Wish and Zenefit. For some context, the median Series C size since 2010 is $12 million, he said. This is also by far the biggest investment in the nascent but growing AR/VR space, bigger than the last four quarters of investment into the space combined, Krishnan added. All this and “Magic Leap doesn't have a commercial product yet to launch, and has been pretty much stealth about what's happening within the company,” he said.

Also highly notable is the funding group Abovitz has assembled, Krishnan said. In its previous round, Magic Leap assembled a group from all different industries, including venture capitalists such as Obvious Ventures and Andreessen Horowitz; corporations such as Google and Qualcomm Ventures, financial institutions and even film companies such as Legendary Entertainment.

“This was already a group of some of the top investors in their respective fields,” said Krishnan. “This new round of financing was led by Alibaba, providing a good entry for the technology into foreign markets. Warner Bros also participated, fortifying a strategic partnership that will help bring them into studios, and a host of crossover investors with deep pockets that can finance these types of large rounds, Wellington Management, T. Rowe Price, Morgan Stanley, etc.”

Alibaba has invested in about five U.S. startups a year since 2013, according to CB Insights data. Alibaba Chairman Jack Ma said last year that the company would fund U.S. tech startups and help them expand to China.

While most tech companies doing what Magic Leap is attempting would likely be in Silicon Valley, Magic Leap is headquartered in Dania Beach and moving its team to a 260,000-square-foot facility under construction in the former Motorola facilities in Plantation. Magic Leap, which also has locations in Silicon Valley’s Mountain View as well as Santa Cruz, Los Angeles, Seattle, Austin, the United Kingdom New Zealand and Israel, employs about 500 people with more than 200 in South Florida. Local and state governments last year approved $9 million in economic incentives to create 725 jobs with an average salary of $100,000 by 2020. Abovitz, a University of Miami alum who studied biomedical engineering, co-founded the pioneering robotics firm Mako Surgical in Davie, which was sold to Stryker for $1.65 billion in 2013.

“We are setting up our facility in Plantation, we’re hiring, and I currently expect that to be the primary hub of the company although we are setting up centers of excellence built around the U.S.,” said Abovitz. “We really want the greatest brains in the world, creative and technical, and we are also going where these brains are and setting up these centers of excellence. Think of it as a core planet, which is here, and satellites around it.”

In Plantation, the company will do pilot production runs, but also will be manufacturing parts for Magic Leap’s commercial shipments.

“We hope we will be part of reinvigorating the Florida and U.S economy. We are believers in that – that’s going against the grain, but we think that’s the right thing to do,” Abovitz said.

Noting Magic Leap’s group of long-term investors, Abovitz said, “You don’t change computing in one day, it’s something you do with great collaborative partners. ...Now it’s heads down for us and we will be accelerating everything. We are super focused on our getting first product out and getting it right, and letting it speak for the company. We know we have to deliver against high expectations.”

Nancy Dahlberg; 305-376-3595; @ndahlberg

This post was updated at 1:30 p.m.

January 31, 2016

Entrepreneurship Datebook: Events, workshops in South Florida Feb. 1-7

Design Thinking Miami: This master class will provide a thorough overview of usability testing, teach you how to conduct a user testing study and highlight important planning considerations, 6:30 p.m. -9 p.m. Wednesday, WeWork Lincoln Road. More info and tickets: www.designthinkingmiami.com/

Miami FinTech Forum: Village Capital, Citi Community Development and Florida International University present a 2016 Miami FinTech Forum pitch contest, bringing together fintech startup finalists competing for $20,000 in seed funding, 4:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday, Building.co, 120 SW Eighth St. More info on eventbrite.com.

American Entrepreneurship Award Launch: Daymond John, founder of FUBU and star on ABC’s Shark Tank, will help launch Libra Group’s American Entrepreneurship Award contest, with an opportunity to win $25,000, 11 a.m. Thursday, the Idea Center at Miami Dade College, Wolfson Campus, Building 8, fifth floor. RSVP: theideacenter.eventbrite.com.

Code Art Miami: is a collaboration between Girls Who Code Clubs and CODeLLA, a nonprofit organization teaching coding and tech skills to Latinas from underserved communities. Code Art Miami seeks to inspire more girls to code and to foster community among participating student groups, 4 p.m. Saturday, MAGIC at Miami Dade College, 315 NE Second Ave., first floor. More info: www.codeart.miami.


Raw Shorts, a Miami tech startup offering companies a way to make their own explainer videos, received $1 million in Series A funding from New World Angels, AGP and other investors. Stanford University offers a new resource for Hispanic entrepreneurs including a fellowship program and extensive research initiative. Keep up with this news and more the latest startup news, as well as postings about entrepreneurship events and resources on Starting Gate blog on MiamiHerald.com/business. Email news to ndahlberg@miamiherald.com.

Nancy Dahlberg @ndahlberg

January 30, 2016

Daymond John to speak at American Entrepreneurship Award kick-off at MDC Feb. 4


Entrepreneur Daymond John of ABC’s Shark Tank will hold a fireside chat during the kick-off presentation of the American Entrepreneurship Award (AEA), a new annual award program that provides startup funding of up to $25,000 for entrepreneurs that is sponsored by the Libra Group and the Idea Center. The free event will be at Miami Dade College at 11:30 a.m., Thursday, Feb. 4.  

The AEA is a business plan competition that seeks to stimulate entrepreneurial spirit through practical support, expert mentorship by industry leaders and start-up funding for America’s most promising early-stage businesses.

John, an AEA celebrity judge, will share with participants about being an entrepreneur the “Shark Tank Way.”  An entrepreneur in every sense of the word, John has come a long way from starting FUBU with $40 to growing it into a six-billion-dollar brand. The founder of FUBU, Presidential Ambassador of Global Entrepreneurship, and co-star of ABC's Shark Tank is a celebrated pioneer in the fashion industry, best-selling author, branding guru and highly-sought-after motivational speaker.

At the launch event, attendees will also have the opportunity to meet past winners of the Hellenic Entrepreneurship Award, the sister program to the AEA that has been running in Greece for the past four years, and learn how winning accelerated their own entrepreneurial and business success.

Entries can be submitted via an online application, which  opened on The American Entrepreneurship Award website on January 28, 2016. Entries will be due April 29. Winners will be announced in June 2016.

To register for the event, please visit http://aealaunch.eventbrite.com

WHAT:            American Entrepreneurship Award with Daymond John

WHEN:            Thursday, Feb. 4, 11:30 a.m. – 1:30 p.m. (Doors open at 11 a.m.)

                        (Daymond John to speak at 12:10 p.m.)

WHERE:         The Idea Center at Miami Dade College

315 NE 2nd Ave., Building 8, 5th Floor

Submitted by Miami Dade College.

Read past coverage of the American Entrepreneurship Award here.

January 27, 2016

Report: Latino entrepreneurship a $1.4 trillion economic opportunity

By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

The number of Latino-owned businesses have grown nearly nearly 50 times faster than non-Latino owned businesses, yet Latino businesses lag far behind in revenue compared to those owned by non-Latinos. The result is a $1.4 trillion opportunity for the U.S. economy, according to a new report from the Stanford Latino Entrepreneurship Initiative.

On Wednesday, the organization gathered founders and CEOs of Mastec, Liberty Power, Senzari, Nearpod, Rokk3r Labs and Endeavor Miami to discuss the findings and what is ahead for its new national project that aims to provide industry research and education programs for accelerating Latino entrepreneurs.

“Today the primary engine of growth are Latino business formations. That’s a volume statement. This program is focused on catalyzing the gazelles, the companies that can grow very fast and very big,” Sol Trujillo, chairman of Trujillo Group Investments and a member of the SLEI board, told the group gathered in downtown Miami. “This is a national resource we are trying to build at Stanford.”

The 40-page report, titled the State of Latino Entrepreneurship, found that the average annual sales for a Latino owned business in 2012 was $156,000 versus $573,000 for a non-Latino business. If the average Latino owned business would have generated the same level of sales as the average non-Latino business, they would have had an economic impact of $1.9 trillion versus the actual economic impact of $517 billion. That's a total annual gap of $1.4 trillion that could be added to the national economy, the study’s authors found.

To look at why there is a gap, SLEI interviewed more than 1,800 Latino companies from its proprietary database of 1.4 million Latino business owners. Some commonly cited assumptions about why Latino businesses tend to be smaller – for instance, choice of industries and the type of targeted customer base – were not supported in the data, said SLEI Executive Director Remy Arteaga. The study found no significant difference in the industry distribution between Latino and non-Latino businesses, and 80 percent of Latino businesses sold to both Latino and non-Latino customers, he said.

But the report did find some discernible differences. While Latino business owners said they wanted larger businesses, more than half of the companies were actually growing slowly, stagnant or shrinking. The report pointed out that they were more likely motivated by internal factors, such as their wish to pass on a business on to family members, rather than by external market opportunities.

Also, while nearly 50 percent of Latino entrepreneurs believe additional capital is a key to their future business growth, Latinos were more likely to rely on credit cards and friends for capital than non-Latinos, and more than 90 percent expressed serious concerns that relinquishing equity in their businesses. Trujillo said what’s missing is an understanding of an angel investor network and venture capital. In addition, the research found that the majority of Latino-owned businesses were not familiar with government lending programs such as the U.S. Small Business Administration and the federal Small Business Innovation Research program.

In particular the venture capital industry is overwhelmingly benefiting the non-Latino businesses, with less than one percent of VC funding going to Latino-owned businesses, Arteaga said.

As part of the initiative, Stanford University also launched a six-week Fellows Program for Latino entrepreneurs. In the inaugural program last fall, 78 entrepreneurs participated including several from South Florida. The first cohort included a custom online course by Stanford Professor Huggy Rao, who is an internationally recognized expert in scaling businesses, as well as in-person programs and mentorship, said Demian Bellumio, co-founder of Miami-based Senzari, who participated in the first cohort. Going forward, Stanford plans to offer at least two cohorts a year.

Because timely, comprehensive data has not been available, SLEI plans to continue to expand its 1.4 million-business database and in another 12 to 18 months hopes to provide data on South Florida and other metro regions, Arteaga said. The research will be expanded and revisited annually, and it’s available at latinoei.org.

Added Trujillo: “We want to take this data to VCs and say here’s the data, open your eyes, you are missing a huge opportunity.”

Nancy Dahlberg; 305-376-3595; @ndahlberg.