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13 posts from June 2012

June 28, 2012

4 most effective ways to use video to drive traffic to your site

My guest blogger today is C. Payne of Miami, CEO of Regal Spri Creative Group, who shares his four tips for using video to drive traffic to your website and business.

By C. Payne

C-Payne Professional Headshot 1

In the late 1990s and early 2000s when the Internet started heating up, a lot of experts got on their soapboxes and predicted that television would be slain by this new monster called the World Wide Web. Even today, these so called experts see the Internet as becoming the predominant form of “information receiving” and that TV will soon be a thing of the past. While online usage hasskyrocketed in the past few years, there’s one key characteristic of  television that keeps (and will continue to keep) grotesquely oversized flat-screens in the living rooms of nearly all Americans — video.

You see, TV talks to us, entertains us, and occasionally educates us…. And all we have to do is sit on our coach and consume the information. It’s so easy. For this reason, video will continue to be the #1 attention grabber for years and years to come. As for online video, there are some jaw-dropping statistics, including the fact that YouTube reported 4 billion DAILY global online video views in 2011. Therefore, it’s important that you ride the wave online and start producing videos for your business. Here are the top 4 most effective uses of online video to drive traffic:

1. Testimonials: Testimonials are the absolutely crucial if you’re interested in transforming your business and dramatically increasing sales conversions. A great way to use video is to record testimonials of your clients saying warm and fuzzy statements about your business, your products and your services. Preferably, the video would be face-to-face with customer, but you can also do it virtually using Skype and a nifty little add on called Pamela for Skype, which lets you record the audio and video of any Skype call. I use both and they’ve worked wonders for our company. Once you have the videos, plaster them prominently on your website, send out email blasts to your email distribution list, and post it all over your social networks. People will instinctively trust your company more when they see and hear how other customers found your product/service useful.

2. Interviews: This is a GOLD MINE! I’m really surprised that more businesses don’t do it. No matter what industry you’re in, there are literally hundreds of executives, experts and household names that have a wealth of knowledge on your subject matter. Why not conduct and record simple interviews with these folks to drive traffic to your website and social networks? You’ll probably have to send out quite a few requests for every interview landed, but if you approach it correctly, you may find yourself on a Skype call with some industry heavy-hitters. When people see that you’ve interviewed these big name individuals, they immediately become intrigued and associate a higher degree of credibility with your company. Again, you’ll need a quality camera, Skype and Pamela for Skype—a tool that let’s you record the audio and video of any Skype call.

3. How-To Videos: This should be pretty self-explanatory to most folks. The idea is to record videos that help your audience (customers, potential customers and referrers) solve common problems and overcome obstacles that relate to your industry. For instance, an accounting firm may do a tutorial on using Quickbooks Online (sidebar: If you’re still using Excel or a notepad to manage your business finances, do yourself a favor and get QuickBooks. It’s a.w.e.s.o.m.e.). Providing these valuable tips solidifies you as an expert in your industry and gives you a ton of exposure on networks like YouTube and Vimeo. If you’re interested in recording a video about how-to do something on a computer, your best bet is to use a screen-recording software such as QuickTime Player (free). It’s my software of choice.

4. Events: These opportunities don’t come around quite as much as the others, but when they do, it provides a very good source of content for your audience to consume. Consider recording pivotal moments at an industry tradeshow or even getting video at an awards
ceremony in which someone in your organization is recognized. Remember, this is just other way to keep your audience engaged and your brand at the top of their minds.

Each of these are great opportunities to keep all eyes on your brand. Don’t worry about creating a Hollywood blockbuster, just grab a decent camera and start recording. Once done, share your videos with the world by posting to YouTube or using EasyVideoPlayer. If you use this extremely powerful, low cost means of marketing, you’re sure to reap huge dividends!

Where to put the videos
Website, Youtube or EasyVideoPlayer, Facebook, Twitter, Email, Blog

Tool Kit
Skype
Pamela for Skype
HD Camera or Webcam
Computer screen-recording software such as QuickTime Player or Jing
Editing software such as iMovie or Camtasia

C. Payne is the CEO of Regal Spri Creative Group and author of the Millionaire Marketing Blog. He blogs about the authentic marketing strategies that he's using to build his online graphic design service, GraphicDesignWars.com, into a multi-million dollar business.

 

June 26, 2012

View: Can Miami become a tech entrepreneurship hub for LatAm?

Today's guest blogger offers another view on cultivating South Florida's startup ecosystem. Past views on this topic can be found here, here and here. See a discussion on Quora raised by this author here. What's your view?

By Carlos A. Ordonez

Can Miami become a technology entrepreneurship hub for Latin America?

CarlosOrdonezpicI posted this question in the popular site Quora some time ago and in my blog, trying to find an answer to one of the challenges I believe Miami is facing in finding its technical edge in the Latin American market.

 Some facts taken for granted:

  • Miami has been considered the capital of Latin America, a hub for goods and services.
  • Strategic location.
  • Bilingual city.
  • Latin America sales office for many large corporations.
  • The “banking office” for the region.
    •  

But amid today’s rapid development of tech startups, can Miami be the Latin America hub for tech startups?

 The news is not so promising. These are some facts:

  • Trade: In terms of trade, the latest 2012 Miami Trade Numbers report, presented that Miami is no longer the number one partner of many important economies in Latin America, being surpassed by Houston -- Ouch!!
  • Citrix Accelerator in California: Citrix, a South Florida tech company, opened its Startup Accelerator in Santa Clara, California, not here. Ouch again!!
  • VCs flying over: VC firms from the Bay Area are flying directly to Latin America, such as Benchmark Capital, a San Francisco firm, investing in Brazilian Peixe Urbano. They are stopping here for a drink, like in recent days with the Geeks on a Plane. There is no need to open branches in Miami anymore to take care of the region.

 What is happening in Miami's tech startup scene?

The tech scene in Miami is very scattered, and slow in comparison to other major startup hubs in the US. Yet there are a number of tech events, large and small, happening in different areas of the city throughout the year. The highlights are:

  • Americas VC Conference: The most interesting so far. Set for December this year, FIU's AVCC brings together a number of important experts, professionals and companies from the US and Latin America.
  • SuperConf: Bringing together local and out of town startups, interesting judges and panelists.
  • Tech Meetups: LeanStartup, Ruby Brigade, Android, Google Developers, BlackBerry Developers etc.
  • Tech-a-thons: There has been hack-a-thons, startup weekends, Code Retreats, Bar Camps etc.
  • Other players: The FIU Pino Global Entrepreneurship Center, the Launch Pad hosted at University of Miami, incubators like Incubate Miami plus a small number of co-working spaces complete the environment. I might be missing more groups.

These are all great efforts from all the people involved. It's not comparable to the activity in San Francisco, New York or Austin, but it's much more activity than we used to have here.

  Bottom line: Something is cooking in Miami.

 The question is: Are we moving fast enough? Are there enough people in Miami interested in becoming a tech hub for Latin America?

 Carlos Ordonez is an entrepreneur, co-founder of @aeroinvest and MarketAero.com, tech evangelist, FIU Alumnus and Panther fan committed to helping develop and nourish the tech ecosystem in Miami. More at carlosaordonez.com and @CarlosAOrdonez.

 

 

 

June 25, 2012

Survey: Miami area ranks a C for small business-friendly environment

Thumbtack.com partnered with the Kauffman Foundation to conduct a survey of 6,000 of the small businesses nationwide. Based on the findings, they ranked the friendliness of states and cities towards small business, and have recently released the rankings for Miami's metro area. The Miami area small businesses awarded the city a B+ for its tax system and an A- for its licensing regulations and requirements.  However, the city earned a 'C-' for the ease of starting a business, and D ratings for training and networking, hurting its overall ranking.

You can see Miami's results here: www.thumbtack.com/fl/miami

Do you agree with the findings? What could South Flroida do to ease the process of starting a business?

 

New contest for small businesses: prize is $25,000 and a makeover

American Express OPEN and Facebook have announced the launch of the second annual “Big Break for Small Business.” The national contest is designed to transform the way small businesses connect and engage with customers online.

Here are the details:

1.    Five small business owners will receive house calls from American Express OPEN and Facebook branding experts who conduct in-depth marketing makeovers. Winners will also receive $25,000 in cash to implement the social strategies they learn from the makeovers;

2.    The local communities of the winning businesses will also benefit. Winning businesses can invite other local entrepreneurs to meet a panel of social media and marketing experts to teach them how to use social channels for their business; 

3.    Every small business that enters will get educational and brand-building tools, as well as$50 in free Facebook advertising credits. American Express Cardmembers and merchants who enter will receive $100 in Facebook advertising credits.

To enter, businesses should visit http://www.facebook.com/OPEN and submit answers to a short questionnaire. Ten finalists will be selected by a panel of judges, followed by a voting phase where fans of the American Express OPEN Facebook page will choose their five favorite small businesses.

 

June 18, 2012

Tasha Cunningham: 5 ways to protect your online reputation

By Tasha Cunningham

TashaWeb-03_Cunningham_biz
What can a small business do to protect its reputation online? In the Internet age, a single negative review online can have a direct impact on the bottom line of a small business.

According to eMarketer.com, 83 percent of consumers in a recent survey reported that online reviews influence their perceptions about companies. Eight out of 10 consumers reported that negative information they read about a company online made them change their mind about a purchase decision.

"Managing your online reputation is paramount for a business of any size," says Michael Kiefer, general manager of Brand Protect, an online reputation management company whose clients include Comcast and Bank Atlantic. Kiefer. "Think about it. If someone sprayed graffiti all over the front of your office, you would address it immediately. It’s the same thing with someone spraying online graffiti on your business name online."

So what can a small business owner do?

Kiefer, recommends five strategies to guide small businesses.

1. Start with a plan: "Put together a plan of action of how you will manage the reputation of your business online,"’ Kiefer says. "When you find a negative review about your business, what are you going to do? Who within your business is going to handle it? That plan of action is the first critical step in managing your online reputation."

2. Keep tabs on the Internet: Once you have a plan of action in place, "you’ve got to make sure that you’re listening to everything that is said about your business online," Kiefer says. "Google your business name often, check online review sites, find out if someone is trying to create a website with the name of your business in it."

Social Mention (socialmention.com) and Brand Monitor (brandmonitor.thismoment.com) are two free tools to help you get started. Enter your business name and if someone is talking about your brand online, a list of search results will appear. You should also sign up for Google Alerts that will notify you via e-mail each time your business name is mentioned online.

3. Handling negative reviews: If you find a negative review about your business online, Kiefer recommends, engage the author of the comment. "It’s very important that when you find a negative review about your business online, whether on a website or on social media, don’t panic," said Kiefer. "Instead, respond to the review. You need people, who may well be potential customers, to see that you take online reviews seriously and are willing to respond and fix the problem."

4. Make your website reputation ready: "Make sure the titles of the pages on your website contain key words that will help you rank high in search results," Kiefer says. "This will help to bury negative reviews and push them off the first page of results."

5. Create brand-specific content: "For a small business, it’s not just about what’s responding to what’s said about you online," Kiefer says. "It’s also about building your online reputation by creating content that will rank high in search results. This includes blog posts, social media updates, articles, videos and other content that helps to build your business brand."

For more tools and techniques for managing your online reputation, log on to www.BizBytes101.com.

 

 

June 15, 2012

View: Congress provided shot in the arm for entrepreneurs

Today's guest post is by Jerry Haar, director of Florida International University's Pino Global Entrepreneurship Center.

 By Jerry Haar

Jerry HaarIn occurrences as rare as a total eclipse of the sun or a DUI-free week of motoring by Lindsay Lohan, Congress suspended it partisan political warfare once during the last three months and came together to support job creation and entrepreneurial firms. This development provides rays of hope and optimism amid an all too bleak economic and political landscape.

Two legislative proposals—one already law—are testaments to responsible government. The legislation is the Jumpstart Our Business Startups (JOBS) Act and Startup Act 2.0.

The first is a law intended to encourage funding of United States small businesses by easing various securities regulations. It passed with bipartisan support, and was signed into law by the President of the United States on April 5, 2012.

The legislation extends the amount of time that certain new public companies have to begin
compliance with certain requirements, including certain requirements that originated with the Sarbanes–Oxley Act, from two years to five years. The bipartisan act allows for an increase in the number of shareholders a company may have before being required to register its common stock with the SEC and become a publicly reporting company; and the law legalizes crowd funding, thereby enabling companies to sell securities through open platforms, similar to the Kickstarter online model
for funding artists and designers. The JOBS Act also gives a boost to non-profit organizations which operate crowd funding platforms for microfinance loans, such as Kiva and Zidisha.

For Miami-based companies like CareCloud, whose CEO Albert Santalo, an FIU alumnus who attended the Act’s signing ceremony at the White House Rose Garden, the JOBS Act is a shot in the arm that will increase access to capital for both start-up and later-stage firms. Additionally, ti will decrease the costs and reduce the time associated with an IPO, resulting in the expansion and creation of good jobs which Miami sorely needs.

The second legislative proposal, the U.S. Senate’s Startup Act 2.0 picks up where the JOBS Act left
off by helping jumpstart the economy via new business creation and growth. During the last 30 years, firms less than five years old have created nearly all net new jobs, according to the Kauffman Foundation. Startup Act 2.0 creates an Entrepreneur’s Visa for legal immigrants, so they can remain in the U.S., boosting growth and creating jobs. It also creates a new STEM visa so that U.S.-educated foreign students who graduate with a graduate degree in technical areas can receive a green card and
stay in the U.S., launch businesses and create jobs. With 25% of all new technology companies founded by foreign-born entrepreneurs, following in the footsteps of previous immigrants such as Andy Grove and Sergey Brin.

Startup Act 2.0 also eliminates the per-country caps for employment-based immigrant visas which restrict U.S. employers from recruiting the first-rate talent they—and the nation--need to succeed. Regarding capital access, Startup Act 2.0 will permanently exempt capital gains taxes on the sale
of certain small-business stock held for at least five years (to provide financial stability) and institute an R&D tax credit for startups less than five years old and annual revenues less than $5 million.

The original authors of the The JOBS Act, which the president signed into law, were none other than Republican Eric Cantor, the House Majority Leader, and House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy. The Democrat-controlled  Senate supported the bill. The Startup Act 2.0 is a bipartisan initiative of Republican Senators  Marco Rubio and Jerry Moran and Democrat Senators Chris Coons and Mark Warner.

At a time when the nation’s economy continues to amble along anemically and congressional gridlock is the rule of day, it is gratifying to see that politicians can bury the partisan hatchet, even if only briefly, to support for entrepreneurship, job creation and economic development. For South Florida, in the midst of building an ecosystem for innovative firms and targeting higher value-added employment, this news could not be more welcome.

Jerry Haar is associate dean and director of the Pino Global Entrepreneurship Center in FIU’s College of Business Administration.

 

June 10, 2012

View: Latin America trip shines light on what Miami needs -- A call to action

Today's guest post is by Susan Amat, executive director of UM's Launch Pad, who wrote this column for Business Monday. What's your view?

By Susan Amat 

AmatTwo weeks ago I returned from Geeks on a Plane (GOAP): Latin America. Hosted by Silicon Valley-based venture capital firm 500 Startups, GOAP involved 35+ technology entrepreneurs and investors traveling to different cities to be immersed in their tech entrepreneurship ecosystems. Reasons to join the 10-day adventure were varied: Some were looking for deals in which to invest, others were contemplating opening a foreign office or moving their businesses overseas.

Through the generosity of the Knight Foundation, my comrades from Miami and I hoped to experience the developing ecosystems in Mexico City, Sao Paulo and Buenos Aires, searching for inspiration and answers in our efforts to support and grow the Miami community. By leaving Miami, I saw the opportunities and issues we face in a new light.

In Mexico City, the importance of transparency was enforced daily. There are several funds investing in early- and growth-stage businesses in Mexico, a small community where everyone knows one another. Over several conversations, each speaker separately cited that “outsiders trusting their
operations and interests” was the key to their abilities to raise, invest and maintain some level of cooperation with all interested parties (entrepreneurs, government, industry, etc.).

 Interestingly enough, the money seemed to be telling the story of the opportunities in Mexico rather than the entrepreneurs. The investors painted a picture of ethical business dealings, government support and committed investors who are there for the long run. I’ll return to this point in a moment.

GOAP_3536In Sao Paulo, the entrepreneurs were center stage, sharing their experiences in their burgeoning economy. The challenges of starting and growing a business in Brazil were suffocating. Barriers included an extremely high cost of living (higher than NYC), wages comparable to the U.S. but with 100–125% tacked on for benefits, and unionization of all employees with stringent laws and policies dictating their activities. (Photo by Davide di Cillo)

The entrepreneurs, especially Predicta, a unique tech-focused advertising agency and consultancy, were total hustlers (I mean that as a HUGE compliment) and I know are destined for international greatness. The community support system — especially Brazil Innovators, a nonprofit that organizes and coordinates most of the events that is led by Bedy Yang — is focused on education and making connections.

 With all of the roadblocks, Brazil’s entrepreneurs are bonded in their common struggle, and the
community is one of the most collaborative I have seen. In our four days in Brazil, events were always co-sponsored by multiple groups and participants were supportive regardless of other allegiances (school, chamber, organizations, etc). They put aside differences to find ways to work together — win/win.

Buenos Aires was amazing. From multiple accounts, the scene sprouted organically through Palmero Valley meet-ups — first drawing a handful and now up to 800 attendees for the larger events. My new friends at Mercado Libre (Ebay for LatAm) and Catmandu Studios (animation studio extraordinaire)
provided inspirational stories that any community would envy. Mercado Libre’s high-rise offices overlook the garage where the business was started. Catmandu is creating the first feature length 3D animated film about soccer, called Foosball. Its team has both top animators from around the world and local animators cutting their teeth — and training the next generation. The goal is to build the animation industry in Argentina from scratch. I feel like that is what we are doing here as a bunch of individuals. We need one focused goal.

I traveled with Brian Breslin and Davide Di Cillo, Refresh Miami organizers who host monthly events drawing hundreds of tech professionals. We reflected on each GOAP event together, from different perspectives, but always arrived at similar conclusions. Things I took for granted, like connectivity
and ease of doing business, are now strengths as we tell our story to the world. But the new understanding I have of our challenges has been hard to swallow.

While a lot of groups do things “together,” there is very little collaboration in this space. This must change; and not just working together so we can say we are, but real value-added, synergy creation — connecting excellence. If we want to be a world-class city, we must demand excellence from
all of those who represent us to the world. This touches upon the transparency issue that Mexico City has identified as its biggest challenge. How does the outside world view our business community and our government? Zero tolerance for unethical behavior or are shady individuals still accepted as prominent members of our community?

The collaboration I saw in Brazil set the tone for a call to action in our own community: WHO is doing WHAT the best and HOW do we get THOSE people working together on ONE focused goal for the community?

Buenos Aires went from a handful to hundreds of animators in less than two years, and educational institutions are starting programs to support the interest, bringing in new blood from all over the continent. The government is providing incentives to support the creation and growth of more studios so these students will be able to get experience and jobs to stay in the community. One community, one goal.

What Miami-Dade College has done with the Miami Culinary Institute is a great example. Innovative, playing on Miami strengths, and pulling in the local stars (thank you for Tuyo!). What else is happening in Miami that is world-class? If we want to make Miami amazing,  it is about giving the best entrepreneurs, leaders and programs access to whatever they need to hit it out of the park. If
we don’t, they will leave and we can’t afford more brain drain.

 Our region is the most transient in the United States. We won’t keep them here if we keep supporting mediocrity. And we won’t attract new awesome entrepreneurs, inventors, creatives, technologists and leadership to feed our growth unless the community embraces entrepreneurs and established businesses are involved in supporting new ideas and products. This happens when decision makers in government and established businesses champion the entrepreneurial community as problem solvers, risk mitigators and job and opportunity creators. We need more investors who offer value beyond financial support, who understand predatory terms kill a startup’s long-term potential. 
We need to celebrate individuals and companies who lead with ethics and transparency — and want to grow Miami. They have a higher calling, a mission to stimulate growth, jobs, opportunities and make South Florida a better place to live, work and play for all of us.

For more information about our GOAP trip, please visit the Knight Foundation blog, which also includes video interviews with our fellow travelers shot by Brian and Davide. Also, see an earlier post about GOAP here.

Susan Amat is co-founder and executive director of The Launch Pad at the University of Miami, which has helped hundreds of entrepreneurs develop skills, make connections and launch businesses. She also leads Startup Florida. Follow her on Twitter: @SusanAmat

 

 

June 08, 2012

CIOs: It's a challenge to find IT talent

Seventy percent of chief information officers in the most recent national Robert Half Technology survey said it’s hard to find the IT talent they need, and that’s up five percents points from last quarter.

 Demand for IT professionals in South Florida is being driven, in part, by rapid growth in  mobile media and big data opportunities, said Matt Bourdeau, regional vice president for Robert Half Technology in South Florida. Hot specialties include database management, network administration and help desk/technical support, mirroring national trends, he said. “It’s a good time to be in IT in South Florida,” Bourdeau said.

Nationally, nearly all CIOs plan to maintain their current IT staffing levels in the third quarter of 2012, according to the Robert Half Technology IT Hiring Index and Skills Report. Just 5 percent of CIOs interviewed said they expect to expand their IT departments, and 4 percent anticipate cutbacks, for a net 1 percent projected increase in hiring activity.

Looking ahead, 76 percent of CIOs are somewhat or very confident in their companies’ growth prospects in the next three months, compared to 87 percent in the prior quarter, and 86 percent of technology executives expressed confidence that their firms would be making investments in IT projects in the third-quarter, up five points from last quarter.

The survey is conducted by an independent research firm and developed by Robert Half Technology. These results are based on interviews with more than 1,400 CIOs surveyed at companies across the U.S. with 100 or more employees.

Bordeau’s advice to IT job seekers: Remain positive, network and keep an open mind to project or temporary work to get your foot in the door.

June 06, 2012

View: Why shouldn't South Florida be a healthcare IT hub?

Today's guest post about building a high-tech healthcare hub is by Ahmed Mori of CareCloud, and was originally written for the CareCloud blog. Find another CareCloud post on the topic here and posts I wrote here and here.

What do you think? Should we try to specialize and brand the Miami region as a healthcare technology hub? Or should we take a more diversified approach? What's your view?

By Ahmed Mori

Ahmed 2You can connect with them online via Refresh Miami or Meetup.com, where dozens of “meetup groups” are created almost daily to link up and trade ideas on gamified healthcare apps. Or you can find them at a Google SEO workshop with the South Florida Aspiring Entrepreneurs.

After Silicon Valley took care of the dirty work, these entrepreneurial South Floridians have taken advantage of democratized technology, using open source coding packages and hosted networks to deliver healthcare and other services in innovative ways.

The question is why isn’t South Florida considered a premier option for healthcare IT startups? The environment is conducive to innovation in the field -- Florida is a destination for retirees who are more prone to seeking medical care, ranks among the top ten states for healthcare job occupancies and Healthgrades even identified West Palm Beach as one of the nation’s top cities for healthcare.

Furthermore, Florida is ranked fourth among states with the highest number of technology companies. Yet it’s often left out of industry publications’ “hot cities and states” lists, although average tech employees in the state earn 72% more than their private sector peers, and tech-sector employment remained stable throughout the recession.

Higher Education
As centers of innovative young blood and thought leadership, South Florida’s strong local universities will anchor much of these successful health IT startups. The University of Miami, who boasts the respected Miller School of Medicine and a new biotechnology hub, is a huge presence in the area and produces much of the region’s entrepreneurs and culterati. Also, the construction of UM’s Life Science & Technology Park in the heart of the city’s Health District is a huge draw for healthcare IT startups.

In addition, the school’s entrepreneurship center, Toppel, created The Launch Pad five years ago to assist entrepreneurs with opportunity recognition and strategies to launch and grow startups and non-profits. The program is co-directed by healthcare innovator Dr. Susan Amat and has assisted local tech initiatives like iPad white board app SyncPad.

Florida International University isn’t far behind – with its own med school, a growing IT program and regular events with speakers like healthcare IT guru Samir Chatterjee, the fast-expanding research university is a hotspot for local talent, much of which will find career opportunities at various startups.

Resources
South Florida has nothing to envy about cities like San Francisco, New York, Boston or Minneapolis, all home to various healthcare IT startups. Like the first two cities mentioned, Miami is home to a Network Access Point (referred to as NAP of the Americas because it connects three continents), bolstered by the city’s network of underwater fiber optic routes.

Furthermore, the Verizon-owned Terremark is a Miami-based, telecommunications firm that provides IT services like managed hosting, colocation, security, data storage and cloud computing services to numerous startups, established companies and even the U.S. government. And as all trends indicate, a health IT startup off the cloud is economically unfeasible and overall impractical.

Accordingly, South Florida has seen a rise in organizations dedicated to supporting startups in all industries. Incubate Miami, a technology incubator, connects startups with seasoned entrepreneurs and eager financial patrons, and the fifteen angel investors of the Miami Innovation Fund funded its first mobile voice information technology venture last year.

Citrix Systems has a massive presence in the South Florida area. Aside from being a go-to service for EHR virtualization in large hospital systems nationwide, the company recently launched Startup Accelerator, which aims to nurture nascent entrepreneurs in mobile and cloud computing with $400,000 in seed funding and a few weeks in Silicon Valley.

Their efforts are a testament to the area’s burgeoning startup culture. Along with IBM, Citrix sponsors Internet Coast, a regional non-partisan group of business, community, political, education and healthcare leaders with the vision of creating a world-class science and technology hub in South Florida.

There’s also a population density argument to consider. According to How Ideas Happen author Steven Johnson, a city 10 times larger than any given counterpart is exponentially more creative, producing more than 17 times the ideas.

Considering South Florida is the largest metropolitan area in the Southeastern United States, why wouldn’t we flourish within what urban studies theorist Richard Florida deems the next “it” geographical area in American startup innovation? The Magic City alone has been known to prosper rapidly, having achieved status as the international banking capital of the country and the world’s fifth richest city in terms of purchasing power.

Given the state of technology, the revolutions in the way we connect with other human beings and the region’s idyllic weather, conditions are just right to watch a South Florida-bred healthcare tech scene bloom.

Ahmed Mori is a healthcare content writer at Miami-based CareCloud, a leading provider of web-based software and services for the healthcare industry.

 

June 05, 2012

View: EB-5 program can be lifeline to capital

By Ronald R. Fieldstone, Arnstein & Lehr LLP

Ronald_Fieldstone_HRSmall business enterprises have very few options when it comes to raising capital. Therefore, many of them are turning to alternative means to obtain a financial boost that their businesses so desperately need. The EB-5 program is an opportunity to obtain foreign investment dollars to develop or expand businesses in connection with the creation of jobs.

The employment-based immigration program enables a foreign investor and his or her spouse and children under the age of 21 to obtain permanent U. S. residency status by investing $1,000,000 million or $500,000 in a new or existing commercial enterprise that directly or indirectly creates at least 10 U.S. jobs.

After two years of investment and proof that the business enterprise has created the new jobs, the immigrant investor and his or her family, become entitled to obtain permanent U.S. residency status.  It is estimated that through fiscal year 2011, up to 65,000 jobs and $3.1 billion dollars of investment had been made in the EB-5 Program.

From the standpoint of a small business enterprise, the EB-5 program provides a unique opportunity to obtain reasonably low cost and/or reasonably priced debt/equity funding. Small business owners seeking EB-5 funding need to take the following actions:

1.                  Form a regional center to sponsor the EB-5 investment, or team up with one of the two hundred existing regional centers in the U.S.  This allows both direct and indirect jobs to qualify as part of the EB-5 investment.

2.                  Once a regional center has either been formed or selected, an offering is marketed by both domestic and offshore agents to foreigners who specialize in raising capital for the EB-5 program.  Almost all EB-5 programs include the reduced $500,000 investment amount.

3.                  The offering would need to comply with applicable U.S. securities laws and all selling activities to raise capital would likewise need to comply with not only U.S. securities laws but the laws of the applicable foreign jurisdictions where the foreigners are located.

USCIS recently reported that approximately 1,076 EB-5 visas have been issued so far in the first half of the 2012 fiscal year, which is the highest utilization rate to date.

At this pace, the 2012 program may come close to using its 10,000 annual visa allocations for the first time since its inception in 1990.  This would create an estimated 40,000 new jobs for U.S. workers in fiscal 2012.

For further information, there are several websites that provide information on the EB-5 program, and in particular, the website for the Association to Invest in the United States (“IIUSA”)  would be a good starting point.

Ronald R. Fieldstone is a partner at the law firm of Arnstein & Lehr LLP.  He can be contacted at +1 (305) 428-4521 or by email: rrfieldstone@arnstein.com