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31 posts from September 2012

September 30, 2012

New Twitter features help you cost-effectively target your tweets

By Tasha Cunningham

TashaIf you are a small business owner using Twitter to promote your product or service, there are two features the popular microblogging site rolled out in August — targeted and promoted tweets. These features allow you to cost-effectively focus your tweets and elect to have them shown to a specific audience, such as potential customers in a certain geographic location.

Here’s a guide to help you get started.

Targeted tweets: This new type of tweet is great because it allows you to select a certain subset of
Twitter users to see it. Subsets are the categories and keywords related to the content of your tweet. For example, if you are the owner of a pet grooming salon, you can select the category “pets”. If you only groom dogs, you can also select the subcategory “dogs.”

Promoted tweets: With promoted tweets, advertisers can purchase tweets based on what kinds of things users do with their Twitter accounts. It also comes with a dedicated dashboard that allows you to track the performance of your tweets in real-time.

A promoted tweet takes into account user behavior. So, you can promote a tweet based on who users follow, what kinds of tweets they engage with on a regular basis and how often they use Twitter. Your promoted tweet will show up at the top of a user’s feed. And, when a user searches Twitter for certain keywords, if your promoted tweet contains the hashtag for that keyword, it will appear near the top of the search results page that Twitter generates. You also have the option of sending a promoted tweet to just the users who follow you. Promoted tweets can also be geo-targeted and directed at a U.S. region or internationally.

Promoted tweets are not “promoted accounts” or “promoted trends,” which can both be pricey to purchase. Promoted accounts are the ones that appear in the Who to Follow section of your Twitter page on the left-hand side. Promoted trends also appear on the left-hand side, but they are those hashtagged words and phrases versus accounts that are in the area of your Twitter page. Both promoted accounts and trends are purchased in blocks of time, which can run you well into six figures for a single engagement.

How to buy: To understand how to buy promoted and targeted tweets, Twitter has developed a
webpage, https://business.twitter.com/en/smallbiz/, to help users get started. You can purchase ads for as little as 10 cents per “engagement,” which means each time a person clicks, retweets or shares your ad, you will be charged 10 cents.

As an added bonus, new advertisers can sign-up to receive $100 in free Twitter ads and if you are an American Express cardholder. For more information, log on to Bizbytes101.com

Tasha Cunningham writes a twice-monthly column for The Miami Herald's Business Monday.


September 29, 2012

Broward SCORE holding Entrepreneur Mentor Day for the over-50 set

The U.S. Small Business Administration, AARP and Broward SCORE will team up on Tuesday, Oct. 2, for the first National Encore Entrepreneur Mentor Day at Nova Southeastern University to help people over the age of 50 start or grow a business.

The free Entrepreneur Mentor Day event, from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. at the Alvin Sherman Library, 3100 Ray Ferrero Blvd., will match entrepreneurs with successful business owners and community leaders for advice and assistance during five-minute speed counseling sessions.

National Encore Entrepreneur Mentor Day is part of a larger effort by the SBA, AARP, and Broward SCORE to promote entrepreneurship among people over 50.

“We find that older entrepreneurs are often more dedicated and eager to do whatever is possible to
work on their business goals,” said George Gremse, chair of Broward SCORE. “And, when they take advantage of long-term counseling they tend to see better results.”

For more information call Broward SCORE at 954-356-7263 or visit www.BrowardSCORE.org.

September 27, 2012

Launch Pad accelerator coming to downtown Miami

By Nancy Dahlberg, ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

AmatacceleratorW8_St_56Through a first-of-its-kind public-private partnership slated to be announced Friday, a new technology business accelerator designed to recruit and cultivate high-growth start-ups is coming to downtown Miami.

The Launch Pad Tech Accelerator, created by The Launch Pad, an entrepreneurial resource center at the University of Miami, is backed by nearly $1.5 million in public-sector funding. Miami-Dade County is contributing $1 million over four years; the Miami Downtown Development Authority is investing $460,000 for operational expenses over two years.

It’s the first time the county and city have partnered to fund an endeavor to position Miami
as a hub for start-up technology businesses, said Jack Osterholt, Miami-Dade County’s deputy mayor.

Across the country and globally, accelerators provide the resources, mentoring and networks needed to grow technology companies with high potential to create jobs. When the DDA began exploring ways to promote and build an entrepreneurial culture in Miami’s urban core, it looked to models that were already working, said Alyce Robertson, DDA’s executive director. “We didn’t have to reinvent the wheel. Launch Pad’s program is nationally recognized.”

The Launch Pad, started in 2008, has helped UM students and alumni launch more than 80
businesses, said Susan Amat, its co-founder and executive director. The Launch Pad model has been replicated at six universities nationwide.

The downtown Launch Pad Tech Accelerator will accept 10 companies in three sectors that will
support existing industries: tourism/hospitality, creative (art, design, fashion, music, film) and healthcare. The accelerator will also offer expertise in Latin American opportunities in those sectors. The first program wil begin in January.

 “The goal of this program is economic development for the county. It’s all about attracting amazing tech entrepreneurs from all over the world who are in these verticals that South Florida has as strengths,” Amat said. “The accelerator model in itself is a true innovation.”

The accelerator will be based at Terremark’s downtown Miami NAP (Network Access Point) of the Americas, the physical and virtual meeting point for all optical, Ethernet, voice and Internet traffic
between Latin America and the rest of the world.

 Miami City Commissioner Marc Sarnoff, chairman of the DDA, has been a proponent of the accelerator from the beginning. “There has never been a very concerted effort to create a technology hub in the downtown of Miami,” the commissioner said. “With the NAP, remember we are the only North American Access Point in the world, we are extremely well situated to build on the premise that we can be and are and should be a technology city.”

How the program will work: Companies selected in a competitive process will get three months of
intensive entrepreneurial training, office space and $25,000 grants; office space and mentoring will continue for a year. In addition, Amat said, the entrepreneur will get a support system for life.

The Launch Pad Technology Accelerator will also “adopt” 25 local tech start-ups that will have
access to structured programming events, mentoring and a reduced rate for office space at a location nearby. “The goal is to make downtown the place to be if you want to do tech,” Amat said. “There’s a lot going on down here, but it is really spread out. Once we bring everyone together, it is going to feel like a very different place very soon.”

What also differentiates this accelerator from most, Amat said, is that it takes no equity stake in the businesses. The $25,000 grants, which will be funded by the county for the first four years, have no strings attached for the entrepreneur.

Although uncommon, the nonprofit model for the accelerator can work.

 For entrepreneurs, “there’s a pressing need for non-diluted money at these early stages,” said Ted Zoller, a senior scholar at the Kauffman Foundation, a nonprofit entrepreneurship think tank.  For the accelerator, the keys to success, he said, “will be to get qualified entrepreneurs involved, it has to be privately driven, it has to be competitive, it has to be really focused on what the market needs and it has to be real world. My expectation is Launch Pad does just that.” But he warned sustaining the nonprofit model will be a challenge; the accelerator will need to look beyond the government for funding. “Of course, they are going to have to bring in the high-net-worth individuals that start writing checks.”

Linking the start-ups to the sectors of strength in the local economy is a smart idea because that brings together customers, serial entrepreneurs and financiers in those industries; with all three you have a compete ecosystem, Zoller said. “If [accelerator organizers] are using the same concepts as they are using at the university, my sense is they will be very successful. ... They have unlocked the power of the network,” he added.

 Amat believes UM students will also benefit from the Launch Pad Tech Accelerator. They could work as part of the start-up teams, receiving real-world experiential learning, she said. ”The skills sets of students in law, engineering, medicine, business., communication and music can all be utilized, honed and enhanced through Launch Pad Tech in ways that could never be done in a classroom.”

 Internet marketing entrepreneur Loren Ridinger, co-founder of MarketAmerica.com based in Miami Beach, says start-up companies that may not have considered moving to Miami will now.

“The technology accelerator is exactly what Miami needs to become the hub of tech start-ups in
the hemisphere,” Ridinger said. “Many start-ups in art, fashion, travel, lifestyle would be excited to call Miami home, but it has been hard to attract them when there hasn’t been anything like this.

 “People don’t associate Miami with a tech hub — this gives us more sophistication. It lets us play with the big dogs.”

How to apply: Applications for entry to The Launch Pad Tech Accelerator program may be submitted now through Nov. 5, 2012 at launchpadtech.co. The first program will start in January.

(Photo shows Launch Pad Executive Director Susan Amat with a group of entrepreneurs at the space where the Launch Pad Tech Accelerator will be housed in downtown Miami. Photo by Miami Herald photographer CW Griffin)

September 26, 2012

View: 9 reasons why South Florida is the best place to work for digital professionals

By David Clarke

David Clarke, CEO & Co-Founder, BGT Partners

I wouldn’t have said this five years ago, but now in 2012 I’m happy to state that there’s no better place to have a wonderful life and rewarding digital career than South Florida. With exciting work, multicultural digital experts and the ability to live in paradise, South Florida stands out. Our digital community is extremely active, and the real challenge is finding more talent to fill the myriad of open positions.         

 Think we’re not the next digital hub? Here are nine reasons why South Florida is the best place to work in the country for digital professionals:

1)  Better quality of life: As the digital industry ages, our needs change. Having a family and raising kids in Silicon Valley or New York City is an exercise in compromise and penny-pinching. Why
face such challenges when South Florida’s unparalleled quality of work and life is an option?

2) Digital job variety: A smorgasbord, if you will. From one of the country’s fastest-growing mobile companies, 3Cinteractive, to the world’s hottest fitness company, Zumba, to the global cruise
leader, Carnival Cruise Lines, hundreds of digital jobs are available.

3) Enjoy the wide open space: Tired of cramped quarters? By relocating to South Florida, you’re almost guaranteed more square footage and an upgraded work space. 

4) Work hard AND play hard: This lofty goal is achievable in South Florida – what better place to have a satisfying career while enjoying the remarkable scenery? In fact, studies have shown that if you’re happy outside of work you’ll probably enjoy your working hours even more.

5) Career growth: Companies are looking for both junior- and senior-level talent, so opportunities abound. If you’re willing to put the time in, you can rise up the ranks.

6) Sophisticated challenges: South Florida is home to industry leaders that are extremely active in the digital realm, and their award-winning work is done by locally based agencies.

7) Multicultural and international character: Miami is the “Gateway to Latin America” and South Florida houses many headquarters for the Southeastern U.S. This means most of the digital jobs will be national and international in scope. Additionally, working with multicultural teams adds a unique global perspective that enhances effectiveness.

8) Livable cities: South Florida’s cities are some of the most livable in the world with beautiful weather, stunning beaches and thriving urban cores. Miami was named a Top 10 Best Place to Live and Ft. Lauderdale is increasingly becoming attractive to young professionals.

9) Happy @work: South Florida professionals are happy people. In fact, Miami was recently rated the #1 Happiest City for Jobs, beating out the likes of New York, San Francisco and Boston as the choice place to make a career move.

The last few years have been strong for South Florida’s digital community. We saw an influx of talent from inside and outside the U.S., our national recognition as a digital hub is mounting and
companies within the region are expanding their marketing budgets. This is an opportune time to make a career move, and as a New York transplant I can tell you that it’s well worth it.

 David Clarke is CEO and co-founder of BGT Partners, a South Florida-based digital marketing agency named an Ad Age Best Place to Work in the U.S. in 2010, 2011 and 2012.


September 24, 2012

5 arts organizations in running for Knight grant -- vote today

Five arts organizations — 6th Street Dance Studio, Arts Garage, FUNDarte, LAB Miami and Urgent Inc. — are in the running for $20,000 in the first Knight Arts Challenge People’s Choice Award.

Each of the nominees has a video up at KnightArts.org/peopleschoice. Voters can send a text message to the number on the website to choose their favorite.

Votes can be cast by text through Oct. 22.

The People’s Choice nominees are also finalists for the 2012 Knight Arts Challenge, sponsored by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. Each group is still eligible for a challenge grant as well as the popular vote award. The Knight Arts Challenge is in its fifth year.

Winners will be announced for both awards on Dec. 3.

LAB Miami, the startup running a co-working space in Wynwood, put on Hack the Bass, the first hackathon for the arts, and many other events in the tech community. Should LAB MIami win, it says it would use the funds to develop a creative-tech education program, including a 3-day tech-art hackathon, where both software and physical art is created.

 Congratulations to LAB and all the finalists.


Dueling tech panels north of the border

Broward County serves up two interesting events Tuesday night, in this information that comes courtesy of Miami Startup Digest:

20-Year Anniversary of the SmartPhone - SFTA Event

Tuesday, September 25, 2012 @ 5:00PM |  Citrix Systems, 851 W. Cypress Creek Road, Fort Lauderdale, FL

This year marks the 20th anniversary of the first SmartPhone, the Simon, which was developed by IBM in South Florida! This area is also driving many of the latest mobility developments at companies like Motorola, Citrix, RIM, AuthenTec (recently acquired by Apple), Foxconn, 3C Interactive, OpenPeak, Modernizing Medicine and many others.

Join Chris Fleck, VP of Mobility Solutions at Citrix, as he moderates this all-star panel:

John Sculley – Former CEO of Apple and South Florida Tech Investor

Jamie Borras – Former SVP of Research at Motorola and developer of PushToTalk

Scott Moody – Founder of AuthenTec, recently acquired by Apple

Jerry Merckel – Led the initial Simon SmartPhone concept and strategy at IBM

Crowd Funding: Has funding your start up just gotten easier?($30-35)

Tuesday, September 25 @ 6:30PM | Nova Southeastern University, Sales Institute Conference Center Room 3000, H. Carl DeSantis Building, Davie, FL

In March of this year Congress passed the JOBS Act, which President Obama signed into law. The Act makes it easier for small companies to solicit investors with the goal of creating a more robust market for smaller companies. Will these new rules do that? Will quick money create long term issues?

At this event you can hear what the investment community has to say with a panel of experts:

Les Croland, Partner, Edwards Wildman

Casey A. Swercheck, Associate, Florida Growth Fund, Hamilton Lane

Maurice Lopes, Founder and CEO, EarlyShares.com

Albert B. Maggio, Jr., (Moderator) Of Counsel to Carey Rodriguez Greenberg & O’Keefe LLP


If you aren't already a subscriber to Miami Startup Digest, a weekly newsletter of events and commentary about the startup scene curated by Andrej Kostresevic, you want to be. Sign up on startupdigest.com


September 22, 2012

Banker's view: What small businesses need to get a loan

By Frank Newman

  Frank NewmanWhile small businesses owners continue to face challenges in an uncertain economic environment, today a significant number of companies in South Florida and elsewhere are getting loans. At Wells Fargo, there was a modest increase in loan demand in the first half of the year. The businesses that are applying for loans today are stronger than they were a year ago, and as stronger businesses apply for loans, more small business owners are receiving approvals.

 According to the latest Wells Fargo/Gallup Small Business Index — a quarterly survey of small business owners nationwide — cash flow and revenue are key concerns. And more than one
in three small business owners (34 percent) indicated that getting credit was “somewhat or very difficult.”

To help more small businesses join those who are hearing “yes,” here are the five things owners need to know when applying for a loan or line of credit.

 1) Steady cash flow: Cash flow is a key indicator of a business’ health and its future prospects. Businesses that show reliable cash flow demonstrate that they have the resources to pay for new loans.

2) A manageable debt load: Banks want to ensure that businesses have the ability to take on additional debt and are in a strong financial position to manage debt payments.

3) A good payment history: Before extending credit, a financial institution needs to be confident of a business’ ability to repay. Payment history provides a record of ability to responsibly pay down debt. Obtaining a business debit or credit card is a good way to begin building a payment history.

4) Demonstrate business acumen: Banks want to see that potential challenges have been anticipated and that business owners have the management skills to overcome obstacles and pursue opportunities. Have a business plan that addresses major challenges your business may face.

5) Build a solid banking relationship: Having a long-term relationship with a bank — for both business and personal accounts — will help create a track record of financial management and creditworthiness.

Here’s one final tip: Business owners who find that debt, cash flow or payment history are the barriers to securing a loan should take a good look at their business model. Are new revenue streams available? Are there other opportunities to control costs? Will a change in product mix, pricing or staffing improve profitability?

To get approval on small business loan applications don’t hesitate to contact the expert at your local bank — he or she may help you consider all the alternatives that will improve business and the likelihood of getting an approval.

 Frank Newman is regional president at Wells Fargo, South Florida. He wrote this column for Business Monday.


September 20, 2012

New nonprofit aims to connect startup ecosystem

Slider Logo

By Norberto “Tito” Gil

A ‘good’ problem often times presents an opportunity to create something extraordinary. Miami has a ‘good’ problem on its hands: how can the various protagonists of the Miami entrepreneurial story be connected in a way that is tech-savvy and that allows for progress and productivity to occur in real-time?

Tito Gil Headshot
In discussing this problem with organizations and entrepreneurs in Miami, I was introduced to a vibrant software development company called Rokk3r Labs in South Beach. We shared a similar passion to tackle this issue. We identified it as a community concern that was actually an opportunity (a ‘good’ problem!). As a result we threw traditional thinking out the window and came up with something extraordinary: mapyourstartup.com, a web and mobile app to connect the Miami startup ecosystem!

Mapyourstartup.com is a not-for-profit with a mission to encourage, promote and connect the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Miami, and to showcase South Florida as a thriving business destination. At mapyourstartup.com, visitors get a real-time view into how many startups exist, which are hiring, who are the investors in the community and so much more.

What makes this effort even more special is that Rokk3r Labs held an event in South Beach to build the mapyourstartup.com web and mobile app in just 12 hours! We’re working hard to improve the site, and our next update will be releasing the data APIs (Application Programming Interfaces) to the community through mapyourstartup.com, encouraging others to create mash-ups and their own apps (as well as request additional data) using the constantly updated information to support the Miami start-up scene.

In the few days since mapyourstartup.com launched, 45+ companies have registered. It is inspiring to see so many innovative companies in our backyard! Although most are tech-driven, they are spread out over a number of industries: fashion, payments, entertainment, etc. This is further evidence of the diverse talents, backgrounds and ambition present in Miami’s entrepreneurial landscape.  In order to further support these activities, we will be announcing our first event in the coming weeks for Miami’s entrepreneurial community.

As we build mapyourstartup.com to connect Miami’s startup ecosystem, we would love your involvement, feedback on how to improve, and thoughts on topics for future events. Connect via email (ideas@mapyourstartup.com), Twitter (@mapyourstartup) and Facebook (/mapyourstartup).

MapYourStartup.com was created by Norberto “Tito” Gil (@titogil), who is shown in the photo above, and Rokk3r Labs (www.rokk3rlabs.com). Norberto “Tito” Gil, an entrepreneur with a background in finance, is dedicated to further connecting the entrepreneurial ecosystem in South Florida, where he grew up. 

Starting Gate welcomes guest posts! Send your idea to me at ndahlberg@MiamiHerald.com or @ndahlberg

Inside Hack the Bass: an idea for the arts worth emulating

By Boris Hirmas Said

BHS File Photo 2It is inspiring to witness firsthand the engagement of our local tech community in what I see as the chess tournaments of our times -- The Hackathon. Unfortunately, the term “hacker” has come to be unjustly and inaccurately associated to criminal technologists. It is too bad, because Hackers actually represent many of the best and most innovative qualities associated with technology. Actually, to hack is to fix or improve, to write or refine computer programs skillfully, according to the American Heritage Dictionary.

Last month more than 160 contestants participated in the AT&T Mobile App Hackathon at UM’s Life Science & Technology Park, a remarkably large crowd. That is not even accounting for the more than 100 hackers that competed remotely from five co-working spaces in three different countries in Latin America via Google+.

Innovation is about connecting the existing dots differently and Silvia Cubiñá, director of the Bass Museum in Miami Beach, did just that, when she heard about mobile apps developed at hackathons from her son Alfredo, who was interning at the co-working space LAB Miami in Wynwood. She realized it would be ideal to leverage the local tech community’s innovation and creativity to come up with a mobile app for Temporary Contemporary, the Museum’s Public Art program to be launched in November, just before Art Basel Miami.

Having passionate and seasoned hackers pack a big name sponsored Hackathon is to be expected, especially since there haven’t been that many in town. Having them participate and be equally driven, although in smaller numbers, in one sponsored by an art museum is priceless and far more telling of how far our tech community has come. What an idea for the rest of the museums in town to emulate!

 The “Hack the Bass” event kicked off last Friday, Sept. 14, at LAB Miami, where a diverse crowd of about 60 mingled, with many newcomers checking out the scene along with hackers, designers and sponsors. Everyone had the chance to share their background and better understand what the Bass needed. On Saturday, the race moved to Miami Beach and by Sunday after an intense two-day session, nine solid proposals were ready to present and compete for the $5,000 cash prize awarded by the sponsors, Bass Museum and The Knight Foundation.

 The list of the cool ideas included: a self guided tour app for use by both locals and tourists; multiplatform (Android, Blackberry, IPhone and Web) route calculation for walking tours with geo-localized content and 3D aerial mapping; links to artists, artwork info and to the museum’s permanent collection; cloud based data; social network to Temporary Contemporary, museum events and the surrounding area, through Facebook, Tweeter and Yelp; and a “my gallery” tab to share favorite artwork.

 A nice trend was the adoption of augmented reality through the use of mobile’s device camera, which allows the user to engage the museum exhibit along with neighboring shops and restaurants. Design ranged from easy feel and use tap icons to 3D space environment and QR Codes attached to the artworks.

 The winners of the grand prize, $5,000, were Alfonso Guerra (Apokalypse Software), Alexandra Saba (artist) and Chris Scott (Gnome Labs). First runners-ups were FIU AppDojo students Daniela Guerra (Business) and José Miguel Infante (Computing and Information Sciences). Second runner up: Wilmar Siqueira. Both teams were awarded $1,000 cash prizes.

 The excitement continues with the next stop: October, Hack Train. Book now!

 Boris Hirmas Said is Chairman of the Board of Tres Mares S.A. (Santiago, Chile) and Entrepreneur in Residence at the Eugenio Pino and Family Global Entrepreneurship Center of the College of Business at Florida International University.

See photos from the event on an earlier post here


Fast-growing firms: Sobering research for state, South Florida

In new research released last week, the Kaufman Foundation analyzed almost three decades of    research (1982-2010)  about firms making the annual Inc. 500 lists of the nation's fastest-growing companies. The researchers also broke out data for 2000-2010 for states, metro areas and counties. For Miami-Dade and the state, the findings are somewhat sobering. For the 2000-2010 period, the research shows:

Florida, fourth in nation by population, ranks 17th in the nation for the number of Inc. 500 firms on a per capita basis.

Florida has the greatest concentration of Inc. 500 firms in the areas of IT, 19%, about even with the national average. It has nearly twice as many health and drug industry firms (12%) as the national average (6.5%), and more advertising/marketing (11.2%), than the national average of 8.6%.

The Miami-Pompano metro area ranked 22 in nation among large metro areas, just above Orlando-Kissimmee at 24th.

Kauffman also mapped the findings by county. When you choose the 2000-2010 period and look at Florida, Miami-Dade comes in 16th in the state by the number of Inc. 500 firms per capita (1.6 firms per 1,000 population), falling behind 15 counties that included cities such as Orlando, Jacksonville, Gainesville and Tampa. Palm Beach County (4.3 firms per 1,000 population) does better, coming in third in the state and Broward (2.3) falls between the two. How did other counties outside the state do on a per capita basis, according to the map? Travis County (Austin) – 9.1 per 1,000 population; Boulder County – 10.2; Fulton County (Atlanta) – 14.4, to name a few. For the entire period, 1982-2010, counties in the Washington DC area topped the list.

Perhaps, this research is more uplifting.

Start-ups benefit from being located in the regions where their founders were born or have lived for a long time, according to a new study   by Professors Olav Sorenson of the Yale School of Management and Michael Dahl of Aalborg University. 

 Sorenson and Dahl examined data on more than 10,000 Danish start-ups and the characteristics of their founders. According to its results, an entrepreneur with an average tenure of 6.4 years in a region had more profit and had a 9% lower failure rate than a newcomer. Each year a founder lived in the region reduced the failure rate by nearly 2%, and each additional year of tenure translated into $1,362 more in profits in each year of operation, the researchers found. 

The study, "Home Sweet Home: Entrepreneurs' Location Choices and the Performance of Their Ventures," was published in Management Science (June 2012).