By Nancy Dahlberg / email@example.com / @ndahlberg
As more and more corporations embrace the reality that their systems and databases need to be accessible anywhere, anytime for their increasingly mobile workforces and customers, Jesus Rodriguez saw a big need in the market to ease the process for the companies.
Large companies want to build mobile applications that “talk” to their database systems — HR, payroll, etc. — and his new company, KidoZen, provides the safe, secure cloud-based platform that simplifies that. “We provide the platform that handles the back-end so the companies can implement their own applications,” said Rodriguez, KidoZen’s founder and CEO. “The infrastructure is already taken care of — they can just focus on building the app. We make it easy to connect to the system that is secure and compliant and that gives you all the analytics you need.”
Rodriguez, 34, was recently selected as one of the first Endeavor Entrepreneurs in Miami. Endeavor, a global nonprofit that supports high-impact entrepreneurship, will help him with growing his business worldwide.
To be sure, his company is already off to a strong start. KidoZen serves nearly 80 of the world’s largest companies and has formed a number of partnerships. More than 400 apps have been built on the KidoZen platform so far. Customers include Fort Lauderdale-based Citrix, Microsoft, Toyota, JetBlue and Macy’s. KidoZen, which has attracted $5 million in venture capital, booked nearly $5 million in revenue last year and is profitable.
By the time the young South Florida company opened its platform to the public in 2013 after testing the service for a year, KidoZen had already acquired paying customers and signed key strategic alliances with professional services and enterprise software vendors. Jason Port, a Miami angel investor and a KidoZen board member, noted that KidoZen has already been recognized by major analyst firms; Yankee Group recently called KidoZen one of its top three emerging platforms for mobile development.
Peter Kellner, Endeavor co-founder and Endeavor Miami board member, said Rodriguez exemplifies the Endeavor high-impact entrepreneur in every sense. “Jesus is one of the most talented technology entrepreneurs I have met anywhere... He is an extremely critical thinker, he has a very disciplined mind, he identified a major gap in the marketplace. But more than that — and this is what separates good entrepreneurs from great entrepreneurs, and he is a great one — he saw a historic transition, he saw literally the transition to open-source mobile enterprise. He saw this coming,” said Kellner.
Also key to the Endeavor model is selecting entrepreneurs who will later give back to their communities by becoming mentors or investors for other early-stage high-growth ventures, thus fertilizing the ecosystem. In fact, Rodriguez is already doing that: The serial entrepreneur is a board member for other companies, pens an insightful blog, and for more than a year, he has been a mentor at Venture Hive, an accelerator and incubator in downtown Miami, helping tech startups with business planning, customer acquisition strategies and key introductions.
One of the Rodriguez’s biggest challenges with KidoZen is keeping up with the growth. KidoZen’s engineering team is in Buenos Aires. Sales, business development, marketing and operations are in Miami. KidoZen has about 30 employees and is agressively hiring.
“We knew we were in a very large market, and the reason we stayed in private beta for a year is because we wanted to get the platform right... but we didn’t anticipate the growth,” said Rodriguez, noting that 38 percent of the company’s customers are international.
KidoZen’s strategy includes aggressive expansion into the emerging markets, and Rodriguez has already been leveraging Endeavor’s extensive global network for support. “We’re executing and are very well capitalized but we are going for growth so we are going for 100, 250, 500, 1,000 customers very fast,” said Rodriguez.
Citrix is one of its customers. Citrix has an internal program for developing mobile applications that will amplify its enterprise data for its mobile work force. For example, KidoZen’s platform powered specific productivity apps that Citrix developed, such as for calendering meeting rooms or finding people in open work spaces easily, as well as apps that help get important data and updates to sales reps on the street, said Trenton Cycholl, Citrix’s group director for apps and info services in Fort Lauderdale.
“When we started doing research and looking at the easiest and most scalable way to build certain internal custom mobile applications, KidoZen’s platform quickly rose to the top,” said Cycholl. “This complements our overall strategy.”
What’s ahead? KidoZen plans to expand and diversify its offering, going deeper into analytics, testing and mobile data security, said Rodriguez. “You are going to see KidoZen in telecom, mobile health solutions and retail solutions. Emerging markets are super important to us. We want to have a strong footprint in the Middle East, South America, Southeast Asia, China.
“Building the team that matches the culture of the company is our main task for the next six months. We’re very committed to building in Miami so we are committed to finding talent in Miami, but we have a very high bar for talent, so it is taking time,” Rodriguez said. “We will be announcing some very high profile hires in the next month of so.”
NEW ENDEAVOR ENTREPRENEURS
Endeavor Miami is the first U.S. office for the global nonprofit Endeavor, which supports and accelerates high-growth entrepreneurs. Endeavor chose the founders behind KidoZen, a mobile technology company, and My Ceviche, a restaurant venture, as Miami’s first “Endeavor Entrepreneurs.” As part of the global network, Endeavor Entrepreneurs get mentoring, access to capital and support services to help them scale. In coming months, The Miami Herald will follow the progress of these entrepreneurs. For more information on Endeavor Miami, go to endeavormiami.org.
Posted: feb. 24, 2014. Photo of Jesus Rodriguez by Peter Andrew Bosch of the Miami Herald.