April 21, 2015

Venture Hive to open accelerator for veteran-owned tech businesses

By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

Venture Hive, the Miami-based entrepreneurship education company, is partnering with the city of Fort Walton Beach to launch a national accelerator for veteran-owned businesses.

Through this public-private partnership, Fort Walton Beach will enable Venture Hive to provide selected veteran-owned tech businesses with access to business coaching, customized training and a relevant network to scale their ventures, driving the economic growth of the region. Fort Walton Beach has allocated $500,000 to the initiative and will provide renovated space to house the Venture Hive Fort Walton Beach Accelerator.

“Our area is home to Eglin Air Force Base, Hurlburt Field, and the 7th Special Forces Group, among other specialized military-related organizations, so we have long been a center of innovation and cutting edge ideas tied to our military. With the launch of Venture Hive we will expand that innovation to cutting edge veteran owned businesses as well,” said Mike Anderson, mayor of Fort Walton Beach, in announcing the accelerator Tuesday.  

Venture Hive aims to help vetrepreneurs build large scale and global market companies that can take advantage of the innovative research already being conducted in the Fort Walton Beach area, said Susan Amat, founder of Venture Hive.

Benefits of the program include a $25,000 non-equity grant, a world-class curriculum of practical workshops and training sessions, access to a collaborative working space in Fort Walton Beach for a year, mentoring from a vetted network of local, national and international entrepreneurs and experts, exposure to qualified investors and a Demo Day celebration on Veteran's Day. The first 12-week accelerator class, which will be free for the selected companies, will run from Aug. 17 – Nov. 11 in downtown Fort Walton Beach. Applications will be accepted from April 21 – June 1.

Venture Hive Fort Walton Beach will also offer a pre-accelerator program to help military veteran entrepreneurs begin to build businesses that are still in the idea phase of development. The first 12-week pre-accelerator class will run from July 18 – Oct. 12; applications will be accepted from April 21 – June 1.

 “We take great care in building individuals to reach their potential so they can execute on their visions – no matter how impossible it may seem,” said Amat. “We are thrilled to support Fort Walton Beach’s economic development goals by doubling down on the incredible existing talent and resources of a city that offers both a wonderful lifestyle and great opportunity.”

The program is open to any business founded by a U.S. military veteran developing innovative web, mobile or technology product solutions to address a clear market need. To apply and learn more, visit http://veterans.venturehive.com.

Venture Hive’s existing programs in Miami have shown a $7.3 million economic impact in less than two years of operation, with support from Miami-Dade County and the Miami Downtown Development Authority. In addition to an accelerator and incubator in Miami, Venture Hive runs an entrepreneurship program for high school students as well as summer camps for younger students. Venture Hive also runs virtual pre-accelerators with the Microsoft Innovation Center for Chile, Nepal, Armenia and Pakistan, among other programs.

Follow Nancy Dahlberg on Twitter @ndahlberg


January 23, 2015

Chile creating a nationwide lab for ecosystem development

By Susan Amat

SusanamatAcross the globe, both city and national initiatives are regularly announced, each focused on developing their own entrepreneurial ecosystems to provide funding and support to their entrepreneurs. The “Startup (Insert City or Country name here)” programs tend to have many things in common, including shocking budgets, but often fail to address the long-term cultural shift that must occur for the newly enlightened entrepreneurs to want to stay in the region. The excitement surrounding the announcement is rarely followed up with the metrics and ROI of the project. Many of those programs are designed after visits to Startup Chile, which has been successful in creating a mindset shift among Chileans and developing thousands of entrepreneurial ambassadors all over the world who will recount their six-months in Chile, having fallen in love with her people and the country itself. The agency that oversees Chile’s economic development, growth, and promotes investment and competitiveness, Corporacion De Fomento De La Produccion (CORFO), could have easily sat back and continued to be the reference point for scores of policy leaders in creating their own programs, but leaders rarely rest.

The 2013 Presidential election resulted in a shifting of power. The new administration, under President Michelle Bachelet, reflected on the results of their much lauded programs and has been diligently crafting new initiatives to build their talent, expand entrepreneurship support beyond the main cities to create multiple poles, reduce rural migration, diversify the economy, and enable the establishment of equity-based funds with generous matching parameters. This marks another meaningful experiment in Chile and the early results are promising.

The key pivot is the creation of full support across the spectrum that may last throughout the lifetime of the business rather than a six-month stint. Chilean entrepreneurs, and those who will make substantial long-term investments in Chile, will also benefit from the tens of millions CORFO is deploying to ensure there is early stage capital for both tech and non-tech businesses. The investment, coupled with the support, may act to democratize the promise of economic freedom that entrepreneurship can offer.

Chile is ripe for this innovation. During our visit to Chile last week, we met with dozens of entrepreneurs, visited several incubators and co-working spaces, and did multiple trainings for mentors and entrepreneurs. The talent is evident and plentiful – great developers who are committed to starting and growing their businesses in Chile. CORFO has made equally healthy commitments to create an incubator network, though each location is still validating their impact and success metrics. The next phase has the potential to create thousands of high-wage jobs and position Chile as a leader in Latin America, and be the reason for other policy makers to send a second delegation to learn from them. The biggest challenges lie in ensuring entrepreneurs stay in the regions where they began and not feel the need to relocate to Santiago. Currently, although prestigious universities can be found in every region of the country, the hub of activity remains in Santiago. Creating high-quality programming and services so businesses can stay in Arica or Valdivia will go a long way toward inspiring the next generation to do the same. We visited Temuco to see Incubatec, one of the top Chilean incubators with success that exceeds most incubators in and out of LATAM. Their entrepreneurs are exporting beautifully packaged high-end water from the Andes to Asia, growing and exporting tulips all over the hemisphere, and even offering technical solutions to Fortune 100 clients. The leadership at Incubatec is passionate about helping the entrepreneurs scale and be Chilean success stories, and their energy is contagious. Bottling that would be a billion dollar business.

I am very excited to watch Chile’s progression and the next data points on these new initiatives. With the new vision, CORFO itself is offering the role modeling behavior that both entrepreneurs and policy makers should follow – at least on Twitter.

Dr. Susan Amat is the founder and CEO of Venture Hive, a company dedicated to economic development through entrepreneurship education. You can follow her on Twitter at @SusanAmat

January 15, 2015

Innovation Hub at Broward College opens

A new resource: Broward College’s new Innovation Hub.

The 5,400 square-foot facility, which is open to the public, is designed to be a mixed-use business incubator, focused on housing a dynamic community of startups, mentors, advisors and investors, and serving as a one-stop resource for business owners and innovators pursuing their entrepreneurial ambitions. It will offer access to mentors – through Broward College’s collaborative partnerships with Broward SCORE, the Small Business Development Center and the Enterprise Development Corporation – as well as angel investors, including New World Angels. There will be seminars and workshops on various business topics focused on specific skills helpful to startup companies that will also be open to the public.

At an open house on its Cypress Creek location on Thursday, Broward College celebrated its partnership with the Fort Lauderdale Strikers, which is  seeking innovative solutions in sports business. Brazilian soccer legend Ronaldo, who is a part-owner of the Strikers, joined Broward College officials, along with Director of the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity Jesse Panuccio and other local business leaders for a tour of the business incubator and discussion on possible opportunities.

The Innovation Hub offers several private individual offices, a shared co-working space, two small conference or mentoring rooms, as well as a fully equipped audio and video training or seminar room, which converts into two large board rooms with separate A/V capabilities. It also features 100Mps fiber broadband access hardwired Wi-Fi throughout the facility. The business incubator will provide opportunities for close collaborations with Broward College faculty, staff and students. Professors will work with their students and incubated companies on market research, branding, operations, financial planning and other business needs.

A portion of the Innovation Hub will be dedicated to sports-related startups as part of a collaboration with the Fort Lauderdale Strikers. These startups will receive mentorship from Strikers staff and have the opportunity to pilot their ideas on the Strikers’ stadium, fans and athletes.

For more information on the Broward College Innovation Hub, visit http://www.broward.edu/innovationhub or contact Angela Nicoletti at 954-201-7939 or anicolet@broward.edu.

January 09, 2015

The lowdown: FAU's Tech Runway opens call for 2nd class of startups

I posted about this deadline last month, but here is more information from Tech Runway on its accelerator class. 

Applications are being accepted for the second class of Venture Vintage companies at Florida Atlantic University’s Tech Runway. Startups are sought in all industries with an emphasis in technology. The deadline for applications is Saturday, Jan. 31.

The program application process includes a business plan, pitch deck, three letters of recommendation and a bio for each founder. The criteria for evaluation will include, but is not limited to, the market opportunity, distinctive competence/competitive advantage, financial understanding of revenue model and investment potential. The five selected companies will receive a $25,000 non-equity grant, participate in a 16-week intensive boot camp as well as a mentor-driven program, and will be provided collaborative workspace for one year. Participating companies also will have the opportunity to work with faculty and students throughout the boot camp.

Supported by FAU and the state of Florida, Venture Vintage launched in October 2014 with five companies in its pilot group. The first class is still in the program and includes:

  • * BedABox is a company that simplifies shopping and shipping outside the country.
  • * Design Comfort Shoes has a patent-pending comfort system for high-heeled shoes.
  • * Interact TEAM provides training, education and consulting services to the long-term care industry.
  • * Stand4 is a website that connects individuals, charities and corporations to enhance the charity donation process.
  • * Modulux Lighting provides more light with less power through its LED lighting fixtures.

            Companies that apply for Venture Vintage II may be pre-launched to commercial stage, typically with less than $500,000 of funding and less than $1 million in revenue. CEO/founders must commit to participate in all boot camp classes and mentor meetings and accept the terms of the program. For full application guidelines or to apply, visit techrunway.fau.edu.

For more information, contact Kimberly Gramm at 561-297-0927 or kgramm@fau.edu.

Information submitted by Tech Runway.

Read my launch  story about Tech Runway here.

Posted Jan. 9, 2015

December 22, 2014

Venture Hive announces next accelerator class: 10 from 7 countries


From Barcelona to Sarajevo, from Buenos Aires to Bangalore, the startups accepted this week into Venture Hive’s next accelerator class once again represent a United Nations of innovation.

As part of the accelerator at Venture Hive, an entrepreneurial education company in downtown Miami, the companies will get $25,000 no-equity grants, an intensive 13-week accelerator program that starts in late January, mentoring and free workspace for six months. Venture Hive, founded by Susan Amat, draws companies from around the world that are innovating in industries Miami-Dade is strong at: travel/hospitality, healthcare, creative industries, fintech and trade/logistics. The program will finish in late April with “The Swarm,” where the companies will present their startups to a room full of investors and community supporters.

Ten companies, five of them from Latin America, were chosen from among 400 applications from more than 40 countries. “We had to make some very tough decisions because there were so many outstanding companies applying,” said Nelson Fonseca, partner at Medina Capital who helped judge the applicants. “The most exciting thing for me is to see the strong interest from innovative entrepreneurs from all over the world in coming to Miami. This bodes well for the continued development of the Miami ecosystem.”

Venture Hive, which also has an incubator, is home to 31 startups from 21 countries and also offers both onsite and virtual programs for high school students in partnership with Miami-Dade County Public Schools. To expand services for its startups, it recently partnered with DLA Piper law firm and Disruption Corporation. In its first 18 months, Venture Hive has created 62 jobs, according to an economic impact study on Miami-Dade County conducted by the Miami DDA. Venture Hive is supported by Miami-Dade County, the DDA and Miami WorldCenter.

The 10 new accelerator companies selected for Venture Hive’s third class are:

Cinemad, from Buenos Aires:Interactive videos for converting viewers into customers.

Clicky, from Cordoba, Argentina:An online booking platform for sports facilities.

FanJam, from Chattanooga, Tennessee:Fantasy basketball contests for cash.

Helpjuice, from Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina: An auto-updating knowledge base platform allowing companies to scale support and deliver instant answers to customers.

Paganza, from Montevideo, Uruguay: A bill-paying app for the Latin American market.

PRX Control Solutions, from Caracas:Solutions for the insurance and pharmaceutical industries, reducing the expense of pharmaceutical treatments in health plans.

Quotanda, from Barcelona, Spain: A student financing marketplace democratizing access to education.

Referrizer, from Deerfield Beach:A total solution to generate new customers and keep existing ones loyal.

Rock N Roll Games, from Buenos Aires:The gaming company for making brands rock.

TommyJams, from Bangalore, India: Innovative technologies to revolutionize live music entertainment.

See related story and photos of the Microsoft Innovation Center inside Venture Hive.

Posted Dec. 22, 2014

December 20, 2014

FAU's Tech Runway soon taking applications for next accelerator class

FAU Tech Runway_Pano 2

Tech Runway, Florida Atlantic University’s new entrepreneurship program, is getting ready to launch its second accelerator class. Tech Runway will choose five South Florida startups; the application period is Jan 1-31 on techrunway.fau.edu.

The program is housed in a 27,000-square-foot collaborative workspace in Boca Raton (pictured above and below) designed for housing, educating, mentoring and funding startup companies from inception through venture funding. Selected startups, who do not have to have FAU ties, receive office space for a year, a 16-week accelerator boot camp, a team of mentors and a seed grant of $25,000. Tech Runway, supported by a $1 million state grant and $3 million from FAU, is led by CEO Kimberly Gramm, director of the Adams Center for Entrepreneurship at FAU.

“We have tremendous assets in our region — successful entrepreneurs who are sharing their significant wisdom with startups and giving back to the community and students,” Gramm said when Tech Runway was launched. “We are integrating the entrepreneurial world with the university world … to help create not only successful startups but a knowledge-based workforce.”

 Read more about Tech Runway here.

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Posted Dec. 20, 2014; photos from Tech Runway

December 14, 2014

Susan Amat: Ways to make your pitch count when courting investors

By Susan Amat

SusanamatThis year, I have been lucky enough to see startups pitching in five continents. Sometimes it happens in a room with hundreds of people; more often it is a couple of guys across a table. Some are full of confidence regardless of the quality of their business. No matter where I am, most startups prepare a pitch with the goal of getting that person to hear every word of the presentation. Many entrepreneurs fail to realize that no matter how awesome your product is and how incredibly rich and powerful you will be, potential investors and strategic partners must want to work with you before anything else will happen.

Think to your own interactions. If you like someone, you are more likely to want to learn more, spend more time with them and support their efforts. When the speaker doesn’t engage you, the fabulous features of their offering may be ignored because you have already tuned out, or the negative feelings you may have toward the presenter have transferred to the product.

In pitching to 1 to 1,000, the most common mistake many entrepreneurs make is in fielding questions and comments from judges or other designated “experts.” It is unfortunate when everyone is in awe of a great pitch and the speaker ruins all the excitement about his business by becoming defensive or rude in a response to a question. Triggers for undesirable reactions include but are not limited to: 1. “Dumb” questions; 2. Condescending questions; and 3. Rude or disrespectful comments.

It is extremely difficult to explain what your business is and what you have been doing in the many months/years you have devoted to it in five minutes. While you live and breathe your business, these people may not know the space, understand your unique twist or comprehend a key assumption that you take for granted. Often entrepreneurs fail to tailor their pitch to the audience to the extent they should, leading to major communication challenges that may result in unfortunate interactions after the pitch. You can come back from that easily, smiling while explaining how something works in an educational but respectful manner. That is a great opportunity for you to find ways to incorporate more language to tie together concepts that may not be obvious to your audience.

The darker situation occurs when challenging or seemingly obvious questions are specifically posed to elicit a reaction. It may come veiled in a smile, or from the person you had most wanted to impress. It may start with a harsh criticism, that she has seen that 100 times or a statement like “that won’t work.” Or perhaps a simple question to explain how you arrived at your assumptions with an arrogant tone.

The key to overcoming unexpected questions and comments is practicing responses as much as you practice your pitch. Always ensure your tone is professional and you will earn respect and possibly a new advocate.

Let’s explore a few scenarios to get the best results in your pitch:

* Pitching to 20-10,000 people requires showmanship. Letting your passion for the product flow and staying high energy is key. If you aren’t excited about what you are doing, no one else will be. Questions will likely come from a pre-set group, so research who they are beforehand so you can offer answers that may incorporate their interests, backgrounds or expertise.

* Three to 20 people can be made to feel like an intimate group simply by introducing yourself and shaking hands around the room if feasible. Find ways to use humor or engage members of the audience briefly. With 20 or fewer people you can make eye contact with each person in the room at least once.

<bullet>If you are speaking to one or two people, ask them about themselves. Be friendly! Your presentation should be more of a conversation that naturally flows from the introductions. While some of us hate “small talk,” it really makes a difference in creating the initial connection and sets a tone for a different level of rapport. Without it, investors often go straight to everything that is wrong and what won’t work. With it, I have witnessed many of those same investors give valuable guidance and supportive critiques. Even if they don’t like your idea, the real goal is for them to believe in you.

Susan Amat is the founder and CEO of Venture Hive, an entrepreneurship education company in Miami. Follow @SusanAmat on Twitter.

Posted Dec. 14, 2014


December 09, 2014

Miami Microsoft Innovation Center @ Venture Hive celebrates opening

The Miami Microsoft Innovation Center, the first one in the United States and one of more than 120 around the world, has been open seven months at the Venture Hive and has already held more than 50 events and workshops and Microsoft executives and specialists hold regular "office hours" for mentoring, said Susan Amat, founder of Venture Hive. Next week, the Hive and MIC will host teams from four countries -- Chile, Pakistan, Nepal and Armenia -- taking part in a global Pre-Accelerator Venture Hive and the Miami MIC are launching. Amat is considering opening a Pre-Accelerator for Miami as well.  

On Tuesday morning, the MIC celebrated its first half year  at Venture Hive with a roomful of community and technology leaders. The MIC is a state-of-the-art technology facility open to students, software developers, academic faculty, entrepreneurs and startups for collaboration and skills development.  The event hosted many Microsoft representatives and local government leaders including City of Miami Commissioner Marc Sarnoff, CIO of Miami-Dade County Angel Petisco and the Microsoft VP of US Developer Experience Larry Orecklin.

A couple of examples of how the MIC has been used: Miami entrepreneur Antonio Otalvaro, founder and CEO of Raw Shorts, a member of Venture Hive incubator and part of its accelerator's first class, attended workshops at the Miami MIC on the Azure platform, which has allowed him the ability to scale his explainer-video production business for commercial customers.  After receiving a grant from BizSpark, Hair Construction, which provides educational content to hair stylists to help them succeed, is working with the MIC to transition everything it does to Microsoft – Azure servers and Office 365 – to it the company scale.

To learn more and attend upcoming events at the Miami Microsoft Innovation Center, which is free and open for the public, click here (www.microsoftinnovationcenters.com/miami). On the agenda for next week: More office hours and an introduction to Imagine Cup, a global student tech competition.

Here are a few pictures of the MIC space.

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 Posted Dec. 16, 2014

December 02, 2014

Venture Hive partners with Microsoft to power Pre-Accelerators in four countries

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Venture Hive, an entrepreneurial education company in Miami, is partnering with Microsoft to power a new chain of  Pre-Accelerators at Microsoft Innovations Centers around the globe.

The initial group of Microsoft Innovation Centers  in Chile, Pakistan, Nepal and Armenia will be linked by Venture Hive's training program, connecting entrepreneurs to resources and support they need in validating and building their ideas into solutions. Venture Hive also houses the first MIC in the U.S.

"We partnered with Microsoft to open the Miami MIC solely focused on supporting the South Florida community through technology education and  support," said Susan Amat, founder of Venture Hive. "We are thrilled to support these four MICs and their entrepreneurs in building great startups to strengthen their ecosystems."

Over the 12-week intensive program, the selected teams will go through specialized training and have access and support from the international community. The program will culminate in the MIC DEMO WEEK in April, where a global audience will witness the product demonstrations and startups will receive feedback from experts in each of the partner countries.

"It is part of our mission to level the playing field for all of the aspiring entrepreneurs around the world who want to build something, who want to be their own bosses, who want to make the world a better place," Microsoft said in a blog post Tuesday about the new Pre-Accelerators.  "Initially in four locations around the world, we look forward to bringing the program to the more than 100 global MIC facilities."

Venture Hive was chosen this summer as the location of the first Microsoft Innovation Center in the United States. Developed and operated in partnership with Miami-Dade County, the City of Miami and Venture Hive, the Miami center hosts technology training and workshops, providing entrepreneurs, technologists and governments access to networking opportunities and potential talent for future job opportunities. Amat said Tuesday she is considering opening a Pre-Accelerator program at the Miami location. 

Venture Hive, which also houses an accelerator and incubator and is supported by Miami-Dade County and the Miami DDA, recently received a $50,000 grant from the U.S. Small Business Administration,  partnered with Disruption Corporation in Washington DC on investor education  and announced a partnership with DLA Piper for startup legal services. Vanture Hive is currently running a tech-entrepreneurship program with Miami-Dade high school students.  

Posted Dec. 2, 2014


November 21, 2014

EcoTech Visions, an incubator for green startups, opens its doors in Miami

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 EcoTech Visions, a green business incubator and accelerator, opened its doors to the public, with an open house on Thursday attended by more than 100 business people, government officials, community leaders and entrepreneurs.

At 70 percent capacity, Ecotech already houses seven companies in the incubator: Crafting Electronic Motorcycles, EarthWare, Geeks Global Lab, Precision Barber Club, SHE3T, Raw Health and Beauty, Urban Greenworks and Aquaponics Lab. EcoTech, located at 667 NW 90th St. in Miami, features four labs, five private offices, eight co-working desks, a mezzanine, a green classroom and conference room. The laboratory co-working spaces feature an injection molding lab, a product development lab, a green lab for aquaponics and a mechanics lab.

EcoTech, a project two-plus years in the making, was founded by Pandwe Gibson, pictured below. For more information: ecotechvisions.com.

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Posted Nov. 21, 2014