April 19, 2015

Last day to vote in the Business Plan Challenge!

Indexes to measure the stability of fine art and the impact of climate change, an antiques marketplace, an online mall, solutions for your thousands of photos and storage-impaired condos. A “shared economy” company for long-term care, a learning platform for Hispanic kids, a tool to find an affordable lawyer, a business software platform, a campus coffee house/incubator – we’ve even got a food product line made with bugs.

Who is building the best new business? You tell us!

Take a look at the top six finishers in the Community and FIU Tracks of the 17th annual Miami Herald Business Plan Challenge, and we are asking you to vote for your favorite plans in The People’s Pick competition.

To vote for your favorite contestants, here’s what to do:

Click on the top story on MiamiHerald.com/Challenge to bring up the voting page. View the short videos of the finalists’ elevator pitches. The six selections in the FIU Track follow the Community Track.

Then scroll down to the bottom of the page to cast your ballot, voting for one video in each track.

Lastly, get out the vote! Voting closes at 11:59 p.m. Sunday, April 19.

The top voted team from each track track will be awarded the People’s Pick and honored in the April 27 Business Monday section along with the judges’ selections.

Vote here – hrld.us/BizPlan2015 – or go to MiamiHerald.com/challenge to find the voting page.

The contenders are:

Community Track

Accidental Archivist, pitched by Stephanie Norman. Got photos? This is a free platform full of training and tips from industry leaders, a wide array of products and services, and a community of all ages who share tips, rate products and connect with one another.

Art Preservation Index, pitched by Emily MacDonald-Korth. The Art Preservation Index, or APIx, is a stability rating system for fine art, based on its patent-pending rating algorithm, comprehensive database of art material information, and proprietary mobile art evaluation software.

Coastal Risk Consulting, pitched by Albert Slap. A comprehensive online service called the “Coastal Risk Rapid Assessment” provides a property’s future flood risk, changing the conversation around climate change.

Juana la Iguana, pitched by Tania Gilinski. This learning and entertainment platform will help parents transmit to their kids their values, culture, music and Spanish vocabulary. It looks to launch 20 applications in the next four years.

Stow Simple, pitched by Silvia Camps and Jorge Camps. With the click of a button, Stow Simple will pick up, safely store and return your belongings, with prices comparable to traditional self-storage. The initial target market will be city high-rise dwellers.

The HighBoy, pitched by Douglas Scott and Olga Granda-Scott. Leveraging deep industry experience of its founders, The HighBoy delivers a streamlined method for sourcing and purchasing exceptional antiques, fine art and other historic design items online.

FIU Track

Court Buddy, pitched by by James Jones Jr. and Kristina Jones. Founded by an attorney, this online legal matchmaking system connects people and businesses with affordable attorneys based on their budgets; it gives people, regardless of background or financial situation, access to a legal system.

FlowKPI, pitched by Luis Caro, Ernesto Ruiz and Giancarlo Zarrillo. This provider of business software wants to redefine the tools businesses rely on to accomplish their goals and achieve their real potential. It plans to develop software-as-a-service solutions for different industries.

Relentless Roasters, pitched by Daniel Choiseul Paguaga. A collaborative workspace and specialty coffee café on the FIU campus would serve as a retail location, roasting facility and educational center focused on entrepreneurship and School of Hospitality-connected activities.

Room2Care.com, pitched by Todd Florin and Richard Ashenoff. Leveraging the power of the sharing economy, this end-to-end platform is designed to connect those who need long-term care with those who can provide care in the local community.

Senzu Foods, pitched by Ricardo Delgado and Nicolexander Garza. This company’s goal is to provide a sustainable solution to food security, public health and environmental concerns by becoming a leading producer and distributor of insect-based food products.

Wuelto, pitched by Alejandro Gomez. This global social e-commerce platform provides users with a going-to-a-mall experience by allowing people to share items with friends while also being able to ask questions and interact with the stores.

WHERE TO VOTE AND WHAT’S NEXT?

To cast your votes for the People’s Pick, go to hrld.us/BizPlan2015.

The winners including the People’s Picks, finalists and semifinalists will be unveiled in a special report in Business Monday on April 27.

April 05, 2015

Business Plan Challenge semifinalists announced

By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

ChallengeThis year’s entries in the 17th annual Miami Herald Business Plan Challenge include concepts for fashion, art, restaurants, maker spaces, social gaming, healthcare, real estate and logistics. There are plans to educate our kids, help us eat better and live socially conscious lives. And for every time you said “where’s my waiter?” there is a plan for that, too.

So who will win the 2015 Challenge? Thirty young businesses and business ideas are still in the running.

Having the right ingredients to win over our judges isn’t easy: They were looking at the viability of the business model, the team, marketing strategy, financial projections and more. A good idea alone won’t get you very far: Our judges were looking for a strong plan for execution.

To be sure, our three panels of judges — serial entrepreneurs, investors, academics and executives — had their work cut out for them. The Business Plan Challenge, sponsored by FIU’s Pino Global Entrerpreneurship Center, drew a record 248 qualified entries. The Community Track drew more than 100 entries, presenting a mix of businesses representative of South Florida’s diversity. Veteran judges said the overall quality of the entries was higher than previous years.

Competition in the High School Track, co-sponsored by the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship in South Florida, was especially fierce with a record 111 entries. Half of those entries were from two schools, Ransom Everglades and Gulliver Prep, and classes taught by three teachers, Jennifer Nero of Ransom and Kamal James and Daniela Brenha of Gulliver.

For all 248 of you who entered, congratulations! You now have a strong start on your business plan — your road map to growing your business. Even if you didn’t make the list this time, we know you will carry on; please let us know how you do.

This week we announce our semifinalists. Next week we will unveil our top six in two tracks, and they will also be part of the video competition. The winners, finalists and semifinalists in all three tracks will be included in a special section April 27. Here, in alphabetical order are the semifinalists:

Community Track

Accidental Archivist, by Stephanie Norman. Got photos? This is a free platform full of training and tips from industry leaders, a wide array of products and services and a community of all ages who share tips, rate products and connect with one another.

Art Preservation Index, by Emily MacDonald-Korth. The Art Preservation Index, or APIx, is a stability rating system for fine art, based on its patent-pending rating algorithm, comprehensive database of art material information, and proprietary mobile art evaluation software.

Coastal Risk Consulting, by Albert Slap. A comprehensive online service called the “Coastal Risk Rapid Assessment” provides a property’s future flood risk, changing the conversation around climate change.

Creating Revolutions, by Einer Rosenberg. To help restaurants and retailers capture the billions in sales lost each year due to poor customer service, CR has developed a patented simple-to-use technology called NFC Paging. First product: NFC Service Pager.

cTHRU Nutrition, by Lisa Dorfman and Adeel Murtaza. A feature-rich shopping application aims to ensure that families and consumers worldwide have a handy, fast, easy-to-use personalized tool to help them select the healthiest groceries and restaurant meals.

EarthWare, by Michael Caballero and Pandwe Gibson. Moving beyond old wasteful practices, EarthWare creates utensils, tableware and containers made from natural and recycled materials that are biodegradable and compostable.

Educrate, by Jacqueline Basallo and Patricia Ortega. This is a subscription e-commerce platform of educational and office supply products for teachers nationwide. Educrate brings teachers the tools to create, inspire and teach outside the box.

Grasp Learning, by Gary and Valerie Berman. Reinventing the K-8 after-school tutoring and academic support experience, Grasp empowers “edu-preneurial” teachers to supplement their income by operating their own micro-learning centers within nonprofits and community centers.

Juana la Iguana, by Tania Gilinski and Amanda Quijano. This learning and entertainment platform will help parents transmit to their kids their values, culture, music and Spanish vocabulary. It looks to launch 20 applications in the next four years.

Stow Simple, by Silvia Camps and Jorge Camps. With the click of a button, Stow Simple will pick up, safely store and return your belongings, with prices comparable to traditional self-storage. The initial target market will be city high-rise dwellers.

The HighBoy, by Douglas Scott and Olga Granda-Scott. Leveraging deep industry experience of its founders, The HighBoy delivers a streamlined method for sourcing and purchasing exceptional antiques, fine art and other historic design items online.

UX Gofer, by Jacqueline Stetson Pastore. Built by UX pros, this app makes usability testing easier, faster and more accessible. It streamlines the workflow of senior practitioners and guides the newbie on how to set up a study, capture data and do analysis.

FIU Track

Court Buddy, by James Jones Jr. and Kristina Jones. Founded by an attorney, this online legal matchmaking system connects people and businesses with affordable attorneys based on their budgets; it gives people, regardless of background or financial situation, access to a legal system.

FlowKPI, by Rodolfo Navarro, Luis Caro, Ernesto Ruiz and Giancarlo Zarrillo. This provider of business software wants to redefine the tools businesses rely on to accomplish their goals and achieve their real potential. It plans to develop software-as-a-service solutions for different industries.

Relentless Roasters, by Daniel Choiseul Paguaga and Andre Villarreal. A collaborative workspace and specialty coffee café on the FIU campus would serve as a retail location, roasting facility and educational center focused on entrepreneurship and School of Hospitality-connected activities.

Room2Care.com, by Todd Florin and Richard Ashenoff. Leveraging the power of the sharing economy, this end-to-end platform is designed to connect those who need long-term care with those who can provide care in the local community.

Senzu Foods, by Ricardo Delgado, Nicolexander Garza and Valerie Yoda. This company’s goal is to provide a sustainable solution to food security, public health and environmental concerns by becoming a leading producer and distributor of insect-based food products.

Wuelto, by Gerson Gomez and Alejandro Gomez. This global social e-commerce platform provides users with a going-to-a-mall experience by allowing people to share items with friends while also being able to ask questions and interact with the stores.

High School Track

2 Charge, by David Herrera, Gustavo Ciobataru and Lain Huguet, Gulliver Prep. The 2 Charge Power Card will transfer battery from one phone to another and charge two phones at once, all in one product no bigger than a credit card.

All Pro Sports Highlights, by Emmanuel Cineus, Miami Edison Sr. High. This service business would create customized, personalized mobile apps for athletes, showing highlights and stats and becoming a marketing tool to show to college recruiters.

Find My Dog, by Lucas Lowenstein, Tatiana Ramirez and Sophia Esquenazi, Gulliver. A GPS tracking dog collar would track a dog through a detailed map using the Find My Dog app or website. The collar would also include a fitness monitor and a camera at an extra cost.

Food Pages, by Noah Rolnick and Yoav Grainer, Miami Palmetto Sr. High and Ransom Everglades. An iOS app that would allow users to research food products rated by people like them while earning rewards for their ratings.

Magistrae, by Alain Carles, Ransom Everglades. A smartphone application aims to consolidate and catalog lists of academic tutors, art instructors and sports coaches all in one place, with user profiles, a calendar, ratings and reviews.

Mood4Food, by Alex Levine, Jillian Hersman and Kayla Sharp, Gulliver. A mobile food-ordering company would connect consumers and corporate businesses with thousands of restaurants in South Florida. A portion of the profits would go to charity.

MyScholarship, by Wesley Villano and Eduardo Garcia-Montes, Ransom Everglades. This app would match you to university aid packages and scholarships, with tips on the process and a rating of universities based on affordability.

ROBA, by Gabriela Telepman and Madeleine Granados, Gulliver. This website would act as an outlet to buy fashions worn by popular figures. By clicking on a photo in an article, the customer will be taken to online stores where they can buy that item or one like it.

Savvy Seniors, by Sophie Leon, Ransom Everglades. To help navigate the college application process, Savvy Seniors notifies students and parents about important dates and deadlines.

SOSpeech, by Valentina Barragan and Michelle Palm, St. Thomas Aquinas. This app would perfect the eloquence of your words in presentations, interviews and conversations; it’s targeted at students as well as adults.

Teenography.com, by Katelyn Barclay, University School. This operating teen-owned photography business offers services of talented and ambitious teen photographers at affordable prices.

USA Veteran Transportation, by Alexander Futernick, Ransom Everglades. USAVT strives to be the safest and most reliable transportation service to companies across America while combating nationwide veteran unemployment.

Find more information about the Miami Herald Business Plan Challenge at MiamiHerald.com/challenge. Follow Nancy Dahlberg on Twitter @ndahlberg.

March 17, 2015

Business Plan Challenge attracts 248 entries

A record 248 entries flowed into the 17th annual Miami Herald Business Plan Challenge by the deadline on Monday, making it the biggest year yet for business plan entries.

If you entered the Challenge and did not get a confirmation email from Nancy Dahlberg or have a question about whether your entry was received, please email her at ndahlberg@miamiherald.com and put Challenge in the memo line.

Education was a big trend in the contest this year, with ideas for apps, services, classes, books, videos and more. Food and fashion continued to draw a lot of interest, as did technology and plans with a social mission. This year there were also ideas and young businesses tied to South Florida’s biggest industries – real estate, construction and tourism – and this year drew more healthcare-related ideas than years past. The contest attracted entrepreneurs of all ages, including a number of people from the corporate world ready to make the jump into entrepreneurship for the first time.

Next the plans go to the Business Plan Challenge judges, who are serial entrepreneurs, investors, executives, advisors or professors in the field of entrepreneurship. The semifinalists in each of the three tracks – Community, FIU and High School – will likely be announced in Business Monday March 30. After that, finalists will be announced and a People’s Pick video contest launched on MiamiHerald.com. In that contest, finalists will present their elevator pitches and readers and views will determine the winners.

The judges’ winners in all three tracks, including an overall Challenge Champion, and the People’s Pick winners will be announced and profiled in a special section of Business Monday on April 27. The Business Plan Challenge is sponsored by Florida International University’s Pino Global Entrepreneurship Center.

Follow @ndahlberg on Twitter.

 

March 16, 2015

Last hours to enter the Business Plan Challenge: Do you have what it takes?

Bootcamp artWill you be the next winner of the Miami Herald Business Plan Challenge? Entries are due at midnight Monday.

So put those final touches on your short business plan and email it in. Don’t forget to include highlights of all the business plan basics such as concept, target market, team, business model, growth, marketing and financial strategies. Tell us what differentiates your product or service from the competition, why it’s needed in the marketplace and why you are the one to execute the plan. If you entered before and didn’t win, you can update your plan and try again.

Your plan will be judged by a panel of angel and venture capital investors, serial entrepreneurs and senior executives, and the top six finalists in the Community and FIU tracks will also participate in our online popular contest. The top three winners in each track and the People’s Picks will be profiled in a special section of Business Monday.

Ready to take the Challenge? Here is your survival guide:

Who can enter: Entrepreneurs with businesses less than 2 years old or with business ideas. There is a Community Track, FIU Track and High School Track.

What to enter: Up to a three-page business plan (one additional page for charts or photos is allowed).

Entry deadline: 11:59 p.m. March 16

Email entries to: Challenge@MiamiHerald.com (for the Community Track), FIUchallenge@MiamiHerald.com or highschoolchallenge@MiamiHerald.com. You should get a confirmation your entry was received. If you do not, email ndahlberg@miamiherald.com.

Contest rules, judges’ bios, other info: MiamiHerald.com/challenge

Questions: ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

 

March 13, 2015

Business Plan Challenge: Your questions answered

Planning to enter the Business Plan Challenge? We will  answer your questions here.

We offer three tracks to win our contest, which is sponsored by the FIUPinoGlobalEntrepreneurshipCenter: a community track, open to all South Floridians, an FIU track for its students and alumni, and a high school track. You can enter our contest with a business idea or an existing business if it is not more than two years old. The deadline is March 16.

Find rules and other information for the Challenge atMiamiHerald.com/challenge.

Here are some questions I have received (I will include the most recent ones first and continue to add as I get more).

Q: I am entering the High School Track. The guidelines say one and two page entries are fine in the high school track, but can it be three pages?

A. Thank you for your question. Yes, your plan can be up to three pages and you may have an addendum page for a chart or photo if you wish -- the same rules as the Community Track. Good luck to you!

Q. I am an FIU alum and a proud Miamian. Can I enter both the FIU and Community Tracks?

A. No, we're sorry: Pick one. The FIU Track typically receives fewer entries, but the choice is yours. To be eligible for the FIU Track, at least one team member needs to be a current FIU student or alumnus.

Q. I incorporated my business in 2012 but didn't launch it until December 2013. Am I eligible?

A. Yes, to be eligible, your business can't be more than 2 years old, and we look at the time you opened your door or launched online. By the way, in our contest, business ideas are welcome too!

Continue reading "Business Plan Challenge: Your questions answered" »

March 08, 2015

Last week to enter the Business Plan Challenge

Will you be the next winner of the Miami Herald Business Plan Challenge? Entries are due next Monday.

So put those final touches on your short business plan. Don’t forget to include highlights of all the business plan basics such as concept, target market, team, business model, growth, marketing and financial strategies. Tell us what differentiates your product or service from the competition, why it’s needed in the marketplace and why you are the one to execute the plan. If you entered before and didn’t win, you can update your plan and try again.

Your plan will be judged by a panel of angel and venture capital investors, serial entreprenreurs and senior executives, and the top six finalists in the Community and FIU tracks will also participate in our online popular contest. The top three winners in each track and the People’s Picks will be profiled in a special section of Business Monday.

Ready to take the Challenge? Here are the basics:

Who can enter: Entrepreneurs with businesses less than 2 years old or with business ideas. There is a Community Track, FIU Track and High School Track.

What to enter: Up to a three-page business plan (one additional page for charts or photos is allowed).

Entry deadline: 11:59 p.m. March 16

Email entries to: Challenge@MiamiHerald.com (for the community track), FIUchallenge@MiamiHerald.com or highschoolchallenge@MiamiHerald.com. You should get a confirmation your entry was received. If you do not, email ndahlberg@miamiherald.com.

Contest rules, judges’ bios, other info: MiamiHerald.com/challenge

Questions: ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

Your questions answered

Q. I am an FIU alum and a proud Miamian. Can I enter both the FIU and Community Tracks?

A. No, we’re sorry: Pick one. The FIU Track typically receives fewer entries, but the choice is yours. To be eligible for the FIU Track, at least one team member needs to be a current FIU student or alumnus.

Q. Is a cover sheet counted in the page limit?

A. No, but it isn’t necessary. Our judges will judge the written plan.

Q. Can high school finalists participate in the video contest?

A. While the People’s Pick video contest is open to the Community and FIU Tracks, we will invite the winner or winning team of the high school track to make a video of the winner’s elevator pitch in our studio if they wish. It won’t be mandatory, but we will proudly feature it on MiamiHerald.com.

By the way, we don’t have any entries in the high school track yet — your odds are very good. College counselors have told me that being a winner or finalist in the Challenge sure looks good on college and scholarship applications!

Q. I incorporated my business in 2012 but didn't launch it until December 2013. Am I eligible?

A. Yes, to be eligible, your business can't be more than 2 years old, and we look at the time you opened your door or launched online. By the way, in our contest, business ideas are welcome too!

Don't see your question answered here? More Q&As are on MiamiHerald.com/challenge, or you can email ndahlberg@miamiherald.com and put Challenge in the memo line.

 

March 04, 2015

5 reasons to enter the Business Plan Challenge & your questions answered

You have less than two weeks left to participate in the 2015 Miami Herald Business Plan Challenge. If you are on the fence about whether to enter, here are five reasons to get moving:

1. Motivation. You’ve been meaning to write a business plan — this might just be that kick in the behind you need. Or perhaps you have a plan but need to refine your short version — those are in vogue this year. Whether you are entering the Community Track, open to all of South Florida, the FIU Track open to students and alumni of that university, or the High School Track, which is also open to eighth-graders this year, entering the Challenge will help you get moving.

2. Publicity. If you are one of the top three winners in each track or the “People’s Pick,” you will be profiled in a special section of the Miami Herald’s Business Plan Challenge announcing the winners. If you are in the top six in the Community or FIU Tracks, you will participate in the People’s Pick, our popular video contest hosted on MiamiHerald.com. We also announce our first cut, the semi-finalists, to keep the interest going. Social networking is a key component of our contest. Next year, we will look back on our winners and we follow them for years to come.

3. Feedback and education. I will share feedback from the judges with you if you request it, whether or not you are a finalist. If you are chosen for the aforementioned People’s Pick contest, that’s a terrific opportunity to polish your elevator pitch. If you are entering the High School Track, winning sure looks good on a college application. Also, winners receive free admissions to Florida International University entrepreneurship workshops and webinars so the learning will continue.

4. Exposure and connections. It can’t hurt to have your plan read by South Florida’s top entrepreneurial experts, including serial entrepreneurs and investors (judges’ bios are on MiamiHerald.com/challenge). Sometimes long-lasting mentorships are developed. Some winners have been introduced to investors or potential partners; others gained key customers. If you are one of the winners, you will also be honored at a luncheon with the judges and business staff and at FIU’s Hall of Fame reception. FIU’s Pino Global Entrepreneurship Center is our sponsor.

5. Pride. I know you’re passionate about your concept — and aren’t you just a wee-bit competitive?

The deadline is March 16. Contest rules are on MiamiHerald.com/challenge.

If you entered last year and weren’t one of the top three winners, regroup and try again. Business ideas in the dream stage are fine for this contest. Class projects are welcome, and we love high school entries.

Do you have questions? Email ndahlberg@MiamiHerald.com

Your questions answered:

Q. Is there a required template I should follow for my entry?

A. The short answer is no. Your entry is a three-page business plan, with one additional addendum page allowed for a chart or graphic, and we allow people the freedom to format it as they would like. But we suggest you consider including all or most of this information: brief product or service description, problem it is solving in the market (market need), a little about your target market and competition, relevant experience of your team, your business model (how you will make money) and how will you scale it, your marketing strategy and some financials, for example your startup costs and three years of projections. Keep each section brief — bulleted items are your friend. Many contestants use their extra page for their financial chart.

Some people download templates for business plans (easily found in a Google search) and include the categories most relevant. Some use an executive summary they already have written and add to it. People who already have investor decks have the information in a concise way — just put it into a 3-page word doc and you are done. Creative graphic presentations are fine, too. If you are starting from scratch, good for you! You have probably been meaning to do it anyway, and it will be a roadmap you can continue to update in months and years to come.

Missed our Business Plan Bootcamp? See our recap and full video here on MiamiHerald.com/challenge.

Q. Why the three-page limit?

A. Short business plans are in vogue, actually. In today’s day and age, investors (and judges) want the information fast and brief and will ask for more info as they need it. They say that in real life, if you don’t capture their attention in the first page or even the first paragraph, they will move on.

Pro tip: Ask someone who doesn’t know anything about your business or business concept to read your plan, or at least the first few paragraphs, to make sure they understand it.

Also, though our judges are almost super-human, we can’t ask them to judge dozens of full business plans.

See more Q&As here on MiamiHerald.com/challenge

 

February 21, 2015

Business Plan Bootcamp: Focus, share, test, learn

 

 

By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

Focus on customer experience first. Share your idea widely to gain valuable feedback. Start building your network and never stop learning.

A panel of serial entrepreneurs and investors — most were both — shared that advice and more with 325 attendees at the Miami Herald’s Business Plan Bootcamp Wednesday night at Miami Dade College. The bootcamp was held in conjunction with the

2015 Business Plan Challenge, the Miami Herald’s annual entrepreneurship contest that is open for entries until March 16.

Panelists included Melissa Krinzman, co-founder of Krillion Ventures; Steven McKean, serial tech entrepreneur and startup advisor; Benoit Wirz, director of venture investments for the Knight Foundation; Leandro Finol, executive director of Miami Dade College’s Idea Center; and Adam Smith, partner at Medina Capital.

What do they look for when they are reviewing business plans?

"What’s the problem you are trying to solve but also how do you know it is a real problem, what’s the evidence?" Wirz said. "What is it about you, specifically the team, that makes me believe you can solve that problem? As a general rule, the more competitive the space, the more important it is you have a very specific background that gives you an unfair advantage."

Wirz also looks for a plan for how customers find out about your product. "If you have some secret hook, an advantage you can leverage, that’s great," Wirz said. Be sure to show evidence of product-market fit, added McKean.

Krinzman and McKean, veteran Business Plan Challenge judges, also advised paying attention to the storytelling. Said Krinzman: "You have to remember that there is a person reading the plan, and we need to be interested. ... Work hard on your first paragraph and define the problem you are solving: why should we care, why should we keep reading, and do we understand what you are talking about. Share at least your first couple of paragraphs with someone who doesn’t know your business and see if they understand it."

Include financials in your plan, but be realistic and include assumptions. A photo or rendering is good to include, particularly if you are a product company. In live pitches, product demos are effective, Smith said. If you get to the finalist stage of the Challenge, you will be presenting your elevator pitch on video.

Advice on starting a business came pouring out. "If you are small and don’t have a lot of capital, go after a small but growing market and think about world domination later," Finol sad. In selecting your idea, follow your passion and do it because you love it, he said. "Branding is important but focus on user experience first," Finol added. Focus on the why — why should customers tell others to use your products. The branding will evolve."

Wirz said in most cases entrepreneurs shouldn’t be so secretive: "Tell everyone about your idea, and get feedback. The more feedback the stronger your idea will become and the more ready you are to build your business."

If you are a first-time entrepreneur, you can establish some credibility through social proof, said Krinzman. One way to do this: Create a board of advisors of people who believe in you and have credibility in your category or can add value.

When capital raising, do your homework and target investors in your industry or sector, Smith said. It sounds obvious, but the investors said the great majority of emails they receive are not fits. If you do get in the door, "don’t be defensive, you are going to be challenged, and you can’t have all the answers so don’t worry about that," said Smith. "Be engaging and conversational and you will get through it."

Get introduced the right way. Get active on LinkedIn and build your networks, McKean said. It’s a relationships game.

The good news on that front: Thanks to the Knight Foundation and others, South Florida’s entrepreneurial ecosystem has evolved. "It’s an ecosystem that is very open and if you are part of it, opportunities will come to you as well. More doors will open," Finol said.

A not to be missed event, particularly if you are in tech, is the eMerge Americas conference coming up in May. A sampling of other resources mentioned by the panelists (get on their mailing lists): Refresh Miami (refreshmiami.com), the largest meetup group for early stage entrepreneurs; The LAB Miami (thelabmiami.com), a co-working space in Wynwood with many events; and AGP (AGPMiami.com), an active angel network. For companies much further along, there’s Endeavor Miami (endeavormiami.org) providing mentorship and support. Take advantage of local resources and follow the Starting Gate blog (on MiamiHerald.com/business).

Some recommendations on other blogs, books and websites from the panel: The Hard Thing about Hard Things, by Ben Horowitz, Brad Feld’s books on capital raising, blogs by well-known investors such as Fred Wilson (http://avc.com/) and Mark Suster (http://www.bothsidesofthetable.com/); and Eric Reis’ The Lean Startup, particularty if you are a tech company. Pitchenvy.com is an enviable collection of investor decks, and there’s "How to get an investor to say yes," by Adeo Ressi (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3tzef-oKee0).

"Over the winter break I went through "How to Start a Startup" by YCombinator’s Sam Altman (http://startupclass.samaltman.com/). It is free and it is unbelievable," said Finol.

Listen to podcasts. Smith suggests Jason Calacanis’ "This Week in Startups" podcast (http://thisweekinstartups.com), which includes a new series for his Launch incubator with great speakers. Another is "Startup," a series by Gimletmedia (http://gimletmedia.com/show/startup/)

At eMerge Americas last year, Manny Medina interviewed Pitbull; an amazing and enlightening interview worth watching, the panelists said (watch it here).

Just getting started? Finol said the Idea Center, theideacenter.co, offers a workshop on design thinking every month that will help you create, refine, validate and test innovative ideas. After the Bootcamp, he suggested  this template  may also help -- start with the pains and gains sections.

"Find mentors who have been there before to help get you there faster," McKean said. "Your ability to grow a company will be dependent on of how fast you are able to learn. The fastest learning will come from who you surround yourself with."

 

 

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Panelists were Melissa Krinzman, co-founder of Krillion Ventures; Steven McKean, serial tech entrepreneur and startup advisor; Benoit Wirz, director of venture investments for the Knight Foundation; Leandro Finol, executive director of Miami Dade College’s Idea Center; and Adam Smith, partner at Medina Capital.

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Follow Nancy Dahlberg on Twitter @ndahlberg and find rules, tips, a Q&A and other resources for the Business Plan Challenge at MiamiHerald.com/challenge.

Posted Feb. 21, 2015

February 11, 2015

Business Plan Bootcamp speakers announced; sign up today

Real advice, no fluff: That’s what experts at the upcoming Miami Herald Business Plan Bootcamp promise to deliver.

Krinzman__2__3_1_SJ1TVKKK_L54772747The free event on Feb. 18, held during the Miami Herald Business Plan Challenge entry season, will help entrepreneurs getting started in their businesses as well as those who are further along. “Whether you’re applying to the Business Plan Challenge, raising investment capital or thinking about raising capital, the Bootcamp is not to be missed,” says Melissa Krinzman, who will lead a panel discussion with advice on what elements make a winning short business plan, as well as do’s and don’ts when pitching investors.

Krinzman, who has been a judge for the Business Plan Challenge for 10 years, is co-founder and managing partner of Krillion Ventures, a $50 million venture capital fund that invests in emerging technology companies at the seed and venture stages. She is also the founder of Venture Architects, a business planning firm that positions early and growth-stage companies for success in the capital-raising process. Since 1998, Venture Architects has worked with more than 900 companies that have raised more than $1 billion in investment capital.

Leandro Finol

Her panel of experts will include:

Leandro Finol, a serial entrepreneur, investor and professor. His first business in the United States was DIREC4U, a company that was formed with very little capital, grew to $76 million in revenue in six years and was sold in 2007. He has recently joined MiamiDadeCollege as the executive director of the IdeaCenter, where he will work to bring innovation, creativity and entrepreneurship to the institution and community. Finol will also be a judge in the Business Plan Challenge High School Track.

  Steven McKean
Steven A. McKean, who specializes in starting and scaling technology companies. Most recently, he was CEO of Acceller, a company he founded and grew to 300 employees before merging with Bridgevine in 2014; he is vice chairman of the combined company. He also co-founded Animusoft and advises early stage companies in team-building, culture, financing and marketing. McKean is a veteran Business Plan Challenge judge in the Community Track.


Adam SmithAdam T. Smith, a partner at Medina Capital. Smith has more than 17 years of experience as a legal executive with expertise in managing global legal affairs, corporate securities, technology contracting and mergers and acquisitions. He is responsible for sourcing potential investment opportunities and providing Medina Capital’s portfolio companies with strategic advice with business development, mergers and acquisitions, corporate governance, intellectual property protection, contracting and all legal issues.

 *BenWirz Benoit Wirz, director of venture investments at the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. Wirz manages the Knight Enterprise Fund, a venture fund investing in early stage startups that improve access to quality, useful information. He also helps advise the nonprofits in Knight’s portfolio around issues of sustainability and growth. Prior to Knight, he was a partner with US Global, where he invested in and developed energy, manufacturing and technology companies.

The bootcamp will be 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Feb. 18 (check in at 6:15) in the ChapmanConferenceCenter at MiamiDadeCollege’s downtown Miami Wolfson campus (300 NE 2nd Ave., Building 3, Room 3210). The program will start promptly. There is free parking in the MDC lot at 500 NE 2nd Ave. (entrances are on NE 5th and 6th Streets).

There is no cost but space is limited so registration and required. Register here: http://hrld.us/bootcamp. If you have a question, please email ndahlberg@miamiherald.com and put bootcamp in the subject line.

Be sure to come with your questions: There will be plenty of time for Q&A.

Follow Nancy Dahlberg @ndahlberg on Twitter.

HOW TO ENTER THE CHALLENGE

You have five weeks left to enter the 17th annual Miami Herald Business Plan Challenge, our annual contest to showcase South Florida’s entrepreneurial might.

If you have a business idea or your startup is under 2 years old, submit your entry in the form of a three-page business plan. There are three ways to win: a community track for all South Floridians, an FIU Track for students and alumni of that university and a High School Track.

See the contest rules and tips for preparing your entry, find judges’ bios, questions and answers and more information on MiamiHerald.com/challenge. Deadline: March 16. Good luck!

January 26, 2015

2015 Business Plan Challenge opens for entries: The lowdown

 

Bizplan-challenge

South Florida entrepreneurs, this is your time to shine!

Today we are launching our 17th Miami Herald Business Plan Challenge, our annual celebration of South Florida innovation in one of the most entrepreneurial regions in the nation. If you have a business idea or an operating startup that is less than two years old, you can enter.

Sponsored by the Pino Global Entrepreneurship Center at Florida International University, our contest welcomes business plan entries from any industry. There are three tracks — a Community Track, open to all South Floridians; an FIU Track, open to students and alumni of that university; and a High School Track, co-sponsored by the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship.

Don't let the name of the contest scare you: We don’t want long, laboriously detailed business plans. That’s because today's investors in very early-stage companies want to see a succinct presentation of your concept and how you plan to turn it into a success. So do we.

Your entry may be up to three pages, and you may attach one additional page for a photo, chart or diagram if you wish. Think of it as a meaty executive summary. Experts in all aspects of entrepreneurship — serial entrepreneurs, executives, investors, advisors and academics (see their bios here on MiamiHerald.com/challenge) — will judge your short plan.

Judges will be looking at your product or service's value to the customer, the market opportunity, business model, management team and your marketing and financial strategies. Define the problem your business or business idea is solving, clearly explain your solution, and provide tangible details as to why— and how — you can make it a success. See the contest rules on MiamiHerald.com/challenge here.

Your entry is due by 11:59 p.m. March 16. Entries should be sent to challenge@MiamiHerald.com, fiuchallenge@MiamiHerald.com or highschoolchallenge@MiamiHerald.com.

Need help? On Feb. 18, we’ll host a free Business Plan Bootcamp, where Challenge judges Melissa Krinzman, co-founder of Krillion Ventures, and Steven McKean, serial entrepreneur in the tech space, Adam Smith of Medina Capital and other entrepreneurial experts will shed light on what should be in your business plan and share tips on pitching to investors. Register through this link: http://hrld.us/bootcamp.

And think of MiamiHerald.com/challenge as your base throughout this contest, as we'll be bringing you advice and answering your questions. You can email your questions to ndahlberg@MiamiHerald.com (please put challenge in the subject line). Follow @ndahlberg on Twitter.

The top six finalists in the Community and FIU Tracks will present their 90-second elevator pitches for our popular weeklong video contest in early April on MiamiHerald.com. We will also unveil semifinalists and finalists to keep the suspense building.

On April 27, in a special section of Business Monday, we will annouce and profile the winners — the judge's top three selections in each track plus the People’s Pick winners. DonorCommunity, PassTheNotes, AdMobilize, DeliverLean, WedWu, JustAskBoo and Baby Abuelita are just a few of the past winners in recent years — so this year’s winners will be in good company. What do winners win? Valuable exposure in the Miami Herald (we cover our winners’ progress for years to come), connections and mentorship.

Today we are looking back on the entrepreneurial journeys of our 2014 winners. Funding was a challenge for all, and many spent much of the year developing (or redeveloping) their platforms. Throughout the entry period, we’ll also look back on a few winners from the past 16 years.

You have seven weeks. May the best plans win. Go!

Related

Meet the Judges

Free Business Plan Bootcamp set for Feb. 18

2014 Community Track winners have listened, improved, expanded

2014 FIU Track winners reached out to broader markets, refined their technology

2014 high school winners made a game of learning language skills

Posted Jan. 26, 2014