June 13, 2017

Tech talk at eMerge: Startup life, cybersecurity and a Magic Leap to the future

 

By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

Call it Tech Tuesday at eMerge Americas.

While Day One of the homegrown technology conference at Miami Beach Convention Center was a mix of tech and politics, tech and startups took the spotlight on the conference’s second and final day.

Quite literally. Startups pitched on center stage throughout the day, competing for $175,000 in prizes — and investor attention, while hundreds of people milled around their tables. They also took in talks by some of the industry’s top entrepreneurs on topics including artificial intelligence, big data and cybersecurity.

The secretive Magic Leap has yet to reveal its highly anticipated product. But founder Rony Abovitz, whose Plantation-based company has brought in $1.4 billion in venture capital, described Magic Leap as an effort to experience the world more naturally. “We’re trying to build a computer that acts like people, so you don’t have to look at your phone all the time,” he said, in an on-stage discussion with Matt Haggman, Miami program director of the Knight Foundation, and Jean-Pierre Bardet, dean of the University of Miami’s College of Engineering.

READ MORE: Rony Abovitz on Magic Leap: We are trying to make science fiction real

While Magic Leap used to call its technology “mixed reality” — something like augmented reality, but different — Abovitz said he now prefers describing it as “spatial computing powered by a digital lightfield.” Translation: It will allow computing to become part of you.

Magic Leap is believed to be creating a wearable device such as glasses. But for the people who came to the talk wanting to know when they can get their hands on it, Magic Leap remained, well, vague, saying only that its first product launch is “not far away” and “if we were at NASA … you would see a rocket sitting on the launch pad.” Pricing, he said, was aimed at “affordability in the mass premium category. ... It’s not a Kindle kind of pricing but it’s not unattainable.”

READ MORE: Tech and politics do miss, if it’s eMerge Americas

Uri Levine, co-founder of the popular Waze, described the traffic app as “a social network for driving.” Everything on the app was created by the driver, he told the audience. “We the drivers help other drivers avoid the traffic jams we are in. This is the magic of Waze.”

For the many entrepreneurs on hand, he said launching a startup is like falling in love. “Fall in love with the problem you are solving, not your solution,” he advised. Focus is key too; if an entrepreneur loses focus of the central problem he is solving, he won’t be building the right thing. Timing helps: Waze started on a PDA — remember those? — but the smartphone enabled scale.

READ MORE: Hatching a tech future: South Florida startups are gaining strength

Startups he is involved in now include Moovit, an app similar to Waze but for public transit; Engine, technology that runs ongoing diagnostics on a car and gets repair quotes; and Solomoto, an all-in-one platform for small businesses .

What was his best startup? “The next one.” His advice for Miami entrepreneurs: Solve the high cost of U.S. healthcare.

The recent Wannacry hack put the ever-hot topic of cybersecurity on high boil. On Tuesday, eMerge founder Manny Medina unveiled details about his latest venture, Cyxtera Technologies. The “giant startup,” as he called it, combines 57 data centers and four cybersecurity-and-data analytics companies that already serve 3,500 customers with 1,100 employees.

“We believe the next revolution is the era of cybersecurity. We believe security has to be adaptive and intelligent ... but also made for the cloud,” Medina said. “This is a giant opportunity and we are in the forefront and it will be based in Miami.”

READ MORE: Done deal: Medina Capital, BC Partners form Cyxtera Technologies in $2.8 billion transaction

The conference’s final keynote came from a celebrity investor better known for baseball than business. Miami’s Alex Rodriguez — better known as A-Rod — started his business holdings with a Miami duplex 18 years ago; today his 400-employee company, Arod Corp., manages 15,000 housing units in 12 states. And real estate is just one arm of his business; he also owns fitness centers and auto dealerships and holds investments in a number of ventures, including eMerge Americas.

Most recently, he has dived into the media world, a business Rodriguez called “fun and exciting but tough.” He said he’s proud to be the first Latino Shark on “Shark Tank,” he said.

“Every business I have has a huge digital component. As an entrepreneur, you always have to be looking around the corner. What’s next, what is the competition? Whoever figures out digital will be the winner.”

But not everything should be digitized, he said — including the sport that brought him wealth. Using the example of a player’s worth for instance, he said, “you need character, you need grit and you need toughness. And that cannot be appraised in a computer.”

Throughout the day, startup finalists in various categories took to the stages to pitch their products to investor judges.

The top prize of the conference went to later-stage company Voyhoy, a travel site that lets consumers compare and buy tickets combining transportation on bus, plane, train and ferries throughout Latin America. Since launching in late 2015, Voyhoy has acquired more than 6 million users, and relocated to Miami to grow the business. Its prize: $100,000.

Chirrp, a multichannel platform for customer engagement, won the competition for early-stage companies, a prize worth $50,000. TSOLife, an online tool to help users record and share their stories for future generations, won the university category, worth $25,000.

At the high school level, eMerge partner Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship awarded its first-place prize of $2,500 to fashion business AmberAsh, created by Ashley Bellinger.

Xavier Gonzalez, eMerge CEO, said the conference will return April 23-24, 2018.

Nancy Dahlberg: @ndahlberg

The ‘rollercoaster’ of startup life, Waze, cybersecurity and Elon Musk

Waze2 (1)

By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

Chances are you will use Waze today.

“Everything on the app was created by the driver,” said Uri Levine, co-founder of Wave, to a full house at eMerge Americas on Tuesday. “It’s a social network for driving. We the drivers help other drivers avoid the traffic jams we are in. This is the magic of Waze.”

Levine kicked off Day 2 of eMerge Americas, the homegrown technology conference at the Miami Beach Convention Center. His keynote talk about the Waze journey and the startups he is building now was full of advice for the rollercoaster ride that is startup life.

Waze1 (1)

The entrepreneur he admires most? “Elon Musk is the most amazing person on the planet.”

Launching a startup is like falling in love, he said, but “fall in love with the problem you are solving, not your solution.” Focus is key too; if you lose focus of the central problem you are solving, you won’t be building the right thing. Timing helps: Waze started on a PDA – remember those – but the smartphone enabled scale.

Waze 3

On startups that fail, he often hears “the team was not right.” But digging deeper, he finds that the team was not right from the first month and the CEO did not make the tough decisions.

Still, startup life is learning from failures, large and small, and second-time entrepreneurs are five times more likely to succeed than first-timers, he said. And “if startups are a rollercoaster, fund-raising is a rollercoaster in the dark – you never know what’s coming.”

He also said while he admires Snapchat and its brethren and the businesses they have built, if he had been presented with the opportunity early on, he would have missed it. “There was no problem. There is enough for me to do to solve problems.”

Startups he is involved in now include Moovit, like Waze but for public transit and it is growing faster than Waze did, he said; Engine, technology that runs ongoing diagnostics on your car and gets the quotes for you, and Solomoto, an all-in-one platform for small businesses that is expanding in the U.S. from Miami.

Waze 4

Among his startups that failed was a group-buying platform. “The underlying assumption that people know what they want [to buy] was wrong.”

What was his best startup? “The next one.” His advice for what Miami entrepreneurs should try to solve? Why does healthcare cost five times as much in the U.S.? Solve that, Levine told the crowd.

Talk about big problems that need to solved and cybersecurity has to be near the top. Wannacry was a wakeup call, and cybersecurity was a hot theme of morning and afternoon talks and Manny Medina’s keynote address on Tuesday. He introduced Cyxtera Technologies, his latest venture. Cyxtera, “a giant startup,” combines 57 data centers and four cybersecurity and data analytics companies out of the gate. Medina said it already serves 3,500 customers and has 1,100 employees, including about 500 cybersecurity and data experts.

“We believe the next revolution is the era of cybersecurity. We believe security has to be adaptive and intelligent ... but also made for the cloud,” said Medina. “This is a giant opportunity and we are in the forefront and it will be based in Miami.”

READ MORE: Done deal: Medina Capital, BC Partners form Cyxtera Technologies in $2.8 billion transaction

eMerge Americas continues Tuesday with a startup competition with $175,000 in prizes, the WIT (Women, Innovation & Technology) Summit, and keynotes by Magic Leap’s Rony Abovitz and a closing talk with baseball legend and businessman Alex Rodriguez.

Follow Nancy Dahlberg on Twitter @ndahlberg.

June 12, 2017

The Woz and Marcelo Claure talk tech – and a little soccer – to open eMerge Americas

 

  Woz (2)
By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

A little rain and traffic tangles from convention center construction didn’t keep hundreds of conference goers to file into eMerge Americas, the homegrown technology conference that opened Monday and continues through Tuesday.

Steve Wozniak, co-founder of Apple, shared tales of Apple’s beginnings and the revolution he and Steve Jobs seemed to see coming. The world was very different then; computers were limited to mainframes, and the cost of memory to hold a single song was $1 million. “We needed to find a way to make computing affordable for the people – that was my role and the result was Apple 1 and Apple2,” he told the packed room.

The biggest innovation of the Apple 2 was turning arcade games from hardware to software, so that a 9-year-old could make things move on a screen for the first time. Some of those kids who got their hands on Apple 2’s are now CEOs of companies today, he said. “Young people being inspired to be entrepreneurs is the most important thing in the world, in my mind.”

The folksy, often funny “Woz,” as he is commonly known, also offered his views of the present and future of innovation, admitting that he didn’t see ride-sharing coming. “When Uber came along, I thought it wouldn’t suceed – we already had taxis.”

As to whether tech will eventually eliminate too many jobs, he scoffed, “I don’t think we will ever be the secondary species to machines. ... it will replace jobs ... but as one job category disappears, another comes along.”

Apple, Google (for its artificial intelligence) and Tesla are currently among the world’s most disruptive companies, he said.

For Woz, privacy is a key concern; he canceled a talk in Turkey because he would have to check in his laptop on the plane. “Anything you’ve got the government can peek into it. I don’t like that and I think it is unconstitutional.”

Marcelo Claure, a hometown entrepreneurial hero who built Miami-based telecom Brightstar, reminded entrepreneurs and business people in the audience that a customer-first strategy is key, for any stage company (and he talked a little soccer). After Sprint shareholder SoftBank purchased Brightstar in 2014, Claure was tapped to take over CEO of the then-troubled Sprint. At the time, Sprint’s 60,000 employees had “a legacy culture of being not used to winning.” His first move: turn the behemoth back into a startup, he said.

And part of the startup culture is talking to customers. On an early listening tour, Claure asked a woman what she thought of Sprint. “Does it still exist?” she said. That comment helped drive him to find the actor who starred in Verizon’s “Can You Hear Me Now?” ads. The result: an award-winning campaign that featured that actor switching to Sprint. “That was an iconic moment for Sprint.”

Regarding a potential merger of Sprint and T-Mobile, Claure said that possibility is still in discussions. But now that Sprint’s turnaround is well underway, many more partnership options exist, including with a cable company.

At Sprint and elsewhere in the industry, the focus is now on widespread rollout of 5G service, an investment requiring $275 billion industrywide.

When he isn’t involved in running Sprint, Claure said he will be engaged in helping choose tech companies that will be funded by [Sprint parent] SoftBank’s recently announced $100 billion fund. “Our job is to find tech companies that will change the world.”

Switching to soccer, he said of his effort with superstar David Beckham to bring major league soccer to Miami: “We are this close. My only ask is for the politicians in Miami to work together on this last piece,” he said, referred to required zoning approvals for a stadium in Overtown. “We’re 90 percent there. If everything works out we will have soccer by 2020, which is our goal.

But, he said, the soccer group knows Miami doesn’t show up for losing teams. “So we are determined to bring in a top soccer team.”

eMerge Americas continues Monday afternoon and Tuesday with exhibits, talks, startup competitions and networking. As to the unusual logistics caused by the convention center renovation, eMerge Americas founder Manny Medina quipped, “if you had seen this place 48 hours ago we were sweating bullets.”

May 31, 2017

Q&A with Xavier Gonzalez: What's in store for eMerge Americas and Miami tech?

By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com Xavier Gonzalez

When eMerge Americas’ team was planning the inaugural homegrown technology conference in 2014, the executives scribbled a list of dream speakers on a white board. It contained names of top technology and business leaders, both from the U.S. and Latin America, people like Steve Wozniak, Uri Levine, Marcelo Claure and Gustavo Cisneros.

As eMerge Americas heads into its fourth year, those big names representing Apple, Waze, Sprint and the Cisneros Group and others, including Magic Leap’s Rony Abovitz and perennial crowd favorite Pitbull, are on the 2017 eMerge Americas agenda, which was released last week. “These are world-class speakers that are recognized across the globe for their leadership, vision and success. We’re very excited about our speaker lineup this year, not just because of these luminaries but also because of the 100 additional speakers our attendees will see over the two days of the event,” said CEO Xavier Gonzalez.

With a mission of promoting South Florida as a hub of the Americas for technology, eMerge Americas is a startup itself. Founded by tech pioneer Manny Medina, the annual conference launched in 2014, attracting about 6,000 attendees from 30 countries, and grew to 13,000 attendees last year. With Medina launching Cyxtera, a major data center and cybersecurity company, in Miami this year, Gonzalez and Melissa Medina, eMerge’s vice president, have taken on strategic leadership roles as well as the day to day operations. Gonzalez has been part of eMerge’s executive team since day 1, and became CEO in late 2015.

The Miami Herald talked with Gonzalez about the evolution of the conference and the technology ecosystem as well as plans for this year’s conference June 12-13 at the Miami Beach Convention Center. Here are excerpts of his remarks.

Q. In your view, what have been the most positive developments in the past year in terms of Miami ecosystem building?

A. The most positive developments have really been around the investments and company building we’ve seen in the market over the last six or seven months. With so many rounds of funding that have been significant — $10 million-plus — in addition to the acquisition of Chewy.com for $3 billion just recently, that tells me that all the work the entire community has been doing to develop and grow an entrepreneurial ecosystem, is starting to pay big dividends in a short amount of time. Add to that the creation of a global cybersecurity company, Cyxtera Technologies, right here in Miami, and there’s something very significant happening in terms of making headway on the global scene.

Q. And the biggest challenges?

A. There are the usual suspects in this category — funding and talent. But in my view we’re making good progress across all the areas that are challenging today. One thing that we as an ecosystem must have is patience. I always say we’re still very early on in the development of Miami as a tech hub. We’ve made huge strides, but there’s still much to do and we must have a level of patience to allow the various programs and initiatives to bear fruit. And we must also have the patience for our ecosystem to develop in its own way and build its own identity.

Q. In many ways, it seems to me," eMerge Americas is a startup that mirrors the development of the Miami ecosystem as a startup. Do you agree with that?

A. We are absolutely a startup that has evolved in lock step with the ecosystem. If you look back to when we hosted our first event, many of the major success stories that we talk about today were either at their infancy or hadn’t even been fully fleshed out yet. And we owe a great deal of the success of eMerge Americas to how much Miami has developed over the last five years and how much interest it has drawn across the globe. Our ecosystem is delivering on the promise that we promoted from the very beginning, which is a place where entrepreneurs and large technology companies focused on the Latin American market can connect with leaders from across the region, as well as those in the U.S. and European markets.

Q. Looking into your crystal ball, what will it take for the ecosystem to hit that critical inflection point?

A. Time. With the major successes we’re seeing like Modernizing Medicine, Chewy.com and Cyxtera — not to mention the massive potential impact of Magic Leap – we are poised to have a number of very large, global technology companies based in this ecosystem. That’s in addition to all the innovative companies that are growing here like Kairos and Nearpod. These companies and many others will continue to grow, innovate and attract talent from all over the world. That talent will develop new companies and bring even more interest from investors. Like I said before, I firmly believe we’re just at the beginning of the maturation of Miami’s technology sector.

Q. When you think of the Miami ecosystem, what’s the first word that comes to mind?

A. Unique. There are very specific characteristics and circumstances that are leading Miami to grow as a technology hub that doesn’t mirror any other in the world. Some of that has to do with the benefits our community has traditionally enjoyed — access to global markets, connection to Latin America, a multicultural city, great place to live and work — and some of it has to do with the incredible developments and energy surrounding our community in the last five years. Miami has truly matured as a global city, and our technology ecosystem will have a very unique position on the global scene that plays off that maturation.

Q. Local universities have always had a big presence at eMerge, particularly last year. Will that continue and what might we expect to see from them this year?

A. We’re always excited to see what innovative technologies and leading-edge research the universities will display at eMerge Americas. This year we’re fortunate to have the continued support of the University of Miami, Florida International University, Miami Dade College, Nova Southeastern University and Florida Atlantic University. We also are excited to have the University of Florida, Columbia University, and Babson College participating, as well as the Instituto Tecnológico y de Estudios Superiores de Monterrey from Mexico.

Q. I know they are all your babies but I’m going to force you to be selective. What are five speakers, exhibits or eMerge events not to be missed?

A. I’m going to cheat a little on this one. From a content perspective, we’re receiving a tremendous amount of interest for the keynotes in general — Steve Wozniak, Uri Levine, Marcelo Claure, Gustavo and Adriana Cisneros, Manny Medina, Blanca Trevino, Mauricio Ramos, Claudio Muruzabal, and, of course, Suze Orman and Armando Christian Perez, a k a Pitbull. On the exhibit floor we’re very excited about what Cyxtera Technologies will be showcasing in what’s their coming out party, as well as what Miami-Dade County will be featuring with their technology partners. The Startups Showcase will have another tremendous set of companies showing off very innovative technologies, including a number of companies from throughout Latin America and a strong contingent from our ecosystem. Based on the attendees we have registered, there’s going to be a very strong group of C-level executives from across Latin America, the United States and Europe, so the networking will be at another level this year. Finally, the networking events we offer on Sunday night always result in a good time for our attendees while they meet leaders from around the world.

[READ MORE: Done Deal: Medina Capital, BC Parttners form Cyxtera Technologies in $2.8B transaction]

Q. Any lessons learned last year that resulted in changes in the conference itself that we will see?

A. One of the elements of eMerge Americas that’s critical to the continued success of the event and our impact on the ecosystem is the networking events. we organize around eMerge Americas." So this year we decided to expand the reach of the networking opportunities to all of our attendees through a happy hour inside the convention center on Monday, June 12. This allows the thousands of attendees to connect right inside the convention center after all the keynotes and panel discussions are completed.

Q. What trends did you see in the Startup Showcase applicants and the ones that you selected?

A. One thing we’ve seen every year with the Startup Showcase is that the companies applying to participate are more and more sophisticated. This year in particular we’re seeing more later-stage companies than ever before, as well as a strong representation of companies from Latin America. One other trend we’ve noticed is that there are always a good number of South Florida-based companies that apply, but their level of success and quality has continued to improve on a yearly basis.

[To see the list of startups selected for the 2017 Showcase, go here: emergeamericas.com/startups]

Q. I don’t think most people know about all the ways you’ve been engaging startups, either through the showcase or in other ways. Tell us about some of those.

A. There are a few things we do to help support and engage entrepreneurs in Miami and Latin America. Throughout the year we host different small startup competitions throughout our main target markets in Latin America and in Miami with partners. The goal is to identify top startups that will have the opportunity to participate in the eMerge Americas Startup Showcase. For all the companies that are selected for the Startup Showcase, we partner with Visa and Venture Hive to provide the entrepreneurs with a monthlong virtual boot camp program and a full day of sessions at Venture Hive’s building in downtown Miami. The thinking is that we are able to provide significant value to all the entrepreneurs selected to participate in the showcase regardless of whether they win the overall competition.

[READ MORE: Upcoming eMerge Americas Hackathon dangles cash prizes and a meet-and-greet with Steve Wozniak]

Q. When we are talking in 2024, eMerge’s 10-year anniversary, what will we be talking about? What do you hope eMerge will look like then?

A. At the 10-year mark, eMerge Americas will serve as the anchor for a week-long series of events celebrating innovation in one of the globe’s top technology hubs and the strength of a robust technology sector in Latin America. eMerge will draw tens of thousands of attendees and be widely recognized as the world’s top event for innovators, government leaders and top technology executives looking to connect across Latin America, the United States and Europe. In 2024, we’ll also be talking about various Miami-based technology companies that are having great success, growing their employment opportunities, securing significant amounts of investment from private equity investors and venture capitalists with offices in Miami, and spawning a new set of technology companies that will grow in our community into 2034 and beyond.

Nancy Dahlberg: @ndahlberg

Xavier Gonzalez

Age: 36

Title: CEO, eMerge Americas

Previous positions: Vice president and director of corporate communications for Terremark Worldwide, 2007-12; director of marketing and communications for Beacon Council, 2003-07.

Community involvement: Board member for the Greater Miami Chamber, Miami-Dade Beacon Council and Camillus House; serves on Orange Bowl Committee; recent graduate of Leadership Florida.

Education: Bachelor’s in Journalism, Master’s in Mass Communications, University of Florida; Belen Jesuit Prep.

Books he recommends: “Shoe Dog;” “An Unfinished Life;” “Who Stole the American Dream?”

eMerge Americas

About the conference: eMerge Americas will be June 12-13 at Miami Beach Convention Center. More information and where to buy tickets: www.emergeamericas.com

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May 22, 2017

Florida Early Stage Capital Conference: And the winners are ...

SiteZeus  Tampa - First Place $75 000

The Florida Venture Forum and Space Florida announced the three top winners of the 10th Annual 2017 Florida Early Stage Capital Conference and Space Florida’s Accelerating Innovation prize, held at the Omni ChampionsGate in Orlando on May 19.  A total of 22 Florida-based companies from across the state and a variety of industry sectors were selected to present before an audience of investors, deal professionals and entrepreneurs. Ten startups from South Florida participated.

A panel of judges reviewed each selected company’s presentation and supporting materials. The top three cash prize winners were:

First Place $75,000 - SiteZeus, Tampa (www.sitezeus.com), pictured above, the new evolution in location intelligence, driven by exceptionally engineered big data systems and unparalleled data visualization technology.

Second Place $50,000 -  Auxadyne, Keystone Heights (www.auxadyne.com) has an exclusive licensing agreement with FSU for the design, manufacture and distribution of the first commercially available auxetic foam in a variety of medical device and protective equipment applications.

Third Place $25,000 - Admiral, Gainesville (www.getadmiral.com) offers an advanced adblock analytics and automatic revenue recovery. They provide a multi-faceted platform that enables publishers to size and solve the unique adblock problem presented by their unique userbase.

The 22 presenting companies were selected from a statewide pool of more than 130 applicants by a committee of active Florida venture capitalists and other investors. Space Florida provided the Accelerating Innovation prize money totaling $150,000.

“The Forum’s Early Stage Capital Conference set a few important records in 2017: our largest-ever number of applicants, record overall attendance and the largest investor attendance in the event’s 10-year history,” said Kevin Burgoyne, President and CEO of the Florida Venture Forum. “We take these milestones as very positive indicators of an increasingly robust and well-rounded early stage ecosystem. We congratulate our winning companies, and thank Space Florida for their strong support.”

In conjunction with the 2017 Early Stage Capital Conference, The Florida Venture Forum  also announced the three winners of the 7th Annual 2017 Statewide Collegiate Business Plan Competition, also held on May 19. A total of 13 universities from a cross section of Florida brought their top students to compete for best in the state. The top three winners were:

 Winner: Sensatek Propulsion Technologies, Reamonn Soto - Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, Fort Lauderdale

First Runner Up: Logentix LLC, Randy Lopez - Florida Polytechnic University, Lakeland

Second Runner Up: Spared, Ryan Lockwood - University of Tampa

 

 

May 03, 2017

10 South Florida startups selected to present at Florida Early Stage Capital Conference

The Florida Venture Forum has selected 22 Florida-based or operating companies to present at its 10th annual 2017 Florida Early Stage Capital Conference, and nearly half are from South Florida.

“We continue to receive applications from high quality early stage companies from all regions in Florida and we received a record number of applications again this year,” said Jennifer Dunham, partner at Arsenal Venture Partners, chair of the conference selection committee and a board member of the Florida Venture Forum. The conference is being held at the Omni ChampionsGate in Orlando on May 19.

In addition to company presentations and other programming, the conference award a total of $150,000 in cash awards presented to the first, second and third place winning companies, provided by Space Florida.

Presenters were selected from a pool of over 130 applicants by a committee of active Florida venture capitalists and investors. Selected companies will present to an audience of investors, other deal professionals and entrepreneurs.

The presenting companies from South Florida will be:  

Boatyard, Fort Lauderdale (www.boatyard.com), is the world's first on-demand marketplace for recreational boating. Their app provides boat owners with the ability to order fuel, boat washing, service and captains directly to their boat with a few clicks on their mobile device.

Caribu, Miami (www.caribu.co), is an education platform that helps parents, extended family, and mentors read and draw with children when they’re not together. The result is an engaging experience in a carefully designed, curated, and secure platform.

Honorlock, Boca Raton (www.honorlock.com), the company’s on-demand proctoring solution combines classic proctoring methods with a proprietary new method of multi-device detection. 

Kugadi, Miami (www.kugadi.com), allows security companies to move into the 22st century by enabling them with a mobile app and web based portal that makes their employees both more efficient and more accountable.

Neuro Pharmalogics, Boca Raton, is a Biopharmaceutical company developing/commercializing innovative therapies for people with rare (orphan) neurological diseases treatable by PKG signaling modification such as: Hemiplegic Migraine, Orphan Epileptic conditions, Neural Trauma (TBI, Spinal shock), and other Ischemic conditions.

Papa, Hollywood (www.joinpapa.com),  is a home health technology platform that allows members to connect to home health services in their community. They are working to simplify healthcare. Though the Papa Platform, they make it easy for members to access and manage health care services for their family members.

Rotation Manager, Miami (www.rotationmanager.com), is an online platform for hospitals, schools, and nurses to manage clinical rotation scheduling and compliance. Software as a Service.

Symplast, Plantation (www.symplast.com), is the first practice management platform that revolutionizes patient engagement from any smartphone. A complete eHealth solution for aesthetic practices, Symplast increases communication between patients, providers and staff. Fully functional on any computer, tablet, or smartphone, Symplast provides doctors the freedom to focus on what matters most: their patients.

Tender Armor, Fort Lauderdale (www.tenderarmor.com), CVV+ is a real-time, two-factor fraud prevention solution that authenticates cardholders conducting Card-Not-Present (CNP) transactions including e-commerce and phone transactions. CVV+ validates the authorized cardholder conducting the transaction, not just the payment card.

Whoop Wireless, Boca Raton (www.whoopwireless.com), their patented technology is used by major academic, hospitality, and corporate institutions to provide in-building cellular coverage at less than half the cost of a distributed antenna system (DAS).

The other companies are:

Admiral, Gainesville (www.getadmiral.com), offers an advanced adblock analytics and automatic revenue recovery. They provide a multi-faceted platform that enables publishers to size and solve the unique adblock problem presented by their unique userbase.

Feathr, Gainesville (www.feathr.co), is a digital marketing SaaS company focused on the vertical of live events, such as trade shows and music festivals.

Auxadyne, Keystone Heights (www.auxadyne.com), has an exclusive licensing agreement with FSU for the design, manufacture and distribution of the first commercially available auxetic foam in a variety of medical device and protective equipment applications.

Droplit, Melbourne (www.droplit.io), provides software development tools for hardware companies in the Internet of Things. With full-stack cloud infrastructure and rich developer tools, Droplit enables rapid development of IoT products, allowing product teams to accomplish in weeks what currently takes years.

RedTeam Software, Orlando (www.redteamsoftware.com), is a true cloud application built and optimized for construction by people that know the business. From collaboration through accountability, RedTeam is the most comprehensive project management and accounting solution for commercial construction.

GO PUCK, Sarasota (www.gopuck.com), GO PUCK’s founders invented the lithium starting battery, and patented the Supercharger technology used by Tesla Motors. Their work is found in every IndyCar, championship NASCAR & Formula 1 vehicles and recharge millions of Electric powered miles. They now have patented claims for the 1st Wearable Power device, with all the speed, safety and reliability trusted around the World.

Prime Medical, Largo (www.primemedical.com), is revolutionizing infection prevention in healthcare and other verticals with its complete line of SAF-T™ products and OEM capability. Using a patented fabric technology, SAF-T apparel and textiles retain a lasting shield of chlorine molecules after each laundering in EPA-registered bleach. Simple, superior and sophisticated, the chlorine-activated textiles are powered to continuously kill the colonization of harmful bacteria and viruses during use/wear, are completely safe, and feature next-gen color technology that will not fade in bleach.

QURE4U, Bradenton ( www.qure4u.com), the platform answers the need for health professionals to increase patient engagement. The interactive tools, patient monitoring and alerts enable providers and their staff members to more efficiently interact with patients, identify patients at risk, give better treatment, and reduce visits to the ER and hospital admissions as well as gaps-in-care.

SiteZeus, Tampa (www.sitezeus.com), the new evolution in location intelligence, driven by exceptionally engineered big data systems and unparalleled data visualization technology.

TripShock, Santa Rosa Beach (www.tripshock.com), is both B2B and B2C. For the B2B model, they provide booking solutions for activity and tour suppliers. They generate bookings through their distribution outlets and collect a commission for each confirmed sale.

NeuroInitiative, Jacksonville (www.neuroinitiative.com), 100% of attempts to stop or slow progression of Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases have failed. They can change that, and in the process bring relief to 57 million patients worldwide, introduce a new way to develop effective drugs, and capture sizable portions of both the $37 billion annual pharma R&D market.

Ardusat, Salt Lake City, UT (www.ardusat.com),  creates hands-on and engaging STEM experiences on earth and in space. Ardusat’s open STEM platform provides curriculum resources mapped to national and state standards, classroom management tools for teachers, and step by step guides for students to build experiments. Ardusat has operations in Florida.

 - Submitted by Florida Venture Forum

 

April 04, 2017

Knight invests in 6 projects aimed at advancing Miami tech, entrepreneurship

The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation on Tuesday announced new funding for six projects aimed at advancing Miami as an inclusive tech and innovation hub, from web development scholarships for low-income students to Miami’s first full-scale Maker Faire. The grants total $741,000.

Here are the projects receiving funding:

Digital Grass ($186,000) – Digital Grass aims to strengthen the region’s startup community by sharing the stories of South Florida’s entrepreneurs and hosting programs that educate entrepreneurs on topics related to business development.

International Women’s Forum ($105,000) – A two-day Executive Development Roundtable workshop that aims to help Miami’s rising female leaders and entrepreneurs will take place this summer. The program will focus on scaling an endeavor, building leadership skills, increasing confidence and self-efficacy and addressing risk aversion.

Miami Made ($75,000) – Miami Made supports Miami’s startup community by connecting startup founders through a series of events — including themed dinners, breakfast meetups and member-led outings — and creates a network of resources focused on helping founders thrive.

MANO ($125,000) – MANO fosters connection among Miami’s artists, entrepreneurs and tinkerers through the Miami’s first full-scale Maker Faire April 8-9 at Miami Dade College, featuring inventions and exhibits. After three years of presenting the Miami Mini Maker Faire, the event is now one of only 30 featured Maker Faires in the world. Purchase tickets for the Maker Faire Miami at miami.makerfaire.com.

NewCo ($175,000) – A one-day conference will promote awareness of emerging local employment and business opportunities. It will combine the style of an artist open studio with the feel of a music festival and connect Miami's growing entrepreneurial class with established businesses and budding startups.

Wyncode ($75,000) – Wyncode will offer full scholarships to low-income and under-represented minority students for the company’s 10-week web development boot camp teaching computer programming. After the course, students will take part in a three-month paid technical internship at CareCloud, Clutch Prep, DVLPER, Kipu Systems, Trim Agency or Watsco Ventures. Wyncode is now accepting scholarship applications to join the April 24 cohort. Visit wyncode.co/futureleaders.

“These projects ... foster local talent by supporting entrepreneurs of all kinds, while creating new pathways for innovators from under-represented groups to access resources and connect with Miami’s wider innovation community,” said Matt Haggman, Knight Foundation program director for Miami.

Over the past four years Knight has made more than 200 investments totalling more than $25 million to entrepreneurship in South Florida.

 

March 13, 2017

Startups: Apply now for eMerge Americas Startup Showcase, offering $175K in prizes

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By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

eMerge Americas, Miami’s homegrown technology conference now heading into its fourth year, is accepting applications for the June event’s Startup Showcase, which brings together entrepreneurs from around the world to compete in front of expert judges and thousands of attendees.

The eMerge Americas team traveled throughout Latin America meeting with accelerator partners and investment groups, and as part of that eMerge also hosted several startup competitions in the region. eMerge Americas CEO Xavier Gonzalez expects a number of those startups to be participating in the showcase.

“We think there will be a stronger than ever Latin American flair amongst the entrepreneurs. But at the same time, as evidenced by all the funding rounds coming out and startups bubbling up within South Florida, we think the showing and the quality from South Florida will also be stronger,” Gonzalez said. “We think it will be a good showcase of the continued evolution of the ecosystem here in South Florida and in Latin America.”

The Startup Showcase, presenting opportunities for startups to connect with investors and business leaders, is accepting applications at emergeamericas.com/startups through March 31. This year’s showcase, sponsored by Visa, will include participation from 125 startups in three tracks: Early stage, later stage and university.

All startups chosen for the showcase will be able to exhibit free of charge in the Startup Showcase area at eMerge Americas and participate in a free startup bootcamp before the conference. During the conference, they will pitch their ideas to judges for the chance to win up to $175,000 in cash and in-kind prizes, and finalists will present on stage.

The tech conference will return June 12-13 to Miami Beach Convention Center with a packed agenda of speakers and an active expo floor. WIT (Women, Innovation and Technology) Summit, launched in year two and bringing together women leaders from varying fields, and eGov, a gathering of public and private sector leaders, will also return as part of eMerge Americas. “We’ve spent the past few months working diligently to strike new partnerships and secure unique speakers to ensure eMerge 2017 surpasses all expectations,” Gonzalez said.

Last year’s conference, featuring Tony Hawk, Colin Powell, Ray Kurzweil, Monica Lewinsky and others, attracted about 13,000 attendees.

Follow @ndahlberg on Twitter.

 

 

February 25, 2017

Blacktech Weekend draws hundreds to talk about tech and capital raising, make connections

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A standing-room-only crowd piles in to hear Michael Seibel of Y-Combinator, Sarah Kunst of Proday and Angela Benton of NewME (shown below) open Blacktech Weekend at Venture Café in CIC Miami Thursday. More photos at bottom of story. Photos by Nancy Dahlberg

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By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

It was billed as an opportunity to “break bread and make bread.” Blacktech Weekend was certainly that and a whole lot more.

Black startup founders, investors, techies and community builders flew in from Silicon Valley and all over the U.S. to meet and mingle with Miami’s entrepreneurship community for talks, panel discussions, meals, bus tours, community outreach activities and parties during the event Thursday through Saturday at various locations around the city. On the main stage at the Little Haiti Cultural Center and the evening before at CIC Miami, the talk was capital raising, getting the message out, social impact and building inclusive ecosystems.

I’ve been to a lot of conferences, and the speakers usually bolt after their talks. Not at Blacktech Weekend. Each talk on stage – heavy with personal stories and advice -- came with substantial Q&A time, and the conversations continued after, in the halls, over lunch, on the buses, at the bars. Many of the speakers stayed for the entire conference.

That’s by design, said Blacktech Weekend’s founders Felecia Hatcher and Derick Pearson, who also co-founded Code Fever, an organization for inclusive coding and entrepreneurial education. The speakers list was curated and the event put together so that attendees received many opportunities to meet – and be inspired by – some of the luminaries of the industry. These are the stories that don’t get told, they said. And along the way, attendees also get their burning questions answered and, most importantly, begin building a relationship with potential investors, mentors and strategic partners.

But let’s get down to a few highlights:

“This is not a game where everyone wins. … You need to know that’s the world you are going into. I tell founders all the time, 99.9 percent chance of failure,” Michael Seibel, CEO of Silicon Valley’s Y-Combinator, one of the world’s preeminent startup accelerators, and co-founder of Justin.TV/Twitch and Socialcam, told the standing-room-only opening night crowd at Venture Café at CIC. He said in the last two years YC has funded more than 100 black and Hispanic founders.

More truths he shared: “I’ve seen every idea. Ideas are irrelevant. You are judged on execution and the number 1 way to prove that you can execute is by executing.”

Entrepreneurs succeed in fund-raising by developing leverage – by getting people to fear them as opposed to love them, he said. How to do that: Build and launch something without money. Have the right team, and there better be engineers on it, he said. And in the beginning, it’s ok if just a small group of people love your product.

“Good founders can give me a picture of the future that I can believe,” Seibel said. “And the second that I believe your version of the future, you have leverage. … I’m a little bit afraid if I don’t get behind this.”

Startups are your opportunity to change the world, but make sure you are working on a problem you really care about, he advised.

Sara Kunst, founder of Proday, and Angela Benton, founder of NewME, the first accelerator for entrepreneurs of color, got even more real: “You have to go above and beyond, and that’s the reality we are in,” said Benton, now a Miami resident who is looking to expand programming here.

The stats are sobering: Under-represented minorities in tech number in the low- to mid- single-digit percentages, and it’s about the same for senior leadership, according to statistics released last year at SXSW. Only 1 percent of VCs are black and about 1 percent of VC money goes to black founders.

Women of color who have been funded are an especially rare breed. Kunst said there are just 13 black women founders in the nation have raised a million dollars or more in venture capital.

For seed funding, if you don’t know a lot of rich people, Kunst recommends applying to accelerators, even those in obscure places such as the Midwest, because they generally provide funding. F6s.com has a good list of accelerators, she said.

Richard Kerby is vice president of Venrock, an early stage VC fund that invests in tech and healthcare companies, writing checks from $500K to $10 million. He said he listens to the founder’s vision, and then thinks, if that team can execute the vision, how will the world be impacted? If he likes the answer to that, he dives deeper into more traditional venture measures around team and product.

“As for team, I look less at your education background and look more to understand your raw intellect. I look less on your experience and more at your great market knowledge of your category. In product, I look at the value you provide to your end customer,” he said during the conference on Friday at the Little Haiti Cultural Center. For consumer products, engagement and retention is super important, he said.

Chris Christmas, founder of KeepLivin, reminded the audience that’s it’s not all about the exit.

“Everything is not about raising money and selling … Stay in your communities and grow jobs … Let’s be about economic development in our communities.”

KeepLivin  is a digital health company that aims to increase health equity in communities where health disparities exist. “Our job is to bring digital technology to the community and we are starting in barbershops, salons and churches,” he said. “We go to the streets; we meet the customers where they are at.”

For example, KeepLivin takes telemedicine to churches and to families with members in the Caribbean, so they can be seen by a board-certified physician.

KeepLivin was part of the first cohort of Startupbootcamp Digital Health in Miami, and Christmas said he found Miami to be a perfect ecosystem to grow keeplivin.org.

“Innovation is a social process, and it is one that it is fueled by conversation, collaboration, storytelling and it thrives when everybody’s included,” said Leigh-Ann Buchanan, executive director of Venture Café Miami, who led a panel discussion about inclusive ecosystems.

Leslie Miley, a returning Blacktech Week speaker who has held engineering leadership roles at Slack, Twitter, Apple and Google, said the onus is on the black community to get the positive stories out on social media platforms. “It’s about changing the narrative that is being told. .. [On social media] we should be talking about our accomplishments, talking about what we do.” Taking a page from the alt-right’s success getting its message out, he said, “Just publish information, just publish it. Link to our positive stories and have them go viral.”

Indeed, Hatcher said the reason for starting Blacktech activities was because, “We want to make sure everyone gets a seat at the table, or can build their own … table.”

Saturday brought about 40 conference goers into the streets via a bus tour of black history and innovation in Miami and others mentored youth entrepreneurs at the Overtown Youth Center. Blacktech Weekend, supported by the Knight Foundation and a number of other sponsors, was a warm-up to the main event, the third annual Blacktech Week, this year being held Sept. 25-30. If you missed the weekend event, much of the content was taped and some has been put up on social media (Refresh Miami posted Seibel’s talk on its Facebook page) and, as in the past, other talks will be released by Blacktech Week over next couple of weeks. You can catch up on the conversation at #BTWKND17.

READ MORE:

Blacktech Week receives $1.2 million in Knight funding to expand entrepreneurship programs

WLRN Q&A with Felecia Hatcher

Numbers don't lie: Silicon Valley still has a diversity problem

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Blacktech Weekend day 2 speakers at Little Haiti Cultural Center include Richard Kirby of Venrock, with Derick Pearson, above. Below, Chris Christmas of KeepLivin and panels on social media and inclusion below. Photos by Nancy Dahlberg

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February 21, 2017

#Miamitech on immigration: 'Now is not the time to shut the door."

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By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

Everymundo, a fast-growing Miami tech company, was and continues to be built by immigrant talent.

That’s even reflected in its company name. Recently the Everymundo team proclaimed its message from the windows of their downtown Miami office – “We are immigrants. Everymundo.”

Today, Everymundo, which develops and licenses marketing automation software and solutions to airlines and joined the Endeavor network of high-impact Miami companies in 2015, has 54 full-time employees in Miami and 30 of them were born outside the United States. A quarter of them are working for Everymundo on professional visas, said CEO Anton Diego.

Diego was born in Moscow and raised in Havana and Spain before moving to the U.S. in high school. “My story is just another story of the fabric of Miami.” For Diego, a biography of Andy Grove, the founder of Intel who was a Hungarian immigrant who survived Nazi Germany and communism in Hungary, proudly sits on his desk. “Without immigration, Silicon Valley wouldn’t exist ... He never made excuses, he just wanted to grow a business and employ people.”

Without the visas, Diego would not be able to recruit the top talent Everymundo needs. Miami has a growing tech community and talent base but can not yet supply the levels of senior level talent these growing companies need, a sentiment echoed by Alexander Sjögren, chief technology officer at YellowPepper, a Miami-based company pioneering mobile banking and payments in Latin America. Sjögren, a Swede who lived and worked in Latin America, moved to Miami in 2012 on an H-1-B visa to work with YellowPepper. He said about 90 percent of YellowPepper’s Miami workforce is foreign-born.

Statistics bear this out. Two out of every three engineering degrees in the U.S. are granted to foreigners. Nearly half of Fortune 500 companies established in the early 2000s were established by the foreign-born.

Johanna Mikkola, the Finnish-Canadian co-founder of Wyncode, a coding education company that is also part of Endeavor, said her company would not be as successful placing their 400 graduates in junior developer jobs at tech firms without senior level talent on staff, often immigrants, that enable companies to hire, train and nurture younger local talent. recently, Wyncode announced it will be partnering with a Swedish company to grow its impact in Miami. They were part of a panel opening up a one-day Urbanism Summit that explored issues from climate change to sustainability to urban food deficits at Palm Court in the Design District on Tuesday.

“Now is not the time to shut the door,” said Ted Hutchinson, Florida organizing director for FWD.us, who moderated the event. FWD.us, which has an office in Wynwood, is a bi-partisan national advocacy organization that was started in 2013 by Silicon Valley tech titans. “FWD is committed to finding solutions to fix immigration and part of that is raising awareness of immigration and immigrants’ contributions to tech and the entire economy of Florida.”

About 54 percent of Miami area businesses are founded by immigrants, Hutchinson said, and about one in four in Florida. But behind the numbers are people.

“We’re truly about the American Dream,” said Diego. “We want to make a difference in this city. We need to be able to recruit outside the United states and look South. Some of our top developers come to the U.S., they bring their families ... and they teach junior developers their skills. The reality is that Miami today lacks AI and big data experts, these are the fields we play in. We need to find ways to them to Miami, to bring their families to Miami. They improve our world.”

And it’s for the long term, Diego said. “We want to build a company our kids will want to work in.”

READ MORE

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Wyncode coding school raises $1 million to fund growth and next phase

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Panelists from the Miami tech community talk about their need for attracting top tech talent via immigration at the Urbanism Summit in Miami on Tuesday. At top, Everymundo displayed the message "We are immigrants" in its downown office windows recently.