Want to know about Miami startups? A user's guide to this blog

Dear reader, Starting Gate has been providing and archiving South Florida startup and tech community news, views and resources since 2012. New to the Miami area? Thinking about relocating here? Just want to keep up with news, events and opportunities? We're there for you.

How to use Starting Gate: Besides scrolling the blog for the latest entries, you can access news and views by category. The "Funding" category will capture venture capital and angel funding news of individual startups as well as stories about funders. The startup categories chronicle news and my regular "Spotlights," and in Q&As you'll find interviews with CEOs and leaders in the entrepreneurship ecosystem. There are also categories for guest posts, views, accelerators/incubators, resources, events and more.

Thank you for your support through the years and please come back often. Follow me on Twitter @ndahlberg. - Sincerely, Nancy Dahlberg

October 17, 2017

Endeavor's impact on South Florida entrepreneurship: It's in the numbers

WyncodeAuston-instructing-students
 

EverymundoSFBJBy Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com
 
EveryMundo, founded by Anton Diego and Seth Cassel (pictured here), provides performance marketing technology for airlines. The Miami startup  has grown the team to 60 employees and has experienced double-digit revenue growth every year. It's now working with about 30 airlines.
 
Founded by Juha and Johanna Mikkola, Wyncode offers coding boot camps that prepare students for the local tech job market. It has graduated more than 450 students and more than 200 companies have hired them. It recently raised funding and opened its own headquarters space (shown above).
 
Pincho Factory, the fast-casual restaurant concept inspired by Latin American street food founded in 2010, has been on a growth spurt since the beginning of 2016. It has gone from two locations to eight, with three more are on the runway, and has added 180 employees. Today it is closing in on $14 million in annual revenue systemwide. It was founded by Otto Othman and Nedal Ahmad.
 
What the three South Florida companies have in common is they were all selected by Endeavor, the global organization that provides mentorship and services to high impact entrepreneurs, including access to talent, capital and markets on local and global levels. The Endeavor Miami chapter, the global nonprofit's first office in the U.S., opened in 2013.
 
"Endeavor has been monumental in terms of mentoring and advising us with our growth strategy. We were able to truly learn how to raise funds and how to negotiate term sheets with the help of our mentors," said Othman. "The networking component provided to us by Endeavor has been huge for us as well. Meeting other fellow entrepreneurs and successful Miami locals has played a big role in our growth. From advising to sharing best practices, these are the lessons you just simply don't learn in school."
 
FigsThese companies and others were highlighted in Endeavor Miami's just released annual impact report, which shows that the 16 active Endeavor Miami companies are booking $130 million in 2017 revenue. Together they employ 1,600 people, and that's up 37 percent since 2014 while jobs statewide were up 9.4 percent in the same period. They've raised $15 million in capital, Endeavor Miami says in its new report.
 

These include companies such as the My Ceviche fast-casual restaurant company, which has grown from two restaurants to six, including its Midtown Miami, Coral Gables and MIA locations, since the founders were selected in 2013. Powerful's yogurt and other other all-natural products are in 10,000 stores, including Target, Walmart and Kroger. FIGS, founded by Trina Spear (pictured here) and Heather Hasson, offers antimicrobial, breathable and fashionable scrubs, and is also a B Corp. that has donated more than 75,000 sets of scrubs in 26 countries. Kairos, the facial recognition and  human analytics technology startup used by a number of enterprise clients, made a strategic acquisition and has raised some $8 million in funding to power its growth.

Brian Brackeen OfficeEndeavor Miami's network of 75 mentors have donated 1,371 mentor hours to help make these successes happen, according to the report. "It’s like having a network of experts at my disposal 24 hours a day, 7 Days a week. It’s family. They would do anything to help us to win," said Brian Brackeen, founder and CEO of Kairos.

To be sure, Endeavor is part of a whole network of community organizations and university programs offering services and support to entrepreneurs in South Florida. Endeavor focuses on selecting companies that are ripe to scale and could benefit from Endeavor's help, as well as founders who are likely to give back to the South Florida community after they've found success by helping the next generation of startups through mentorship and/or investment.

Four years in since the Knight Foundation funded the launch of Endeavor Miami, the community is already seeing the give-back, with entrepreneurs like Brackeen, the Pincho founders, the Mikkolas and many others mentoring startups, offering connections and speaking around town and beyond about entrepreneurship. The organization is celebrating with a benefit gala on Saturday honoring tech visionary Salim Ismail. 

Read the Endeavor Miami impact report here.

To nominate a company for the Endeavor network, go to www.endavormiami.org

October 12, 2017

Magic Leap could raise another $1 billion in new funding round

Magicleap2

A revamped Magic Leap website appears to be dropping hints of what's to come.

 

By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

Magic Leap could soon be flying high as a $7 billion company – without having yet launched a product.

Magic Leap, the secretive South Florida startup that has strongly hinted that its “mixed reality” technology may soon be revealed, is seeking to raise up to $1 billion in fresh funding from investors, according to reports of a new corporate filing on Thursday.

The company, based in Plantation, has authorized the sale of more than 37 million shares of Series D stock at $27 each to raise about $1 billion, according to the Oct. 11 filing with the State of Delaware obtained by venture data company CB Insights.

The filing does not mean that the company will raise that much, but it could, and it did not mention any investors. The filing also did not mention how much the company has raised so far. Magic Leap has declined to comment.

When asked if he was raising another large round, Magic Leap’s CEO Rony Abovitz said in June that the company is always in fund-raising mode. However, Bloomberg reported last month that the company has held talks with Temasek Holdings, an investment firm owned by the Singapore government, to join a $500 million investment.

The new financing round comes as Magic Leap readies a long-awaited debut product, believed to be a headset or pair of glasses that will integrate computer graphics onto the real world through its proprietary technology, making for a more natural experience for users, Abovitz, who founded the company in his garage, has said. Bloomberg’s sources said the new product could cost as much as $2,000 and product shipments may begin within six months. In the past couple of weeks, though, the company has unveiled a new logo, a website that proclaimed “we are taking you on this journey to launch” and a new promo video about Magic Leap’s beginnings.

Magic Leap has already raised $1.4 billion from investors such as Google, venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz and e-commerce company Alibaba, giving it a valuation last year of $4.5 billion. The new funding could raise the company’s valuation to about $7 billion, reports said.

The company, which has offices worldwide and at least 800 employees in its South Florida headquarters, has nearly 200 open jobs listed for its Plantation office alone.

Follow @ndahlberg on Twitter.

September 28, 2017

SpringBIG, a cannabis marketing platform, wins Shark Tank style pitch event -- and $50K

SpringBIG Pitch Jeffrey Harris

 

Arcview Forum Palm Beach brought in a crowd of over 100 high net-worth investors who gathered to observe 20 cannabis-related companies competing for investment at the Eau de Palm Beach Resort  during the September 19-20 event. The Arcview Investor Network includes more than 600 accredited investor members who have put more than $152 million behind 162 cannabis-related companies. Nine of the companies competed “Shark Tank” style to a panel of judges and investor attendees with the hope of coming out on top and bear the title of most investible concept. 

Judges agreed that springBIG, a Boca Raton based company pictured above, was the best. SpringBIG takes home the “Best Pitch” trophy  and the $50,000 “Winner’s Fund” award as well (pending due diligence).  

SpringBIG is a customer engagement and marketing platform for cannabis dispensaries and brands.  Their data-driven approach includes loyalty and rewards, personalized messaging and analytics.  The team has extensive experience in the loyalty sector and launched their platform in January of this year. 

"We've been working hard to solve some of the marketing and sales challenges that these new cannabis firms are facing. It feels great to know that the true insiders that are placing capital in this space have validated that we are on the right track and are putting their faith in us to deliver the best loyalty marketing and communications solution for this burgeoning industry,” said Jeffrey Harris, CEO of SpringBIG.

Magic Leap's road to the big reveal paved with $$$, teasers

By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

MagicleapscreenHello, Magic Leap.

On its road to the big reveal, the secretive South Florida tech company has refreshed its website as another teaser of what’s to come. This all arrives fresh off reports that Magic Leap is raising another $500 million in funding, give or take a few million, and that insiders have said that its product launch could be within six months.

Go to MagicLeap.com today and there is no more 3-D whale flying through a gym. Gone are all the videos, blog posts and other distractions. Now its mascot greets you with a simple “Hello” and a message that reads, in part: “We’re taking you with us on this journey to launch. More to come ...” It invites you to submit your email for its mailing list.

The only other element on Magic Leap’s revamped website is a careers page, advertising 253 jobs, most of them in Plantation, where Magic Leap is based. Magic Leap’s social media pages have also been updated and simplified.

Magic Leap is reportedly building a wearable computing device based on its “mixed reality” technology called “Digital Lightfield.” The company has already raised nearly $1.4 billion from Google, Alibaba, Qualcomm and other venture firms, valuing the company that has yet to launch its first product at $4.5 billion.

The Bloomberg report earlier this month said that Temasek Holdings, an investment company owned by Singapore, may take part in a new financing round of more than $500 million, valuing Magic Leap at close to $6 billion. Magic Leap and the investment firm have declined to comment.

According to Bloomberg’s sources, the headset device — bigger than a pair of glasses but smaller than VR headsets on the market now — could cost between $1,500 and $2,000. People would have to carry a second device about the size of a smartphone to power the glasses, the sources told Bloomberg.

On the eMerge Americas stage in Miami Beach in June, Magic Leap’s CEO and founder Rony Abovitz shared his thoughts on the future of technology, his vision for more natural computing and the tech ecosystem in South Florida.

To experience the world more naturally, he said then, “we’re trying to build a computer that acts like people, so you don’t have to look at your phone all the time.”

Abovitz said then that Magic Leap had more than 1,000 employees, with about 800 in South Florida. “We are bringing in people from all over the world. This brain trust will at some point spin out their own startups,” he said.

What happens next is pure speculation, and it’s out there. Unnamed sources told a Bloomberg reporter earlier this month that the company’s first product could ship in the next six months. Since the revamped website launched Wednesday, Reddit commenters with time on their hands have uncovered what they say are hints within the website — including Morse code messages and Alpha Ceti symbolism within the coding pointing to a December launch.

Stay tuned.

Follow @ndahlberg on Twitter.

September 15, 2017

Miami-based tech company YouVisit selected to join global Endeavor network

Endeavor

From left, Endri Tolka, Abi Mandelbaum and Taher Baderkhan are co-founders of YouVisit.

 

YouVisit incorporates virtual reality and other technologies in its 360 experiences for brands and organizations.

By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

An immersive technology player is the latest South Florida company to be selected to join the global network Endeavor.

Endeavor Miami announced this week that YouVisit is now the 16th Endeavor Miami company to be selected for the network of high-impact entrepreneurship. It was selected during Endeavor’s 74th International Selection Panel in New York City Sept. 11-13. Endeavor companies receive mentorship and access to capital, global markets and talent.

While international students at Brandeis University in Massachusetts, Abi Mandelbaum, Taher Baderkhan and Endri Tolka were frustrated by the lack of affordable options for international and out-of-state students to get a better sense for what it is like to live and study at different college campuses. They launched YouVisit in 2009 to enable prospective students and families to tour colleges and universities around the globe for free from the comfort of their own homes.  In 2012, their proprietary Virtual Guided Walking Tour technology had proven so effective on college campuses that institutions in other industries, including hospitality, started asking YouVisit to build immersive experiences for them.

Today, the Miami-based YouVisit, now with nearly 100 employees, is powered by its award-winning production studio and Aria, its proprietary enterprise platform that enables brands and organizations to interact with and convert audiences through 360-degree experiences incorporating virtual reality and other technologies.

 The company, which also has a big office in New York City, engages consumers across mobile, desktop and virtual reality for more than 800 clients, including the U.S. Army, Hewlett-Packard, Cisco, Hilton, Yale, Harvard PwC and the cities of Houston and Philadephia. Some clients use the YouVisit's 360 experiences for talent recruitment, while others use them for lead generation and marketing.

 "Now our biggest verticals are corporate and travel an of course education," said Mandelbaum, CEO of YouVisit, in an interview Friday. "We have invested over 200,000 development hours in Aria and it is a platform that all of our clients benefit from. That's been a big reason  why our client renewal rate is above 95 percent. We continually make improvements to our platform so that our clients stay at the forefront of this changing technology. ... Now we are starting to implement augmented reality."

He said the average engagement rate of YouVisit's 360 content is nine minutes -- an eternity in online time. YouVisit clients' average conversion rate is an impressive 20 percent.

"That's what differentiates us in the space. Most people in the virtual reality and 360 content space are very caught up in the technology, while for us it is how we use this technology to enable actual business results rather than just PR," Mandelbaum said.

To that end, YouVisit is starting to work with some retail clients to enable purchasing through the Aria platform. "We've continued to grow and solidified our leadership position," Mandelbaum said. "We all feel strongly that joining the Endeavor community is only going to accelerate that."

YouVisit has won several awards, including first place at VR Fest 2016 and 2017, as well as the Science and Technology Samsung Creator Award.

YouVisit was chosen during Endeavor’s International Selection Panels, a culmination of a rigorous selection process involving interviews with global business leaders. 

“We see Abi, Endri and Taher as innovative tech leaders transforming consumer engagement through virtual reality and immersive technologies,” said Laura Maydón, managing director of Endeavor Miami. “Having achieved impressive growth and traction, these three entrepreneurs will be inspirational role models for our Miami tech ecosystem. As Endeavor helps YouVisit scale, I hope their success will bring attention to the quality of the work that’s being done in South Florida tech.”

Endeavor Miami launched its operation in September 2013 with the support of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. It now supports 28 entrepreneurs from 16 companies; recent selections have included Powerful Yogurt and, Pincho Factory and Citizen.  For more information on Endeavor Miami or to nominate Miami entrepreneurs,  visit www.endeavormiami.org

To date, Endeavor Global has selected more than a thousand individuals leading over 800 high-growth companies that have created over 600,000 jobs. Headquartered in New York City, Endeavor operates in 27 countries throughout Europe, Latin America, North America, Africa, Asia, the Middle East and the U.S.

Follow @ndahlberg on Twitter.

August 22, 2017

How a Miami tech company is bringing the doctor’s office into the digital age

By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

Ken portrait 1This year, CareCloud, the Miami-based healthcare technology company that provides a software platform for high-performing medical groups, has recently added two executives to its C-suite. It released a new product for the promising field of telemedicinefueled with a $31.5 million financing round at the end of last year. And its chief executive, Ken Comée, says more company developments are in the pipeline for later this year.

“EHR [electronic health records] is where we started but now we are moving out into where the patient is involved. When you walk into the doctor office, they give you a clipboard. We are eradicating the clipboard” with sophisticated automation tools, Comée said, without revealing too many details about CareCloud’s product plans. “Patients are demanding ease of use when they go to the doctors. We see this as an opportunity for doctors to provide ease of use, ease of access; those are the technologies that will make the practices more efficient and drive customer loyalty.”

Comée took the helm as CEO in April 2015, relocating from California. Previously, Comée was CEO at Cast Iron Systems, a cloud integration company acquired by IBM. He was also CEO of PowerReviews, a leader in product ratings and reviews, also acquired, and CEO of Badgeville, a gamification startup. Before assuming the helm of CareCloud, he was a CareCloud board member, investor and operational adviser.

“When I came on board, there was such promise in the company, but something needed help. It was the classic ‘founder got it to a certain level,’ ” Comée said. “We had to fix a few things, slow things down and focus on building the right foundation for what we are now seeing — the growth engine. You will start seeing us getting very aggressive.”

CareCloud, founded by Albert Santalo in 2009, grew quickly to become one of South Florida’s most successful early-stage technology companies. It currently manages more than $4 billion in annualized accounts receivables. CareCloud now has about 250 employees, about 180 of them in Miami, Comée said. He declined to disclose revenues, only saying, “We are adding 40 to 60 new clients per quarter and I think that will continue to accelerate.”

The Miami Herald discussed the company’s growth, trends in the industry and what’s next for CareCloud with Comée last month. Here are excerpts of the conversation.

Q. You arrived in April 2015. What was your goal for the company then and have your goals changed?

A. My primary goal then and now actually is the same — focus. There’s a tendency for early-stage companies to try to do too much. Success is about doing a few things really well. For CareCloud, that means building the best cloud solution in the market and having customers who rave about it.

Q. I see you have hired a chief revenue officer and a chief financial officer in 2017. Is the top management team now where you want it to be?

A. For the chief revenue officer, I went out and got a real pro. Greg Shorten had spent 12 years building Allscripts. ... He is a terrific sales leader. ...

My CFO, Shari VanLoo, and I worked together at my first company that I sold to IBM. As I look at this company and the opportunity to go public in three, four or five years, I need someone of her background and stature for that potential outcome. She has a lot of experience taking companies to market. Yes, my management team is set for now.

Q. I think you just answered one of my questions about whether going public is in the plans?

A. I think it absolutely is. My competitors are 20- and 30-year-old technologies, and I have the best damn platform in the space. Personally, I would love to take one out public. I’ve had a couple of acquisitions and those are nice, but I would love to build a legacy company.”

Q. Healthcare is moving more and more to a consumer-focused model. How is CareCloud leveraging that trend?

A. CareCloud always has been focused on delivering incredible software to the people who deliver healthcare, whether it’s clinicians, practice administrators, billing professionals or others in the practice. With the paradigm shifting from a payer-provider to a provider-patient focus, we’re building technology that allows patients to have the same kind of technology that they have in other parts of their lives, whether it’s booking a restaurant, checking in for a flight or paying their bills online.

Because consumers are taking a more central role as money managers for their healthcare, we’re putting a lot of focus on supporting physician practices and their patients with tools that make it easy and convenient for people to view and pay their financial balances.

Q. It sounds like that is a reason for your recent move into telemedicine. Why do you think telemedicine hasn’t taken off like it was expected to?

A. People want to be able to access their personal physician when they can’t physically make it into the office, but until this point, telemedicine has been dominated by stand-alone service companies. It hasn’t become mainstream within private medical practices for two primary reasons: daunting upfront costs and uncertainty about what will be reimbursed by payers. With more insurers reimbursing for telemedicine and new guidelines coming online, the regulatory and reimbursement landscape is taking care of the latter.

We recently launched CareCloud Telemedicine to remove the other main barrier of burdensome upfront costs and time required to integrate telemedicine into the practice work-flows.

Q. You are also getting more involved in specialty areas now. Why?

A. There are certain nuances in clinical work-flow management that are unique to specific specialties. Now that physicians are using their second or third generation of EHR, they are asking themselves not just “how does this EHR work for me?” but “how does this EHR work for me as an ophthalmologist, an orthopedic surgeon, a rheumatologist?”

While meaningful use regulations have helped advance the adoption of technology in the medical practice, they have had the unintended consequence of cluttering EHR user interfaces with information that isn’t relevant for certain specialties. With the focus shifting from demonstrating use to demonstrating value, we’re in a great position to leverage the flexibility of cloud technology to give specialists an EHR solution that illuminates that set of information that they need to answer a specific question or to complete a certain clinical or administrative task.

Q. How is the millennial generation shaping your road map?

A. Millennials were born on digital. While they don’t yet use healthcare as much as older generations, they do expect to have the same kind of experience in the doctor’s office as they do in other aspects of their lives. Online health portals, telemedicine, online reviews, scheduling apps and e-payment options are just some of the ways millennials are using tech to manage their healthcare.

And, we’re in the very early days of digital health. For CareCloud, this means building a platform that gives physician practices the flexibility to bring on whatever technology will help them deliver that level of personalized service and support that their patients need. It also means creating tools that free up clinicians and practice staff so they can focus on delivering great outcomes and an excellent consumer experience.

Q. The small doctor practice is under pressure and we are seeing more consolidation. What does that mean for CareCloud?

A. Think about what it takes to consolidate a dozen brick-and-mortar doctor’s offices. You’ve got multiple physical locations operating on different EHRs, practice management, and IT systems to contend with — not to mention mountains of paper and fax machines. In the past, it would have been a monstrous, multi-year task to integrate all of these systems ... even to get all the locations simply talking to each other! And of course, the resulting labyrinth of servers and software would do very little to streamline operations.

To realize the efficiencies and economies of scale inherent in the model, many of these practices are joining together to operate as one entity. These practices need to knit together geographically dispersed medical practices around a centralized technology backbone. They need to have patient data, billing and practice management, and other services managed from a unified platform.

This is where CareCloud comes in. With cloud-based technology, these groups can bring everyone together on a common, shared infrastructure. Physicians and administrative staff can access information via a uniform, universal browser rather than a complex patchwork of legacy systems. Systems can talk to each other via secure, open APIs. Groups can also create standardized playbooks for accounting, payroll, and marketing, allowing them to quickly ramp up new practices as they’re acquired and merged.

The power of cloud technology as a force multiplier for growth can’t be overstated. Cloud technology makes the entire consolidation model exponentially more attractive, feasible and cost-effective.

Q. More broadly, how does healthcare learn about disruption from other industries?

A. If you think about how you go about your everyday life — how you get information, make decisions, plan activities, connect with others — the Internet is woven into almost everything we do. Except for when we’re at the doctor’s office. There are so many opportunities for us to align healthcare to where the market and society has already moved and to leverage best-in-breed technology from other industries.

Q. What’s next for CareCloud?

A. We’re going to continue to innovate around all the constituents in healthcare — the clinicians, the staff, the patients. We’ve historically focused on technology to support those working “behind the glass” and while we’ll continue to do that, we also are innovating “in front of the glass.” We’re working with some incredible strategic partners to apply best-in-breed consumer technology from other industries such as banking and retail to create an outstanding patient experience. We’re excited to be able to democratize this technology for independent medical practices.

Q. In your view as a relative newcomer — almost 2.5 years now — what is South Florida’s strength as an emerging center for technology, and where does it still need work?

A. There is a lot of entrepreneurial spirit here — that’s a strength that just keeps building on itself. South Florida can take a few pages from Silicon Valley in how it has nurtured a healthy ecosystem for innovation and startups. Silicon Valley succeeds by combining that entrepreneurial spirit with educational infrastructure and capital to fuel ideas and bring them to market. South Florida has these assets individually. They need to be brought together and become a humming engine to power innovative disruption across industries.

Q. Have you been able to find the tech talent you need?

A. The answer is yes. It’s not as prevalent and you have to dig for it but it’s here. I do believe there has to be a lot of thought and care put into creating the education curriculum around healthcare IT. This will be a booming space as we move from the old client servers of the world to a cloud-based world. If we can train them, we can hire them.

Q. What’s the best career advice you’ve received and from whom?

A. Promod Haque, a senior managing partner at Norwest Venture Partners, offered some great advice that has stuck with me over the years. I share this often because it is so important and so easy to forget in the high-pressure environment of a startup. He said, “When you have a failure, remember it’s not about the person, it’s about the event. Don’t let failure scare you or define you. The freedom to fail is a unique and an essential part of innovating.”

Nancy Dahlberg: 305-376-3595, @ndahlberg

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KEN COMÉE

Age: 54

Title: Chief executive officer at CareCloud. Before assuming the helm of CareCloud in April 2015, he was a CareCloud board member, investor and operational adviser for three years.

Experience: Formerly CEO of PowerReviews, a social commerce network that powers customer conversations on more than 5,500 websites. Also CEO of Cast Iron Systems, a global leader in the cloud integration sector acquired by IBM. Comée also held executive positions at CollabNet, a software development pioneer in the cloud, and at product life-cycle leader PTC.

Education: Bachelor’s of science in finance from Santa Clara University and an MBA from the London Business School.

Favorite book: “The Boys in the Boat,” by Daniel James Brown

CareCloud website: www.carecloud.com.

August 17, 2017

Shoring up the boat-sharing industry, Boatsetter buys Boatbound, raises more funding

Boater

By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

South Florida is already one of the world’s great boating capitals. Now the region can also claim to be a boat-sharing industry leader, as more people seek out accessible ways to get out on the water and more boat owners oblige by turning their pleasure crafts into money makers.

Boatsetter, a peer-to-peer marketplace for boat rentals, has acquired its Seattle-based rival Boatbound, powering up the South Florida startup’s presence throughout the United States. The Aventura-based company also announced that it has raised an additional $4.75 million in funding, on top of the $13 million announced in December, to fund its international expansion.

Like others in the boat-sharing economy, Boatsetter attempts to make the boat rental experience as seamless as booking a room on Airbnb by connecting people seeking rentals with boat owners looking to monetize the time their boats aren’t used. But Boatsetter differentiates itself by giving its users access to a large network of licensed captains as well as a growing roster of high-end boat rentals for yachting, cruising, fishing or sailing, 24/7 customer support and insurance coverage for renters, boat owners and captains.

Jackie headshot“This acquisition now makes us the No. 1 peer-to-peer boat rental community in the United States hands down,” said Jaclyn Baumgarten, CEO and co-founder of Boatsetter, who wouldn’t disclose terms of the deal. “It means about 5,000 quality vessels ready to be rented, it brings us 1,500 U.S. coastguard licensed captains, it will mean about 10,000 transactions between the companies in 2017 and it brings us 300 locations.”

Baumgarten said the acquisition particularly expands Boatsetter’s inventory in Chicago, Los Angeles, Seattle and Washington, DC.

“Additionally, we will be getting some great new talent from the Boatbound team, and we will be relocating them and the entire Seattle office to South Florida with us – a true Miami startup expansion,” said Baumgarten, in an interview with the Miami Herald on Wednesday. Boatsetter’s team will grow to 27 employees.

While accelerating operations in the U.S. five-fold is the goal for 2017, Baumgarten said, the acquisition and additional funding will also help fuel Boatsetter’s international expansion in 2018. Boatsetter plans to focus first on the Caribbean and Mediterranean, driving demand through global partnerships. It already has “phenomenal boats” in Bali, Ibiza, Mexico and South Africa, she said.

“This market is ripe for consolidation and I believe we are strongly positioned to lead that consolidation,” Baumgarten said. “We worked with a third-party investment bank and they value the peer-to-peer and charter business at $50 billion that we expect in the years to come to grow to $100 billion. That’s a huge opportunity and we are primed to lead a rollup strategy over the years to come globally.”

To that end, Boatsetter extended its Series A round, adding $4.75 million in funding to the $13 million the company raised in December. Key investors of the most recent round include Nordic Eye Venture Capital and the Miami-based TheVentureCity.

Laura Gonzalez-Estefani, co-founder of the TheVentureCity, which acts as an incubator for international-focused high-growth startups, said it’s the “super-driven” CEO and Boatsetter team, their data-driven approach to growth, international strategy and local expertise that attracted TheVentureCity as an investor. “The numbers are astounding in terms of engagement rates, their expansion plans are very interesting in the U.S. but also in Europe and we hope we can help them,” she said.

The young boat-sharing industry began making waves in South Florida in 2013.

That year, Boatbound entered the market in Miami, setting up a small office in Key Biscayne and developing a local network of boats. Boat-sharing was just getting started then, and rival Cruzin, led by Baumgarten, had also put down stakes in South Florida, too. As other rivals such as Sailo began expanding into the market, several locally based startups were developing, including Boatsetter, led by South Florida marine industry veteran and serial entrepreneur Andrew Sturner. Boatsetter and San Francisco based Cruzin merged in 2015, and Baumgarten became the CEO of the combined company. Sturner is executive chairman.

As the industry has matured and consolidated, locally based technology companies serving niches of the boat rental and sales industry have emerged here too, such as YachtLife serving the highest end of the market and Boatyard to handle boat-sharing related management and maintenance tasks for the owners. Meanwhile, a large online boat-sales marketplace, Boats Group, relocated its headquarters to Miami this year.

This summer, Boatsetter began offering uniquely curated experiences through the Airbnb platform in Miami, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Barcelona, Baumgarten said. In Miami, the experiences range from watersports trips, experiences for fishing fanatics and luxury excursions with full course meals.

“We’ve taken boating from being a rare pastime for a fortunate few boat owners to being a universally accessible lifestyle activity for anyone with a smartphone and a credit card,” Baumgarten said in an earlier interview.

Nancy Dahlberg: @ndahlberg

August 06, 2017

Travel-tech company Oasis sets its sights on Asia, with new funding from Hyatt

OASIS 2 3

An Oasis property in Miami. Photo from Oasis 

By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

StanberryWith just 15 portfolio properties  in 2009, entrepreneur Parker Stanberry started Oasis, a curated marketplace of private homes offering upscale travel accommodations. Today, Miami-based Oasis offers 2,400 properties in 22 markets worldwide, and has 150 employees.

Last week, Hyatt made a significant, strategic minority investment in Oasis, which brings the brand’s total fund-raising to $35 million, Oasis said. This new investment will allow Oasis to expand its footprint to additional cities in the U.S., Europe and Latin America and enter Asia.

In 2014, Oasis joined the ranks of Latin American tech startups moving their headquarters to Miami. Stanberry, an expat from the U.S. who lived in Argentina for eight years, relocated to Miami in 2015 but spends about two-thirds of his time traveling to Oasis’ expanding portfolio of locations that include Barcelona, Cartagena, New York and Paris.

“Oasis is home meets hotel, the next generation of accommodations,” said Stanberry, who started Oasis as a passion project. “We have all the benefits of home sharing – bigger spaces, better locations, more value – with an added layer of quality control, curation and hospitality services.”

Those hospitality services include Oasis staff onsite for check-ins, on-demand concierge services and a members club. Others apparently also see the opportunity.

“Travelers who book Oasis Collections homes are looking for something different than a traditional hotel experience. They’re leisure and often business travelers who seek more space for a longer time, but also want the peace of mind, personalized service and amenities they expect when staying with Hyatt,“ said Steve Haggerty, global head of capital strategy, franchising and select service for Hyatt, in a statement. “While we are at an early stage, we believe this category has the potential to serve new stay occasions for our customers and to add meaningfully to Hyatt’s growth over time.”

Oasis grew revenues 100 percent year over year in 2015 and 2016, and is on track to surpass that this year, Stanberry said. In the past 18 months it has launched in 13 new markets in the U.S., Europe and Latin America. Oasis was the leading accommodations partner for sponsors of the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, including Nike and Visa. 

Stanberry said he will use the funding to take customer experience to the next level in current markets, and expand into Asia.

 “It’s not just about a place to stay, it’s about maximizing your experience. We’re adding a concept called Upgrades, where a guest can order extras like a stocked fridge or an airport transfer, and generally creating a seamless mobile-driven experience for the traveler,” said Stanberry, who was selected as an Endeavor Entrepreneur in 2014.

Neither Hyatt nor Oasis would disclose the size of the Hyatt funding, but Stanberry called it "significant" in a Skift article and it brings total funding to $35 million. After some initial angel funding that allowed Oasis to expand and move its headquarters from Argentina to Miami, last year Oasis raised a $10.6 million Series B round, said Stanberry. Oasis also raised a $2.5 million convertible debt financing earlier this year.

Oasis advisor and angel investor Marco Giberti cited Stanberry's work ethic, courage and strong commitment to keep learning and improving the product and user experience. “He is a great leader, and I’m really glad to see his new deal and excited about future opportunities for him and Oasis.”

With the new Hyatt funding, Oasis joins a number of Miami area startups who have raised significant funding rounds this year, including Modernizing Medicine, Nearpod, Neocis, MealPal, Boatsetter, Nymbus and Kairos.

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Rioproperty

 A residence in Rio offered by Oasis. Photo from Oasis

August 03, 2017

Want to pitch at the Florida Venture Capital Conference? Here’s how to apply

The Florida Venture Forum is calling for growth stage companies to apply to present at the 2018 Florida Venture Capital Conference, being held at the Marriott Harbor Beach Resort in Fort Lauderdale on January 30-31, 2018.

The conference, now in its 27th year, is one of the largest gatherings of venture capitalists and investors in the Southeast, and features panel discussions, speakers, and presentations by some of Florida’s fastest growing private companies.

In addition to the opportunity to present before an audience of active equity investors, presenting companies meeting designated criteria will compete for the Accelerating Innovation (AI) Award, offered by Space Florida. The AI Award offers a cash prize totaling $100,000 to eligible Florida companies, and companies seeking to relocate or establish presence in Florida.

Presenter applications will be reviewed and companies chosen by a selection committee made up of active venture capitalists and investors. Presenter and AI Award eligibility criteria, and full conference details, may be found on the Forum’s website (www.flventure.org).

THE FINAL APPLICATION DEADLINE IS DECEMBER 20, 2017. Early submissions are welcomed and encouraged.

- submitted by Florida Venture Forum

July 27, 2017

Modernizing Medicine to add 838 jobs, double office space

Health-tech company Modernizing Medicine announced on Thursday that it will be expanding, creating more than 800 new jobs and doubling its office space in Boca Raton.

Modernizing Medicine currently employs about 550 people and is generating $100 million in revenues annually, making it one of South Florida’s largest and fastest-growing tech companies. “There are not many companies growing as fast as Modernizing Medicine — in the world,” said Gov. Rick Scott, who was on hand for the announcement in Boca Raton.

Modernizing Medicine will receive $6 million in state, county and city incentives for creating the jobs by 2022, according to the Sun Sentinel. The 838 new, mostly software positions will have an average salary of $65,000 a year. In exchange, Modernizing Medicine will make a $15 million investment in the region.

To handle its growth, Modernizing Medicine is leasing 50,000 square feet at Boca Raton Innovation Campus, former home of IBM, to add to its similarly sized headquarters space at the FAU Research Park and an office in Weston. In May, Modernizing Medicine announced it had received a $231 million investment from private equity firm Warburg Pincus. “If there was any doubt that you could found and scale a company in South Florida, hopefully those doubts are now erased,” CEO Dan Cane said at the time.

Founded in 2010 by Cane and Dr. Michael Sherling, Modernizing Medicine has been one of the recent tech success stories in South Florida. Cane, a serial entrepreneur who earlier in his career co-founded and exited education-tech company Blackboard, met Sherling, his future co-founder, in the doctor’s office. Modernizing Medicine’s flagship product is EMA, which is a mobile, cloud-based, specialty-specific electronic health record system now used by more than 10,000 providers at thousands of specialty practices nationwide, and the company now offers a full suite of products and services including practice management, revenue cycle management, telehealth for dermatology and analytics.