February 02, 2016

Magic Leap lands $793.5 million in mega-funding round led by Alibaba


By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

Magic Leap’s future is coming into focus, as a historic mega-round of funding could sharply accelerate its path to commercialization.

The secretive South Florida technology company working on a computing platform that simulates reality has raised $793.5 million in a new round of venture capital financing led by Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba Group.

In the largest funding round of its kind, Magic Leap’s Series C investors also include Warner Bros., Fidelity Management and Research Co., JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Morgan Stanley Investment Management, Magic Leap said Tuesday. Existing investors Google, which led a previous funding round of $542 million in late 2014, and Qualcomm Ventures also participated. Alibaba Executive Vice Chairman Joe Tsai will sit on Magic Leap’s board, joining Google CEO Sundar Pichai.

The latest round pushes Magic Leap’s total funding to almost $1.4 billion. The funding will give Magic Leap a post-money valuation of $4.5 billion – that’s for a company that has yet to reveal its technology to the world.

“This funding allows us to accelerate the move from product development to pilot manufacturing, manufacturing and commercial launch,” said Magic Leap founder and CEO Rony Abovitz, in a phone interview Tuesday morning. “But beyond that, this gives the company a very long-term runway – effectively we can be sustainable. We may not need to raise capital again – it doesn’t mean we won’t – but it gives us the ability to think well beyond the initial product launch.”

It also brings Magic Leap a strategic partner in Alibaba, which will help introduce Magic Leap's technology to the Chinese market and the more than 400 million people using Alibaba's platforms.

“We invest in forward-thinking, innovative companies like Magic Leap that are developing leading products and technologies,” said Tsai, in a statement. “We believe Alibaba can both provide support to and learn from such a partner, and we look forward to working with the Magic Leap team.”

Abovitz called Alibaba his “first-choice strategic partner,” adding that “Google re-invested in this round significantly so we will have a great Internet company in the West and a great Internet company in the East helping us fulfill our mission of creating the next computing platform.”

Magic Leap, a company Abovitz founded a few years ago in the proverbial and literal garage, is currently headquartered in Dania Beach and is building a massive facility in Plantation. The company is developing a computing platform that will enable people to seamlessly combine and experience their digital and physical lives, said Abovitz on Tuesday, without revealing specifics about the technology.

“We want the digital world to bend to your physical life, your real emotional life as a person, and we don’t want you to bend to computers,” he said. “We are forcing our technology to fit people’s lives the way it was before computing. I think of this as a conceptual computer, a computer based on context and awareness that will help you be more intelligent. It will make you smarter, not a machine, and it will deliver an Internet of presence and experience rather than just data.

“Computing today is like watching a shark on an iPhone, but when you are snorkeling you are experiencing it in the present, it is really there. We want to do that on the tech side,” added Abovitz, who grew up snorkeling and scuba diving in Florida. “We want this to bring you joy and emotion, experiences that you may never be able to have.”

Calling its technology “mixed reality,” a combination of virtual and simulated reality, the company is reportedly creating a wearable device, perhaps a headset, that would use a type of light-field technology to simulate 3-D images superimposed on the real world by projecting patterns of light to the eye. It is different from Facebook’s Oculus or Microsoft’s HoloLens, Magic Leap says.

As an example, Abovitz said the technology will bring film, games and books to life like never before, but it will also allow you to buy a must-have pair of Italian shoes, bringing the runway in Milan to you.

“All this means we have had to invent and create a lot of new technologies, some of which we will be mass fabricating here in our factory in Plantation; others we will be fabricating in our supply chain around the world.”

Abovitz has not yet disclosed when its first product would be hitting the market and few outside the Magic Leap family have seen the technology – which is highly unusual for a tech company attracting this range of venture capital. Likening it to how artists or film directors deliver their creations to the world, or even to the Beatles, his favorite band, Abovitz said the world will be happy it waited to see the finished product.

“I’m a big believer in really putting our heart and soul into the product, crafting it so that when we do launch it is finished and it is great. .. It should be like the Beatles making Sergeant Pepper and then they drop it ... The public got to hear Sergeant Pepper in its full glory and that was really fun ... Hopefully in our own way we will do something along those lines.”

Although funding rounds have been getting larger, this size round is historic for a company at this stage. Nikhil Krishnan, tech analyst with CB Insights, a data-analysis firm that closely tracks the venture capital industry, said Magic Leap's round of $793.5 million is the largest Series C round that CB Insights has tracked, with the next largest being $500 million rounds raised by Wish and Zenefit. For some context, the median Series C size since 2010 is $12 million, he said. This is also by far the biggest investment in the nascent but growing AR/VR space, bigger than the last four quarters of investment into the space combined, Krishnan added. All this and “Magic Leap doesn't have a commercial product yet to launch, and has been pretty much stealth about what's happening within the company,” he said.

Also highly notable is the funding group Abovitz has assembled, Krishnan said. In its previous round, Magic Leap assembled a group from all different industries, including venture capitalists such as Obvious Ventures and Andreessen Horowitz; corporations such as Google and Qualcomm Ventures, financial institutions and even film companies such as Legendary Entertainment.

“This was already a group of some of the top investors in their respective fields,” said Krishnan. “This new round of financing was led by Alibaba, providing a good entry for the technology into foreign markets. Warner Bros also participated, fortifying a strategic partnership that will help bring them into studios, and a host of crossover investors with deep pockets that can finance these types of large rounds, Wellington Management, T. Rowe Price, Morgan Stanley, etc.”

Alibaba has invested in about five U.S. startups a year since 2013, according to CB Insights data. Alibaba Chairman Jack Ma said last year that the company would fund U.S. tech startups and help them expand to China.

While most tech companies doing what Magic Leap is attempting would likely be in Silicon Valley, Magic Leap is headquartered in Dania Beach and moving its team to a 260,000-square-foot facility under construction in the former Motorola facilities in Plantation. Magic Leap, which also has locations in Silicon Valley’s Mountain View as well as Santa Cruz, Los Angeles, Seattle, Austin, the United Kingdom New Zealand and Israel, employs about 500 people with more than 200 in South Florida. Local and state governments last year approved $9 million in economic incentives to create 725 jobs with an average salary of $100,000 by 2020. Abovitz, a University of Miami alum who studied biomedical engineering, co-founded the pioneering robotics firm Mako Surgical in Davie, which was sold to Stryker for $1.65 billion in 2013.

“We are setting up our facility in Plantation, we’re hiring, and I currently expect that to be the primary hub of the company although we are setting up centers of excellence built around the U.S.,” said Abovitz. “We really want the greatest brains in the world, creative and technical, and we are also going where these brains are and setting up these centers of excellence. Think of it as a core planet, which is here, and satellites around it.”

In Plantation, the company will do pilot production runs, but also will be manufacturing parts for Magic Leap’s commercial shipments.

“We hope we will be part of reinvigorating the Florida and U.S economy. We are believers in that – that’s going against the grain, but we think that’s the right thing to do,” Abovitz said.

Noting Magic Leap’s group of long-term investors, Abovitz said, “You don’t change computing in one day, it’s something you do with great collaborative partners. ...Now it’s heads down for us and we will be accelerating everything. We are super focused on our getting first product out and getting it right, and letting it speak for the company. We know we have to deliver against high expectations.”

Nancy Dahlberg; 305-376-3595; @ndahlberg

This post was updated at 1:30 p.m.

January 30, 2016

Daymond John to speak at American Entrepreneurship Award kick-off at MDC Feb. 4


Entrepreneur Daymond John of ABC’s Shark Tank will hold a fireside chat during the kick-off presentation of the American Entrepreneurship Award (AEA), a new annual award program that provides startup funding of up to $25,000 for entrepreneurs that is sponsored by the Libra Group and the Idea Center. The free event will be at Miami Dade College at 11:30 a.m., Thursday, Feb. 4.  

The AEA is a business plan competition that seeks to stimulate entrepreneurial spirit through practical support, expert mentorship by industry leaders and start-up funding for America’s most promising early-stage businesses.

John, an AEA celebrity judge, will share with participants about being an entrepreneur the “Shark Tank Way.”  An entrepreneur in every sense of the word, John has come a long way from starting FUBU with $40 to growing it into a six-billion-dollar brand. The founder of FUBU, Presidential Ambassador of Global Entrepreneurship, and co-star of ABC's Shark Tank is a celebrated pioneer in the fashion industry, best-selling author, branding guru and highly-sought-after motivational speaker.

At the launch event, attendees will also have the opportunity to meet past winners of the Hellenic Entrepreneurship Award, the sister program to the AEA that has been running in Greece for the past four years, and learn how winning accelerated their own entrepreneurial and business success.

Entries can be submitted via an online application, which  opened on The American Entrepreneurship Award website on January 28, 2016. Entries will be due April 29. Winners will be announced in June 2016.

To register for the event, please visit http://aealaunch.eventbrite.com

WHAT:            American Entrepreneurship Award with Daymond John

WHEN:            Thursday, Feb. 4, 11:30 a.m. – 1:30 p.m. (Doors open at 11 a.m.)

                        (Daymond John to speak at 12:10 p.m.)

WHERE:         The Idea Center at Miami Dade College

315 NE 2nd Ave., Building 8, 5th Floor

Submitted by Miami Dade College.

Read past coverage of the American Entrepreneurship Award here.

January 27, 2016

South Florida fintech startups invited to compete at Temenos’ series of innovation events

Temenos, the market-leading provider of mission-critical solutions to the financial services industry, has announced its investment in creating various platforms that will allow fintech companies and start-ups to pitch their products and solutions to the world’s largest financial institutions.  

“The Fintech Innovation Jams provide a unique opportunity for us to engage, identify and partner with the hottest fintech companies in the world. Through the Temenos MarketPlace, fintechs get access to the more than 2,000 financial institutions running our software, who serve more than 500 million banking customers. Our clients in turn get access to cutting-edge innovation, making it a true win-win situation,” said Ben Robinson, CMO for Temenos. He added that “Latin America is a region bubbling with technology innovation and we are excited to help propel fintech to the forefront as a sector with great opportunities for innovative entrepreneurs.”

The series of events will include demo presentations from fintech companies and startups showcasing their innovations to Temenos’ world class banking customers. It will also include presentations from various thought leaders providing insights to the opportunities that market disruptive forces offer to innovative companies, including a feature presentation from financial disruption guru and best-selling author, Brett King.

Fintech companies and startups can register for a demo slot by January 29, 2016 (subject to the rules of entry) and compete for an opportunity to win a place in the Global Innovation Jam finals taking place at the upcoming Temenos Community Forum (TCF) in Barcelona, in May 2016.

About the series:

-           March 10, Miami

-           March 22, Singapore

-           April 6, Dubai

-           April 13, London

The Miami Innovation Jam will take place at The Lightbox at Goldman Warehouse in Miami’s Wynwood Arts District. Each demo will last for 7 minutes and the audience will vote to choose two winners at the end of the event.

For more information, visit the Innovation Jam Miami page.

- Submitted by Maria L. Mancuso, FinTech Americas 

January 26, 2016

New World Angels goes long with Raw Shorts, leads $1 million Series A round

Antonio-Headshot-2015 (1)

By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

New World Angels has closed an investment in Raw Shorts, a Miami tech startup that enables users to create customized explainer videos. The Boca-Raton based NWA led the $1 million Series A financing round, joined by prior investors in the company, Mosley Ventures of Atlanta, and members of Accelerated Growth Partners angel group in Miami.

Raw Shorts will use the funding to make key hires in product development and marketing in order to “scale the business that we know works and take the product from early adopter to early majority stage,” said the company’s CEO and co-founder Antonio Otalvaro (pictured above).

Explainer videos have boomed in popularity, but many businesses find them difficult and expensive to produce. Raw Shorts created an easy-to-use drag and drop explainer video builder that allows business users to make their own videos. The video builder has already been used by 150,000 businesses, and the company closed out 2015 with its highest quarter yet in terms of revenue and new accounts, Otalvaro said. He and his technical co-founder George Estrella have worked together for more than a decade on a number of prior startups.

“We’ve been impressed with Antonio’s accomplishments thus far, building out a very user-friendly tool that produces a high quality explainer video in mere minutes,” said Rhys L. Williams, co-founder and president of New World Angels.

“In addition to an exceptionally talented management team, the capability of the company’s product offering to provide scale and mass for its users is absolutely breathtaking. These factors are what initially attracted us to the Raw Shorts investment opportunity,” added Randy Wood, the NWA member who led the investment effort. Wood, a co-founder of Fort Lauderdale-based Citrix, will join Raw Shorts’ board.

Raw Shorts, housed in Miami’s Venture Hive incubator, has raised $1.35 million in total, and most of it through a supportive local ecosystem, said Otalvaro. “Venture Hive was the first to believe in us. We were an example of a company that came in with just a solid idea and a team,” Otalvaro said. As part of Venture Hive’s inaugural accelerator class in 2013, which came with a $25,000 grant, Raw Shorts worked on its business strategy and its investor pitch. After that, it received a seed investment from Miami Innovation Fund, which later led to Mosley Ventures of Atlanta investing, and now AGP and NWA, said Otalvaro.

NWA, an organization of about 60 members, funds early-stage companies based in Florida. With chapters in both South Florida and Tampa Bay , NWA typically invests $600,000 to $1.5 million as lead investor or co-investor. The organization also often makes subsequent investments in companies it funds.

In the past two years, NWA has invested in six new deals and six follow-on rounds. Along with Raw Shorts, NWA most recently led a $1.1 million investment in TAO Connect Inc. (TCI), a St. Petersburg-based company that has pioneered a Therapist Assisted Online integrated treatment platform of evidence-based tools for providing online mental health treatment. TCI, a startup from the University of Florida’s Innovation Hub, is initially focused on serving the needs of college students who suffer from depression and anxiety.

Nancy Dahlberg; 305-376-3595; @ndahlberg

January 20, 2016

Meet Keiretsu Forum’s new Miami president

KeiretsuIt’s official: Deborah Johnson is the new president of the Miami Chapter of Keiretsu Forum South-East, the 31st chapter of the international angel organization.

Keiretsu Forum was founded in 2000 in the San Francisco Bay Area, and now has 40 chapters and more than 1,500 accredited investor members across the globe.  Keiretsu Forum members typically provide capital in the $250k – $3 million range in Series A and B funding series.  Members collaborate in the due-diligence, but make their own investment decisions.  Keiretsu Forum members have invested more than $550 million in technology, consumer products, Internet, healthcare, life sciences and real estate companies.

“I’m excited to facilitate a role connecting our local Florida entrepreneurs to funding.  We have a growing entrepreneurial ecosystem in Miami and Keiretsu’s proud to be a part of it,” said Johnson, who has been no stranger to South Florida recently,  attending events regularly.

 Johnson has an extensive history working with entrepreneurs, investors and tech-sector innovators in Southwest Florida.  The founder of Plum Ventures, she has worked in region building awareness of the entrepreneurial community as the special events coordinator for Tamiami Angel Family of Funds.  She also served as the administrator for the Gulf Coast Venture Forum for several years, running chapters in Naples and Sarasota.  That entity has now morphed into Fusion Pointe, a non-profit that she currently consults with, providing mentorship to entrepreneurs and high-impact networking.  

She has hosted VenturePitch South Florida from Naples to Sarasota as well as founder talks and meetups.   She also works with the Southwest Florida Regional Technology Partnership whose mission is to be the leading technology interest group in Southwest Florida.  

Johnson plans to continue to build partnerships with other angel and venture organizations in South Florida.  Keiretsu's Miami chapter welcomes interested investors seeking membership or startups seeking funding; contact her at DJohnson@KeiretsuForum.net. The organization, which launched in Miami in 2014, meets monthly and the next meeting is Feb. 9. It has not made any local investments yet although one is in due diligence.

To find out more about Keiretsu Forum South-East, or to learn about angel investment in general, visit http://www.KeiretsuForum-SouthEast.com.

New AngelSummit Americas coming to Miami


Startup Angels, a global platform that provides services to new angel investors, will host the AngelSummit Americas conference April 14-15 in the lead up to the eMerge Americas technology conference.

AngelSummit Americas aims to convene more than 300 investors, entrepreneurs and industry and community leaders from across the Americas to discuss ways to unleash the potential of startup investors in Miami and globally, said Leslie Jump, founder and CEO of Startup Angels. Speakers include Dave McClure of 500 Startups; Marc Nager of Techstars; Alex Mittal of FundersClub, and John McIntire of Open English. Community partners include AGP Miami, CREATE Miami, and Endeavor Miami, as well as global partners such as Techstars, 500 Startups, the Global Accelerator Network, the Latino Startup Alliance and Startupbootcamp.

“The AngelSummit will connect local investors with the best startup investment practices, and inspire them to invest in Miami’s emerging entrepreneurs and our city’s future,” said Matt Haggman, Miami program director of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, which provided a $125,000 grant to bring the conference to Miami. Lack of a strong capital network has been one of the South Florida entrepreneurial ecosystem’s biggest challenges.

As part of a partnership with eMerge Americas, AngelSummit participants will have the opportunity to attend eMerge Americas April 18-19, while eMerge participants will be able to attend AngelSummit Americas. Startup Angels’ mission is to increase the number of startup investors across the U.S. and around the world. For more information and to register, visit americas.angelsummit.io.

January 15, 2016

3 South Florida companies to present at state VC conference


The Florida Venture Forum announced 19 companies, including three from South Florida, that will present and exhibit at the 2016 Florida Venture Capital Conference to be held at the Vinoy Renaissance St. Petersburg Resort & Golf Club on Jan. 28-29.

Selected were Delivery Dudes of Delray Beach, a concierge delivery service with a focus on restaurant food delivery in local markets; Strategic Planning Online of Coral Springs, a cloud-based software solution that helps align team members with strategic planning efforts to start producing results; and Xcovery of Palm Beach Gardens, is a biopharmaceutical company working on discovering medicine to fight advanced tumors.

The companies were selected from a pool of nearly 100 applicants by a committee of investors. The companies will present to more than 500 conference attendees, including over 100 investors from angel, venture capital, and private equity funds, family offices and corporate venture groups. Wildcard Payments of Ft. Lauderdale, a real-time payment processor, was selected as an exhibitor.

See full list of presenting companies here. More information on the conference: www.flventure.org.


With no ‘magic’ lift, Florida venture capital struggles

MoneybagBy Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

Venture capital investment heated up nationwide last year with a surge in megadeals, while the Sunshine State struggled to attract the green.

Dragged down by an anemic fourth quarter, venture capitalists injected $460.8 million into 58 deals in Florida in 2015, according to the MoneyTree Report by PricewaterhouseCoopers and the National Venture Capital Association, which was released on Friday. In the fourth quarter, $31.62 million flowed into the state.

Florida’s total was about half of its 2014 total, but that’s because of Magic Leap’s 2014 megadeal of $542 million. The Plantation-based technology company is reportedly raising another $827 million, so 2016 may be another record year for Florida. Still, Florida’s 2015 total was in line with results for 2013. With the exception of 2014, it was the best showing since 2007.

Don’t break out the champagne, though: Florida’s take was a tiny slice of the total venture capital pie in 2015 — less than eight-tenths of 1 percent for the country’s third most populous state, according to MoneyTree numbers. Florida ranked 14th among states in venture funding in 2015.

The 2015 top deals from South Florida were a triple-play by health-tech companies: $50 million for Fort Lauderdale telehealth company MDLIVE; $38 million for electronic medical records software company Modernizing Medicine of Boca Raton; and $22.9 million for Dania Beach-based Orthosensor, maker of smart orthopedic devices.

Nationally, the venture capital ecosystem deployed $58.8 billion in 2015, up from $48 billion in 2014 and the second highest full year total in the last 20 years, according to the MoneyTree Report, based on data provided by Thomson Reuters. There were 74 megadeals (investments of $100 million or more), compared with 50 in 2014, yet seed-stage investments were active, too. “While a handful of unicorns and late-stage funding rounds by nontraditional investors continue to grab the headlines, more than half of all deals in 2015 went to seed and early stage companies, with more than 1,400 companies raising venture capital for the first time,” said Bobby Franklin, president and CEO of NVCA.

For the fourth quarter of 2015, venture capitalists invested $11.3 billion into 962 deals across the country, down 32 percent in dollars and 16 percent in deals compared with the third quarter. The fourth quarter also marks the eighth consecutive quarter of more than $10 billion of venture capital invested in a single quarter, but also represents the smallest amount invested since the third quarter of 2014. As has been the recent trend, the software industry continued to receive the highest level of funding of all industries in the fourth quarter and year.

“Companies with innovative, disruptive technologies and business models continue to catch the eyes of investors,” said Tom Ciccolella, U.S. Venture Capital Market Leader at PwC. “The fourth quarter’s largest deals included startups that deploy technologies to challenge incumbents in the financial services, education, retail and consumer industries.”

In South Florida, the fourth quarter yielded $11.4 million in venture investment, for a total of $253 million for the year. That was 55 percent of the state’s total but just 0.4 percent of the national total.

In the fourth quarter, Fort Lauderdale-based BioTrackTHC, which develops and sells tracking software for the cannabis industry, received $5 million in funding from Greenfield Capital Partners, followed by OrthoSensor, which received $3.88 million (investors undisclosed). Miami-based Raw Shorts, an explainer video software company, received $1.27 million from New World Angels and other investors, Miami medical device company InnFocus took in $1.08 million (investors undisclosed); and Boca Raton-based Fresh Meal Plan received $150,000 from Tamiami Angel Fund, according to the MoneyTree report.

MoneyTree Report results are available at www.nvca.org.

Nancy Dahlberg; 305-376-3595; @ndahlberg

January 08, 2016

MyTaskit announces $1.7 million in funding

MyTaskit, a provider of software as a service (SaaS) solutions for connecting service professionals to their technicians and customers, announced it received a new round of  mezzanine funding totaling $1.7 million, which brings investments in the company to $11 million.

The West Palm Beach-based startup also  announced four new investors: independent investors H. Raymond Bingham and William O. Grabe (advisory directors from General Atlantic LLC.); Charles W. Horn, Chairman, Pro Private Equity/PBMS Group; and David E. Shaw, Managing Partner, Black Point Group. George Conrades, Managing Partner, Longfellow Venture Partners, is the lead investor and was part of MyTaskit’s initial launch.

MyTaskit offers a free web app accessible via any desktop or mobile device that allows owners to better manage their high-value possessions and communicate with service technicians about maintenance and repairs, the company said.  On the service provider side, MyTaskit helps professionals simplify coordination of tasks to improve the availability, effectiveness and efficiency of service communications while also increasing consumer loyalty and profitability. MyTaskit’s initial launch was in the marine industry in April 2015.

 “The time is right for MyTaskit,” said Conrades. “There’s so much inefficiency with the entire service tech model, from the assignment and coordination of tasks, to obtaining fast estimates on work, to managing the backend-side of a service business. MyTaskit ties it all together, making it easier for the customer and the service technician.”

 Last year, MyTaskit expanded into the Northeast and Pacific Northwest.  “The marine industry was a great place for us to launch MyTaskit given the frequency and broad categories of service on boats like mechanics, plumbers, electricians, and the fact the marine industry is a mirror copy of other service industry structures and dynamics like residential services and property management needs,” said Kevin Hutchinson, founder and CEO of MyTaskit.  “Additional industries we intend to serve are on the horizon.”

January 04, 2016

Mark Kingdon’s view from examining 1,500+ startup investments a year

Startup grind

By Peter Kovach

Mark Kingdon is a three-time digital CEO, company founder, board member and tech startup investor. Throughout his career, he's transformed Fortune 500 companies and startups through digital marketing, customer acquisitions and e-commerce, which accelerated their growth and increased their profitability. Last montn Jason Ibarra, of Startup Grind, sat down with Mark (pictured above) for a fireside chat at WeWork @ Lincoln Rd. They discussed Mark’s transformative career, starting with his creative beginnings at UCLA to his current work as a tech investor. Mark gave great lessons to the packed house on his experiences as a CEO and from his experience as an Investor.

* The Complete Package - Especially in early-stage investments,  you are not just investing in an idea, you are also investing in the founder. So which one is more important? Both! Mark mentioned that a good idea is only as good as its founder. If the founder is not reliable, unwilling to listen to critique, has poor leadership skills or other character flaws, he may be discouraged investing in the company because there are serious concerns about who is running the company. Likewise, if a founder is a great person, extremely reliable, but their business has no merit then there will be no investment. For an investor, it is essential to believe both in the idea and the person who will materialize the idea.

* Communication Is Key - Besides making a return on his investment, Mark believes the best quality a founder can have for an investor is communication. Mark has dealt with various personalities and finds that he has the best relationships with the ones who communicate clearly and consistently. Mark has dealt with founders who struggle to present updates at board meetings and it has caused a large amount of frustration. On the contrary, Mark has invested in companies where the CEO after each month sends out a report on the current status of the company. This is a great trait, because it shows the founder is reflective and wants to make the best decisions.

* Priority Over Urgency - Founders face countless problems in any given day. The key is prioritizing problems by importance over urgency. For startups, everything is urgent  but not everything is important. Mark believes that Product Vision, User Experience, Customer Traction and Investor Relations should be the key focuses for every startup in that order. If there are any problems with any of those areas, they supersede any other issues that exist and should be addressed immediately.

* Do Your Research - When contacting an investor, your product should speak for itself. It should be able to easily address the problem it's solving. More importantly, understand why you are contacting any specific investor. Find something other than money as the reason for reaching out. Make sure the investor can be an asset to the growth of the company and offer some sort of guidance. Finally, if you get a chance to present, ask the investor for their honest opinion on your venture. They can be a resource regardless if you get a yes or no.

* Honest Self-Valuations - When it's time to value your company, be REALISTIC. Many companies, even pre-product and pre-revenue, tend to drink a little bit too much of their own Kool-Aid. Not every company is Facebook. It's mandatory to have realistic expectations, based on your market and the economic trends. It's okay if you reach in your valuations, but you shouldn’t go to moon and back unless you want to get laughed at.

* Pivots Aren’t Cheap - Starting a business is risky. It requires large amounts of money and even larger amounts of time. More often than not, businesses will fail. However, if you are able to read into the trends, have a committed team, loyal customer base and a strong set of investors, you can pivot to success. Pivoting is expensive and there no guarantee it will work, but if you believe you can be successful and take the company in a new and successful direction, then pivot. Mark recalls how Fab.com, a company he invested in, pivoted from a gay social network to an exciting e-commerce site. The move helped Fab grow at an unbelievable rate.

Mark is currently an angel investor and his fund is Quixotic Ventures, which means "exceedingly idealistic; unrealistic and impractical" --  appropriate for early stage investing. Mark, who works out of Building.co, examines over 1,500 companies a year. Some of his early-stage investments include: Twitter, OfferUp, Sellbrite, Fab.com, Refinery29,  Everypost, Sktchy and HYP3R (the last three from South Florida).

Next up for Startup Grind Miami: Brandon Timinsky of GasNinjas on Jan. 12 at WeWork Miami Beach. More info here.

Peter Kovach is a recent graduate from Loyola University of New Orleans. He moved to Miami to be a part of the rising tech scene and is currently an associate at building.co.