May 10, 2016

Raising money through a portal may be better route than crowdfunding

By Jason Stark

Jason starkWe know how difficult and time consuming capital raising is for a new startup, and South Florida is no exception.  It takes vital time from a founder’s schedule.  You of course should try the local investor groups like Endeavor, the Knight Foundation, AGP Miami, New World Angels and Tamiami Angels.  However, those efforts may not net you the vital funding you need.

What else can you do?  Give up?  Of course not.  In the glacial world of the securities laws, we now have CROWDFUNDING.  Well, that at least is the word on everyone’s mind.  I will help clarify distinction between Crowdfunding (which finally begins on May 16, 2016), and using Internet portals to raise through traditional accredited investor offerings.  You may find that you may be really interested in raising through an Internet portal, but not through Crowdfunding. 

Below I describe various pre-IPO fundraising options.  The Rule 506(c) offering may be the sweet spot for your capital raise.  Rule 506(c) permits general solicitation (advertising), which allows an Internet portal to communicate your offer to its accredited investor base, but without your company jumping through all the hoops required under Regulation Crowdfunding. 

By “Internet portal”, I mean an online marketplace that facilitates the sale of securities.  Examples include SeedInvest, Circle-up and Crowdfunder.  This differs from Kickstarter (which allows companies to fundraise through the pre-sale of a product or outright donations), by permitting the actual sale of stock through the Internet.    

A year ago, I had worked with clients on zero Internet portal deals.  Over the past few months, we’ve seen them more and more frequently.  Clients that were not able to find adequate funding elsewhere have found new life through small Rule 506 rounds using Internet portals. 

Pre-IPO Fundraising Options under the Securities Laws

Raising money through Internet portals requires compliance with the same securities laws as traditional fundraising.  Below is a brief description of the most commonly used exemptions, and a cost/benefit analysis of each. 

Rule 506(b) is the typical exemption used in venture capital deals that was available long before JOBS Act 506(c) and Regulation Crowdfunding.  It permits raising unlimited capital from accredited investors (generally, a person with $200k income ($300k with a spouse) or $1 million in assets, excluding the value of such person’s home).  Under this exemption, an issuer may sell its securities to accredited investors and up to thirty-five sophisticated non-accredited investors (however, if you have even one non-accredited investor, you will need to provide disclosure documents (i.e., now you must prepare an offering memorandum with financial statements and we’re looking at a more expensive round)).  

Rule 506(c) is similar to the traditional 506(b) accredited investor offering.  The major benefit to 506(c) is advertising the round (which allows an Internet portal to reach out to its investors).  The additional requirements compared to 506(b) are reasonable: a simple Form D must be filed 15 days in advance of the deal instead of after the deal; and accreditor investor status must be verified using records like W-2’s, tax returns and bank statements (under 506(b), you could rely on self-reporting by the investor).  The Internet portal should already have the procedures in place to verify accredited investor status, and therefore, if you are raising through an Internet portal, it should not be too much more difficult to conduct a 506(c) offering than a 506(b). 

Regulation Crowdfunding allows the sale of securities to almost anyone, and not just the small minority of accredited investors.  A major benefit.  However, there are significant new requirements not required for a 506 offering, including the following:

  • * Maximum of $1 million raised through crowdfunding in any 12-month period.
  • * Reporting and financial disclosure requirements (information regarding the offering, the company and its financials), for rounds over $100k, financial statements that in some cases are reviewed by an accountant and in others, audited, plus ongoing disclosure requirements.
  •  * Limits to the amount an investor may invest through Crowdfunding based on income.
  •  * Limited advertising (only may directing to the funding portal and limited factual terms).
  •  * The issuer must be a U.S. company.

 

Other Offerings.  There are a few other private offering methods that you might consider, but that are not available through Internet portals.  Regulation S may be used if the offering is made entirely to non-U.S. citizens/residents and the securities are offered outside the U.S.  Regulation A+ is often used for larger rounds, given that it requires certain offering documents and filings (somewhat like a mini-IPO – also expensive compared to 506 offers). 

For more specifics on these exemptions, check with your attorney.  See also: https://www.sec.gov/answers/rule506.htm regarding Regulation D, Rule 506(b) and 506(c); https://www.sec.gov/news/pressrelease/2015-249.html regarding Regulation Crowdfunding; and https://www.investor.gov/news-alerts/investor-bulletins/investor-bulletin-accredited-investors for a description of accredited investors. 

Deciding whether to fund raising through an Internet Portal

When deciding whether to fund raise through an Internet portal, you must weigh the benefit of quicker access to investors and valuable time savings (locating and speaking with such investors, networking, meeting with Angel groups, etc.) against the associated fees (some combination of cash and equity).  An Internet portal develops its own database of accredited investors - a very helpful resource you could not hope to replicate.  Regarding services, some Internet portals are more involved and help run and champion the round, while others are more like LinkedIn for investors and just provide access.  Make sure to do your research on the Internet portal’s network of accredited investors, the services provided and the fees.

Summary

Internal portals can be a great way to raise money.  Certainly explore all your options, but using an Internet portal can save you quite a bit of your precious time and sanity, and that may well be worth the cost.  Don’t get caught up in the whole “Crowdfunding” concept.  Traditional offerings to accredited investors may well provide an easier fundraising avenue with significantly less hoops to jump through, and may be accomplished through an Internet portal, the same as for Crowdfunding.

Jason Stark is a partner at Private Advising Group, P.A., a law firm in Miami.  Jason is an attorney (and also is a non-practicing certified public accountant) who advises emerging and growth companies.  He can be reached at Jason@private-advising.comThe information in this article is provided for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice.  You should not act or rely on any information contained in this article without first seeking the advice of an attorney.

May 05, 2016

FIGS receives $5 million in Series A funding led by Campfire Capital

 

Spear

Tina Spear, co-founder of FIGS, delivers medical apparel as part of its Threads For Threads philanthropic program.

By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

FIGS, a medical apparel startup in South Florida, received $5 million in Series A funding. The round of financing was led by  Campfire Capital, a Vancouver-based venture capital group that funds companies that combine retail and technology in their innovations.

 Founded in 2013 by Heather Hasson and Trina Spear, FIGS identified a need for alternatives to currently available products in the medical scrubs industry, the bulk of which were made up of low-quality, uncomfortable styles. Its fashion-forward designs are antimicrobial, wrinkle resistant and made from lightweight, breathable fabric. FIGS' philanthropic 1-for-1 program, Threads for Threads, has donated 75,000 scrubs to in-need health care professionals across 26 countries. FIGS, an Endeavor company selected out of Miami last year, has operations in South Florida, where Spear is based, and Los Angeles.

FIGS has raised $10 million in funding to date. The new capital will be used to increase inventory to meet demand, explore and expand new product categories, and scale its team. About Campfire Capital, Spear said, “It's been wonderful to align with a group who brings not only capital, but shares an unparalleled breadth of industry expertise and networks.”

FIGS will join Campfire’s growing list of portfolio companies, including Montreal-based menswear retailer Frank & Oak and San Francisco-based food tech startup Juicero.

 Christine Day, partner at Campfire, current CEO of Luvo and ex-CEO of lululemon, said: “In addition to capital, what entrepreneurs really need is access to the broad expertise required to build a successful retail business. We see a tremendous opportunity to leverage Campfire's collective experience and relationships to further brand and scale FIGS to transform this $9 billion unbranded industry.”

Read more: FIGS, SkyPatrol chosen for Endeavor network

Read more: Four healthcare startups in the spotlight

 

May 04, 2016

LiveNinja closes $2 million round of financing, launching messaging tool for businesses

Liveninja

LiveNinja co-founders: Will Weinraub, CEO, center. Emilio Cueto, CTO, left, and Alfonso Martinez, CCO. File Photo by CW Griffin of the Miami Herald.

By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

LiveNinja, a Miami-based technology company that provides communications tools for businesses, announced Wednesday that it has closed a $2 million round of financing, bringing its total funding to $3.5 million.

The bridge funding is from Scout Ventures, Anzu Partners, Comcast Ventures Catalyst Fund, Citi Ventures, Accelerated Growth Partners and SeedInvest.  LiveNinja will use the funding to build out its product line and expand its sales and marketing team. LiveNinja, founded in 2012, is a team of 19 people.

Along with the funding, LiveNinja announced a new product, LiveNinja Messenger, to make it easier for businesses to manage conversations, no matter where or how the customer chooses to engage. This differentiates it from the pack of applications out there, including Facebook Messenger, Twitter, Skype and others, which can’t be embedded on a company website.

LiveNinja CEO and co-founder Will Weinraub gave a demo of its newest tool at a recent weekly Waffle Wednesdays networking event that the company puts on each week at its Wynwood offices free for the tech community, most days for breakfast and one Wednesday a month after work.

“We’re entering a new era for business-to-customer communication but to do it right, we have to think about what businesses really need to make messaging work for them,” said Weinraub in the announcement. “Most messaging apps are walled-gardens that operate in a separate environment. We built LiveNinja to be more flexible. You can use it as a standalone messaging application, but you could also embed it within your existing website and share it on other channels as well.”

He showed the crowd that using LiveNinja Messenger, brands can not only start conversations on their website, but also on social media and other apps with an easy to share link. Instead of one-off conversations that frustrate customers, each of these conversations can be easily managed in one seamless thread, giving both the customer and the brand the ability to scroll up to view what they spoke about last. An iOS application makes it easy for businesses to maintain customer conversations on-the-go, he said. Part of the new funding will be used to build out new features for the tool.

Weinraub said anyone can sign up at www.liveninja.com to try LiveNinja Messenger for free for a limited time, and he encouraged feedback. In time, it will evolve into a "pay as you grow" model where brands will only pay on a per-customer engagement.

Website to iphone (1)

April 17, 2016

ClassWallet raises $1.5 million from Idea Bulb Ventures, others

ClassWallet, a platform for school funds disbursement and tracking, has closed a $1.5 million round of seed financing, bringing total fundingto date to $4.03 million, the company announced Sunday. 
 
The priced round was led by Idea Bulb Ventures, a U.S. based Investment company working with China’s Innovation Works, an early stage venture capital firm established by the founding President of Google China Dr. Kai-Fu Lee. Other investors include Techstars Ventures and William Guttman, as well as several education and financial technology angel investors.

“We have a number of investments in the education technology sector and we love what ClassWallet is doing,” says Chris Evdemon, partner at Idea Bulb. "We are excited by ClassWallet’s traction in K12 education and see universal application for its technology.”

ClassWallet’s patent-pending technology combines a virtual wallet with an online marketplace, the company aid. Partners such as Amazon, Office Depot, School Specialty, Scholastic, Nearpod and others in the ClassWallet marketplace accept ClassWallet as form for payment.

ClassWallet partners return SKU-level data to ClassWallet, affording school administration and funders with detailed reporting and pre-approval permissions on every item purchased, otherwise obtained through paper receipts or laborious purchase order processes.  In addition, DiscoverCard and Marqeta, the program manager behind Facebook and eBay’s card platforms, joined forces with ClassWallet to power the ClassWallet debit card for offline purchases such as professional development, field trips and more.  

Founder and CEO Jamie Rosenberg said ClassWallet’s  user base grew over 400 percent last year "and the company has already booked customers to exceed 400 percent growth in 2016.” Customers include some of the largest school districts across the United States including Chicago, Newark, and Broward.


April 14, 2016

Idea.me to expand to Miami, will launch Create Miami campaign to fund entrepreneurs

Idea.me, an international crowdfunding platform, on Thursday announced its expansion to Miami and the launch of the Create Miami campaign, which will help 20 Miami entrepreneurs receive funding for their ideas from investors in the United States, Latin America and beyond. The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation is investing $175,000 to bring Idea.me to the United States.

The Create Miami campaign will establish a platform to crowdfund ideas from entrepreneurs who are focused on creating social, urban or community impact in Greater Miami. The campaign aims to identify 20 entrepreneurs to feature on the Idea.me platform. The selected entrepreneurs will receive workshops, marketing support and coaching to help with business development and growth, in addition to fundraising opportunities through the Idea.me site. Knight Foundation will match 50 percent of any funds raised through the platform with a limit of $5,000 per project. Applications are open until June 15 at idea.me/createmiami.

Idea.me is the largest crowdfunding platform in Latin America, with more than 110,000 backers who have signed up to help fund cutting-edge ideas. Idea.me has funded about 1,700 projects, mainly in Latin America.

“As an international gateway, Miami was our first choice for global expansion,” said Alejo Nitti, Idea.me director. “Our goal is to engage and connect the Greater Miami community. We want to partner with passionate entrepreneurs to take their creativity around tech and innovation to the next level.”

April 13, 2016

Deadline is Friday for applications to present at Florida Early Stage Capital Conference with $150K in cash awards

The Florida Venture Forum, Florida’s largest statewide support organization for investors and entrepreneurs, in partnership with Space Florida, is now calling for early stage companies from throughout Florida to apply to present at the 2016 Florida Early Stage Capital Conference at the Hilton Carillon Park, 950 Lake Carillon Drive in St. Petersburg on Tuesday, May 17, 2016.  Past early stage presenters have attracted $36 million in funding.

The Conference, now in its 9th year, features presentations by some of Florida’s most promising early stage companies. Presenting companies in space-based technologies will compete for cash awards totaling $150,000 ($100,000 for the Winner, $30,000 for Second Place and $20,000 for Third Place). Space Florida is providing the cash award prizes.

Additional event details and presenter applications are available at www.flventure.org. The final application deadline April 15, 2016.

 

April 08, 2016

6 things not to miss at AngelSummit Americas next week

Angelsummit

By Mack Kolarich

With less than a week left till AngelSummit we wanted to give you a sneak peak at the 6 most exciting happenings during the course of this 2-day conference for current and aspiring startup investors, at the InterContinental Miami, Thursday, April 14th and Friday,  April 15th.

The event will be hosted by Univision’s Silicon Valley Correspondent, Diego Graglia and feature moderators and panelists like CNET en Español’s Claudia Cruz, William Crowder of Comcast Ventures and Christian Seale of  Startupbootcamp.

  1. What’s next for Cuban Entrepreneurs?

Will Cuba truly grow into its nickname of ‘Silicon Island’? Will American startups expand to the country? Will Cuban startups expand their creativity and hustle beyond their borders? Learn what’s next for Cuban founders and investors over the coming years. John McIntire will chat with Cuban entrepreneurs Ubaldo Don of Itopia, Sergio Lazaro of Ingenius and Eliecer Cabrera of ConoceCuba on what exciting opportunities are in store Cuba’s startup community.

This is a panel not to be missed with a very exciting announcement to take place exclusively at AngelSummit Americas.

Keynote: Thursday, April14th at 5:00PM.

  1. Harnessing your city’s angel potential

Techstars has become synonymous with tech disruption and startup acceleration with over 700 portfolio companies and over $2.2B collectively raised since 2006. They’ve made tech startups like Sphero, SendGrid, ClassPass and Plated household names and fostered cities like Boulder, Boston, Seattle and New York City to become some of the most recognizable tech hubs in the world.

Hear from Marc Nager Chief Community Officer of Techstars, one of the world’s foremost experts on startup communities about what it takes to build successful startup communities that activate their local angel community.

Lunch Keynote: Friday, April 15th at 1:30PM

  1. Debut of Lean Angel Workshop

This year, the summit will debut the Lean Angel Workshop as a track for new investors. Developed under the guidance of Brad Feld and other startup investment leaders, the objective of the workshops is to provide new angels, wealth managers and RIAs an introduction to the business of investing in technology startups.

  1. The latest on investment platforms

Startup investing has gotten a whole lot more mainstream in the last decade, and the changing SEC regulations are paving the way for greater investor participation. Don’t miss the perspectives from the entrepreneurs who’ve built some of the most successful investment platforms like SeedInvest and FundersClub, on how they are helping more investors get involved in startups worldwide.

Emerging Investment Platforms: Thursday, April14th at 3:30PM.

  1. Investing in real estate innovation

Constance Freedman of Moderne Ventures will share how her real estate background led her to fund one of the few early-stage venture funds investing in technology companies that are revolutionizing real estate, mortgage, finance, insurance, and home services.

Keynote: Friday, April 15th at 9:30AM

  1. Finding investment opportunities across spanish-speaking markets

With nearly 500 million Spanish speakers and an ever growing Spanish speaking population in countries like the US, the possibilities to invest in countries other than one’s own is increasing. Pedro Sorrentino of Funder’s Club, Hernan Fernandez of Angel Ventures Mexico and Andres Barreto of Socialatom will share why as an investor, you should look for opportunities across the region.

Keynote: Friday, April 15th at 10:45AM

Check out the full 2-day agenda at www.americas.angelsummit.io where you can still purchase tickets and view the full list of speakers. Don’t forget to follow the live action on Twitter by following @StartupAngelsCo and #AngelSummit.

Mack Kolarich is co-founder and VP of Product of Startup Angels and AngelSummit Americas, taking place April 14th-15th, 2016 in Miami. AngelSummits are highly curated gatherings of startup influencers, investors, industry and community leaders for a 2-day conference on the future of startup investing.  Since 2014 they have hosted more than 1,200 participants at Summits in Dallas, Madrid and Chattanooga with Dublin scheduled for June 2016.

 

 

March 16, 2016

New World Angels names new president

By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@MiamiHerald.com

After a decade at the helm, Rhys L. Williams is stepping down as president of New World Angels. Stephen M. O’Hara of Fort Myers will become the third president in the Florida angel group’s 13-year history.

OHaraO’Hara (pictured here) has been a member of NWA since 2012 and has served on its Board of Directors and Investment Committee for the last three years. Before joining NWA, from 2003 until 2011, O’Hara was CEO of Angelica Corporation, a New York Stock Exchange listed company until it went private in 2008. Before joining Angelica, from 1998 until its merger with K-2 Corporation in 2003, he served as chairman and CEO of Rawlings Sporting Goods, a NASDAQ listed company. He is currently chairman of the board of Miami-based Kairos, an NWA portfolio company.

“Steve’s impressive for-profit and not-for-profit leadership experiences over a successful 35-year career make him the perfect leader for NWA’s next stage of development,” said Williams, who will become chairman of NWA’s board while he pursues other business interests.

Under Williams, NWA doubled its membership to 60 accredited investors and increased the group’s average deal size to $1 million. In 2015, NWA completed six investments, deploying over $2.8 million in new capital in companies including most recently Raw Shorts of Miami and TAO Connect of St. Petersburg. This follows NWA’s seven investments totaling about $3.5 million in 2014. “We will continue to invest in the most promising, young Florida companies and leaders and keep working closely with our portfolio companies as they grow and develop,” said O’Hara.

With members in nine Florida counties and hubs in South Florida and Tampa Bay, New World Angels is a structured group of private investors investing in early-stage entrepreneurial companies with a significant presence in Florida.

March 04, 2016

Q&A with Melissa Krinzman: Homegrown venture fund gets running start

Melissa

 

By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

A number of early-stage investors are just beginning to dip their toes in the Miami startup market, meeting entrepreneurs and mulling over a few deals. But in just two years, one fund jumped right in and created quite a splash.

Already one of the most active early-stage funds operating in South Florida, Krillion Ventures is a $50 million homegrown venture fund founded by two longtime Miami investor/entrepreneurs. Jeffrey Miller is a prominent South Florida business and civic leader. He has been an active investor for nearly 30 years, with most of his holdings in the real estate, banking and energy sectors. Entrepreneurship is in the Miller DNA: His father, Leonard Miller, took Lennar public; today it is a Fortune 500 company and one of the nation’s leading homebuilders. Melissa Krinzman has a 20-year history of launching, growing and advising private companies and nonprofit organizations. She has been active in the entrepreneurship community as a speaker on capital raising and a judge of business plan competitions across the country, including the Miami Herald’s Business Plan Challenge.

“Krillion was born out of a desire to make South Florida an even better place to live and work,” Krinzman said. She met Miller more than four years ago through the Ransom Everglades School: He was chairman of the board of trustees, she was on the alumni board. “We were both Miami natives, career entrepreneurs, had experience growing businesses as well as nonprofit organizations, and shared a common vision about the importance of access to quality education for all children,” she said.

After many discussions about the imminent growth of South Florida’s tech sector and the corresponding need for active “hometown” early stage venture funds to support these nascent companies, they joined forces in January 2014 as managing partners to launch Krillion Ventures (www.krillionventures.com). They picked up the pace significantly in 2015 and closed the year with a total of 17 investments, including an equity crowdfunding platform for startups, an electric scooter-sharing company and a startup aiming to make it easier for consumers and businesses to use digital currencies.

Today, the firm actively invests in financial services, transportation, logistics, real estate and healthcare startups, and has developed a “Miami First” strategy. Eight of its 17 investments are from South Florida.

“We believe that local investors have an exciting opportunity as well as a responsibility to invest in and support South Florida’s next wave of high growth companies that will contribute to more and better local jobs and talent retention,” she said.

Still, Krinzman sees a potentially nasty venture slowdown ahead and believes entrepreneurs need to batten down. The Miami Herald talked to Krinzman about the firm’s first years and plans for the road ahead.

Why a ‘Miami-first’ and not a ‘Miami-only’ focus?

Like all venture capital funds, our primary goal is to earn a return on our investment. We call ourselves a “Miami-first” fund because we prioritize the review of and investment in opportunities in South Florida. Within two years, we have made eight investments in South Florida-based startups, which is approximately half of our portfolio. We have also made investments in early stage companies located in cities such as New York City, Boston and San Francisco. The relationships we make and insights we gain from these investments help our Miami entrepreneurs, and vice versa.

Why have you selected the verticals you have?

For the first two years, we decided not to focus on any verticals. We wanted to cast a wide net and see where it would lead us. This is evidenced by the diversity of our current portfolio. But at the end of 2015, we decided to take a note from New York City’s tech sector. In my role as founder and managing director of Venture Architects, a firm dedicated to helping startups raise investment capital, I saw that the New York-based companies that gained the most traction were the ones innovating in the verticals that New York dominated such as advertising, marketing, financial services and fashion.

So, after a rigorous analysis, we selected five focus areas in which we believe Miami has innate strength — financial services, real estate, health, transportation and logistics — and where we can provide value beyond our dollars invested. Moving forward, our investments will primarily fall into these categories.

What stage do you invest in?

We are making initial seed stage investments from $50,000 to $250,000. Once the company shows traction, we’ll then provide additional investment capital through their Series A, on a deal-by-deal basis. We prefer to be active investors and often take advisory board or director seats.

A differentiator is your nonprofit strategy. How did that develop?

In addition to supporting South Florida entrepreneurs and the overarching technology community, we are also committed to local education and civic initiatives. We believe that one can’t thrive without the other. For example, independent of Krillion, in September 2014, Jeffrey and I were part of the team that opened Beacon College Prep, a nonprofit charter school located in Opa-locka with 240 students in K-3, focused on developing college-bound students. Additionally, Jeffrey is chairman of the board of Breakthrough Miami and supports many cultural, educational and community organizations. And in a few weeks, Krillion will host an event for local investors and entrepreneurs to learn about The Miami Foundation’s leadership agenda, which is looking to the future and addressing transportation congestion, sea level rise and the need for more public spaces — all issues that impact the quality of life for South Florida’s current and future entrepreneurs.

What attributes do you look for in founders?

As we say on our website, we are seeking “one in a krillion.” We review both referred and unsolicited pitch decks from all over the country and hold office hours once a month to meet with local entrepreneurs. Thus far, we have backed entrepreneurs who believe passionately in their goals to solve a problem but who, at the same time, are willing to learn and be flexible. We believe that passion, tenacity and fearlessness are essential. But if not mixed with the ability to accept and process feedback, we’ve seen these three attributes quickly become negatives. We’ve also found that the entrepreneurs who have taken the time to educate themselves about the process and the etiquette of raising capital are the ones who shine.

Please tell us about a couple of your most recent investments. What attracted you to them?

Our two most recent investments were made in December 2015 and both are Miami-based companies — MealPass and Sktchy.

Mealpass is co-founded by Mary Biggins, one of the founders of ClassPass, a membership program for fitness classes across multiple gyms and studios that has raised $84 million from prominent venture funds.

For a flat fee of $99 a month, members can choose to eat lunch at one of over 50 restaurants each day. MealPass launched in Brickell in January and in downtown Boston earlier this month. From the moment Mary started to walk us through her business model, it was clear that she was a seasoned entrepreneur, highly analytical, and extremely focused and hardworking. We also liked that MealPass has a subscription business model and offers a significant cost savings to budget-conscious office workers.

Sktchy, founded by Jordan Melnick, is an app where users submit photos of themselves for inspiration and artists draw, paint or sculpt portraits. The before-and-afters can be discovered and shared on the app. With Jordan, it was clear that he had a deep understanding and connection with his audience and a steadfast vision for Sktchy. We immediately saw the simplicity, usefulness and addictiveness of the app, as well as the significant opportunity to provide a marketplace for these talented artists to sell their sketches. We believe the company is poised for exponential growth and can’t wait for the marketplace to launch in March so that the sketches can be purchased from the talented community of artists.

What keeps you up at night?

The venture investing and valuations have recently begun to lose velocity, a repeat of 2000 and 2008, when the venture market slowed to a crawl. In my mind, the only question is, how long will this one last? Having experienced both of the downturns up close and personal, it wasn’t pretty. But most local entrepreneurs that I have spoken with haven’t even begun to think about gathering the hurricane supplies that they’ll need to wait out the storm.

Investors are already putting on their battle gear. Those who have horses in the race are running the numbers to figure out which ones they are going to bet on and which are being released into the pasture. And they have already slowed down their decision-making and will wait out the storm in order to acquire new investments at attractive valuations.

On the other hand, optimists by nature, I haven’t seen many entrepreneurs suiting up. Our advice to entrepreneurs is to educate themselves about the past two market downturns by reading the recent articles by investors and entrepreneurs who survived them, revise their game plans and pro-actively cut costs to make sure their businesses will continue to thrive during the lean times ahead.

In general, how would you characterize the deal flow you have seen from South Florida?

Drawing from a broad and diverse gene pool, it is not surprising to us that potential deals in South Florida come in all sizes, shapes, colors and patterns. And we’ve seen a steady increase in the pure number of South Florida-based companies that are seeking investment capital. From our perspective, both are very good things.

Nancy Dahlberg; 305-376-3595; @ndahlberg

Melissa Krinzman

Investor: Managing partner of Krillion Ventures, a $50 million Miami-based early stage venture capital firm that actively invests in financial services, transportation, logistics, real estate and healthcare startups.

Business planning: Krinzman also founded Venture Architects, a business planning firm that has positioned early and growth stage companies for success in the capital-raising process since 1998.

Previous experience: Part of founding teams for three prominent, national nonprofit organizations.

Board appointments: Vice chairwoman of the board of The Miami Foundation as well as a board member of Beacon College Prep and the Ransom Everglades School Alumni Board. She also serves as a board member or adviser for a number of Krillion Ventures' investments.

Education: Bachelor’s degree in English and American studies from Tufts University.

Three most recent books read: When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi; The Most Important Thing Illuminated: Uncommon Sense for the Thoughtful Investor by Howard Marks; and The Prize: Who's in Charge of America's Schools? by Dale Russakoff.

More about Krillion Ventures: KrillionVentures.com.

March 01, 2016

Former Facebook VP Alexandre Hohagen will lead Miami-based Nobox

By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

Nobox1Alexandre Hohagen, who formerly headed up Latin America for both Facebook and Google, has acquired Nobox, a pioneering full-service marketing agency based in Miami. He will be CEO and partner. Terms of the transaction were not disclosed.

Hohagen will bring his experience with advertising and technology in these markets with the goal to further enhance the agency's relevancy and footprint for its marquee clients including Netflix, PlayStation, Hotel Tonight, Marriott, Copa Airlines, Royal Caribbean and Volkswagen. Nobox, already a multi-million agency with a focus on the Latin America market, also has a keen focus on digital and social with more than 15 years in the market.

“Nobox's work for some of the world's leading brands, bringing relevant digital strategies to Latin America, made it quickly the most consistent digital agency in the region. We were attracted to Nobox because of the combination it brings of creativity and technology, to achieve amazing results for its clients. We are thrilled to be part of it,” Hohagen said in a statement announcing the transaction. Hohagen, most recently vice president of Latin America and U.S. Hispanics at Facebook, left the social media giant in early 2015 and has been an investor and board advisor based in Miami in recent years.

In addition to Hohagen, Pedro Cabral, founder and former CEO of Agencia Click in Brazil and former chairman of Isobar Global, will become the new chairman and investing partner, joining Nobox co-founder Jayson Fittipaldi, who will remain as chief creative officer. Carlos Garcia, co-founder and former CEO of Nobox, will remain a partner and advisor on innovation as he leads a new venture in marketing tech called HYP3R.

In 2016, Nobox has the opportunity to continue developing in the U.S. Hispanic and Latin America region, even though some markets are going through tough times, Hohagen said. “We see a big opportunity in Latin America. We believe that now is the perfect time for us to grow, especially as some markets struggle. Our approach is very much focused on impact and results; and that's exactly what clients will be focused on moving forward.”

READ MORE: Digital marketing agency Nobox goes all-in on Latin America, flexes social muscle

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