Deadline extended until May 2: Enter American Entrepreneurship Award contest now

The American Entrepreneurship Award business plan competition offers aspiring and early stage entrepreneurs the opportunity to win a share of $125,000 as well as free mentorship and business support services. The competition is available to entrepreneurs currently living in, currently operating in, or who plan to open or expand their businesses to the areas of The Bronx, New York and Miami-Dade County, Florida.

To enter this competition, please visit: http://www.AmericanAward.com/ and click the “Register Here” on the page. Follow the instructions to create a profile and you will be taken to the online application. Once you complete the online application, you will be entered into the contest.

The deadline to complete your application is  now 11:59 p.m. May 2 so start your application today!

For any questions about the application or the award please contact: info@americanaward.com

April 25, 2017

CarHopper raises $1.5 million, plans expansion

Bora Hamamcioglu  Founder of CarHopper

By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

CarHopper, an app-enabled booking platform for luxury car rentals, announced Tuesday its plans to expand operations to Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Orlando and Fort Lauderdale.

The South Florida startup also announced it has raised $1.5 million in seed funding, raised from a syndicate of angel investors, which will help the company expand product development and sales and marketing efforts.

CarHopper recently honed its focus to a more curated inventory, sourced from boutique luxury car rental purveyors. “Latest trends demonstrate that people prefer buying experiences rather than assets,” said founder and CEO Bora Hamamcioglu, a Turkish entrepreneur who founded the company in Miami in 2016 (pictured above). In addition to private jet services and luxury homes with other services, sophisticated shoppers now have easy and streamlined access to luxury cars with CarHopper, he said.

 

April 20, 2017

Miami real estate-tech startup Gridics raises $1.1 million from developer Avra Jain and others

Gridex

By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

Efficient isn't a word most people would use to describe a planning and zoning process, but a Miami-based real estate technology startup wants to change that.

Gridics announced Thursday that it has raised a $1.1 million round of seed funding. The round was led by Dune Road Capital and included John Dyett, managing director of Salem Partners, Robert Kall, CEO and co-founder of Cien.ai, and Miami real estate developer Avra Jain. 

Gridics, short for Grid Analytics, is a real estate dataa and software development company founded in 2015. From applications on its platform,  users can visualize real estate data in order to make smarter investment and development decisions while streamlining inefficient processes in the real estate world, the company said.  For example, the Zonar.City application helps bridge the gap between the private sector development community of architects, developers and attorneys by automating development feasibility analysis and streamlining the development plan approval process. 

"By creating a solution that can digitize and automate any zoning code, the Gridics team has created a way to streamline an antiqued process," said Peter Richards, managing partner of Dune Road Capital.

The company, which has raised over $2 million  to date, is focused on further strengthening its product and driving adoption of its Zonar.City application. 

"Our new automated compliance module allows cities and developers to quickly check development plans against site-specific zoning requirements.  Cities that integrate their code with Zonar.city will streamline their zoning approval processes resulting in faster approvals, improved transparency and significant reductions to backlogs," said Gridics CEO Jason Doyle, in announcing the funding.

Gridics is also developing a Market Intelligence application, which allows real estate professionals to conduct hyper-local market analysis.  More than 1,000 members of the Miami Association of Realtors have joined Gridics since February, the company said.

 

Gridics2

 

April 18, 2017

Miami fintech company DadeSystems receives $2 million in funding

DadeSystems, a Miami-based provider of account receivable automation solutions, raised $2 million in funding to accelerate its growth from Miami early-stage venture firm Ocean Azul Partners.

The funding  will be used to  accelerate engineering and product enhancement efforts as well as expand the sales team, digital marketing and client services, according to the announcement.

"We're pleased with the progress of DadeSystems and excited about the product suite, relationships and potential for growth," said Bill Pruitt, managing director of Ocean Azul Partners, in a statement. "We look for capital efficient companies developing new markets using differentiation and providing value to create a defendable market position and grow rapidly. DadeSystems is aligned with our investment strategy."

DadePay AR Automation, part of the SaaS suite of fully integrated products, automatically captures all incoming payments, including cash, checks, ACH, EFT, and credit cards.  Using patented technologies, payments are automatically matched to open invoices and update the companies' ERP systems.  All checks received are electronically transmitted to the bank for immediate deposit, the company said. DadeSystems serves multiple industries including distribution, food and beverage, manufacturing, financial, transportation, wholesale, property management, healthcare, retail, travel and agriculture. 

"Last year was another strong year as we exceeded our revenue and customer acquisition targets. Securing this additional funding allows us to expand our product suite and services and grow our presence as the preferred payment solution in the marketplace," said DadeSystems CEO Bill Zayas.

 

 

 

 

April 16, 2017

What would a venture capitalist say about that? Startups get chance to find out

Bt

By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

Access to capital is lacking — that’s a common refrain among Miami area entrepreneurs, and particularly in minority communities. So Derick Pearson and Felecia Hatcher, founders of Code Fever and Blacktech Week, thought let’s bring the venture capitalists here. 

At a recent conference Pearson talked Marlon Nichols, co-founder and managing partner at Cross Culture Ventures and former investment director at Intel Capital, into agreeing to be Code Fever and Blacktech Week’s first VC in Residence. As part of the program, thought to be one of the first of its kind, top venture capitalists will spend a month in Miami advising and guiding black, Latinx and Caribbean entrepreneurs. Nichols, who generally splits his time between offices in L.A. and Silicon Valley, took up residence at WeWork earlier this month and has been holding office hours, fireside chats and lunch and learns that will continue throughout the month to help sharp founders think through the businesses that they are building. 

It wasn’t a hard sell and the arrangement is benefiting both sides of the table. 

“You can’t beat coming to Miami in April, but more importantly, Miami is rich in culture and our investment thesis is about understanding global culture to try to predict where consumers are going to spend their dollars,” said the Jamaican-born Nichols, who leads one of the relative few black-led venture capital funds in the U.S. “Black and Latinx cultures have been known for early adopters, so for understanding what is going on in those communities as well as the Caribbean community, Miami is a melting pot. For me it is a lot of learning.”

The new VC in Residence program is one of a number of Code Fever initiatives, which include producing Blacktech Week and Weekend, and it recently received $1.2 million in Knight funding. Entrepreneur-in-residence programs are commonly hosted at universities and accelerators to support entrepreneurs, solve problems and help innovate. Code Fever believes that borrowing from this model and inviting VCs to spend a month in residence in communities where there’s little access to funding can help reshape the way black communities are valued in the innovation sector. 

It’s a big challenge. Only about 1 percent venture capital funding goes to black founders, and only 13 black women founders in the entire nation have raised a million dollars or more in venture capital. 

In the half-hour office hour visits so far, Nichols has met with tech startups developing products or services for student debt, media content, cloud-based secure storage, educating inmates, dentistry and others. Most of the entrepreneurs are not yet at the stage for venture capital or do not have appropriate businesses for that kind of funding, but the door is still open. 

Some were interested in advice for preparing themselves for investment, others wanted mentorship on starting up or just wanted to talk strategy. And it hasn’t been all tech — Nichols met with a cupcake entrepreneur who wanted to talk about the best way to grow her business. 

And when companies are ready for investment, he wants to know about them. “I think gone are the days when all investments happen in Silicon Valley. ... Amazing companies can be created any where in the world and I want to keep my finger on the pulse of that. ... The biggest thing I will get out of this is developing a network here – with entrepreneurs I will keep in touch with, with angels here and organizations. They will help be eyes and ears for great investment opportunities here.”

Nichols is also holding frequent fireside chats, bringing in entrepreneurs who have experience starting and growing companies. “The best resource for new entrepreneurs is successful entrepreneurs as well as unsuccessful entrepreneurs,” he said. “There is just a wealth of knowledge that can be learned from both.” 

Last week, Nichols hosted entrepreneurs Brian Brackeen of Miami-based Kairos and Chris Bennett of Wonderschool and Soldsie.com for a fireside chat, dinner and networking. Bennett grew up in Miami but moved to San Francisco in 2009. While both entrepreneurs have raised millions in venture capital and angel funding and gave advice on that, they also dished on the realities of startup life — including 180-degree pivots, botched pitches with important VCs, building and overbuilding without reaching product-market fit and somehow keeping a team focused through the toughest months. We also learned that Brackeen wakes himself up at 3 a.m. because he does his best work then, but don’t bother him at 3 p.m. — that’s nap time.

Bennett is a big proponent of accelerators – he participated in NewME and 500 Startups — and he said he would do another one today. He also said the benefit to Silicon Valley is there are so many entrepreneurs, engineers and investors to learn from. “Talk to as many VCs as you can, because you learn what they care about. ... The best way to get ready for talking to VCs is to join an accelerator. The next best way is to surround yourself with entrepreneurs who have been successful and learn from them,” he said. 

Brackeen is bullish on the 305, including on the number of angels in South Florida and the growing infrastructure such as co-working spaces and accelerators — and maybe soon, innovation districts. “You can have the same success as a San Francisco company if you find the right people, find the right lawyer, find the right investors. There is not one model for the result,” he said. 

Coming up on Tuesday is a lunch and learn with Silicon Valley startup attorney Brian Patterson and a fireside chat with Diishan Imira, CEO and co-founder of Mayvenn. Pearson and Hatcher plan to bring more VCs down. Find more information about the VC in Residence program at blacktechweek.com/funding.

For his part, Nichols said he has been impressed so far with the potential of Miami.

“Successful ecosystems have universities spinning out technologies and talent, investors and angel groups, accelerators and co-working spaces — and challenges unique to those communities, that is the biggest thing. I don’t want to invest in the next Uber or the next Lyft. I want new market creators. What are big pain points for people in Miami that haven’t been met? Let’s figure out what those are and go solve them.”

Nancy Dahlberg; @ndahlberg 

READ MORE: Blacktech Week receives $1.2 million in Knight funding to expand entrepreneur programs

Btw

Marlon Nichols, co-founder of Cross Culture Ventures, Chris Bennett, founder of Soldsie.com and Wonderschool, and Brian Brackeen, founder of Miami-based startup Kairos, talk about startup life at a VC in Residence fireside chat at WeWork in this photo and above.

Photos by Blacktech Week. 

 

April 12, 2017

South Florida cancer-fighting companies led venture funding in Q1, MoneyTree report shows

 

By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

Two South Florida biotech companies targeting cancer and an education-technology startup led Florida venture capital deals in the first quarter, according to a MoneyTree report by PricewaterhouseCoopers and CB Insights released Wednesday.

Florida deals in the quarter were led by F1 Oncology in West Palm Beach, an early-stage biotech company that raised $37 million from F1 BioVentures, Sinobioway and SunTerra Capital. Miramar-based Altor Bioscience raised $30 million from Sanderling Ventures. Aventura-based Nearpod, which creates educational content for students, raised $21 million from AGP Miami, GSV Acceleration, Insight Venture Partners, Krillion Ventures and Reach Capital. Aerospace company Moon Express of Cape Canaveral, created to mine the moon, brought in $20 million.

Florida companies took in 24 venture capital deals worth $156.9 million in the first quarter and nearly half of the total – $74.3 million – was in healthcare, according to MoneyTree. That compares with 25 deals worth $855.3 million in the same quarter a year ago, when mixed-reality technology company Magic Leap’s $793.5 million dominated investments in that quarter.

Other South Florida companies that received investment in the first quarter included fintech company Nymbus ($16 million), e-commerce startup Iguama ($5 million), packaging forwarding compay Aeropost ($4 million) and Biscayne Pharmaceuticals ($3 million), which is developing epilepsy treatments.

Nationally, investors deployed $13.9 billion to U.S. VC-backed startup companies across 1,104 deals, up 15 percent in dollars and 2 percent in deals from Q4 2016, according to the MoneyTree survey. These figures represent a slight recovery from Q4 2016, where startup investment figures bottomed out as part of an ongoing retreat from the peaks of 2015. A boost in mega-round activity contributed to the jump in quarterly dollars, although the total of $13.9 billion remains the second-lowest quarterly total across the past two years. MoneyTree Report results can be found at www.pwcmoneytree.com.

“We are seeing the U.S. funding environment slip into its new normal – 2015 was irrationally exuberant and the 2016 pullback was a reaction to that,” said Anand Sanwal, co-founder and CEO of CB Insights. “However, 2016 was more of a soft landing than a wholesale popping of the venture bubble which pundits have been predicting since 2009. There continue to be new sources of capital and strong corporate interest, and that is evident in the Q1 numbers. A number of large acquisitions and some early IPO activity also portends good things for VC-backed companies.”

Last week, Pitchbook and the National Venture Capital Association put out a report using different methodology as to which size, stage and type of deals it includes but reported similar trends. That report found that $244.19 million flowed into 63 deals during the first quarter in Florida. Nationally, the PitchBook-NVCA Venture Monitor found, investors deployed $16.5 billion to 1,797 venture-backed startups, marking a slight uptick in capital invested over the fourth quarter of 2016, but the fewest companies to receive investment since the fourth quarter of 2011.

Nancy Dahlberg: @ndahlberg

March 29, 2017

New World Angels directs $1 million follow-on investment to Miami-based manufacturing innovator

New World Angels is investing an additional $1 million in Clarke Industrial Engineering to fund Clarke’s continued expansion of its patented Shutter Valve line. Clarke is headquartered in Miami with operations in Rhode Island.

Invented by Kyle Daniels, Clarke’s CEO and founder, the Shutter Valve is the first major innovation in 50 years in the $86 billion valve industry, the company said.  Industrial valves play a critical role in manufacturing, regulating the flow and control in piping systems in power plants, oil and gas applications and food and beverage processing facilities.

Daniels brought his business plan for his patented idea to New World Angels in 2014 and received funding that year, said NWA Treasurer  Bob Williamson, a member of Clarke's board.

Daniels  said the company is building out its infrastructure to produce an expanded product line. “We now have valves in several industries, including natural gas, water, power and paper.  Combined with our recently announced license arrangement with Curtiss-Wright to expand the Shutter Valve into the defense and nuclear industries, this investment enables us to seize the opportunities before us and continue on our growth path,” he said in a news release.

This is the Florida structured angel group's second follow-on investment this year. In January it invested $500,000 in Tao Connect of St. Petersburg. In the past three years, Boca Raton-based New World Angels has invested $10 million in Florida companies.

March 16, 2017

$300,000 in Florida Institute funding closes $1.1 million round for Candidate.Guru

MONEY

By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

Candidate.Guru received a $300,000 investment from The Florida Institute for the Commercialization of Public Research, closing out its financing round at $1.1 million.

The Boca Raton-based startup developed its human resources software solution with technology developed at the Florida Institute for Human Machine and Cognition so it was eligible to apply for Florida Institute funding. The Florida Institute supports new company creation based on publicly-funded research, and bridges early funding gaps for companies spinning out of Florida-based universities and research institutions. To date, 65 Florida companies have been funded through the Institute, which makes matching investments up to $300,000; Candidate.Guru received the maximum.

Candidate.Guru developed a big-data software solution that can predict a culture fit between companies and prospective job candidates without the need for surveys and assessment tools. It was the winner of the Miami Herald Business Plan Challenge in 2016.

ADVERTISING

“Our customers can easily submit job candidates to Candidate.Guru via LinkedIn, job boards and human resource systems, and we then return them in rank order based on strength of the culture fit with a specific hiring manager, team or the company itself. This enables our customers to prioritize thousands of job candidates instantly and reach out to the best culture fits first,” Candidate.Guru CEO Chris Daniels said in the news release. Daniels, a former executive recruiter, founded the company in 2014.

“Candidate.Guru is improving the hiring process by enabling companies to hire the best candidates more efficiently, thereby increasing long-term employee productivity,” added Jackson Streeter, Florida Institute’s CEO.

The new funding extends Candidate.Guru’s previously reported round to $1.1 million, which also included funding by Florida angel groups The FAN Fund, Florida Funders and Miami Innovation Fund. Before that, Candidate.Guru raised about $475,000 from friends and family. The revenue-generating Candidate.Guru has more than 20 corporate customers.

The Florida Institute has also funded South Florida companies Vigilant BioscienesBiscayne PharmaceuticalsKairos, Heart Genomics and Genetic Networks, among others.

Follow @ndahlberg on Twitter.

READ MORE: Candidate.Guru’s big-data solution solves HR quandary: Will the new hire fit in?



Alta5 joins 500 Startups to bring automation to your online brokerage account

Alta5 team

Miami-based Alta5 team, from left: Jack Slocum, Rocco Savage, Adam Mishcon.

By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

Fintech startup Alta5 received a $150,000 investment from 500 Startups, and its co-founders are part of 500’s current accelerator class in San Francisco.

Alta5, which created an automation platform for individual investors, is the second Miami-based upstart that 500 Startups has invested in this year; Court Buddy, a legal-tech company, also received an investment and is part of the accelerator.

The team at Alta5 has been working behind the scenes to bring its innovative technology to the retail investing market. The platform gives investors the ability to build bots that trade automatically out of their online brokerage account, eliminating the risks in missing trading opportunities and managing their portfolio around unforeseen market events, said Rocco Savage, who co-founded the company with Jack Slocum and Adam Mishcon.

Slocum, CEO, and Mishcon, COO, co-founded Sequoia-backed Sencha.com, so they have an extensive background in building frameworks that are adopted by millions of people. Sencha is a developer framework used by 80 percent of the top financial institutions, most of the Fortune 100 and over 2 million developers worldwide, Savage said. Savage, who oversees business development, also worked at Sencha, as well as Nomi and Tony Robbins. In addition to the 500 Startups funding, Alta5 previously received an undisclosed seed investment and it is currently raising another small round of financing. 

Fintech is a growing specialty in South Florida, and it’s no secret the trends in finance are moving toward automation. Automated trading programs have even impacted Goldman Sachs, which recently laid off 600 traders to hire 200 engineers. “We think it’s important that everyone has a fighting chance, and what that means is creating technology for individual investors to succeed in today’s markets dominated by computerized trading,” Savage said. “Think of Alta5 as your personal automation platform for investing in the stock market.”

 Founded in 2014, Alta5 is putting its platform through final testing and will be opening it to consumers in the coming months, giving more than 6.5 million investors with a TD-Ameritrade account access to its automation features. Sign up to receive early access here.

The team is currently in Silicon Valley participating in the accelerator, which ends with a Demo Day in May. 

“The 500 Startups network is best in class and we feel privileged to be a part of their accelerator,” Savage said. “There’s an abundance of resources at our fingertips including mentorship, networking and investor opportunities, and we are excited to be a part of it.”

Follow @ndahlberg on Twitter.

March 10, 2017

More Miami startup capital on way: Rokk3r Labs launches investment fund

Rokk3r

Rokk3r Fuel team, clockwise from top left: Jeff Ransdell, Jonas Tempel, Germán Montoya and Nabyl Charania. Rokk3r Fuel is a new fund from Miami-based venture builder Rokk3r Labs. Rokk3r Labs

 

By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

Rokk3r Labs has launched an investment fund and it is already beginning to deploy capital into Miami’s startup community.

The Wynwood-based venture builder announced the launch of Rokk3r Fuel this week. The fund will be led by founding partners Jeff Ransdell and Jonas Tempel in partnership with Rokk3r Labs managing founders Nabyl Charania and Germán Montoya. Ransdell said the goal is that Rokk3r Fuel will be a $150 million fund, which would make it one of the region’s largest, and fund-raising is well underway.

Ransdell most recently was divisional director at Bank of America Merrill Lynch, joining Merrill Lynch in 1994, and was responsible for $138 billion in private client investments. Tempel, a serial entrepreneur, was co-founder of Beats Music, which Apple acquired in 2014 to create Apple Music, and the first CEO of Beatport, which SFX acquired in 2013.

“We see Miami as a growing international destination and hub for entrepreneurs throughout the U.S., Latin America, Western Europe and Northern Africa,” said Germán Montoya, co-founder of Rokk3r Labs, in the announcement. “Jeff and Jonas bring a unique combination of experience and expertise in entrepreneurship and investing at the most established levels. We are thrilled to have them connecting investors to what we’re building at Rokk3r Labs.”

Independent of Rokk3r Fuel, Ransdell and Tempel recently were investors in Miami-based Taxfyle’s $2 million fund-raising round. Taxfyle matches tax specialists with consumers and small businesses. Ransdell said he is an investor in 30 to 40 companies although Taxfyle is the first Miami startup he has backed.

But that will likely change soon. Through Rokk3r Fuel, “we are going to make some deployments next month. Of those investments in April, they will all be Miami companies,” Ransdell said in an interview. Some of those will be Taxfyle as well as Rokk3r companies AdMobilize and Emerge, he said, as well as some earlier stage companies they will begin to develop. “We will be making more deployments in June.”

Rokk3r Fuel is aimed at bringing early-stage capital to the best-performing companies emerging from Rokk3r Labs, which partners with entrepreneurs to cobuild ventures. About half of the Fuel portfolio will be from the Rokk3r universe. But Ransdell said the other half of the fund could be from anywhere in the world, as well as other South Florida companies.

“The whole idea is to inject fuel into these companies at strategic times of their growth,” Ransdell said. “I am here and purposely in Miami to support what I believe is a very, very expanding startup ecosystem.”

Rokk3r Labs, founded in 2012, is currently working with about 40 companies, including Hyp3r, AlzhUp and HotSwitch. It has recently moved its headquarters from Miami Beach to Wynwood.

Follow Nancy Dahlberg on Twitter @ndahlberg.

READ MORE: Rokk3r Labs relocating its headquarters to Wynwood

READ MORE: Miami-based Taxfyle raises $2 million, launches version 2.0 of app

 

March 08, 2017

Miami startup RealConnex raises $3.5 million in funding

By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

RealConnex, a platform connecting the commercial real estate community to capital, investments and services, announced it has raised $3.5 million in strategic financing in a round led by Silver Portal Capital, a San Diego-based real estate investment and merchant banking firm.

RealConnex, founded in Miami in 2013 by real estate developer Roy Abrams, aims to help real estate developers connect with the right capital sources, service providers and one another. Abrams, the CEO and a 25-year veteran of the technology and real estate industries, said the new funding will be used for marketing, to expand the leadership team, and to add new features to the platform. In total, the company has raised $10.2 million.

The company, based in New York and Miami, has 65,000 active users and a database of 200,000 companies, individuals and funds. Abrams said RealConnex will likely have 6,000 registered capital sources, 9,000 investment opportunities, and more than $1 billion worth of transacted deals by the end of 2017.

Silver Portal Capital, a boutique firm focused exclusively on real estate, will adopt RealConnex's technology platform throughout its organization and channel partners to drive business growth.

"We see a significant competitive advantage in working with a technology partner like RealConnex," said Jean-Louis Guinchard, senior managing principal of Silver Portal Capital, in a news release. "They intimately understand professional real estate and technology, and they are poised to affect the market in a material way. Our investment will help the company scale into the largest real estate professional network."