Where are the investors? While that has been a common refrain in South Florida’s startup community, it is becoming a little easier to find them.
That’s because many are offering “office hours,” open coffees, dinners or other ways to give startups a chance to meet them and begin building a relationship -- before pitching for dollars.
On Wednesday, nine investors and mentors came together to host Miami's first Godfather Day, a daylong session put on by Fourth Estate and Hacks/Hackers Miami, for six entrepreneur teams in news and media innovation. The session was a two-way conversation that allowed company founders and the mentors the opportunity to ask "off the record" questions to help get these startups to the next level.
The Godfathers/Godmothers who participated were: Jeff Brown of Fourth Estate and Honey Tree Holdings; Jon Cole of New World Angels and Locke Lorde; Alex de Carvalho of Knight Innovator in Residence at FIU; Dan Grech of Hacks/Hackers Miami; Franc Nemanic, angel investor; Mike O’Donnell of Startup Biz; Sally Outlaw of Peerbackers; Sid Sawhney of Thesis Ventures; and Ben Wirz of the Knight Foundation’s Enterprise Fund.
Startups that participated were: Rise Miami News of Miami, Jurnid of Miami, ModernCoalition, from Kansas City, WeKount of Palm Beach County; TechCetetera of Fort Lauderdale and New Tropic of Miami.
Each entrepreneur team received nearly one hour with the entire group at one time. For entrepreneurs, it was an opportunity to sit down with investors in an informal setting and have a conversation to help investors better understand the founder and the business, said Brown. It also gave founders “a safe space and a safe dry run” to ask candid questions of the investors and receive feedback, said Outlaw.
For the investors and mentors in the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation boardroom, where the event was held, it was not only a chance to build potential deal flow down the road but also an opportunity to give back to the startup community and an efficient way to spoonfeed entrepreneurs access to experts. “Ninety percent of the time they think they need money but what they really need is advice,” Wirz said. Grech and de Carvalho added that it was an opportunity to spark and support media innovation, which has been building in the past year.
Brown has also run UpPitch sessions, informal dinners that matched a couple of entrepreneurs with an investor interested in their industries. He said the Godfather Days like the one on Wednesday will continue, at least quarterly.
This year, 125 startups competed for $175,000 in investment during the eMerge Americas Startup Showcase. They were selected from more than 200 entrants, said Ricardo Weisz, who helped organize the showcase, as he also did in 2014.
Weisz said there were a higher number of high quality companies this year, and more of them were local. “The audience was better too — more investors, clients, potential customers — [the startups] were all very happy with that,” he said.
Startups selected for the Showcases received mentoring, free eMerge tickets for their team, and could attend a full-day Startup Bootcamp at Venture Hive the Sunday before the Showcase. “Get to know each other, this is about finding synergies and cooperation and leveraging all the talent in this room,” Susan Amat, founder of Venture Hive told the startups. “eMerge is really about networking and leveraging connections long after the conference is over."
In addition to more pre-event activities, the other big difference this year: The judges had skin in the game. Each of the judges from each of the contests – early-stage, late-stage and university -- was expected to invest $10,000 in the winner. They all received company information a few days before the event and met with the finalists in addition to judging the pitches.
In an interview before the competition, Miami Heat star Chris Bosh said he was not yet an investor in any Miami tech companies — but now Bosh will have a stake in VSNMobile, a Fort Lauderdale company that has developed a technology for seamless 360-degree high-definition images. (During its pitch, VSNMobile demonstrated its V.360 -- think a 360-degree version of a GoPro camera, with applications for outdoor sports, security, video conferences and drone overviews.)
That’s because Bosh was a judge in the late-stage competition and VSNMobile (pictured below) won. The prize: a $100,000 in investment from the judges.
During the 9-minute pitch, VNSMobile said its 360-degree images can be viewed with a low-cost VR viewer it provides (shown below).
"It's a very big win for VSN. ... eMerge brought us exposure to a larger audience — potential business partners, investors and customers," Greg Page, director of marketing and sales for VSNMobil, told the South Florida Sun Sentinel after the win. VSNMobil, founded by former product designers from Motorola, Foxconn, Samsung and General Dynamics, has about 30 employees.
Winning the early stage competition was Symptify (shown below) of Sunny Isles Beach, which won a $50,000 in investment. Symptify is an online self-assessment tool that uses a customized algorithmic engine to help users educate themselves about causes of symptoms. Like a virtual doctor’s visit, Symptify uses professional medical sources to help a user identify potential conditions, possible remedies and where to go for help.
Winning the university track, which was new this year, was JOOX Music of University of Central Florida. Joox, an awards-based music stock exchange, won a $25,000 investment from the Miami Innovation Fund.
According to the eMerge Americas website, judges included Bosh; Adam Smith, Medina Capital; David Senerman, Groupo Arcano; Felipe Matta, Chile Ventures; Franc Nemanic, CrunchFire Ventures; Greg Ferrero, Goldman Sachs; Ivan Rapin-Smith, Watsco Ventures; Julian Mesa, Sabadell Bank; Luis Zaldivar, Palladium Equity; Melissa Krinzman, Krillion Ventures; Paras Jain, Macquarie; and Rhys Williams, New World Angels.
Joining a growing list of states that have passed intrastate crowdfunding laws, the Florida Legislature passed its own bill and it is expected to be signed by Gov. Rick Scott this week.
With the Florida Senate and House passage of SB 914 and HB 275, investment in private Florida companies is no longer restricted to “accredited” high net worth investors. This new legislation allows online crowdfunding platforms to register and conduct business in Florida as long as both the investors and businesses using crowdfunding reside in the state and that certain consumer protections are in place.
A Florida intrastate crowdfunding law has been in development for over a year. In 2014, the “Florida Crowd Finance Act” was initiated by Miami-based Funding Wonder, a small business lending platform, with the support of the Florida Crowd Finance Association. While support was strong among the bill’s sponsors and many legislators, the Florida Office of Financial Regulation, which reports to the governor, opposed the bill effectively postponing action on the matter until 2015.
The new law provides capital-raising opportunities for small businesses that lacked access before, but it also allows residents a chance to invest in small businesses and startups in their own communities, Funding Wonder’s executives said.
“There is tremendous momentum behind crowdfunding as a tool for business finance and it makes sense for Florida, with the country’s fourth largest economy, to be an active participant,” Funding Wonder CEO Michael Mildenberger said in a news release.
Photo of startup judges, including Chris Bosh, by Charles Trainor Jr.
What does Miami Heat star Chris Bosh think about Miami's tech community?
"It's very cool," said Bosh, who was a judge in eMerge Americas' late-stage startup competition. "I can't say I knew how many startups were here but I have a good sense of it now. There are not only so many here but they are thriving."
In remarks before the competition, Bosh said he was not yet an investor in any Miami tech companies -- but he is now. For the first time, all the judges agreed to invest their own money in the winners. Bosh will now have a stake in VSN Mobile, a Fort Lauderdale company that has developed a technology that provides 360-degree images. Think go-pro but all the way around you, with applications not only for outdoor sports but for security, video conferences or use with drones.
Bosh is no stranger to tech; he is passionate about coding education for kids, and he has been involved in code.org. "Coding is so important," he said. "These are the jobs of the future... We need people to fill the jobs and we shouldn't need to outsource talent, especially with so many bright young minds to be the talent of the future."
And as an investor, what tech does Bosh fancy? Wearable technologies, particularly in clothing. Think about all the data the technology embedded in a shirt can provide after a workout, for instance. "You can get information on what your body is really doing. Athletes are always trying to perform at 100 percent."
In the first quarter, South Florida companies attracted 79 percent of Floridaâ€™s $89.7 million share of venture capital investment. Investments in YellowPepper, OrthoSensor and Pure Life Renal led the pack. But Florida companies still draw only a tiny sliver of the national venture capital pie.
South Florida companies reeled in the lion’s share of the state’s venture capital financing in the first quarter, and most of the investments were in healthcare-related companies.
Venture capitalists invested $89.7 million in Florida-based companies, and $70.9 million of that fueled companies based in Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties, according to the MoneyTree Report from PricewaterhouseCoopers and the National Venture Capital Association released Friday.
The biggest financing rounds went to YellowPepper of Miami, a fast-growing mobile banking and payment network for Latin America that raised $19 million, OrthoSensor of Dania Beach, a maker of smart orthopedic devices, also with $19 million, and Pure Life Renal of Hollywood, a dialysis company that raised $10.5 million, according to the report.
Healthcare companies, including biotech, medical devices and medical technology services, grabbed $45.2 million in South Florida. In addition to OrthoSensor and Pure Life Renal, other investments included $7.3 million in Brickell Biotech, an early-stage biotech company focusing on skin diseases; $5 million in Vigilant BioSciences of Miami, a company developing a test for oral cancer risk, and $3 million in USARAD of Fort Lauderdale, an early-stage medical device maker.
Interest in the life sciences is on the uptick and a national trend, said Bruce Booth, partner in Atlas Venture, which specializes in early-stage biotech and last year seeded a company out of Scripps Research Institute called Padlock Therapeutics. Booth has been seeing a big increase in platform companies and virtual biotech companies that don’t have their own labs but instead partner with research organizations around the world.
“The environment has never been as strong as it is now for putting together new companies and being able to attract financing to scale them over time,” said Booth. “We’ve had eight or nine quarters now where we have had the best IPO environment in the 40-year history of biotechnology. We also have a really strong M&A environment.”
Investors in Florida are taking notice, too. Part of OrthoSensor’s funding came from Tullis Growth Fund, part of the Tullis family of private equity funds that invest in emerging healthcare companies. Tullis, based in Connecticut, established an office in Palm Beach Gardens about five years ago.
“We are looking at more investments in Florida right now — we’re finding the opportunities here,” said Jim Tullis, the fund company’s founder, who lives in Palm Beach County. “This is a terrific area with a very promising future. The local research base coming off the universities is exceptional and probably under-recognized by venture capital at this point. … The tax situation doesn’t go unnoticed by CEOs looking for their next effort, there is an increasing talent pool available and there is good local capital in Florida in terms of angels and, increasingly, funds. It’s a nice combination of technology, people and money.”
OrthoSensor, founded in 2008, has already raised about $53 million in financing, bringing its total funding to about $72 million.
Vigilant BioSciences’ financing included investments by venVelo, based in Central Florida, and the Florida Institute for the Commercialization of Public Research, which provides seed funding and support to early-stage companies commercializing university technology, as well as a group of private and angel investors committed to the life sciences.
Of the 19 investments of the New World Angels, one of South Florida’s well-established angel groups, more than a third are in healthcare-related industries. And in a recent interview, John Sculley, the former Apple CEO who is now an angel investor and startup mentor in Palm Beach County, said he sees healthcare and specifically health-tech startups as a huge opportunity for the tri-county area and the state: “Healthcare is a $3 trillion annual spend, it’s incredibly inefficient, its rules are fought by special interest groups and there is a legacy of incumbent large customers and government institutions that don’t change quickly.”
To be sure, Florida grabbed only a teeny slice of the national venture capital pie — two-thirds of 1 percent — in all industries. Even though Florida is the third largest state by population, it was No. 28 in the first quarter for venture investments, according to MoneyTree’s data. Florida’s total of $89.7 million in 14 deals is down from $129.6 million in 19 deals in the first quarter of last year and way down from last quarter’s $581.2 million, which included the $542 million Google-led investment in Magic Leap.
Nationally and in all industries, venture capitalists invested $13.4 billion in 1,020 deals in the first quarter of 2015, according to the MoneyTree Report, based on data provided by Thomson Reuters. Quarterly VC investment declined 10 percent in terms of dollars and 8 percent in the number of deals, compared to the fourth quarter when $14.9 billion was invested in 1,103 deals. However, the first quarter is the fifth consecutive quarter of more than $10 billion of venture capital invested in a single quarter.
Ride-sharing company Uber and highflying SpaceX drew the highest investments — $1 billion each — while Lyft was No. 3, receiving with $530 million.
Nationally, the software industry continued to receive the highest level of funding — $5.6 billion — of all industries, despite being down for the quarter. The biotechnology industry captured the second largest total during the quarter with $1.7 billion. Overall, first-quarter investments in the life sciences sector (biotechnology and medical devices combined) received $2.2 billion going into 193 deals nationwide, including nine in Florida.
Will the Sharks bite on Budsies? Tune in Friday night to find out.
Alex Furmansky (pictured above) is the founder and CEO of Budsies, a Lake Worth company that turns drawings and pictures into custom-sewn plush figurines or stuffed animals. Furmansky launched Budsies out of his South Florida home in August 2013 and has sold about 8,000 Budsies so far. He will now get a chance at exposure to 8 million ABC "Shark Tank" fans – and a possible investment. (see a quick video cameo of Budsies products on Shark Tank's video promo here.)
Budsies taped its Shark Tank episode last fall and is not allowed to say more about the investing outcome, but Furmansky is excited about the marketing opportunity:“Budsies has already brought a tremendous amount of joy into the lives of so many of our customers – including children who are fighting cancer and create Budsies of their superhero parents and armed forces members who can’t be home for the holidays but send Budsie Selfies of themselves instead. I cannot wait to see what the imaginations of this new influx of customers will create.”
The company has worked with and received orders from professional illustrators, corporate brands, video game producers, book authors, creative adults, teenagers and children, Furmansky said. The product line includes The Original Budsie, Budsie Selfies and Budsie Petsies.
Budsies is the second South Florida company to appear on Shark Tank already this year. Last month, AquaVault was on the show, and ended up making a deal with Shark Daymond John: $75,000 for 25 percent of the company.
Here's the pitch! Let's see if the Sharks cuddle up to Budsies.
UPDATE AFTER THE SHOW: No deal. Kevin O’Leary (aka Mr. Wonderful) and Daymond John both gave Alex offers (50% and 40% respectively for $100K) following his pitch but Alex Furmansky declined both believing the Sharks were undervaluing the company. Over the weekend, the Budsies website received 100K visitors from fans, supporters and new customers, the company said.
Nice touch giving the Sharks Budsies that looked like them.
OrthoSensor, the Dania Beach-based maker of intelligent orthopaedic devices, raised $19 million in a Series C round of financing. Bridger Healthcare and The Tullis Growth Fund participated in the round, the company said.
The proceeds will be used to drive the commercialization of VERASENSE, OrthoSensor's leading product, and expand product development activities. OrthoSensor produces sensors that deliver data during surgery that help doctors pinpoint the positioning of knee implants to minimize or eliminate complications after surgery. OrthoSensor markets the disposable sensors through leading sellers of medical devices including Biomet, Stryker and Zimmer Holdings.
VERASENSE is a disposable sensor-assisted total knee replacement instrument that delivers data wirelessly and enables surgeons to make evidence-based decisions on ligament/soft tissue balance and implant position in real time. Patients whose knees have been balanced through the use of VERASENSE show statistically significant improvements in joint function, pain, activity level and patient satisfaction, the company said.
"Our proprietary technologies are providing orthopaedic surgeons with valuable new tools to enhance clinical outcomes and deliver greater patient satisfaction following total knee arthroplasty procedures," said Ivan Delevic, president and CEO of OrthoSensor. "We have an exciting path forward and believe that the support of high-profile investors such as Bridger Healthcare and The Tullis Growth Fund illustrates broad potential impact of our technology in the future of orthopaedics."
OrthoSensor, founded in 2008, has already raised about $53 million in financing, bringing its total funding to about $72 million.
McClure interviews Fabrice Grinda at 500 Startups' PreMoney Miami event on Friday.
By Nancy Dahlberg / email@example.com
The secret to building a healthy ecosystem, according to Dave McClure: Write checks.
Of course there is a little more to it, he said, but it’s really key, particularly at the seed stage level -- $100K to $2 million check sizes, the founding partner of venture fund and accelerator 500 Startups told attendees on Friday at the Epic, where 500 Startups held its first PreMoney conference outside Silicon Valley.
“The opportunities here are huge. Right now you are sitting on your money and putting it all in real estate," McClure said. "Some of the best entrepreneurs are right under your noses. They won’t stick around if you don’t write checks. … It’s really that simple.”
Several hundred accredited investors and others attended the all-day PreMoney Miami conference, sponsored by the Knight Foundation and others, to network and hear a variety of speakers from Silicon Valley and other regions –- including Christine Herron of Intel Capital, Ash Fontana of AngelList and Thomas Korte of AngelPad. But some of it also focused on Miami. You can see slideshares of many of the presentations here: http://www.slideshare.net/500startups/. Videos will be posted on PreMoneyMiami.co soon, McClure said.
Christian Hernandez Gallardo, founder and managing partner of White Star Capital, talked about ecosystem building around the world and even blogged about it. The secret, he says, is starting with “a healthy supply and access to technical talent. If ‘software is eating the world’ you need founders and team members who can build said software,” he said. To become an ecosystem, that base of talent needs the right building blocks, including culture and role models, accelerators and incubators, seed funding and advisors, and growth stage capital. “And the final (and one could argue most critical piece) of healthy ecosystems is a vibrant and active path to exits.”
Building that ecosystem will take time, he said, but in the meantime Miami is already attracting new talent.
David Koretz of Plum said when he told VCs he was moving from the Valley to Miami, he got comments like “you are halving your odds of success by moving there” and “you are moving from the major leagues to a farm team” -- “It wasn’t a positive reception,” he said.
Beyond the tax advantages, he chose Miami for quality of life and lower burn rates. “In Miami, capital goes twice as far if not three times as far.” But also, he said, the culture wants you to win.
“I moved here in January, got introduced to almost everyone in the first few weeks, these are things that don’t happen in the Valley,” he said.
Not that everything is perfect. His view: "There are a lot of people playing VC. It’s not that hard to get $100K in Miami, in my opinion, but expansion capital doesn’t exist here. A lot of businesses are going to die in that gulch.”
Angel investor Mark Kingdon, whose third investment was Twitter, moved here last April from New York. The former CEO of Second Life and other companies invests in ecommerce and social media and has already made two South Florida investments: Sktchy and Everypost.
He rattles off the advantages: Weather, yes, we have to say that. It’s a gateway market. The immigrant energy here is invigorating. There is startup capital here. Rent and office space is half. You can get incredible developer talent for less. Developer salaries are just about half of major markets -- It’s hard to recruit loyal employees in the Valley.
“And I love the deal flow I have seen here; it’s much more than I expected,” said Kingdon, who said four of his last five investments were not from the Valley or New York.
He agreed with Koretz about the welcoming community. "I think that is important because we need to recruit more entrepreneurs to the market, it is a numbers game.”
As to challenges: “I think the winning companies are underfunded, there may be too many checks written -- a lot of companies are getting a little bit of money, and it is not being consolidated around the winners.”
Patrick McKenna of High Ridge spent 12 years in the Valley and built three companies before focusing on investing full-time and moving here last July.
He said he was looking for a world class city with a highly connected airport in the eastern time zone with interesting people and a progressive culture. Miami ticked all the boxes. “What surprised me is there is so much more,” said McKenna, who already invested in his first Miami company Home61. “And I wasn’t particularly focused in Latin America, but I have found great opportunities.”
Opportunities in LatAm and other areas of the world was also a focus of the conference.
“The reason we are bullish about emerging markets is because we think it is an easier bet. There are really not that many people paying attention to it,” said McClure, whose 500 Startups really has invested in about 1,000 startups, not only in the Valley but in Latin America (100-plus), India, China, Taiwan, Middle East and the UK.
“Exits and available capital have been challenges, but we want to be first in,” said McClure. "We are starting to see very big companies coming out of unusual places like Nigeria, like Pakistan, like Thailand. We are seeing respected investors like Sequoia making $100 million investments or more in emerging markets," said McClure, whose 500 Startups is raising its third fund. "This is new."
Globally and in the U.S., angel investor Fabrice Grinda, co-founder and CEO of OLX, has a track record of picking winners. He’s made 182 investments, 22 of them this year. They include both seed stage and late stage deals and he’s had 56 exits so far, 30 of them in the money. He invests in categories that he understands, particularly marketplaces. Dropbox, Airbnb and Alibaba are just a few. “Do I like the market, the team, deal terms, do I like the business? Based on those four criteria within an hour, I know.”
And of course there was some bubble talk.
Scott Kupor, partner and COO of Andreessen Horowitz, and Mark Suster, partner of Upfront Ventures, who spoke via Skype and Meerkat, both made cases with a series of charts. Suster made the points that there are 50 times more Internet users today than in 1995, Internet speeds are 180 times faster and smartphone and social media adoption rates continue to soar, enabling companies that work to grow faster than anytime in human history. All of this has essentially created a new VC landscape, Suster said.
Kupor believes the market is still at healthy levels. For example, the 49 IPOs in 2014 that raised eyebrows? That has been the median the last 35 years. And companies are staying private longer; the companies going public are at $100 million in revenues, rather than $10 million like during the dotcom bubble.
That is one of the biggest sea changes in the last 24 months, he said -- companies are staying private longer so they are far more mature when they do go public. Another: mutual funds, hedge funds, private equity are coming into the venture market. He is also seeing more money coming into the enterprise side and into “full-stack startups” that control the entire customer experience, such as Airbnb and Lyft.
For now, Kupor doesn’t see a bubble. “If we get a correction, I believe it will be a global market correction, not a tech event…. Tech is still, from an overall perspective, well valued.”
Follow Nancy Dahlberg on Twitter @ndahlberg
Ben Wirz of the Knight Foundation interviews Kingdon, McKenna and Koretz.
To help bring Watson’s cognitive computing power to the mass market, IBM on Thursday announced an investment in Modernizing Medicine, a provider of cloud-based, specialty-specific electronic medical records systems and other technologies that capture structured data, track outcomes and deliver clinical decision support.
The undisclosed investment, caps $20 million in Series D funding secured by Boca Raton-based Modernizing Medicine, raising its overall funding total to $49 million. The first $15 million in the latest round, which included Summit Partners and Pentland Group, has already been announced. This is the latest direct investment that IBM has made through its $100 million fund to seed innovations using Watson, the super computer that famously beat the humans on Jeopardy! Last year, IBM announced a $1 billion program to bring Watson into healthcare and other industries.
Modernizing Medicine created of the Electronic Medical Assistant, or EMA, a specialty-specific EMR system and provider of comprehensive specialty-specific billing, revenue and inventory management Solutions. Over 5,000 healthcare providers in the U.S., including 30 percent of dermatologists, use Modernizing Medicine's platform.
"Today's announcement is an exciting milestone in our journey to deliver specialty-specific solutions to healthcare providers, including an entirely new class of cognitive-infused patient care apps powered by Watson," said Daniel Cane, co-founder and CEO of Modernizing Medicine, in a news release, noting its partnership with IBM that began last spring.
Modernizing Medicine will use the funding to accelerate market expansion in eight medical specialties, as well as enhance its products. This includes further development of schEMA, the company's mobile app accessed through EMA that leverages the cognitive computing power of Watson to give physicians rapid clinical decision support at the point of care.
schEMA does this by analyzing massive amounts of published, peer-reviewed medical data and healthcare research. “Watson gets incredibly good at conversational style questions and answers. So when our dermatologist asked about a certain treatment, ...Watson can say here is the answer and here’s the journal it came from and here’s the citations and with one touch on the iPad, it can all be cited in the patient’s record,” said Cane in an interview last year.
schEMA is in beta testing now and the company will be looking for other beta clients at the American Academy of Dermatology Annual Meeting this week, said Cane on Thursday. schEMA will be available for general availability to EMA Dermatology clients later this year, he added.
The fast-growing Modernizing Medicine, based at the Research Park at FAU, now has 258 employees and plans to add about 100 new positions within the next 18 months, the company said.
"Modernizing Medicine is a great example of the breakthrough innovation we have seen from our partners who are building a new class of cognitive computing solutions powered by Watson," said Stephen Gold, vice president of IBM Watson. "IBM's investment will help speed the introduction of their schEMA app and demonstrates how Watson can be used by medical professionals to improve how they practice evidence-based medicine."
See earlier in-depth Miami Herald profile of Modernizing Medicine here and news story about its Watson partnership here.
Modernizing Medicine co-founders Dan Cane, right, and Dr. Michael Sherling in their Boca Raton offices.
The entrepreneurs behind AquaVault, a portable beach safe, will take the plunge on ABC’s Shark Tank on Friday.
During the show, entrepreneurs pitch their companies for potential funding to the celebrity investors: Mark Cuban, Barbara Corcoran, Lori Greiner, Robert Herjavec, Daymond John and Kevin O'Leary. Will the Sharks tear apart the beach product or will they taste opportunity? The Shark Tank episode, which airs at 9 p.m., was taped months ago and the team is sworn to secrecy.
“The inception of this idea occurred while we were staying at one of the finest resorts in South Beach and had all of our valuables stolen from our lounge chairs while swimming in the pool,” said Avin Samtani, who developed the product with Jonathan Kinas and Robert Peck. The three left careers in finance and construction and have been selling the product they created since last spring. The small, hard locakable case can hold a wallet, keys, smartphone and other valuables and also can be locked onto the back of a beach chair, a bike or other places.
Samtani said the Aventura company has sold “thousands” of the safes to hotels and online, without giving specific sales numbers. Hotels such as Fontainbleau, Loews, Delano Miami, SNS, The James, Eden Roc and Ritz Carlton provide them free or rent them to guests. Online on theaquavault.com, the safes retail for $39.99 for consumers, but the founders believe the larger market opportunity is in sales to hotels.
UPDATE FROM SHARK TANK: AquaVault was asking for $75,000 for a 12 percent stake, but made a deal with Daymond John: $75,000 for 25 percent of the company. And, oh yes, AquaVault's website crashed briefly right after the appearance, according to members of the Twitterverse who were trying to take advantage of the Shark Tank special of 20 percent off.