November 28, 2015

Magic Leap seeking $9 million in incentives for Broward expansion

By Marcia Heroux Pounds / Sun Sentinel

The virtual reality company Magic Leap could get $9 million in economic incentives to create 725 jobs.

Broward County Commissioners will consider the package Tuesday. The county's portion would be $507,500, plus a $500,000 cash incentive.

The average pay for the jobs would be $100,000, twice Broward County's average annual wage.

The city of Plantation approved more than $1 million in incentives on Nov. 4 for a company fitting the description of Magic Leap. The company is renovating a 260,000-square-foot space at 8000 W. Sunrise Blvd. in Plantation, formerly home to Motorola Mobility.

The state would pay $4 million to the company as well as $3 million from Gov. Rick Scott's discretionary Quick Action Closing fund used to close deals.

Magic Leap was founded by Rony Abovitz, co-founder of robotic-assisted surgical company Mako Surgical in Davie, which was sold for $1.65 billion in 2013 to competitor Stryker Corp.

Abovitz soon began Magic Leap, attracting venture capital interest in his line of "cinematic reality" products under development. Last year, the startup received a $542 million investment led by Google.

The company already employs 217 in Dania Beach and has started moving into its new headquarters in Plantation. Magic Leap's projected capital investment is $150 million, according to Broward County's economic development staff.

The company has been hiring for a wide range of jobs including software engineers, game and Android designers and cinematic animators as well as human resources professionals, finance and accounting positions. The company lists nearly 200 jobs on its website,

At the unveiling of the new Plantation headquarters in October, Greater Fort Lauderdale Alliance president Bob Swindell said Magic Leap is a critical part of the technology hub that the county has been trying to build.

Plantation Mayor Diane Veltri Bendekovic said Magic Leap "is going to put Plantation on the map," giving it international recognition as a place of technological innovation.

Magic Leap also has locations in Santa Cruz, Los Angeles and Mountain View, Calif.; Seattle; Austin, Texas; the United Kingdom; and New Zealand.

If the incentives package for Magic Leap is approved, it would be one of the highest in the tri-county area in recent years. In April, the Broward County Commission approved a $7.86 million package for what was later revealed as local manufacturer Hoerbiger's expansion in Coral Springs adding 420 jobs.

In 2013, the commission approved a total package of up to $10 million in incentives for American Express, which is building its regional headquarters in Sunrise. American Express' decision on Sunrise retains 5,000 jobs statewide, the Greater Fort Lauderdale Alliance said at the time. The credit card company has had major operations in Plantation and Fort Lauderdale.

Palm Beach County Commissioners approved a $10.56 million incentive package for United Technologies Corp., which is building its Center for Intelligent Buildings in Palm Beach Gardens with the promise of 380 jobs.


November 16, 2015

Kairos funded by Florida Institute, 500 Startups

By Nancy Dahlberg /

Kairos, a Miami-based human analytics company, found mentorship, a support network and most of its angel investors in the Sunshine State. Now – with a little help from YouTube – the venture-funded startup licensed a key piece of its technology from a state university and received an investment from The Florida Institute for the Commercialization of Public Research

The Florida Institute supports company creation based on publicly funded research, and Kairos recently exclusively licensed technology from the University of Central Florida. Kairos’ CTO Cole Calistra came across a YouTube video by a PhD student at the time who created technology to identify faces in movie trailers, and CEO Brian Brackeen got the licensing process rolling. Some of the profits are shared with the university: “It’s a huge win for both Florida and Kairos,” said Brackeen, who founded the company.

Kairos will be using its Institute investment of $300,000 to hire a couple of computer vision engineers, Brackeen said. Kairos uses three-dimensional data gathered by its face analysis algorithms to measure people’s feelings and interactions as they interact with content and products.

“We believe that data as we know it today is just the beginning for business intelligence, and our mission is to radically change how companies understand people,” said Brackeen, noting that Kairos now owns the intellectual property for all the technology it uses. “Kairos is the only player offering both emotional analysis and facial recognition technologies used to capture decisive moments in people's behavior to empower companies with meaningful metrics. We help our customers understand humanity.”

Kairos has been on a roll. In April, it purchased a startup competitor, IMRSV, gaining valuable emotion analysis technology and expertise. Kairos, now a team of 14 in its Wynwood office, has raised $6 million in total and is planning a $10 million Series A venture capital round early next year. Brackeen, selected as an Endeavor Entrepreneur in 2014, and his team are participating in the 500 Startups Miami Distro program, a growth marketing accelerator in Miami, and also received a $200,000 investment from 500 Startups, a Silicon Valley accelerator and fund. “We are learning really advanced concepts to find new customers,” said Brackeen about the program, which includes eight growth-stage tech companies from around the world.

In the last month, The Florida Institute also finalized a funding agreement with Genetic Networks, a Miami based company with technology developed at the University of Miami. Genetic Networks accelerates drug discovery and predictive medicine through its proprietary data-driven approach that delivers actionable data on both genes and compounds. “Genetic Networks' translational medicine informatics engine rapidly identifies lead compounds to therapeutic targets bridging the gap between drug targets, molecules and medicine,” said Genetic Networks’ founder Gennaro D'Urso, who declined to disclose the funding amount.

Formed in 2007, the Institute works collaboratively with Florida’s universities and research institutions to uncover commercially-viable technologies that may become the basis for tomorrow’s leading products and companies. The Institute provides company-building support services and seed-stage funding to help new ventures achieve development milestones and attract additional private investment capital needed for growth.

A recent study conducted by The Washington Economics Group found that between 2011 and 2015, companies supported by the Institute created of 1,144 new jobs; nearly 80 percent of which were in targeted, knowledge-based industries, with an average salary of $76,628. Entrepreneurs raised in excess of $28 million, inducing capital into Florida companies that may otherwise have been invested outside the state, the report said. Including Kairos and Genetic Networks, The Institute has funded 45 companies.

Nancy Dahlberg; 305-376-3595; @ndahlberg


November 05, 2015

RedCap, Videoo rocket to top in ETBS competition, take home the big checks


David Zwick, founder and CEO of RedCap, and Videoo co-founders Barry Stamos, CEO, and Joshua Stedman, COO, won the Emerging Technologies and Business Showcase. Photo by Jim Donnelly

By Nancy Dahlberg /

South Florida tech startups are finding more opportunities to pitch their businesses – and perhaps take home some big checks.

Twenty-four startups from around the state presented to a roomful of investors and business people on Wednesday at the day-long Emerging Technologies & Business Showcase hosted by Enterprise Development Corporation of South Florida, Florida Venture Forum and Space Florida and held at the Hyatt Regency Coral Gables.

They were selected from about 150 submissions, said Rob Strandberg, president of EDC. EDC has been running the event for several years, but this year the event was greatly expanded with Space Florida’s sponsorship. Along with the opportunity to pitch on stage and network with investors in the exhibit area, offering the winners a meaningful prize that will help take their companies to the next level  was important, said Strandberg. Companies received pitch coaching from the EDC, which runs startup incubators and mentors startups.

The winners, selected by panels of investor judges: RedCap (, a company that brings car sales and service to the consumer, won the growth stage category, and Videoo (, a startup that helps brands leverage social video, won the early-stage category. They took home $100,000 and $50,000 respectively.

The 24 companies represented all areas from the state and included medical device companies from Gainesville, a drone startup and a solar energy company from Jacksonville, ed-tech companies from Naples and a predictive analytics startup from St. Petersburg.

“Events like the Emerging Technologies & Business Showcase promote the growth of Florida-based, high-tech businesses, but also highlight the growing capital formation community in the state and showcase that we have the quality innovation-based businesses as well as the experienced management teams to execute bringing them to market,” said Space Florida President Frank DiBello. “The quality of the presentations was truly outstanding.”

Here’s a closer look at the winners:

Everybody loves their cars – except when they have to buy, sell or service them, said RedCap founder David Zwick. RedCap has a solution for that.

RedCap has developed software that enables automotive dealers to offer their customers “out of store” experiences, which allows a customer to service and purchase without leaving their home or office. “We take all of the pain out of buying and servicing a car,” said David Zwick, CEO of RedCap, based in Fort Lauderdale.

In its pilot tests, RedCap has found that the software improves customer satisfaction, increases revenue by 18 percent and reduces loaner expense by almost 50 percent. “The message is clear that dealers and manufacturers have to change the way they do business,” he said.

Now five years into RedCap (RedCap also offers a successful on-demand driver service for consumers), Zwick says the growth-stage company is at an inflection point. Nationwide, its software solution for auto businesses is in 50 to 60 locations around the country, but plans are to be in close to 1,000 stores next summer. South Florida customers include Warren Henry dealerships, Ferrari-Maserati in Fort Lauderdale, The Esserman Group in Miami, and several area AutoNation stores.

Zwick says he plans to use the money to help hire four additional software engineers and expand its customer service team as it ramps up more pilot programs.

Miami Beach-based Videoo offers software-as-a-service technology built for brands and publishers to better engage audiences through social video, said co-founder and CEO Barry Stamos. Videoo automatically pulls content from Vine, Twitter and Instagram for all-in-one playlists that re-order in real-time as audiences watch, vote, upload and share. Early adopters include A+E Networks, The Huffington Post, Mitu Networks, Bob Marley and Fusion (a joint venture between ABC, Disney and Univision).

Videoo signed two new clients this month, and has about eight new commitments from TV networks and major publishers to use Videoo in pilots, Stamos said. For example, Videoo is helping Fusion figure out how to be more creative with user-generated video and advance its methods of storytelling. It is also planning pilots with the History Channel for more social TV early next year.

Videoo also recently added Spanish and Portuguese and will be launching in Latin America soon, beginning with NBCUniversal Live from E! Latino. Stamos said Videoo, which has raised about $1.64 million, will likely raise another $400,000 to bridge to its Series A.

Other South Florida companies that presented at ETBS were BDEX, ClassWallet, EGLA Communications, Neocis, SettleitSoft, 71 Pounds, SirenMD and Symptify.

“I was humbled and inspired by so many of the other incredible entrepreneurs who were selected to participate. It’s inspiring that so many people have the courage and the commitment to bring new innovations to the marketplace,” said Stamos. “We all talked about how we could get together and help each other.”

More opportunities await. Startups and early-stage companies can apply for the Startup Showcase exhibition and competition at eMerge Americas April 18-19; find more information at The Florida Venture Forum is also taking applications to pitch at the Florida Venture Capital Conference in January; find more information at

Follow me on Twitter @ndahlberg


Action in the exhibit hall at ETBS; photos by Jim Donnelly.




October 16, 2015

Venture capital in South Florida: Total funding slips, but deals get bigger

By Nancy Dahlberg /

MoneybagFollowing a national trend, South Florida venture capital deals are getting larger. Yet, there are just not enough of them to put the state on the venture map.

Modernizing Medicine, the fast-growing Boca Raton-based electronic medical records software company, raised $38 million in the third quarter, making it the second-largest funding round so far this year for South Florida companies, behind MDLIVE’s $50 million round in the second quarter, according to quarterly venture capital data released Friday.

In total, South Florida companies raised nearly $75 million in six deals in the third quarter. That’s down from $86 million last quarter, according to the MoneyTree Report from PricewaterhouseCoopers and the National Venture Capital Association, based on data provided by Thomson Reuters.

Nearly half the state’s funding flowed into South Florida, led by a trio of companies from Palm Beach County. Behind Modernizing Medicine, the other top-funded companies in the third-quarter were Bidtellect of Delray Beach, an IT services company, $22.4 million; Sonavation of Palm Beach Gardens, a maker of biosensors for industrial uses, $6.02 million; Rokk3r Labs of Miami Beach, which helps co-build high-potential tech companies, $5 million; Kleo (ClassWallet) of Miami, an education-technology startup, $1.9 million; and CareCloud of Miami, a provider of electronic health records software, $1.55 million, according to the report.

Plansource, an Orlando software company, was the state’s heaviest funded, raising $70 million. Florida companies in total raised $150.86 million in 12 deals, up slightly from $148.69 million in 16 deals last quarter and up sharply from the $36.8 million in seven deals a year ago.

Still, for the country’s third-largest state, that is less than 1 percent of the national venture capital pie.

Nationally, venture capitalists invested $16.3 billion in 1,070 deals in the third quarter of 2015, with $9.37 billion of that going to California companies, according to the MoneyTree Report. Total venture dollars deployed to companies for the quarter decreased 5 percent and total deal count was down 11 percent compared to the second quarter when $17.3 billion was invested in 1,202 deals. The third quarter marks the seventh consecutive quarter of more than $10 billion of venture capital invested in a single quarter, and software was once again the dominant sector. The $47.2 billion invested in the first three quarters of 2015 is higher than each of the full year totals for 17 of the last 20 years.

Wende Hutton, a venture capital partner with Canaan Partners, said that Canaan sees strong opportunities in enterprise software, financial technology, and from the healthcare side, biotechnology, she said. The global firm’s 10th fund, of $675 million, is diversified between technology and healthcare.

“Enterprise software is feeding into the next generation of storage tools and data analytics that are driving the back office of business,” Hutton said. Financial technologies is another area of excitement, she said, noting that the No. 1 deal in the third quarter was San Francisco-based Social Finance, which raised $1 billion. “They are in the peer-to-peer lending space, where the markets really see a tremendous amount of growth in reinventing the small loans segment of the banking industry and are taking it out of traditional banking and putting more into these new financial platforms. The fintech space has been a hot space and I think it will continue to be a hot space.”

The top 10 deals accounted for 19 percent of dollars invested in the third quarter, down from 24 percent of total venture capital deployed during the second quarter. Compared to the second quarter, the third quarter’s top 10 deals come from a more diverse range of industries: including media and entertainment, medical devices, IT services and industrial/energy sectors. Social Finance’s $1 billion raise was followed by Palantir, Draftkings and GitHub, all raising over $250 million.

“Though software remains dominant, the top 10 deals included rounds of funding across seven industries, illustrating continued investment appetite in new areas of innovation,” said Tom Ciccolella, US Venture Capital Market Leader at PwC.

MoneyTree Report results are available at

Nancy Dahlberg, 305-376-3595, @ndahlberg

September 21, 2015

Modernizing Medicine announces $38 million capital raise

The Boca Raton healthcare-technology company has raised about $87 million

By Nancy Dahlberg / 

Modernizing Medicine, the Boca Raton-based creator of the Electronic Medical Assistant, a specialty-specific electronic medical record system, announced Monday that it has closed a $38 million Series E financing, bringing total capital raised to about $87 million.

DancaneInvestors in the latest round of financing included Pentland Group, which has been an investor since Modernizing Medicine’s first round, Summit Partners, also an existing investor, and Sands Capital Ventures, a large healthcare fund and new investor for Modernizing Medicine.  “We greatly appreciate the vote of confidence,” said Daniel Cane, co-founder and CEO of Modernizing Medicine (pictured here).

Earlier this month, the fast-growing Modernizing Medicine completed its acquisition of Weston -based gMed. The gMed acquisition gives Modernizing Medicine 18 percent of the gastroenterology market, and Modernizing Medicine recently launched into urology, said Cane on Monday, speaking from a board retreat.

“We continue to focus exclusively on medical and surgical specialty markets. Those are the most difficult markets to provide software for and they are the best fit for our solution because of just how our solution was designed. So we continue to run between the feet of the elephant,” said Cane, a serial entrepreneur who also co-founded Blackboard.

With the gMed acquisition, Modernizing Medicine has been on a hiring spree and now employs 430 people. "We hired several more people today so that number is already out of date," he said.

Modernizing Medicine also recently launched a telemedicine solution, said Cane. “If you think of dermatology, where we have over 35 percent of the entire U.S. market, almost everything in dermatology you can diagnose using telemedicine. It provides users a tremendous convenience … it’s  a time saver and cost saver for both the providers and the patients.”

Modernizing Medicine, founded in 2010, is one of the most successful South Florida early-stage companies in terms of fund-raising and employment. Among its recent accomplishments is four No. 1 EHR Black Book rankings for dermatology, orthopedics, otolaryngology and gastroenterology. In August, the company, with  $30.5 million of revenue in 2014, was named to the Inc. 500 list. It was also one of the first early-stage companies to partner with IBM Watson. Modernizing Medicine's Electronic Medical Assistant, or EMA, provides a specialty-specific EMR system used by more than 6,000 healthcare providers in the United States.

Follow Nancy Dahlberg on Twitter @ndahlberg

Earlier Miami Herald profile of Modernizing Medicine here.


August 20, 2015

500 Startups launching growth-marketing accelerator program in Miami

500 Startups, a Silicon Valley venture capital seed fund and startup accelerator, is doubling down on its interest in Miami.

In March, 500 Startups and its founder Dave McClure brought its PreMoney conference to Miami, its first foray outside Silicon Valley with that event. Thursday, the organization announced that it will launch a 10-week growth marketing program in South Florida beginning Sept. 28.

Because the past couple of years have seen the Miami and Latin American startup ecosystems continue to mature, with more companies emerging in the region and more money to fund them, 500 Startups believes it is a good time to launch its new Miami Distro Program – distro is 500 slang for distribution or customer acquisition. The organization’s staff and mentors will be flying in from Silicon Valley, Mexico, Argentina and Brazil to administer the program, guiding and funding its first batch of invited startups focused on scaling customer acquisition, retention and revenue.

The program is supported by partners John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the Simkins Family Fund, Softlayer and, a new collaborative space for tech companies in downtown Miami, where the Miami Distro Program will take place.

YangStartups accepted into the program with “growth as a mindset” will be in the post-seed stage and have previously raised at least $150,000 in funding from other investors. They will likely be five to eight teams from South Florida, Latin America or elsewhere that want to target the Latin America market and/or the U.S. Spanish-speaking market i from Miami, said Bedy Yang, the 500 Startups partner that is leading the program. The companies have not been selected yet, Yang said, but will be identified through recommendations and introductions from its global network of 3,000 founders and mentors.

Participating companies will receive between $150,000 to $250,000 in funding from 500 Startups, with $50,000 of that allocated to the Distro program fee and another $50,000 earmarked for growth marketing spending. The Distro Program will be staffed with four to six mentors on site, and additional topic-specific mentors will be flown in or available remotely throughout the program.

Yang said the 500 partners and mentors will also hold meetups for the greater community. Many of 500 Startups’ growth marketing programs also will be available to the public on its YouTubechannel.

Yang said this is the first 10-week Distro Program for 500 Startups, which has a portfolio of 1,200 investments in over 50 countries, including more than 100 in the Latin America region. It is also running shorter distro-themed programs in London and Kuala Lumpur. With all three, it was seeking hub locations to serve regions where startup activity is emerging. Yang said the fund’s interest in Miami is strong, and hinted there will be more to come.

“It is so easy to convince everyone to go to Miami,” said Yang. While 500 leaders have been in and out for events, “it will be great to be able to spend a lot more time there. We’re quite happy. You’ll be seeing a lot more of us.”

Follow @ndahlberg on Twitter. 


500 Startups founder Dave McClure chats with Fabrice Grinda during its PreMoney conference in Miami in March.

August 12, 2015

5 key considerations for South Florida startups seeking funding

By Ed Boland

EdSince we opened our Miami office in the fall of 2014, thus becoming the first institutional venture capital firm in the MagicCity, we’ve met with countless South Florida startups and are incredibly encouraged by the activity we see in the ecosystem. There are plenty of driven entrepreneurs as well as helpful organizations such as eMerge Americas, Knight Foundation, Rokk3r Labs, Wyncode and Carve Communications, all of which provide much needed support to the growing landscape. Needless to say, we are thrilled to be a part of this budding ecosystem, and intend to help entrepreneurs reach their potential.

That being said, after talking with many entrepreneurs over the past 10 months, there are some key aspects to raising capital that founders should be mindful of as they set out on the fundraising trail. Keep in mind the following are not ranked in any particular order of importance:

1. Team and Culture: Many founders believe their product is the most important asset, but at Scout, we look first and foremost at the team and the culture of the company in question. We examine the background of the team, and discuss how these contribute to what the entrepreneur and team are specifically working on. We also explore how the team is structured. At Scout, we make sure every team member has a clear job and is well suited to handle it. We also look to see if a founding team has both a technical and non-technical co-founder, as we have found that this often contributes to a successful team dynamic.

 2. Roadmap and Timeline: As investors, we like to know what you’ve built and accomplished since the inception of your business. But at Scout, we are just as interested in what you’re planning on doing next. As an entrepreneur, you should be able to confidently and succinctly discuss items such as: the benchmarks and KPIs that your business needs to hit, your product roadmap, who your key hires will be and when you plan on hiring them. If your company is sales-driven, be able to discuss who your target customer is and the typical sales cycle associated with your business. Understanding the future path to success is even more important than the path you took to get a meeting with an investor. Entrepreneurs should be thinking about revenue milestones, key hires, sales pipeline and the key performance indicators that are going to drive your business to the next level.

3. Product: As an entrepreneur, there are many distractions that you can get caught up in, including fundraising. While it is easy to get lost in the noise, successful entrepreneurs will be able multitask fundraising and building the product and sales pipeline. Of course, fundraising will take a good chunk of your time, but effective leaders delegate efficiently. Thus, we like to see teams who continue to improve their product during the fundraising process. We see that as a positive signal that teams will be able to successfully iterate on their product over the long run, even with the inevitable distractions that a startup will encounter over its life.  

4. Revenue: At Scout we are revenue focused because we aim to build sustainable companies that have a clear path to monetization. Although there are many VC firms that tend to invest in companies that focus on user growth before monetization, we do not subscribe to that mindset. As a result, we ask our entrepreneurs to have realistic revenue models as well as plans to achieve those revenue targets. These plans will not just please your investors, but they will set you up for long-term success, making your life much easier down the road.

5. Reporting: Although reporting can feel like an onerous task, it is a crucial aspect of your business. We’ve found a natural correlation between efficient reporting practices and successful startups. A company report should be sent to investors on a monthly basis and should include metrics such as monthly revenue, cash on hand, monthly burn, and other relevant KPIs. Founders should give these metrics context by describing how the business has evolved over the past month, and by giving any relevant news updates. Finally, founders should outline where they expect the company to be in the next month, and ask investors for any assistance reaching these goals

Hopefully, these tips are helpful to all the entrepreneurs based in Miami.  We’re very excited to be here, and we believe South Florida is on the verge of becoming a household name in the tech-ecosystem. Over the past year, we have seen local entrepreneurs make meaningful strides, and we believe the space will generate strong returns not only for us, but for any investors who are starting to build a thoughtful, strategic allocation to venture capital.

Ed Boland is a principal at Scout Ventures. Follow him on Twitter at @edbolandmia.


August 04, 2015

45 venture capital firms commit to diversity actions

With various estimates out there putting the numbers of female venture capitalists and female founders receiving venture capital at about or under 5 percent, this is a solid start. The announcement:

Forty-five venture capital firms representing over $100 billion in assets under management invested in nearly 7,000 startups across 45 states today announced their commitment to advancing opportunity for women and underrepresented minorities in venture capital and the entrepreneurial ecosystem.  Led by the National Venture Capital Association (NVCA) Diversity Task Force, the commitments were announced in a letter to President Obama as part of the first-ever White House Demo Day, which is bringing together diverse entrepreneurs and other key stakeholders from across the ecosystem to convene and showcase the innovation economy.

NVCA Diversity Task Force member firms Scale Venture Partners, Greenspring Associates, Polaris Partners, True Ventures, .406 Ventures, Menlo Ventures, Andreessen Horowitz, JumpStart, Inc., Pappas Ventures, New Enterprise Associates and GE Ventures were joined by Intel Capital, Kleiner Perkins Caufield Byers, New Atlantic Ventures, 500 Startups, IBM Venture Capital Group, SoftTechVC, North Bridge Venture Partners, Insight Venture Partners, and many others in signing the letter. 

Together, these 45 firms commit to taking the following actions:

* Distribute and participate in the National Venture Capital Association's 2015 Venture Census survey led by NVCA, Dow Jones VentureSource and CrunchBase to measure the diversity of the U.S. startup ecosystem. The results will be made public in the fall of 2015.
* Adopt HR policies within their firms to create work environments that foster respect and dignity for all.  In addition, they will immediately explore and develop a forthcoming set of NVCA model HR policies.
* Contribute regularly and actively to programs and initiatives that encourage women and underrepresented minorities to consider, pursue and thrive in venture capital and entrepreneurship careers.
* Commit to visible leadership by sharing regularly within their community and throughout their portfolio the best practices that demonstrate a long term commitment to change.

Several firms also provided specific actions their partnerships will take to advance diversity. Greenspring Associates and Scale Venture Partners are committing to adopt the “Rooney/Murray Rule” for the interview processes to ensure a diverse slate of candidates is considered.  True Ventures created the Priya Haji Fellowship in 2015, a nine month fellowship program for new college graduates.  NCT Ventures will announce the results of its research on minority entrepreneurs to give measurable quantitative and qualitative insight into barriers to accessing capital among minority business enterprises.

Download the commitment letter and fact sheet.

The NVCA Diversity Task Force launched in 2014 to develop meaningful solutions to support diverse groups of venture capitalists and entrepreneurs in order to build a stronger innovation ecosystem for the 21st Century.  The first solution set will be announced in the fall.

Separately, other firms also made announcements at the White House Demo Day. Impact investors Mitch Kapor & Freada Kapor Klein announced that the Kapor family of organizations -- Kapor Capital, the Kapor Center for Social Impact & Level Playing Field Institute - will invest $40 million dollars over three years in initiatives to accelerate their life's work of making tech entrepreneurship more inclusive.

To address both the pipeline problem and the leaky pipeline problem for African Americans, Latina/os and all women in tech, the investment will take a comprehensive approach, supporting three interrelated pillars: access to tech education, including scaling its SMASH (Summer Math and Science Honors) Academy, access to capital and strong community institutions.
“Had industry leaders committed to diversity and inclusion a decade ago, imagine how tech would look today,” stated Freada Kapor Klein, Founder of the Level Playing Field Institute and Partner at Kapor Capital. 


August 03, 2015

Will SpeedETab find its funders deep in the heart of Texas? Stay tuned!



Are investor checks bigger in Texas? A bootstrapping South Florida startup founder is about to find out.

Adam Garfield (pictured above), co-founder of SpeedETab, will be the first entrepreneur to seek funding when a new CNBC show, “West Texas Investors Club,” premiers at 10 p.m. Tuesday. He will pitch his mobile application that modernizes the way customers order and pay for food and drinks at their favorite hangouts.

“West Texas Investors Club” is an eight-episode reality show set deep in the heart of West Texas featuring multi-millionaires Rooster McConaughey (brother of actor Matthew McConaughey) and Butch Gilliam, who struck their millions in the oil pipe business. In each episode the duo will be seeking their next big investment by interviewing up-and-coming entrepreneurs to uncover their potential as well as the potential of their products. The show is produced by the same team behind the network’s popular entrepreneur reality show “The Profit.”

Frustrated with poor service and long wait times in the hospitality industry, co-founders Garfield and Edward Gilmore developed SpeedETab to let customers order and pay for menu items right from their smartphone.  Once the drink is ready, SpeedETab sends a notification to the user to pick up their items; it can also deliver promotions and customer analytics. An  iOS version of the app is on the market, and  an Android version will be released on Tuesday, timed with the show.

Garfield, 27, was born and raised in South Florida, graduated from the University of Florida, worked in Boston after graduation at a hedge fund firm, and returned to South Florida earlier this year to work on his startup fulltime.

Garfield said he never set out to be on a reality show, but he met a Shark Tank producer at a Boston meetup who suggested he apply to be on Shark Tank. While that didn’t go anywhere, CNBC executives saw his application video for the contest on YouTube and reached out.

“At first I only knew that it would be a shark tank-like show,” said Garfield. But he is happy with the potential exposure. “It’s a little of Shark Tank meets Texas, the good old boys of Texas who have a slightly larger focus on the entrepreneurs behind the product as well as the product. We got to showcase that the product is serving a need, whether that need is South Florida or West Texas.” SpeedETab will be the focus of about 60 percent of the hourlong show, he said.

SpeedETab launched in South Florida in April with a dozen locations, mainly bars, and plans are to expand nationally. So far, the endeavor has been financed mainly by Garfield’s $100K in life savings.

So did SpeedETab get funded? Like with Shark Tank, the episodes have already been filmed --forget Hollywood or New York’s financial district, we’re talking Midland, Texas -- and Garfield is sworn to secrecy about the outcome.

Yet, the press materials say there was at least one aspect of the business model the investors really liked: They would get their drinks faster.

SpeedETab will be having  a viewing party Tuesday night at Tongue & Cheek, 431 Washington Ave., from 9 p.m. to 11 p.m. You can also follow along on Twitter at #WestTexasInvestors. 

UPDATE AFTER THE SHOW: Funded! Garfield repped the #305 well, and in the end SpeedETab accepted the club's offer of $250,000 now in exchange for 40 percent of the business and another $250,000 once SpeedETab is in 250 bars.  Rooster and Butch promised help to get SpeedETab in Caesars and other establishments. And "we're going to have to stop drinking beer during these negotiations."

Something you'd never see on Shark Tank: The show went into the West Texas local Corky's bar and let Garfield loose to demo SpeedETab among the regulars. Though Corky's is not SpeedETab's target demographic, the bar goers really took to it -- the waitresses, not so much...

If you missed the premier episode, catch it on the web. 


July 26, 2015

Q&A with Nico Berardi: Connecting startups with investors

By Nancy Dahlberg /

56 BM Q&A Nico Berardi 0624Accelerated Growth Partners, a Miami-based angel investment group, relaunched a little over a year ago with a couple of key goals: to expand its network of active angel investors to help bridge the funding gap in South Florida and launch investor-education workshops aimed at broadening the pool of investors interested in early-stage ventures.

With funding from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the organization began meeting and Nico Berardi was chosen to lead the effort, acting as the connector between entrepreneurs and prospective investors. Berardi, AGP’s managing director, is the former U.S. CEO for TECHO, a nonprofit that mobilizes youth volunteers to fight extreme poverty in Latin America. Under his watch, the organization expanded and fund-raising doubled.

In a short time, Berardi’s track record at AGP has been impressive, too.

AGP Miami ( was not a new organization when Berardi took over, but it had slowed down considerably. The group invites entrepreneurs seeking funding to pitch their businesses, and members can decide individually whether to fund them. Since Berardi took over, membership has quadrupled to more than 80, and more significantly, members have invested in nine South Florida startups. It’s now the largest local angel group.

“We sent out a survey to all our members, and what came across the strongest was the co-investor intellectual horsepower. The group represents so many industries, there is likely someone in the group that knows the particular space. We have seen really good deal flow, and our members are engaged. At each of our pitch meetings, we have had 50-plus of our members show up,” said Berardi.

Berardi meets with roughly 450 startups a year and sends the most qualified startups through the AGP screening process. The screening committee will then decide whether they will present to the AGP membership, typically with one member championing the investment. One startup company, ClassWallet, has been funded twice. The other companies receiving funding in year one of the relaunch were: Everypost, Weebee, Videoo, Blackdove, Stadson, Hair Construction, Waleteros and Nearpod.

“Because we are an up-and-coming ecosystem, a lot of our entrepreneurs don’t understand how to work with investors, and a lot of investors don’t know how to work with entrepreneurs. That is something we can work on,” Berardi said. “The entrepreneurial team brings an entire skillset, and we bring capital and experience. Most of the time, you need both.”

To be sure, startup funding is often cited as a key missing ingredient as Miami works to build up its entrepreneurial ecosystem. While there is plenty of wealth here and family offices proliferate, the money is typically not going into technology plays and local startups.

To help begin to fill that ecosystem need and make sure AGP has a growing roster of active investors to fund more companies, as well as double down on existing investments, Berardi and the Knight Foundation, together with partners such as Northwestern’s "Kellogg School and Greenberg Traurig, launched a series of workshops this year to train potential investors.

“This was an experiment. We said, ‘Let’s start shooting information,’" space="1"” said Berardi. Each of the six educational sessions were themed and led by experts in those areas. The result: standing-room-only workshops. “People were thrilled to get the content. Now we are talking about the second cycle. Is this going to move the needle, and are we going to have 100 new investors? We don’t know yet.”

This summer, Berardi was chosen to join Class 20 of the Kauffman Fellowship, 40 emerging leaders of venture capital and angel investing organizations from around the world that will meet regularly to learn about investing and leading capital ecosystems. The Fellowship’s goal is to develop a worldwide network of innovation investors who provide smart, connected capital to fuel entrepreneurial change, and Berardi is excited about bringing back what he learns to Miami. “The better investors we can be, the better we think we can help our companies,” Berardi said.

The Miami Herald spoke with Berardi recently about AGP’s first year and what is ahead.

Q. AGP relaunched just over a year ago. What were some of the highlights of the year?

A. The highlight was to realize how much a friendly platform to connect entrepreneurs to investors in an efficient way was needed. We made 10 investments into nine companies totaling $1.8 million. Membership stands at over 80 investors.

Q. What will be your metrics for success in year two?

A. Deal flow is king. As long as we keep on finding really interesting companies being built from or moving to Miami, we will continue to be active. We aim to make 8 to 10 investments per year.

Q. Do you think the quality of deal flow will continue?

A. We’re very optimistic because of all the new things coming to town. Existing institutions like the Venture Hive and Endeavor in town continue to do good work, while many others are drawing up plans to open shop. Large conferences like eMerge Americas and SIME bring a lot of attention, which then attracts entrepreneurs and organizations. The large tech firms are also paying attention; Twitter opening its new Brickell office is a key example. Infrastructure is becoming more robust, too — service providers are tailoring their offerings, coding schools are growing, and co-working spaces have proliferated. It is the combination of all these things that make us very optimistic.

Q. What kind of companies do you look for to potentially take to the members, if they make it past the screening process?

A. We have a strong preference to invest in South Florida-based companies. In fact, all nine companies we have invested in have key strategic operations here. From a stage perspective, we look for companies raising between $250,000 and $1.5 million that are in the market already. We usually steer away from beta, prototype, pre-launch companies. In a way, we come in after friends and family and accelerators but before an institutional Series A. Once a company fits within that sweet spot, we look for a combination of really big markets or attractive vertical niches and outstanding management teams.

Q. Tell me about a couple of the companies that got funding?

A. ClassWallet is an exciting company at the intersection of fintech and edtech. Today, in the U.S. alone, there are $23 billion worth of cash transactions that occur in K-12 classrooms every year! With cash, there is no accountability, no transparency and is very time-consuming from an administrative standpoint.

NearPod is also in education. They identified that smart devices took the classroom by storm, and today they represent a learning barrier for teachers to overcome. Their technology empowers teachers to create and deliver content that leverages those same incredible devices. Their platform is bringing the learning experience to the 21st century.

Q. What advice do you have for entrepreneurs seeking investment from AGP?

A. Don’t think about building a fundable company. Focus on one thing and one thing only: building an amazing product that your customers will love. That is what will draw our attention.

Q. Why did AGP launch an angel educational program?

A. The local community of investors has not been exposed to early-stage tech investments enough. Historically, it has been mostly real estate, public securities and a bit of private equity. While we have some of the smartest investors in the world in those areas, they are very different from investors in tech. Our hypothesis was that not many people were investing in tech because they lacked the know-how to do so. The premise then was that by educating the community more, people would get involved by understanding that tech is a great way to diversify your portfolio. We wanted to solve that problem by educating the community to leverage their intellectual horsepower with the financial capabilities.

Q. And how did your first education series go?

A. We honestly did not know what to expect but had two amazing partners that believed in our premise. Having had Kellogg and Greenberg Traurig co-organize the series really helped in having people step off the sidelines. All the speakers were volunteers we got from the community, and most of the success is due to their involvement, so a big shout-out to our speakers.

Q. Do you plan to continue the series or have other plans in the education area?

A. Absolutely. Having heard the feedback from the attendees, we are back at the drawing board for a second cycle starting in the fall. Stay tuned.

Q. What do you hope to bring back from your Kauffman Fellowship experience that is just getting under way?

A. Two things, mainly. The first is technical training. As I mentioned before, tech is very new to our investment community, so having more sophisticated investors will strengthen the ecosystem. The second is being able to plug in the Miami ecosystem to the global VC world.

Funding risk is perhaps the biggest risk Miami-based startups face. It’s a win-win situation if AGP can co-invest with the best VCs at a global level. More entrepreneurs will want to work with AGP because that will increase their chances of success.

Q. From your perspective meeting with so many entrepreneurs every month, how do you think our ecosystem is progressing?

A. There’s a natural hype that comes with a growing, improving ecosystem. That means more companies in quantity but not necessarily in quality. There starts to be a lot of noise coming from “want-a-preneurs.” I take it as a great sign, and we just have to be efficient at cutting to the next cycle.

Q. And, more specifically, the capital ecosystem?

A. Definitely a lot of activity. Some funds have taken the plunge and opened offices locally, while others are peeking in, ever more "aggressively. It’s not uncommon to grab coffee with a visiting VC every other week.

Q. What role do family offices play in all this?

A. Family offices understand there’s something going on that they want to be a part of. Most are not trained in VC and haven’t yet developed a strategy that fits within their broader portfolio. From what we’ve seen, the traditional VC model has not proven very successful when it comes to engaging them. A hybrid model is needed, and it’ll be interesting to see how the story unfolds.

Q. If you could wave a magic wand and add one ingredient to the ecosystem right now, what would it be?

A. I’ll cheat and mention two. One is more accelerators. If you look at developed ecosystems, the main accelerator alone will be working with 150+ companies a year. While the Venture Hive is amazing, we need more companies to go through programs like that. The second ingredient is investors across the board. More angel investors, more seed funds and definitely more VC funds.

Follow Nancy Dahlberg on Twitter @ndahlberg.

Nico Berardi

Titles: Managing Director, AGP Miami. Kauffman Fellow.

Age: 26.

Experience: Former U.S. CEO for TECHO, a nonprofit that mobilizes youth volunteers to fight extreme poverty in Latin America, for two years, and before that was TECHO’s director of development for Latin America and the Caribbean.

Honors: Speaker at the Global Economic Symposium, TEDx Miami and the Center for Hemispheric Policy and the Americas Society/Council of the Americas. Participant in the Kellogg Innovation Network, Clinton Global Initiative and the PODER Business Awards. Selected as a Young American Leader by Harvard Business School, Top 100 Innovators of Argentina by BGH, GameChanger by the Miami Chamber of Commerce and showcased at Yahoo! The Innovators series.

Education: Bachelor’s in economics, Universidad Torcuato di Tella, Argentina.

Favorite book: ‘Outliers’ by Malcolm Gladwell.

Best advice received: There are over a thousand variables determining your success. How much effort you put in is the only one you can do anything about.