Want to know about Miami startups? A user's guide to this blog

Dear reader, Starting Gate has been providing and archiving South Florida startup and tech community news, views and resources since 2012. New to the Miami area? Thinking about relocating here? Just want to keep up with news, events and opportunities? We're there for you.

How to use Starting Gate: Besides scrolling the blog for the latest entries, you can access news and views by category. The "Funding" category will capture venture capital and angel funding news of individual startups as well as stories about funders. The startup categories chronicle news and my regular "Spotlights," and in Q&As you'll find interviews with CEOs and leaders in the entrepreneurship ecosystem. There are also categories for guest posts, views, accelerators/incubators, resources, events and more.

Thank you for your support through the years and please come back often. Follow me on Twitter @ndahlberg. - Sincerely, Nancy Dahlberg

October 12, 2017

Magic Leap could raise another $1 billion in new funding round

Magicleap2

A revamped Magic Leap website appears to be dropping hints of what's to come.

 

By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

Magic Leap could soon be flying high as a $7 billion company – without having yet launched a product.

Magic Leap, the secretive South Florida startup that has strongly hinted that its “mixed reality” technology may soon be revealed, is seeking to raise up to $1 billion in fresh funding from investors, according to reports of a new corporate filing on Thursday.

The company, based in Plantation, has authorized the sale of more than 37 million shares of Series D stock at $27 each to raise about $1 billion, according to the Oct. 11 filing with the State of Delaware obtained by venture data company CB Insights.

The filing does not mean that the company will raise that much, but it could, and it did not mention any investors. The filing also did not mention how much the company has raised so far. Magic Leap has declined to comment.

When asked if he was raising another large round, Magic Leap’s CEO Rony Abovitz said in June that the company is always in fund-raising mode. However, Bloomberg reported last month that the company has held talks with Temasek Holdings, an investment firm owned by the Singapore government, to join a $500 million investment.

The new financing round comes as Magic Leap readies a long-awaited debut product, believed to be a headset or pair of glasses that will integrate computer graphics onto the real world through its proprietary technology, making for a more natural experience for users, Abovitz, who founded the company in his garage, has said. Bloomberg’s sources said the new product could cost as much as $2,000 and product shipments may begin within six months. In the past couple of weeks, though, the company has unveiled a new logo, a website that proclaimed “we are taking you on this journey to launch” and a new promo video about Magic Leap’s beginnings.

Magic Leap has already raised $1.4 billion from investors such as Google, venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz and e-commerce company Alibaba, giving it a valuation last year of $4.5 billion. The new funding could raise the company’s valuation to about $7 billion, reports said.

The company, which has offices worldwide and at least 800 employees in its South Florida headquarters, has nearly 200 open jobs listed for its Plantation office alone.

Follow @ndahlberg on Twitter.

October 11, 2017

Florida venture capital surged in Q3 MoneyTree Report, but that's thanks to one mega-round

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By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

Florida venture capital looked strong in the third-quarter, but it was mainly due to one company’s outsized funding round. And it wasn’t Magic Leap.

According to the MoneyTree Report from PricewaterhouseCoopers and CB Insights released Wednesday, the $1 billion funding round by Fanatics, a sports fan e-commerce company based in Jacksonville, pushed the state’s numbers to $1.08 billion across 15 deals. In August, Softbank’s Vision Fund led the round in Fanatics. Q3's total was up sharply from $299 million in Q2.

Other companies receiving investment in the third quarter included Neutral Connect Networks of West Palm, a late-stage telecom company, $30 million; Plum of Dania Beach, maker of a high-tech wine appliance, $9 million; internet company Intelligence of Boca Raton, $3.4 million; advertising-tech company Bidtellect of Delray Beach, $3.2 million; and Miami fintech company Dvendo, $1.5 million.

Nationally, quarterly dollar funding to VC-backed companies in the United States edged past Q2 2017’s tally for an eight-quarter high. In Q3, investors deployed $19 billion to VC-backed companies across 1,207 deals, nearly the same exact total as last quarter. Funding activity was driven by another strong quarter of mega-rounds of $100 million or more, as Q3 2017’s total reached 26. The deal total was just one short of the tally in Q2 2017, just above the 8-quarter low seen in Q4 2016. New York-based WeWork was the No. 1 mega-deal, followed by Fanatics.

MoneyTree Report results are available at www.pwcmoneytree.com.

“With 40 percent of value coming from mega-deals, Q3 2017 saw the largest quarter for deal value in two years,” said Tom Ciccolella, PwC’s US Venture Capital Leader. “Three of the quarter’s five largest occurred outside of California, further demonstrating the overall health of the venture capital ecosystem across the U.S.”

On Tuesday, Pitchbook and the National Venture Capital Association released their report. They use a different methodology that includes angel fundings, and doesn’t include private equity so the Fanatics mega-deal wasn’t included. The Pitchbook/NVCA report showed Florida pulled in $162 million across 38 deals, down sharply from $286 million in Q2. Download the Pitchbook/NVCA report here.

Follow @ndahlberg on Twitter.

October 05, 2017

Real estate-tech startup Home61 receives $4M in funding, will expand nationally

HOME61_CPJ (1)

By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

A Miami real estate startup is on the move, with plans to bring its tech-enabled brokerages to new cities next year. 

In buying his own condo several years ago, Home61 CEO Olivier Grinda found the experience stressful and unnecessarily complicated, and as a serial entrepreneur, he thought there had to be a better way. With Home61, which now operates in Miami-Dade and Broward counties, technology enables easy scheduling of viewings, anytime access to notes and analytics and a streamlined contractual process for buyers and renters, as well as sellers and agents. Agents unburdened by administrative work can better focus on service for clients with any budget, Grinda says.

Home61 announced Thursday it has raised an additional $4 million in venture capital to take its service nationwide, with plans to expand next to Chicago, Houston and Phoenix. The new round brings Home61’s total funding to $5.3 million.

“Miami is the heart of our company and a key city as it’s representative of the larger U.S. real estate market,” said Grinda, who was raised in France and ran startups in Brazil before moving to Miami in 2013. “The first thing we will do with this funding is continue to strengthen our presence in Miami before expanding to new cities. We currently have 55 agents in Miami and plan to nearly double that to 100 by the end of this year.”

According to Grinda, Home61 agents average $70,000 in earnings in their second year, far more than the industry average, because Home61’s platform provides them with a steady stream of leads, intensive training and automation tools.

In 2016, the company did $44 million in sales and has done close to 900 closings since its Miami launch in 2015, Grinda said Wednesday. In March, Home61 launched an agent accelerator program modeled after tech accelerators. Agents complete a training program of up to 120 days in which they are taught how to use Home61’s technology tools and best practices for communicating with clients.

But for this underdog upstart, taking on the traditional real estate model is no easy feat. The U.S. real estate market, with $2.17 trillion in residential sales in 2016, is an enormous opportunity, but tech companies have yet to make significant progress nationally — more than 90 percent of the market is still owned by conventional real estate firms. Yet, venture capital interest has been on the rise for tech-enabled businesses. In 2016, U.S. real estate-tech companies set a record, raising $2.6 billion, and this year the sector is on track to lure about $3.4 billion at the current pace, according to venture tracker CB Insights. In South Florida, real estate tech firms are adding up, too, including RealConnex and Gridics that have recently raised funding.

Investors in Home61’s new round include FF Angel, Founders Fund’s early stage investment vehicle that has also backed SpaceX, Facebook and Airbnb; global investor Fabrice Grinda of FJ Labs (also the CEO’s brother); and AGP Miami, an active angel network that has invested in 23 South Florida companies. 

“The Home61 team is exceptional. We love the way they are making the process of finding your next home easier and more transparent, and are really excited to see them grow into new markets in the coming months,” said Raul Moas, managing director of AGP Miami, whose members invested $400,000 into Home61’s financing round.

Home61 plans to enter its next city in 2018, setting up a a physical presence there and finding a local partner to ensure a level of service consistent with its Miami operation, and then will roll out to additional cities, Grinda said.

Follow @ndahlberg on Twitter.

October 04, 2017

Court Buddy co-founder becomes 14th African American woman ever to raise $1 million or more

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By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

Only 14 African American women have raised $1 million or more in venture capital, and Kristina Jones of Miami-based Court Buddy is one of them.

Court Buddy is a legal tech startup founded by James and Kristina Jones that helps clients save money on legal fees by avoiding paying high retainers and hourly fees that traditional law firms charge while also helping thousands of attorneys grow their law firms. The company announced Wednesday that it has raised $1 million in seed funding.

When Court Buddy launched in 2015 in Miami, its web-based instant-matching platform allowed consumers to choose the a-la-carte legal services  at flat rates and then matched them to pre-screened solo and small law firm attorneys. Since then, Court Buddy has launched an app, CourtBuddy Chat, and a secured attorney-client payment exchange, CB Direct Pay. Now once matched, consumers can instant message, video chat and pay  attorneys for the legal services that they need, and solo attorneys can create and manage the legal tasks they perform for clients and collect legal fees.

The Court Buddy platform has grown to match over 11,000 consumers with attorneys across the country.

Earlier this year while participating in the 500 Startups seed program, Court Buddy soft-launched Instaclient for lawyers, which allows lawyers to pre-screen payment-verified clients who have pending court appearances or court-related matters before representing them. More than 5,000 lawyers signed up within 30 days of the launch. It also opened its San Francisco office.

LDR Ventures led the seed funding round, with participation from XFactor Ventures/Flybridge Capital, UpHonest Capital, GingerBread Capital/KKR, LSS Fund, Equipo Ventures, 500 Startups, L.A. Women Angels, and angel investors. Andrew Koven of LDR Ventures will join Court Buddy’s board of directors as part of the deal.

“With the new infusion of capital from our investors, not only can we continue building on our core products, but we can also hire more top talent to support the company’s rapid growth and expansion,” said CEO James Jones Jr., also a Florida attorney.

Court Buddy was named the winner of the American Bar Association’s Brown Select Award for Legal Access earlier this year, a winner of the inaugural American Entrepreneurship Award in 2016, and was the 2015 Miami Herald Business Plan Challenge People’s Pick Winner.

October 03, 2017

Grameen America will open micro-lending branch in Miami

Yunus

By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

With Nobel Laureate Muhammad Yunus, the father of micro-financing and world-renowned champion of poverty alleviation and social entrepreneurship, by her side, the CEO of Grameen America announced Monday evening that the micro-lending organization for women would be bringing its services by the end of the year to Miami-Dade County, an area with one of the highest poverty rates in the nation.

Grameen America facilitates micro loans to women to help them start businesses, as well as providing training and support. Miami will be the 13th city location in the Grameen America network that started in 2008, and over the next several years, the organization will likely add several more branches in the area, said Andrea Jung, CEO of the network. New York City, for instance, has seven branches.

She said in a few years’ time, 4,000 to 5,000 women who have been shut off from traditional networks of financing can be helped. Grameen America also has a credit score program that has helped women who lack scores, or who have very low ones, achieve scores of 650 or higher in 26 weeks, she said. 

Andrea JungYunus and Jung took part in a discussion with an entrepreneurs’ group in Brickell before they headed to Books & Books in Coral Gables, where the 77-year-old social entrepreneur would be discussing his new book, “A World of Three Zeros: The New Economics of Zero Poverty, Zero Unemployment, and Zero Net Carbon Emissions.” Yunus pioneered the micro-credit concept that uses small loans made at affordable interest rates to transform the lives of impoverished women. He is the founder of the Grameen Bank in Bangladesh, and Yunus and Grameen Bank were jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006.

“Poverty is not a problem of the people — it’s the system around them. Society never gave people the base for which to grow,” said Yunus, who also said that he hopes one day, the only place people will experience poverty is in a poverty museum. 

In calling for a world with zero poverty, unemployment and net carbon emissions, Yunus said the problem that needs to be solved is to reverse the greatly accelerated wealth concentration at the very top — what he called “an explosive time bomb ticking away” — while anger and unhappiness festers at the bottom, he told the entrepreneurial group gathered by attorney Juan Pablo Cappello at Novecento on Brickell. “We can not go on ignoring it.”

Yunus said the way to eliminate unemployment is through entrepreneurship: “The job is such an old-fashioned idea. Humans are not born to work for anyone. ... Be someone who has unleashed his power and make something happen.”

Grameen America opened its first branch in 2008 in the New York City area. Its first year, it helped 500 women with $1 million in capital. Now the organization has lent $1 billion to more than 100,000 women and their families in its 19 branches in 12 cities — loans that have helped women start food businesses, cleaning services, lawn services, dress shops and tire stores. First-time loans are typically $1,500, and subsequent loans can be larger as the women establish a track record. Grameen America has a 99 percent loan repayment rate.

“We do everything banks won’t do,” said Jung, former chairman and CEO of Avon. “It’s a brilliant social business model that people didn’t think would work in the U.S.”

JPMorgan Chase provided a 2016 grant to Grameen America of $500,000 to expand its network to Miami. Miami Foundation is also a funder, and other corporations are coming on board. “We truly believed in the Grameen model and saw its potential to benefit Miami’s underserved women entrepreneurs,” said Maria Escorcia, VP of global philanthropy for the bank.

The needs in Miami-Dade are great. According to a United Way report released in February, six out of every 10 Miami-Dade County residents struggle to pay for the basic necessities of food, housing, transportation, healthcare and childcare, and 21 percent of local families live below the poverty line. 

Grameen America would be joining Accion and Partners for Self Employment, which have already been providing micro-loans and training in South Florida. 

“We will be here for the long term in this city,” Jung said. “Our goal is to have a movement that offers a hand up, not a handout, and the only way to do that is through financial inclusion.” 

Follow @ndahlberg on Twitter.

September 30, 2017

Miami health-tech startup DermaSensor is developing a hand-held device to evaluate skin cancer risk

Dermasensor 01 EKM

Cody Simmons is CEO of DermaSensor, a Miami-based health-tech startup that is developing a medical device that aims to detect the risk of skin cancer. A user would scan a mole or lesion with the device and the technology inside the device would determine whether the lesion is potentially cancerous, based on its data and algorithm. A prototype of the handheld device that Simmons is holding is a little larger than a pen, but the device started out at as a 30-pound desktop machine that sits next to him. The technology has been miniaturized to be contained in a hand-held device. Emily Michot emichot@miamiherald.com

 

By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

Chances are you have looked at a mole or irregularity on your skin and thought that maybe you should see a doctor about it. And, chances are, you didn’t.

Yet, there are more new cases of skin cancer every year than the combined incidences of cancers of the breast, prostate, lung and colon, according to the American Cancer Society. And one person in the U.S. dies every 52 minutes of melanoma, the most-deadly form of skin cancer, which can afflict any age group, gender or race.

DermaSensor, a Miami-based health-technology startup, has been quietly developing a hand-held device that uses artificial intelligence to help users evaluate skin lesions for cancer. The device, undergoing clinical trials, would allow physicians and eventually consumers to perform simple skin checks in physician offices and patient homes at the first sign of a potential problem.

DermaSensor recently completed a $2 million financing deal, comprised primarily of South Florida and New York angel investors with medical device and finance expertise. This financing round brings the company’s total funds that have been raised to $4.45 million. The company is now raising a Series A financing round to further grow its team and fund continued product development, clinical development and commercial efforts.

“We are excited about this novel spectroscopy technology and its potential to transform skin cancer care and save lives around the world,” said Cody Simmons, CEO of DermaSensor.

The company’s recent clinical developments spring from the rapidly growing medical device and health-tech industry in South Florida. The industry benefits from the region’s large hospital district and access to universities and research institutes, the area’s history with successful medical device and pharmaceutical companies, and access to Latin American markets. A number of companies have sprung from Mako Surgical’s sale, for instance. Others are incubating at wet labs and offices at Cambridge Innovation Center, in partnership with the University of Miami. Some have benefited from the services of Startupbootcamp Miami, an accelerator for health-tech startup that focuses on eradicating healthcare disparities in the United States.

[READ MORE: A health system bets big on Miami’s future in health-tech]

DermaSensor was founded in 2009 by healthcare investor and serial entrepreneur Dr. Maurice Ferré, who was previously the CEO of MAKO Surgical, which sold to Stryker for $1.65 billion. Ferré, son of the former Miami mayor, is also chairman and CEO of Insightec, a brain health company founded in Israel; co-founder of Miami-based Fastrack Institute; and on the board of Endeavor Miami, an organization that supports high-impact entrepreneurship.

“What we’ve learned is that this is a public health issue,” Ferré said about DermaSensor’s journey. “The issue is catching these things early, and what we find is not enough people go see dermatologists.”

DermaSensor’s patented technology was pioneered at Boston University and University College London, and the device has been undergoing development since 2011 through clinical studies and collaborations with dermatologists in Florida.

The device itself is evolving, from a 30-pound desktop system to a hand-held device that is now just a little larger than a pen.

The device itself includes the technology, which records the skin lesion and runs a machine-learning algorithm that was developed using a trove of spectroscopy data on lesions. Within seconds, the technology evaluates the risk and recommends further evaluation from a dermatologist, if necessary. Clinical validation of the prototype is underway in Florida clinics, Simmons said.

Simmons came aboard in 2016 to lead the company through its clinical trials and into commercialization. Before joining DermaSensor, Simmons led commercial efforts for a Silicon Valley mobile health device startup and held business development and commercial strategy roles at biotech company Genentech.

Christian Seale, founder of Startupbootcamp Miami, originally introduced Simmons to Ferré, a mentor and advisor for Startupbootcamp, with the idea that they might work together to build DermaSensor. Seale is a member of DermaSensor’s advisory board, which also includes Dr. Stewart Davis and other Miami entrepreneurs in the healthcare and tech industries. “The Miami ecosystem is working,” Ferré said.

DermaSensor is undergoing clinical trials in the United States, working toward FDA clearance, a process that can take years. DermaSensor’s product will likely hit the market first in Europe, where the regulatory process is further along, Simmons said.

The ultimate goal is to be able to sell the device at an affordable price, for a few hundred dollars, Simmons said.

Once cleared by regulators, the go-to-market strategy is to sell the device first to clinicians, and eventually consumers. To save lives, he said, “we want to make it very easy to use.”

Nancy Dahlberg: @ndahlberg

September 28, 2017

SpringBIG, a cannabis marketing platform, wins Shark Tank style pitch event -- and $50K

SpringBIG Pitch Jeffrey Harris

 

Arcview Forum Palm Beach brought in a crowd of over 100 high net-worth investors who gathered to observe 20 cannabis-related companies competing for investment at the Eau de Palm Beach Resort  during the September 19-20 event. The Arcview Investor Network includes more than 600 accredited investor members who have put more than $152 million behind 162 cannabis-related companies. Nine of the companies competed “Shark Tank” style to a panel of judges and investor attendees with the hope of coming out on top and bear the title of most investible concept. 

Judges agreed that springBIG, a Boca Raton based company pictured above, was the best. SpringBIG takes home the “Best Pitch” trophy  and the $50,000 “Winner’s Fund” award as well (pending due diligence).  

SpringBIG is a customer engagement and marketing platform for cannabis dispensaries and brands.  Their data-driven approach includes loyalty and rewards, personalized messaging and analytics.  The team has extensive experience in the loyalty sector and launched their platform in January of this year. 

"We've been working hard to solve some of the marketing and sales challenges that these new cannabis firms are facing. It feels great to know that the true insiders that are placing capital in this space have validated that we are on the right track and are putting their faith in us to deliver the best loyalty marketing and communications solution for this burgeoning industry,” said Jeffrey Harris, CEO of SpringBIG.

Magic Leap's road to the big reveal paved with $$$, teasers

By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

MagicleapscreenHello, Magic Leap.

On its road to the big reveal, the secretive South Florida tech company has refreshed its website as another teaser of what’s to come. This all arrives fresh off reports that Magic Leap is raising another $500 million in funding, give or take a few million, and that insiders have said that its product launch could be within six months.

Go to MagicLeap.com today and there is no more 3-D whale flying through a gym. Gone are all the videos, blog posts and other distractions. Now its mascot greets you with a simple “Hello” and a message that reads, in part: “We’re taking you with us on this journey to launch. More to come ...” It invites you to submit your email for its mailing list.

The only other element on Magic Leap’s revamped website is a careers page, advertising 253 jobs, most of them in Plantation, where Magic Leap is based. Magic Leap’s social media pages have also been updated and simplified.

Magic Leap is reportedly building a wearable computing device based on its “mixed reality” technology called “Digital Lightfield.” The company has already raised nearly $1.4 billion from Google, Alibaba, Qualcomm and other venture firms, valuing the company that has yet to launch its first product at $4.5 billion.

The Bloomberg report earlier this month said that Temasek Holdings, an investment company owned by Singapore, may take part in a new financing round of more than $500 million, valuing Magic Leap at close to $6 billion. Magic Leap and the investment firm have declined to comment.

According to Bloomberg’s sources, the headset device — bigger than a pair of glasses but smaller than VR headsets on the market now — could cost between $1,500 and $2,000. People would have to carry a second device about the size of a smartphone to power the glasses, the sources told Bloomberg.

On the eMerge Americas stage in Miami Beach in June, Magic Leap’s CEO and founder Rony Abovitz shared his thoughts on the future of technology, his vision for more natural computing and the tech ecosystem in South Florida.

To experience the world more naturally, he said then, “we’re trying to build a computer that acts like people, so you don’t have to look at your phone all the time.”

Abovitz said then that Magic Leap had more than 1,000 employees, with about 800 in South Florida. “We are bringing in people from all over the world. This brain trust will at some point spin out their own startups,” he said.

What happens next is pure speculation, and it’s out there. Unnamed sources told a Bloomberg reporter earlier this month that the company’s first product could ship in the next six months. Since the revamped website launched Wednesday, Reddit commenters with time on their hands have uncovered what they say are hints within the website — including Morse code messages and Alpha Ceti symbolism within the coding pointing to a December launch.

Stay tuned.

Follow @ndahlberg on Twitter.

September 24, 2017

MealPal raises $20 million in venture funding, expands services

 
Mealpal
Mary Biggins, right, and Katie Ghelli founded MealPal, a restaurant lunch subscription service, in Miami. It's now international.
MealPal
 
By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

MealPal, the Miami-based startup offering a subscription restaurant lunch service, announced it has raised a $20 million Series B investment, led by Silicon Valley firm Menlo Ventures.

The round brings MealPal's total funding to $35 million since its Jan. 2016 launch. In February, MealPal raised a $15 million Series A round; Miami-based Krillion Ventures is an investor. MealPal aims to make lunch pick-up from restaurants convenient and affordable. MealPal offers its service in  Miami, as well as New York, Boston, San Francisco, Toronto and a number of other cities around the world. 

Along with the funding, the company recently announced it expanded its lunch pickup service to include dinner, starting in New York City, its largest market. 

"MealPal has helped thousands of people upgrade their lunch break by skipping long restaurant lines and getting lunch for as little as $6. Now we're excited to bring this quality, affordability and efficiency to dinner," said CEO Mary Biggins, who co-founded MealPal with Katie Ghelli.

MealPal has serviced more than 3 million lunches and expended to 12 markets, most recently Manchester in the United Kingdom and Melbourne, Australia, said Biggins, who previously co-founded ClassPass, which offers fitness classes by subscription.

Previous MealPal investors, including Bessemer Venture Partners, Comcast Ventures, Haystack Partners and Next View Ventures, all participated in this new round.

The new funding will support further team and market expansion in the United States, United Kingdom Canada and Australia, as well as new markets throughout Europe in the next several months.

Follow @ndahlberg on Twitter. 

READ MORE:

MealPass rebrands as MealPal, unveils ‘Pal’ feature, launches in Chicago, Washington, DC

Tech Talk: From ClassPass to MealPass, the Big Apple to the Magic City

September 20, 2017

Tech visionary Salim Ismail joins Rokk3r Fuel as a general partner

By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

IsmailSalim Ismail, founding executive director of Singularity University and chairman of the new Miami-based Fastrack Institute, has joined Rokk3r Fuel, a venture capital firm based in Miami, as a general partner.

With the addition to Ismail, Rokk3r Fuel is also renaming its flagship fund Rokk3r Fuel ExO.

“For the last decade, Salim has been a visionary and has defined how we as an industry think about exponential organizations. We view his decision to join Rokk3r Fuel as a strong validation of both our commitment to identifying and investing in exponential technology, and our proprietary approach to working with our limited partners to optimize the way that venture is working to meet their investment objectives," said Jeff Ransdell, founding partner of Rokk3r Fuel ExO, in a news release.

[READ MORE ABOUT ROKK3R FUEL HERE.]

Ismail is co-founder and chairman of the Fastrack Institute in Miami, as well as chairman of ExO Works, which he founded. He is also a public speaker and authored the business best-seller Exponential Organizations. He is  now a global ambassador for Singularity, based at NASA’s Ames Research Center with a  goal is to "educate, inspire, and empower a new generation of leaders to apply exponential technologies to address humanity's grand challenges."

Said Ismail: "Today there are eight billion Internet-connected devices in the world. By 2020, there will be 50 billion. Will computer-driven cars be a reality in three years? Will we see a dramatically lengthened lifespan and delayed retirements in a matter of one to two decades? What does this mean for investment, growth, and contraction in key industries? As the world becomes more digital, advancements in technology are skyrocketing. Rokk3r Fuel ExO is tracking the trajectory of fascinating projects and investing in the ones that are sure to change our lives and challenge societal norms as we know them. Our insight on how to invest and where to deploy capital is driven around our exponential outlook on the world as we know it today.”

Before his work at Singularity, Ismail was a vice president at Yahoo, where he built and ran Brickhouse, the company's internal incubator. He co-founded and operated seven early-stage companies, including PubSub Concepts, which laid some of the foundation for the real-time web. His last company, Ångströ, a news aggregation startup, was sold to Google in 2010.

Ismail is being honored by Endeavor Miami at its annual benefit gala Oct. 21.

Rokk3r Fuel was launched  in March 2017 with the goal of investing in exponential technologies at a global level.  It has said its goal is to raise a $150 million fund. “The addition of Salim Ismail as general partner advances Rokk3r Fuel’s goal of globally sourcing and funding the best entrepreneurs who are building companies at the intersection of exponential technologies,” said Nabyl Charania, general partner at Rokk3r Fuel and CEO of Rokk3r Labs.

[READ MORE: INTERVIEW WITH SALIM ISMAIL]

Follow @ndahlberg on Twitter.