June 24, 2015

MDLIVE closes on $50 million of private equity funding

MDLIVE, a provider of virtual health services based in Sunrise, announced Wednesday that it has recently closed on a $50 million investment from private equity firm Bedford Funding, which specializes in the software industry. 

Bedford Funding joins previous investors Sentara Healthcare, Sutter Health, Heritage Group and Kayne Anderson Capital Advisors. According to the MoneyTree Report on venture capital, MDLIVE attracted $23.6 million of funding in 2014.

Funding will help MDLIVE expand its acquisition strategy and consumer reach to further its vision of building a fully integrated, end-to-end virtual health system, said Randy Parker, CEO. "By providing convenient, high-quality, cost-effective care that seamlessly transitions from the virtual to the in-person setting, we are reinventing healthcare delivery and setting a new standard for health care services in this country," Parker said.

MDLIVE, with more than 200 employees, provides millions of Americans with access to virtual doctor visits utilizing partnerships with established industry leaders, including Walgreens, Microsoft, and major health systems across the country. By providing convenient access to healthcare through a HIPAA-compliant cloud-based platform, patients, healthcare providers and the healthcare system benefit through improved outcomes and cost savings, the company said.

John Sculley, vice chairman of the board of MDLIVE and past CEO of Apple and Pepsi, said few industries are in need of transformative change as healthcare in the U.S. In an interview earlier this year, he said a typical virtual office visit can cost a third of a live one: “We have experienced incredible customer satisfaction. We are growing like crazy -- it’s a South Florida company that is at the sweet spot of a fundamental change in healthcare. And it's completely supportive of customers making choices for better services.”


June 22, 2015

Funding news: TissueTech raises $15 million

Miami-based TissueTech, a biotech company that focuses on regenerative medicine, raised $15 million in additional venture funding.

Ballast Point Ventures of St. Petersburg and River Cities Capital Funds in Raleigh led a Series B equity raise for TissueTech, a regenerative medicine company in Miami.

TissueTech develops regenerative amniotic tissue-based products for the ophthalmology, optometry, musculoskeletal and wound care markets. The biotech company will use the new funding to expand R&D and sales and marketing.

It’s the second time Ballast Point and River Cities have invested in TissueTech, which now has more than 100 employees, according to the Tampa Bay Business Journal. The firms invested $10 million in 2013 and have been very pleased with the company’s performance since then, Matt Rive, partner at Ballast Point, told the publication.


June 09, 2015

New Intel Capital Diversity Fund invests in CareCloud

Miami-based health-tech company CareCloud was one of the first four companies funded by a new Intel Capital initiative to back startups run by women or minorities, the Silicon Valley Business Journal reported Tuesday.

The new $125 million Intel Capital Diversity Fund will invest in companies in which the CEO or founder, or at least three executives that report to the CEO, are women, black, Hispanic or Native American.

Along with CareCloud, an electronics health records and physician management platform founded by Albert Santalo, the others are San Francisco-based Brit + Co and Mark One Lifestyle and Venafi of Salt Lake City. Amounts of the funding were not disclosed. CareCloud recently announced a $15 million investment by existing investors.

Intel pledged to spend $300 million over the next five years to get "full representation" in the company's workforce by women and minorities by 2020, the Silicon Valley Business Journal said. A BabsonCollege study said that just 3 percent of venture dollars went to startups led by a female CEO.

June 05, 2015

FundingPost event to offer investor views, networking

What does it take to win over an investor? FundingPost's Angel and VC Conference, which is returning to Miami on Wednesday, June 17,  at Venture Hive, may offer some insights. 

At the event, a panel of NYC, Silicon Valley and Florida angels will focus on pitching to early-stage investors, and what it really takes to get them to write you a check. The investors will be discussing the things that are most important to them when they are considering an investment, the best and worst things an entrepreneur can do to get their attention during a pitch, and, of course, the best ways to reach these and other Investors. There will be plenty of time for networking with the investor panelists during the breaks and networking party. 

Register Here 

Investor Speakers so far:
Zalmi Duchman, Angel & CEO of The Fresh Diet (FL)
David Koehn, Sand Hill Angels (CA)
David B. Schottenstein, Angel Investor (FL)
Shridar Chityala, Vedas Group (NYC)
Christopher Gimbertn Star Mountain Capital (NYC)
Welcome Address: Spencer Lyon, FundingPost
Additional Investors TBA 

 Wednesday, June 17, 2015, 5:30pm - 8:30pm
COST: $55 
WHERE: Venture Hive, 1010 NE 2nd Ave Miami, FL 33132

-Information submitted by FundingPost

June 03, 2015

Drone Aviation Holding closes $1 million offering

Drone Aviation Holding Corp., a developer of specialized tethered drones, on Wednesday announced that it has closed a $1 million offering of its Series G Convertible Preferred Stock. Frost Gamma Investments Trust, controlled by healthcare serial entrepreneur Dr. Phillip Frost, has invested $250,000 in the offering.

The publicly traded company, based in Jacksonville with offices in Aventura, intends to use the capital to accelerate the commercialization of its new WATT line of electronic tethered drones, said Felicia Hess, Drone Aviation’s CEO. Launched earlier this year, the WATT-200 electric tethered drone was created to gather real-time, broadcast quality video footage for a wide range of commercial applications including newsgathering, emergency first responder/search and rescue, military and border protection.

Drone Aviation develops and manufactures cost-effective, compact and rapidly deployable aerial platforms and electric-powered drones aimed at providing government and commercial customers with enhanced surveillance and communication capabilities for longer durations in military, law enforcement and commercial and industrial applications.

“Dr. Frost's ongoing support and involvement is a key element in our efforts to build this company into a leading manufacturer of tethered drones serving commercial and military customers around the world,” said Hess. Frost is chairman of Drone Aviation’s strategic advisory board.

May 26, 2015

The Florida Microfinance Act: How can it help my small business?


The Florida Microfinance Act (Florida Statutes Sections 288.993 to 288.9937) was enacted in 2014 to help provide access to certain financing options for small businesses and entrepreneurs. Small businesses and entrepreneurs have historically had significant problems raising capital, and the act was intended to address these problems.

Effective April 2, the state authorized designated loan administrators to begin accepting applications for participation in the program. The program has two components: a loan program where qualifying small businesses and entrepreneurs can get loans of up to $50,000, and a loan guarantee program (administered by Enterprise Florida) under which qualifying participants can obtain a loan guarantee in connection with loans from $50,000 to $250,000. The program is administered by the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity.

This program is available to small businesses or entrepreneurs in Florida that have no more than 25 employees and annual revenues of up to $1.5 million. Borrowers who seek loans must participate in business training and technical assistance provided by the Florida Small Business Development Network. Proceeds from a loan under the program must be used for startup costs, working capital and to purchase materials, supplies, furniture, fixtures and equipment. The repayment of loans must be personally guaranteed, and borrowers must provide information about job creation and other financial data to the loan administrator. A borrower can receive a maximum of $75,000 in loans each year and a maximum of two loans a year and five loans over a three-year period. The program is also designed to help small businesses and entrepreneurs get subsequent private financing.

How can this help your small business? It may provide relatively quick access to capital for qualifying small businesses and entrepreneurs. This can be very valuable because it provides a much-needed potential source of capital at a critical stage in development. Additionally, these companies and entrepreneurs often have difficulty raising initial capital. Personal resources and friend and family funds are usually limited, and most of these companies and entrepreneurs will not yet have realistic access to traditional bank financing or equity financing through venture capital, private equity or angel investors. This program may provide the initial jump start that a small company or entrepreneur needs to get the business going and to progress to the next step.

This program may be especially helpful in industries where technology has substantially reduced the amount of capital required for a business. In many industries the use of cloud-based technology, for example, has significantly reduced the costs of starting and operating the business. Even though the amounts available in the program are relatively small, they should be sufficient to allow many businesses to successfully navigate their early stage financial challenges and move to the next level.

Find information about the program and the requirements for participation at http://www.floridajobs.org/microfinanceprograms.

Bob White is a shareholder with Gunster law firm.

May 21, 2015

Investors building bridges with Godfather Day, other methods

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.

May 06, 2015

eMerge Americas Startup Showcase: And the winners are...

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.

See the list of finalists who pitched to the judges here.

This Miami Herald video contains some cuts from the Startup Showcase:


- Nancy Dahlberg

Florida Legislature passes intrastate crowdfunding bill

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.

Nancy Dahlberg

May 05, 2015

Chris Bosh now an investor in a Miami startup


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."

Nancy Dahlberg