August 17, 2017

Shoring up the boat-sharing industry, Boatsetter buys Boatbound, raises more funding

Boater

By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

South Florida is already one of the world’s great boating capitals. Now the region can also claim to be a boat-sharing industry leader, as more people seek out accessible ways to get out on the water and more boat owners oblige by turning their pleasure crafts into money makers.

Boatsetter, a peer-to-peer marketplace for boat rentals, has acquired its Seattle-based rival Boatbound, powering up the South Florida startup’s presence throughout the United States. The Aventura-based company also announced that it has raised an additional $4.75 million in funding, on top of the $13 million announced in December, to fund its international expansion.

Like others in the boat-sharing economy, Boatsetter attempts to make the boat rental experience as seamless as booking a room on Airbnb by connecting people seeking rentals with boat owners looking to monetize the time their boats aren’t used. But Boatsetter differentiates itself by giving its users access to a large network of licensed captains as well as a growing roster of high-end boat rentals for yachting, cruising, fishing or sailing, 24/7 customer support and insurance coverage for renters, boat owners and captains.

Jackie headshot“This acquisition now makes us the No. 1 peer-to-peer boat rental community in the United States hands down,” said Jaclyn Baumgarten, CEO and co-founder of Boatsetter, who wouldn’t disclose terms of the deal. “It means about 5,000 quality vessels ready to be rented, it brings us 1,500 U.S. coastguard licensed captains, it will mean about 10,000 transactions between the companies in 2017 and it brings us 300 locations.”

Baumgarten said the acquisition particularly expands Boatsetter’s inventory in Chicago, Los Angeles, Seattle and Washington, DC.

“Additionally, we will be getting some great new talent from the Boatbound team, and we will be relocating them and the entire Seattle office to South Florida with us – a true Miami startup expansion,” said Baumgarten, in an interview with the Miami Herald on Wednesday. Boatsetter’s team will grow to 27 employees.

While accelerating operations in the U.S. five-fold is the goal for 2017, Baumgarten said, the acquisition and additional funding will also help fuel Boatsetter’s international expansion in 2018. Boatsetter plans to focus first on the Caribbean and Mediterranean, driving demand through global partnerships. It already has “phenomenal boats” in Bali, Ibiza, Mexico and South Africa, she said.

“This market is ripe for consolidation and I believe we are strongly positioned to lead that consolidation,” Baumgarten said. “We worked with a third-party investment bank and they value the peer-to-peer and charter business at $50 billion that we expect in the years to come to grow to $100 billion. That’s a huge opportunity and we are primed to lead a rollup strategy over the years to come globally.”

To that end, Boatsetter extended its Series A round, adding $4.75 million in funding to the $13 million the company raised in December. Key investors of the most recent round include Nordic Eye Venture Capital and the Miami-based TheVentureCity.

Laura Gonzalez-Estefani, co-founder of the TheVentureCity, which acts as an incubator for international-focused high-growth startups, said it’s the “super-driven” CEO and Boatsetter team, their data-driven approach to growth, international strategy and local expertise that attracted TheVentureCity as an investor. “The numbers are astounding in terms of engagement rates, their expansion plans are very interesting in the U.S. but also in Europe and we hope we can help them,” she said.

The young boat-sharing industry began making waves in South Florida in 2013.

That year, Boatbound entered the market in Miami, setting up a small office in Key Biscayne and developing a local network of boats. Boat-sharing was just getting started then, and rival Cruzin, led by Baumgarten, had also put down stakes in South Florida, too. As other rivals such as Sailo began expanding into the market, several locally based startups were developing, including Boatsetter, led by South Florida marine industry veteran and serial entrepreneur Andrew Sturner. Boatsetter and San Francisco based Cruzin merged in 2015, and Baumgarten became the CEO of the combined company. Sturner is executive chairman.

As the industry has matured and consolidated, locally based technology companies serving niches of the boat rental and sales industry have emerged here too, such as YachtLife serving the highest end of the market and Boatyard to handle boat-sharing related management and maintenance tasks for the owners. Meanwhile, a large online boat-sales marketplace, Boats Group, relocated its headquarters to Miami this year.

This summer, Boatsetter began offering uniquely curated experiences through the Airbnb platform in Miami, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Barcelona, Baumgarten said. In Miami, the experiences range from watersports trips, experiences for fishing fanatics and luxury excursions with full course meals.

“We’ve taken boating from being a rare pastime for a fortunate few boat owners to being a universally accessible lifestyle activity for anyone with a smartphone and a credit card,” Baumgarten said in an earlier interview.

Nancy Dahlberg: @ndahlberg

Apply now to present at VentureTech Showcase of South Florida with $25,000 cash award

Join the Florida Venture Forum/Venture Education Foundation in partnership with Space Florida for the 2017 VentureTech Showcase. The VentureTech Showcase of South Florida will be hosted in Boca Raton on Nov. 16 from 1:30 P.M. – 5:30 P.M. 

The showcase is a capital acceleration competition and business-networking event featuring presentations by some of Florida’s most promising early stage companies.  Presenters will compete for the Space Florida Accelerating Innovation Award, which amounts to a $25,000 cash award to the winning company. 

Presenters will be chosen by a selection committee comprised exclusively of active equity investors, who will be evaluating early stage companies from throughout the state of Florida. Selection preference will be given to early stage companies with business focuses in information technology and health technology, knowledge-based services, space transportation and advanced aerospace platforms, satellite systems and science payloads, ground and operations support systems, agriculture, climate/environmental monitoring, civil protection and emergency management, International Space Station and human life science (including medical research), communications, cyber security & robotics, adventure tourism, clean /alternative energy applications, advanced materials and new products. See Company Criteria on the Florida Venture Forum’s website for additional details. 

The Final Presenter’s Application Deadline Is Oct. 16. Here is the registration link  as well as the presenter’s application link for the South Florida event.

- Submitted by Florida Venture Forum

 

August 11, 2017

Miami-based fintech startup Dvdendo attracts $1.5 million in funding

A Miami-based  startup that helps people make investments has landed an investment of its own.

Dvdendo has attracted $1.5 million in seed funding round led by Ideas & Capital Fund and including existing angel investors, according to a news release. Dvdendo  operates a high-tech financial management platform that develops and manages portfolios according to the risk profile of users. The funds will be used for customer acquisition and continued development of its technology.

This platform offers access to  diversified equity instruments typically reserved for clients with high equity, as well as a  a simple mechanism that facilitates and promotes the habit of saving through digital means. "Dvdendo was founded by a group of financial and technology professionals dedicated to making saving easy and automatic and making professional investment advice available to everyone," its website says. Users can open an account on Dvdendo from their cellphone and start saving with only $5, the company said.

The team is led by CEO Gabriel Montoya, an entrepreneur previously involved with Next University and before that was an executive at Cisneros Group of Companies,  and by COO Matthew Meehan, a former portfolio manager and trader for Merrill Lynch and Lehman Brothers in Latin America.

To read more funding news of South Florida startups, go to the "funding" category of this blog.

August 08, 2017

Yes, it’s safe to go into the water with this startup’s invention

Aquavault

By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

But who’s going to watch the stuff?

It’s a familiar question, if you are among friends at the beach who want to take a swim. One Aventura-based startup, AquaVault, has a solution for that – and the crowd gives it a thumbs up.

The crowd is fans on Indiegogo, a crowdfunding platform that lets companies solicit donations, with promises of thank you gifts, generally the products themselves, in return. Crowdfunders donated $235,598 to AquaVault, which plans to produce a new version of its portable safe that can be attached to beach chairs or other objects, safely storing electronics, wallets and other valuables. Strategically, AquaVault held its campaign in prime beach-going season.

Jonathan Kinas, Avin Samtani and Robert Peck founded the Aventura company in 2014 after their valuables were stolen while, you guessed it, they were cooling off with a swim at a South Beach resort. They brought their first product to market with the help of ABC’s Shark Tank in 2015, where they lured in an investment from Daymond John (pictured below with AquaVault team). Since then, nearly all South Beach hotels have been offering the safes to their guests, Kinas said.

The newest version of the startup’s safe, called FlexSafe+, is made with cut-and-slash resistant material and sports a motion sensor alarm and a water-proof solar charger. Like the other portable safe, FlexSafe can be locked to a beach chair, a golf cart or a bike, or even a rod in a dormatory or hotel room. It was offered at the $99 giving level.

With the Indiegogo campaign over, AquaVault moves into production with FlexSafe+. “We will be producing roughly 10,000 units and will be delivering in November right before the holidays,” Kinas said.

Crowdfunding has its fans, especially among consumer product makers. But few score funding at the level that AquaVault did, in its campaign that ended July 30. Although Indiegogo does not publish statistics, its more dominant rival Kickstarter does. On Kickstarter, only about 1 percent of companies launching campaigns raise more than $100,000.

Follow Nancy Dahlberg on Twitter @ndahlberg.

Aquavault founders

August 06, 2017

Travel-tech company Oasis sets its sights on Asia, with new funding from Hyatt

OASIS 2 3

An Oasis property in Miami. Photo from Oasis 

By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

StanberryWith just 15 portfolio properties  in 2009, entrepreneur Parker Stanberry started Oasis, a curated marketplace of private homes offering upscale travel accommodations. Today, Miami-based Oasis offers 2,400 properties in 22 markets worldwide, and has 150 employees.

Last week, Hyatt made a significant, strategic minority investment in Oasis, which brings the brand’s total fund-raising to $35 million, Oasis said. This new investment will allow Oasis to expand its footprint to additional cities in the U.S., Europe and Latin America and enter Asia.

In 2014, Oasis joined the ranks of Latin American tech startups moving their headquarters to Miami. Stanberry, an expat from the U.S. who lived in Argentina for eight years, relocated to Miami in 2015 but spends about two-thirds of his time traveling to Oasis’ expanding portfolio of locations that include Barcelona, Cartagena, New York and Paris.

“Oasis is home meets hotel, the next generation of accommodations,” said Stanberry, who started Oasis as a passion project. “We have all the benefits of home sharing – bigger spaces, better locations, more value – with an added layer of quality control, curation and hospitality services.”

Those hospitality services include Oasis staff onsite for check-ins, on-demand concierge services and a members club. Others apparently also see the opportunity.

“Travelers who book Oasis Collections homes are looking for something different than a traditional hotel experience. They’re leisure and often business travelers who seek more space for a longer time, but also want the peace of mind, personalized service and amenities they expect when staying with Hyatt,“ said Steve Haggerty, global head of capital strategy, franchising and select service for Hyatt, in a statement. “While we are at an early stage, we believe this category has the potential to serve new stay occasions for our customers and to add meaningfully to Hyatt’s growth over time.”

Oasis grew revenues 100 percent year over year in 2015 and 2016, and is on track to surpass that this year, Stanberry said. In the past 18 months it has launched in 13 new markets in the U.S., Europe and Latin America. Oasis was the leading accommodations partner for sponsors of the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, including Nike and Visa. 

Stanberry said he will use the funding to take customer experience to the next level in current markets, and expand into Asia.

 “It’s not just about a place to stay, it’s about maximizing your experience. We’re adding a concept called Upgrades, where a guest can order extras like a stocked fridge or an airport transfer, and generally creating a seamless mobile-driven experience for the traveler,” said Stanberry, who was selected as an Endeavor Entrepreneur in 2014.

Neither Hyatt nor Oasis would disclose the size of the Hyatt funding, but Stanberry called it "significant" in a Skift article and it brings total funding to $35 million. After some initial angel funding that allowed Oasis to expand and move its headquarters from Argentina to Miami, last year Oasis raised a $10.6 million Series B round, said Stanberry. Oasis also raised a $2.5 million convertible debt financing earlier this year.

Oasis advisor and angel investor Marco Giberti cited Stanberry's work ethic, courage and strong commitment to keep learning and improving the product and user experience. “He is a great leader, and I’m really glad to see his new deal and excited about future opportunities for him and Oasis.”

With the new Hyatt funding, Oasis joins a number of Miami area startups who have raised significant funding rounds this year, including Modernizing Medicine, Nearpod, Neocis, MealPal, Boatsetter, Nymbus and Kairos.

Follow @ndahlberg on Twitter

Read more

From Argentina to Miami - a bridge worth building (guest post featuring Oasis)

Hatching a tech future: South Florida startups are gaining strength 

How international startups are making Miami their U.S. base

Rioproperty

 A residence in Rio offered by Oasis. Photo from Oasis

August 03, 2017

Want to pitch at the Florida Venture Capital Conference? Here’s how to apply

The Florida Venture Forum is calling for growth stage companies to apply to present at the 2018 Florida Venture Capital Conference, being held at the Marriott Harbor Beach Resort in Fort Lauderdale on January 30-31, 2018.

The conference, now in its 27th year, is one of the largest gatherings of venture capitalists and investors in the Southeast, and features panel discussions, speakers, and presentations by some of Florida’s fastest growing private companies.

In addition to the opportunity to present before an audience of active equity investors, presenting companies meeting designated criteria will compete for the Accelerating Innovation (AI) Award, offered by Space Florida. The AI Award offers a cash prize totaling $100,000 to eligible Florida companies, and companies seeking to relocate or establish presence in Florida.

Presenter applications will be reviewed and companies chosen by a selection committee made up of active venture capitalists and investors. Presenter and AI Award eligibility criteria, and full conference details, may be found on the Forum’s website (www.flventure.org).

THE FINAL APPLICATION DEADLINE IS DECEMBER 20, 2017. Early submissions are welcomed and encouraged.

- submitted by Florida Venture Forum

July 26, 2017

In growth spurt, AGP Miami funds Animusoft, other South Florida startups

Money2

By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

Why are local investors a critical piece of South Florida’s entrepreneurship community? Look no further than what AGP Miami is doing to help fill a funding gap.

AGP, a South Florida network of angel investors, closed on its latest investment last week: Animusoft. The Miami-based startup, which built a software platform for the drone industry called ALIVE under founder and CEO Daniel Rodriguez, has raised $1 million in funding, of which about half was raised from AGP members.

Now with nearly 100 members, AGP focuses on investing in South Florida companies, many of whom have made significant traction through bootstrapping, such as Animusoft. At a time when access to capital continues to be a challenge for South Florida entrepreneurs, AGP, originally funded by the Knight Foundation and now self-sustaining, is one of the locally based networks that has been doubling down on its mission to address the funding gap and expanding its funding activity.

Raul Moas (c) (2)In the past quarter, AGP Miami invested $1.25 million into local, early-stage companies, said Raul Moas, managing director of the network. In addition to Animusoft, recent fundings include Home61, Nearpod, Gramercy, Birch and Eventplicity.

AGP recently added Melissa Krinzman, managing partner of Krillion Ventures, Mark Kingdon, founder of Quixotic Ventures, and Tigre Wenrich, CEO of the LAB Miami who heads up LABVentures, to its board of directors. “All three of them are exceptional individuals – that was a big win for us,” Moas said. They join Nico Berardi, AGP’s former managing director, Juan Pablo Cappello and Marco Giberti.

AGP’s staff is also growing. Rebecca Danta, a Miami native, returned to Miami this summer to be AGP’s venture associate, where she's heading up AGP’s dealflow management, Moas said. Most recently she worked for General Assembly in New York City.

Although South Florida deals will continue to be AGP’s primary focus, Danta will also be looking around Florida, including Gainesville, for potential deals.

“Miami is home and will continue to be home base ... but there are great deals around Florida, in particular Gainesville, and the same thing in Latin America,” Moas said. “We think that in the next 12 months, we will be positioned to start either establishing a presence in some of these markets or at the very least scouting them more actively.”

Feathr, Birch and Eventplicity are all AGP portfolio companies founded in Gainesville. “We have an opportunity to bring them into the fold of what is happening here,” Moas said. They plan to hire a scout there for the fall.

At a time when international startups are increasingly making Miami their corporate or U.S. base, AGP will also look more aggressively for companies in Latin America that members can get into early, and as the companies grow and if it makes sense for them, AGP could be their soft landing in Miami, Moas added. “We want to be there to support them. The expertise is already here.”

[READ MORE: Hatching a tech future: South Florida startups are gaining strength]

Since 2014, AGP has invested in 24 companies and invested $7.2 million, Moas said. That’s up from $4.6 million a year ago, when AGP had about 80 members.

AGP screens hundreds of deals to find companies that could be a good fit for members. Then a screening committee further selects companies that will be invited to pitch to the full membership. AGP members decide individually whether to invest in a startup.

To be sure, AGP is not the only local funder that has been expanding activity – for instance Krillion Ventures and New World Angels have invested in a number of local companies in the last couple of years, and others such as Las Olas Venture Capital are beginning to take off. At a time when venture capital still lags in Florida, AGP and other local funders are providing critical seed and Series A capital.

Animusoft will be using the new funding to build out marketing, sales and business development efforts as well as augment engineering staff with additional data scientists, Rodriguez said. 

Five large architecture, engineering and construction firms are now piloting ALIVE, an operating system for drones, on job sites. Animusoft is also partnering with seven drone manufacturers, which will be packaging its software with their drones. “We are in active conversations with maritime cargo companies, logistics companies, law enforcement and farmers for other applications of drones powered by the ALIVE platform,” Rodriguez said.

As it expands, including a presence in the California Bay Area, Rodriguez says he plans to keep engineering, product and research efforts in Miami. “I am a Miami native, and plan to keep a solid footing here in South Florida. This is my home.”

For Animusoft and other portfolio companies, local investors provide critical capital to grow their early-stage ventures.

July 18, 2017

Ironhack receives $3 million in funding for global expansion

Ironhackclass

Ironhack, a coding bootcamp in Miami with campuses in Madrid, Barcelona and most recently Paris, received $3 million in financing led by Madrid-based JME Venture Capital.

The funding will be used for international expansion, including coding campuses in Latin America and Europe, TechCrunch reported.

Founded by Ariel Quinones, who is based in Miami, and Gonzalo Manrique, Ironhack launched its bootcamp in Miami in 2015 after launching them in Madrid and Barcelona. The company opened its Paris location earlier this year. Its Miami bootcamps are held at Building.co.

"We’re very excited to have JME join us as our partners. Their investment will allow us to accelerate our pace of expansion, improve our product and curriculum, and hire top talent as we continue build one of the world’s top tech schools," said Quinones in TechCrunch.

Ironhack has been part of a wave of coding bootcamps opening across the nation, including Wyncode in Miami. Its cohorts end with demo nights, and it recently provided coding school scholarships to Uber drivers and riders in Miami.

July 16, 2017

Plum, maker of innovative wine appliance, attracts $9 million in funding

Plum2

By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

David Koretz introduced the first appliance that preserves, chills and serves wine by the glass. A $9 million round of funding will help the South Florida entrepreneur further expand into the luxury hotel center.

His startup, Plum, announced Thursday that its Series A round was led by Khosla Ventures, locally based Las Olas Venture Capital and several angel investors. Wine and hospitality industry veterans also participated in the funding round.

“The support from investors of this caliber is a welcome validation of our core mission to let people enjoy a single perfect glass of wine on demand in their homes and hotel guest rooms,” said Koretz, Plum’s founder and CEO, in a press release.

Plum appointed Joe Berger, executive vice president and president of the Americas for Hilton Hotels & Resorts, to its board. “There is an incredible need for innovation inside the hotel room to surprise and delight guests and elevate their experience with each stay,” said Berger, who oversees operations of more than 350 corporately managed Hilton hotels and Hilton Grand Vacation resorts. 

The company’s Plum for Hotels program brings on-demand, in-room wine by the glass to guests. Plum has already signed deals with Four Seasons, Marriott, SBE Group, Langham, Hyatt, Hilton, and Rosewood flags. 

“Hoteliers will be able to unlock new incremental revenue streams,” said Mark Volchek, founding partner at Las Olas Venture Capital that has funded several South Florida companies in the past year. “David is an experienced entrepreneur who has a strong track record of success, and we are excited to be backing him on his latest venture.”

Plum’s appliance, which is in production, holds and preserves two bottles and serves each wine at the idea temperature for that varietal. Plum is headquartered in Dania Beach and has offices in Silicon Valley. Koretz moved to South Florida in early 2015 from the valley to start Plum, even though VCs at the time told him he was crazy.

 

July 12, 2017

Venture capital surges in Q2 in Florida and nationally, MoneyTree Report shows

  Money

South Florida health-tech companies Modernizing Medicine and Neocis led Florida venture capital deals in the second quarter.

By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

South Florida healthcare-technology companies led Florida venture capital deals in the second quarter, according to a MoneyTree report by PricewaterhouseCoopers and CB Insights released Wednesday.

Florida deals in the quarter were led by Boca Raton-based Modernizing Medicine’s previously reported $231 million mega-round by global private equity firm Warburg Pincus. Modernizing Medicine currently employs 550 people and is booking $100 million in annual revenue. “If there was any doubt that you could found and scale a company in South Florida, hopefully those doubts are now erased,” CEO and co-founder Dan Cane said when the funding was announced. “We are proud to call South Florida our home.”

Second in the state was Neocis, a Miami-based robotics company in the dental industry, with a $15 million round that included Mithril Capital Management of San Francisco, a venture firm led by Peter Thiel and Ajay Royan, and other undisclosed investors. According to Crunchbase, Neocis raised $2.4 million prior to this funding.

Neocis is focused on improving healthcare through robotic assistance. It manufactures and markets YOMI, a robot-assisted surgical platform for dental implant procedures. The company, led by CEO and co-founder Alon Mozes, announced it had received FDA clearance to market YOMI and that it had made its first couple of sales in March. “We look forward to further demonstrating the benefits of YOMI to the surgeon’s practice and their patients and to bringing the system to select key opinion leaders in the United States,” Mozes, a biomedical engineer, said in March.

Florida companies took in 16 venture capital deals worth $291.1 million in the second quarter, up strongly from $156.9 million in the first quarter and $85.7 million a year ago, according to MoneyTree data. Of course, South Florida firms accounted for more than 85 percent of the total, thanks largely to Modernizing Medicine. Still, the nation’s third largest state ranked 11th for venture capital in the quarter, for both amount of financings and number of deals.

In addition to Modernizing Medicine and Neocis, South Florida companies that received investment in the second quarter included human analytics software company Kairos, $5.73 million, in a round that includes funding from New World Angels, and DadeSystems, which provides accounts-receivable solutions and received $2 million from Ocean Azul Partners.

Nationally, venture capital rose to the highest level in a year as investors deployed $18.4 billion to U.S. VC-backed startup companies across 1,153 deals, up 28 percent in dollars but down 4 percent in deals from Q1 2017, according to the MoneyTree survey. This was helped by 31 mega-rounds of $100 million or more. Lyft’s $600 million round was the biggest deal of the quarter. MoneyTree Report results can be found at www.pwcmoneytree.com.

“Q2 was a tale of two trends,” said Tom Ciccolella, U.S. venture capital leader at PwC. “U.S. deal activity continued its multi-quarter downward trend, but the growth rate of investments in dollar terms accelerated from the first quarter. A surge in mega-found deals, to the second-highest level seen to date, helped drive a robust level of quarterly VC funding.”

This was the second venture capital report this week. Tuesday, data from the Pitchbook-NVCA Venture Monitor, which characterizes and compiles qualifying deals differently, showed that South Florida was No. 1 in the nation for exits in the second quarter -- thanks to Chewy's $3 billion-plus sale to PetSmart. 

Nancy Dahlberg: @ndahlberg

Neocis

Alon Mozes, left, and Juan Salcedo started the healthcare robotics company Neocis. They are shown with an early version of Neocis’ robotic guidance system for the fast-growing dental implant market, which received FDA clearance and is now being marketed. Both co-founders worked together at Mako Surgical before founding Neocis. November 2015 photo by Patrick Farrell/Miami Herald.