September 08, 2016

Aventura-based Zenedge, a cybersecurity company, closes $6.2 million financing round

Zenedge, a  provider of cybersecurity solutions, announced Thursday that  it has completed a $6.2 million Series C investment led by growth equity investor Pilot Growth Equity.  Pilot Growth led the round with a $5 million investment, with additional funds coming from Zoho Corporation, as well as from existing investors TELUS Ventures and Yehuda Neuberger. 

The financing will be used to fund Zenedge's continued global expansion, sales and marketing activities and for further investment in its patent-pending technology. William Lee, co-founder and managing director at Pilot Growth, will join Zenedge's board of directors. With this new Series C round, total investment in the Aventura-based company is $13.7 million.

Founded in July 2014, Zenedge provides organizations a cloud-based enterprise-class, managed cybersecurity Infrastructure-as-a-Service to help secure their web applications and networks against vulnerabilities and DDoS attacks. Unlike other Web Application Security solutions in the market, Zenedge said it leverages patent-pending deep machine-learning capabilities to detect anomalies, dynamically alter security postures, and initiate auto-mitigation and automatic routing with minimal to no human intervention. This allows the company to provide better cybersecurity and faster time to mitigation than traditional cloud and on-premise cybersecurity vendors, ultimately resulting in less and shorter business interruptions, while helping reduce operational costs, said its founder and CEO, Yuri Frayman.

 “We are thrilled to welcome Pilot Growth to lead our Series C round and have William Lee join our board of directors, as they represent a partner that provides us not only with capital, but vast strategic experience and relationships,” said  Frayman, who sold his last company to Google. "We are also excited to welcome Zoho, already a strategic Zenedge customer, as a new investor in this round.”

 

September 07, 2016

New World Angels invests $538K in Gainesville medical device company

It's been an active year for the New World Angels.

This week, New World Angels announced the completion of its third investment in OBMedical, the developer of a wireless fetal monitor.

NWA closed a $538,000 investment into OBMedical’s Third Series Convertible Notes.  OBMedical has recently begun sales and marketing of the LaborView, an FDA-approved wireless device designed to replace current cumbersome fetal heart monitors used during labor.   The OBMedical LaborView interfaces to existing legacy fetal monitors and provides enhanced performance combined with total freedom of movement as compared to ultrasound devices in common use.

“New World Angels is delighted to continue to support the growth of OBMedical and the expansion of a product that improves the labor and delivery process for women,” said NWA President Steve O’Hara, in a statement.  “New World Angels’ member, Dr. Scott Dresden, has worked closely with management since our original investment in September, 2014 serving on OBMedical’s board for the last two years.”

Previously, New World Angels had invested $1.1 million in OB Medical’s Series 1 Convertible Notes and $527,500 in OB Medical’s Series 2 Convertible Notes.  The Series 1 and Series 2 Convertible Notes were converted into Series A Preferred Stock in May 2016. OBMedical is based in Gainesville.

New World Angels, based in Boca Raton,  is a group of 63 accredited, private investors, operators and entrepreneurs dedicated to providing equity capital to early-stage entrepreneurial companies with a strong presence in Florida.

NWA's 2016 investments include both add-on investments in portfolio companies and new investments including Synkt Games, a South Florida-based sports fantasy game startup, Miami-based Kairos, a facial recognition software company, and Gainesville-based Admiral, which has developed software to prevent ad blocking. Its biggest investment this year has been $750,000 in Polarean, a Durham, N.C., company with Florida operations that has developed a device to improve the readability of lung scans. Early this year, NWA announced it led a $1 million investment round in Miami-based Raw Shorts, a Miami startup that enables users to easily create explainer videos. 

 

August 26, 2016

Finova Financial raises $52.5 million for lending platform

By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

Finova Financial co-founders Greg Keough and Derek Acree launched the cloud-based company to give consumers in need of emergency cash a loan  alternative to the triple-digit, punitive offerings in the traditional “payday” lending marketplace. The West Palm Beach-based fintech company focused on the auto-title lending industry recently announced it has raised $52.5 million in a combination of equity and debt.

The funding round was led by Silicon Valley and international venture capital firms including MHS CapitalRefactor CapitalMetamorphic Venture and 500 StartUps, as well as leading fintech entrepreneurs such as Sam Hodges, co-founder and managing director of Funding Circle, Jake Gibson, co-founder of NerdWallet and Al Hamra Group, a private company owned by the ruling family of Ras Al Khaimah, United Arab Emirates. CoVenture provided the credit facility to support the enterprises’ growth. “Finova has earned great traction, and we look forward to working closely with them as they scale rapidly, giving consumers the opportunity to get back on track financially.” said David Lee, co-founder and managing partner of Refactor Capital, in a statement.

Finova Financial_Greg Keough (2)The funding will be used by Finova to grow the all-digital lending platform serving the auto title loan marketplace while delivering up to 70 percent lower cost to consumers.  Finova Financial’s  online Car Equity Line of Credit (C-LOC) product and lending platform offers consumers a significantly less expensive auto title loan alternative, with 12 months to repay, an opportunity to repair their credit score, and a chance to earn performance points that can be used for grace periods in the repayment process, the company said.  This is in stark contrast to traditional lending models and it's the first in a series of products planned to address the needs of the hundreds of million of unbanked and underbanked consumers globally. The company successfully piloted its product in Florida.  

“Finova Financial was launched to help consumers get critically-needed cash without the traditional barriers of high interest rates, inconvenient application processes and restrictive payment terms of the auto title lending industry,” said Keough (pictured above), Finova’s CEO who has led a number of fintech ventures including MFS and RegaloCard. “As a company committed to social impact, we see Finova Financial as being an advocate for consumer financial well-being through improved access to credit, better repayment terms and lower costs.”

 

 

Miami-based fantasy game startup scores investment from New World Angels

LetsRUMBL SPLASHBy Marcia Heroux Pounds / Sun Sentinel

Boca Raton's New World Angels has invested in a fantasy sports game startup.

Miami-based Synkt Games has a mobile app, letsRUMBL, designed to attract the nonprofessional player. They can choose to play against friends or random individuals in daily baseball and basketball games or weekly football games. The app has "tens of thousands" of users, said Synkt Games CEO Bryan Abboud.

Synkt's latest version of the app will launch through Apple's iTunes on Friday, in time for football season, he said.

An unusual investment for this South Florida  angel group? Not so, said Steve O'Hara, president of New World Angels, a 63-member group of investors who only finance companies that are based in or have a major tie to the state.

"We invest in small startup companies on the verge of exploding," O'Hara said. Those have traditionally included investments in consumer, medical and technology companies, not gaming or apps, and it has invested a total of $7.4 million since the angel group was founded in 2003.

O'Hara said he likes the app game because he's not an experienced player but enjoys competing with his son, who lives in Chicago.

But he likes the investment, $140,000, because of Abboud's gaming industry experience. Synkt Games has raised more than $1 million in total, according to CrunchBase, which tracks innovative companies and their funding.

Abboud, who also is a director at New World Angels, previously co-founded IGW Software, which provided software and tech support to the online gaming industry, and the Interactive Gaming Council, a trade association for the industry.

With letsRUMBL, Abboud said he wanted to create a game app that was more accessible to the casual player, designed to be easy to use and more affordable.

Aboud"If we play an event that's $2 each, we take 40 cents off the top and pay out the rest to the winner," he said.


Most daily fantasy sports games are over-run by "highly experienced" players, he said. However, spokeswomen for two of the most popular games, DraftKings and FanDuel — which claim 7 million and 6 million users, respectively — dispute this, saying only a small percentage of their users are so-called "pros."

New World Angels has been particularly active in 2016, with both add-on investments in portfolio companies and new investments including: Miami-based Kairos, a facial recognition software company; Newberry-based OBMedical, which has developed products to monitor fetal heart rate; and Gainesville-based Admiral, which has developed software to prevent ad blocking.

The group's biggest investment this year has been $750,000 in Polarean, a Durham, N.C., company with some Florida operationsthat has developed a device to improve the readability of lung scans.

August 17, 2016

Fintech company Nymbus closes $12 million financing round

By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com 

On the heels of a summer acquisition spree, Nymbus, a Miami-based financial technology company, announced this week that the company has completed a $12 million financing round led by major shareholders of Vensure Enterprises.

Nymbus, founded in 2015 and now with about 150 employees, provides mission-critical core technology for financial institutions that not only drives day-to-day operations, but also serves as the institution’s backbone for new capabilities and growth. 

With the funding, Nymbus will accelerate product deployment and infrastructure teams to support the company’s SmartCore platform, as financial institutions of all sizes attempt to transform their technology for the new digital economy.

"Nymbus is here to help the 12,500 financial institutions encumbered by some of the oldest enterprise technology still in use, many developed as long as 30 to 40 years ago,” said Scott Killoh, Nymbus’ executive chairman. “This additional funding will help us rapidly convert the already high demand for our SmartCore platform." 

This summer, the company announced a trio of acquisitions: KMR, a provider of software services and products to credit unions; R.C. Olmstead, which serviced credit unions in the Midwest; and Sharp BancSsystems, a Texas-based financial software provider. With the Sharp acquisition, the company acquired $200 million of intellectual property, running software that has been tried and tested in publicly-traded financial institutions, Nymbus said.

At least two executives on the Nymbus team, Killoh and Harry Flood, were recently listed as directors in Miami Beach-based Vensure Enterprises.

 

August 12, 2016

Fort Lauderdale biotech company receives small-business research grant

By Marcia Heroux Pounds / Sun Sentinel

Fort Lauderdale-based Vigilant Biosciences announced Thursday it has received a Small Business Innovation Research grant for more than $200,000 from the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research. The 15-month grant will finance research to develop a diagnostic test that utilizes optical imaging in combination with an oral rinse to detect a tumor-initiating biomarker for oral cancer, the company said. 

Vigilant Biosciences, founded in 2011 by Matthew Kim, has developed an oral rinse test for use by dentists for the early detection of oral cancer. Kim was inspired by his family history of oral and other cancers to start the company. In May, Vigilant Biosciences made its oral rinse test available to dentists in the United States. Earlier that month, Vigilant announced it had received European Commission approval to market its oral cancer test. The company has raised $12.5 million from investors to develop its product line.

Read more: Vigilant Biosciences raises $5 million to take oral cancer detection products to market

August 09, 2016

Hollywood-based Woundtech raises $40M in private equity

 Woundtech, a South Florida wound management technology company, announced Tuesday that it has closed a $40 million Series A investment by Aldrich Capital Partners.

Woundtech, based in Hollywood, provides comprehensive wound care, via a telehealth-based platform, to patients in over 35 major health plans and over 250 Managed Services Organizations, Independent Practice Associations  and large medical groups representing over 4 million insured patients in the U.S. and Puerto Rico, the company said in a news release.

"This investment highlights our view that wound management services is a rapidly growing $50 billion a year industry in the U.S. and expected to grow to over $200 billion in the next several years," said Mirza Baig, a partner at Aldrich, a private equity firm focused on the healthcare IT, fintech, business services and enterprise software sectors. "Like other telemedicine and analytical platforms from the last decade, Woundtech is bringing a new level of service and management to an industry still reliant on misaligned hospital-based programs and expensive and inappropriate therapies.”

Dr. Jeffrey Galitz, CEO and founder of Woundtech, said Aldrich's investment will allow Woundtech to expand its footprint within and outside the U.S., aas well as add related service lines. Employing physicians podiatrists, nurse practitioners and physician assistants, Woundtech brings the wound care center to the patient utilizing its wound care specialists on the ground along with a telemedicine platform and proprietary analytics and software.

"Woundtech has lowered direct costs to healthcare payers by an average of 70 percent, reduced wound related hospitalizations by 95 percent and reduced expensive unproven treatment modalities by over 95 percent," Galitz said.  "We do all of this while increasing access to care for patients by treating patients where ever they reside such as in the comfort of their own home.”

August 08, 2016

Transition at the top as AGP angel network enters 3rd year

By Nancy Dahlberg, ndahlberg@MiamiHerald.com

AGP, the homegrown Miami-based angel network, is headed into its third year with a surge in investment activity and new leadership at the top.

Raul Moas (c) (1) croppedNico Berardi, who has led the relaunch of AGP (Accelerated Growth Partners) since 2014, is headed to Harvard Business School this month. Taking his place at the helm will be Raul Moas (pictured here), who for the last four years was executive director of the nonprofit Roots of Hope, an international network focused on youth empowerment in Cuba.

To ensure a smooth transition, Berardi and Moas have been working together for about five weeks. Berardi will also be visiting frequently and continue his involvement in AGP as a member of its board.

Moas said he wants to continue to help make AGP "the go-to angel network in South Florida" for the most promising startups in his hometown. Before Roots of Hope, Moas worked at Ernst & Young as a CPA in its international tax practice.

Berardi, who also came from the nonprofit world as a leader in Techo, said about 50 candidates applied for the leadership job at AGP. Autonomy  and the ability and desire to learn were traits AGP looked for in a leader, Berardi said.

It has been two years since its 2014 relaunch [AGP existed as a much smaller and less active angel group for a few years], which was supported by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. Since then, the angel network has made 21 investments in 17 South Florida companies, totaling about $4.6 million.

Recent AGP investments have included media company Whereby.us, publisher of The New Tropic, Papatel, a fintech company focused on alternatives to remittances, and a follow-on investment for Nearpod, an education technology company.

NicoCurrently, AGP has about 80 active investors. "We got off to a very quick start. In the first two years we proved out AGP as an MVP [minimal viable product], and now with the transition we want to focus on building the 2.0," said Berardi (pictured here).

Going forward, Moas and Berardi said AGP will be focused on leveraging the AGP network to help the companies post-investment and on more community engagement, with resources like angel office hours.

"We’ve proved there is a critical mass of really good companies and a critical mass of value-add angels and that we can have a process that is efficient and entrepreneur-friendly. That is what sets us apart – we’re quick efficient and we give out good term sheets. ... The goal is to keep on onboarding investors that will write more checks and larger checks," said Berardi, noting the average check size right now is about $250,000. Angel education efforts, such as AGP's seminars it has been producing with Kellogg School of Management and other partners, are helping.  

While growing the base of angels and securing follow-on investments are challenges, Berardi said AGP is seeing more quality deals. He said the arrival of programs like startupbootcamp and 500 Startups' Growth Marketing program and new funds such as Las Olas Ventures are good signs of a maturing ecosystem. "But it's a long game. ... Slowly but surely we are getting there; the right things are happening," Berardi said.

Moas added, "I would love to see AGP continue to be a thought leader in the space. We want to be the go-to angel group in South Florida for the most promising startups in the area. We want to make sure we are accessible, that our members are reachable, and to be more engaged in the community. We’ve proven the concept, we know we are onto something and now it is about fine-tuning and growing."

South Florida startups can contact AGP at agpmiami.com.

Read more: Q&A with Nico Berardi

Follow Nancy Dahlberg on Twitter @ndahlberg

 

July 15, 2016

Uber, Snapchat drive national venture capital higher in Q2; Florida funding plunges

Money (1)

By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

While mega-investments in Uber and Snapchat drove venture capital higher in the second quarter, it was back to reality for Florida.

According to a new report released Friday, 20 Florida companies attracted $100.6 million in 20 deals in the second quarter, plunging from $855.1 million in the first quarter dominated by Magic Leap’s $793.5 million round from Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba Group and other investors. The second quarter total was also down 51 percent from a year ago, when 18 Florida companies took in $152 million of venture funding. The top deal in the second quarter was Reliaquest, an IT security company from Tampa, which received $30 million in funding, according to the MoneyTree Report from PricewaterhouseCoopers and the National Venture Capital Association released on Friday.

South Florida companies receiving the most funding in the second quarter were electronic health records software provider CareCloud of Miami, $15 million; education-technology software startup Nearpod of Hallandale, $9.2 million; digital freight services provider iContainers of Miami, $6.7 million; and cloud-based software company Applicor Technologies of Boca Raton, $2.4 million. Other local companies receiving funding included ClassWallet, Videoo, Orthosensor and Kairos. In all, South Florida companies attracted $39.5 million in the second quarter, according to MoneyTree, based on Thomson Reuters data.

Nationally, Venture capitalists invested $15.3 billion in 961 deals in the second quarter, according to MoneyTree. Ride-hailing company Uber attracted $3.5 billion, and messaging company Snapchat received more than $1.7 billion, together attracting 31 percent of the total.

Total venture dollars deployed to startup companies for the quarter increased 20 percent and total deal count was down 5 percent, compared with the first quarter when $12.7 billion was invested in 1,011 deals. Compared with the second quarter of 2015, dollars and deals are down 12 and 22 percent, respectively, While mega-investments in Uber and Snapchat drove venture capital higher in the second quarter, It was back to reality for Florida.

Florida drew just two-thirds of 1 percent of the national venture capital total in the second quarter, the lowest total since 2012. The state typically draws less than 1 percent, but in the first quarter, because of Plantation-based Magic Leap’s mega-round, the state was on the venture map, drawing 7 percent of the national pie. In 2015, the state attracted $459.6 million.

Nancy Dahlberg: @ndahlberg

July 07, 2016

Big data startup Candidate.Guru raises $600K on way to $950K round

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Candidate.Guru CEO Chris Daniels with co-founder Steve Carter 

By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

Big data startup Candidate.Guru has raised $600,000 in funding led by The Fan Fund, an Orlando-based, early-stage fund that invests in technology and life science companies.

Candidate.Guru, winner of the Miami Herald Business Plan Challenge this year, uses data analytics to analyze whether job candidates are a good cultural fit with a potential boss or team, and it is led by CEO Chris Daniels. The company, now with nine full- or part-time employees, launched earlier this year, is generating revenue and previously raised $475,000 in angel funding.

In addition to the $600,000 in funding, Candidate.Guru is close to closing an additional $200,000, Daniels said, and the company hopes to close out its $950,000 round this month. The company plans to use the funding for primarily for sales and marketing, but also some product development related to integrations with larger HR systems.

Research has shown that 75 percent of voluntary job resignations are due to a poor fit between the employee and the manager resulting in significant productivity loss as well as replacement cost.  Candidate.Guru’s proprietary software uses objective big data methods to rank the entire candidate pool for cultural fit, and can be used either at the early stage of the recruiting process to streamline recruiters’ work process, or at the late stage of the process to minimize chances of costly hiring errors.

“Our decision to invest in Candidate.Guru was supported by the qualities of the management team: business and domain experience, commitment to the business, a working and innovative technological approach, and the drive to succeed,” said Mitchel Laskey, managing director of FAN Fund.

This investment is the sixth for the FAN Fund since launching operations on Nov. 1, 2015. In the initial eight months, the FAN Fund deployed $1.55 million in financing rounds that totaled approximately $7 million.

In addition to winning the Miami Herald Business Plan Challenge in May, Candidate.Guru won first place and $100,000 in funding in the Florida Venture Forum Early Stage Capital Conference's startup business competition.

Candidate.Guru was selected in 2015 for Florida Atlantic University's Tech Runway startup accelerator program in Boca Raton.

Read profile of Candidate.Guru here.