August 22, 2016

Learn to code in 10 weeks? Try one day.

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Photos by Andrew Sierra of Digital Taste Makers

 

By Jocelyn Caster

This past Saturday morning, nearly one hundred young professionals flocked to the Wynwood Art District’s Miami Light Project for a truly unique experience. Unlike the crowd in Wynwood later that night, these men and women did not come for a chic gallery opening or a trendy bar night. No, these people gave up their Saturday to start on the path of learning how to code at Wyncode’s Wyntroduction to Code.

Wyncode Academy’s Lead Instructor, Ed Toro, helped attendees write their very first lines of code using the language Ruby. Less than eight hours later, these development newbies had completed an entire coding project - one that Wyncode’s own students work on during their first week at the web immersive bootcamp.

This wasn’t the first time Wyncode hosted a one day bootcamp. In the first iteration of the day-long introductory workshop, Wyncode welcomed ten students participating in the Ancient City Ruby Conference in St. Augustine to spend the day with Wyncode’s Head of Product Development Sean Sellek. Based on overwhelming positive feedback, Wyncode brought the workshop to Miami. The workshop was quickly waitlisted, despite the size of the Light Box, where there is much more room for increased participation compared to Wyncode’s traditional sample classes.

Wyncode Miami’s flagship classroom is just next door at The LAB Miami, which allowed interested students the chance to pop their heads in and see where they could be spending ten exciting but demanding weeks, should they apply and get accepted into the bootcamp. Wyncode also has a campus in Ft. Lauderdale’s trendy FATvillage district at co-working space General Provision.

The majority of participants showed up motivated and interested in learning how to code. But, many also came with an ulterior motive - a chance to figure out if the $11,500 investment in the full-time, immersive coding bootcamp is really worth it compared to other learning options, such as self-teaching, part-time courses, or online course routes.

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Auston Bunsen, Miami Tech leader and Wyncode Fort Lauderdale’s lead instructor, said:, “A full-time program really pushes you to learn how to code and challenges you more than you ever could by yourself...You’re firing on all-cylinders, with a massive amount of content coming at you.” While he understands that this intense environment is not for everyone, Auston said “you really need to be [mentally] prepared for it, [if you are] it’s definitely the highest return on investment.”

With the heavy burden of expectation placed on bootcampers from the get-go, many Wyntroduction attendees spent the day not only wiring their first lines of code, but also evaluating if they are up for the challenge of completely immersed in the world of coding and South Florida's up-and-coming startup ecosystem for 10 weeks. In order to be accepted into the web immersive bootcamp, a potential student must prove he or she is prepared for the rigors of the course through a series of interviews and challenges.

Attendees of last Saturday’s Wyntroduction event were additionally able to experience the networking potential from enrolling in Wyncode first-hand. Wyncode welcomed alumni Sara Hincapie of Careerscore, Matthew Kellough of Sandals and Christina Nguyen of SapientNitro to share their Wyncode experience as well as the challenges and rewards of learning to code. Auston Bunsen used emojis to present his version of Miami Tech history in 5 minutes. Hiring partners JC Carrillo of Kipu Systems, Ivan Rapin-Smith of Watsco Ventures and Emilio Cueto of LiveNinja talked about their need for talent and why they hire from Wyncode, as each have hired multiple developers out of the program. The day wrapped up with a happy hour at nearby Gramps bar, where the attendees mingled with the Wyncode team, alumni as well as with local players in the Miami tech scene. Everyone was documenting the day with Wyncode’s custom Snapchat filter.

If Saturday was any indication, interest in the Miami Tech scene is at an all-time high. Wyncode was able to show how they can help totally inexperienced coders gain the skills and confidence necessary to tackle the process of learning to code and can supply you with a local community of similarly-minded individuals in the process.

Given how much was accomplished in one day, we look forward to what this group of ambitious individuals will do should they join Wyncode’s 350 graduates and 80 hiring partners in the future.

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To learn more about Wyncode or sign up for the next Wyntroduction event, please visit www.wyncode.co

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Photos by Andrew Sierra of Digital Taste Maker

August 13, 2016

Let’s be mindful about Wynwood and Zika

Sacred space

Yoga at the Sacred Space in Wynwood.

By Demian Bellumio

Kahill Head, one of the most positive and inspiring people that I’ve met so far through Dawnings  —  a little event that I created in order to bring mindfulness and wellness to Miami’s entrepreneurial and professional communities — told me today:

“Dawn is the light that comes after the darkness, so Dawnings was born at the perfect time to help Wynwood”

He told me this insight after I called him to see how we can raise awareness around what is going on by leveraging our next Dawnings event Burning Man Edition, which is taking place next Wednesday, Aug. 17th starting from 6 to 9am.

As I researched more and more about the Zika issue, I had more questions than answers. And, as I talked to more and more people that live and work in the area, I realized that the public officials and government institutions also did not have all the answers that the citizens were looking for.

One question in particular stuck out to me. What is more dangerous, the Zika virus or the chemicals that are being used to fight it? I live in Edgewater, basically the same neighborhood as Wynwood, and from my hi-rise, I saw the planes spray gallons after gallons of liquid just a few blocks from the park where my daughter plays every afternoon.

After speaking with Kahill and other partners and friends, I decided that we MUST to use the next Dawnings as a platform to raise awareness about the real issues that concern the Wynwood and Miami community (the infamous map actually includes Edgewater, Midtown, Design District, but Wynwood is the one singled-out) and more importantly, to bring our collective positive energy and support for the people whose livelihoods are being threatened by the negative, and sometimes not completely accurate, press that is coming out daily in local and national outlets.

We couldn’t have asked for a better partner for the venue. The Sacred Space Miami is a state-of-the-art facility that has plenty of indoor space to accommodate our guests, so the entire event will take place inside. In addition, they installed a permanent system called Mosquitonix on the property to mist spray and ensure that you can walk safely to your car. The spray is biodegradable and plant based. I expected no less of the Miami home to the world-famous Plant Food + Wine Miami.

Yoga at The Sacred Space Miami

During the Meditate section, where we will start with a 30-min yoga session led by Pablo Lucero (OM Movement)followed by an inspiring candlelight meditation led by Kahill Head (SPIRIT-ILL) that will culminate with the creation of a shrine with our collective candles and with the special intention of helping our Wynwood neighbors. It will be followed by the Educate section, with inspiring talks from Natalia Martinez-Kalinina(CIC) and Dane Andrews (Roam). And we will end the morning experience with a celebration during the Liberate section that will include kick-ass music by DJ Alan Epps (Do Not Sit on the Furniture), natural juices from ColdPressRaworganic fruits from Endlessly Organic and healthy treats, including organic teas, acai bowls, and local fruits and breads from Wynwood Farmers Market’s vendors.

In conclusion, Dawnings was born in Wynwood at LAB Miami and we will do everything we can to support this energetic, entrepreneurial, forward-thinking and creative piece of Miami. We will take every precaution to have a safe experience for all guests, and we will harness the positive intentions of the community so that we can close this chapter sooner rather than later. But we are conscious that there are many questions still unanswered, so we want to provide a platform to find the correct answers. Therefore, I want to offer the following:

If you live/work in Wynwood and feel that you need a mindful experience and community to rely on, I want to offer you a free ticket to Dawnings. Please contact me at dbellumio@miacollective.co

To the rest of the Miami’s entrepreneurs, professionals, adventurers, artists, athletes and just curious beings, please join us next Wednesday at 6am and help us create a more mindful, educated and health-aware Miami. For more information, please visit Dawnings.co.

August 10, 2016

50 participate in Ironhack's inaugural We/Code: Women's Weekend

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Photographer: Mary Beth Koeth (http://www.mbkoeth.com/)

By Greyceli Marin

Ironhack2Ironhack coding school, an intensive web development and UX/UI design bootcamp, hosted its first multi-day coding workshop for women only, We/Code: Women’s Weekend. It was dedicated to teaching the fundamentals of front-end web development, guiding the attendees through building their own personal web pages from scratch.

To participate, women had to submit written applications answering the question, How will knowing the fundamentals of web development improve your professional profile? After reviewing over 130 applicants, 50 were carefully selected to attend free of charge. The lectures were helmed by Ironhack’s Head of Product, who also built the curriculum for the school’s new Front-End Web Development bootcamp.

On Saturday morning, 50 enthusiastic women made their way to Ironhack Miami’s campus inside Building.co, a collaborative workspace in Brickell where they were greeted by complimentary breakfast. Day 1 began with an introduction to HTML and CSS, their syntax and how the languages worked together on a website. Everyone was asked to download a text editor they would use to build their sites, and then went straight to coding.

The instructor coded along with the class, with his laptop connected to the big projector in front of the room. As the group built, seven assistants, ladies who were either Ironhack alumni or current students in the front-end course, were available throughout the weekend to help out.

Most of the women participating had never touched a line of code before and most of them came from non-technical backgrounds. There were entrepreneurs, project managers, designers, marketers, educators and even a 14-year-old about to enter her freshman year of high school. They all successfully built customized resume web pages using HTML and CSS.

Day 2 concluded with finishing touches on the web pages and three workshops led by industry leaders. The workshops were 30 minute presentations on how having basic coding knowledge helped them succeed in their non-technical roles, with a Q&A session at the end. Speakers included Linda Koritkoski, director of marketing at STRAAT, where her HTML and CSS competency comes in handy when prototyping, building SEO and communicating with her developer team; Alexandra Floresmeyer, lead designer at Liveanswer who works closely with web developers and says that understanding web languages helps her create more feasible designs; and Marsha Belinson, managing director at JBCConnect (and a participant in the event) who gave best practices on recruiting, interviewing and working with developers.

The weekend was a direct successor of its namesake, We/Code, Europe’s largest intro-to-coding event launched by Ironhack’s Spain Campuses in collaboration with Google for Entrepreneurs’ Campus Madrid. For more information about Ironhack and future events, visit https://www.ironhack.com/en.

June 14, 2016

Come explore the dawn of a new and more mindful Miami - inaugural event June 29

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By Demian Bellumio

As a Miami tech entrepreneur, over the last decade I have had my share of the emotional ups-and-downs that come with the “startup life.”  Founding and running a company is not only stressful, but also a very lonely experience.  Sometimes you feel the weight of the world on your shoulders, as you know that your employees, your family, your investors and even your customers, depend on you.  Your only option seems to be just to succeed, despite having all the odds against you.

In addition, year after year, I have also experienced the same frustration that is shared by many other busy professionals that juggle long workdays, busy travel schedules, endless networking events and an active family life, while trying to start and maintain a healthy lifestyle.  Dieting, exercising, or just staying relatively active seems to get harder and harder as the years go by.

But as I traveled the world, I have found that there are some people that seem to have found ways for dealing with the struggles of entrepreneurship, or have successfully cracked the code of work-life balance.  They seem to be successful while living happy and healthy lives, and inspiring others to follow their lead.  For example, I have listened to Arianna Huffington talk at DLD about the benefits of napping, watched Lebron James swear by his Yoga practice, follow Russell Simmons mindful lifestyle on social media and read the posts by my friend Loic Le Meur where he shares how meditation changed his life. 

I therefore began to get curious about what Miami had to offer in the areas of mindfulness, yoga, meditation, wellness, etc. and I was surprised about what I found.  For all the superficiality that sometimes our city is known for, there is a large and growing community of fascinating people, places and companies that are building a much more interesting and healthier Miami.  My interest in showcasing these individuals to the broader community, while gathering together other like-minded people around a fun and unique experience, has inspired me to start Dawnings.

Dawnings will be a monthly event that will take place in different locations around Miami and will aim to bring together entrepreneurs, executives, creative professionals, artists and other busy people in order to disconnect from our routines and reboot our mind and bodies.  The first event will be June 29 at The LAB Miami. 

The event will be divided in three sections.  It will start with the “Meditate” section, where during the inaugural Dawnings, local yoga master Pablo Lucero (pictured above) will guide attendees through a session that will relax the mind and body under the sunrise.  Then, during the “Educate” section, local entrepreneurs Myk Likhov (Modern Om), Patrick Hilsbos (Neuromore), and Tatiana Peisach (CPR) (all pictured below) will share their amazing stories in order to inspire attendees to build a better future.  Lastly, we will end the event with the “Liberate” section, where we will enjoy a “wellness happy hour”, complete with healthy snacks and drinks.  The first Dawnings is sponsored by Innovate Miami and is supported by LAB Miami, Senzari and WeWork.

Dawnings will start at 6 in the morning; yes, you will have to wake up while it is still dark to attend it.  Why? Because I have found that it is hard for a lot of busy people to disconnect in the afternoon, and early in the morning seems to fit their schedule better and get them ready for the workday.  But more importantly, I have always found Miami’s sunrises to be re-energizing and full of beauty, and naturally seem like the perfect backdrop to explore the “dawn of this new and more mindful Miami”.

Please visit Dawnings.co to learn more about the inaugural June 29 event. Use code Herald25 to receive 25% off the current early-bird ticket price ($25), which ends on June 15th at 11 pm.

Demian Bellumio is the founder of MIA Collective and COO of Senzari.

 

Headshot Myk Patrick

June 08, 2016

In building an innovation economy in Miami, look to the arts for proven model of success

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By Olga Granda-Scott

OlgaAs an early adopter of many early initiatives in Miami’s startup scene, I’ve enjoyed several years of conversations surrounding the hows and whys of investing in a technology-enabled entrepreneurial ecosystem.

Most recently, I turned my focus to the intersection of that entrepreneurial community and the arts. What I’ve observed are the essential building blocks the arts industry has employed in creating a community which now boasts a monumental economic impact while establishing a global brand.

I believe Miami’s arts scene is a true case study for the “innovation economy.” Here’s why:

P3s. Before it was a trendy acronym, private-public partnerships were laying the groundwork for the creative powerhouse that is Miami today. From the contribution of public lands to cultural organizations to cemented affiliations with public institutions of higher education (The Wolfsonian-FIU, MDC’s Miami International Film Festival, etc), these partnerships have given each side of the relationship opportunities to maximize their scalability and impact. These are cases in which the sum is exponentially greater than the parts.

Training. To name a few, a single decade saw the creation of: the New World Symphony, New World School of the Arts, Miami City Ballet, Design and Architecture High School, YoungArts, ArtCenter South Florida, Miami Light Project, Bakehouse Art Complex, and the Rhythm Foundation.

All of these institutions, some public, some private, were founded with aspirations to achieve artistic excellence at national and international levels and have sought to develop artists and audiences, from children thru post-graduates. Alumni are now making strides at home and abroad, pointing to Miami as their seminal reference.

Financial resources. From government grant programs to private foundations, aspiring artists and potential founders know there are annual funding opportunities from a few hundred dollars into the millions. Locally, the County’s Department of Cultural Affairs, the Knight Foundation, and the Miami Foundation are exemplary entities who have led this charge with boundless ambition and sustainable results.

Want $1,000 to try out a quirky idea? Apply for a micro-grant from the Awesome Foundation. Need $5,000 to host a choreographic festival? Solicit for a grant from the Funding Arts Network. Dream of $250,000 to launch a seaside artists’ residency? Pitch 150 words during the Knight Arts Challenge.

Everyone has a place to start exploring and seek the financial resources to get off the ground -- and know those public and private supporters will be there for continued capitalization if a successful product and experience is being delivered.  Much of that funding doesn’t come with strings attached, permitting a level of self-driven independent creativity that is equally essential for success.

Millions of dollars have been pumped into the local arts industry establishing schools, residencies, companies, work spaces, museums and cultural facilities -- all because the arts transform communities. The arts transform neighborhoods. The arts transform lives.

Now read that paragraph again, replacing the word “arts” with the word “technology.”

If we want to have global stature in technology as we do in the arts, we already have a proven model for success.

Olga Granda-Scott is a Cuban-American entrepreneur, raised in Miami. Olga co-founded TheHighBoy.com, an online marketplace for antiques and art to help other mom-and-pop shop owners compete in the digital world. After having secured a 7-figure investment round and winning the Miami Herald's Business Plan Challenge in 2015, Olga chose to pursue a new venture aimed at combining her experience in the arts and business with her passion for social impact. A believer in public-private partnerships, she is currently the Executive Director of the Coconut Grove Playhouse Foundation, whose mission is to expedite the restoration of the historic site as a world-class cultural and civic anchor. Follow her on Twitter @GrandaScott.

May 26, 2016

It’s all about efficiency: A conversation with SpeedETab’s cofounders

By Rhiya Mittal / RhiyaMittal@gmail.com

PicturePicture this. It’s already 6:50 pm and you just arrived to the Wynwood Art District to attend Startup Grind Miami’s monthly Fireside Chat. Only 10 minutes remain until the chat begins but you need to get your medium latte from Panther Coffee after your grueling day at work. For the average person, this may seem like quite the dilemma. But not for you! You’ve already ordered and paid for your coffee ahead of time through your SpeedETab app on your smartphone. You quickly run into Panther Coffee, snigger at the long line of eager coffee drinkers, spot an inviting to-go cup with your name on it on SpeedETab’s signature black and green mat, scoop it up, and leave the store- all in a span of two minutes. You then head on over to LAB Miami, Wynwood’s hub for entrepreneurs and innovators (and the venue for the night’s Startup Grind event), and make it just in time for the Fireside Chat, caffeinated and ready to go! You whip out your laptop and get ready to take notes on tonight’s conversation with SpeedETab cofounders, Adam Garfield and Ed Gilmore, to see how they made the magic happen.

(Side note- the above anecdote is a true story based on my personal experience/)

So, what is SpeedETab? After working long hours at a corporate finance firm in Boston, Adam Garfield would often go out with his friends to grab a beer at a local bar. It was then that he noticed a recurring problem that did not yet seem to have a solution: he would often be standing at the bar after ordering his drink, with his cash in hand, for upwards of 10 minutes, waiting for a bartender to process his order and deliver his beverage. Something had to be done. Adam and cofounder Ed Gilmore decided to take matters into their own hands and create SpeedETab, a mobile ordering app that allows users to discover nearby restaurants, order food and drinks, and pay for their order- all in one go. To retrieve their orders, users simply skip the line at their favorite venues, walk up to the SpeedETab mat by the cashiers, and pick up their items. It’s that easy! Launched in March 2015, SpeedETab has taken the South Florida region by storm and is used at over 100 venues, with plans to expand to New York soon.

NewstartupgrindProduct is king. Focus is key. In the tech environment, there are countless ways to improve a product and add new, shiny features that may seem revolutionary. However, constant feature upgrades and additions may prove to actually detract from the product itself and could be economically impractical. So how does one choose which features stay and which ones go? Adam and Ed believe that in order to be successful, a team’s main focus must be guaranteeing that its main product works efficiently and successfully while consistently delivering and achieving its ultimate goal. SpeedETab’s team focuses primarily on the ultimate user experience, for both its merchants and its clients. Before updating the app in any way, Adam and Ed ensure that the user experience will remain streamlined and reliable, as their goal is to create a frictionless connection between technology and hospitality. To do this, both cofounders constantly keep each other balanced and evaluate each change they make to make sure that the modifications will benefit the company both technologically and economically. Product success will also help in other ways. While advertising, marketing, and sales promotions do build hype around a product, the best PR comes from letting the product speak for itself. Allowing customers to share their own experiences with a product and tell their friends and families about the reasons why they love it is invaluable and extremely effective. The easiest way to make sure this happens is to have a team that focuses on the product itself, not the revenue it generates.

Healthy competition. When direct competitors are out there in the market, do not hide from them, embrace them! Your competitors will have products that serve a purpose similar to yours and may even utilize a similar platform as yours- this is extremely beneficial as it familiarizes the consumer population with your product type. For example, SpeedETab’s major competitors include other mobile ordering platforms such as the Starbucks app, Chipotle app, etc. Users who have been using these apps to order their favorite items from various venues are already educated about the benefits of mobile ordering. This reduces the efforts SpeedETab has to make to inform the public about the uses of mobile ordering, thus cutting down on promotional costs the company would have to incur. Furthermore, SpeedETab can use the fact that it has so many competitors to capitalize on the way that it streamlines mobile ordering from many venues into just one simple app. This way, instead of users having pages of mobile ordering applications on their phones, they can maximize their efficiency by just having one, SpeedETab. So remember, use your competitors’ similarities to further highlight your unique factors.

Team dynamics. To be successful in any venture, it is essential to have a diverse yet coherent team. At the inception of many startups, entrepreneurs often find themselves wearing many hats: that of a brand ambassador, marketing executive, operations director, financier, product developer, etc. While it may seem invigorating at first, this causes many entrepreneurs to burn out quickly, thus making their startup suffer. In a tech-centered business, it is often beneficial to have one cofounder who handles the business aspect and one who focuses on product development and technology. After acquiring the necessary funds, however, cofounders must recruit a structured team of specialists and delegate tasks to ensure that the company’s goals are met in an efficient manner. Communication amongst team members is necessary to make sure all team members are connected and aware of the company’s overall progress and direction. Good leaders should also focus on seeing that relationships between colleagues are both professional and amicable.

Want to gain more advice from leading entrepreneurs? Come to Startup Grind Miami’s next event on June 13. More information will be on StartupGrind.com/miami.

Rhiya Mittal is a student at the University of Miami, currently pursuing a Bachelor of Science degree in Neuroscience along with minors in Chemistry, Health Sector Management & Policy, and Marketing. She hopes to work on further merging the fields of healthcare and marketing and attend medical school in the future. Reach her at RhiyaMittal@gmail.com

May 25, 2016

Calling all healthcare entrepreneurs and innovators

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By Christian Seale

If you are reshaping the future of healthcare, Startupbootcamp Digital Health wants to meet you. And offer our help.

With our partners at the Knight Foundation, Nicklaus Children’s Hospital, the University of Miami Health System, Univision and Microsoft we are building Miami into a global hub for healthcare innovation. We encourage you to join us.

As part of our mission to find the best healthcare entrepreneurs globally and plug them into Miami’s growing ecosystem, we have traveled to over 20 cities to meet fearless, ambitious and extraordinary founders like yourself. If you haven’t already, reach out and set up a virtual or in person office hours in Miami.

Our applications close on June 10. So, the time to act is now!

We are looking for entrepreneurs working at the intersection of healthcare and technology and focused on making our healthcare system more equitable, efficient and accessible for all.

Our promise is simple: you will achieve one year of progress in three months. Take a look at the over 300 startups that have already done so.

For the companies selected to our program we will provide seed funding, mentorship, six months of free office space in the heart of Miami, in kind-services from Google Cloud, Amazon Web Services, Salesforce for Startups, Intel and Paypal and access to the most relevant network of corporate clients, investors and mentors.

During our program, you will interact with national network of healthcare providers and insurers including Ascension, Nicklaus Children’s Hospital, Jackson Health System, the University of Miami Health System, Duke University Health System, Mount Sinai, MD Anderson Cancer Center, Florida Blue, Aetna and Healthways among many others. Over 100 mentors will help you refine, grow and scale your business and prepare you to present at our 400+ attendee Demo Day in Miami.

We invite you to join us as we build Miami into a globally recognized hub for innovation and together transform the future of healthcare.

We look forward to hearing from you.

Christian Seale is Founder and Managing Director of startupbootcamp Miami. Follow on Twitter @sbchealth. For more information, email digitalhealth@startupbootcampdotcom.

Read More: Startupbootcamp chooses Miami for first U.S. accelerator

May 24, 2016

3 tips for training your startup salesforce

By Mark Crofton

MarkcroftonI wrote  an earlier blog post here  on 4 sales tips for startups. Since then, I’ve had the opportunity to speak to many more early-stage Miami companies as well as take a new role leading a global sales training program. Here are (just) three tips based on those experiences:

1. Sales can be taught

It’s an age old assertion: Salesmen are “born, not made.” In fact, many people have told me that I’m a “natural” sales person or that I was “born” with all the attributes and talent to be a salesperson. Yet the truth is that while there are many attributes or traits which correlate to success in sales --such as enjoying interacting with others, ability to express oneself well-- there are also numerous skills to be learned to effectively run an enterprise sales cycle.

Few people enter this world intuitively knowing the best techniques for generating new opportunities, qualifying those opportunities, identifying all the relevant decision makers/influencers/stakeholders, or negotiating tactics. This is especially true if your early stage company is selling a product or solution that is even marginally complex to another business, as is an enterprise sale. The good news? There is a wealth of material, research and documentation on what works and doesn’t work in enterprise sales. You certainly can be taught the necessary skills.

2. Don't set and forget. Learning is an ongoing thing

Another well-known tenet in sales is that things change. Whether it’s your product, the competition, or the way your customer buys, if you don’t continuously give your sales team learning opportunities to catch up with change, they risk falling behind. At that point, it’s not only about losing to the competition, but the fact that their hard-earned customers simply won’t buy from them anymore, because they aren’t selling the way the customer buys.

Consider a fundamental way that selling has changed: determining where in the sales cycle to engage customers. When I began selling 20 years ago, most sales cycles began with a customer telling me about his challenges or problems. I would then look into my sales bag and present a solution, or better yet, several solutions that would solve his problem. I’d explain what each product did and how it would addresses his problem. The customer didn’t know very much about my products or often even about what was available in the market place. There was asymmetrical information: I knew a lot about my products and the customer generally knew considerably less. I was essentially engaging my customer in the early stages of the sales cycle.

Fast forward to today: It’s often the case that by the time the customer calls your sale rep, she understands their problem, is familiar with your product, as well as your competitors’, and has read all the reviews. She is simply much further along in the buying cycle. Therefore, the approach to the customer is different, and you need to provide your sales executive the ongoing training to sell accordingly.

3. Measure the impact, and then course-correct

Training your sales force is probably going to be a costly endeavor, both in terms of money and time. In addition, if you consider the cost of being out of the field, and not selling while occupied in class, the true cost can be much higher. So, why do so many organizations fail to track their return on this important investment?

In companies where I have worked, we compared the performance of a sales executive who took the new-hire onboarding class, versus those who did not. The data helped determine that it was a good use of his/her first week on the job, and this information was also used to convince other managers of new hires to make the investment. Ultimately, this could have an important impact for the company.

However, it is also valuable, but generally much more difficult, to track the effect of a single course. For example, what happens two quarters after your sales executives took a new Prospecting class? Was pipeline multiple affected? If not, is it necessary to eliminate the class or perhaps retool it? Having the right data on hand for instructional re-design is critical, as well as incorporating specific feedback to help course-correct.

As you consider your ongoing investment in your sales team, don’t forget to factor in some time and budget for training. If you follow these 3 tips, investment is sure to pay off.

Mark Crofton is a Vice-President at SAP SE. He is a leader of the SAP Academy, the global sales training program for developing the next generation of SAP sales executives. Mark is also involved locally in Miami mentoring and advising startups.

Read more: Four sales tips for startups

 

 

 

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May 17, 2016

Startup Weekend Education @ FIU: And the winners are ...

By @MarioCruz

What an amazing honor to be a Judge with Startup Weekend Education (#swedumiami) at FIU this past Sunday, May 15. The judges heard pitches from 8 teams, some teams with members as young as elementary school students.

The pitches were phenomenal and the amount of work these teams put in such a short amount of time was impressive. The best pitches clearly communicated the value proposition of the idea, had a simple prototype or flow that showed how the product or service would work, and addressed the business potential and educational impact of the concept. The prize winners were as follows:

Here are the top three winners:

1st Place: Liber-P, an Online/Offline content delivery platform that allows inmates to gain access to bridge the skills of higher education and help them prepare for the 21st century workforce. As a prize, three team members from Liber-P will be traveling next year to South-by-Southwest EDU in Austin, with flights and hotel covered!

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2nd Place: Blueprint Created a tool to help students set academic goals, understand their GPA and its determinants, and provide them with a suite of resources that will ultimately improve their life trajectory.

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3rd Place: @BookCloud Making education more affordable by offering unlimited e-textbooks to students on a subscription model.

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The judges also named Beyond the Grade with “Education Impact Award,” as an honorable mention. Beyond the Grade’s mission was to focus on growth, not grades, and created a parallel grading tool for schools and districts.

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Congratulations, not only to our winning teams but to everyone who participated this past weekend. A big thank you to The Knight Foundation for making the weekend possible as well as the mentors, volunteers and other judges (pictured below) who contributed so much to make Startup Weekend Education such a huge success.

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May 10, 2016

Raising money through a portal may be better route than crowdfunding

By Jason Stark

Jason starkWe know how difficult and time consuming capital raising is for a new startup, and South Florida is no exception.  It takes vital time from a founder’s schedule.  You of course should try the local investor groups like Endeavor, the Knight Foundation, AGP Miami, New World Angels and Tamiami Angels.  However, those efforts may not net you the vital funding you need.

What else can you do?  Give up?  Of course not.  In the glacial world of the securities laws, we now have CROWDFUNDING.  Well, that at least is the word on everyone’s mind.  I will help clarify distinction between Crowdfunding (which finally begins on May 16, 2016), and using Internet portals to raise through traditional accredited investor offerings.  You may find that you may be really interested in raising through an Internet portal, but not through Crowdfunding. 

Below I describe various pre-IPO fundraising options.  The Rule 506(c) offering may be the sweet spot for your capital raise.  Rule 506(c) permits general solicitation (advertising), which allows an Internet portal to communicate your offer to its accredited investor base, but without your company jumping through all the hoops required under Regulation Crowdfunding. 

By “Internet portal”, I mean an online marketplace that facilitates the sale of securities.  Examples include SeedInvest, Circle-up and Crowdfunder.  This differs from Kickstarter (which allows companies to fundraise through the pre-sale of a product or outright donations), by permitting the actual sale of stock through the Internet.    

A year ago, I had worked with clients on zero Internet portal deals.  Over the past few months, we’ve seen them more and more frequently.  Clients that were not able to find adequate funding elsewhere have found new life through small Rule 506 rounds using Internet portals. 

Pre-IPO Fundraising Options under the Securities Laws

Raising money through Internet portals requires compliance with the same securities laws as traditional fundraising.  Below is a brief description of the most commonly used exemptions, and a cost/benefit analysis of each. 

Rule 506(b) is the typical exemption used in venture capital deals that was available long before JOBS Act 506(c) and Regulation Crowdfunding.  It permits raising unlimited capital from accredited investors (generally, a person with $200k income ($300k with a spouse) or $1 million in assets, excluding the value of such person’s home).  Under this exemption, an issuer may sell its securities to accredited investors and up to thirty-five sophisticated non-accredited investors (however, if you have even one non-accredited investor, you will need to provide disclosure documents (i.e., now you must prepare an offering memorandum with financial statements and we’re looking at a more expensive round)).  

Rule 506(c) is similar to the traditional 506(b) accredited investor offering.  The major benefit to 506(c) is advertising the round (which allows an Internet portal to reach out to its investors).  The additional requirements compared to 506(b) are reasonable: a simple Form D must be filed 15 days in advance of the deal instead of after the deal; and accreditor investor status must be verified using records like W-2’s, tax returns and bank statements (under 506(b), you could rely on self-reporting by the investor).  The Internet portal should already have the procedures in place to verify accredited investor status, and therefore, if you are raising through an Internet portal, it should not be too much more difficult to conduct a 506(c) offering than a 506(b). 

Regulation Crowdfunding allows the sale of securities to almost anyone, and not just the small minority of accredited investors.  A major benefit.  However, there are significant new requirements not required for a 506 offering, including the following:

  • * Maximum of $1 million raised through crowdfunding in any 12-month period.
  • * Reporting and financial disclosure requirements (information regarding the offering, the company and its financials), for rounds over $100k, financial statements that in some cases are reviewed by an accountant and in others, audited, plus ongoing disclosure requirements.
  •  * Limits to the amount an investor may invest through Crowdfunding based on income.
  •  * Limited advertising (only may directing to the funding portal and limited factual terms).
  •  * The issuer must be a U.S. company.

 

Other Offerings.  There are a few other private offering methods that you might consider, but that are not available through Internet portals.  Regulation S may be used if the offering is made entirely to non-U.S. citizens/residents and the securities are offered outside the U.S.  Regulation A+ is often used for larger rounds, given that it requires certain offering documents and filings (somewhat like a mini-IPO – also expensive compared to 506 offers). 

For more specifics on these exemptions, check with your attorney.  See also: https://www.sec.gov/answers/rule506.htm regarding Regulation D, Rule 506(b) and 506(c); https://www.sec.gov/news/pressrelease/2015-249.html regarding Regulation Crowdfunding; and https://www.investor.gov/news-alerts/investor-bulletins/investor-bulletin-accredited-investors for a description of accredited investors. 

Deciding whether to fund raising through an Internet Portal

When deciding whether to fund raise through an Internet portal, you must weigh the benefit of quicker access to investors and valuable time savings (locating and speaking with such investors, networking, meeting with Angel groups, etc.) against the associated fees (some combination of cash and equity).  An Internet portal develops its own database of accredited investors - a very helpful resource you could not hope to replicate.  Regarding services, some Internet portals are more involved and help run and champion the round, while others are more like LinkedIn for investors and just provide access.  Make sure to do your research on the Internet portal’s network of accredited investors, the services provided and the fees.

Summary

Internal portals can be a great way to raise money.  Certainly explore all your options, but using an Internet portal can save you quite a bit of your precious time and sanity, and that may well be worth the cost.  Don’t get caught up in the whole “Crowdfunding” concept.  Traditional offerings to accredited investors may well provide an easier fundraising avenue with significantly less hoops to jump through, and may be accomplished through an Internet portal, the same as for Crowdfunding.

Jason Stark is a partner at Private Advising Group, P.A., a law firm in Miami.  Jason is an attorney (and also is a non-practicing certified public accountant) who advises emerging and growth companies.  He can be reached at Jason@private-advising.comThe information in this article is provided for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice.  You should not act or rely on any information contained in this article without first seeking the advice of an attorney.