July 29, 2017

Argentina to Miami, a bridge worth building (Part 7)

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A Q&A with Alejandro Mainetto, Partner of Globant, a multinational company that creates innovative software products for brands, about Globant's footprint in Miami, collaboration and making Miami a living tech lab.

By Natalia Martinez-Kalinina

Miami has a ways to go before we can truly claim the title of regional epicenter, but Argentina has long been recognized as one of the primary entrepreneurial - albeit not particularly stable - ecosystems in Latin America. Figuring out how to support Argentina’s wave of growth and appetite for engagement represents a unique opportunity to add value to the region and truly deliver on our vision as a gateway.

As a first step to test these waters, a group of us came together last year  to co-author a full day of programming within StartupWeekBuenosAires - the largest event of its kind in Latin America-  specifically focused on how to engage with the U.S. ecosystem and market by way of Miami. From the CIC Miami perspective, we have been working to build tangible bridges with Argentina though a handful of partnerships that will be announced in the next few months, in addition to our general softlanding offering. But most recently, a few interested entrepreneurs have come together with the support of the Argentine Consulate in Miami to create a better toolkit for entrepreneurs and small companies looking to come to Miami from their native country. We are still finalizing the framework, but anyone interested in participating or learning more can email EmprendedoresArgMia@gmail.com

Glonbant_0888Given the aligned priorities and interests, it seemed worthwhile to continue featuring  interviews with a varied range of Argentine entrepreneurs and companies making their way to Miami. The first installments of this series have featured interviews with Balloon Group, Wolox, La Comunidad, and Oasis, Juana de Arco, and Socialmetrix. For this installment, we spoke with Alejandro Mainetto (pictured here) to shine a light on a major regional player, Globant, where he is a Partner.

Globant is a powerhouse of a company in Argentina and the region. What was the genesis story for the company? What has been the trajectory of growth these last years?

Globant's history began in 2003, when four friends got together with the idea of creating an multinational company that could provide innovative IT services to brands across the world, while offering challenging career opportunities for IT professionals and talent. In just 12 years they built a company that today has more than 6,000 professionals working for companies like Google, LinkedIn, JWT, EA and Coca Cola, among others. Globant’s story has also been selected as a case study at MIT and Stanford.

What’s next - how do you see the company’s future growth and development?

Globant continues being focused in becoming a global digital thought leader, in creating software that appeals and connects emotionally with millions of consumers. We seek to deliver the optimal blend of engineering, design, and innovation to harness the potential of emerging technologies for our clients. While engineering is central to information technology, only by combining strong engineering capabilities with creativity and agility can we deliver innovative solutions that enhance end-user experiences while meeting our clients’ business needs.

We take a dive into our customers industry, culture, challenges and goals in order to understand their business. The harmonious integration future trends and existing IT, infrastructure, services and applications is a critical enabler of any Digital Transformation process.

The US is currently a big focus of expansion - Globant has recently made four acquisitions in the US in a very short period of time and we continue to increase the number of people we hire in key markets for us such as Seattle, Dallas, Raleigh, Orlando and also Miami. Finally, Globant will also expand and grow by continuing to invest in key emerging technologies such as Artificial Intelligence, Internet of Things, Virtual Reality and Blockchain among others. In order to fuel this growth we strive to find the best talent possible - hopefully we'll find that talent coming from places such as South Florida and in particular Miami.

What is Globant’s footprint/engagement with Miami? Why did it choose to come here?

Globant has had a presence in Miami for the last 8 years working with several of the most important corporations in the city and the state of Florida. We are a global leader in advising clients in the travel and hospitality, financial services and healthcare industries - all big industries in Miami - We are currently working with many of the largest leaders in cruise lines, hospitality, entertainment, and software. However, the potential is still very large in terms of the number of companies that we could be helping in the South Florida area. We need to do a better job in getting the Globant brand and our capabilities recognized in the Miami market. We came to Miami because we believed in the city, the clients we could serve, its growing talent and specially its potential and what Miami could become one day.


What kinds of opportunities were you looking for here? What aspects or risks worried you? How have those played out over your time in Miami?

We were looking for opportunities to help companies become true transformational leaders in their own industries, we were looking to gain a presence in a city that could quickly become a tech hub within the US and the tech hub for Latin America, and finally we were also looking to establish a presence in a State which traditionally has been very pro business and easy to do business with.

How do you see Miami today? What works, what surprises you, what frustrates you? How have you found your industry reflected here?

It's a different Miami than the one from 5 years ago. A lot has happened and a lot more will continue to happen. - Places like co-working spaces came, innovation districts like CIC came, conference events like Emerge Americas came, accelerators and incubators came, powerful startups such as Magic Leap came, the money came but most importantly the talent came and the talent stayed.

Miami works because it's like putting together NYC, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Buenos Aires and Rio de Janeiro all in one. Its weather, its lifestyle, its location - all major pluses, it's a good kept secret, but not for long. What surprises me, is that it still hasn't been able to attract bigger Fortune 500 companies and it hasn't built a new top technology and engineering education institution. The tech, creative and marketing industry which today has converged into a Digital Industry is not yet well represented, which is a huge opportunity for those who are smart enough to settle and lay roots in Miami - The city, the county and the state need to collectively join forces to attract more digital companies, more tech universities and more digital jobs.

What can Miami do better to become a truly value-adding “hub” for the region? (in your industry and in general)

I have written extensively about this and it goes back to five key points:

1) Need for a true coalition of government, corporate, vc, startups, academia and the community led by a set of progressive leaders

2) Need for development of innovation districts and the need for creating concentrated hubs/tech parks of technology and digital companies

3) Build a world class public transportation system and build somewhat affordable housing around these innovation districts

4) Make Miami a Living Tech Lab - Become the Smart City Poster Child, become the Autonomous Self-Driving Capital of the World, etc.

5) Become obsessed about marketing the Miami Tech brand, its value proposition and reward those who take a bet in Miami.

How has it worked to have your company straddling Miami and Buenos Aires (and the US and Latin America overall)? Any lessons or advice for companies exploring similar moves?

It's has worked very well - There is a natural magnetic connection between Latam and Miami - Miami is both aspirational and inspirational. While our company is a global company, we find it hard for anyone to say no when we ask them to come work and spend some time in Miami. However, the key is in committing, betting and investing on it.

The advice I would give companies or entrepreneurs is to commit to Miami, leverage its virtues when hiring talent and finally get deeply involved in the transformation of the city.

Organizations like Endeavor have talked at length about the “Argentine Model,” but Argentina is also a country that has lived through rocky political and economic cycles. Is there something Miami can learn from the Argentine case study?

Miami can learn from Buenos Aires and many other cities in Latin America - From Buenos Aires you can learn about tenacity and hard work, about staying the course even when things may not be going right or you may be living under a not so ideal environment. It can also learn about the perseverance, vision and risk taking ability of the unicorns that Buenos Aires has produced - Globant being one of those. Miami can learn that "Si se Puede" - It's Possible.     

Do you see potential for collaboration and bridge-building between the entrepreneurial ecosystem and the creative economies in Buenos Aires and Miami? Why or why not?

Absolutely - I think, there are ways to formalize the informal collaboration and bridge-building that has been established already but much more can be done. Miami can make Buenos Aires a sister city and offer an immediate presence here to all key Argentinian technology firms. Miami could become the epitome of how easy it can be to do business in the US.  Miami companies should have the ability to penetrate Latin America by easily establishing their Latam HQ's in Buenos Aires. Co-working spaces and innovation districts have an opportunity to collaborate and forge exchange partnerships. The sky is the limit.


Natalia Martinez-Kalinina is the General Manager of CIC Miami and the Founder of Awesome Foundation MIAMI, and co-Founder of Aminta Ventures. If you are an Argentine company looking to expand to Miami or a Miami-based entrepreneur/investor looking to connect with the argentine ecosystem, please reach out to Natalia at martinez@cic.us. Past installments of this series can be found here: Balloon Group, Wolox, La Comunidad, and Oasis, Juana de Arco, and Socialmetrix.

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June 15, 2017

Wanted: 'Fearless, ambitious and extraordinary entrepreneurs' for startupbootcamp Miami

 

By Christian Seale

Today, we are excited to announce the launch of applications for the second cohort of our digital health innovation program, startupbootcamp Miami.

If you share our passion and vision to transform healthcare, we want to meet you. Apply here!

We are a year older and have assembled an even deeper bench of local and national healthcare providers, insurers, pharma companies, industry leaders and top-tier healthcare investors committed to helping you refine and scale your companies.

Boot1Last year our program resulted in multiple implementations, customer contracts and financings for our portfolio companies from the likes of Miami Children’s Health System, University of Miami, Florida Blue, Jackson Health System, Univision and many others (read more here). Local entrepreneur Wolf Shlagman, CEO of CareAngel and founder of Consult-a-Doc (sold to Teladoc and Kleiner Perkins) highlighted: "the program surpassed our expectations and resulted in multiple customer contracts and venture financing. I highly recommend this program to any serious entrepreneur looking to take their healthcare business to the next level."  (pictured here: Rene Lerer, President Florida Blue, discusses healthcare reform with Startupbootcamp entrepreneurs.)

We encourage you to apply and accelerate your business. We are looking for fearless, ambitious and extraordinary entrepreneurs working at the intersection of healthcare and technology with proven and tested models and committed to making our system more equitable, efficient and accessible for all. If chosen to participate, you will receive funding, implementation and contract opportunities, mentorship from our dedicated expert network, office space and a comprehensive suite of portfolio and in-kind services.

We are proud to be part of Miami’s growing entrepreneurial ecosystem recently named the top city in startup activity by the Kauffman Foundation and grateful to be recognized by Inc. for our work to build the city into a globally recognized hub for healthcare innovation.

We invite you to join us and our partners at the Knight Foundation, Miami Children’s Hospital and many others as we build Miami into a globally recognized hub for innovation and together transform the future of healthcare. If you are a healthcare entrepreneur, please reach out and set up a time for virtual office hours.

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@startupbootcamp.com.

 

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Shane Battier, NBA and NCAA Champion, shared leadership lessons with Startupbootcamp entrepreneurs.

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Dr. Maurice Ferre Jr., Co-Founder of Mako Surgical and CEO of Insightec, shares lessons on building and selling a company with Startupbootcamp entrepreneurs.

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A panel discusses the future of digital health in South Florida at Startupbootcamp’s Demo Day. From left: Christian Seale of Startupbootcamp, Jaret Davis of Greenberg Traurig, Elizabeth Lopez of Miami Children’s Health System and Juan Ortiz of Sonas Home Health Care.

Photos provided by startupbootcamp Miami

 

May 28, 2017

How to be selected for cohort 3 at StartUP FIU

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Pitch Day for StartUP FIU's Cohort 2

By Robert Hacker

StartUP FIU has just opened applications for the third cohort of its Empower Accelerator. The first two cohorts each received over 150 applications and we expect the same number by the June 11 deadline. The new cohort will begin the formal 14-week accelerator program in September and there is no cost or equity position given to participate. The program is open to both social and traditional entrepreneurs and their early stage companies.

The question we are most frequently asked is how can I improve the chances of being selected for the StartUP FIU accelerator.

 Coachability

We have interviewed over 90 applicants, worked with another 60 entrepreneurs that did not necessarily apply and advised the 39 teams comprising Cohorts I and II. The first thing all our staff are trained to look for is coachability--can the entrepreneur listen to critical feedback, thoughtfully consider it and make a reasoned adjustment. Every team in the program is assigned at least one mentor and these seasoned entrepreneurs are a critical success factor in incubators and accelerators worldwide. If the entrepreneur is not able to demonstrate they can take critical feedback from mentors and staff, their likelihood of commercial success and acceptance to the program is much lower.

 Problem Validation

Everyone who applies to Empower has a concept for a new business. Many applicants have a prototype or a beta, particularly the engineers. Surprisingly few have talked to potential customers about their problem, pain or need. After coachability, the next characteristic we look for is a demonstration of customer knowledge gained in the market. Of course, the best demonstration of customer knowledge may be revenue.

 Uniqueness

Competitive advantage, barriers to entry, what Warren Buffet calls moats--these are all descriptions of the same factors that can create value for customers and particularly shareholders. Perhaps the simplest way to demonstrate uniqueness is to describe the founder’s insight about the customer or problem that the company is addressing. Another effective technique is to describe the technology and simply describe how it is proprietary.

 Team

Entrepreneurship is the epitome of a team endeavor, hopefully beginning with co-founders and then building out the minimally necessary technical and management team. In our experience, companies with a team already established get more benefit out of the program and make more progress.

As we progress with the Empower Accelerator, we encounter an insatiable demand for all aspects of the entrepreneurship experience.  We are excited to be a part of Miami’s entrepreneurial support network and will continue to iterate to be able to offer different services for the multiple needs of the community and FIU.

Robert Hacker is the Director of StartUP FIU and teaches social entrepreneurship at FIU, MIT and UM. He is the former CFO of One Laptop per Child and prior to that built a publicly traded billion-dollar company in seven years in Indonesia. His books on entrepreneurship and social entrepreneurship are available on Amazon.

 

May 27, 2017

Calling all Miami area creators: WeWork holding regional contest awarding $1.5M+ in grants open to all

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The way we work is changing and WeWork believes that the way we recognize and reward work must change too. Miami entrepreneurs, SMBs, non-profits, artists or anyone with a great idea are eligible to compete for a grant from the $1.5 million-plus prize pool available at the Creator Awards South Regional Finals in Austin over June 27. But hurry, the application deadline is June 12.

What's exciting about the opportunity is that it's open to everyone (WeWork members, non-members, all industries, all stages, even folks who may just have a good idea) and that beyond the financial awards there will be a full day of public programming in Austin. This is the first year of what will become an annual program. 

Grants from $18,000 to $360,000 will be awarded in three categories: Incubate (ideas or projects); Launch (startups and nonprofits that have launched but still learning); and Scale (a record of success, ready for next level).  

Winners have ranged from a nonprofit teaching tech skills to low income individuals, to a new coalition of journalists who improve care for Alzheimers patients by writing their life stories, to a new trading platform for sustainable agriculture. (See photo from Washington DC regional event below)

"WeWork wants to honor all types of creators from entrepreneurs to artists to nonprofits. There are incredible things happening and big ideas being born in Miami every day,” said Adam Wacenski, WeWork’s General Manager for the South. “The Creator Awards is a new opportunity to share their ideas, connect with other creators and hopefully win a grant that can make a real difference in their work and in their life."

Here are the details:

WHAT: Entries are now open for the Creator Awards, a new global initiative from WeWork that will award $20 million-plus to entrepreneurs who are thinking in new ways, building fresh projects and achieving real change across all industries.

Miami applicants are eligible to compete for $1.5 million-plus at the Austin Regional Finals on June 26 and 27 and have the opportunity to advance to the Creator Awards Global Finals in New York in November where additional prizes will be awarded.

WHO: WeWork, a global platform for creators with 140+ locations including Miami, Miami Beach, Dallas, Austin, Atlanta and coming soon to Houston, Nashville and Kansas City

WHERE: Residents of Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and West Virginia

WHEN: Application Deadline: June 12

Creator Awards South Regional Finals: June 27

In addition to financial awards, the South Regional Finals brings together everything it takes to make a life, not just a living. The public event will include a pop-up market with local sellers, a series of master classes and workshops, a job fair as well as live pitches and an awards ceremony and celebration.

HOW: To apply or to nominate others: https://creatorawards.wework.com/

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Photo taken at a WeWork Creator Awards regional finals event in Washington DC. Photo provided by WeWork. 

 

May 26, 2017

Collaboration, community support key in successful Startup Weekend Education: And the winners are ...

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By Kiesha Moodie

And the winners are….

MoodieThis past weekend, a collaborative effort between TechStars, Teach For America, StartUP FIU, FIU Office of Engagement and FIU’s School of Computing and Engineering hosted the 2nd annual Startup Weekend Education edition. This year's theme will be "Creating solutions to improve equity in education." The 54-hour event brought together over 50 passionate educators, students, technologists, lawyers, advocates and entrepreneurs to design new solutions that attacked inequities in education. The weekend was made possible by the generous support of Knight Foundation and led by co-organizers Kiesha Moodie of Teach For America, Caryn Lavernia of FIU Office of Engagement and Wifredo Fernandez of StartUP FIU.

On Friday night, 39 different ideas were pitched, and a final nine were voted most popular and teams formed around them. Throughout Saturday and most of Sunday, these diverse teams, some led by middle schoolers like Nichole Ruiz from Dr. Rolando Espinosa K-8 Center and high schoolers Avery Rafilovich and Garret Goodman from Western High in Davie.

On Saturday, teams were coached up by local entrepreneurs, tech community leaders, and education specialists. A big thank you to Daniela Cadena and Giselle LaTorre from StartUP FIU, Juan Lopez Salaberry from MentorDay, Matt Mawhinney from LaunchCode, Willie Avendano from Zero1, Brian Brackeen of Kairos, Gianfranco Colombi of Goddard Robotics, Bailey Farrell of Ransom Everglades School and Leandria Vickers of FIU.

The final ideas were:

  • HustleSprouts: an educational program to fight food injustice by empowering students as food entrepreneurs while activating underutilized school gardens.
  • StandOutBio: A digital professional platform for high school and college students, designed by and for Generation Z.
  • IntelliDesk: Making it easy for students to give teachers feedback on their lessons while encouraging quiet students to ask questions privately.
  • FitMental: Tackling the bullying problem in schools through evidence-based curriculum, games and wearable devices that make schools safer.
  • BillTrax: a mobile-first bill tracker designed for teachers and first-time voters
  • iHav: an artistic contest platform to raise awareness for refugees
  • CashFlow: an online financial literacy gaming and simulation tool, with ability to open real accounts
  • myIEP: a tool to help teachers, counselors, and parents easily track and manage student Individual Education Plans
  • Votty: a college-advisor chat bot produced by the Viery Academy team (did not pitch)

On Sunday evening, an esteemed panel of judges had the fun but challenging task of evaluating the viability and promise of the newly formed startups. Diana Santangelo, Director of Education at United Way of Miami-Dade was astonished at how much progress had been made in the short weekend sprint, saying “I thought these teams had been working for weeks!” Provost and Executive Vice President of FIU Dr. Kenneth Furton added: “It was great to see FIU faculty, Ph.D., and undergraduate students ideating alongside diverse stakeholders from the education community.” Dr. Lupe Diaz, Executive Director of Career Technical Education, was “excited to continue conversations with runner-up HustleSprouts,” a team of educators based out of her own Turner Tech. Maxeme Tuchman, CEO of Caribu and veteran educator, said of the winner ‘myIEP’, “if I could write a check right now to see them take the idea further, I would.”

Thankfully, the road does not end here for the teams. Cambridge Innovation Center has offered the top three teams co-working space to continue working on their ideas.

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Winner ‘myIEP’ (pictured above) will be granted 3-months of membership as part of CIC’s Operation Launch Program.

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2nd and 3rd Place HustleSprouts (pictured above) and StandOutBio (pictured below) will each be granted one month of membership.

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The five ‘myIEP’ team members will also be heading to South by Southwest Education next year, courtesy of the conference producers and Teach For America Miami-Dade.

Stay tuned for what is in store for our teams as they continue to launch equitable ventures that positively disrupt education.

Kiesha Moodie is an architect of strategic solutions, a community engagement specialist, and a committed advocate for equity. She was one of the co-organizers for Startup Weekend EDU Miami. Follow her on Twitter @kieshamoodie 

May 24, 2017

In the battle of incumbents and insurgents, collaboration and inclusion will set Miami innovators apart

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By Saif Y. Ishoof 

Saif"Social infrastructure enables Innovation & Disruption"---Ime Archibong, vice president, Partnerships, Facebook. This was the resounding message and charge from our opening keynote at Innovate Miami (pictured above).

Startup companies are known as the insurgents, competing against established incumbents that include corporations, government and institutions. A battle of institutions versus innovators becomes a zero-sum game. 

We know that the forces of Disruption don't have to be negative; collaboration and inclusion can bring benefits to our economy as a whole. We can make this happen in the 305.

That was the theme of the first ever “Innovate Miami: A Catalyst for Disruption Summit” hosted by the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce Disruption Workgroup.  The Disruption Workgroup was created as part of the vision of GMCC chair and president of FIU, Mark B. Rosenberg, to create collisions between established businesses and the innovators that call Miami home: across a wide range of sectors represented by our Technology, Resilience, Innovation/Entrepreneurship & Sharing Economy committees. 

Our convening provided a space for connections to evolve between innovators, legacy businesses, startups, students, and civic leaders, and allowed experts and upstarts to share their knowledge and insight.

The objective:  To prompt people to think about what market forces are driving disruption across a wide range of sectors and to harness the winds of disruption to drive impact in their respective sectors.

The main attraction of the event was Ime Archibong, the vice president for Partnerships at the king disruptor, Facebook. Archibong touched upon several points: using technology as a means to creating higher quality human interactions and not a mere end, in and of itself; how Facebook (now an incumbent) is working with local developers across the world to help develop their products; and some of Facebook’s newest endeavors including global connectivity, Oculus, artificial intelligence and Facebook at Work.

Afterwards, Archibong sat down with a group of 30 students from Miami Edison Senior High School, to talk about the work Facebook is doing with preparing the younger generation for tech, and how they could use the platform for their benefit. Some students asked about opportunities to be involved with Facebook, and others asked how they could use the platform for some of the initiatives they had formed, including a nonprofit that one student has already launched.

Our lunch was keynoted by one of Miami’s greatest innovators, Felecia Hatcher, founder of Black Tech Week and Code Fever. Hatcher has made it her mission to include historically under-represented communities in the innovation ecosystem. Her talk was centered around the idea that Miami can set itself apart as a mecca for innovators if it finds a way to authentically bring together the incumbents and insurgents. This will allow innovation accelerators to thrive here. The hard part: finding ways to include our entire population in our efforts and making sure that all of Miami has the same opportunities to participate.  

Overall, the message that resonated throughout the entire day was that collaboration is essential for the rise of Miami as a global and forward thinking city.

In Hatcher’s own words: “If your dream doesn’t include anyone else, it isn’t big enough.”

Saif Y. Ishoof is Chair of the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce Disruption Workgroup and Vice President for Engagement for Florida International University.

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The inaugural Innovate Miami: A Catalyst for Disruption Summit was hosted by the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce Disruption Workgroup. Photos were provided by the chamber workgroup. 

In connection with the Summit, the Chamber announced its Technology Companies of the Year awards. Here are the winners:

Best Use of Technology: Tesser Health

Disruptive Technology  Sensus Healthcare

Innovative Technology: Cybraics

Female Leader in Technology: Max Tuchman

Technology Entrepreneur of the Year: Chris Stegner

 

May 22, 2017

Florida Early Stage Capital Conference: And the winners are ...

SiteZeus  Tampa - First Place $75 000

The Florida Venture Forum and Space Florida announced the three top winners of the 10th Annual 2017 Florida Early Stage Capital Conference and Space Florida’s Accelerating Innovation prize, held at the Omni ChampionsGate in Orlando on May 19.  A total of 22 Florida-based companies from across the state and a variety of industry sectors were selected to present before an audience of investors, deal professionals and entrepreneurs. Ten startups from South Florida participated.

A panel of judges reviewed each selected company’s presentation and supporting materials. The top three cash prize winners were:

First Place $75,000 - SiteZeus, Tampa (www.sitezeus.com), pictured above, the new evolution in location intelligence, driven by exceptionally engineered big data systems and unparalleled data visualization technology.

Second Place $50,000 -  Auxadyne, Keystone Heights (www.auxadyne.com) has an exclusive licensing agreement with FSU for the design, manufacture and distribution of the first commercially available auxetic foam in a variety of medical device and protective equipment applications.

Third Place $25,000 - Admiral, Gainesville (www.getadmiral.com) offers an advanced adblock analytics and automatic revenue recovery. They provide a multi-faceted platform that enables publishers to size and solve the unique adblock problem presented by their unique userbase.

The 22 presenting companies were selected from a statewide pool of more than 130 applicants by a committee of active Florida venture capitalists and other investors. Space Florida provided the Accelerating Innovation prize money totaling $150,000.

“The Forum’s Early Stage Capital Conference set a few important records in 2017: our largest-ever number of applicants, record overall attendance and the largest investor attendance in the event’s 10-year history,” said Kevin Burgoyne, President and CEO of the Florida Venture Forum. “We take these milestones as very positive indicators of an increasingly robust and well-rounded early stage ecosystem. We congratulate our winning companies, and thank Space Florida for their strong support.”

In conjunction with the 2017 Early Stage Capital Conference, The Florida Venture Forum  also announced the three winners of the 7th Annual 2017 Statewide Collegiate Business Plan Competition, also held on May 19. A total of 13 universities from a cross section of Florida brought their top students to compete for best in the state. The top three winners were:

 Winner: Sensatek Propulsion Technologies, Reamonn Soto - Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, Fort Lauderdale

First Runner Up: Logentix LLC, Randy Lopez - Florida Polytechnic University, Lakeland

Second Runner Up: Spared, Ryan Lockwood - University of Tampa

 

 

May 17, 2017

Have an idea to improve equity in education? Team up and take it from pitch to prototype at Startup Weekend EDU this weekend!

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Participants in last years StartUP Weekend Education event. This year's event is Friday-Sunday. Register at http://bit.ly/swedumiami  

 

By Wifredo Fernandez

Want to know what it’s like to launch a company in a weekend? Do you have ideas for new educational tools, school models or learning spaces? Are you passionate about creating change in the education sector? Then join us this weekend, May 19-21!

Teach For America, StartUP FIU, FIU Office of Engagement and FIU School of Computing & Information Sciences have teamed up to host Startup Weekend EDU, a 54-hour event that takes you from pitch to prototype. We are looking for educators, technologists, designers, students and parents to develop new ideas that will impact the education system. The event is made possible by the generous support of Knight Foundation.

This year's theme will be "Creating solutions to improve equity in education." SWEDU Miami is a unique opportunity to experiment with all the necessary stakeholders in the South Florida education landscape. Join us to explore how innovation can disrupt inequities in education.

Friday night, individuals pitch their ideas, which are voted on and teams are formed. Saturday, expert mentors will be on site to coach teams through their prototyping and business modeling. Sunday, teams will pitch their solutions to an all-star panel of entrepreneurs, investors and education leaders. Registration fee includes breakfast, lunch, and dinner during scheduled programming, free SWEDU swag, access to industry leaders and mentors, and a suite of free trials and discounts from our Google Network Partners.

The event is free for students and parents. To register, head to http://bit.ly/swedumiami. With the support of the Knight Foundation we can provide Assistance Grants via ticketing that is available on a first come - first serve basis. If additional financial assistance is needed to support registration cost, please email miamiedu@startupweekend.org.

Mentors and Coaches:

Brian Brackeen, Founder & CEO - Kairos

Matt Mawhinney, Company Relations Manager - Launchcode

Juan Lopez Salaberry, Founder, MentorDay

Giselle Latorre, Community Outreach, StartUP FIU

Daniela Cadena, Social Innovation Manager, StartUP FIU

Willie Avendano, Co-Founder - Zero1 & Wynwood Maker Camp

Judges:

Dr. Kenneth Furton, Provost of Florida International University

Dr. Lupe Diaz, Executive Director, Department of Career and Technical Education - Miami Dade County Public Schools

Diana Santangelo, Director of Education, United Way of Miami-Dade

Maxeme Tuchman, CEO of Caribu 

May 04, 2017

How a 305 native became 'Crowdsourceress'

Hear Alex Daly read from her new book and share tips about crowdfunding at Books & Books on Friday.

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By Alex Daly

I grew up in Miami in the 1980s and ’90s, long before the invention of crowdfunding as we know it. My dad owned a company that created anti–money laundering software for banks and financial institutions, and my mom had her own company doing marketing for radio and television stations. Through my parents, I learned the value of hard work, which pushed me from job to job through different New York boroughs until I found my life’s work.

I never thought I’d be the industry’s “Crowdsourceress,” an expert in the field of crowdfunding. It wasn’t like I had a guidance counselor in college telling me I was perfectly suited to the role of “Kickstarter campaign manager.” And yet, just three years ago, I launched my company Vann Alexandra from my kitchen table in Brooklyn –– a creative services agency that helps clients raise money for their creative projects through crowdfunding. Since then, my team and I have managed over 50 crowdfunding campaigns across the design, technology, film, music, and publishing categories, raising over $20 million dollars for our clients from close to 100,000 backers worldwide.

The road here, like any entrepreneurial journey, was full of bumps and twists and turns. After college, I worked as a fact-checker for New York and WSJ. magazines. Then I tried my hand at film and worked as a production manager at a boutique documentary production company. My role included managing a team, working on several documentary projects, and writing lots of grants to raise money for these projects. Grant after grant after grant. So many grants. I was beginning to think this wasn’t the kind of work I wanted to be doing. 

Then one day an office mate I barely knew who was trying to raise money for his documentary asked me what I knew about Kickstarter. 

The short answer? Pretty much nothing. Still, I told him I was game to help. 

We planned the campaign on our lunch breaks and after work. Really, I knew almost nothing. I remember having to Google how to write a press release. But we worked really hard and launched a stellar project. When we went live on Kickstarter, we discovered there was a passionate audience who responded to our campaign and lept on board as backers. Meanwhile, we worked around the clock sending personal emails to friends and family and pitching press to cover the project. By the last day of the 30-day campaign, we surpassed our $35,000 goal by more than 150%, raising over $80,000.

I was immediately hooked. I managed another documentary campaign, and another. Both were successful. As word got out about my success rate, more creatives started coming to me for campaign management, and that’s around that time I was named the “Crowdsourceress” by the press. 

A big part of my job was connecting meaningfully with my clients, and gaining their trust by leveraging — or at least projecting — my growing expertise. I had to figure out what the essence of the project was so that I could talk about it effectively to potential backers. Then I had to frame the campaign pitch for those people — who were sitting at home online or swiping away on their phones — in a way that was so compelling that they couldn’t ignore it. I needed to give backers a feeling of real investment in these campaigns, and a sense that they were going to feel good about their donation. Over time, I was getting better and better at what I was doing.

Then one day, just two years after my first campaign, I got a text from my friend about handling a huge Kickstarter. The product was a high-resolution digital music device called the PonoPlayer, and the client was Neil Young. Yes, that Neil Young. 

I got the job and had to start immediately because the campaign was launching in just over a week. Then, for 35 days I managed Pono’s Kickstarter and helped them raise a whopping $6.2 million. At the time, it was the third highest funded Kickstarter project ever. 

It was after the Pono campaign wrapped that I finally realized it was time to launch a full-time, full-service agency. Since then, we have managed incredibly campaigns like the NYCTA and NASA Graphics Standards Manual reissues, TLC’s final album, the Joan Didion documentaryEric Ries’ Leader’s Guide, the Maya Angelou DocumentaryMakerarmBellingcat, the Today Clock, and many more. 

Now, I'm thrilled to share both my journey and top crowdfunding tips in my new book: The Crowdsourceress: Get Smart, Get Funded, and Kickstart Your Next Big Idea. This book will give you the tools not only to run your own successful crowdfunding campaigns, but also to build, launch, and grow your brand and your business. 

I will be reading and signing The Crowdsourceress at Books & Books in Coral Gables on Friday, May 5 at 7:00 pm. I hope to see you there!

Alex is the founder of Vann Alexandra and the industry’s “Crowdsourceress." Alex has shared her expertise at top film festivals, universities, and organizations, and is in the class of 2016’s Forbes 30 under 30.  

Find information on her book here: www.thecrowdsourceress.com

Find information on the Books & Books event here:

https://www.eventbrite.com/e/the-crowdsourceress-book-reading-and-signing-cinco-de-mayo-party-tickets 

Alexdalybook

March 30, 2017

View: My challenge to all Miamians

By Austin Rhoads

Austin Rhoads Headshot (1) (1)I moved to Miami sight unseen a few years ago.  I had never stepped foot in S. Florida, had no idea what I was getting myself into, and was an idealistic recent college grad who notoriously went to every single meet-up in town.

A lot has changed in the past 2.5 years but one thing hasn’t…  Miami has a perception problem.  We perceive our city, and more importantly, the caliber of our people as somehow inferior to other places.

I can’t tell you how many times per week I hear someone say they can’t find good talent in Miami.  Whether this involves the job search, volunteerism, or even the dating scene, the point remains the same.

We are caught in an endless cycle of downplaying our own resourcefulness and intelligence.  We have to stop it!  It’s like perpetually viewing our city as a glass half empty and doing nothing to make the situation better. 

Guess what?  The first step to solving our talent problem is to stop referring to it as a problem at all.

There are fascinating, talented human beings in this city.  There are jobs that will provide the challenge of a lifetime.  There are organizations catering to every last one of our obscure hobbies.  They just might be a little more difficult to find than in other cities.

I made a commitment to never again use the words “Miami lacks talent.”  I encourage all of you to do the same.

Here is my challenge to you:  Next time you’re on the verge of complaining about Miami, stop yourself, and make an introduction.  Introduce two people you know for no other reason than you care.

This is the easiest and fastest way to continue strengthening the network of our community.

I don’t want to hear that you don’t have time, don’t know enough people, aren’t capable of pressing the share contact button on your iPhone, etc.  I guarantee each of us knows at least one cool, talented person in town.  I’m sure our friends feel the same way.  So why not connect the dots?

Building a free Miami job referral network among my friends has been one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done in my life.  Until now, it required nothing more than a couple minutes per month and an email account.

You too can do the same.

Make one introduction per month, and you instantly propel us closer to creating the connected, engaged, and inspired community we all dream of.  Imagine if every Miamian made the same commitment?

I can’t wait to meet all of your new friends, work with your new colleagues, be at your weddings, and hear about your new hobbies.

Challenge accepted.

Austin Rhoads is the creator of the Miami Talent Pipeline and Managing Partner of Puente & Co, a global B2B sales and business expansion firm.  After graduating from Elon University, Austin moved down to Miami as a 2014 Venture For America Fellow.  @austinrhoads

READ MORE: My courtship with Miami