Deadline extended until May 2: Enter American Entrepreneurship Award contest now

The American Entrepreneurship Award business plan competition offers aspiring and early stage entrepreneurs the opportunity to win a share of $125,000 as well as free mentorship and business support services. The competition is available to entrepreneurs currently living in, currently operating in, or who plan to open or expand their businesses to the areas of The Bronx, New York and Miami-Dade County, Florida.

To enter this competition, please visit: and click the “Register Here” on the page. Follow the instructions to create a profile and you will be taken to the online application. Once you complete the online application, you will be entered into the contest.

The deadline to complete your application is  now 11:59 p.m. May 2 so start your application today!

For any questions about the application or the award please contact:

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



March 08, 2017

For HEICO's Victor Mendelson, Miami is a pro-business environment of optimists



By Alma Kadragic


As Co-President of HEICO – the world’s largest designer and maker of commercial aircraft replacement parts - Victor Mendelson likes to remind businesspeople here that Miami is “a town of small and smaller businesses” where entrepreneurs know how to “bounce back.” He cites his own company as an example of how creative reinvention can save a company and keep it growing.


In the closing address at Mapping Miami’s Financial Future, a signature event organized recently by the Miami Finance Forum, Mendelson described how HEICO changed direction repeatedly from its founding in 1957 as Heinicke Instruments, designing and selling lab equipment.


A merger in 1974 brought Heinicke into the aviation market, but the company also dabbled in other directions including a car wash system and medical diagnostics. The car wash turned out to destroy automotive paint. The medical technology was sold. By 1986 when the name was changed to HEICO Corporation, the company was in decline.


However, around that time the Mendelson family became involved when Victor’s father bought into HEICO. Eventually, he was able to take over the company and place his sons, Victor and Eric, in top management. Although no one had a background in aviation, that industry became the focus, and Victor himself invested $100,000 in HEICO in 1990, believing in its future success.


Along the way, HEICO got permission from the FAA to make generic parts for aircraft. That led to a lawsuit from United Technologies, which HEICO fought, believing in the family and being optimistic.  HEICO won the case, and today produces more than 10,000 aircraft parts.


With 4800 employees and 60 facilities in 20 states and 11 other countries, HEICO todayis a diversified aerospace, defense and electronics manufacturing and services company. It’s been named one of the “World’s Most Innovative Growth Companies” by Forbes.


Mendelson’s lessons for startups and entrepreneurs at any stage:

1.      Serve your customers – no room for failure

2.      Treat team members fairly

3.      Focus on cash, not accounting gimmicks

4.      Invest in the future – people and facilities


“We’re in the middle of the cycle,” says Mendelson about South Florida, meaning there’s every reason to remain optimistic and benefit from Miami’s diverse population, pro-business environment, and strong legacy of family business.


 Alma Kadragic is president of Alcat Communications International and president of the National Association of Women Business Owners Miami,

March 03, 2017

To boost the tech ecosystem, turn traders into thinkers

Albert Santalo, Tom Hudson

By Alma Kadragic

When a serial entrepreneur talks, it’s a good idea to listen if you’d like to have not only more tech entrepreneurs in Miami but also more who grow their companies into multi million dollar enterprises with the help of venture capital.

The problem in Miami, says Albert Santalo, is that it’s a city founded on trading with a trader mentality as opposed to hotbeds of technology development like Boston and Silicon Valley where the thinker mentality prevails.

Thinkers don’t care if a business fails. In fact, having been associated with a failed venture can be a badge of honor. What counts is being honest: better to fail than to cheat.

That’s the opposite of the trader mentality where staying in business is what counts, and sometimes that can involve some ethical fuzziness.

Santalo says, “It’s not hard to become a thinking economy. All it really takes is a lot of hard work, some good decisions, and some luck.”

Required elements include investment capital and overall support for entrepreneurs. “There’s no excuse for an entrepreneur not getting what he needs,” insists Santalo. He points out “much documentation exists” and mentions the site as a good source.

The secret of huge successes like Airbnb or Uber, according to Santalo, is that they were “small and scrappy” at the beginning and ready to grow or scale hugely. He was speaking during an interview with WLRNs Tom Hudson (pictured above) at Mapping Miami’s Financial Future, a signature event organized last week by the Miami Finance Forum.

Albert Santalo has started several tech companies that attracted substantial venture capital investments including Avisena, managing revenue cycles for doctors, and CareCloud, a cloud-based platform for healthcare. His current company Thrillient helps businesses utilize state-of-the-art payment and front-office technologies.

Santalo is a computer scientist and internet entrepreneur who has raised more than $100 million for companies he founded from angel and venture investors. When he says converting Miami into a thinking economy is feasible, we should be listening.

Alma Kadragic is president of Alcat Communications International and president of the National Association of Women Business Owners Miami,


February 26, 2017

Ironhack bootcamp gave me foundation to go all-in on building Stardom Up charity

By Lu Martinez

About six years ago, the tech bug bit me hard.

I Lu matrinez was a graduate of the University of Miami Law School and a licensed attorney. I worked as Chief Privacy Officer for Jackson Health System, where I had grown from a manager role and later became Director of Policies, Training and Education. From the outside view, my traditional career was growing. However, I realized a need to ramp up my technical abilities to better form, test, and scale ideas for new programs and innovations that I wanted to develop.  While I contemplated how to best be an intrapreneur within a large corporate setting, my long-term goal was contribute to society and help others.

In my free time, I co-founded a small, self-funded charity called Stardom Up, Inc. To accelerate my tech knowledge and apply it to Stardom Up, I enrolled in Ironhack, a bootcamp in Miami, which offers full-time and part-time courses in web development, coding, and design.  I created the initial version of as my final project during the Ironhack course in the summer of 2015.

Ironhack was the glue that brought my diverse skill sets and community impact aspirations together. Once I completed my Ironhack training, and after considering multiple factors and alternatives, I left my job in 2016 and devoted myself full-time to building Stardom Up.

Stardom Up creates educational programs to support student curiosity about technology and innovation. We're currently partnered with Miami-Dade County Public Schools, via Shenandoah Middle School in Miami, to enhance the STEAM (Science, Technology, Arts, Engineering, and Math) curriculum.  As the first and only program in the region to combine an online platform with in-person learning during school hours, Stardom Up expands students’ problem solving and critical thinking abilities and engages them into Miami’s growing tech community. We help prepare young talent for an unpredictable future.

Stardom Up is currently in the "scale up" phase at Shenandoah Middle School. It’s supported by Shenandoah’s administrators and teachers, as well as volunteers from Miami’s growing tech community.  Best of all, it generates results: along with helping them in their core subjects, the students in the program - especially girls - are fascinated by technology, innovation, and entrepreneurship, and have expressed their interest in pursuing careers in technology-related fields.

Our plan is to continue to collaborate with tech leaders and innovators in the community and engage at least 10,000 middle school students within the next five years. With approximately 80,000 middle schoolers in Miami-Dade County alone, there’s a lot of young talent we hope to nurture and inspire to become tomorrow’s technologists and innovators. It begins by showing them what’s possible, and by supporting their ambitions to become the community’s future stars.

Lu Martinez is the founder of Stardom Up.


February 13, 2017

Meet the investor: Next round of EDC angel connections series on March 14 to feature Las Olas Venture Capital

Enterprise Development Corporation is hosting the third in a series of investor/startup events meant to provide entrepreneurs valuable funding insights.  The event on Tuesday, March 14, will feature Las Olas Venture Capital and Partner, Mark Volchek.  

Volchek will meet in the afternoon with four selected companies from a growing company database of over forty companies.   Each company will receive feedback on their presentation, an initial interest level and specific advice in applying for formal consideration by Las Olas Venture Capital.  For entrepreneurs wishing to be considered for the one-on-one, please submit an executive summary and investor slide deck to by 2/27/17.

March 14th also hosts a public evening event, held at Mindwarehouse in downtown Miami from 5:30 – 8:00 p.m. where  Volchek will share with the audience general funding guidance for entrepreneurs as well as specific insights into Las Olas VC’s selection and funding process.  Register for the evening event at

At the previous event, DealCoachPro was one of six selected for a one-on-one with featured investor Tamiami Angel Funds.  According to Founder Erik Mintz  “The investor series event was a real opportunity for my startup.  I was able to participate in the one-on-one with Tim Cartwright of Tamimai Angels which was a meaningful experience with great feedback as to our fit with the Fund.”

The series combines one-on-one investor/startup introductions with an evening event for a broader audience of entrepreneurs.    The objective of these “capital Introductions” is to both help startups acquaint themselves with active Florida and non-Florida early stage investors and help investors identify South Florida’s best emerging investor-ready companies. 

Future events in this series will be ongoing throughout 2017, so please check for updates. 

- Submitted by the EDC

January 20, 2017

Why the Maker Movement can help bridge the social, economic and digital divides of our community

Pablo Ricatti watches a 3D printer demonstration during the last Miami Mini Maker Faire, held at Young Arts Plaza. AL DIAZ


Herrero%20(2)Makers are a global community of talented innovators — designers, fabricators, artists, engineers, educators, entrepreneurs and civic leaders — driven by personal passions and a spirit of lifelong learning and creative hacking.

You will find them from Silicon Valley start-up founders and Burning Man artisans to Havana’s cuentapropistas and Barcelona’s urban hackers. They see objects and systems not as finished things, but as collections of components that can be remixed, repurposed and reimagined to shape worlds around them.

Some are entrepreneurs like Rodolfo Saccoman. He develops innovative products in Miami Beach such as the MATRIX Creator, an Internet-of-Things development board that enables software developers to build hardware applications regardless of their skill level. Others are educators like Willie Avendano and Nelson Milian of the 01 education lab in Wynwood. They foster a sense of agency and creative confidence in young students through hands-on STEAM-based learning.

DaleOthers are using tools for social good. For instance, architects Tony Garcia and Sherryl Muriente’s wonderful Biscayne Green public space project has shown us the power of urban prototyping and open collaboration to promote public transit and strengthen communal bonds in Downtown Miami.

The act of making is rooted in play, collaboration and curiosity. It develops a mindset that enables us to see ourselves as more than just consumers, but as creators with a bias toward action. Makers love to tinker with hardware and technology, but mostly see these as a means to an end. They combine domain expertise and traditional craftsmanship with modern tools such as digital fabrication, micro-controllers and data analytics to innovate solutions for themselves and their communities.

The maker mindset helps people better bridge the social, economic and digital divides in an era of technological acceleration and dislocation. When so many of today’s jobs are expected to disappear in coming years because of advances in artificial intelligence and automation, few skills become as important as collaboration, resourcefulness, communication and creative problem-solving. The maker movement helps nurture those skills, letting us look closely at the things around us, explore their complexity and identify opportunities to add value.

For makers to prosper in a community, they require physical spaces with access to tools and expertise that foster local productivity. In Miami, the Moonlighter makerspace makes fabrication tools available to people of all ages. The Discovery Lab at FIU’s School of Computing and Information Sciences has introduced vertically integrated programs to foster cross-disciplinary collaboration. And Miami Dade College hosts the Design for Miami and Make1 programs through its Idea Center, which teach students how to apply design thinking and prototyping practices to solve problems, along with Maker Faire Miami, the region’s largest showcase of maker talent and one of almost 200 such Maker Faires around the globe.

But that’s not all cities need to be productive. They also require community organizers who can leverage resources among the city’s schools and universities, libraries, museums and large and small businesses, in order to build a well-connected ecosystem of creative and learning environments where makers can thrive. They require business associations that recognize the need for vocational programs that prepare the local labor force for the current and future job market. They require city officials who embrace open data and work with civic hacking groups like Code for Miami to improve municipal services and address challenges such as affordable housing, homelessness and adapting to climate change. Finally, they need planning and zoning boards that minimize red tape and create more favorable conditions for urban production and entrepreneurship to flourish.

We want to grow the Maker Movement to include everyone, helping them become innovators in their own lives and communities. We also seek to expand the opportunities that makers have to innovate, defining shared missions that makers can join. We’re happy to see Miami off to such a promising start and are eager to help all who want to see it go further.

Today (Jan. 20) at 4 pm: Join Make: Magazine founder Dale Dougherty and the international network of Maker Faire producers at Miami Dade College - Wolfson Campus to explore how the maker mindset is revitalizing our cities. Co-hosted by MANO, Miami Dade College and Maker Faire with the support of Knight Foundation, this event is open to the public and tickets are available via Eventbrite:

Ric Herrero is the co-founder and president of MANO Americas; reach him at Dale Dougherty is the founder of Maker Faire and author of “Free to Make”; reach him @dalepd. This column was first published on the Miami Herald op-ed page Friday. 

Read past coverage of Miami Mini Maker Faire here.



December 20, 2016

Young innovator to watch: Felipe Gomez del Campo of Weston




Felipe Gomez del Campo one of four innovators nationally chosen for U.S. Department of Energy’s new entrepreneurship program

He’s been recognized as a rising energy innovator in Forbes “30 under 30” and honored at the White House as an emerging global entrepreneur by President Barack Obama.

Next up for Case Western Reserve University graduate student Felipe Gomez del Campo: He was selected as one of four innovators nationally to participate in a new two-year entrepreneurship program at the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory in Lemont, Illinois.

On Tuesday in Chicago, Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz joined U.S. Senator Richard Durbin and officials from DOE to announce Gomez del Campo and the three other participants in Chain Reaction Innovations (CRI), the Midwest’s first entrepreneurship program to embed innovators in a national laboratory.

All four were selected to embed at Argonne for two years to access the lab’s scientific expertise, world-class facilities and mentorship to develop their innovative technologies.

“For an entrepreneur/ technologist, this is huge because the future is never certain,” said Gomez del Campo, a native of Mexico City who is from Weston, Florida. “You never know when you’re going to run out of money, if you'll be able to find more, what technological problems you're going to run into, etc. Joining the first cohort of CRI means that I don't have to worry as much about fundraising, and I can fully commit to developing the technology and get it to market.” 

CRI is part of a new initiative to accelerate the development of sustainable and energy-efficient technologies and drive manufacturing growth by helping startups and innovators reduce development costs and risks. A panel of judges selected the inaugural cohort of five Chain Reactions innovators from more than 100 applications.

Applicants for CRI came from 22 states. About half were with startups; the rest were students, professors, postdocs or members of industry. The four recipients represent Colorado, Indiana, North Dakota and Ohio.

Gomez del Campo, a graduate student in aerospace engineering at Case Western Reserve, is founder and CEO of FGC Plasma Solutions LLC, a Cleveland-based company that is developing a novel fuel injector for jet engines and gas turbines. He earned a bachelor’s degree in mechanical and aerospace engineering from Case Western Reserve in 2016.  

The other three technologies in the first CRI cohort: a novel radioisotope battery made from nuclear waste; membrane-free electrochemical devices; and carbon material synthesis through sustainable bio-manufacturing methods.

Argonne National Laboratory, with a staff of 1,600 scientists and engineers, is the largest federally funded research and development facility in the Midwest. The CRI program provides the selected entrepreneurs dedicated laboratory and office space, support securing additional project funds, research and development assistance and access to a broad innovation ecosystem.  

Gomez del Campo was honored as an emerging global entrepreneur by Obama at the White House in 2015 and was selected by the State Department to represent the United States at the 2016 Global Entrepreneurship Summit.

He earned a spot on the Forbes “30 under 30” list for 2016 in the energy category, the “Who’s Who to Watch in Technology” by Crain’s Cleveland Business and as one of Mexico’s six extraordinary young people by GQ Mexico. He also has been named a member of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Aerospace, the American Society of Mechanical Engineers and the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers.

FGC Plasma Solutions is working on a fuel injector that incorporates plasma to better control combustion in jet engines and gas turbines. By reducing fuel consumptions during idling, fuel savings of between 1 percent and 5 percent per flight are possible. The technology will also enable benefits from lower emissions, increased fuel flexibility and improved reliability.

Gomez del Campo said he will likely start the CRI program in late January or early February. CRI is a one-year commitment that can be extended to two years. He is working on his master’s in aerospace engineering, swims on the Case Western Reserve swim and dive team and works part-time.

“Even though I will be at Argonne, I will still be working on my thesis — which is on my technology incidentally — and taking classes online to finish my master’s,” he said. “Although it means a lot of changes for me and I will miss CWRU a lot, it is a fantastic opportunity and I am very excited.” 

- Submtted by Case Western Reserve University 

December 07, 2016

Hispanic Small Business Owners’ Secrets to Success

By Gary Garth

Gary Garth HeadshotWe heard a lot during the Presidential campaign about the importance of winning the Hispanic vote. But any campaign strategist knows you can’t paint such a diverse population with one broad brush. The same holds true for Hispanic business owners. The key to growing your customer base is developing marketing campaigns that target specific demographics and drives them to your website and bricks-and-mortar locations. In an age where we’re all connected 24/7 to the Internet and our attention spans are shorter than ever, search engine marketing is the most efficient and cost-effective way to do just that.

Having just advised you not to lump all Hispanics into one category, I will backtrack just a bit to point out there is one generalization that holds true: Hispanics are the fastest-growing segment of our local and national populations.

The U.S. Census bureau reports that Florida’s population grew by 1.46 million people from 2010 to 2015. Hispanics represent 51 percent of that surge. In five years, Florida’s Hispanic population grew six times more than non-Hispanic whites, and more than twice as fast as blacks. Nationally, Hispanics count for 56.6 million citizens. That’s 17.6 percent of the U.S. population, the country’s largest ethnic or racial minority. Local Hispanic small business owners who cater to Hispanic consumers should hear sounds of cash registers ringing (or computer mice clicking) when they see those statistics. Their customer bases are large and still growing.

Of course, thanks to the ubiquity of high-speed Wi-Fi connections and powerful mobile devices, the entire world has become one big consumer marketplace. While this enables local businesses to consider pursuing new customers outside South Florida, it also means they must compete for those customers’ eyeballs with other businesses nationwide and even internationally.

To make things even more difficult, consider this bit of irony: while consumers spend more time online than ever before, they have also never been quicker to hop from web site to web site. Consider these three statistics:

*We've seen a 20 percent increase in mobile's share of online sessions across the web in the past year;

*At the same time, we’ve seen an 18 percent decrease in time spent per visit across the web in the past year. As mobile accounts for more sessions, they’re getting shorter overall;

*But there’s a lot happening in these session: In the past year, mobile conversion rates have increased by 29 percent.

I call these “micro-moments”, and they are critical for brands to win. These are the moments that can keep a first-time customer coming back to your web site, or attract new customers to visit and linger. Search is the top online source used when gathering information about a potential purchase. Google has found that 86 percent of Hispanics use search to gather information, and that 93 percent of that group who remember seeing an online advertisement took action such as visiting a web site.

The challenge for Hispanic business owners is drawing Hispanic consumers to their web sites, and more importantly, how to keep them from leaving. We’ve found that search engine marketing campaigns that target both English- and Spanish-speaking Hispanic consumers yield significantly better returns:

*221 percent increase in click-through rates

*25 percent higher conversion rates

*63 percent lowered cost-per-click

*65 percent lower cost per conversion

An effective search engine marketing campaign leverages Google AdWords to compel consumers to visit a web site. You’re likely familiar with the ads that appear on the tops of your computer or mobile browsers. Those are AdWord ads. You identify which keywords will grab your target customer’s attention as he or she is searching Google. You only pay Google if that person clicks on your ad and goes to your site.

To ensure a high return on your investment, be sure to target the right audience(s) for your market. For example, if you own a surfboard store on Miami Beach that caters to the local Hispanic communities, don’t blanket the entire country. Unless you’re selling surfboards online and shipping them nationwide, don’t bother targeting people shopping for surfboards outside South Florida. Target only the local communities, beaches and cities near your store so potential local clients become aware of your services and generate sales.

AdWords can also provide you with invaluable data on your customers’ behaviors and preferences, and whether you’re getting a good return on your investment. You can do this by implementing Google Analytics, Conversion Tracking or Call Tracking.

Of course, getting people to your web site is just step one. Your landing page must keep them on your site, and compel them to take specific actions such as requesting more information or making a purchase. There must be a strong correlation between the ad that the user clicked and the page on which they land. If users do not find what they expect, your bounce rates will be unacceptably high. Bounce rate indicates the effectiveness of a website in encouraging visitors to stay. A good bounce rate is generally below 60 percent. 

So the benefit of maintaining a high degree of relevance between your ads and landing pages is enormous. On one hand, you enjoy better quality scores and on the other you achieve a higher conversion rate in conjunction with lower bounce rates. This sets you up for an improved ROI on your ad spend.

Done correctly, search engine marketing can be your best marketing tactic for targeting specific audiences within the local and national Hispanic communities. You can set up your campaigns in English, Spanish, by geographical area and even target visitors who have left your site. Search is the most efficient outlet to get measurable and quick results because, unlike most other forms of advertising, you can see in real time how each dollar spent is working (or not) and quickly make minor or major adjustments. 

Finally, be sure to avoid the common mistakes that drive first-time visitors away from your site. Delete or optimize visibly outdated content, modernize tired-looking design, ensure your call to actions are set up properly, and establish your credibility by making sure your contact information is always visible, maintain a blog, and provide easy access to customer service and support resources.

Gary Garth is co-founder and CEO of White Shark Media. He is responsible for guiding the company’s strategy and growth.

December 06, 2016

Argentina to Miami, a bridge worth building (Part 6)


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 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. Ahead of the full agenda being announced shortly, if you are interested in participating or learning more, please fill out this form.

Leading up to the event in December, we will be 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. For the fifth feature, we spoke with Martin Enriquez (pictured above), CEO and Co-Founder of Socialmetrix, an Endeavor company founded in Argentina but whose US expansion has been based in Miami since 2014.  

Tell us about Socialmetrix - how the company emerged, how has it changed over the years?

The idea of creating a company focused on listening to what people were saying online was something that started back in 2006. At the time, I had the chance to work with a very well-known computers brand, who had a major incident with one of their notebooks, and they were very worried about their online reputation and the impact of this episode on this notebook model sales.

After several iterations on the idea, we started up with Socialmetrix in late 2007 (formally in early 2008) in Argentina. Back then, Social Media in Latam was essentially Blogs, Forums and Message Boards. MySpace was kind of the “new thing” but wasn’t mainstream, just a few in Latam used it, and was very tied to the music community.

With a lot of effort, and our own savings invested in the company, by early 2009 we had a first product, and started our sales efforts in the region. We managed to bring a few nice brands as clients in different countries like Mexico, Chile, Argentina and Brazil. At that point the company was a startup completely, we had very little processes, we were learning which kind of professionals we needed to build our vision, and we were a bit ahead of the curve, which sometimes resulted in prospects looking at us as Martians.

All of that was progressively changing, sometimes easy but most of the time we experienced some type of growth pain, which somehow helped us to maintain our focus.

In mid 2009 we participated in La Red Innova, in Madrid, where we received a special mention as one of the most innovative companies in Iberoamerica. Later, in 2010 we were selected Endeavor Entrepreneurs by the Endeavor Foundation in Pebble Beach, CA, a very meaningful milestone for Gustavo Arjones, my co-founder, and myself. In 2011 we decided that we needed to raise capital to grow, and after having conversation with several VCs we partnered with DMGT, and since then have them as partners in the company.

Where do you see the growth and future of the company in the next years?

There is no doubt that Social Media reshaped the way we communicate with others and with brands or companies. This transformation is still happening, and there is an enormous opportunity to extract value from these conversations, helping companies to listen to their audiences and helping everybody else to get better products, better services and better overall experiences. I see Socialmetrix right in the center of this transformation, developing technology and actionable knowledge.

When did Socialmetrix come to Miami, and why?

We came in the second half of 2014, pursuing regional and multicultural accounts that were managed or lead from here, or other cities nearby.

What opportunities are you looking to find here?

A significant portion of Global Corporations have their Latin American and Multicultural Headquarters based in Miami or nearby. Being here enable us to create a conversation with these brands, understand their needs for these markets and provide a tailored set of solutions, leveraging our unique knowledge and experience in the US Hispanic market and Latin America.

What risks may you come across?

I think the biggest risk is to be too naïve. To get to Miami with the idea that the US market is open for business just because you are here, is a misinterpretation and an exaggeration of the opportunity. There is no doubt that there is an opportunity and an advantage being here, but materialize the advantage and the opportunity in form of new revenue for your company takes a lot of effort and money. The US market isn’t inexpensive, especially if you must hire top execs to execute your business development plans. Good professionals are expensive (compared to our countries in Latam) and they also require time to produce results.

So, coming to the US without having a clear understanding of costs and timing may become a very bad idea for the company.

What is the evaluation and product release/sales process in the United States?

I can only speak from my experience in my own vertical (SaaS for Social Media Listening and Analytics), having said that, although the US market is more competitive in terms of quantity of players offering solutions, and that the clients tend to be a bit more “experienced” than in Latam; the product evaluation process itself, in the US, is not that different from Latam.

Maybe this is what we experienced in Socialmetrix because in either region we engage with large corporations, who tend to have similar procurement processes no matter the country.

And so, selling to the BtoB segment in Latam is similar to selling to the BtoB segment in the US (process wise), there are other nuances to have in mind when selling in the US; like the quality of your collateral materials, the client’s toleration to errors, and the client’s expectation for the quality of a presentation/presenter.

Any lessons or advice for companies exploring similar moves?

I would suggest a few things that are obvious but in the heat and rush of your day to day may get forgotten:

*Make sure you have a clear business case to come to Miami, with a meaningful potential for your company.

*Spend as little as possible during your first months here while you research the market, get to know people and start building your network.

*Since day 1 dedicate yourself to business development. This single activity will give you a clear understanding of the market and your real opportunity here.

*Get your marketing materials revised by a native English speaker with experience in your industry. Miami might be considered “the capital of Latin America” but in business everybody speaks English and expect to have materials and documentation in this language.

*If you can afford it, and after validating yourself that there is an actual business opportunity, hire a native Business Development professional with experience in your industry and an existing client base.

*Make sure you run your numbers and that you have enough financial resources to sustain this new venture for at least 18 months (ideally 24 mo).Plan beforehand, what will you do and how will you do it if sales don’t take off and the opportunity don’t materialize as new revenue.

From the perspective of the Latin American entrepreneur, what do you expect as a contribution from Miami?

Although there are a few initiatives putting together professionals from Global Corporations who are based in Miami, I still feel the lack of a more connected entrepreneur community with corporations, and some sort of incentive for these corporations to create links with local entrepreneurs.

From this same perspective, what do you think Miami can do better to become a true value-adding "hub" in the region and support entrepreneurs who come here?

I think Miami could “teach” Latin American Entrepreneurs how to do business in the US. The city itself is a crossover of cultures, that, well managed, could add great value for those entrepreneurs who don’t have the experience or the knowledge about the US business culture.

Organizations like Endeavor have talked a lot about the Argentine model (not just the shortcomings, but the great achievements and opportunities). What do you think Miami can learn from Argentina’s case?

I think that Argentina, with its own shortcomings, has done a good job at creating a small but true entrepreneurial ecosystem around Tech, where successful entrepreneurs are now investors and advisors, and are also helping new entrepreneurs build their companies.

Miami probably still needs to figure out which industry / vertical will have as a main focus, and then help entrepreneurs build a few success stories around that. There’s probably no magic recipe, it takes time and a lot of people involved, pushing for (more or less) the same outcome.

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?

If Miami can effectively become a meaningful stage for Latin American entrepreneurs, where they can showcase their companies to the rest of the US, and maybe other developed countries, I believe there is a great opportunity for collaboration.

Natalia Martinez-Kalinina is the General Manager of CIC Miami and the Founder of Awesome Foundation MIAMI. 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


December 02, 2016

Argentina to Miami, a bridge worth building (Part 5)



JuancoceoIMG_6347By 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 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. Ahead of the full agenda being announced shortly, if you are interested in participating or learning more, please fill out this form.

Leading up to the event in December, we will be 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. For the fifth feature, we spoke with Juan Lanusse (CEO), pictured at left, and Maral Arslanian (US Representative & Distributor), pictured below, of clothing brand Juana de Arco, which recently began its expansion into the US market through Miami two years ago.

Tell us about Juana de Arco. What’s the genesis story? What has been the trajectory?

Juana de Arco was born in 1998 in the iconic Palermo Viejo neighborhood of Buenos Aires, Argentina by the hands of designer and artist Mariana Cortes. Mariana was born in the small town of Arribeños, humble and interesting, she gives the brand this essence. Inspired by nature, art and the recuperation of Latin-American techniques, Mariana draws out the textiles and prints that are then hand silk screen printed in an infinite variety of color that make each piece one-of-a-kind and unique.

JuancoThe brand started off as a bikini line that Mariana sold out of a backpack on the beaches of Argentina. Today, Juana de Arco has two flagship stores in Buenos Aires and two in Japan; our products are now being distributed to specialty boutiques throughout the US and Europe.

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

We have always enjoyed a step by step process. Never moving too fast and we think that is what keeps us going, the steady upward slope. We take strategic first steps and then let the market decide what we need to do next.

Working with Japan came about by letting life take its course. In 2004 a Japanese businessman walked in to our very first boutique in Buenos Aires and decided to purchase all of our inventory on the spot. Our relationship with Japan began in that moment and we came to find that Japanese women appreciate and value Juana.

In regards to the US, we are steadily wholesaling our product - getting a sense of what the market likes and needs and adjusting the line to this entirely new crowd.

When did Juana de Arco come to Miami? Why?

We have been exporting to Japan for 12 years. In 2014 after analyzing a variety of markets to continue our international growth, we decided the American market was our best match. It values many core aspects of our products: design, uniqueness, and the environmental scope in our production process.

To dive into the US market, our options - logistically speaking, were going through Miami, New York or Los Angeles. As an Argentinian based brand Miami had several benefits: language, time differences, geographic location, and a city focusing in developing two industries where Juana de Arco clearly fits, fashion and art.

What kinds of opportunities were you looking for here? What aspects or risks worried you? How have those played out over your years here? How have you found your industry reflected here?

The US market is known to be one for opportunities, where if you work hard you will be successful. In our case, we are looking to grow the brand on a healthy path. That is, getting the right partners to deliver our brand to the clients that value what Juana de Arco stands for, a joyful and colorful lifestyle.

As we found in Japan, we are looking for those distribution channels and end clients that see something special in Juana.

As in any new market, risks come with the lack of knowledge. The learning process we have had in Argentina since 1998 had to be adjusted from scratch for the US fashion industry, which is immense and comes with its complexities. Making decisions on what, when, and how, saying no to certain options to focus on others has been one of the biggest difficulties we've faced.

From the perspective of a Latin American entrepreneur/founder but a long-time Miami transplant, how do see Miami today? What works, what surprises you, what frustrates you?

Miami is at an incredible moment. I can truly say that not much has frustrated me, I see great things happening and more on their way. From the public and private sectors, the support in the fashion industry is there. From an entrepreneurs perspective, I think Miami will have a very interesting and prolific next year.

In light of this perspective, what can Miami do better to become a truly value-adding “hub” for the region? (in your industry and in general)

Although, I do see this happening in many industries, especially technology, Miami could create more partnership. Places like The Lab, MADE, and CIC Miami are already on their way in focusing on specific fields and facilitating intermingling. Miami has to continue developing and reinforcing this co-working approach. It is the way to create a positive community in which we will inevitably learn from each other, pick each up, and watch each other succeed.

How has it worked to have your company straddling Miami and Buenos Aires? Any lessons or advice for companies exploring similar moves?

Both cities are in relatively close proximity, and like I stated before, we share aspects and values. It is a move that takes time. Starting a company in another country simply takes time. As entrepreneurs sometimes we wish things moved in a faster manner. So my best advice would be - patience.

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?

Our rocky political and economic cycles have had negative consequences on Argentina. On a brighter note, a positive consequence, the proliferation of entrepreneurs. When when we had the crisis of 2000, many people started to think, hey I studied, worked hard and still lost my job! The lack of opportunities led them to have to lose that fear of insecurity and become an entrepreneur. This crisis gave birth to the fashion designers that are standing strong in Argentina today.

Miami should appreciate the lack of crisis and be fearless regardless.

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?

Yes, I see a lot of potential. I see many aspects in which we are similar, things that bring us together. I also notice many complementary aspects. These are the spaces where working together creates value for both sides, bettering each part.  

Natalia Martinez-Kalinina is the General Manager of CIC Miami and the Founder of Awesome Foundation MIAMI. 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

[This is part 3 of a series. Read part 1 here - Honey vs. Vinegar: How are we luring and keeping the companies we want in Miami?, part 2 here, part 3 here and part 4 here]