January 23, 2015

Chile creating a nationwide lab for ecosystem development

By Susan Amat

SusanamatAcross the globe, both city and national initiatives are regularly announced, each focused on developing their own entrepreneurial ecosystems to provide funding and support to their entrepreneurs. The “Startup (Insert City or Country name here)” programs tend to have many things in common, including shocking budgets, but often fail to address the long-term cultural shift that must occur for the newly enlightened entrepreneurs to want to stay in the region. The excitement surrounding the announcement is rarely followed up with the metrics and ROI of the project. Many of those programs are designed after visits to Startup Chile, which has been successful in creating a mindset shift among Chileans and developing thousands of entrepreneurial ambassadors all over the world who will recount their six-months in Chile, having fallen in love with her people and the country itself. The agency that oversees Chile’s economic development, growth, and promotes investment and competitiveness, Corporacion De Fomento De La Produccion (CORFO), could have easily sat back and continued to be the reference point for scores of policy leaders in creating their own programs, but leaders rarely rest.

The 2013 Presidential election resulted in a shifting of power. The new administration, under President Michelle Bachelet, reflected on the results of their much lauded programs and has been diligently crafting new initiatives to build their talent, expand entrepreneurship support beyond the main cities to create multiple poles, reduce rural migration, diversify the economy, and enable the establishment of equity-based funds with generous matching parameters. This marks another meaningful experiment in Chile and the early results are promising.

The key pivot is the creation of full support across the spectrum that may last throughout the lifetime of the business rather than a six-month stint. Chilean entrepreneurs, and those who will make substantial long-term investments in Chile, will also benefit from the tens of millions CORFO is deploying to ensure there is early stage capital for both tech and non-tech businesses. The investment, coupled with the support, may act to democratize the promise of economic freedom that entrepreneurship can offer.

Chile is ripe for this innovation. During our visit to Chile last week, we met with dozens of entrepreneurs, visited several incubators and co-working spaces, and did multiple trainings for mentors and entrepreneurs. The talent is evident and plentiful – great developers who are committed to starting and growing their businesses in Chile. CORFO has made equally healthy commitments to create an incubator network, though each location is still validating their impact and success metrics. The next phase has the potential to create thousands of high-wage jobs and position Chile as a leader in Latin America, and be the reason for other policy makers to send a second delegation to learn from them. The biggest challenges lie in ensuring entrepreneurs stay in the regions where they began and not feel the need to relocate to Santiago. Currently, although prestigious universities can be found in every region of the country, the hub of activity remains in Santiago. Creating high-quality programming and services so businesses can stay in Arica or Valdivia will go a long way toward inspiring the next generation to do the same. We visited Temuco to see Incubatec, one of the top Chilean incubators with success that exceeds most incubators in and out of LATAM. Their entrepreneurs are exporting beautifully packaged high-end water from the Andes to Asia, growing and exporting tulips all over the hemisphere, and even offering technical solutions to Fortune 100 clients. The leadership at Incubatec is passionate about helping the entrepreneurs scale and be Chilean success stories, and their energy is contagious. Bottling that would be a billion dollar business.

I am very excited to watch Chile’s progression and the next data points on these new initiatives. With the new vision, CORFO itself is offering the role modeling behavior that both entrepreneurs and policy makers should follow – at least on Twitter.

Dr. Susan Amat is the founder and CEO of Venture Hive, a company dedicated to economic development through entrepreneurship education. You can follow her on Twitter at @SusanAmat

January 15, 2015

Miami Bitcoin Hackathon: And the winners were...

Doug Carrillo, Andrew Barnard, Peter Nova and the other organizers behind the  first Miami Bitcoin Hackathon said they didn't know quite what kind of turnout to expect  last weekend at The LAB Miami. But the turnout --  100 programmers and another 70  observers -- showed there is a lot of pent-up curiosity for the emerging digital currency.

"It's a great enabler that anyone can build on," Carrillo said of the bitcoin technology. "We haven't seen the mainstream use cases for the bitcoin yet, we're seeing the early adapters, but it's still early.... We need to stop thinking of it as a get-rich quick scheme. In Latin America particularly, it offers a great opportunity ... an alternative."  

The hackers were challenged with coming up with solutions --  in just 28 hours -- that could help propel acceptance of the bitcoin. After short pitches either live or via video on Saturday morning, about 20 teams formed. Some of the hacks produced last weekend included bitcoin marketplaces, music-related platforms, solutions for smart contracts, gaming, even one for making sure your bitcoin lives on according to your wishes after you die.

The top three winners received $10,000, $3,500 and $1,000, respectively, in bitcoin of course, as well as other sponsor prizes. Read more about the hackathon here: www.miamibitcoinhackathon.com

And the winners were ...

 (winners list provided by Peter Nova)

First place fisheye
First Place
Team "Party People"
Project: OPIDoki

By Chris DeRose & Arian Amador

OPIDoki is an "oracle programming interface" that can be used to broadcast the results of something (such as who won a football game) and feed it into the Bitcoin blockchain for use in resolving bets and contracts.
Second place flat
Second Place
Team "Frostwire"
Project: Seller.Trade
By Angel Leon & Alden
Seller.Trade is a consumer friendly, decentralized shopping marketplace.
Third place flat
Third Place
Team "AudioBits"
Project: BitJuke
By Xavier Banegas, Alina Lebron, Nelson Milian, Willie Avendano & Derek Miller
"BitJuke" is a bitcoin-enabled jukebox through which people can find songs, purchase them through their preferred Bitcoin wallet and donate to a charity which the business can selects nightly.
Congratulations to all the winners!
Hackathon enthusiasts meet this weekend for the North American Bitcoin Conference on Miami Beach. More information here: btcmiami.com
Posted Jan. 15, 2014

December 10, 2014

Endeavor selects Kairos, NovoPayment as Endeavor Entrepreneurs at Miami ISP

By Nancy Dahlberg

On their home turf, the founders of two South Florida tech companies — a payments and cash management venture and a facial recognition software developer — were chosen as Endeavor Entrepreneurs on Wednesday.

The companies were selected during Endeavor’s 56th International Selection Panel, which took place in Coral Gables and Coconut Grove on Monday through Wednesday and attracted more than 200 people, including the entrepreneurs being considered for selection, as well as business executives and serial entrepreneurs who are Endeavor mentors, advisors and board members around the world.

Endeavor, founded in 1997, is a global nonprofit that selects, mentors and accelerates high-impact entrepreneurs who are entering the critical growth stages with their companies and have the potential to create large global businesses. The organization aims to select entrepreneurs who will go on to be role models and give back to their communities as mentors and investors in the next generation of innovators. Endeavor, which has affiliate offices around the world, established its first U.S office in Miami last year.

“Endeavor now has supported 1,000 entrepreneurs in 22 countries. We have helped those entrepreneurs generate over 400,000 new jobs and they now generate $7 billion annually,” said Linda Rottenberg, co-founder and CEO of Endeavor Global. “We don’t focus on the start-up — we focus on the scale-up.”

BrianaEarlier this year, entrepreneurs from South Florida companies KidoZen, My Ceviche, Leapfactor, LearnerNation, Ginnybakes and DeliverLean were selected and have been getting help with strategy, growth and partnerships. The two entrepreneurs tapped Wednesday were Brian Brackeen of Kairos and Anabel Perez of NovoPayment.

Brackeen, founder and CEO, said that Kairos’ facial recognition technology captures the depths and contours of a 2D facial image through 85 points of interest and renders the image as a 3D model to ensure 99 percent identification accuracy. The identification technology can be used in many different industries, from hospital groups to schools to cruise lines, and Brackeen, who worked at IBM and Apple before launching Kairos, already has contracts with key enterprise clients. “With Endeavor’s support, I will be working on sales talent and sales strategy, setting up reselling relationships and working on our $10 million capital raise,” Brackeen said, praising the feedback he’s received from Endeavor Miami over the last year and at the ISP this week.

FullSizeRender (20)Perez, NovoPayment’s co-founder and CEO who is originally from Venezuela, launched NovoPayment in 2004 and has built it into a sizable venture that provides a proprietary technology platform for cash-management software solutions for corporations in Latin America. NovoPayment, with 260 employees throughout the region, works in five countries now with plans for rapid expansion. “We made a lot of important connections, and I think Endeavor will help me accelerate my growth and business. I am excited about the next steps,” said Perez, who will get advice on making key high-level hires and help with her expansion strategy.

The Miami entrepreneurs were part of a group of 40 entrepreneurs from 22 companies in 13 countries, including Argentina, Egypt, Jordan, Mexico and Turkey. chosen to join the network on Wednesday. Each entrepreneur or entrepreneur team went through three intense one-hour interviews involving six Endeavor panelists, often board members or mentors. The 36 panelists included Endeavor Miami board members Alberto Beeck, Maurice Ferre, Sean Wolfington, Andres Moreno and Ernest Bachrach.

After a full day of interviews with entrepreneurs from 32 companies on Tuesday, the panelists took most of Wednesday to decide their fates in passionate and sometimes heated discussions. To be chosen an Endeavor Entrepreneur, each entrepreneur or team had to receive a unanimous vote of all six panelists. All received feedback and suggestions; some were told they can work to meet certain milestones and try again at a future ISP.

At least one new Endeavor Entrepreneur might be soon joining the Miami ecosystem, said Wolfington, a South Florida entrepreneur who owns businesses in the auto, technology, real estate, marketing and film industries. Rafael Atijas of Uruguay rocked his presentation so well that all the panelists that interviewed him, including Wolfington, are planning to invest in his company, which is unusual at an ISP, Wolfington said after the ISP concluded. Atijas’ company, Loog Guitars, makes three-string small-scale pink guitars that make it easy and fun for kids to learn on and becomes an art piece when not in use. The guitar is even delivered in pieces so it becomes a family project to assemble it. Loog Guitars already has operations in New York, and 60 percent of its business is in the U.S., so a base in Miami, the gateway to Latin America, makes strategic business sense, Wolfington said.

FullSizeRender (19)

The South Florida entrepreneurs and all the companies selected will be getting an Endeavor advisory board based on the needs of the entrepreneur — whether that is specialists in rapid hiring, pricing models, growth strategy or capital-raising, for instance.

The fact that Endeavor Miami has had much success presenting companies at ISPs this year — there have been five held around the world and Miami entrepreneurs were chosen at every one — is a testament to the strength of Miami’s growing ecosystem and its new office, led by Managing Director Laura Maydón, and a very committed board, said Matt Haggman, Miami program director of the Knight Foundation, which provided the first $2 million in funding to launch Endeavor Miami.

To be sure, persuading Endeavor to make a bet on Miami in 2013 for its first U.S. office was not the easiest sell. Endeavor started out in Latin America and then moved into emerging markets throughout the world, including Africa, Asia and the Middle East, and more recently began moving into Europe, including Greece and Spain.

“When we started out [considering Miami], people were skeptical as to whether we could find entrepreneurs of the same quality … so I ended up having two goals,” said Rottenberg, who co-founded Endeavor with Peter Kellner. “In addition to Endeavor’s work to have role model successes, I said I want to create through Endeavor Miami an environment where the next Jeff Bezos and the next Sheryl Sandberg, who were both from Miami, would stay. And can we show that we will have breakout success stories where people keep the talent here? I think that is already happening,” she said at a book signing Tuesday night at The LAB Miami for her new book, Crazy is a Compliment, which was one of the ancillary events planned during the ISP.

With Miami’s office working out well, Endeavor has now launched a national expansion. It will be opening its second U.S. office in Detroit early next year, said Rottenberg. Louisville is also in the plans, she said, and other cities have been lobbying because they have heard about Miami’s success, she said.

As for Miami, the office will continue to add qualifying entrepreneurs in 2015 and beyond, Maydón said.

“We are always open and looking for those great entrepreneurs who are out there,” Maydón said. “We are looking for entrepreneurs with the leadership potential to scale their companies but who also are willing to give back and are interested in growing an entrepreneurial ecosystem.”

Follow Nancy Dahlberg on Twitter @ndahlberg.

Posted Dec. 10, 2014


December 02, 2014

Venture Hive partners with Microsoft to power Pre-Accelerators in four countries

Susan Amat Venture 11

Venture Hive, an entrepreneurial education company in Miami, is partnering with Microsoft to power a new chain of  Pre-Accelerators at Microsoft Innovations Centers around the globe.

The initial group of Microsoft Innovation Centers  in Chile, Pakistan, Nepal and Armenia will be linked by Venture Hive's training program, connecting entrepreneurs to resources and support they need in validating and building their ideas into solutions. Venture Hive also houses the first MIC in the U.S.

"We partnered with Microsoft to open the Miami MIC solely focused on supporting the South Florida community through technology education and  support," said Susan Amat, founder of Venture Hive. "We are thrilled to support these four MICs and their entrepreneurs in building great startups to strengthen their ecosystems."

Over the 12-week intensive program, the selected teams will go through specialized training and have access and support from the international community. The program will culminate in the MIC DEMO WEEK in April, where a global audience will witness the product demonstrations and startups will receive feedback from experts in each of the partner countries.

"It is part of our mission to level the playing field for all of the aspiring entrepreneurs around the world who want to build something, who want to be their own bosses, who want to make the world a better place," Microsoft said in a blog post Tuesday about the new Pre-Accelerators.  "Initially in four locations around the world, we look forward to bringing the program to the more than 100 global MIC facilities."

Venture Hive was chosen this summer as the location of the first Microsoft Innovation Center in the United States. Developed and operated in partnership with Miami-Dade County, the City of Miami and Venture Hive, the Miami center hosts technology training and workshops, providing entrepreneurs, technologists and governments access to networking opportunities and potential talent for future job opportunities. Amat said Tuesday she is considering opening a Pre-Accelerator program at the Miami location. 

Venture Hive, which also houses an accelerator and incubator and is supported by Miami-Dade County and the Miami DDA, recently received a $50,000 grant from the U.S. Small Business Administration,  partnered with Disruption Corporation in Washington DC on investor education  and announced a partnership with DLA Piper for startup legal services. Vanture Hive is currently running a tech-entrepreneurship program with Miami-Dade high school students.  

Posted Dec. 2, 2014


November 23, 2014

Digital marketing firm Nobox flexes ‘social muscle,’ goes all-in on Latin America



By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com / Photos by Charles Trainor Jr.

NOBOX1100FOUNDERS CTJ (2)In the rapidly changing world of social media marketing, simply collecting “likes” on a company Facebook page is so yesterday.

Today social marketing is about combining social science, technology and media in creative ways to create messaging on multiple platforms that resonates with consumers so deeply they are moved to share.

Nobox, a Miami-based technology company and digital marketing agency, calls it “social muscle,” a strategy the company embraced about three years when Nobox pivoted its entire focus to human-to-human marketing through social media.

“It was a big move because back then social marketing was in its infancy, but we knew the future of marketing was in social,” said Jayson Fittipaldi, president and chief creative officer of Nobox, who co-founded the company with Carlos García. “Social is the center is of everything we do.”

Nobox was founded nearly 14 years ago in Puerto Rico and moved to Miami in 2004. Since its transformation into a social-media-focused marketing company by early 2012, Nobox has grown to 37 employees, has operations in Sao Paulo, San Francisco and New York as well as its Miami Midtown base and has grown its annual revenue fivefold to about $10 million. With a focus on consumer technology, travel and Latin America, Nobox has attracted marquee clients such as Sony PlayStation, Netflix, Samsung and Marriott.

“The way we have been able to fivefold revenue is we have focused on what we know best,” said Carlos García, Nobox’s CEO. “We consider ourselves to be marketing hackers. Our client base is looking to execute their marketing in Latin America. “

Continue reading "Digital marketing firm Nobox flexes ‘social muscle,’ goes all-in on Latin America" »

November 12, 2014

View: Why you can’t afford to ignore LATAM’s mobile games market

By Ana María Yumiseva

Ana Maria Yumiserva (1)Last month Benedict Evans, Partner at Andreessen Horowitz took the stage at the WSJ.D conference with a presentation entitled, Mobile is Eating the World and he couldn’t be more right. Mobile is transforming the world, as we know it industry by industry at a pace never before witnessed. Let me explain, there are currently 2 billion people using smartphones today.

Just to give you an idea, the time spent on mobile apps is now greater than all the time spent on the web in the U.S. today and by 2020, 4 billion people or 80% of adults will own a smartphone. Those are impressive statistics. Even more impressive is mobile phone and tablet sales now make up almost half of the global consumer electronics industry by revenue. But what does this mean for Latin America? Well, according to Pyramid Research, by 2017 there will be 145 million smartphones sold in Latin America. This presents a huge opportunity for the mobile gaming industry.

During the last years many regional companies have emerged as a successful business models in cross-platform game developing in Latin America. Argentina’s Etermax is a good example. In 2013 its game Trivia Crack was released and quickly became a the most downloaded application in Latin America and a worldwide hit, with 60 million downloads to date and more than 60% of Argentines using the game regularly. Today, Trivia Crack has become a TV show on broadcast television winning important awards, becoming a brand and establishing huge opportunities for advertisers to brand themselves in the mobile games space.

Let’s explore a few reasons why the mobile gaming industry can no longer ignore Latin America’s booming mobile potential.

Growth Potential

According to Newzoo, a global market research firm focused purely on the games market, the fastest growing segment towards 2017 is mobile gaming with a Cumulated Annual Grow Rate (CAGR) of 19%. Mobile gaming will secure over a quarter (27%) of the global games market by the end of 2014, yielding revenues in excess of $21Bn. In the course of 2015, monthly mobile game revenues will surpass those generated by TV and handheld consoles combined.

This growth is spilling over to Latin America and no other region comes close to in terms of growth potential. Between 2013 to 2014 Latin America takes the lead with a year-on-year growth rate of 60% and is projected to grow the fastest with a CAGR of 50% over the next three years alone.

Low Cost User Acquisition

The Cost Per Install (CPI) has increased 288% on mobile gaming in the U.S. over the past two years, according to SuperData Research, from $1.30 in January 2012 to $4.36. LATAM’s projected mobile gaming growth coupled with the region’s low cost of acquisition per player is ideal, with an average (CPI) of $1.51 / $0.76 for Brazil and Mexico, and $1.17 / $0.45 for the other countries, on iOS and Android respectively.

This means that although the monetization projections may be lower than the U.S. the ability to test and market the app is much lower and can yield valuable insights and fixes for the app before moving into more costly markets. In short, mistakes in app development and marketing hurt your bottom line much less when tested in Latin America that in the U.S.

Low Risk Testing Market

A clear advantage to penetrating in the LATAM mobile gaming market is that Latin America, culturally, is not so different from North America or Europe as opposed to say China.  In fact, the highest grossing gaming apps that dominate the iOS charts in Brazil and Mexico mirror the U.S. gaming app market, like: Clash of Clans, Candy Crush Saga, Game of War-Fire Age, Farm Heroes Saga, Hay Day and Pet Rescue Saga.

This suggests if a gaming app is easy adopted and scales quickly through LATAM, where development and user acquisition costs are a fraction of the price of the U.S., it has a high chance of similar adoption in the U.S.

For example, in Argentina, the game sector represents $85M in revenues, with 70 companies actively working in the country (ADVA) and 95% of such developments are exported to USA, Europe and Asia.

The Perfect Storm

M2games-latam-logo-biz-r225x (1)
The culmination of all of these factors is forcing big industry players to answer the question: How do we tap into this booming LATAM mobile games market? This is the question that is at the forefront of mobile gaming and the key to unlocking a highly profitable region of growth for years to come. And that, my friends, is the big game changer!

Ana María Yumiseva is Publisher and CEO of 
Frecuencia Latinoamérica, the Region’s leading mobile market intelligence portal and organizer of M2Games LATAM and M2Content & Apps LATAM taking place in Miami, Dec. 2th-4th, 2014 at The Light Box at Goldman Warehouse.

Posted Nov. 12, 2014


View: Florida’s science/tech ecosystem -- the next frontier is here

By Jerry Haar

HAARLate in September, Bioheart, a South Florida-based biotech company, opened a new facility overseas, the South African Stem Cell Institute and immediately began treating patients with their stem cell therapies for spinal cord injury, diabetes, arthritis, autoimmune disease and more.

As our state and our community very much need to grow knowledge-based industries, the Bioheart news is especially welcome.

Precisely what is the status of life sciences and advanced technology (the non-start-up arena) in the state? What are the challenges and opportunities it faces? What policies and actions are needed to enhance this sector?

The installed base of science and technology institutions in the state is good and dispersed both geographically and by industry sector. Florida is home to world-class biomedical research institutes and more than 1,000 biotech, pharmaceutical, and medical device companies employing over 25,000 professionals. This includes Scripps, Sanford-Burnham, Max Planck Institute, Torrey Pines, VGTI Florida, Draper Laboratory and UM’s Hussman Institute for Human Genomics. Florida ranks third nationwide for pharmaceutical and medicine manufacturing, and Florida universities invest over $1.2 billion annually in R&D in the life sciences. That includes all of the research-oriented state universities as well as the University of Miami.

One must mention also the Florida Institute for the Commercialization of Research, which pairs commercially viable discoveries with management and capital. They promote economic development through commercialization and have helped firms such as U.S. Bioplastics, Accelogic, and Garmor.

The principal challenges facing Florida in the life sciences and advanced technology fields are human capital and wage rates. STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) are the future of the state’s economy, with 1-in-5 job postings in those fields; moreover, the top jobs typically pay double Florida’s average wage. Nearly 80 percent of the fastest growing careers are in STEM fields; and half of these jobs do not require a four-year college degree. Unfortunately, continuing poor performance by Florida students on the FCAT, especially in science and math, sends up a red flag to life sciences and tech companies thinking of expanding in the state or coming to the state. Many firms also complain about the preparedness of college graduates they seek to recruit.

The other challenge is wages. Examining comparative costs of life sciences companies vis-à-vis other states, Florida boasts a zero state income tax in the belief that is a game-changer. It is not. Massachusetts, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania all have state income taxes under 6 percent; yet the average wage rate, in biotechnology for example, is in many instances more than double Florida’s.

To strengthen Florida’s science and technology ecosystem, consideration should be given to:

l. Upgrading standards in secondary school and higher education, not watering down the FCAT and not lowering college admission and grading standards.

2. Instituting apprenticeship programs in life sciences and advanced technology, modeled after the Knight Foundation-funded Venture for America and Enstitute.

3. Advocating continuing professional education at all levels.

4. Pursuing cross-county coordination and cooperation to recruit companies.

5. Targeting those life sciences and advanced the fields that can provide the greatest impact to economic development and employment generation.

6. Promoting more vigorous commercialization of university research with strong IP and financial incentives for inventors.

7. Creating a public-private investment capital fund, like Philadelphia.

8. Considering an eMerge Americas in the life sciences, showcasing talent and companies in the state and inviting investors poised to fund them.

Miami-Dade County’s “One Community One Goal” initiative provides a sound road map from which the rest of the state could benefit as well.

The race is on to advance life sciences and technology, and the competition with other states for talent and investment dollars is intensifying. Florida must do much more to remain a contender.

Jerry Haar is a visiting scholar at Harvard and Georgetown universities and a business professor at Florida International University.

Posted: Nov. 12, 2014


November 10, 2014

CorQuest Medical, a stealth medical device company in Miami, is sold to Cardio3 BioSciences in Belgium

A South Florida entrepreneur and a former University of Miami heart surgeon teamed up two and half years ago to create a medical device company for cardiac surgery. Now CorQuest Medical has been sold to a publicly traded Belgian company that aims to  take its technology to market.

CorQuest Medical of Miami, which specializes in developing medical equipment and technologies that facilitate minimally invasive cardiac surgical procedures, was purchased by Cardio3 BioSciences, a biotechnology company focused on the discovery and development of regenerative and protective therapies for the treatment of cardiac diseases. Terms of the transaction were not disclosed.

Serge Elkiner Bio PicCorQuest was co-founded by a pair of Belgians: Dr. Didier De Cannière, a professor of surgery in Brussels and formerly director of Minimally Invasive and Robotic Cardiothoracic Surgery at UM, and Serge Elkiner, an entrepreneur and CEO of Miami-based YellowPepper, a fast-growing provider of mobile-banking and payment solutions in Latin America.

“He came to me and said 'look, I have this patent and I think it is a pretty good idea but I just don’t know how to build a company,' ” said Elkiner (pictured here). “When he showed me the idea, which is completely different than what existed today, and the benefits it would bring the patients, I told him I would help him.”

The company raised angel money, built a prototype of the device, did animal testing and has been quietly developing its technology with a team of three in Miami and board member Dr. Pedro Martinez-Clark, an interventional cardiologist in South Florida, plus a team of engineers in Belgium and France. CorQuest was part of an emerging but fast growing medical device industry in South Florida; there are nearly 150 device companies in Miami-Dade and Broward.

"Since Serge showed me the technology, I knew CorQuest was onto something important in the medical device space.  This shows another example that healthcare companies like Mako Surgical, CorQuest and others, can have a bright future in South Florida," said Dr. Stewart B. Davis, CEO of Bioceptive and a South Florida medical device serial entrepreneur and angel investor.

The companies said CorQuest's technology, currently in the advanced pre-clinical development phase, enables cardiologists to take a unique access route directly to the patient's left atrium and therefore has the potential to become a breakthrough innovation for therapeutic indications such as mitral valve disorders and structural heart disease, conditions often linked to heart failure.

Cardio3 BioSciences, which first learned of CorQuest at a conference, aims to obtain European approval by the end of 2016, which would allow commercialization of the device in Europe. The first indication to be targeted with the CorQuest technology is expected to be the repair or replacement of the mitral valve.

The companies believe the market potential is huge, as the global market of cardiac medical devices is expected to total $65.6 billion in 2015, with an annual growth rate of 9.8 percent.

"With their track record in device and therapeutic development, I am confident that Cardio3 BioSciences will successfully bring CorQuest's technology to physicians and, ultimately to patients," said De Cannière, who will remain involved in the company.

Follow @ndahlberg on Twitter.

Posted Nov. 10, 2014

October 26, 2014

Startup Spotlight: Quotanda



Headquarters: Miami

Concept: Education is now global, student financing isn’t. Quotanda is changing that. Quotanda’s technology platform provides students with affordable financing options, schools with immediate cash flow and investors with strong returns.

Story: Student financing is broken, particularly for nontraditional schools and international students, said Grant Taylor, co-founder of Quotanda (pictured above). “I saw the problems my international friends were having financing their education during my MBA at IESE Business School in Barcelona. I realized it was a global issue.”

Billions of people find their potential is limited by an education finance system that caters largely to U.S. students attending traditional institutions, and at the same time, investors are searching for yield. The Internet allows us to operate in new ways, he said, and online lenders have a significant cost advantage over traditional banks: “Quotanda’s education finance platform connects lenders with qualified borrowers; it’s just more efficient.”

In 2006, Taylor invested in the seed round of his friend Andres Moreno’s business, Open English: “Andres showed me how an innovative idea and perseverance can benefit the lives of millions. I realized the best way to scale positive change was as an entrepreneur.” Taylor said his investment in Open English provided him with startup capital: “I saw it as a chance to give others the opportunity to pursue their educational dreams.”

Quotanda2Taylor worked on the Quotanda business plan while working on his MBA at IESE Business School in Spain and launched the company there last year. With his partner Lino Pujol (pictured here) now running the business in Spain, he returned to the United States and moved to Miami earlier this year. The Quotanda team continues to grow and now includes a range of globally experienced advisors and executives including Bill Hubert, a serial entrepreneur and U.S. student lending veteran.

Launched: 2013

Management team: Grant Taylor, Bill Hubert, Lino Pujol.

Website: www.quotanda.com

Financing: Self-financed so far and seeking several million for company growth. Quotanda’s student loans (approximately 35 loans with $500,000) are financed by accredited investors, including Andres Moreno and other Open English executives, as well as professors and alumni of IESE.

Recent milestones: Teamed up with Bill Hubert, founder of Cology.com (sold in 2012 to First Marblehead), one of the top origination and servicing businesses in the U.S. “He is keen to revolutionize the student lending again and I am fortunate to be working with him,” Taylor said. Joined Venture Hive in June with advisors including Moreno, Thomas “Tigre“ Wenrich and Susan Amat. Invited to the White House by the Office of Science and Technology Policy to brainstorm expansion of private financing for accelerated learning programs. A finalist in the BBVA Open Talent 2014 for North America held in Mexico City.

Biggest startup challenge: Legal complexity of a highly regulated industry.

Next step: Launching education financing programs in the U.S. in November. Quotanda is working with forward-thinking schools, not just business schools, to provide students with innovative financing options.

Mentors’ views: “Quotanda solves an international problem in education with a simple yet effective solution. Grant's leadership goes beyond a great return to investors. His goal is to help students access educational opportunities that would otherwise be out of reach. I love startups that solve huge problems, create great financial returns, and make the world better at the same time — win-win-win,” said Amat, founder of Venture Hive, an accelerator, incubator and entrepreneurial education company.

“Grant has already proven the model can work in practice. In partnering with Bill Hubert, he will now have the technology capability required to scale up quickly,” said Wenrich, a mentor, investor and former Open English COO/CFO. “The model needs a lot of capital to fund the actual loans, which is different than the situation facing most other early-stage startups. Angel investors don’t have deep enough pockets, so we are looking for institutional lenders.”

Nancy Dahlberg'

Photo of Grant Taylor taken at Venture Hive at top of post is by Patrick Farrell of the Miami Herald

Posted Oct. 26, 2014 

September 30, 2014

Happy 1st birthday to Endeavor Miami -- and to many more



By Laura I. Maydón

September has always been a special month for me. I have many reasons to celebrate: my two brothers’ birthdays, Mexico’s national festivities and my own birthday.  This year, September becomes even more relevant to me as I reflect and commemorate Endeavor Miami’s first birthday.

Endeavor Miami’s mission to select, mentor and accelerate high-impact entrepreneurs represents such an essential component to our city.  Leading Endeavor Miami gives me a strong sense of purpose.  Endeavor’s track record around the world is a testament to the fact that high-impact entrepreneurs create a multiplier effect by inspiring, mentoring and investing in other entrepreneurs. And this is how cities develop an entrepreneurial ecosystem. Collectively, Endeavor Entrepreneurs around the world generated approximately $6.5 billion in revenue and 400,000 jobs in 2013.

How did Endeavor make it to Miami? The idea was spearheaded by Endeavor co-founder Peter Kellner and Matt Haggman, Knight’s Miami program director.  In September 2013, Endeavor Miami debuted thanks to the support of Knight Foundation and the leadership of our board of directors, an amazing group of business leaders co-chaired by Adriana Cisneros and Danny Echavarria. Each of of them is committed to improving the economic sustainability of our city, by helping entrepreneurs scale. I could not be more grateful for their support.

We search and select high-impact entrepreneurs because they are an essential path to economic development and job creation. (If you’re curious to learn how these entrepreneurs are transforming the world, read “The Bold Ones: High-impact Entrepreneurs Who Transform,”,published by the World Economic Forum). At Endeavor we help entrepreneurs think bigger, make better decisions and multiply their influence.

It’s amazing to sit and think how a year ago, this big wind of change positively affected my life. I showed up at the Open English headquarters—Andres Moreno kindly let me borrow a space—and I started to learn and absorb as much as I could of Endeavor best practices from now 20 countries around the world.  Fortunately, I had an amazing team from Endeavor Global supporting my efforts all the way. At the same time, I was looking to build a pipeline and to fast-track our first entrepreneurs, plus setting up the operation. I had my own startup in many ways; I had to hire a team, look for an office and set the strategic direction for this impact organization.

A year after the launch, I can happily report that we have seven high-impact entrepreneurs and four very diverse companies: My Ceviche, Kidozen, Leapfactor and LearnerNation. And we are supporting them with our great network of mentors and other services, such as access to capital, access to markets and talent. Our target is to prepare at least four more companies in the next few months for selection by year’s end. A big shout-out to my wonderful team, which is taking the ride with me and helps make all of this happen.

A lot of hard work and collaboration remains to be done. We need to continue building brand awareness. The search, selection and servicing of high-impact entrepreneurs are ongoing – which means that I need to continue engaging a committed network of world-class mentors who support this ecosystem.  It’s no secret that there’s still a lot of development to do to attract smart capital so that entrepreneurs can grow.

Thankfully, I’m not alone in this journey. I’ve lived in Miami for 12 years and I’ve never felt so much energy and the willingness of so many brilliant and hardworking people who are all collaborating to increase the impact of entrepreneurship in Miami and to grow this ecosystem.

Happy birthday, Endeavor Miami … to many more Septembers ahead.

Entrepreneurs may apply to become an Endeavor Miami Entrepreneur at endeavormiami.org.

Laura I. Maydón is managing director of Endeavor Miami, the first U.S. affiliate of Endeavor, a global nonprofit that promotes high-impact entrepreneurship. Knight Foundation invested $2 million to launch Endeavor Miami.