INSIDE AND OUTSIDE THE BOX: From left: Marcela Henao, left, CMO and co-founder of Leapfactor; Carlos Ovalles, sales support manager; Michael Garcia, presales engineer; and Lionel Carrasco, CEO, in the company’s Coconut Grove office. Photo below: Marcela Henao, left, and Lionel Carrasco. Photos by MIAMI HERALD STAFF / CARL JUSTE
By Joseph A. Mann Jr.
When Lionel Carrasco, a Bolivian-born information-technology professional, got his first iPhone several years ago, he liked how he could access apps — like one for the local weather — just by tapping the screen.
“Why can’t we do this for businesses?” he asked.
This was the seed for the founding of Leapfactor, a Miami-based firm that develops mobile, cloud-based applications for business.
The company, whose name refers to Light Enterprise Access Point, provides apps designed specifically for businesses. Leapfactor “saw a huge opportunity for easy-to-use business apps in the mobile space,” said Carrasco, who has degrees in history and computer science, and has worked in IT for more than 25 years.
The idea was to develop business apps that function smoothly with virtually any computer system, anywhere, anytime, Carrasco said. Leapfactor apps eliminate the need to make large investments in servers and IT staff to connect computer programs to employees. “We were ahead of the curve in mobility,” he said.
Carrascso, Leapfactor‘s CEO and co-founder, left his job as chief technology officer at Neoris, an international business and consulting firm, and set up Leapfactor in 2009, working with a small group of Latin American friends and colleagues.
“To get started, we used our savings and credit cards,” said Marcela Henao, another Leapfactor co-founder and the company’s chief marketing officer. “We got five people together and began working on a platform for our business.” Henao, an electronics engineer from Colombia, was formerly a vice president for Latin American sales at Verizon subsidiary Terremark in Miami.
After setting up Leapfactor, the founding team began developing a platform for creating apps in Miami, established a cloud at Terremark, and sought additional financing for their startup. By contacting friends and business associates who were interested in innovation, Carrasco raised $2.4 million during the company’s early years. “This funding allowed us to move from PowerPoint presentations on our product to building our platform,” Carrasco said. Since then, it has raised a total of $13 million from private investors and plans to seek additional capital to continue growing.
The company lined up IT specialists and developers in Argentina, which offers a large pool of professional talent at costs lower than those in the United States, to develop apps for different business lines.
Leapfactor chose Miami for its headquarters because of logistics: “It’s one of the most connected cities in the world,” Carrasco said. Florida is a business-friendly state, and Miami is the gateway to Latin America, with top business organizations basing their Latin American headquarters here, he added. “And we can get the best talent from Latin America in Miami.”