May 31, 2017

Q&A with Xavier Gonzalez: What's in store for eMerge Americas and Miami tech?

By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com Xavier Gonzalez

When eMerge Americas’ team was planning the inaugural homegrown technology conference in 2014, the executives scribbled a list of dream speakers on a white board. It contained names of top technology and business leaders, both from the U.S. and Latin America, people like Steve Wozniak, Uri Levine, Marcelo Claure and Gustavo Cisneros.

As eMerge Americas heads into its fourth year, those big names representing Apple, Waze, Sprint and the Cisneros Group and others, including Magic Leap’s Rony Abovitz and perennial crowd favorite Pitbull, are on the 2017 eMerge Americas agenda, which was released last week. “These are world-class speakers that are recognized across the globe for their leadership, vision and success. We’re very excited about our speaker lineup this year, not just because of these luminaries but also because of the 100 additional speakers our attendees will see over the two days of the event,” said CEO Xavier Gonzalez.

With a mission of promoting South Florida as a hub of the Americas for technology, eMerge Americas is a startup itself. Founded by tech pioneer Manny Medina, the annual conference launched in 2014, attracting about 6,000 attendees from 30 countries, and grew to 13,000 attendees last year. With Medina launching Cyxtera, a major data center and cybersecurity company, in Miami this year, Gonzalez and Melissa Medina, eMerge’s vice president, have taken on strategic leadership roles as well as the day to day operations. Gonzalez has been part of eMerge’s executive team since day 1, and became CEO in late 2015.

The Miami Herald talked with Gonzalez about the evolution of the conference and the technology ecosystem as well as plans for this year’s conference June 12-13 at the Miami Beach Convention Center. Here are excerpts of his remarks.

Q. In your view, what have been the most positive developments in the past year in terms of Miami ecosystem building?

A. The most positive developments have really been around the investments and company building we’ve seen in the market over the last six or seven months. With so many rounds of funding that have been significant — $10 million-plus — in addition to the acquisition of Chewy.com for $3 billion just recently, that tells me that all the work the entire community has been doing to develop and grow an entrepreneurial ecosystem, is starting to pay big dividends in a short amount of time. Add to that the creation of a global cybersecurity company, Cyxtera Technologies, right here in Miami, and there’s something very significant happening in terms of making headway on the global scene.

Q. And the biggest challenges?

A. There are the usual suspects in this category — funding and talent. But in my view we’re making good progress across all the areas that are challenging today. One thing that we as an ecosystem must have is patience. I always say we’re still very early on in the development of Miami as a tech hub. We’ve made huge strides, but there’s still much to do and we must have a level of patience to allow the various programs and initiatives to bear fruit. And we must also have the patience for our ecosystem to develop in its own way and build its own identity.

Q. In many ways, it seems to me," eMerge Americas is a startup that mirrors the development of the Miami ecosystem as a startup. Do you agree with that?

A. We are absolutely a startup that has evolved in lock step with the ecosystem. If you look back to when we hosted our first event, many of the major success stories that we talk about today were either at their infancy or hadn’t even been fully fleshed out yet. And we owe a great deal of the success of eMerge Americas to how much Miami has developed over the last five years and how much interest it has drawn across the globe. Our ecosystem is delivering on the promise that we promoted from the very beginning, which is a place where entrepreneurs and large technology companies focused on the Latin American market can connect with leaders from across the region, as well as those in the U.S. and European markets.

Q. Looking into your crystal ball, what will it take for the ecosystem to hit that critical inflection point?

A. Time. With the major successes we’re seeing like Modernizing Medicine, Chewy.com and Cyxtera — not to mention the massive potential impact of Magic Leap – we are poised to have a number of very large, global technology companies based in this ecosystem. That’s in addition to all the innovative companies that are growing here like Kairos and Nearpod. These companies and many others will continue to grow, innovate and attract talent from all over the world. That talent will develop new companies and bring even more interest from investors. Like I said before, I firmly believe we’re just at the beginning of the maturation of Miami’s technology sector.

Q. When you think of the Miami ecosystem, what’s the first word that comes to mind?

A. Unique. There are very specific characteristics and circumstances that are leading Miami to grow as a technology hub that doesn’t mirror any other in the world. Some of that has to do with the benefits our community has traditionally enjoyed — access to global markets, connection to Latin America, a multicultural city, great place to live and work — and some of it has to do with the incredible developments and energy surrounding our community in the last five years. Miami has truly matured as a global city, and our technology ecosystem will have a very unique position on the global scene that plays off that maturation.

Q. Local universities have always had a big presence at eMerge, particularly last year. Will that continue and what might we expect to see from them this year?

A. We’re always excited to see what innovative technologies and leading-edge research the universities will display at eMerge Americas. This year we’re fortunate to have the continued support of the University of Miami, Florida International University, Miami Dade College, Nova Southeastern University and Florida Atlantic University. We also are excited to have the University of Florida, Columbia University, and Babson College participating, as well as the Instituto Tecnológico y de Estudios Superiores de Monterrey from Mexico.

Q. I know they are all your babies but I’m going to force you to be selective. What are five speakers, exhibits or eMerge events not to be missed?

A. I’m going to cheat a little on this one. From a content perspective, we’re receiving a tremendous amount of interest for the keynotes in general — Steve Wozniak, Uri Levine, Marcelo Claure, Gustavo and Adriana Cisneros, Manny Medina, Blanca Trevino, Mauricio Ramos, Claudio Muruzabal, and, of course, Suze Orman and Armando Christian Perez, a k a Pitbull. On the exhibit floor we’re very excited about what Cyxtera Technologies will be showcasing in what’s their coming out party, as well as what Miami-Dade County will be featuring with their technology partners. The Startups Showcase will have another tremendous set of companies showing off very innovative technologies, including a number of companies from throughout Latin America and a strong contingent from our ecosystem. Based on the attendees we have registered, there’s going to be a very strong group of C-level executives from across Latin America, the United States and Europe, so the networking will be at another level this year. Finally, the networking events we offer on Sunday night always result in a good time for our attendees while they meet leaders from around the world.

[READ MORE: Done Deal: Medina Capital, BC Parttners form Cyxtera Technologies in $2.8B transaction]

Q. Any lessons learned last year that resulted in changes in the conference itself that we will see?

A. One of the elements of eMerge Americas that’s critical to the continued success of the event and our impact on the ecosystem is the networking events. we organize around eMerge Americas." So this year we decided to expand the reach of the networking opportunities to all of our attendees through a happy hour inside the convention center on Monday, June 12. This allows the thousands of attendees to connect right inside the convention center after all the keynotes and panel discussions are completed.

Q. What trends did you see in the Startup Showcase applicants and the ones that you selected?

A. One thing we’ve seen every year with the Startup Showcase is that the companies applying to participate are more and more sophisticated. This year in particular we’re seeing more later-stage companies than ever before, as well as a strong representation of companies from Latin America. One other trend we’ve noticed is that there are always a good number of South Florida-based companies that apply, but their level of success and quality has continued to improve on a yearly basis.

[To see the list of startups selected for the 2017 Showcase, go here: emergeamericas.com/startups]

Q. I don’t think most people know about all the ways you’ve been engaging startups, either through the showcase or in other ways. Tell us about some of those.

A. There are a few things we do to help support and engage entrepreneurs in Miami and Latin America. Throughout the year we host different small startup competitions throughout our main target markets in Latin America and in Miami with partners. The goal is to identify top startups that will have the opportunity to participate in the eMerge Americas Startup Showcase. For all the companies that are selected for the Startup Showcase, we partner with Visa and Venture Hive to provide the entrepreneurs with a monthlong virtual boot camp program and a full day of sessions at Venture Hive’s building in downtown Miami. The thinking is that we are able to provide significant value to all the entrepreneurs selected to participate in the showcase regardless of whether they win the overall competition.

[READ MORE: Upcoming eMerge Americas Hackathon dangles cash prizes and a meet-and-greet with Steve Wozniak]

Q. When we are talking in 2024, eMerge’s 10-year anniversary, what will we be talking about? What do you hope eMerge will look like then?

A. At the 10-year mark, eMerge Americas will serve as the anchor for a week-long series of events celebrating innovation in one of the globe’s top technology hubs and the strength of a robust technology sector in Latin America. eMerge will draw tens of thousands of attendees and be widely recognized as the world’s top event for innovators, government leaders and top technology executives looking to connect across Latin America, the United States and Europe. In 2024, we’ll also be talking about various Miami-based technology companies that are having great success, growing their employment opportunities, securing significant amounts of investment from private equity investors and venture capitalists with offices in Miami, and spawning a new set of technology companies that will grow in our community into 2034 and beyond.

Nancy Dahlberg: @ndahlberg

Xavier Gonzalez

Age: 36

Title: CEO, eMerge Americas

Previous positions: Vice president and director of corporate communications for Terremark Worldwide, 2007-12; director of marketing and communications for Beacon Council, 2003-07.

Community involvement: Board member for the Greater Miami Chamber, Miami-Dade Beacon Council and Camillus House; serves on Orange Bowl Committee; recent graduate of Leadership Florida.

Education: Bachelor’s in Journalism, Master’s in Mass Communications, University of Florida; Belen Jesuit Prep.

Books he recommends: “Shoe Dog;” “An Unfinished Life;” “Who Stole the American Dream?”

eMerge Americas

About the conference: eMerge Americas will be June 12-13 at Miami Beach Convention Center. More information and where to buy tickets: www.emergeamericas.com

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April 16, 2017

What would a venture capitalist say about that? Startups get chance to find out

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By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

Access to capital is lacking — that’s a common refrain among Miami area entrepreneurs, and particularly in minority communities. So Derick Pearson and Felecia Hatcher, founders of Code Fever and Blacktech Week, thought let’s bring the venture capitalists here. 

At a recent conference Pearson talked Marlon Nichols, co-founder and managing partner at Cross Culture Ventures and former investment director at Intel Capital, into agreeing to be Code Fever and Blacktech Week’s first VC in Residence. As part of the program, thought to be one of the first of its kind, top venture capitalists will spend a month in Miami advising and guiding black, Latinx and Caribbean entrepreneurs. Nichols, who generally splits his time between offices in L.A. and Silicon Valley, took up residence at WeWork earlier this month and has been holding office hours, fireside chats and lunch and learns that will continue throughout the month to help sharp founders think through the businesses that they are building. 

It wasn’t a hard sell and the arrangement is benefiting both sides of the table. 

“You can’t beat coming to Miami in April, but more importantly, Miami is rich in culture and our investment thesis is about understanding global culture to try to predict where consumers are going to spend their dollars,” said the Jamaican-born Nichols, who leads one of the relative few black-led venture capital funds in the U.S. “Black and Latinx cultures have been known for early adopters, so for understanding what is going on in those communities as well as the Caribbean community, Miami is a melting pot. For me it is a lot of learning.”

The new VC in Residence program is one of a number of Code Fever initiatives, which include producing Blacktech Week and Weekend, and it recently received $1.2 million in Knight funding. Entrepreneur-in-residence programs are commonly hosted at universities and accelerators to support entrepreneurs, solve problems and help innovate. Code Fever believes that borrowing from this model and inviting VCs to spend a month in residence in communities where there’s little access to funding can help reshape the way black communities are valued in the innovation sector. 

It’s a big challenge. Only about 1 percent venture capital funding goes to black founders, and only 13 black women founders in the entire nation have raised a million dollars or more in venture capital. 

In the half-hour office hour visits so far, Nichols has met with tech startups developing products or services for student debt, media content, cloud-based secure storage, educating inmates, dentistry and others. Most of the entrepreneurs are not yet at the stage for venture capital or do not have appropriate businesses for that kind of funding, but the door is still open. 

Some were interested in advice for preparing themselves for investment, others wanted mentorship on starting up or just wanted to talk strategy. And it hasn’t been all tech — Nichols met with a cupcake entrepreneur who wanted to talk about the best way to grow her business. 

And when companies are ready for investment, he wants to know about them. “I think gone are the days when all investments happen in Silicon Valley. ... Amazing companies can be created any where in the world and I want to keep my finger on the pulse of that. ... The biggest thing I will get out of this is developing a network here – with entrepreneurs I will keep in touch with, with angels here and organizations. They will help be eyes and ears for great investment opportunities here.”

Nichols is also holding frequent fireside chats, bringing in entrepreneurs who have experience starting and growing companies. “The best resource for new entrepreneurs is successful entrepreneurs as well as unsuccessful entrepreneurs,” he said. “There is just a wealth of knowledge that can be learned from both.” 

Last week, Nichols hosted entrepreneurs Brian Brackeen of Miami-based Kairos and Chris Bennett of Wonderschool and Soldsie.com for a fireside chat, dinner and networking. Bennett grew up in Miami but moved to San Francisco in 2009. While both entrepreneurs have raised millions in venture capital and angel funding and gave advice on that, they also dished on the realities of startup life — including 180-degree pivots, botched pitches with important VCs, building and overbuilding without reaching product-market fit and somehow keeping a team focused through the toughest months. We also learned that Brackeen wakes himself up at 3 a.m. because he does his best work then, but don’t bother him at 3 p.m. — that’s nap time.

Bennett is a big proponent of accelerators – he participated in NewME and 500 Startups — and he said he would do another one today. He also said the benefit to Silicon Valley is there are so many entrepreneurs, engineers and investors to learn from. “Talk to as many VCs as you can, because you learn what they care about. ... The best way to get ready for talking to VCs is to join an accelerator. The next best way is to surround yourself with entrepreneurs who have been successful and learn from them,” he said. 

Brackeen is bullish on the 305, including on the number of angels in South Florida and the growing infrastructure such as co-working spaces and accelerators — and maybe soon, innovation districts. “You can have the same success as a San Francisco company if you find the right people, find the right lawyer, find the right investors. There is not one model for the result,” he said. 

Coming up on Tuesday is a lunch and learn with Silicon Valley startup attorney Brian Patterson and a fireside chat with Diishan Imira, CEO and co-founder of Mayvenn. Pearson and Hatcher plan to bring more VCs down. Find more information about the VC in Residence program at blacktechweek.com/funding.

For his part, Nichols said he has been impressed so far with the potential of Miami.

“Successful ecosystems have universities spinning out technologies and talent, investors and angel groups, accelerators and co-working spaces — and challenges unique to those communities, that is the biggest thing. I don’t want to invest in the next Uber or the next Lyft. I want new market creators. What are big pain points for people in Miami that haven’t been met? Let’s figure out what those are and go solve them.”

Nancy Dahlberg; @ndahlberg 

READ MORE: Blacktech Week receives $1.2 million in Knight funding to expand entrepreneur programs

Btw

Marlon Nichols, co-founder of Cross Culture Ventures, Chris Bennett, founder of Soldsie.com and Wonderschool, and Brian Brackeen, founder of Miami-based startup Kairos, talk about startup life at a VC in Residence fireside chat at WeWork in this photo and above.

Photos by Blacktech Week. 

 

January 12, 2017

Miami e-commerce startup iguama scores $5 million in funding

IguamaBy Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiheraldcom

Miami startup iguama plans to open up its online shopping mall for U.S. brands to more consumers across Latin America, with the help of a $5 million Series A financing round led by technology venture capital firms Kibo Ventures and PeopleFund.

The company provides consumers in Latin America access to U.S. retail brands typically not available in local malls. Founded in 2014, iguama is the first cross-border e-commerce shopping club where members receive competitive pricing and exclusive deals, promotions on purchases from merchants such as Nordstrom, BCBG, Target, Overstock, Juicy Couture and others. All local customs, taxes and shipping are handled by iguama, removing international barriers from customers and providing a seamless shopping experience.

“iguama’s cross-border e-commerce technology provides tremendous value to millions of Latin American shoppers looking to access the best U.S. merchants and get delivery of their purchases to their door,” said Aquilino Peña, co-founder and managing partner of Kibo Ventures, a venture capital firm in Spain that has made nearly 40 investments.

DiegofernandezWith the new funding, iguama plans to expand throughout Latin America – and beyond, said Diego Fernandez (pictured here0, co-founder and CEO of iguama, who had been owned a freight forwarding franchise before founding iguama. The company currently services Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala and Panama, with several more countries including Mexico on the runway. iguama’s 35 employees are split between Guatemala, New York, China and Miami, where its logistics partners are based. Next week, iguama will be releasing a new version of its mobile site with a shopping assistant.

“A lot of Latinos like to go to Miami to buy their clothes. But [through iguama], people who don’t have access to travel can have access to the U.S. products, in a convenient way,” said Fernandez, a native of Guatemala. “Our goal is to personalize the shopping experience so customers will have the brands that they like. We are committed to expand our cross-border e-commerce platform to the rest of Latin America and eventually Europe as well.”

Cross-border e-commerce in Latin America is still an underserved market, and iguama has assembled a unique and experienced team in technology, e-commerce and cross-border logistics to become an important player, said Matias de Tezanos, co-founder and CEO of the Miami-based PeopleFund, an early backer of iguama.

iguama recently announced that Weihua Yan, co-founder and former CTO of diapers.com, has joined the company as Chief Technology Officer. Last year, Michael DeSimone, former CEO of cross-border logistics company Borderfree, joined the board of directors.

Follow @ndahlberg on Twitter.

December 06, 2016

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

Argentina6

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 martinez@cic.us

Argentina6b

December 02, 2016

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

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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 martinez@cic.us

[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]

 

November 29, 2016

Argentina to Miami, a bridge worth building (Part 4)

  Rio - Villa

Oasis' hotel 2.0 concept features properties like this one in Rio.

 

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.

ParkerLeading 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, and La Comunidad. For the fourth feature, we spoke with Parker Stanberry (pictured here), Co-Founder and CEO of Oasis, a disruptive hospitality group that relocated its headquarters to Miami two years ago.

Tell us about Oasis. How was the company started? What has been the trajectory? How do you see its future growth and development?

I hatched the idea in 2007 based on my own experiences as an international traveller and then expat in Buenos Aires. I just felt there was a need for a better and more immersive traveller experience than hotels could provide.

In 2008 I partnered with two other Americans who knew Buenos Aires well, put together about $20K of start-up capital, and launched in early 2009. So it was a true startup in the early days. We had some success in BA and raised $100K, then opened Sao Paulo and Punta del Este, which proved the concept enough to raise $600K. Then in 2013 that we raised a Series A and were able to really hit the gas in terms of expansion.

Now we’re in 22 cities in 12 countries, and earlier this year did a Series B with AccorHotels. With additional capital and the institutional support of a partner like Accor, the goal is to really ramp up and reach 100 markets. Our goal is to build the first global brand around this “hotel 2.0” concept.

When did you/Oasis come to Miami and why?

We decided to move the HQ here in 2014, as a natural base from which to pursue a global strategy. It’s geographically ideal, lower cost than a NYC (which would have been our other option), and obviously very international. I myself moved up here last year.

What kinds of opportunities are you looking for here? What aspects or risks worry you?

I think more than a specific opportunity, it’s the factors that I mentioned above. It just checks some key boxes for us at this stage of the company’s trajectory.

The 2 worrying aspects to me are, first, access to later-stage capital. It seems that the seed and angel stage ecosystem is developing quite well, but there aren’t any funds doing B/C/D stage rounds. That’s less a worry for us now with Accor on board and good relationships with some NY-based funds.

The other is scarcity of talent. There are certainly some great people around, but nowhere near the density of young professional talent as you’d find in a major US or European city. Now the flipside of that is that there are also fewer opportunities, so when you do find the right person, there is less competition for them and more loyalty. But I think the depth of the talent pool is something that the folks involved in trying to build this ecosystem have to put some serious thought into.

From the perspective of a Latin American entrepreneur/founder, what advantages does Miami have?

Well, I’m kind of a pseudo-Latin American entrepreneur, since I’m from the US, but sure, for the purposes of this question, I can play up the LatAm angle. Advantages are a) proximity to the region, b) tremendous amount of back and forth of people between Miami and the region, c) ability to ease in culturally, d) fact that many LatAm HQs are here, so it’s actually easier to reach regional decision makers in Miami than in BA or Mexico City or Sao Paulo.

In light of this perspective, what can Miami do better to become a true value-adding “hub” for the region?  

The city needs to find a way to get some larger funds active here. And I think that organizations doing some more explicitly cross-border focused programs, talks, workshops would be great, such as the LAB did a few weeks back with an Argentina focus.

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. What do you think Miami can learn from the Argentine case?

I’m not an expert on this so don’t have too strong of an opinion. But when looking at the Argentine model, I do feel that the original impetus for the movement has a good bit to do with luck - a few incredible entrepreneurs happened to build great companies in the late 90s, and that lead to the network effect that Endeavor points to. The great thing was that Endeavor was there in Argentina at that time, and really able to seize the moment and amplify the effect and influence of those 3 big success stories. So while maybe you can’t will those first success stories to happen, you, as a city or group of organizations in a city, can certainly be proactive in recognizing them and capitalizing on them.

That being said, you’re right - at a macro level it’s not like Argentina has been a model, and there haven’t been any majorly impactful start-ups, on a global scale I mean, since Globant. Meanwhile Sweden, a country 1/5th the size of Argentina, has created 4-5 [need to check that] unicorns in the past 8 or so years. So obviously the macro context is important, and is certainly an advantage that Miami has over Buenos Aires.   

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

Sure, there is no reason not to. There is a lot of commonality of language, a natural affinity between the two, and certain industries that are quite important in both cities (tech, real estate, hospitality come to mind). But again, that being said, the macro context in Argentina is so challenging, which begs the question of whether there are other US cities that have thrived in the recent years (Austin for example) that would make sense to study and forge connections to.

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 martinez@cic.us

[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 and part 3 here]

 

November 25, 2016

Argentina to Miami, a bridge worth building (Part 3)  

 By Natalia Martinez-Kalinina

  LacomunidadIMG_1546Miami has a ways to go before we can truly claim th e 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 and Wolox. For the third feature, we spoke with Joaquin Molla, Co-Founder and Chief Creative Officer of the community - a multiple award winning and globally recognized creative agency, designated as the 2016 multicultural agency of the year by AdAge.

 Tell us about the community/la comunidad. What’s the genesis story? What has been the trajectory?

We wanted to create a company where people can create and produce great work for great brands. The community was born around the idea of collaboration—how people from different cultures can influence each other and do amazing things when they work together. We deeply believe in the power of culturally-driven ideas.

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

At the community we think about growth differently. Most agencies approach the question of growth in the traditional way—the growth of their business; but we think growth is the product of something bigger: following a vision. Our vision remains the same: we believe in the power of culturally-driven ideas and technology. It’s all about our cultural sensibility, and we believe this is a global concept. So where that vision takes us, we will follow…

When did the community/la comunidad come to Miami? Why?

There were a few reasons. One of the most important ones was the idea of being able to do amazing things when you work and being able to have an amazing life when you get out of the office. We thought Miami could help us achieve a better balance between work and life. Some cities tend to give better work options, but with a harder side of life. We opened in Miami in 2001 with the idea of having a company with very high standards on both sides of life. We love the ocean! And it’s very rare to have both the opportunity to work in advertising and the ocean so close. It’s a luxury we celebrate every day. Also it is a very strategic place to be. You can be in New York and Chicago in three hours, in Buenos Aires overnight. You can cover all the Americas fast, and also be in London in six hours. It is in the middle of everywhere.

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

 Again, the idea of a better work-life balance. At the beginning, we were worried about the standards on creativity. Buenos Aires is a very intense city where you are surrounded by culture, and it pushes you beyond your limits all the time… in a very interesting way. So our concern was that Miami could have the opposite influence on the company and on us, but that didn’t happen.

Besides, Miami has changed a lot in the last 16 years in a fascinating direction. I feel like we are also part of that change, and I always felt the city received us and supported us a lot during all those years because we made that bet at that time—and we took it very seriously. Now I feel like Miami is the right place at the right time. I feel honored to be here surrounded by so many talented people who want to find a balance but also want to keep pushing the limits of what’s possible. I feel very lucky to be here.

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?

 I am very happy with the evolution Miami is going through. I like that it is becoming a more interesting place on the culture side. But the sense of “belonging” is something Miami has to work on. Somehow, it is hard to have strong roots in the city – everyone is moving around, and it feels like you are somehow another tourist in town. Whatever Miami can do to make people feel like a “local” and celebrate that you chose this city to raise your family and build your company would be great. More and more interesting people are choosing Miami to live, but how do we give them the sense of belonging and that extra “local” feeling that makes them stay?

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)

I think any effort on culture is very well received. We were always perceived as a shallow city, but now the amount of thinkers living here is amazing. What do we do with all of them to bring that truth to the surface?

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

We have a lot to learn on both sides. We should mix process and intuition more. Both extremes are bad. In the U.S., things become too process driven, and sometimes you lose a bit of the magic; and the opposite is also true in Argentina, so that mix has helped our company ha lot.

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?

Well, you can always learn from anything. I think the biggest thing would be the ability to adapt fast to anything. You become tougher, and you can adapt easily to change. I think that is key these days. That is the only thing we can be sure about: Everything is changing all the time. So being raised in a country like Argentina prepares you for anything. You also learn how to react quicker, because you know timing is key. These days with technology, that speed drives everything we do. The “speed of culture” is dictating a faster way to communicate all the time.

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?

I think Miami should build a bridge between all the big cities of Latin America, not only Buenos Aires. We should be able to see the best artists' work, the best plays, movies, books and more. There should be a connection between Miami and the best of each of those cities that is more direct, fluent and consistent. This happens sometimes: you see something amazing from one of these cities. For me, however, this should be a serious long-term program curated by interesting people to make sure we have a pulse in each of those cultures to see not only the best but also what’s coming, what’s under the radar. In Miami we are at the center of it all. We can connect the south and the north, and we can do amazing things with that amazing mix.

[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? and part 2 here]

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 martinez@cic.us

November 10, 2016

Argentina to Miami, a bridge worth building

Wolox

By Natalia Martinez-Kalinina

As we often hear, Miami is a city uniquely poised to be a hemispheric hub. But despite being the transit isthmus that connects our hemisphere and representing a natural landing pad for companies growing from Latin America, we have historically fallen short of creating a sustained bridge for tangible and bidirectional engagement.  Entrepreneurs from Latin America come half blindly and arrive without a fully nuanced understanding of our infrastructure, differences, logistical shortcuts, critical stakeholders. As such, the learning curve is often steeper and the adjustment period longer than it should be - and that is in part our fault.

Argentina has long been recognized as one of the primary entrepreneurial ecosystems in Latin America with regards to high potential entrepreneurs. In equal measure, however, it has also been plagued by political malaise, economic instability, unreliable institutional resources, and its own absence from global capital markets. Now, although the country is very much in a transitional period after the 2015 election and the myriad economic and legal changes underway, Argentine entrepreneurs can - for the first time in several decades - see a horizon in which the country’s public sector, institutions, markets, and workforce can truly dovetail to generate growth, investment, and innovation.

Miami has a ways to go before we can truly claim the title of regional epicenter, but 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 installment and inspiration for this series was an interview with Balloon Group. Below, we take a closer look at Wolox (pictured above), a growing software development company currently exploring its potential for expansion to the US from Buenos Aires, starting with a footprint in Miami. We spoke with Luciana Reznik, Wolox’s CEO (pictured here).


WoloxlucianaTell us about Wolox - how the company emerged, how has it changed over the years?

In 2011, Wolox was founded to innovate and help startups with all their product strategy and technological needs. With the lack of cutting edge tech solutions in Buenos Aires at the time, our goal was to bring high impact technology to the entrepreneurial ecosystem of South America. Concurrently, Buenos Aires was beginning to position itself as a major entrepreneurial city making for an ideal target market. After the great successes of the 90’s such as MercadoLibre, Despegar, and the first accelerators opening their doors, many new success stories continued to emerge. Like so, being an entrepreneur became an attractive career for many.

At this time, we were (all) finishing our degrees in computer engineering at The Buenos Aires Institute of Technology, a prestigious engineering university in Argentina. With other entrepreneurial experiences under our belt, an opportunity became clear to us: from a business standpoint, there were a larger number of individuals with good ideas and execution capabilities, than those with tech talent who could successfully carry out these ideas. This was our “aha” moment if every one of these individuals could be the CTO of a business venture, why not join together and become the CTOs of many business ventures?

Through the years, not only did we become experts in software development, but in all disciplines that influence the creation of top quality products as well as best practices when developing a startup. From the stage of conception to execution, researching the product market fit and implementing strategies to scale the business, Wolox is the team startups choose to partner with. Today, having worked with more than 80 startups has given us the know-how and key experiences to stand out within the industry which is invaluable to our clients.

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

Today, we have around 100 employees and 100 products developed, with continual growth every day. We have managed to penetrate new markets in the USA and other countries in Latin America. Additionally, Wolox has established a team of exceptional individuals who discover innovative solutions to the challenges we are presented with while working ethically and professionally. Thanks to our ongoing positive recognition, larger companies have begun to use our services of design thinking to find solutions to their problems and/or establish innovation within their brands.

At Wolox, we have also been able to create a unique organizational culture that defines who we are and allows us to establish a challenging, flexible, innovative and respectful environment where our employees come to work motivated and happy. That is perhaps one of the biggest achievements and where we focus our energy every day to continue improving and not conform with what we have already achieved. Wolox is a company created by and for Millennials. A place which seeks to break with tradition, rife with challenge, and where rules are created to be broken in order for continual success.

In the coming years, we plan to continue the immense and rapid growth we have been experiencing up until now- opening new operating centers throughout the country as well as sales offices in various cities around the world. We will continue to train experts in the diverse cutting-edge technologies that emerge such as AR, VR, Internet of Things, among others, to be able to provide the best technological solutions to the problems we encounter within the market industry. In addition, we hope to become key leaders and influencers for the working culture we possess. We believe that we can transform problems into solutions and ideas into quality products, from Argentina to the rest of the world, managing to be positive and happy throughout the journey.

When did Wolox come to Miami, and why? What opportunities are you looking to find here? What risks may you come across? What is the evaluation and product release process in the United States?

As the next logical step in terms of company expansion, Wolox began its operations in Miami in January

of 2016. Our percentage of US clients is constantly growing and we want to continue this growth in the coming years, therefore, we believe opening offices in the United States is the rational next step for the company.

In Miami (and South Florida in general) we saw an interesting opportunity: an expanding entrepreneurial ecosystem, with tremendous support from various institutions and government funding to put Miami on the map of the entrepreneurial world. With the large Latino community many of the bigger enterprises or brands targeting the Latin American market have offices in Miami.

Our biggest challenge now is to manage a high volume of deal flow to maintain our operations during the period of growth of this entrepreneurial community, until it has fully consolidated. We do have to keep in mind we are in a new community and network, with a blank slate, where people still do not know us. We'll have to work hard to achieve a strong reputation and to position ourselves just as we have in Argentina.

Success stories like Magic Leap, Open English, Kairos, among many others have helped encourage and push the creation of tech startups. New co- working spaces are constantly opening their doors, making Miami an attractive spot for companies to set up shop. Miami is a city with immense multicultural and creative talent and a low cost of living. It really has all the key ingredients to make for the ideal entrepreneurial hub. Our goal now is to start generating and executing new startups and to bring capital to risky investments. Wolox arrived in Miami to help entrepreneurs pursue their ideas and build the entrepreneurial ecosystem just like we did in Buenos Aires 5 years ago.

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

Miami has access to a far greater pool of investors than we do in Latin America. A seed capital in Miami is at least us$ 500,000 whereas Latin Amércia it rarely exceeds us$ 50,000. On the other hand, it's very strategically located between Latin America and many other entrepreneurial hubs like New York, San Francisco, Boston, Austin, and Los Angeles, where many of our customers reside. Being closer provides an added value to our clients. Miami has many investment funds that focus on this type of enterprise and entrepreneurs of each country in Latin America that can help in this expansion.

As a Latin American entrepreneur, from day one we are constantly thinking globally as our native country itself is usually not a big enough market. Often times the market for our product is in the United States, making it very hard to measure the startup’s early stages from a distance. Even if the market we are appointing to is Latin Amércia as a whole (and not just a particular country) it is a lot easier to access those countries from the USA than from Argentina for example.

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

Often times, legal and accounting issues end up being a major roadblock when trying to focus one's energy on business. Visa issues/procedure, difficulty in the opening of bank accounts or being unable to access credit are just some of the disadvantages foreign entrepreneurs encounter. To overcome these difficulties, we must be in a privileged position within our country of origin to be able to access the necessary resources. This is something we consider a limitation in attracting top talent.

On the other hand, we must continue to focus on the education and the transmission of entrepreneurial culture. Some of the best practices when carrying out a startup such as energy and entrepreneurial execution speed (which are found in the most important hubs in the region), are  built through education and example. Therefore, it is necessary for the successful entrepreneurs of Miami to stay in order to transmit their learnings and knowledge and channel their entrepreneurial spirit to help and motivate those who are just getting started. Of course, the active participation of organizations - both public and private -that help entrepreneurs to perform this work is a key factor to achieve development.

What is your view on the political and economic situation in Argentina at the moment? What perspective does this experience give you on the growth of Miami?

Argentina is in the process of rebuilding political and economic relations with the United States. They are putting a lot of effort in generating public policies which support entrepreneurs and are strengthening programs and incentives of exchange between the two countries.

For example, only for the year 2016 will the budget allocated to the co- state investment in enterprises by local accelerators, triple. Undoubtedly, this will have a huge impact on the amount of Argentine entrepreneurs who choose Miami as the next step in its expansion process.

It is also expected for there to be at least two new public-private angel investment funds formed, whom will seek to have an active participation from foreign funds. This presents itself as a very interesting opportunity for foreigners: entering the entrepreneurial ecosystem of Argentina with limited risks.

Finally, the Argentine peso is at an exceptionally competitive value for the US market. Making for a very appealing strategy to realize the commercial development of Argentine companies in the USA.

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 believe Argentines are very entrepreneurial in nature. Things in our country are never simple, predictable or easy. We have overcome several crises throughout our history and from day one we have to address the daily challenges we face in an innovative way. From this, one learns to find solutions to the problem effectively, efficiently, and while working collaboratively.

As entrepreneurs, we have the need to create enterprises with sustainable business models from the get-go, since the ability to raise capital is quite small. I see this as a major difference between the Argentine entrepreneur and the US entrepreneur. Here entrepreneurs sometimes do things thinking only of the next round of investment or how to improve the KPIs the investors are going to ask for, instead of focusing on making a profitable business. Perhaps in the coming years, this paradigm will begin to change if the access to capital becomes more difficult. Which we are beginning to see in some parts of the USA.

In Argentina, there is a very strong sense of community. Entrepreneurs share their experiences, they teach, and invest in and mentor those just getting started. This ‘multiplier effect” is essential for the growth of the entrepreneurial community anywhere around the world and is one of the values ​​promoted strongly by Endeavor in Argentina. I believe this is something interesting and important to try and replicate in Miami. First, identify these stories of success and then take advantage of their transmission of knowledge that can render for following generations.

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

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 martinez@cic.us

October 10, 2016

Startup Spotlight: Caribé Exotic Juice offers taste of the tropics

Cristian

By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@MiamiHerald.com

COMPANY NAME: Caribé Exotic Juice

Headquarters: Miami and Washington, D.C.

Concept: Build lasting supply chains to connect Caribbean and Latin American producers to the U.S. market. Right now, the company is focusing on helping small farmers in the Dominican Republic make use of excess fruit by purchasing produce the farmers ordinarily would discard and making cold-pressed juice from it. The juice is then sold in Miami and Washington, D.C., under the Caribé brand.

Story: While undergraduates at the University of Miami, Cristian F. Robiou (pictured above) and Luis Solis wondered why larger beverage companies did not source fruits at large scale "from the Caribbean and Latin America to make natural juices favored by Hispanic consumers. Passion fruit and sour sop, for instance, are popular in multicultural households, but high-quality, ready-to-drink options did not exist in the market.

That question was the intellectual genesis of Caribé. But the soul of the company developed later, as the founders tried to solve the question.

“While graduate students, we researched the question and found a suite of issues that made building a supply chain more prohibitive in this part of the world: wide-scale disorganization at the local governmental level in the Caribbean, disorganization as to the way representatives handled their duties, and even wider corruption at the EX/IM level. This angered us,” said Robiou. He was then in his first year at Harvard Law School, while Solis was in his first year at Darden Business School at the University of Virginia.

"The research project began as an aloe farm and eventually became Caribé Exotic Juice, a company selling cold-pressed juices made from exotic fruits imported from the Dominican Republic, where both Robiou and Solis grew up. Dominican farmers, who typically struggle to sell their products overseas, directly benefit. The arrangement in turn improves the social and economic conditions of thousands of agricultural workers in the DR. (article continues under photo)

Caribejuice

“We realized there was a lot of paving to be done to make sure we could make this concept work,” Robiou said. “But we did it because we care about helping and developing the Caribbean and doing so in a way that benefits U.S. consumers.”

In 2014, Caribé launched its juice in the mid-Atlantic. The local Whole Foods picked it up. Now the company has four juices, found in all Whole Foods in Washington, D.C., and Maryland, and soon will carry the juices in New York and New Jersey. The juice will also soon be in 50 Harris Teeter supermarkets and is approved to launch in 100 Krogers.

Caribé is also found in many fast-casual restaurants and independent stores in Miami, including The Daily Creative, Spring Chicken, Jimmy’z Kitchen, Wynwood Cafe and Pinecrest Wayside Market. Robiou hopes to get into Whole Foods and Publix in South Florida. “We’re committed to Miami. We are going to make it work.”

The four flavors are Starfruit (15 calories, drink it straight up or use as a mixer), Passion Fruit, Guava and Acerola Berry. Coming soon: a Caribé coconut water (made with Dominican coconuts and a splash of lime) and a mango mix. A cold-pressed coffee drink — with a Caribbean twist, of course — is in the works. The bottles retail for $2.99 to $3.49.

Website and social media: caribejuice.com and instagram.com/caribejuice

Launched: February 2014

Management team: Cristian F. Robiou (based in Miami); Luis Solis (based in Washington, D.C.)

No. of employees: Eight full-time employees spread out among operations, marketing and sales, plus 16 part-time employees.

Financing: $750,000 from friends-and-family financing rounds. The team expects to soon complete a $2 million financing round with Dominican and American investors.

Milestones: 34 new Harris Teeter supermarkets added to accounts. Likely closing a premier natural beverage distributor in the Northeast representing 13 new states that will feature Caribé. Met with the president of the Dominican Republic in late August to discuss the impact.

Biggest startup challenge: Dealing with the Caribbean and Latin American business culture, as well as Miami’s. “It’s very much who you know and less about the numbers … and I wasn’t prepared for that,” Robiou said. “I thought that if you can prove the business case, that’s that, but that hasn’t been the case here. But being here has forced me to address that weakness in myself. It has made me, I think, a stronger leader because you can’t forget that business is fundamentally about people, about relationships.”

Next steps: Building out broader partnerships within Miami and capturing key stores to help expand markets across relevant demographics. Caribé wants to bring in more marketing employees and focus explicitly on advertising for 90 days in 2017. The team is developing more dynamic branding tied to Miami.

“We want to be the standard here in Florida. I want someone to be able to walk into a Whole Foods or a Publix and find Caribé on the shelf,” Robiou said. That kind of availability brings home the idea we had when we started Caribé, of seeing Miami as this link to the best of the Caribbean. We care very, very much about growing from here and being something that stands for good in Miami.”

Mentor’s view: Seeing the health trends, Adam Meltzer, owner of The Daily Creative, said he began carrying Caribé products in his restaurant about a year ago and sales are strong. He also introduced Robiou to Gordon Food Service, a distributor that Robiou is now working with. “When I first tried the passion fruit flavor, I was immediately impressed with the unusual, yet refreshing taste. It piqued my interest to try them all,” Meltzer said. “The challenge that he faces moving forward is to keep the buzz going, to keep the Caribé name fresh in people’s minds with social media, tastings etc. Marketing will be the key to his success from here on.”|

Nancy Dahlberg: @ndahlberg

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Mediconecta brings telehealth to emerging markets.

August 01, 2016

Startupbootcamp Digital Health announces inaugural Miami cohort

Selection days

Startupbootcamp, Europe’s largest family of innovation programs, on Monday announced the 10 teams that will join its Miami-based digital health accelerator. A diverse range of solutions – from pre-natal remote monitoring to Latin America’s largest telehealth provider – were selected.

“We are proud that our inaugural class includes a diversity of founders, product category, stage and geography. We focused our selection on later stage companies with real revenue and traction poised to scale across our network of healthcare customers. We are hopeful that Miami will soon become recognized as a global hub for healthcare innovation," said Christian Seale, founder and managing director of Startupbootcamp in Miami.

After reviewing close to 300 applications from over 40 countries, Startupbootcamp invited 15 digital health companies  to attend Startupbootcamp’s Selection Days this past weekend. Over two days, the companies were evaluated by executives from the Nicklaus Children’s Hospital, University of Miami Health System, Jackson Health System, Memorial Healthcare System, Aetna, Abbvie, Univision, Microsoft, GE Healthcare and top-tier healthcare investors.

After the two-day selection process, the following program finalists were invited to form part of the 2016 cohort.

Post-seed:

Babyscripts (US) - The first mobile, clinical solution to seamlessly provide remote monitoring of an OB’s patient population in-between visits.

CareAngel (US) - Care Angel has developed ANGEL, the world's first Artificially Intelligent Caregiver providing device-free care management and telemonitoring via telephone.

Mediconecta (Venezuela/Miami) - The largest telehealth provider in Latin America. Currently operating in Mexico, Peru, Ecuador, Venezuela, Chile and expanding to the US. [Read more here.]

QoC Health (Canada) - QoC Health helps health organizations take their digital health ideas to scale / commercialization with its patient-centered technology platform.

TruClinic (US) - A modular cloud-based  telemedicine platform that combines video collaboration with clinical workflow management solutions to help healthcare providers better serve their patients.

VoiceITT (Israel) - A voice-translation technology platform for people with speech disability;  compiling a propriertary sound bank of unintelligible speech for research purposes.

Pre-seed:

Aces Health (US) - The first end-to-end clinical trial management app for patients and researchers.

Overl.ai (US) - A healthcare automation intelligence company that makes it easy for providers to control the apps and web services they use to deliver care and communicate with patients.

Keep Livin (US) - A patient engagement platform with a mission to eradicate health disparities that adversely impact racial/ethnic communities.

LineHealth (Portugal) - A hardware company helping you to take the right pill at the right time, leading to a longer and healthier life.

The 10 companies have raised $13.85 million and are valued at over $48 million collectively.

Startupbootcamp is also welcoming two Entrepreneurs-in-Residence: Carevoyance of Miami, a data analytics platform that helps medical device companies expand their market, and Personomics, a healthcare company founded by Jordan Kavana to revolutionize consumer-driven wellness by providing health, diet, beauty and lifestyle solutions based on your DNA.

The selected companies are provided with seed funding, matched with an international network of healthcare customers to accelerate sales and given access to a network of top-tier venture investors to raise seed-Series A financing to scale their business. The accelerator program will begin Sept. 6 and culminate with a Demo Day on Dec. 1.

Startupbootcamp launched in Miami late 2015 with $2 million in Knight Foundation support  and a diverse group of founding partners including Microsoft’s BizSpark Program; Miro Ventures LLC; Nicklaus Children’s Hospital; Univision;  Maurice R. Ferré, executive chairman of Insightec and co-founder of MAKO Surgical; Jaret Davis, co-managing shareholder of Greenberg Traurig; and Michael Simkins, president and CEO of Innovate Development Group leading the Miami Innovation District project. 

“By focusing on health, [Startupbootcamp] is really building out the ecosystem for innovation," said Dr. Narendra Kini, CEO at Nicklaus Children’s Hospital. "We hope to see the next major healthcare players originate in Miami.” 

The program offers startups access a mentor and alumni network from across the globe and partnerships with leading hospital systems, insurers and investors  to accelerate and scale their businesses. The program also aims to focus its companies on the eradication of healthcare disparities.

"We look forward to seeing how the program’s model, previously successful in Europe, will bring new energy and talent to Miami’s innovation ecosystem and provide a fresh avenue for startups to grow and thrive in our city,” said Matt Haggman, program director for Miami at the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

Startupbootcamp programs are currently active in 13 other cities across the US, Europe and Asia, with other cities and vertical programs to soon be announced.

 

 

Read more on Startupbootcamp here.

Read "Prescription for economy: Healthcare startup energy" here.

Selection days2

Photos were taken during Startupbootcamp's  Selection Days in Miami July 30 and 31 at Building.co. At top, Christian Seale addresses crowd; above, one of the teams meets with selection panelists.