Want to know about Miami startups? A user's guide to this blog

Dear reader, Starting Gate has been providing and archiving South Florida startup and tech community news, views and resources since 2012. New to the Miami area? Thinking about relocating here? Just want to keep up with news, events and opportunities? We're there for you.

How to use Starting Gate: Besides scrolling the blog for the latest entries, you can access news and views by category. The "Funding" category will capture venture capital and angel funding news of individual startups as well as stories about funders. The startup categories chronicle news and my regular "Spotlights," and in Q&As you'll find interviews with CEOs and leaders in the entrepreneurship ecosystem. There are also categories for guest posts, views, accelerators/incubators, resources, events and more.

Thank you for your support through the years and please come back often. Follow me on Twitter @ndahlberg. - Sincerely, Nancy Dahlberg

August 08, 2017

Traffic, transit - can we solve it? Fastrack Institute will marshall tech, talent and government

Traffic

By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

When you think of Miami, images of traffic jams likely cloud the otherwise sunny picture. And don’t get us started on how mobility issues can weigh on the environment, personal livelihoods and the economy as a whole.

What if entrepreneurs, engineers, corporations, legal minds and governments came together to build mobility solutions that could help Miami and be used by other cities?

It’s an experiment that is already being tested in Colombia by a trio of South Florida’s most accomplished entrepreneurs: Rodrigo Arboleda, co-founder of the global nonprofit One Laptop Per Child; Dr. Maurice Ferré, co-founder of Mako Surgical who is now running the brain-health biotech firm Insightec; and Salim Ismail, founding executive director of Singularity University and a guru on the power of exponential technologies.

Their young Miami-based nonprofit foundation, Fastrack Institute, is now turning to Miami, where it will look at the mobility challenge with fresh eyes, seek ideas and “fastrack” some of them into prototypes that can be tested and developed further. Fastrack announced Tuesday that it will launch a 16-week program to help address Miami-Dade's transportation problems, with funding from the Knight Foundation, Miami-Dade Expressway Authority and local real estate developer and investor Armando Codina.

The Miami program will kick off Aug. 24 with a free daylong workshop open to the public.

The Miami announcement follows a year of experience in Medellín, Colombia, where Fastrack Institute has launched eight startups aimed at solving urban problems in fast, cost-effective ways using technology. These include not only potential solutions for mobility and air quality but also widening citizens’ access to banking and finance, healthcare and early education.

The Fastrack framework is based on ideas spearheaded by Singularity University and Ismail’s ExO Works, organizations that focus on the impact of “exponential” technologies — that is, technologies doubling in power or speed while their cost drops. The Institute runs 16-week programs, also called Fastracks, in which tech companies or nonprofits collaborate with government regulators, attorneys, sociologists and other experts to solve urban issues. The idea is that legal, regulatory and societal hurdles can be addressed while the concepts are being built and the technology is being being tested. Once deployed, the technologies can be used by other cities.

The three entrepreneurs came together serendipitously, each independently looking at ways to put technology to work on urban issues. Arboleda was looking for ways to engage more young people in Latin America in technology and the sciences after finishing his work with One Laptop Per Child, which provided laptops to more than 3 million children in emerging markets. Ferré was exploring how to accelerate and support advanced healthcare innovation locally as well as globally. Ismail had recently moved to Miami from Silicon Valley, and was helping corporations learn how to develop an innovative mindset.

“In Fastrack, what we have uncovered is a mechanism so that as you are investigating these technologies like solar or autonomous cars, you can ramp up the regulatory, legal and safety changes that need to be made as you are looking at the technology,” said Ismail, in an interview last month.

“We found with Fastrack we can solve a problem facing a city at about one-tenth the current cost, which makes it economically very compelling,” he said. Twenty other global cities, about half in Latin America, have expressed interest in Fastrack programs, according to Ismail.

Arboleda, the Institute’s CEO, Ferré and Ismail launched the first Fastrack programs in Medellín, about a year ago, and found the city to be an ideal partner for its pilot programs. The city has “earned its wings” because it which has risen from the brink of economic collapse by smartly employing the power of innovation, said Arboleda. Fastrack partnered with Colombian entrepreneurial organization Ruta N, which was founded by the city of Medellín and links academia and the private and public sectors, according to Arboleda.

“Cities should embrace and accelerate the adoptions of these technologies but try to minimize the collateral damage to those portions of societies these types of exponential, viral and disruptive technologies will be affecting. We need to complete the circle. Technology alone cannot make it,” Arboleda said in an interview earlier this summer. “That is the genesis of Fastrack Institute.”

Fastrack’s first foray spawned two startups to tackle access financial access and two more focused on transportation, including autonomous vehicles. Programs on air quality and healthcare have followed; one on education is in the works. Large corporations from various industries are providing most of the funding in Colombia, Arboleda said.

Take healthcare, for example. A town two hours from Medellín has the highest rate of Alzheimer’s in the world; it was profiled on CBS’ 60 Minutes and has been drawing the interest of scientists and doctors globally, including Ferré.

“There is a tremendous opportunity [in Colombia] to set up a living laboratory with gigantic potential for mankind,” Arboleda said. “One of the most difficult health challenges will be the aging populations and in that age bracket Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s will become the most damaging elements we have ever seen in humanity for older people and the younger people taking care of them.”

[READ MORE: How a Silicon Valley big thinker is helping to bring world-changing ideas to life – in Miami]

Closer to home, where expanding mass transit it a hot topic, Miami-Dade County and the Miami-Dade Expressway Authoring have asked Fastrack Institute to explore the transportation solutions of the future.

“Traffic — think about it. If we can solve it in Miami, then that becomes an export industry that applies to every city in the world,” Ismail said.

To launch the Miami-Dade Fastrack, the institute received $500,000 from the Knight Foundation, Miami-Dade Expressway Authority and local real estate developer and investor Armando Codina, representing the Codina Family.

“This initiative is a prime example of how public/private partnerships are beneficial to the community,” said Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos A. Gimenez, in a statement.

Gimenez will accompany a delegation from Miami attending a Singularity University program next week, Arboleda said. The University of Miami’s Center for Computational Sciences and Rokk3r Labs are among the organizations already involved in Fastrack programs in Latin America.

In Miami-Dade, Fastrack will kick off Aug. 24 with a daylong public workshop in the Board of County Commission Chambers of the Stephen P. Clark Government Center. Register here to attend.

The workshop will begin with a presentation and discussion about Miami-Dade's transit issues and the institute will launch an open call for mobility solutions. Two teams will be selected from the pool of applicants to participate in the 16-week Fastrack. The teams will include global experts, local participants, organizations, educational institutions and public offices. The Fastrack will be directed and supported by a full-time Miami-based team and a local advisory board.

Climate change, accessible healthcare and affordable housing all could be issues for future Miami Fastracks.

“What we want to do is make Miami the capital for this kind of thinking,” Ismail said. “Absolutely the biggest success factor for any city is diversity, and the richness that comes from it. All great ideas come when you cross disparate domains together.” 

Nancy Dahlberg: @ndahlberg   

July 29, 2017

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

GlobPic1

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

By Natalia Martinez-Kalinina

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Globant4

July 16, 2017

Startup Spotlight: Voyhoy

Voyhoy1

From left: Ignacio Vial, Mateus Rocha, Jake Moskowitz (seated) CEO, Juan Arredondo, and Roger Robinson at the offices of Voyhoy on June 22. Voyhoy, which recently won the big prize at eMerge Americas, has a travel app where people can buy tickets for Latin American travel on bus, flight, ferry and train — sometimes all in the same trip in one place online. Roberto Kolton/Miami Herald.

 

Company name: Voyhoy

Headquarters: Miami, with operations office in Santiago, Chile.

Concept: Voyhoy is a multimodal travel platform in Latin America, helping people compare and buy tickets on buses, planes, ferries and trains. The startup focuses on the most affordable tickets for the most price-sensitive travelers in the region.

Story: Despite diverse backgrounds, Voyhoy co-founders Jake Moskowitz, Roger Robinson and Ignacio Vial can thank coincidence and Santiago’s tightly-knit expat community for bringing them together. To affordably book trips for his clients at his former tourism company while working in Chile, Moskowitz, from Atlanta, would visit multiple bus terminals with wads of cash and sit in line for hours to buy seats on passenger buses rather than pay for an expensive charter bus. For personal travel, he and Robinson, an expat from Washington, D.C., struggled to find transportation information online and constantly encountered problems with disorganized ticket offices.

Jake Moskowitz, CEO of Voyhoy, at the company offices in Miami.

Roberto Koltun rkoltun@miamiherald.com

They found that travelers in Latin America are faced with ever-increasing options to get from point A to point B. But limited connectivity and route coverage, disproportionate trip prices, and a lack of transparent information, the best route is rarely apparent. Also, most travel sites that cater to Latin America only sell flights — the most expensive mode of transportation — whereas most travelers prefer more affordable options like buses and low-cost airlines, most of which are not even listed on travel sites in the region. This fragmentation forced travelers to buy their tickets in person or on the individual sites of each operator without comparing multiple companies at once.

The co-founders, including Vial, a Chilean native, created a free version of Voyhoy as a proof of concept. “After traffic grew quickly and more and more travelers were using Voyhoy to find the best trip, we decided to make this our lives’ mission,” Moskowitz said.

Voyhoy received initial funding from local Chilean investors to hire developers and build a monetized version of Voyhoy: “We then simply followed the demand, partnering with the companies that offered the routes with the highest search volumes in Voyhoy. Each time we added a new company, our revenue increased.” Voyhoy was then accepted into a highly competitive Techstars accelerator program focused on mobility.

As it was Santiago’s community that brought the team together, it was a leader in Miami’s tech community that brought the startup to Miami. “A charismatic” Kairos CEO Brian Brackeen met the co-founders by chance at a pitch event in Detroit and immediately began to pitch them on relocating to Miami. A subsequent 30-minute call with Brackeen turned into two hours; Brackeen made introductions; and soon, they were flying down for a tour by Brackeen and meetings with tech community leadors and entrepreneurs. The Voyhoy team relocated in January, believing Miami to be the ideal location for an international headquarters for its growing customer base in Latin America.

“I’m glad they chose Miami as their headquarters after TechStars. The entrepreneurs have a lot of passion, are hard workers and are good listeners,” said mentor Laura Maydon, managing director of Endeavor Miami. “Importantly, they are solving an important problem.”

Today, travelers can use Voyhoy to buy tickets from over 1,000 providers across transport modes for over 100,000 routes in Chile, Argentina, Peru, Brazil and Colombia, with other markets on the way. For transport operators, Voyhoy increases their ticket sales by modernizing their technology capabilities and diversifying their passenger base.

Voyhoy also helps some partners increase their ticket inventory by combining their existing trips with other providers to sell interlined tickets to new destinations both on Voyhoy.com and on their own sites.

“We realized that providing a simple tool to find the best tickets wasn’t enough,” Moskowitz said. “We developed virtual interlining technology that allows travelers to buy multiple travel legs in single transactional tickets. We call them smart tickets. (Bus + flight, train + ferry, etc.). Our smart tickets help travelers find new ways to get to their destinations, save money against overpriced direct options, and save time for inefficient overland journeys.”

Launched: September 2015

Website: voyhoy.com

Management team: Jake Moskowitz, CEO; Roger Robinson, CTO; Ignacio Vial, COO; Mateus Rocha, marketing director; Juan Arredondo, project manager.

No. of employees: 16

Financing: $500,00 pre-seed from angel investors, Techstars and CORFO (Chilean government); undisclosed seed round from Fontinalis Partners, 1776, Outbound Ventures and Autonebula. Currently look to raise additional $500,000.

Recent milestones: Finalized partnership agreements and technical integrations to launch Voyhoy in four new markets. Recently relocated headquarters to Miami. After closing a round of funding, made strategic hires in Miami and in Chile. In June, won the eMerge Americas Startup Showcase, taking home $100,000 in prizes.

Biggest startup challenge: “Our biggest challenge is trying to accomplish too much too quickly and the opportunity cost that comes with being forced to prioritize one thing over another,” Moskowitz said.

Next step: Implementing marketing campaigns across all Voyhoy’s markets, releasing smart tickets for the routes with the largest price discrepancies or most limited trip options, and providing a more personalized and targeted customer experience. “We’re also developing new technologies, making new hires, and signing new strategic partners to diversify our product, add more tickets, and open up new revenue channels,” Moskowitz said. “We’re currently hiring a full-stack developer and a commercial director.”

Investor’s view: “Voyhoy has done a great job of quickly establishing numerous partnerships, which signals to us that its approach is validated by others in the market,” said investor and advisor Christopher T. Stallman, partner of Fontinalis. “Each market has its own nuances — both opportunities and challenges — and it’s important that they execute well in each country they operate within. As we’ve advised the company, this means leaning on in-country experts, whether they’re advisors or strategic partners, and growing deliberately and effectively versus quick but haphazardly.”

Follow Nancy Dahlberg on Twitter @ndahlberg

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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