Miami startup Kompoz hits a high note with new online store SoundBlend

Soundblend-homeA Miami startup helps you make music together -- and now sell it, too.

Kompoz is a music collaboration platform, with members from more than 120 countries. Working from their home studios — using Pro Tools, Logic, GarageBand, Sonar or any other digital audio recording software — Kompoz artists  worldwide collaborate online to create original music. Through Kompoz, they can also collaborate on revenue split sheets and ownership contracts.

And thousands of people who have never met in person are doing all of that on Kompoz – there are 33,000 songs in progress right now, said Raf Fiol, founder and co-CEO of Kompoz. Now these artists also have a way to sell that music.

On Tuesday,  Kompoz announced it has launched SoundBlend, a new online music store that features songs collaboratively created on Kompoz. The name refers to the nature of the song creation process -- artists blending their talents to create new original music. Fiol said it is the first store that features crowdsourced music exclusively.

“The music creation process is being revolutionized by global online access to talent,” said Fiol, who is based at Venture Hive. “Songs are being created jointly by people who have never met, writing and recording from home studios all around the world. A song released on SoundBlend may have been started by a drummer in Seattle and a singer in Austin. And another song started with a bass player in Stockholm and a violinist in Vienna.”

SoundBlend allows musicians to sell individual digital downloads, license their songs for use in videos and films, and sell rights to a song. When songs are sold or licensed, Kompoz pays each collaborator based on the splits defined in the seller agreement.

SoundBlend features a common $0.99 download option, although the artists set the price, not SoundBlend, and also offers  royalty-free music licensing for videos and film and consignment, Fiol said.    “Consignment allows our artists to offer all economic rights to the song, on an irrevocable basis, to some other party that can do whatever it wishes with the song. Kompoz acts as a broker between the artists and a buyer.”

SoundBlend also features a widget  called "The Moodboard" that allows a visitor to drag a blue dot on a grid that features tempo on the vertical axis, and mood on the horizontal, Fiol said.  You can see this in action here.

 “We believe crowdsourced music deserves a new kind of music store; one that embraces global collaboration and empowers independent musicians to sell and profit together,” said Steve Gardner, Kompoz' vice president.

 Listen to a few Kompoz songs here: Road To Zion, Lifetime Grudge and Closer.


Miami-Dade chosen for Code for America Fellowship program

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Code for America on Tuesday evening announced a new partnership with the Miami-Dade County government for the 2015 Code for America Fellowship Program. The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation is investing $75,000 to support the launch of the program in Miami. The announcement was shared with more than 750 attendees at the annual Code for America Summit in San Francisco.

The Code for America Fellowship pairs local governments with teams of mid-career, civic-minded technologists for one year. The governments and fellows explore answers to local challenges by engaging with the community, building applications and testing the results. Over the past four years, the fellowship program has produced more than 55 Web apps with 30 municipal governments and 103 fellows.

“It is a privilege for Miami-Dade County to be Code for America’s first government partner in Florida. This collaboration will drive a more open government, stimulate economic development and improve the delivery of regulatory services to our community,” said Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos A. Gimenez, who participated in the announcement event in San Francisco, along with Matt Haggman, Miami program director of the Knight Foundation and Code for Miami's Ernie Hsiung and Rebekah Monson.

In Miami, Code for America will assemble a team of three fellows for 11 months. The fellowship will begin in January 2015, with a month-long training session in San Francisco, following which fellows will travel to Miami to take on a residency with local government. The fellows, which receive a $50,000 stipend and mentorship, will work with officials and residents to identify specific government challenges and then start developing technology solutions to tackle these challenges. Projects will be presented in October 2015 at the Code for America Summit.

Code for America chose seven governments for the 2015 program from a pool of 40 applicants. In addition to Miami-Dade County, Other cities chosen were Albuquerque, N.M.; Indianapolis, Ind.; Pittsburgh, Pa.; Somerville, Mass.; Vallejo, Calif.; and West Sacramento, Calif. Miami’s three fellows will be announced in November.

Posted Sept. 23, 2014; photo at San Francisco announcement provided by Code For Miami.

Fort Lauderdale-based LevelRE launches nationally

LevelRE_Logo_MedLevelRE, new real estate technology and service company based in Fort Lauderdale, launched nationally on Tuesday. The company said it is the first online full-service brokerage with regional presence throughout the country that enables buyers and sellers to manage and control the home sales process while saving thousands of dollars.

The company, a full-service licensed real estate brokerage, offers its own listings and aggregates listings from major online services on levelre.com. Its proprietary technology gives customers the ability to list, price, search, bid, and negotiate in real-time from their devices, all with the assistance of licensed real estate agents and  support staff. The company says the process can slash a large chunk off  the typical costs of real estate commissions.

“LevelRE aims to change the traditional process and commission structure Americans have grown accustomed to when they buy and sell their homes,” said CEO Todd Seigel,  a long-time real estate broker, lawyer and CPA. “This is most Americans’ largest lifetime investment and we see real value in helping home buyers and sellers save money by using cutting-edge technology to streamline the process.”

 The  company was founded in late 2011, secured  funding in 2013 and completed its beta program in August. It’s backed by CrunchFire Ventures and the Miami Innovation Fund. In addition to Siegel, the founding team also includes Franc Nemanic, vice president of business development, and Steve Repetti, chief technology officer.

Posted Sept. 23, 2014 



New Fort Lauderdale startup leverages beacon technology to help enterprises

BluVision announced its launch Tuesday to provide enterprises with a full Bluetooth beacon cloud-based control solution and ecosystem. The Fort Lauderdale-based startup developed BluZone, an end-to-end Bluetooth beacon hardware and Software as a Service (SaaS) platform for beacon management.

BluVision is brand new, but the company has more than 12 years of experience in Bluetooth design. It’s BluZone can be incorporated with its BEEKS line of Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) software and hardware, helping businesses adapt the latest beacon technology for a wide range of applications, such as retailers keeping track of shoppers’ tendencies and offering coupons based on such habits; airlines locating lost passengers and guiding them to the proper gate to ensure on-time boarding; and medical professionals receiving relevant records, as a patient enters an examination room. According to ABI Research, the availability of BLE beacons is growing quickly, with more than 60 million units expected to hit the market by 2019.

“As the beacon management market is expanding rapidly, we are focused on maintaining our strong growth in this sector, through innovation and the development of strategic partnerships,” said Jimmy Buchheim, CEO of BluVision, in a statement. “Our company’s focus will be to deliver comprehensive enterprise beacon hardware, software and network solutions for Android and Apple iBeacon protocols.”

BluVision already has 25 employees, the company said.



FAU awarded large grant to build Big Data lab

By Dan Sweeney, Sun Sentinel

The National Science Foundation has awarded Florida Atlantic University $600,000 to create a Big Data Training and Research Lab on its Boca Raton campus. "I was extremely happy when I heard," said Taghi Khoshgoftaar, the computer science professor who received the grant. "If you're doing data analytics and you don't have the computer resources, you are really handicapped.''

Big Data refers to the collection of incredibly vast amounts of information that requires supercomputers with blazing processing speeds and terabyte after terabyte of storage capacity. The grant money, along with another $297,000 kicked in by the university, will be used to upgrade the computer systems in FAU's current Data Mining lab. But it will be four or five months before the upgrades are in place.

Read the full Sun Sentinel story here.

Art Hackathon: And the winners are ...

Arthack1My thanks to Danny and The LAB Miami for sending this recap.

By Danny Lafuente

This past weekend, The LAB Miami took over the YoungArts building on 2100 Biscayne Blvd for Miami’s 1st Art Hackathon. A group of dedicated programmers and web designers spent Saturday and Sunday conceptualizing and building apps that would make it easier to discover, interact with, or consume art locally…and that they did.

Arthack3On Saturday, during hacking hours, other interested locals came through the space to chat with the coders and to be entertained by some lovely performances from YoungArts Students and Alumni. Performances included a dance by Hattie Mae Williams, a live set by Mel Bryant, and a wonderful jazz performance by a duo out of the Frost School of Music at the University of Miami.

A larger crowd joined us on Sunday afternoon for the demos, where 4 completed projects presented:

  • #MIArt – is an art way-finding app that allowed users to discover art venues, artists, and historic buildings around Miami. The app included an element of trivia to encourage users to be more active in and/or knowledgeable of the local art scene, which also provided coupons to partake in local art attractions if answering enough of the questions correctly. #MIArt was created by Claudio Romano, Brian Garbarz, and Augusto Peña.
  • Art Dare You – is a social app that allows users to challenge their friends to an artistic game of dare. Users could dare each other to do things like a silly song & dance in public or draw a picture of the person sitting next to them at a restaurant before passing on a challenge to another person in their circle thereby encouraging a consistent flow of random acts of art. Art Dare You was created by Rob Hellestrae, Kat Martin, and Isabela Dos Santos.
  • Artspaces – is an app that utilizes QR codes to provide more information to individuals touring galleries or street art. Users could learn more information about each artwork or artists by following the link associated with the QR code. After that, users could save certain artwork to their online “collection” from which the app could then recommend other venues or events nearby based on the users’ interests. Artspaces was created by David Shaw and Randy Jarrin.
  • Artwalker – is also another art way-finding app that allowed users to see all art venues or events in Miami. Users can create a list of desired venues and the app would generate a walking tour, with instructions, of least resistance. The app’s plug & play nature also made it attractive to other “touring” activities like historic sites, restaurants, or nightlife. Artwalker was created by Sean Emmer.

#MIArt took home the grand prize of $1,500 with 1st runner up going to Art Dare You along with $500. Artspaces and Artwalker each took home $250 and were both awarded as 2nd runner up.

Arthack2All teams will also receive 1 free month at The LAB Miami for all team members and a meeting with The LAB Miami team to discuss the future of each of the projects. The goal will be to connect the teams to other individuals, organizations, or resources that will facilitate continued development in the hopes of having them all launched to the public.

The Art Hackathon is a Knight Arts Challenge winning project and was made possible thanks to the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. The LAB Miami would also like to thank the Young Arts Foundation for graciously allowing us to use their venue, Dr. Richard Bookman of the University of Miami for joining us on the judging panel, and the wonderfully talented Young Arts Alumni that took time out of their Saturday to delight us with their individual talents.

Read a post on the Knight blog here.

Startup Spotlight: Splyst


Photo by Peter Andrew Bosch/Miami Herald


Headquarters: Miami, at Pipeline Brickell.

Concept: Splyst is a platform for discovering and sharing content that revolutionizes the way people interact with information. The social network leverages machine learning to curate personalized real-time Internet content for its users and gives them the ability to share that content with their follower base.

Story: Recent University of Miami grad Travis Montaque founded Splyst as a sophomore. He conceived the Splyst concept after he found a study that showed 75 percent percent of people spent more time searching for and sharing information on the Internet than they’d like to, and he realized that younger demographics relied heavily on social media as a primary means to acquire information.

Fed up with inefficient, unreliable tools to receive and share Internet content, he set out to develop a platform that would change the way people would receive and share things they found interesting. Montaque was managing two Chick-fil-A franchises at age 19 before launching into entrepreneurship. At 21, he was invited by former President Bill Clinton to give a talk to world leaders at the Clinton Global Initiative 2013 Annual Meeting on solving the global youth unemployment problem through entrepreneurship.

Splyst’s application learns its users’ behaviors and brings them what they want to see, allows them to share their reactions with friends using emojis, and allows users to collect what they like. Enjoy browsing new content on the ‘for you’ feed or follow your friends and see what they have recently reacted to.

Launched: August 2014.

Management team: Travis Montaque, CEO; Mike Ojemann, CTO; Keisuke Inoue, VP of Data Science.

Number of employees: 9

Financing: Raised a $570,000 seed round.

Recent milestones: Splyst released its iOS application in the Apple App Store on Aug. 4; formed high-profile strategic relationships in New York; closed an additional $270,000 in financing; acquired John Fanning, co-founder and former chairman of Napster, as an advisor.

Biggest startup challenge: Building a team of individuals with the correct competencies, personalities and motivations. “Everything fell into place afterwards,” Montaque said.

Next step: Splyst just opened its Series A round seeking to raise $2 million to scale up the company and achieve massive adoption.

Strategy for next step: The company is in discussions with several large media and technology firms and intends to partner with them to accelerate user adoption.

Advisor’s view: “It has been amazing to watch an energetic college kid with an idea hire a team, build a product, close investors, put a product in the market, and have real customers and users flock to it, all in an incredibly short period of time. It’s exciting,” said Fanning, chairman of Netcapital who advises Montaque on strategy, relationship introductions, connections to capital, recruiting, product development and marketing.

“The biggest challenge is getting support from the Miami community. Most companies who are able to achieve the success Travis has already achieved simply just move to Silicon Valley because they already have the people, support and infrastructure to get your early-stage company to the next level. People in that community like to have the companies within driving distance of their own office. It’s a long drive to Miami,” said Fanning. “Travis believes in Miami and has found a few great people to support him, but he needs more or he will simply have to move the company."

Posted Sept. 22, 2014

Read past Startup Spotlights in the Startup Spotlight category of this blog.



Susan Amat: Ways to prove the market will bite before you launch

By Susan Amat

SusanAmatHeadshotDuring the last two months, I have had the pleasure of supporting 40 top African startups as they prepare to pitch at DEMO Africa. We are now winding up an eight-week virtual mentoring program with weekly educational workshops and one-on-one sessions to work on their pitches.

The main goal of the event is to showcase the technology through a “demo,” with the app or software officially launching on stage. Each company has six minutes to explain its solution and show the user experience, design, process flows, etc. The great ones are able to show off their apps while also giving the highlights of an investor pitch. That is extremely hard to do without having a compelling story to tell about how painful the problem is that you are uniquely positioned to solve. But how can they prove the market will bite before anything has been launched?

Showing traction can be done in many ways: customer acquisition, revenue, strategic partnerships, letters of intent — it’s all about showing that someone else is taking a chance on you or that you have been able to scale and go from step A to B and beyond. You don’t have to wait until you offer a product to pound the pavement (or email boxes) to get those early adopters or first customers on board.

Strategic partnerships are a place to start. Who would be a great value-added partner to help endorse your business, give you guidance and feedback, and have a longer-term vision for how the relationship may evolve? Find a company that either is already a thought leader or has some other attribute that gets them attention, such as a huge client base, international reach or a well-known brand. If you can persuade that company to risk its brand equity by taking a chance on you, others will follow.

The strategic partnership may be a small, closed pilot study in one store, or even just using the partner’s existing data to show the accuracy of your algorithm, but the hope is that you can use the company as a reference. It is a win-win if it works — you can name drop and the company will look great doing something cutting edge. Of course, you are taking a risk in the announcement if the partner company decides not to move forward. Even if the pilot is a huge success, the corporation may find reasons not to move forward and then you have to tactfully explain why it is no longer a client. Another major challenge will be in maneuvering the company — unlike your startup, corporations rarely move quickly. I have seen agreements take more than 18 months to close even after initial meetings were high energy and both parties wanted a partnership.

Startups with a physical product have a huge advantage in being able to make sales months before needing to deliver, thanks to the crowdfunding movement. We are excited to pay today for a new gadget or gizmo that won’t be delivered for six months. With those early adopters on board, no one can deny that you have found a hook.

Gathering survey data from a large number of potential users with positive responses to your solution is inexpensive to collect, but make sure your data collection methodology is clean, your questions tested for reliability, and your findings valid. Another means of showing your product-market fit is in engaging potential customers or respected experts to advise on the development of your company. If you can talk about the focus groups you hosted with industry veterans and potential users generating a positive response, that is one more plus. If an investor with industry knowledge comes on board, that is also something to celebrate and promote.

Show your hustle through building relationships and challenging your assumptions early and often with potential customers and partners. Yes, some may not get it, but then listen to why they don’t. Your product may be great, but your pitch may need some work. That is the beautiful thing about a demo — it’s about your product. Ditch your deck and tell your story visually through your customer’s experience.

I know there will be cheering at DEMO Africa in Nigeria when what seems to be a simple website company shares the partnerships that it has cultivated pre-launch, and then the startup will be tracked like big game.

Susan Amat is the CEO and Founder of Venture Hive, an entrepreneurship education company that runs and accelerator and incubator in downtown Miami and other programs across the globe. Follow her on Twitter at @SusanAmat.

Entrepreneurship Datebook

Tech eggSOCIAL ENTREPRENEURSHIP: Social Good Summit Miami will examine the impact of technology and new media on social good initiatives locally. The conference is Monday and Tuesday, Sept. 22-23, at the Innovation Center at UM Life Science and Technology Park. More info: www.socialgoodsummitmiami.com

MUSIC STARTUP ACADEMY: The  Academy travels to Thesis Studios on Tuesday, Sept. 23, for a workshop from 4 p.m. to 8:30 p.m, 330 SW 2nd St., 111, Fort Lauderdale.  Label and publishing basics, business development and basic technical operations will be covered, and event will include a series of keynote speakers. Get tickets here (save $30 with discount code Thesis)

ALL ABOUT SALES: Venture Hive will host Jerry Ross, executive director of the National Entrepreneur Center, who will be talking about “Creating and Managing the Sales Process,” including the top “5 rules” for selling. 6-8 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 23, 1010 NE Second Ave., Miami. Free. Register here.

MINDING YOUR CREDIT: SCORE Miami-Dade presents “Understanding and Improving Your Credit Score,” 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 23, Innovation Center at UMLSTP, 1951 NW 7th Avenue. $40 in advance. To register email events@scoremiami.org or call 786-425-9119

FINTECH: Fintech Latam 2014, a one-day conference exploring the technologies, ideas and trends poised to disrupt Latin America’s financial landscape with finance executives, entrepreneurs and technologists, takes place Wednesday, Sept. 24, at the Lightbox at Goldman Warehouse, Wynwood. Tickets: fintechlatam.com.

TECH TALK: South Florida tech moguls Manny Medina, Mike Levy and Scott Adams will take part in a South Florida Technology Alliance panel discussion and networking event at 5 to 8:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 25, Citrix headquarters, 851 W. Cypress Creek Rd., Fort Lauderdale. Tickets: www.southfloridatech.org.

THE INTERNET OF THINGS: The Mobile Technology Consortium is hosting a free talk and networking event titled "The Internet of Things" with a number of speakers from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Friday, Sept. 26,th at Florida International University, Modesto A. Maidique campus in the Engineering and Computer Science (ECS) building, room 241, The John C Comfort Collabrium. More info here.


Miami social media publishing startup Everypost closed on its $850,000 seed round, and Delray startup Virtu.al was acquired by Citrix. Read about these developments and more startup news and community views on theStarting Gate blog on MiamiHerald.com/business.

Posted: Sept. 21, 2014


Hacking H(app)iness - Becoming Self iWear

By John C. Havens

JCH_image_high_quality_headshotI’m a geek, and have been writing about tech and culture for a number of years.  I love the gadgets and am a huge Apple fan although I’m not much interested in their Watch as I already have an iPhone so don’t need to strap one to my wrist.  While I am fond of the idea of sending self-drawn emojis, it’s the inclusion of Apple Pay in the watch that’s truly genius.  Apple already trained us to purchase music and movies via one-click payments attached to our credit cards – now they’re doing the same with one-authentication arm gestures at Point of Sale.

But the new Health App in the iPhone 6 is set to truly transform culture.  By allowing multiple quantified self and tracking apps to aggregate data in one place, the app will help a person understand their physical wellbeing like never before. I say “wellbeing” versus health, because the focus of my work is on quantifying happiness as it manifests in the form of active and passive data and I believe this type of Health App can help people understand and increase their sense of self worth like never before.

In my book, Hacking H(app)iness – Why Your Personal Data Counts and How Tracking it Can Change the World, my hypothesis is simple – if you want your life to count, you have to take a count of your life.  By formally taking a measure of your life, you gain insights about the actions and behaviors that bring you a sense of purpose and increase your wellbeing. 

The physical measures like the ones featured in Apple’s App are fairly easy to track.  In my case, I’ve been actively measuring my exercise, sleep, and weight data with a Withings Pulse Monitor and Scale.  The monitor tracks my steps, sleep, and heartrate via a small wearable and their Health Mate app.  The Scale measures my weight and body mass, and synchs with their app.  Here’s a sample of some of my recent data:

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