April 13, 2015

Wyncode expands to Fort Lauderdale's General Provision

After graduating four cohorts and nearly 70 students from their Wynwood location at The LAB Miami, Wyncode founders Juha and Johanna Mikkola have decided it’s time to expand to General Provision co-working space in downtown Fort Lauderdale’s FATvillage.

The development boot camp welcomes programming newcomers. Over the nine-week period in a small class, students spend at least 300 hours learning and working collectively to create their own web apps. At the end of the course, Wyncoders pitch their apps to a panel of South Florida technology leaders and could walk away with a cash prize and/or a job. In the first four cohorts, Wyncode has a 92 percent placement rate.

The Fort Lauderdale campus’ lead instructor, Damon Davison, will be leading a free information session and demo lesson at Wyncode’s Open House on April 13. Wyncode’s first cohort in Fort Lauderdale on April 20. For more information, visit www.wyncode.co.

Davison studied  web development at the University of Cologne and worked as the Director of Technology at Southern Records in London and at other companies. Since moving to South Florida, he has quickly integrated into the tech community, organizing Rails Girls South Florida and the Broward Ruby Brigade.

John Sculley: On South Florida, customer-centric strategy and moonshots

By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

John sculleyWhere can South Florida make its mark in technology?  John Sculley, now an investor and mentor to entrepreneurs, shared a few ideas.

"There has never been a better time to build a transformative multi-billion dollar company," said Sculley, the former Apple and Pepsi CEO who lives in  Palm Beach. His new book  Moonshot! Game Changing Strategies on How to Build a Billion Dollar Business and video series offer advice for entrepreneurs, real-world examples as well as plenty of war stories from his Apple days.

In his book, he writes about how the exponential growth of mobility, cloud computing and Big Data analytics has a caused a power shift from producers to customers being in control and how entrepreneurs can take advantage of the shift, presenting a huge opportunity for entrepreneurs. "Customers now pay more attention to the opinions of other customers than they do to large incumbent companies... I’ve never seen anything on the scale of what is happening now."

Sculley may be best known for firing Steve Jobs during his Apple tenure -- and he told CNN in an interview recently he wished he had invited him back --  but his corporate career actually began in 1967 when as a  Wharton MBA grad he was hired by Pepsi-Cola Co. as a trainee.  Three years later, he became the company’s youngest vice president for marketing, applying his ideas about “experience-based marketing” to the Pepsi Generation campaign, including the Pepsi Challenge taste tests. By 1977, Sculley was Pepsi-Cola’s youngest CEO.

Since being forced out of Apple in 1993, Sculley has founded several companies and today is a mentor to about 15 startups in a diverse array of industries including  telecommunications, financial services, healthcare,  Internet services, consumer marketing and outsourcing services.

He invests in several companies in South Florida too, including 3Cinteractive, MDLIVE,  OpenPeak and PDQ Restaurants. Sculley talked with the Miami Herald about his investments, where he sees opportunities and how he sees South Florida's tech ecosystem evolving.

Q. Where do you see the best opportunities?

A. One of them is right here in Florida and that is healthcare. Healthcare is a $3 trillion annual spend, it’s incredibly inefficient, its rules are fought by special interest groups and there is a legacy of incumbent large customers and government institutions that don’t change quickly.

We’re moving into an era of healthcare where customers are taking a much bigger role in their own health and wellness. The reality is setting in ... not only is health insurance more expensive, the result is that customers are discovering that there is not more transparency in what things cost -- for instance, if you wanted to check prices on a hip replacement… if you want to schedule an annual physical, or have the flu, just to see a doctor takes an average of 20 days, and it will likely go up.

I am involved in MDLIVE; we think we are in one of the hottest industries of all, which is telehealth, where we do virtual doctor visits. We have experienced incredible customer satisfaction. We  are growing like crazy -- it’s a South Florida company that is at the sweet spot of a fundamental change in healthcare. And it's completely supportive of customers making choices for better services.

For a face to face doctor visit, $150 is typical. For a virtual visit, the typical price is less than $50.

Walgreens and MDLIVE made a big announcement on how they are working with MDLIVE in their pharmacies to create virtual visits with certified doctors who could write prescriptions ... and that can all be done on a smartphone. We are moving into an area where technology is revolutioning the way customers can have customer-centric services.

Q. What are some of the other South Florida companies you are involved with as an investor or mentor?

A. OpenPeak of Boca Raton -- we are doing all kinds of mobile data services. We run AT&T's wireless data platform and we do it for other carriers as well. I am chairman of 3C Interactive in Boca; we are a mobile marketing cloud company doing really well.

I’m also chairman of PDQ Restaurants, a South Florida franchise for fast-casual dining. We’ve built out six restaurants so far and and we will continue to rapidly expand in South Florida.

Another one is 800razors.com -- we are building a company for the ultimate shave. We can sell a five blade razor of similar quality to the market leader for half price and around it we sell a whole range of personal care products, for pre-shave, after shave, shaving crèmes, beauty crèmes, all designed to give men and women the ultimate shave experience. It’s not in South Florida but a number of its investor are in South Florida.

Q. How do you see South Florida evolving as a tech center?

A. I think South Florida is a particularly good place to build healthcare companies because first of all we have a large market. The most expensive part of the healthcare system is chronic care patients and a lot of them live right here in Florida – and it is a place where technology can make a huge difference. For example, the average chronic care patient is something like 5 percent of the population but the healthcare costs are  80 percent. One of the big costs is when these chronic care patients are discharged from the hospital; if they are readmitted within 30 days, then the hospital has to pay the cost of those patients, and that is an incredible risk overhead for the hospitals.

These are big problems that need solutions and there is a lot of talent in South Florida that could deal with everything from assisted living and nursing services to all kinds of specialties like dermatology to doing virtual therapy; MDLIVE just bought a company in that space. It is incredible all the new solutions coming that are enabled by digital health.

Q. Where do you see challenges in South Florida?

A. In Silicon Valley,  there are so many role models to look to and so much experienced talent around. In South Florida we have smart people too but we tend to be more narrowly focused in terms of the industries the experience comes from. Look at healthcare or travel or real estate. Rather than create a new industry, it is logical to build strength around the industries we already have -- but recognize that the incumbents may not be the role models.

The role models will come from other places and other industries. Look at Uber: It’s worth $40 billion, there are a lot of lessons to learn from Uber that can be applied to healthcare, travel and other industries. And one of the lessons is is it is not about investing in technology, it's about a different way to solve a customer problem. … before Uber, the taxis were doing $140 million in San Francisco, now Uber is a $400 million industry there and the incumbent taxis post-Uber are still $140 million. Uber redefined the industry in a transformative way and came up with a better service … that dramatically changed and expanded the market.

  Book CoverQ. What are three takeaways from your book, Moonshot!?

A. There has never been a better time to build a transformative multi-billion dollar company. Moonshot! will not only tell you why but will tell you how. The book is filled with stories of successful entrepreneurs, about the things they’ve learned building their companies.

The power of the marketplace is shifting to customers in control and if you want to build a really successful company you have got to have a customer plan, and I explain what a customer plan is, how to build a customer plan and how it can make the difference between being largely successful and moderately successful.

The third thing is about the importance of finding a mentor. Entrepreneurs don’t always go to business schools, and business schools are oriented to helping their students learn how to become executives in large established organizations and you get case histories about decisions that senior executives make. But that isn’t what entrepreneurs are interested in. They want to know how do you raise capital, how do you recruit talent to a team, when your back is against the wall after you have made a serious mistake how do you pivot from that and come out of it alive, how do you turn failure into an asset?

We learn from our mistakes, not from our successes. If anything, people become a victim of their successes. It is only when you make a mistake that you learn. Moonshot! is all about having an insatiable curiosity. If you aren’t curious about the world around you, you are probably not cut out to be an entrepreneur.

Follow Nancy Dahlberg on Twitter @ndahlberg 

April 11, 2015

Entrepreneurship Datebook: Startup events, workshops in South Florida

Tech eggSPEED COACHING: Samuel Adams, in partnership with Accion, hosts its small business Speed Coaching event, 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Tuesday, April 14. 10055 NW 12th St., Doral. speedcoachingmiami.eventbrite.com

STARTUP GRIND: Bob Fitts, president of the Gold Coast Venture Capital Association and CEO of Trident Global, is this month’s speaker, 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday, April 14, Venture Hive, 1010 NE Second Ave., Miami. startupgrind.com/miami

WIT EVENT: eMerge Americas WIT event presents “How to Start Up Your Startup,” featuring Roger Duarte of My Ceviche, Vicky Fulop of DLA Piper and Derrick Ashong of Amp.it, 8:30 a.m. to 10 a.m. Wednesday, April 15, Idea Center at Miami Dade College’s Wolfson campus, Building 8, fifth floor.

OPEN HACK NIGHT @ NSU: Join civic hackers at Code for Fort Lauderdale’s meetup, 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Wednesday, April 15, Graduate School of Computer and Information Sciences, Nova Southeastern University. More info: meetup.com/Code-for-FTL/

D3 CONFERENCE & EXPO: D3 (Digital Design Den) focuses on developing creative talent and improving skill, and is presented by The Idea Center at Miami Dade College and The School of Design and Entertainment Technology in collaboration with New World School of the Arts, Thursday, April 16,  at North Campus and Friday, April 17, at the Wolfson Campus Idea Center. Free but RSVP required. More info: www.theideacenter.co/D3expo

FEDERAL CONTRACTING 101: SCORE Miami-Dade presents a workshop on doing business without pay, 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday, April 16, Ponce Business Center, 2000 Ponce de Leon Blvd., Suite 569, Coral Gables. Fee applies. Register here.


Keep up with startup news, coming events and community views on the Starting Gate blog on MiamiHerald.com/business.

Nancy Dahlberg @ndahlberg

April 10, 2015

FAU announces business plan contest winners


From left, FAU President John Kelly; Max Cacchione, CEO of Rotation Manager, first place winner of the entrepreneur track; Dr. Maurice Ferré, co-founder of MAKO Surgical Corp., and Kim Gramm, co-founder and associate vice president of FAU Tech Runway.


Florida Atlantic University has announced the winners of the 2015 Business Plan Competition, which concluded today at FAU’s Boca Raton campus. 

First place winner of the student track is SoFla Sunwear, a beach apparel company which set out to distinguish and celebrate the lifestyle that exists in South Florida. Second place went to Hyperbius, LLC, creator of the HyperChiller, a simple device that takes up to 12 ounces of hot coffee fresh out of a single-serve machine down to room temperature within 60 seconds after brewing stops without diluting the coffee’s strength. Third place winner of the student track is TripsCommerce, a SaaS-based system, e-commerce solution for travel operators to manage and automate their business more efficiently and economically, enabling travel operators to establish their business online in minutes without any need for designers or programmers.

First place winner of the entrepreneur track is Rotation Manager, a company that makes clinical rotations in nursing and allied health programs easy and compliant by bringing students, hospitals and colleges into one unified platform. Second place went to Transfasten, a posterior minimally invasive approach to sacroiliac joint fusion to alleviate sacroiliac joint pain. Third place winner in the entrepreneur track is CO2 Conversion/Dioxide Materials, a new chemical value chain that uses waste CO2 and renewable energy instead of oil and gas to provide an inexpensive route to high volume chemicals.

Hosted by the Adams Center for Entrepreneurship and the College of Business, the competition provided the opportunity for participants to vet their business ideas before a panel of successful entrepreneurs, early stage investors and venture capital principals. More than 200 teams originally registered to compete, with judges selecting 16 teams to advance to the final round.

Final round teams in the FAU student track and entrepreneur track competed for a share of more than $200,000 in cash and prizes to launch their business. Red Pepper Group was the event’s presenting sponsor.

The three-day event began with the Greater Boca Raton Chamber of Commerce’s Young Entrepreneurs Academy (YEA!) Investor Panel, a culmination of a 30-week program in which students in grades 6-12 developed legitimate businesses and pitched to investors for seed funding. 

At the Kick Off Reception and Elevator Pitch Event, each of the 16 final round teams presented a 90-second elevator pitch, and reception guests voted for their favorite. The winner, Let It Rot, will receive the $5,000 People’s Choice Award sponsored by JPMorgan Chase & Co. Let It Rot, is a social enterprise working under the already established nonprofit organization, the Palm Beach County Food Bank, and is working to heighten the efficiency of the Food Bank by repurposing their food waste into a marketable worm compost product.

The competition concluded with business plan presentations from the FAU student and entrepreneur tracks and a keynote talk by Dr. Maurice Ferré, co-founder of MAKO Surgical Corp., a world leader in robotic orthopedic surgery.

- information submitted by FAU 


From left, FAU President John Kelly; Thomas Gregory, of SoFla Sunwear, first place winner of the student track; Dr. Maurice Ferré, co-founder of MAKO Surgical Corp., and Kim Gramm, co-founder and associate vice president of FAU Tech Runway.



News from amp.it: Winner of Take Back the Mic contest to be unveiled at eMerge Americas





Today, Miami-based tech startup amp.it, founded by musician, entrepreneur and broadcast personality Derrick N. Ashong (DNA), announced the finalists for Season 1 of its first media property – TAKE BACK THE MIC: THE WORLD CUP OF HIP HOP.  They are ComboIO from Brazil, Crew Peligrosos from Colombia and Italee from Jamaica – all chosen from the competition’s inaugural country.sies by fans on amp.it, a social network that amplifies the voices of a new generation, by rewarding fans for sharing the music they love.

Each four-minute, digital episode of Take Back the Mic gives the audience an artist’s-eye view of the streets of Rio de Janeiro, Medellín, and Kingston, as the artists struggle to overcome the odds, using their talent as their launching pad.  Of the 9 semifinalists championed by fans on amp.it, 3 have advanced to the live May 4th finale to be held at Miami’s New World Center, where they will be joined by the highest-scoring fans. This culminating event will serve as the main entertainment for the eMerge Americas tech conference, launched last year by Medina Capital Founder and Managing Partner Manny Medina.

During the eMerge Americas party at the New World Center, fans will be able to vote at home for the winner of the World Cup of Hip Hop.

You can see the artist stories at www.takebackthemic.com.



April 08, 2015

Samuel Adams Brewing the American Dream’s Speed Coaching event returns

Samuel Adams, in partnership with Accion, is returning to Miami to host its signature small business Speed Coaching event on Tuesday, April 14. Designed to provide business advice, the event is part of Samuel Adams Brewing the American Dream, a micro-lending and coaching program for small business owners working in food and beverage including craft brewing.

During the Speed Coaching, entrepreneurs have the opportunity to participate in up to six 20-minute, one-on-one sessions. Coaches will include Samuel Adams professionals, and topics covered will range from sales, distribution and packaging to finance, e-commerce, and marketing.

Participants are encouraged to bring samples of product and packaging that they want feedback on, and should also come prepared with questions regarding specific challenges their businesses are facing. For example, a small business owner may want to ask a finance professional for advice on how to competitively price his/her product.

WHEN: Tuesday, April 14, 2015, 6:00 p.m. – 8:30 p.m. EDT

WHERE: Gold Coast Beverage Distributors, 10055 Northwest 12th Street, Doral, Florida 33172

HOW: Entrepreneurs interested in participating in the free Speed Coaching should register at http://speedcoachingmiami.eventbrite.com

April 07, 2015

Budsies: They are cute but will "Shark Tank" take the bait?

Alex Furmansky - Founder & CEO of Budsies small (1)


Will the Sharks bite on Budsies? Tune in Friday night to find out.

Alex Furmansky (pictured above) is the founder and CEO of Budsies, a Lake Worth company that turns drawings and pictures into custom-sewn plush figurines or stuffed animals. Furmansky launched Budsies out of his South Florida home in August 2013 and has sold about 8,000 Budsies so far. He will now get a chance at exposure to 8 million ABC "Shark Tank" fans – and a possible investment. (see a quick video cameo of Budsies products on Shark Tank's video promo here.

Budsies taped its Shark Tank episode last fall and is not allowed to say more about the investing outcome, but Furmansky is excited about the marketing opportunity:“Budsies has already brought a tremendous amount of joy into the lives of so many of our customers – including children who are fighting cancer and create Budsies of their superhero parents and armed forces members who can’t be home for the holidays but send Budsie Selfies of themselves instead. I cannot wait to see what the imaginations of this new influx of customers will create.”

The company has worked with and received orders from professional illustrators, corporate brands, video game producers, book authors, creative adults, teenagers and children, Furmansky said. The product line includes The Original Budsie, Budsie Selfies and Budsie Petsies.

Budsies is the second South Florida company to appear on Shark Tank already this year. Last month,  AquaVault was on the show, and ended up making a deal with Shark Daymond John: $75,000 for 25 percent of the company.

Here's the pitch! Let's see if the Sharks cuddle up to Budsies.


 UPDATE AFTER THE SHOW: No deal. Kevin O’Leary (aka Mr. Wonderful) and Daymond John both gave Alex offers (50% and 40% respectively for $100K) following his pitch but Alex Furmansky declined both believing the Sharks were undervaluing the company.  Over the weekend, the Budsies website received 100K visitors from fans, supporters and new customers, the company said.

Nice touch giving the Sharks Budsies that looked like them. 

April 06, 2015

Magic Leap hires a top mobile executive from Samsung

Magic Leap, the secretive Dania Beach-based tech startup Magic Leap developing "Cinematic Reality," has hired a mobile specialist from Samsung.

Yannick Pellet, now Magic Leap's vice president of software engineering. previously was a top executive at Samsung. As vice president, advanced software platform at Samsung Research America, he built software platforms for mobile phones and tablets. Before that, at Nokia, he built the Maemo software platform targeted at mobile devices and tables, among other positions. “I am very impressed with his combination of innovation, deep engineering chops, and ability to listen, synthesize, and problem solve,” said founder and CEO Rony Abovitz in a news release.

Magic Leap has made a number of high-profile hires, including appointing science fiction writer Neal Stephenson as the company’s Chief Futurist in December. The company lists nearly 100 open jobs on its website. Magic Leap received a $542 million investment led by Google in 2014. Abovitz co-founded Davie-based Mako Surgical Corp., acquired by Stryker Corp. for $1.65 billion in 2013.

Read previous Miami Herald story about Rony Abovitz here.


News: Pipeline Workspaces announces minority investor

Pipeline 3

Pipeline Workspaces, a fast-growing shared workspace concept that started in Miami and is expanding nationally, announced Monday that it has sold a minority stake valuing the company at about $15 million.

The investment comes from Gordon G. Pratt, founder and CEO of Fund Management Group (FMG), a private holding and investment company. Pratt has been a member of Pipeline Brickell, the company’s original location, for two years.  FMG became a limited partner in Pipeline’s second shared workspace located in Philadelphia and followed up with the minority investment in the Pipeline Workspaces general partner.

Todd Oretsky headshot“Gordon tested our business platform first-hand as a member and experienced how the concept we offer and our management team is different from other co-working spaces in the US today,” said Todd Oretsky, co-founder of Pipeline Workspaces, in a news release.

In 2 1/2 years, Pipeline has opened collaborative workspaces in Miami’s Brickell Financial District and Philadelphia’s Center City. A third location is under construction in Coral Gables and should open in the first half of this year. In the planning phase is a co-working and co-warehousing space in Little River area for artists and small business owners.

Philippe Houdard - headshot 2Pipeline is also exploring expansion in Atlanta, Charlotte, Denver and Dallas, as well as other locations in South Florida.

 “Across our current locations, we already are seeing members take advantage of the opportunity to work out of multiple offices and network in new cities, which makes expansion of their businesses into new markets much more seamless,” said Philippe Houdard, co-founder of Pipeline Workspaces. “Imagine having a network with one degree of separation from many industries in multiple cities.”

That is what the Pipeline team is building.

News: Kairos acquires emotion analysis company IMRSV


By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

When Brian Brackeen, the founder and CEO of the facial recognition software company Kairos, was asked by his customers for a capability his Miami tech startup didn’t offer, he set out to add it.

Those customers -- software developers in a variety of industries, including healthcare, retailing, advertising and banking -- wanted not only the advanced facial recognition technology that Kairos offered, but they also wanted to know about emotions behind the faces. Were they happy, sad, attentive, agitated? How do they respond when they look at ads or products?

Rather than build the technology, Brackeen bought it. "We went looking at companies in the space and found one that was far and away the best,"  he said.

On Monday, Kairos announced it acquired the New York-based emotion analysis startup IMRSV. With this acquisition, Kairos becomes the only facial biometrics company offering both facial recognition and emotion analysis tools for developers, said Brackeen. The IMRSV team will be moving to Miami.

“I feel like I can finally offer my customers everything they want and it is all in house,” said Brackeen, who started the company in 2012. “The acquisition of IMRSV positions Kairos to take a leadership role in the rapidly growing facial biometrics sector. It also helps us, as a developer centric company, achieve our goal of delivering enterprise quality tools to developers and making facial biometrics and emotion analysis accessible to all.”

 Brackeen said that about a third of Kairos’ projected $4 million in revenue this year will come from the acquisition: “This is a big deal for us.”

Said Jason Sosa, founder of IMRSV who will be joining Kairos: “Kairos shares in our belief of converting the complex into the simple. The impact of these technologies has enormous potential to transform countless industries."

It wasn’t long ago when Brackeen was heading a small team working around a big table at The LAB Miami co-working space in Wynwood, going through the ups and downs of the startup journey, even running out of money at one point. But the company powered through it, and last fall Brackeen was selected as an Endeavor Entrepreneur, which brings with it a global network of mentorship and support. The Endeavor network helped Brackeen throughout the acquisition negotiations as well as with Karios' recent fund-raising roadshow plans, said Brackeen, who worked at Apple, IBM and other companies before starting Kairos.

Now, with 17 employees and soon to grow to 25 with the acquisition, Kairos has recently moved out of The LAB and into its own offices nearby. Marketing expert Freddie Laker, formerly with SapientNitro, Gui.de and other companies, joined the team three months ago as chief marketing officer and also oversees sales. Brackeen is interviewing candidates for COO and a chief science officer.

Brackeen says more acquisitions are most likely in Kairos’ future, and he believes startups teaming up, as his did with IRSV, will be the trend as startups strive for the exponential growth venture capitalists want to see, while still holding onto their startup cultures. “Our world, the facial recognition world, the computer vision world, are full of amazing PhDs who leave amazing universities to start companies, but they don’t have experience in running a company. We are really good at that and we feel like we have a lot to offer all these firms.”

Together with the acquisition, Kairos has raised $5.5 million in seed financing so far, and hopes to close a Series A round in the fall. Kairos' shareholders now include Kapor Capital, New World Angels, VenVelo, Quotidian Ventures, Great Oaks Venture Capital, Eniac Ventures, 500 Startups and TechStars.

In conjunction with the acquisition, Kairos released a new suite of tools and analytics software for developers. Kairos currently supports more than 4,600 developers.

Follow Nancy Dahlberg on Twitter @ndahlberg.


 KAIROS TEAM: Meyako Williams, Neil Pitts, CEO Brian Brackeen and Freddie Laker, at Kairos, a facial recognition company located in Wynwood. | Photo here and above by CHARLES TRAINOR JR MIAMI HERALD STAFF

How it all works:




Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/news/business/article17474594.html#storylink=cpy