07/26/2014

From Startup Weekend to DemoDay -- all in a week!

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Kate Nematollahi came to Startup Weekend West Palm Beach last weekend with an idea -- no team members, no tech experience, no startup cred. There Nematollahi, who works for a nonprofit youth sports organization doing marketing, teamed up with some web developers who were sitting next to her the first night, and several others joined the team when she made her pitch for a site that makes it easier for community and youth sports leagues to bring on the all-important sponsors. She said that during the Startup Weekend, as part of the idea validation, they called dozens of community sports leagues who said I need this now, how soon can you have it ready?

Long story short, her TeamSponsor won the StartUp Weekend, and just five days later she and her team members were presenting at Startup Palm Beach's DemoDay (pictured above), one of several activities that took place this past week. She said the team is definitely planning to carry the concept forward, and is looking for web designers, funding and mentorship. You can read more on her blog post about the Startup Weekend experience here.

Photo 1 (2)Perhaps fittingly, kicking off the DemoDay, held Friday night at the West Palm Beach Pavilion in the downtown waterfront area, was last year's inaugural Startup Weekend West Palm Beach winner, FunScout. Austin Pantaleo said the idea stemmed from his own frustration finding fun things to do nearby at the times he wanted to do them. He says FunScout does that and will be launching later this summer.

Other teams presented included: TextDial, a content sharing widget that allows users to share articles via sms, Surfr, a surf journal and travel resource featuring more than 8,000 spots around the world; and Pit, a mobile game coming soon to an app store near you. The founder hopes casual gamers will find it refreshingly different -- indeed the turnout at his demo table suggested they do.

Photo 3  Also presenting were Glip, modern business messaging already with 1,000 customers; Jist, which helps users easily create online resumes that businesses can efficiently review and share; Urban Canvas, a concept born at West Palm's first hackathon that allows users to locate and interact with urban art; Baru, a social advertising platform; and YouRoam (pictured here), which allows users to make and receive calls without paying roaming fees over wifi or 3G. YouRoam's Marcos Cunha also presented at the recent GeekTank2 in Fort Lauderdale and exhibited at eMerge Americas Techweek.

Startup Palm Beach's Entrepreneur Week also included a BarCamp and a community forum on building an entrepreneurial ecosystem. "West Palm Beach is in its infancy in the startup space, but we're all here," said Chris Callahan, co-founder of Startup Palm Beach, entrepreneurial resource center, as he pointed to the  standing-room-only crowd inside the Pavilion. "Its amazing. As  community, we are starting to gel, and that will continue."

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Callahan said the next Entrepreneur Week will be in November, again kicking off with a Startup Weekend and ending with a DemoDay. It will be interesting to  see what evolves.

Follow me on Twitter @ndahlberg. Photos by Steve Viti. Posted July 26, 2014

 

07/25/2014

Goal: a diverse and inclusive entrepreneurial community

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Felecia Hatcher, co-founder of Feverish Pops and Code Fever, said she was inspired to hold a community conversation about diversity and inclusion after Google released its numbers showing just 2 percent of its workforce is black, and the numbers of other big Silicon Valley tech companies showed a similar trend. That's one characteristic of Silicon Valley that Miami does NOT want to emulate as the  South Florida works to develop as a tech hub and strong entrepreneurial ecosystem.

So this week, she convened a panel of entrepreneurial startup leaders and invited the public to the Meek Entrepreneurial Education Center at Miami Dade College to discuss "Creating an Inclusive Technology Ecosystem in Miami." "I think this is the first time we've had this kind of topic in South Florida," Hatcher said. "That's good and bad, considering what's been happening for the last couple of years in Miami. We're definitely going to continue this conversation." 

Panelists included Malik Benjamin,  director of program Innovation at FIU School of Architecture and on the  board of   Awesome Foundation Miami; Andrew Quarrie, founder of Jurnid,  a publishing platform and content marketplace for powering freelance journalism; Derick Pearson, co-founder of Feverish Pops and Code Fever; H. Leigh Toney, executive director of the Carrie P. Meek Entrepreneurial Education Center at Miami Dade College North Campus; and Pandwe Gibson, founder of EcoTech, a new incubator program for green companies in light manufacturing.

Some of those alarming numbers at Google can be explained by the places that these companies do their recruiting -- Stanford and the Ivy Leagues and perhaps awareness is growing to widen the net, particularly to Historically Black Colleges and Universities. "We're entitled to a fair chance," said Pearson.

Yet,  the conversation also circled around improving education in technology here, not only for secondary school kids but for adults as well. Toney pointed out that the Creative Entrepreneurship Studio at the Meek Center offers certificate programs in entrepreneurship, engineering and graphic design. There is also an incubator opening for MDC students on the Wolfson campus. Others pointed out that there are a wealth of free online course available from Code Academy, as well as MIT, Stanford and others that people can take advantage of. Hatcher said Code Fever, which offers coding programming for middle and high school students, may launch  some programming for adults.

Another theme was mentorship and the need for shining a light role models in the black community. Andrew McNeil has started a series on YouTube to try to do just that. Still, there is a gap between people who want to mentor and people who need it that needs to be filled, the panelists said, and it's also critical to combat the region-wide problem of brain drain in South Florida.   "Be a mentor, it's like going to church or visiting your grandma -- we have to build this into our culture," said Benjamin.

Resources are growing every day but a lot of people don't know about them.  The Miami Dade Economic Advocacy Trust recently  funded 10 entrepreneurs to be members of The LAB Miami and also helped bring Black Girls Code to Miami, Toney said. Gibson said her company, Ecotech, is opening an incubator and is already helping eco-friendly product companies develop. But it's also about taking the initiative:  "You have to get out of your comfort zone," said Quarrie.

A few resources that were mentioned:

Awesome Foundation awards $1,000 grants for good ideas that help the community. For instance a program to teach rasperry pi to adults was one of the recent grant recipients. Find out more here and apply.

Refresh Miami, South Florida's largest tech entrepreneurship meetup group, holds events every month, and this summer is holding a series geared to startup issues. Refreshmiami.com also has a community events calendar as well as a jobs board on its site.

What's on the MENU? is a new series for entrepreneurship education and networking. Some sessions are held at the Miami Dade College North Campus and some at the Meek Center; some are held in the evening, some in the morning to fit lots of schedules. Call lead coordinator Daniela Pierre at 237-1522 or find information on Twitter @MDCMENU. The next meetup is Aug. 14 at 6:30 p.m.

The Knight Foundation's Miami program director, Matt Haggman, holds a monthly breakfast. It's a good opportunity to not only hear about what the Knight Foundation is up to but also to share information on your own projects and challenges.

Follow me on Twitter @ndahlberg. Posted: July 25, 2014

 

07/23/2014

Another craft beer business joins Wynwood scene

Boxelder Craft Beer Market, a new craft beer market, bottleshop and taproom will open this fall in Wynwood, adding to the area’s burgeoning craft beer scene.

The business, owned by Adam and Nicole Darnell, has leased 1,100 square feet at the Wynwood Gateway Complex, according to the landlord’s broker, Metro 1.

Boxelder, an independent retailer, promises to provide a cultural center for craft beer in Miami, with tap takeovers by local brewers and a wide variety of bottles to buy for carry-out or to drink on the premises.

Ina Cordle

Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/2014/07/23/4250744/new-craft-beer-market-to-open.html#storylink=cpy

Macy's to bring fashion incubator to Miam-Dade

As part of the One Community One Goal update by the Beacon Council on Wednesday, Macy’s announced it will bring a fashion incubator to Miami, adding to incubators it already supports in Philadephia, San Francisco and Chicago.

“We see Miami as a true 21st century city,” said Ed Goldberg, senior vice president of Macy’s in New York. “This is a public program designed to take talented young people and put them into a program for a year to train them, teaching them the business and creative aspects of fashion.”

Art Torno, co-chair of the One Community One Goal effort and an American Airlines executive, said the fashion incubator idea started nearly two years ago by a small group that met at Miami International University. "Today, fruition, we are going to do it, a fashion incubator in Miami, it’s the place."

And it’s a natural, said Joseph Roisman of Perry Ellis, who heads the One Community One Goal creative industries task force. He said the incubator will also help young designers showcase and sell their collections. “Miami is the epicenter of the creative industries. … What we need to do is create enough jobs so our students will stay in Miami.”

Combating brain drain was a theme throughout the One Community One Goal update at Miami Dade College. One Community One Goal’s proposed Talent Development Network, a project in partnership with the Miami Foundation, got a lift with a $100,000 grant from Helios Education Foundation announced Wednesday, adding to funding from the Miami Foundation, the Peacock Foundation and others.

The Talent Development Network will offer a platform for connecting potential employers with local students for paid internships in the targeted industries, said Mark Rosenberg, president of Florida International University. He heads the One Community One Goal’s Academic Leaders Council, which includes leaders from most of the universities and colleges in Miami-Dade County and has been meeting regularly to discuss common curriculum challenges.

A development leader for the platform has been hired, and the Talent Development Network is slated to begin next summer. In the meantime, Rosenberg urged attendees to hire an intern or two this year. “We are going to grow this together,” he said.

JPMorgan Chase announced a $250,000 investment that will go toward programs over the next two years to close the skills gap, including the Talent Development Network. This is the first local partnership under JPMorgan’s New Skills at Work program that will invest $5 million in Miami, Market Manager Guillermo Castillo said at the event Wednesday.

The JPMorgan funds will also be used to help One Community One Goal with workforce readiness gap reports. That data will help find ways to address the gaps, including through student internship opportunities, industry-specific training for teachers and students, employer training, and career and leadership development opportunities for youth.

In addition, the Academic Leaders Council is working on a master plan to create the leading academic cluster in the United States for trade and logistics, said Rosenberg.

“We must work to be the place that creates the jobs of tomorrow,” said Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez, a One Community One Goal co-chair.

Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/2014/07/23/4251249/beacon-councils-one-community.html#storylink=cpy

07/21/2014

Q&A with EarlyShares CEO on future of crowdfunding

By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

JoannaJoanna Schwartz is in typical startup mode, her days (and many nights) filled with calls and meetings with investors and entrepreneurs and strategy sessions with her team of 12 as they prepare fund-raising campaigns for growth companies and real estate ventures. She is the CEO of EarlyShares, a portal for equity “crowdfunding” with more than a dozen active campaigns in progress and more in the pipeline.

“There is so much going on, our heads are spinning every day, but it is all in such a good way,” said Schwartz, who has founded and/or led companies in a variety of industries.

First, a bit of history: Incorporated in 2011 in Miami, EarlyShares was built to be a crowdfunding company. In April of 2012, the JOBS Act was signed that legalized the concept of crowdfunding although the regulations would still need to be put in place. The company went full force into education, brand-building and putting the building blocks in place for what the company was to be.

Schwartz joined the company in early 2013. At that point, the Securities and Exchange Commission still had not released the final regulations, known as Title III, that would allow companies to offer equity stakes in their companies to lots of ordinary investors. But in September of 2013, the SEC released a set of regulations, referred to as Title II, that allowed the advertising of deals, opening the door to crowdfunding for sophisticated, so-called “accredited” investors.

By year’s end, EarlyShares opened its platform to accredited investors and began offering them direct access to private opportunities.

Here’s how it works: EarlyShares first puts the company raising money through due diligence. Once vetted, EarlyShares helps the company set up the campaign and handles the administration and documentation, and assists with marketing. Companies get a dashboard to monitor and manage the campaign, saving time and eliminating back-and-forth emails with potential investors.

Visitors to EarlyShares.com see minimal information about the deals, such as how much the company wants to raise, minimum investment and some basic facts about the company and management team. Accredited investors interested in a deal must request an invitation to see the full deal details, including the business plan and financials. Investors also are vetted, and the companies seeking funding decide whether to grant access; they can also turn down an accredited investor at any point in the process.

As for the status of equity crowdfunding for non-accredited investors, the proposed Title III rules were published and the comment period ended earlier this year. Many entrepreneurs and startup companies said the restrictions, as written, would actually deter smaller companies from crowdfunding. The New York Times called the new rules “a joke.” EarlyShares, for its part, submitted a seven-page response to the SEC. These came as regulators tried to make it easier for small, privately held firms to raise capital from the public while ensuring investors are protected against fraud and other risks.

Crowdfunding analysts and market watchers have speculated that regulators could release the rules by the end of this year. In the meantime, more than a dozen states have passed laws allowing equity intrastate crowdfunding, where both the project and the investors are in the same state. A proposed bill was floated in Florida this past session, but it did not advance.

Schwartz said the platform is fully ready for Title III deals but if EarlyShares is not happy with the final rules when issued, the company will remain a platform for accredited investors.

“We’re good. We like to say we are Title III agnostic. This is too good of an opportunity we are sitting on, we are really early in the growth cycle of this,” Schwartz said. “We’re in the first hit of the first inning of the first game of the season. If you think about it, 80 years of regulation has been undone only two quarters ago. Granted we are in an age of super fast adoption, but private capital raising is a $2 trillion industry.”

The first seven months as a fully functioning platform have been a learning experience for the young company. Said Schwartz: “We’re changing the old ways of doing things, and taking root and growing is going to take a little while.”

The Miami Herald talked to Schwartz recently at EarlyShares’ Brickell offices about the company, crowdfunding and the status of the regulations.

Q. You've had a diverse career, with leadership roles in companies ranging from commercial mortgage firms to steel products. What attracted you to EarlyShares?

A. When EarlyShares Chairman Steve Temes approached me in early 2013, I was at the perfect place in my career to lead and grow a company that I was passionate about. I had already learned about the JOBS Act and knew it would fundamentally change the way private companies raise money. I was compelled by EarlyShares’ mission to help entrepreneurs and investors to capitalize on the changing regulations and I felt that my experiences, particularly at Silver Hill, were well suited to take on the challenge. I’m excited every day about growing this company to make a positive impact on the business community and our economy.

Q. What stage is EarlyShares in now?

A. We are all about scaling and growing the business because all the building blocks are in place. ... Our vision is to be a one stop shop for private opportunities of very high quality that are vetted and supported by project sponsors of the highest caliber. We are committed to this market and we are here to stay.

Q. You’ve recently started to post real estate deals on EarlyShares? Why real estate?

A. There are almost 9 million accredited investors in the United States. Up until recently, less than 3 percent had ever invested in a private investment opportunity. It’s not that they didn’t want to, they didn’t have access to them unless they knew someone, and this is especially true in real estate. It really is about giving direct access to investors in ways they never have before. What were your options before? You could buy shares in a REIT. While that is interesting intellectually, it’s not that fun. This is much more fun and more direct. ... Where else can investors go with a few clicks and get a potentially 7 or 9 percent return on a project that they understand? We’re not saying it’s riskless, nothing is riskless, but they get it because real estate is intuitively understood in a much different way than startup companies are. Investors are chasing yield.

Q. What do you look for in a potential campaign for EarlyShares?

A. EarlyShares is focused on two verticals right now: growth-stage companies and real estate. The selection criteria for an offering differ depending on the vertical, but we apply stringent vetting and review standards to both types of offerings. Ultimately we’re seeking quality opportunities with clear potential for returns, so we look for deals with traction, existing investors, experienced founders and evidence of past successes.

Q. Tell me about a couple of your campaigns in progress.

A. To name just a few, Steel Wool Entertainment, a talent management and production firm, already has Grammy Award-winning musicians and breakout YouTube artists under management. CEO Kevin Morrow was formerly a senior leader at House of Blues/Live Nation.

PsychSignal, a financial market data provider, counts several prolific hedge funds among its clients. CEO James Crane-Baker is a former Wall Street trader and serial entrepreneur with a major acquisition under his belt.

Kleo is the Miami-based parent company of ClassWallet.com, an e-wallet solution for schools and classrooms. CEO James Rosenberg is the founder of AdoptAClassroom.org, which has raised $25 million for classrooms across the U.S.

And the Beacon Hill real estate project is sponsored by Rivergate Partners, a Miami-based firm with 30 years of executive leadership in the multi-family market.

Q. Crowdfunding has certainly attracted a crowd of competitors. What’s it like working in such a competitive space?

A. There are group of competitors that are really solid that I love because they are helping to build the industry. It’s fantastic. Beyond them, there are a lot that are not doing it to the level that it needs to be done. There will be consolidation in the industry, no question. That’s not our path.

Q. I’m giving you the crystal ball. What do you think is going to happen with the final crowdfunding rules and how will it potentially impact EarlyShares, or not?

A. That’s hard to say right now. I came to EarlyShares with a lot of enthusiasm for Title III, but we’ve shifted our focus entirely to Title II. Title II (which allows general solicitation) not only gives entrepreneurs a valuable new way to raise capital, it poses huge opportunities for accredited investors. Individual investors were largely barred from participating in the private finance market for 80 years under U.S. securities laws. The ability for them to now find and fund private deals is unprecedented and is opening up exciting new avenues for high-potential investments.

Title III could be completely transformative if it’s implemented the right way by the SEC — and EarlyShares would welcome the opportunity to bring more individuals into the private investing community — but the initial rules have too many challenges as proposed. I don’t foresee the SEC implementing Title III within the next few months, but EarlyShares will only offer Title III opportunities if the rules are modified to be more advantageous for investors and issuers.

Q. On the rules that have been published for comments, what was one aspect you liked and one aspect you didn’t?

A. There were several things we liked, including that the rules permitted issuers and platforms like EarlyShares to rely on individual investors’ own representations of their income or net worth, rather than require a costly verification process. Among the things we didn’t like are the proposed financial disclosure and reporting requirements imposed on issuers. Without getting too technical, the requirements would place such staggeringly high costs on issuers that we believe they’d deter the vast majority of issuers from utilizing the Title III exemption at all.

Q. What have you learned so far with EarlyShares?

A. Recognizing that this is an investor-driven business, and that success is driven by finding, sourcing, selecting and vetting the deals investors are looking for. Finding deals is the easier part of the puzzle; we spend a lot of time educating investors and entrepreneurs. We take on that role of guidance. We are not an investment bank, we are not their lawyer, their accountant. We are a platform. We can provide them to the connections if they need them.

Q. What's next for EarlyShares?

A. EarlyShares’ recent expansion into real estate has proven extremely popular with our investors because these deals offer them cash flow, returns and appealing investment horizons. We look forward to growing our roster of active, quality commercial real estate deals and announcing some strong new partnerships in that vertical.

Q. I understand you are also an angel investor. What kinds of companies do you invest in and what do you look for in potential investments?

A. I look for the kinds of early-stage investment opportunities that would meet EarlyShares’ eligibility criteria: companies with strong leadership, unique value propositions, large markets for their products and services, existing contracts, realistic financial projections, and exit strategies. In many cases, the most challenging aspect of angel investing is learning about quality deals and then evaluating them properly — which is why I’m so committed to making EarlyShares a source that simplifies the process for identifying unique and vetted investment opportunities.

Q. What are your thoughts on the emerging local startup ecosystem?

A. Our tech-entrepreneurship community is at such an exciting place in its evolution because we’re all rooting for one another’s success. Every early-stage company that receives investor funding drives more and stronger investor interest in other ventures in the region. As a portal for private investing into early-stage companies, we at EarlyShares are doing our best to play a central role in helping grow and strengthen this community.

At a Glance: Joanna Schwartz

Age: 42

Title: CEO of EarlyShares, a platform that gives accredited investors direct access to private opportunities.

Experience: Has founded, led or held senior positions in companies in the commercial mortgage, ecommerce, telecom and steel industries. Positions included EVP, North America for Corpac Steel Products Corp.; Founder, SOBO Concepts; Managing Director of Silver Hill Financial; VP of Bayview Financial; Associate Director, Digitas; CFO for Latinet Holding Corp. Chaired Miami’s Young President's Organization chapter for two years.

Education: MBA, Harvard Business School; bachelor’s degree, political science, (minor in psychology), University of Vermont

Personal: Born and raised in Locust Valley, New York. Has lived on Miami Beach for 15 years. Husband: Dean; daughters: Jessie, 12, and Lily, 8.

Favorite book: “The Hard Thing about Hard Things” by Ben Horowitz, which discusses the highs and lows of being an entrepreneur.

Favorite pastime: Spending time with family, especially on the ski slopes.

Read past story about real estate crowdfunding here. 

Follow Nancy Dahlberg on Twitter @ndahlberg

 

Startup Spotlight: The Clean Team

Cleanteam2Headquarters: Miami

Concept: Book a maid online in under a minute. Schedule the day you want and pay online through a simple booking process. Customer care agents are available before, during and after your scheduled cleaning. You can hire The Clean Team for a one-time cleaning, or choose a discounted weekly or monthly plan. The Clean Team also specializes in vacation-rental cleaning and management.

Story: Co-founders Koby Assaraf and Glenn Weiss have now successfully built and launched three property-rental ventures together, and they created The Clean Team because they recognized firsthand just how difficult it is to find a professional and reliable cleaning provider in South Florida. Assaraf, who began his career working for Oyster.com,<code_dp> takes the lead in The Clean Team’s sales and marketing efforts. Weiss, a licensed CPA, handles the company’s finances. With a keen focus on quality cleaning, technology and world-class customer service, The Clean Team has grown quickly. “Our product is a clean home, and our tool for accomplishing this is a diligent maid. One of the main differentiators between us and our competition is the years of experience our maids have working in the hospitality industry as hotel room attendants,” Assaraf said. The co-founders believe the business model can be replicated in other markets.

Launched: 2013

Management team: Koby Assaraf (co-founder); Glenn Weiss (co-founder); David Raskind (business development).

No. of employees: 25

Financing: Initial $85,000 in self-funding; customer revenue has funded the business since then. Planning to raise $350,000 to propel further growth.

Website and phone: www.wearecleanteam.com and 305-842-3622.

Cleanteam1Recent milestones reached: Achieved sales of $450,000 in year one and are on pace to reach more than $1 million for year two. Launched interactive website and implemented management software, which has enabled the company to service many more clients with better customer service. The Clean Team recently renovated and moved to its new 4,500-<code_dp>square-<code_dp>foot headquarters in Wynwood.

Biggest startup challenge: Staffing and systems. The Clean Team doesn’t subcontract work out to other cleaning companies or independent cleaners as some national competitors do. “We found that managing an in-house staff of maids provides us with better oversight and control over the quality of the cleanings we provide,” Weiss said.

Next step: Building brand exposure because there are still many condos, homes, offices and vacation rental companies that aren’t familiar with The Clean Team. “We are setting out to capture 25 percent of the market in the next 18 months,” Weiss said. Social media marketing and online advertising will be the initial focus, followed by person-to-person sales through meet-and-greet events at residential buildings, he said. “A crucial sales route for us will be creating an affiliate network to help promote a natural flow of referrals. Creating relationships with property managers will be essential in promoting our growth here in Miami,” Assaraf added.

Advisor’s view: “They’re both natural entrepreneurs, always up to something innovative. This concept struck me as a pretty cool way to modernize the way people handle upkeep for their home. I loved that something challenging like cleaning your home could become fun and easy using their online system,” said Jess Alpert-Goldman, a PR and marketing consultant who has been involved with Clean Team since launch.

“Brand development is what will set them apart from the competition. The service industry — especially cleaning — is still pretty primitive … what differentiates them is their technology, that’s the initial hook. Backing their tech with their high-level of customer care will create the brand trust needed to succeed.”

Photos above show The Clean Team co-founders Glenn Weiss and Koby Assaraf (wearing cap)  at their Wynwood offices. Photos by CW Griffin of the Miami Herald.

See all the Startup Spotlights under the Startup Spotlight category on this blog.

 

07/20/2014

Tools for preparing presentations: Define your goals beforehand, tailor your pitch, listen

By Susan Amat


SusanAmatHeadshotLast week I had the pleasure of doing several presentations for Junior Achievement LATAM at its conference in Mexico. Spending time with hundreds of high school and college students over three days was energizing and playing teacher was something I have missed terribly.

I did a session for 50 of the students who had their own businesses about validating a new concept. We went through a Top 10 list, starting with the problem statement. They were wide-eyed and asked complex questions, some becoming emotional at times because of the tasks before them in creating a successful company. Young people with big dreams, authentic, looking for guidance. Over several private sessions, I was continually surprised by how far along their businesses were because of the openness and humility the entrepreneurs consistently showed in discussing their challenges.

After the conference, I spent an afternoon in Mexico City. My first meeting was with an entrepreneur with a new startup. Just a year older than some of the students at the conference, he was in a corporate job and wanted my feedback on his business that he had been developing on the side. The concept was strong, but his presentation wasn’t clear, and I was having a hard time following the story line of the pitch.

Instead of using a deck, he gave a demo of the site functionality. This made our interaction feel awkward at times because even though I love seeing the product, it felt like he was doing the pitch that goes with his deck.

Becoming skilled at presenting a demo in a personal setting, having all of your bullet points to cover while still making it feel like a personal conversation, just comes down to practice. A lot of practice, especially when your assumptions and strategy are being questioned.

The inspiration for this column came from the stark contrast between a few meetings I had on a single day. The CEO of a company has to be the leader and have a clear vision and plan for building the company, no question. Confidence and thoughtfulness in discussing your plans is also a strength, but being sensitive to the situation and your listener’s needs and wants should always be a priority. While “having all the answers” seems like it would be a strength, you may miss hearing an important comment or insight. And being too quick with an answer and then moving on to your next bullet kills any chance for spontaneous meaningful conversation. If you are too focused on making your points, even a private meeting can seem distant and cold.

Here are some practices to consider in making both public and private presentations:

1. Your public and private presentations should have a clear story so the listener knows what problem you are solving, who has that problem and how many people have that problem.

2. A good pitch will walk the listener down a path of where you were, where you are and where you are going. You won’t be able to answer all of their questions but the main, high-level points should be clear.

3. A one-on-one pitch at a table is very different than a presentation to a room. Practice having a more conversational style and you are much more likely to be interrupted.

4. Prepare scripts for a pitch presentation and a demo presentation, and practice with people who understand what you are doing and others that have no knowledge of your area.

5. Be prepared to tailor your presentation to the audience. Whether it is a room of investors or a single potential partner, give examples with which your listener(s) can identify.

6. Know the goals of your presentation before you start. Positioning the company for investment means focusing on traction and the vision of where you can go with funding. A strategic partnership meeting should highlight your existing strengths and how complementary and synergistic the relationship will be to take both of you to the next level, all about the win-win. Enticing an advisor or mentor to support your efforts will require them to believe in YOU and your vision.

7. Educate your listener about the need for your business, that you have the right solution, that you are the right person to do it, that he or she can add a lot of value to your concept and that you appreciate and reciprocate (with investment returns, building their business, personal satisfaction from mentoring someone, excitement and challenge of building a cool company, etc.).

8. Try to schedule your time together so you end up listening more than you speak. Prepare questions and take notes.

Compressing your vision into a few minutes is hard. Taking someone through your thought process who isn’t devoting his life to that area is not easy either. Use your presentations to make personal connections, remembering that these interactions show exactly what your listeners can expect in future dealings with you. Do you want them walking away thinking you will be a great partner or a know-it-all who won’t listen when the going gets tough? The more important the meeting, the more valuable the advice and counsel you may receive. Be willing to show you can listen: That intention alone may have a surprising impact on your relationships and your business.

Susan Amat is the founder and CEO of Venture Hive, an entrepreneurship education company, www.venturehive.co. You can follow her on Twitter at @SusanAmat.

 

Entrepreneurship Datebook

ENTREPRENEURSHIP WEEK: Startup Palm Beach’s Entrepreneurship Week activities continue with a BarCamp on Clematis Street on Tuesday and a DemoDay at the West Palm Beach Lakefront Pavilion on Friday. More info: startuppb.com/entrepreneur-week

MIAMI TECH DIVERSITY: Code Fever, Carrie P. Meek Entrepreneurial Education Center and Black Tech Miami present a panel discussion about making Miami’s tech and startup scene more inclusive, 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Wednesday, July 23, Meek Entrepreneurial Education Center, 6300 NW Seventh Ave., Miami. More info:  More info here.

Tech eggREFRESH MIAMI: “You’ve built it, now launch it!” is the theme of Refresh Miami’s monthly event, and a panel of professionals will discuss what strategies work with the press, how to find distribution deals and building your sales pipeline, 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. Thursday, July 24, at the Miami Science Museum, 3280 S. Miami Ave. More info: refreshmiami.com

STARTING GATE

Venture capital investment jumped in the second quarter nationally but fell hard in South Florida. Read about which companies received funding and other startup news and community views on the Starting Gate blog on MiamiHerald.com/business.

Nancy Dahlberg @ndahlberg

07/18/2014

Q2: VC investment up sharply, but not in South Florida

MoneyA jaw-dropping $1.2 billion fueled Uber, the ride-sharing company, in the second quarter, driving venture capital investment sharply higher nationwide. Yet in South Florida, VC investment slowed.

Venture capitalists invested $112.2 million in 13 Florida companies in the second quarter of 2014, according to the MoneyTree Report from PricewaterhouseCoopers and the National Venture Capital Association. To put that number into perspective, the state drew less than 1 percent of the national venture capital total in the quarter. As was the trend nationally, software companies in Florida grabbed most of action, with $62 million flowing into them, according to the report released Friday and based on Thomson Reuters data .

To be sure, quarterly venture capital investment activity in Florida rose sharply from the $71.9 million invested in 13 deals in the first quarter. But in a change from previous quarters, South Florida companies did not receive the lion’s share of the state’s second-quarter funding. That would be Orlando, which received more than $61.4 million of the state’s total, dominated by a $50 million investment in Kony Solutions, a mobile software company.

About $22.8 million flowed into South Florida companies, led by a $15 million investment in Tyrogenex, a West Palm Beach biotech company. Other local late-stage and early-stage companies receiving funding were: Aeropost, AdMobilize, AviseNA, Mobile Help and Redcap. The total is down sharply from the nearly $48 million total for the first quarter of 2014.

Nationally, venture capitalists invested $13 billion in 1,114 deals in the second quarter, according to the MoneyTree Report. That was up 34 percent in terms of dollars and 13 percent in the number of deals, compared to the first quarter when $9.7 billion was invested in 985 deals. The total dollars invested in the second quarter marks the largest quarterly investment total since $13.1 billion was invested in the first quarter of 2001. VC investments for the first half of 2014 reached $22.7 billion, the highest first half total since 2001.

Dollars invested in the software industry experienced another significant increase, reaching $6.1 billion, which marks only the fourth time since 1995 that investments in software companies have exceeded $6 billion in a single quarter. Half of the 10 largest deals of the quarter were in the software industry, including San Francisco-based Uber’s $1.2 billion deal, the largest single quarterly deal reported by the MoneyTree Report in the history of the report, which began in 1995. Arch-rival Lyft, also based in San Francisco, attracted the second-largest investment nationally: $250 million.

“Not since the early 2000s have we witnessed this level of quarterly investment activity. Despite being over $15 billion below the peak, you can’t ignore the historical significance of venture investment during the second quarter,” said Bobby Franklin, president and CEO of NVCA. “Before alarmists declare a repeat of the dot-com bubble, it’s important to keep in mind that a lot of this activity was driven by a handful of eye-popping investment rounds, including a record-setting funding round of $1.2 billion. Additionally, we hear anectdotally from members about the emergence of new investors in the innovation economy, including the rise of hedge funds, mutual funds and other non-traditional investors making direct investments into presumably pre-IPO companies.” 

MoneyTree Report results are available at www.pwcmoneytree.com and www.nvca.org.

Follow @ndahlberg on Twitter.

 

07/17/2014

Q&A: Venture Law Project helps more than 100 entrepreneurs in first 6 months

A common challenge for startups is determining when and where to obtain legal services -- as well as coming up with the bucks for the fees. But the consequences of not using one could be huge.

VLP LOGO TMThe Venture Law Project, new this year, advises startups on business formation, filing requirements, drafting legal contracts, negotiating lease agreements, copyrights and trademarks, tax planning and related matters. Qualifying entrepreneurs have free access to training and legal materials, as well as workshops at partner law firms and local incubators.

Ashley Juchawski serves as the Venture Law Project’s staff attorney, providing legal advice and recruiting experts to provide specialized guidance on the many steps that go into starting and sustaining a business.

Juchawski earned her Juris Doctor from St. Thomas University School of Law in Miami Gardens in 2012. She earned an honors Bachelor of Arts from the University of Toronto in 2008. From 2008 to 2009 Juchawski worked in Seoul, Tokyo and Beijing. While in law school, Juchawski studied international law in San Lorenzo de El Escorial, Spain, and clerked at a commercial and business litigation law firm in Toronto in 2011. She also clerked for Broward County 17th Judicial Circuit Criminal Court Judge Michael A. Usan. Most recently, Juchawski, licensed as an attorney in both Florida and New York, worked at a boutique civil litigation law firm.

Ashley Profilehas been six months since the project began and I wondered how it was going. I caught up with Juchawski and asked her these questions:

Q. What was the driving force behind creating this new program?

A. Failed startup businesses were seen all too often coming to Dade Legal Aid facing bankruptcy, foreclosure, family issues and debt crisis. We were inspired by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation’s commitment to entrepreneurs and engaged communities, and with the foundation’s support we launched the Venture Law Project as a free legal resource to local startups. Taking a proactive approach, our goal is to help early-stage entrepreneurs get protection under the law and develop on a solid legal footing.

Q. What does your program offer a startup?

A. Startups meet with me to identify areas needing legal assistance. We advise on selecting which type of corporate entity is best suited for the particular business, tax planning, protecting intellectual property rights, aid in filing and preparing the appropriate incorporation documents including legal contracts, nondisclosure agreements, and terms of service privacy policies to name a few.

Q. Approximately how many startups have you helped so far and how many do you hope to help in the first year of the program? 

A. Since January, the Venture Law Project has already provided legal counsel and advice for over 100 different entrepreneurs and startups. As the program continues to grow, we aim to continue providing legal services to as many local startups as possible. The positive response from the startup community has been a clear indicator that this program needs to become a permanent resource.  

Q. Approximately how many attorneys or firms are involved? And how are you planning to grow that number?

A. Legal Aid has an extensive network of attorneys willing and able to take pro bono cases. The Venture Law Project has recruited dozens of private attorneys specializing in key areas of corporate law that want to take a startup case. We recruit attorneys to take pro bono cases, speak on legal panels, become a mentor, or host interactive workshops for the Venture Law Project. We actively attend attorney meetings from sections of the Florida Bar, Dade County Bar Association, Young Lawyers, and many others, to increase awareness about the Venture Law Project and encourage new attorneys to get involved. This network is growing every day.

Q. What problems do you see South Florida startups having that could benefit from some legal guidance?

A. From the outset, we want to protect individuals from personal liability­--an easy but often overlooked step. We first encourage incorporation with the state of Florida to register as a separate legal entity. We advise on which type of entity (LLC, corporation, nonprofit, partnership, etc.) is best suited for their business and provide guidance on keeping funds separate. We commonly see startups mixing bank accounts, accepting business checks in their own name, signing documents personally and not on behalf of the company, and other co-mingling of funds that can get them into a lot of trouble. We also help startups protect their company name, logo, slogan, images, and coding algorithms by using nondisclosure agreements, trademarks, copyright and patents.   

Q. Can you share a horror story or two? What can happen if a startup doesn't set things up right on the legal end?

A. We have actually had entrepreneurs in our office say, “we do not need to worry about talking to an attorney until we get sued!” There are a lot that attorneys can do proactively, and should not be considered just a defensive tool once there is trouble.  

The biggest problem we see are startups downloading legal forms or documents off the internet, or copying one from a competitor’s site. What works for one business might not work for another. For example, we have seen provisions naming New York, Arizona, or Delaware law to apply without an understanding of how that law will be applied to your case, often resulting in an unintended outcome.

Q. How do startups find out if they qualify for assistance through the program?

A. Each new client fills out an intake application that is reviewed by our board. Reviews are on a case-by-case basis using a variety of criteria given each startup has different operating and overhead costs. An applicant must show financial documentation demonstrating they are not in a position to hire a private attorney for legal services.

Q. Is your service really free? What fees/costs are the startups responsible for paying? 

A. Yes, our services are free to qualifying startups! Clients are responsible for paying any hard costs or filing fees to the state or federal government, but receive the attorney’s pro bono hours dedicated to their case, at no charge.

Q. What's next for the program? Any interesting events coming up or new initiatives?

A. Coming up July 30 will be a workshop on Corporate Entity Formation at the Miami Entrepreneurship Center, from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. Then on Aug. 12, we have an expert panel attorney discussion on Protecting Your Intellectual Property – an Overview of Trademarks, Copyright and Patents, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Join us Aug. 13 for a Pro Bono Legal Arts Clinic at the MCAD, where attorneys will be providing local artists, designers, and creative groups with one-on-one consultations from 5:30 to -8 p.m. Stay tuned, as there are many more free events in the works! Suggestions welcome!

Q. Anything else you would like to add? 

A. Anyone interested in learning more about the Venture Law Project may contact me at ajuchawski@dadelegalaid.org or 305-579-5733 ext. 2247. You can follow Venture Law Project on Twitter @miamiventurelaw. Our website is www.dadelegalaid.org/venture-law-project.