Leapfactor co-founders chosen as Endeavor Entrepreneurs

LeapLionel Carrasco and Marcela Henao co-founded Leapfactor, a Miami technology company, five years ago on credit cards and savings. They’ve since grown the company to 50 employees and about $3.5 million in annual revenue, and Leapfactor has created dozens of apps for companies working in direct sales, employee training, retail and business analytics.

This week, the co-founders were chosen as Endeavor‘s next two more entrepreneurs from Miami, the organization’s first U.S. affiliate, at an International Selection Panel held in Florianopolis, Brazil, this week. The two Miami entrepreneurs were part of the 29 selected high-impact entrepreneurs leading 16 companies in nine countries around the world.

Leapfactor provides business apps to transform the way companies engage with their sales force, employees, partners and customers. Leapfactor’s primary product, Salesfactor, provides tools to increase revenues and efficiency, and has attracted customers such as Avon, JPMorgan Chase, AstraZeneca, L’Oreal and Sherwin Williams. With 26 million salespeople in the U.S. alone, the potential market is huge, and the company is also launching an international expansion, including into China and Thailand, said Carrasco, Leapfactor’s CEO.

"We want to help build the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Miami,” said the Bolivian-born Carrasco, who spent a decade in Silicon Valley and has years of experience in mobile development. “But at the same time, we have found going through this with Endeavor to be a transformational experience. We have met with top-level people from around the world and they are there to help you.”

At the International Selection Panel, the culmination of a multi-step selection process, international business leaders interview candidates about their businesses and high-impact potential, and then vote on whether candidates become Endeavor Entrepreneurs. The Leapfactor co-founders join the first three Miami entrepreneurs, Jesus Rodriguez of KidoZen and Roger Duarte and Sam Gorenstein of My Ceviche.

Endeavor looks for founders of companies like Leapfactor that have high-growth business models and are ready to scale globally. The nonprofit provides the selected entrepreneurs with services, mentorship and connections. Endeavor Miami launched operations in September, backed by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and a local board of business leaders. Endeavor now supports 917 high-impact entrepreneurs from 585 companies in 20 countries.

Said Matt Haggman, Knight Foundation program director for Miami: "The caliber of entrepreneurs chosen to be part of Endeavor is testament to Miami’s rising pool of talent — supporting them lays the groundwork for drawing new opportunities and investments to our city."

Endeavor Miami will be presenting more entrepreneurs this year at upcoming ISPs in New York, Istanbul and Miami, said Managing Director Laura Maydon.

Follow @ndahlberg on Twitter.

The Miami Herald profiled Leapfactor in March -- read it here.



Another South Florida exit: New Wave Surgical sold for more than $100 million

New Wave Surgical, a medical device maker in Pompano Beach, has been acquired for more than $100 million, its founder and former president, R. Alexander Gomez, confirmed Thursday.

The rapidly growing company was bought by Covidien, a publicly held $10 billion global healthcare products company based in Dublin, Ireland. Gomez, 35, wouldn’t disclose the price Thursday, but the sum ultimately will be revealed in public filings. 

Gomez invented the company’s D-HELP kit, which keeps laparoscopic and robotic lenses heated, defogged and clean during procedures. The kit, manufactured in Pompano, is used in 1,200 hospitals in the U.S. and has been used in more than one million procedures -- 500,000 in 2013 alone. Covidien has changed the name of the product to Clearify Visualization System. 

Though the device was selling globally, Gomez said a company of his size could not take full advantage of the worldwide market. Gomez was trying to raise capital for expansion when Covidien came knocking.

“We had been growing very quickly. We were getting orders from around the world. I knew I wanted to make it the standard of care. With Covidien, now it really can dominate,” said Gomez.

Once a surgical technician at Broward General, now Broward Health Medical Center, Gomez began developing the product while a student at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York. He never did his residency, instead opting to develop the product. He founded New Wave Surgical in 2006.

The company grew to 145 employees and logged $21 million in annual revenue in 2013; $8 million of that came in the final quarter. Last year New Wave moved into larger facilities. Most of its explosive growth has been in the last two years as more doctors became aware of the product. “There was an absolute need for better vision for laparoscopy,” Gomez said.

New Wave had several other products under development.

Gomez said he plans to start a healthcare fund with his partners, and hopes to help young entrepreneurs navigate the rapidly changing heathcare industry with mentorship and capital. “I hope to help people like me. When I started trying to raise capital, it was tough.”


Join Hiring Fair at eMerge Americas Techweek

Do you have hiring plans?  Your company is invited to the Hiring Fair at eMerge Americas Techweek Miami on Tuesday, May 6th, at the Miami Beach Convention Center.

Register for your free Hiring Fair table through this link:

  • * Receive 2 free Expo Passes to staff your 30" round high-top table
  • * Add your job listings on the eMerge Americas Techweek Hiring Fair web page
  • * Meet the best tech talent in South Florida on May 6th from 9AM-4PM
  • * Deposit required in case of a no-show
  • * Get 15% off additional Summit Passes using the promo code “HIRINGFAIR”
  • * Expose over 1,000 Job Seekers to your company’s openings
  • * Bring paper collateral or a tablet - keep it simple
  • * Get your logo on the hiring fair web page with links to open positions
  • * Activate your brand while hiring the best

EO survey: South Florida entrepreneurs added jobs in 2013, plan hires

South Florida entrepreneurs reported continued business growth and projected increased jobs, revenues, profits and other positive indicators for the region’s economy, according to a worldwide survey of business owners sponsored by Entrepreneurs’ Organization.

Released today, the Global Entrepreneur Indicator showed that about 60 percent of Entrepreneurs’ Organization – South Florida members added jobs at their businesses in the past sixth months, and 67 percent plan to hire more employees in the first half of 2014.

Similarly, growing revenues and profits were expected to increase even further in South Florida.  More than half of area entrepreneurs reported increased revenues and profits during the past six months, and approximately 85 percent expect revenue and profits to continue to rise this year.

EO-SOFLO members overwhelmingly  – almost 88 percent – reported  “a current proclivity to start a new business,” according to the survey.

“Our members are optimistic by nature and always inclined to consider a new venture,” said Darren Seys, CEO of Peak Seven Advertising and co-chair of the EO-SOFLO communication committee.  “But the general economic numbers reflect especially well on the region’s business environment looking forward.”

The GEI study surveyed thousands of business owners around the world.  EO has more than 9,000 members in more 120 chapters and 40 countries.  Globally, results showed in the coming six months, 67% of entrepreneurs are expecting to create  jobs; and  55% of EO members have added jobs in the past six months; and  81% of entrepreneurs expect profit margins to increase over the next six months.

EO-SOFLO is the organization’s fifth-largest chapter, with more than 160 members in Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties.  EO-SOFLO members run companies that account for more than $1 billion in annual revenues and more than 25,000 jobs in the region.



Kauffman study: Entrepreneurial activity rate falls, Miami area No. 3

As the nation's employment rate continued to improve, America's overall business creation rate fell in 2013 for a second consecutive year, according to the annual Kauffman Index of Entrepreneurial Activity released Wednesday. Entrepreneurial activity in the Miami/Fort Lauderdale metropolitan area also fell, although the region ranked No. 3 among the 15 largest metropolitan statistical areas in the country.

Nationally, the rate declined slightly from 0.30 percent of American adults per month starting businesses in 2012 to 0.28 percent in 2013. That translates into approximately 476,000 new business owners per month in 2013 compared with 514,000 the year before. Florida’s rate was 0.34 percent, ranking 8th in the country.

In the Miami area, the 2013 rate was 0.43 percent, behind the San Francisco/Oakland and Los Angeles areas. The rate was down from 0.56 percent in 2012, when the area ranked No. 1. The Miami area has typically ranked in the top five in this study.

For the first time in the 18 years this report has tracked entrepreneurship activity, the 2013 index includes new data on trends in entrepreneurship among new entrepreneurs who are not coming directly out of unemployment (also known as "opportunity entrepreneurs"). The research indicates that the share of new entrepreneurs who are not most recently jobless (necessity entrepreneurs) was much higher in 2013 than at the end of the Great Recession.

"The 2013 business creation rate signifies a return to levels that we haven't seen since before the recession," said Dane Stangler, vice president of Research and Policy at the Kauffman Foundation, which conducts the annual study. "While we have speculated in recent years that changes in entrepreneurship rates could be driven by labor market conditions, this new data provides the strongest evidence we've seen of this correlation."

Nationally, most age groups experienced declines in business creation rates, according to the study. The exception was the group aged 45 to 54, whose rate increased from 0.34 percent in 2012 to 0.36 percent in 2013.

Last month Kaufman released a national study that showed South Florida has grown faster than all other top metro areas in immigrant tech entrepreneurship.

Find the entrepreneurial activity report at www.kauffman.org/kiea.

See info graphic on the study here.

 Posted April 9, 2014 

Florida Venture Forum's deadline to apply to present at conference is Friday

On May 15, the Florida Venture Forum will host its Seventh Annual Early Stage Conference at the Reunion Resort in Orlando. The Florida Venture Forum is now calling for outstanding private companies from the state of Florida to  apply to present  at the upcoming Early Stage Conference. The  winning presenter will also present at the 2015 Florida Venture Capital Conference in Hollywood.

Companies wishing to submit an application to present at the conference must e-mail the Executive Summary (Presenter's Application) on the website to pat@flventure.org.

The final deadline to apply to present is April 11, 2014.


Miami gaming startup launches Super Kid Cannon globally

Img_screenshot_game_startCan Super Kid Cannon, the red panda, save his heart throb Justine from the wrath of Khan, the evil snow leopard?

You can become Super Kid Cannon, now that a Miami startup, Skyjoy Interactive, released its first video game, Super Kid Cannon, to the worldwide audience Tuesday. Available in 15 languages, including Spanish, Chinese, Japanese, Russian, Portuguese and Arabic, "the game is very easy to pick up and play, but it does get more challenging as it progresses," said George Francis, who heads marketing for the company.

After eight months of intense development – the game was hand drawn by artists on its staff – the young company released the first version of the video game in late February in New Zealand, where there is a well-developed gaming community that offers a solid geographic sample, said Francis. Led by CEO Abboudi Taher, the team of 12 working in its Brickell studios made some tweaks and overhauls in the user interface before putting it out on the global market Tuesday. After just a few hours, the game has picked up 70 reviews with an average rating of 4.3 out of 5 stars, he said. While the game has attracted downloads from all age groups, the sweet spot seems to be males and females aged 13-35, he said.

The game is free to download for users of iPhones and iPads, Android devices and Kindles. As is common with video games, there are many opportunities for in-app purchases, and Skyjoy is giving 25 percent of the proceeds to Seeds, a micro-lending organization that helps women in Africa start businesses, Francis said.



Inaugural event will explore how startups can help build smart cities

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Photo of Miami by Al Diaz/Miami Herald

UrbanuslogoSmart City Startups 2014, a global gathering of entrepreneurs, investors, foundations and urban leaders, will convene on April 24 and 25 in Miami to explore how to help startups build smart cities. Hosted by Miami startup Urban.Us, the inaugural event will explore how to best support startups working on problems such as mobility, sustainable building, governance, service delivery and resilience and will showcase promising startups in these areas.

“As cities become increasingly crowded, local governments are being asked to do more with less, making an already-complex situation more difficult. Smart City Startups 2014 is a response to such challenges, aiming to understand how we can best support startups that are creating promising solutions to our biggest urban challenges,” said Shaun Abrahamson, CEO of Urban.Us , an angel investor and author of Crowdstorm.

The mission of the gathering: To share perspectives on what is working and what else can be done to support smart city startups, particularly in the areas of partnerships, procurement and funding. Strategies will be shared and participants will  be encouraged to continue working together after the event.


Co-founded by Abrahamson and Stonly Baptiste, Urban.Us helps startups that help cities by organizing a network of promising startups, early stage investors, advisors, urban leaders, foundations and academic institutions. It is also working with county leaders to help the city evolve into an innovation-driven technology hub.

“Miami-Dade County continues to grow a robust business climate, fueled not only by its privileged geographic location as the Gateway to the Americas, but also by a growing startup community that’s helping to expand economic development opportunities. We congratulate the organizers of Smart City Startups 2014 for their focus on helping to solve urban issues dealing with governance and sustainability,” said Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos A. Gimenez, in a statement.

While much of the conference, sponsored by The Knight Foundation, American Airlines, Coca Cola, The LAB Miami, Miami-Dade County and Tres Mares, is by invitation, on the evening of  April 24, participating startups will  showcase their solutions on how cities and startups can work together to solve big urban challenges.  The demo night will be at 7:30 p.m. at The Light Box in Wynwood and is open to the public.

Startups participating in Smart City Startups Demos include: Architizer (New York), BikeSpike (Chicago), Birdi (San Francisco), BRCK (Nairobi, Kenya), Citymart (Barcelona), Dash (New York), HandUp (San Francisco), Greater Places (Arlington, Va.),  Kairos (Miami),  Kiwi.ki (Berlin), Learner Nation (Miami), Loveland Technologies(Detroit), Neighbor.ly (Kansas City, Mo.),  Placemeter (New York),  Public Stuff (New York),  PWRStation (Miami), Rach.io (Denver), Republic Bikes (Dania Beach, Fla.),SeeClickFix (New Haven, Conn.), SeamlessDocs (New York), SmartProcure (Deerfield Beach, Fla.), Social Bicycles (New York), Sprav (Cleveland), The TransitApp (Montreal),WhatUpBridge (Miami).


EdHack: And the winners are...

The LAB Miami,  in collaboration with the Patricia and Phillip Frost Museum of Science's "NEXT Weekend,"  hosted EdHack, a hackathon for  building educational games and apps to engage more youth (K-12) in STEM learning. The hackathon, sponsored by the museum,  Big Duck Games and the Knight Foundation,  was Saturday at The LAB Miami and the demos and awards presentation took place Sunday at the science museum.

Judges were Daniel Lafuente of The LAB MImai, Peter Martinez  of Refresh Miami, and Mike and Sharon Newman of Big Duck Games.

And the winners were…

Frank Hernandez and Lazaro Herrera of the Game Developers Guild took home the grand prize with an analytical-thinking mobile game called Beepo. The runner up was Aaron Perl, a senior at Mast Academy, who designed a physics-related mobile game called Phyzzle.

Both teams will receive free space at The LAB Miami, a consultation through the MadeInTheLAB, and a dinner with Mike and Sharon of Big Duck Games. Additionally, the Game Developers Guild will take home $1,000 for being name the champions.


From left to right,  judges Mike and Sharon Newman of Big Duck Games, Daniel Lafuente of The LAB Miami, and winners Aaron Perl (Mast Academy), and Lazaro Herrera and Frank Hernandez (Game Developers Guild).

Posted April 6, 2014

Entrepreneurship Datebook


TecheggBusiness Basics: Launching or growing a business? SCORE Miami-Dade offers a free seminar, “What Can SCORE Do For Me?” at 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday, April 8, Miami Beach Public Library, 227 22nd Street. More info: miamidade.score.org (click on Local Workshops).

Venture for America Happy Hour: This new national nonprofit program that recruits, selects and trains entrepreneurial recent grads and matches them with startups as full-time employees is expanding to Miami. To learn more, join its happy hour at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, April 10, at The LAB Miami. More info: ventureforamericainmiamilaunch.splashthat.com/

Lunch & Learn: Learn about how to identify, evaluate and negotiate new funding sources, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Friday, April 11, FIU Downtown on Brickell, 1101 Brickell Ave., South Tower - Room 1010. $30 in advance. More info: entrepreneurship.fiu.edu/entrepreneur_workshop_series.html.

Maker Saturdays: This year-long series of Workshops led by local makers and educators continues this month with “Smart Widgets: from Design to Manufacture” from 10:30 a.m. to 4 p.m Saturday, April 12, $25. More info: miamadepresentsiot.eventbrite.com


Keep up with the latest startup news and community views – including recaps on Start-Up City: Miami, the winners of the weekend hackathon, LiveNinja’s funding raise, Zak The Baker's crowdfunding campaign and more – on the Starting Gate blog on MiamiHerald.com/business

Posted: April 6, 2014