August 21, 2015

MDC unveils animation, gaming center

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Photos of MAGIC's opening Friday by Peter Andrew Bosch

By Nick Nehamas

Put down your controller. Pick up your pencil. The test is about to begin.

Miami Dade College is launching a new academic program in animation and gaming at its downtown Wolfson Campus when school starts Monday.

About 80 students have signed up for the two-year associate’s degree track, according to Mauricio Ferrazza, chairman of the program and a former animator at Univision.

A 20,000-square-foot facility called the Miami Animation & Gaming International Complex (MAGIC) will house the $5.7 million center on the ground floor of the college’s existing Emerging Technologies Center of the Americas. MAGIC contains a motion capture studio, design labs, audio engineering and color suites, and other spaces for students.

The sophistication of the equipment there is “mind-blowing,” said Michael Marante, 24, a student who is part of MAGIC’s inaugural class.

Marante says his dream is to work at Walt Disney Imagineering, the global giant’s design arm.

He graduated with a degree in business administration from MDC last year but knows he needs more experience in design.

Earlier this summer, an adviser from the college suggested he visit the new MAGIC facility.

“I was enraptured,” said Marante, who grew up in Hialeah. “The incubation rooms, the motion capture room, the audio engineering studio. They blew me away.”

Video games aren’t just for fun these days. They’re a serious business. But local gaming studios — a small but growing industry in South Florida — often complain about how hard it is to find qualified workers in the area.

And the techniques used to make a Call of Duty solider jump out of a helicopter are spreading to other industries.

“Other fields are using the animation techniques developed in gaming,” Ferrazza said. “We’re seeing it in architecture, aviation, medicine, science and forensics.”

Educators in South Florida are also using computer games to teach students about complex topics in a trend called “serious gaming.”

The new program fits into a wider priority for political and business leaders in Miami-DadeCounty: diversifying the local economy, which leans heavily on construction and tourism.

“Having a state-of-the-art program like this helps us grow as a technology and creative design community,” said Jaap Donath, senior vice president at the Beacon Council, the county’s pub" v:shapes="_x0000_i1025">lic-private economic development arm.

Donath said Miami-Dade has about 1,500 jobs in animation and related fields and that he expects that number to grow.

“That’s why it’s so important to have an institution like MAGIC in place,” he said. “It’s a major asset.”

The Beacon Council is pushing for more job creation in certain industries that pay well but do not require a bachelor’s degree. Among them are creative design and information technology.

MAGIC will ultimately have room for about 600 students.

The majority of the program’s funding comes from the Mitchell Wolfson Sr. Foundation. The animation studio PIXAR contributed $100,000 in software. Locally based custom PC manufacturer Alienware established a $50,000 scholarship fund that will fund eight students for the coming academic year.

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August 20, 2015

500 Startups launching growth-marketing accelerator program in Miami

500 Startups, a Silicon Valley venture capital seed fund and startup accelerator, is doubling down on its interest in Miami.

In March, 500 Startups and its founder Dave McClure brought its PreMoney conference to Miami, its first foray outside Silicon Valley with that event. Thursday, the organization announced that it will launch a 10-week growth marketing program in South Florida beginning Sept. 28.

Because the past couple of years have seen the Miami and Latin American startup ecosystems continue to mature, with more companies emerging in the region and more money to fund them, 500 Startups believes it is a good time to launch its new Miami Distro Program – distro is 500 slang for distribution or customer acquisition. The organization’s staff and mentors will be flying in from Silicon Valley, Mexico, Argentina and Brazil to administer the program, guiding and funding its first batch of invited startups focused on scaling customer acquisition, retention and revenue.

The program is supported by partners John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the Simkins Family Fund, Softlayer and Building.co, a new collaborative space for tech companies in downtown Miami, where the Miami Distro Program will take place.

YangStartups accepted into the program with “growth as a mindset” will be in the post-seed stage and have previously raised at least $150,000 in funding from other investors. They will likely be five to eight teams from South Florida, Latin America or elsewhere that want to target the Latin America market and/or the U.S. Spanish-speaking market i from Miami, said Bedy Yang, the 500 Startups partner that is leading the program. The companies have not been selected yet, Yang said, but will be identified through recommendations and introductions from its global network of 3,000 founders and mentors.

Participating companies will receive between $150,000 to $250,000 in funding from 500 Startups, with $50,000 of that allocated to the Distro program fee and another $50,000 earmarked for growth marketing spending. The Distro Program will be staffed with four to six mentors on site, and additional topic-specific mentors will be flown in or available remotely throughout the program.

Yang said the 500 partners and mentors will also hold meetups for the greater community. Many of 500 Startups’ growth marketing programs also will be available to the public on its YouTubechannel.

Yang said this is the first 10-week Distro Program for 500 Startups, which has a portfolio of 1,200 investments in over 50 countries, including more than 100 in the Latin America region. It is also running shorter distro-themed programs in London and Kuala Lumpur. With all three, it was seeking hub locations to serve regions where startup activity is emerging. Yang said the fund’s interest in Miami is strong, and hinted there will be more to come.

“It is so easy to convince everyone to go to Miami,” said Yang. While 500 leaders have been in and out for events, “it will be great to be able to spend a lot more time there. We’re quite happy. You’ll be seeing a lot more of us.”

Follow @ndahlberg on Twitter. 

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500 Startups founder Dave McClure chats with Fabrice Grinda during its PreMoney conference in Miami in March.

August 19, 2015

Thrive Seminar to bring Daymond John to Miami Beach next week

Daymond+13+Two+PABThe Thrive Seminar series is designed to expose participants to entrepreneurs who have gained international notoriety and success to learn the keys to launching a successful business. The first Thrive Seminar on August 27, 2015, will feature a Q&A LIVE session with Daymond John, celebrity entrepreneur, angel investor and host of ABC's “Shark Tank”. Mr. John will address attendees, speaking on his personal and life-changing journey as an entrepreneur as well as share practical advice and tips that contributed to his success in business.

“When I first got into business I made a lot of bad decisions. If I miss 10% to 20% of opportunities because they're a timely matter, then it is what it is, " said John in a recent article in Entrepreneur Magazine. “The Nelson Foundation is giving budding entrepreneurs access to valuable, real experiences from business moguls with proven formulas.”

The audience will also hear three live pitches from selected, budding entrepreneurs before a high profile panel of judges, to help one young leader take a step towards fulfilling their dream. The Nelson Foundation will present the winner with $10,000 to assist with startup costs. The distinguished panel of judges consists of Brett David, Owner of Lamborghini Miami, Bernard Stewart, GM and Vice President of ESPN, Nabyl Charania, CEO of Rokk3r Labs, Will Stute, Angel Investor and Dawn Dickson, CEO of Flat Out Heels. The Thrive Seminar is supported by its generous community partners including; The Knight Foundation, Aifos Agency, The Idea Center at MDCC, The Lab Miami, Digital Grass, EZ VIP, Chef Teach Creates, Miami.com, NBC 6, Pinnacle Agency, Bobby Blaire, and The Under 40 Group. Buy tickets here.

The Nelson Foundation’s mission is to ignite and fuel the entrepreneurial spirit of under-represented communities through investment, mentoring and education. For more information or contact Al Nelson, Founder & CEO at (786) 543-9917 and al@thenelson.foundation or visit http://www.thenelson.foundation.

- Submitted by the Nelson Foundation.

Venture for America adding 2nd class in Miami, with Knight support

Vfa sigVenture for America, a national nonprofit that recruits, trains and places top college graduates with startups, will send its second class of Fellows to Miami in August with funding from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. The eight new Fellows will join six current Fellows for a two-year program working for Miami-based startups.

The Fellows, who will undergo a  five-week training boot camp at Brown University before joining the startups as core team members, are recent graduates of Columbia University, University of Michigan, Vanderbilt University, Notre Dame and Morehouse College. They will be working at local firms Rokk3r Labs, AdMobilize, Kairos and Venture Hive.

The first class of VFA Fellows in Miami has already resulted in a new startup: Tracks, led by Princeton graduate Seth Forsgren.

"The right mix of talent and opportunity is essential to making Miami a global innovation hub," said Matt Haggman, Knight Foundation program director for Miami, which provided a $240,000 grant to fund the program’s expansion. "Venture for America is pushing us toward that goal by seeking out high-impact startups and connecting them with the talent that will help these businesses scale and grow right here in Miami."

VFA believes one of the best ways to accelerate the path to entrepreneurship for young graduates is through apprenticeship. VFA offers training, mentorship and access to capital. Each Fellow is hired as a full-time employee by a startup in one of the VFA cities at a starting salary of $38,000 a year plus benefits.

Since its founding in 2011, Venture for America has placed 300 fellows in 15 cities, including Baltimore, Cleveland, Cincinnati, Detroit, New Orleans, Las Vegas, Philadelphia and Providence, R.I. Venture for America partner companies have added an average of 5 jobs within a year of hiring a fellow and 72 percent have experienced net job growth. Both fellows and startups go through a VFA vetting process. For more information, visit ventureforamerica.org.

Meet the 2015 Fellows

Muhan Zhang, Kairos: a Boston College graduate with a Computer Science degree, is an aspiring engineer who measures good software by lives touched. He is the creator of Noggin, a Google Glass app that helps users with speech and paralysis disabilities communicate via head movements. Designed under the guidance of assistive technology veteran James Gips, Noggin was a finalist for the Blackwood Student Design Award, competed in various business plan competitions on campus and was published by Springer in their Computer Science Proceedings this year. Previously, Muhan has spent time interning in foreign policy, management consulting, and studying Mandarin Chinese abroad as a Fulbright scholar.

 Jide Adebayo, Rokk3r Labs: Jide is a born and raised Memphian who decided to spend his college years in the big city. Jide graduated from Columbia University in New York with a BA in Philosophy and Economics and a Masters in Public Administration through an accelerated 5-year program. Jide has worked in various fields ranging from software development to public policy and founded two companies while attending Columbia. Jide’s first company was a non-profit that provided college mentoring/tutoring services for local high schools and middle schools in New York. The second, Univate, helped students and alumni transform class projects and side projects into startups.

Willem Prins, AdMobilize: Willem graduated with a Biomedical Engineering degree from Columbia University and a Biophysics degree from Elon University. Within research he has worked in several labs, including both attended universities, UNC, and at Pfizer. Willem believes in the future of a world health system with highly personalized healthcare.

Ben Weinstein, Venture Hive: Hailing from Mount Kisco, New York, Benjamin graduated from Connecticut College in 2015 with a Computer Science major. He spends a lot of his free time playing soccer with Conn’s club team and performing improv and stand-up comedy. He has just completed his minor in Philosophy, to appeal to his logical side and strengthen his creative, critical thinking abilities.

Garrett Ransom, Venture Hive: Garrett is a Bay Area bred life enthusiast, who graduated from Morehouse College with a degree in Business Administration. Growing up not too far from the Silicon Valley, he was always surrounded by budding start-ups, but spent most of his college experience networking within Wall Street, interning two summers at Bank of America Merrill Lynch in their investment banking division.  Although he still loves to invest, he now spends a bit more time in the Atlanta Tech Village.

Jinesh Shah, Rokk3r Labs: Jinesh graduated from the University of Michigan with a Bachelor of Science in Information. His key field of study is user experience design. Last summer, he interned as a designer for Chalkfly, a Detroit-based VFA company that sells office supplies. Working for Chalkfly fueled his entrepreneurial spirit, and he plans to merge his passions for design, information, and technology to start his own company.

Mary Cornfield, Rokk3r Labs: Mary, a NJ native, graduated from the University of Notre Dame with a major in Finance and minors in Entrepreneurship and Constitutional Studies. She interned all over the world, from San Francisco to South Bend, from New York to London. She loves learning about new industries and the challenges they face as evidenced by the fact that all of her internships have been in different industries including business risk consulting, consumer goods, and even a mayoral campaign. Currently she works at Notre Dame’s Investment Office and a startup in the incubator Innovation Park.

 Jesse Golomb, Rokk3r Labs: Jesse graduated from Vanderbilt University with majors in Literary Studies and Communication Studies and a minor in Corporate Strategy. A New York native, he has been passionate about journalism, media and technology from a young age. In addition to interning at VICE Media, ESPN, Newsday, Steiner Sports and doing editorial and digital marketing consulting for a variety of small businesses, he has led several teams in a series of entrepreneurial projects on campus and is a feature writer for his school newspaper. Long term, he hopes to make a career developing technologies that help us communicate, share and learn in meaningful ways.

 

 

August 18, 2015

MDC to inaugurate MAGIC facility on Friday

Miami Dade College will inaugurate the Miami Animation & Gaming International Complex (MAGIC) at the Wolfson Campus on Friday.  The first facility of its kind at a public higher education in Florida and one of only a handful nationally, MAGIC is essentially a replica of the facilities seen only at major motion picture studios.    

MAGIC will strengthen and better position Miami as the new hub for the animation and game development industries, by providing an educational foundation to support these growing fields. Animation enthusiasts from all over the world, along with animation studios executives, top software gurus, artists, and others will convene at this one of a kind facility. 

The Florida University system produces very few if any graduates in modeling, virtual environments, and simulations related degrees. As with many of our other program offerings, MDC will provide real solutions to address our nation’s most pressing workforce challenges.  MAGIC will bridge the gap in affordability and accessibility by providing quality programming and the very best facilities at the fraction of the cost compared to private competitors.   Facilities at MAGIC mimic the production pipeline from PIXAR Studios.

MAGIC will roll out an Associate in Science degree in Computer Programming and Analysis with concentrations in Animation and Game Art, or Game Development and Design. Students in the intensive, hands-on two-year program will develop skills in modeling, lighting, motion, sound, and storytelling, as well as gain command of the technical skills required in today’s highly competitive animation industry.

MAGIC will also host the acclaimed MIA Animation Conference & Festival this fall, an industry conference focused on computer animation, gaming, visual effects and motion graphics, film, web design and visual arts.   The gathering has been designed to be a forum for networking with a strong commitment to and emphasis on education while developing and nourishing new talent.  Students, professionals and members of the community will also participate in competitions such as Pitch-to-Industry an animation and gaming design competition and Game On, the first ever indie game competition, which encourages independent game development and fresh voices in the video game industry. 

The inauguration of MAGIC will feature top national speakers, demonstrations and tours. 

 WHAT:           Miami Animation & Gaming International Complex Inauguration

 WHEN:            Friday, August 21, at 10:30 a.m.

 WHERE:         MDC Wolfson Campus, 300 N.E.  Second Avenue Miami, FL  33132, Building 8 

- Submitted by Miami Dade College

Read more about MAGIC here. 

August 15, 2015

The winners of Wyncode Pitch Day VI? Our community

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Kito.co pitches, and later wins, at Wyncode Academy's Pitch Day 6, in front of a record crowd at The Lab Miami. Photos provided by Wyncode.

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Juha MikkolaBy Juha Mikkola

As a truly global city, Miami needs an economy that is as strong and diverse as its people. This requires that its workforce is equipped with the skills of the 21st century to attract and retain companies that create the jobs and opportunities that help build a robust middle class. In 2015, this increasingly means knowing how to write code — the language behind the technologies that fuel our daily lives. At Wyncode we’re doing our part to build a workforce that is helping transform South Florida from a tourist destination to a leader in global innovation, commerce, and entrepreneurship.

Our nine-week coding bootcamp equips students from all walks of life (most of whom had little to no prior programming experience) with the computer programming needed to launch their careers as web developers with long-term growth potential or their own start up companies from scratch. Miami was just named the country’s second leading startup city and the 28 graduates of our most recent cohort embody the spirit of South Florida’s new economy behind this accolade.

At Thursday’s Pitch Day VI, the newest class of Wyncoders presented the web applications they built with their teammates—after learning Ruby on Rails, HTML, CSS and JavaScript over the last three months—to a panel of judges who selected a winner, as well as a standing room-only crowd of nearly 300 members of Miami’s tech community. The exciting web apps that were presented last night are paving the way for a more vibrant and innovative community. Among the apps presented were:

  • * Cluborate.co: A social network for activist groups and social causes
  • * TheBulk.co: A crowdsourcing tool for shoppers to purchase in bulk
  • * Wynning.co: An online life coach and project management tool
  • * Cookio.co: An Uber for personal chefs
  • * Libro-Club.co: A social network-based book club
  • * Parlayvous.co: Online raffles to help non-profits fundraise
  • * Tailorup.co: One of our WynTank submissions, our program to connect Wyncoders with local entrepreneurs, made by Wynwood jeans maker Caveat, is a personalized tailoring service right in your mobile phone.
  • * Kito.co: Kito helps landlords better manage their properties and tenants
  • * MDCPE.co: Another WynTank submission, MDCPE.co integrates with Miami-Dade County’s API to help users procure estimates for building permits
  • * Delight.co: An online dating app integrated with Yelp to help you plan your next date created by graduates of Wyncode’s part-time iOS program


At the end of the evening, the panel of judges, which included Jeff Fudge – VP of Technology at Sato Global Solutions; Cristina Solana – Sr. Web Developer and User Interface Engineer at Enspire Commerce; David McVicar – Independent Ruby on Rails Consultant at Living Social, Metro Star Systems, and Mobikaze; Josh Perez – Software Engineer at AirBnB; and Chris Alper – Director of PDIS Training and Employee Development at Ultimate Software, selected Kito.co, which was created by Sean Selleck, Ariel Peralta, and Angelica Rodriguez, as the best presentation of the night.

 A highly educated workforce is the backbone of a strong society and economy. This is precisely what we work toward everyday at Wyncode as we seek to achieve Miami’s true potential. This is why the true winners of Pitch Day VI weren’t just the students; it was our entire community.

Juha Mikkola is co-founder of Wyncode Academy.

Read an earlier post about Wyntank here. 

 

August 14, 2015

Miami Dade College designated as 1st Ashoka U Changemaker Campus in Southeast

Miami Dade College  has been designated as an Ashoka U Changemaker Campus for being a leader in social innovation education and is the first and only public institution of higher education in the Southeastern United States, joining the world’s largest network of universities focused on social innovation education - the Ashoka U Changemaker Campus network.

Building on Ashoka’s vision for a world where Everyone is a Changemaker, Ashoka U takes an institutional change approach to impact the education of millions of students, including the 165,000 at MDC.

“We are humbled to receive this distinction from such a renowned organization and it affirms the diligent work we have been doing for so many years to provide our students the comprehensive tools for lifelong success and to serve as catalysts for change in our community,” said José A. Vicente, president of the Wolfson Campus at MDC and Ashoka Institutional Champion. “We take the responsibility of being ‘changemakers’ very seriously and look forward to reporting on our progress.” 

As an Ashoka U Changemaker Campus, MDC will advance educational pathways that develop interdisciplinary, entrepreneurial and solutions-oriented skills for students. It will launch a college-wide initiative to infuse social innovation into the fabric of the college and create a defined path for all students to become changemakers.

MDC’s Changemaker Campus plan has three key objectives: (1) provide an applied learning environment that will allow students to find their passion while giving meaning to their education; (2) equip students with changemaking skills that are highly valued workforce readiness skills; and (3) design a mechanism to measure impact and success of MDC changemakers. 

This summer, the College launched the “It Takes One” campaign to empower and challenge students, faculty, staff and other members of the community to become changemakers. Campaign activities and events will be announced at various MDC campuses.  

 Ashoka U is regarded for catalyzing social innovation in higher education through a global network of entrepreneurial students, faculty, administrators, staff, and community leaders. Ashoka U Changemaker Campuses include Brown, Cornell, Duke, Fordham, George Mason, Johns Hopkins, Middlebury, and Tulane, among other top institutions worldwide. 

- submitted by Miami Dade College

 

Kevin O'Leary's “EQ” TEST: Are you an employee or an entrepreneur?

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By Kevin O’Leary

I learned at an early age that I was built to be an employer, not an employee. But that doesn’t mean I’m better than the people I employ. I’m different, but not better.

I’m telling you this for a reason. You must discover which role suits you best: employee or employer. Being a successful employee requires continually honing a talent for diplomacy and collaboration. In turn, you’re rewarded with security and a steady salary, with fewer of the headaches that entrepreneurs suffer from.

Running a business on the other hand, is an all-consuming, all-encompassing venture, which totally invigorates some, and totally exhausts others.

To determine your “EQ” (your Entrepreneurial Quotient), and to learn whether you’ve got what it takes to be a leader in business or industry, answer the following questions with one of these four options: always, true, quite true, rarely true, or hell no.

1. I need to know exactly what I’m going to make next year, and the year after that, and the year after that.
2. When I’m working on something, it has my full and complete attention, and I hate having that thought process interrupted by anything or anyone else.
3. When adrenaline’s coursing through my veins because I’ve just made an aggressive offer on a competing company and I have yet to hear what the answer is, I feel incredibly uncomfortable.
4. There is nothing more gratifying than knowing that someone else takes care of automatically depositing my biweekly paycheck into my account.
5. I like the people I work with, and I hope none of them ever leave or move on.
6. I like that my work duties re very clearly spelled out.
7. If it’s not in my job description, I don’t do it—not because I’m lazy, but because it’s somebody else’s job and I wouldn’t want to offend them.
8. Sleep is incredibly important to me.
9. Work/life balance is so important. True success means a healthy amount of “me time”.
10. I find living a life of extremes to be very stressful. The idea of being on a plane for twenty hours, or having people constantly need to speak to me, or being sought after for speaking engagements, or dealing with the ebb and flow of millions and millions of dollars—mine and other people’s, seems nightmarish.

If you answered always true or quite true to a majority of these questions, chances are the roller-coaster ride of entrepreneurship is not for you. There’s nothing wrong with that. Believe me, the economy—indeed the world—would be much better off if people ill suited to running businesses would step aside and let those who are equipped take the reins.

If you answered rarely true or hell no to the majority of these questions, get ready for the ride of your life. Deciding to become an entrepreneur is a lot like deciding to become an actor or writer. You’re going to be constantly dissuaded by people who don’t want to see you get hurt. They’ll tell you the odds of succeeding are slim. They’ll say that it’s a hard life, full of anxiety and uncertainty. They’ll remind you that you’ll be spending nights and weekends either at the office or thinking that you should be there. And they’ll be right. But if you still believe that there is no greater goal than working for yourself, creating jobs and opportunities for others, and being a player in your local, national, or global economy, then, like me, you probably have entrepreneurialism encoded in your DNA.

To be an entrepreneur, you must find a business you can fall in love with. It has to be something you want to live, breathe, and eat. It has to force you to make compromises you wouldn’t otherwise make. You know you’ve found it when, despite the fact that you eat on the run, rarely sleep, travel constantly, never see your family, and never relax, for some reason you’ve also never been happier.

Need Advice On Growing Your Business? TigerDirect Business Says, "Ask A Shark", visit 

http://www.tigerdirect.com/sectors/campaigns/kevinoleary/askKevin.asp

Kevin O’Leary is on ABC’s Shark Tank and is TigerDirect’s spokesperson.

 

August 13, 2015

Wyncode launches WynTank to partner Wyncoders with entrepreneurs, local businesses, nonprofits

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“Have you ever had an app idea but you didn’t know where to start?” asks Juha Mikkola, co-founder of coding bootcamp company Wyncode Academy. “After just seven weeks at Wyncode, our students can build it for you.”

Wyncode Academy, with campuses at The LAB Miami in Wynwood and General Provision in Fort Lauderdale, has launched WynTank, a program that matches Wyncode students with local entrepreneurs, businesses, and nonprofits to help them bring their app ideas to life.

The participants with the best ideas will be invited to pitch their app concepts in front of Wyncode students who will vote on which apps to build for their team projects during the last two weeks of the course. To enter WynTank or for more information on the judging criteria and process, aspiring entrepreneurs can submit their ideas via http://wyncode.co/wyntank/

The completed, full stack web apps developed in WynTank will be presented and voted on by a panel of judges during Wyncode’s Pitch Day II on August 27 at its Fort Lauderdale campus within General Provision.

“We believe in the South Florida tech ecosystem and hope that WynTank projects can spur new businesses and build a stronger local and regional economy,” said Juha Mikkola. “A cross-community partnership between entrepreneurs, local businesses and nonprofits will allow some of our city’s up-and-coming coders to build apps that can really make a difference.”

The idea for WynTank was sparked when a Miami tech community member was invited to collaborate with a team of students and have their app idea built for Wyncode’s Pitch Day V.  The project, called Outnix, not only won Pitch Day V, but one of the students on the development team raised $50,000 for the company. Outnix joins a group of eight other startups that have originated in the Wyncode program.

A WynTank beta was held at the Miami campus on July 27 in preparation for Wyncode’s Pitch Day VI on August 13th. Two concepts from community members were selected. Stacy Glover of Caveat pitched the first concept, referred to as the Uber of tailoring. Mike Sarasti and Ernie Hsiung of MiamiDadeCounty pitched the second concept for an app aimed at simplifying the Miami commercial permitting process.

See the results at Thursday evening’s Pitch Day at The LAB Miami. See more information here.

 

August 12, 2015

5 key considerations for South Florida startups seeking funding

By Ed Boland

EdSince we opened our Miami office in the fall of 2014, thus becoming the first institutional venture capital firm in the MagicCity, we’ve met with countless South Florida startups and are incredibly encouraged by the activity we see in the ecosystem. There are plenty of driven entrepreneurs as well as helpful organizations such as eMerge Americas, Knight Foundation, Rokk3r Labs, Wyncode and Carve Communications, all of which provide much needed support to the growing landscape. Needless to say, we are thrilled to be a part of this budding ecosystem, and intend to help entrepreneurs reach their potential.

That being said, after talking with many entrepreneurs over the past 10 months, there are some key aspects to raising capital that founders should be mindful of as they set out on the fundraising trail. Keep in mind the following are not ranked in any particular order of importance:

1. Team and Culture: Many founders believe their product is the most important asset, but at Scout, we look first and foremost at the team and the culture of the company in question. We examine the background of the team, and discuss how these contribute to what the entrepreneur and team are specifically working on. We also explore how the team is structured. At Scout, we make sure every team member has a clear job and is well suited to handle it. We also look to see if a founding team has both a technical and non-technical co-founder, as we have found that this often contributes to a successful team dynamic.

 2. Roadmap and Timeline: As investors, we like to know what you’ve built and accomplished since the inception of your business. But at Scout, we are just as interested in what you’re planning on doing next. As an entrepreneur, you should be able to confidently and succinctly discuss items such as: the benchmarks and KPIs that your business needs to hit, your product roadmap, who your key hires will be and when you plan on hiring them. If your company is sales-driven, be able to discuss who your target customer is and the typical sales cycle associated with your business. Understanding the future path to success is even more important than the path you took to get a meeting with an investor. Entrepreneurs should be thinking about revenue milestones, key hires, sales pipeline and the key performance indicators that are going to drive your business to the next level.

3. Product: As an entrepreneur, there are many distractions that you can get caught up in, including fundraising. While it is easy to get lost in the noise, successful entrepreneurs will be able multitask fundraising and building the product and sales pipeline. Of course, fundraising will take a good chunk of your time, but effective leaders delegate efficiently. Thus, we like to see teams who continue to improve their product during the fundraising process. We see that as a positive signal that teams will be able to successfully iterate on their product over the long run, even with the inevitable distractions that a startup will encounter over its life.  

4. Revenue: At Scout we are revenue focused because we aim to build sustainable companies that have a clear path to monetization. Although there are many VC firms that tend to invest in companies that focus on user growth before monetization, we do not subscribe to that mindset. As a result, we ask our entrepreneurs to have realistic revenue models as well as plans to achieve those revenue targets. These plans will not just please your investors, but they will set you up for long-term success, making your life much easier down the road.

5. Reporting: Although reporting can feel like an onerous task, it is a crucial aspect of your business. We’ve found a natural correlation between efficient reporting practices and successful startups. A company report should be sent to investors on a monthly basis and should include metrics such as monthly revenue, cash on hand, monthly burn, and other relevant KPIs. Founders should give these metrics context by describing how the business has evolved over the past month, and by giving any relevant news updates. Finally, founders should outline where they expect the company to be in the next month, and ask investors for any assistance reaching these goals

Hopefully, these tips are helpful to all the entrepreneurs based in Miami.  We’re very excited to be here, and we believe South Florida is on the verge of becoming a household name in the tech-ecosystem. Over the past year, we have seen local entrepreneurs make meaningful strides, and we believe the space will generate strong returns not only for us, but for any investors who are starting to build a thoughtful, strategic allocation to venture capital.

Ed Boland is a principal at Scout Ventures. Follow him on Twitter at @edbolandmia.