May 04, 2017

How a 305 native became 'Crowdsourceress'

Hear Alex Daly read from her new book and share tips about crowdfunding at Books & Books on Friday.

Alexdaly

By Alex Daly

I grew up in Miami in the 1980s and ’90s, long before the invention of crowdfunding as we know it. My dad owned a company that created anti–money laundering software for banks and financial institutions, and my mom had her own company doing marketing for radio and television stations. Through my parents, I learned the value of hard work, which pushed me from job to job through different New York boroughs until I found my life’s work.

I never thought I’d be the industry’s “Crowdsourceress,” an expert in the field of crowdfunding. It wasn’t like I had a guidance counselor in college telling me I was perfectly suited to the role of “Kickstarter campaign manager.” And yet, just three years ago, I launched my company Vann Alexandra from my kitchen table in Brooklyn –– a creative services agency that helps clients raise money for their creative projects through crowdfunding. Since then, my team and I have managed over 50 crowdfunding campaigns across the design, technology, film, music, and publishing categories, raising over $20 million dollars for our clients from close to 100,000 backers worldwide.

The road here, like any entrepreneurial journey, was full of bumps and twists and turns. After college, I worked as a fact-checker for New York and WSJ. magazines. Then I tried my hand at film and worked as a production manager at a boutique documentary production company. My role included managing a team, working on several documentary projects, and writing lots of grants to raise money for these projects. Grant after grant after grant. So many grants. I was beginning to think this wasn’t the kind of work I wanted to be doing. 

Then one day an office mate I barely knew who was trying to raise money for his documentary asked me what I knew about Kickstarter. 

The short answer? Pretty much nothing. Still, I told him I was game to help. 

We planned the campaign on our lunch breaks and after work. Really, I knew almost nothing. I remember having to Google how to write a press release. But we worked really hard and launched a stellar project. When we went live on Kickstarter, we discovered there was a passionate audience who responded to our campaign and lept on board as backers. Meanwhile, we worked around the clock sending personal emails to friends and family and pitching press to cover the project. By the last day of the 30-day campaign, we surpassed our $35,000 goal by more than 150%, raising over $80,000.

I was immediately hooked. I managed another documentary campaign, and another. Both were successful. As word got out about my success rate, more creatives started coming to me for campaign management, and that’s around that time I was named the “Crowdsourceress” by the press. 

A big part of my job was connecting meaningfully with my clients, and gaining their trust by leveraging — or at least projecting — my growing expertise. I had to figure out what the essence of the project was so that I could talk about it effectively to potential backers. Then I had to frame the campaign pitch for those people — who were sitting at home online or swiping away on their phones — in a way that was so compelling that they couldn’t ignore it. I needed to give backers a feeling of real investment in these campaigns, and a sense that they were going to feel good about their donation. Over time, I was getting better and better at what I was doing.

Then one day, just two years after my first campaign, I got a text from my friend about handling a huge Kickstarter. The product was a high-resolution digital music device called the PonoPlayer, and the client was Neil Young. Yes, that Neil Young. 

I got the job and had to start immediately because the campaign was launching in just over a week. Then, for 35 days I managed Pono’s Kickstarter and helped them raise a whopping $6.2 million. At the time, it was the third highest funded Kickstarter project ever. 

It was after the Pono campaign wrapped that I finally realized it was time to launch a full-time, full-service agency. Since then, we have managed incredibly campaigns like the NYCTA and NASA Graphics Standards Manual reissues, TLC’s final album, the Joan Didion documentaryEric Ries’ Leader’s Guide, the Maya Angelou DocumentaryMakerarmBellingcat, the Today Clock, and many more. 

Now, I'm thrilled to share both my journey and top crowdfunding tips in my new book: The Crowdsourceress: Get Smart, Get Funded, and Kickstart Your Next Big Idea. This book will give you the tools not only to run your own successful crowdfunding campaigns, but also to build, launch, and grow your brand and your business. 

I will be reading and signing The Crowdsourceress at Books & Books in Coral Gables on Friday, May 5 at 7:00 pm. I hope to see you there!

Alex is the founder of Vann Alexandra and the industry’s “Crowdsourceress." Alex has shared her expertise at top film festivals, universities, and organizations, and is in the class of 2016’s Forbes 30 under 30.  

Find information on her book here: www.thecrowdsourceress.com

Find information on the Books & Books event here:

https://www.eventbrite.com/e/the-crowdsourceress-book-reading-and-signing-cinco-de-mayo-party-tickets 

Alexdalybook

May 03, 2017

StartUP FIU Pitch Day for cohort 2 of Empower accelerator is May 9

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StartUP FIU, the university-wide initiative in innovation and entrepreneurship at Florida International University (FIU), announced today the companies to pitch at their Spring Pitch Day on May 9.

The pitch event connects venture capitalist and angel investors with a group of the most disruptive companies in South Florida. The event features FIU students, faculty/staff, alumni and members of the Miami community whose companies span innovation in consumer products, medical devices, social networks and cloud computing. This group represents the second cohort of the 14-week StartUP FIU Empower Accelerator program.

“I am truly inspired by the discoveries and innovations that are coming through StartUP FIU's Empower Accelerator and especially by the startups that will take to the stage on May 9,” said Emily Gresham, Cofounder of StartUP FIU and an Assistant Vice President of the University. “One of the missions of StartUP FIU is to commercialize the intellectual property developed here in South Florida and each cohort brings us closer to that objective.”

The 14 companies that will pitch at Graham Center Ballroom on May 9 include:

·       Benbo: The most interactive, simple and easy to use business networking app that will help you create, customize, exchange and scan business cards.

·       Boatrax: Boatrax facilitates the logging experience for boat owners with a mobile app that allows them to organize their logs and share them with local service providers.

·       Cargo42: Cargo42 is a marketplace for trucking committed to reducing idle time and capacity.

·       Clutch Couture Bags: Clutch Couture Bags is a designer handbag rental service that is changing the way fashion-lovers experience luxury.

·       Extreme Weather: A national network of weather education-entertainment-resilience centers. Visitors will experience dangerous weather through immersive, experiential technologies.

·       Give Wink: First ever subscription box service for grandparents, delivering an assortment of age appropriate essentials and goodies on a bi-monthly basis.  

·       Master Honey: We empower low-income women to start their own micro beekeeping business and sell us the urban honey they produce for commercialization.

·       MmMaps: Public Transportation for Tourism

·       NIROS: NIROS Technology Inc. is developing a safe hand-held optical scanner to help wound care specialist image under the skin, to improve prognosis in wounds healing process

·       Renu Shops: Redesigning retail, Removing blight, and Empowering communities with reused shipping containers.

·       SkillCourt: SkillCourt application helps you create, perform and compare through our wireless LED Target pads.  

·       StealthSimulation: Bridging the gap between healthcare education and technology by engineering solutions for clinical simulation.

·       Viera Academy: A free Test-Preparation Playground, mentored by Guinness record holders committed to helping students play, learn and train like Champions do.

·       Wrocket: Teaching organizations recruit Millennials in their language! Candidates and recruiters video, swipe and chat themselves to the perfect match

 Click here to reserve your tickets for Pitch Day. For ongoing coverage of StartUP FIU, follow us on TwitterFacebook and Instagram or view curated content via the hashtag #StartUPFIU.

Applications for StartUP FIU’s Cohort 3  are currently open. You can apply at startup.fiu.edu to be a part of the Empower Accelerator.

StartUP FIU, a university-wide initiative, has two programs currently in operation. StartUP FIU Empower Accelerator is a formal14-week program and StartUP FIU FOOD is a year-round food incubator. A third program, StartUP FIU West Kendall, an incubator focusing on software and hardware technology, will open later in 2017.

- Submitted by StarUP FIU

11 entrepreneurs from South Florida are Florida finalists for EY Entrepreneur of the Year

EY recently announced the finalists for the Entrepreneur Of The Year 2017 Florida program, including eleven South Florida entrepreneurs. The prestigious awards program recognizes entrepreneurs who demonstrate excellence and extraordinary success in such areas as innovation, financial performance and personal commitment to their businesses and communities. The business leaders were selected by a panel of independent judges. The eleven finalists from South Florida are:

·       Christopher James Chen, MD – ChenMed, Miami Gardens

·       Adriana Cisneros – Cisneros Interactive, Coral Gables

·       Jorge Gonzalez – City National Bank, Miami

·       Edie Rodriguez – Crystal, Miami

·       Michael Murphy – HealthChannels, Fort Lauderdale

·       Craig M. Nash – ILG, Inc., Miami

·       Pete Pizarro – Ilumno, Miami

·       Michael Neal – KAST Construction Company, West Palm Beach

·       Ben Fleischer – Pyure Brand, LLC, Naples

·       Brett Beveridge – The Revenue Optimization Companies, Coral Gables

·       Brett Cramer & Jennifer Lynne Cramer – The Spice Lab, Pompano Beach

Award recipients will be announced at a black-tie awards gala on June 23, 2017, at the Omni Orlando Resort at ChampionsGate.

Submitted by EY

10 South Florida startups selected to present at Florida Early Stage Capital Conference

The Florida Venture Forum has selected 22 Florida-based or operating companies to present at its 10th annual 2017 Florida Early Stage Capital Conference, and nearly half are from South Florida.

“We continue to receive applications from high quality early stage companies from all regions in Florida and we received a record number of applications again this year,” said Jennifer Dunham, partner at Arsenal Venture Partners, chair of the conference selection committee and a board member of the Florida Venture Forum. The conference is being held at the Omni ChampionsGate in Orlando on May 19.

In addition to company presentations and other programming, the conference award a total of $150,000 in cash awards presented to the first, second and third place winning companies, provided by Space Florida.

Presenters were selected from a pool of over 130 applicants by a committee of active Florida venture capitalists and investors. Selected companies will present to an audience of investors, other deal professionals and entrepreneurs.

The presenting companies from South Florida will be:  

Boatyard, Fort Lauderdale (www.boatyard.com), is the world's first on-demand marketplace for recreational boating. Their app provides boat owners with the ability to order fuel, boat washing, service and captains directly to their boat with a few clicks on their mobile device.

Caribu, Miami (www.caribu.co), is an education platform that helps parents, extended family, and mentors read and draw with children when they’re not together. The result is an engaging experience in a carefully designed, curated, and secure platform.

Honorlock, Boca Raton (www.honorlock.com), the company’s on-demand proctoring solution combines classic proctoring methods with a proprietary new method of multi-device detection. 

Kugadi, Miami (www.kugadi.com), allows security companies to move into the 22st century by enabling them with a mobile app and web based portal that makes their employees both more efficient and more accountable.

Neuro Pharmalogics, Boca Raton, is a Biopharmaceutical company developing/commercializing innovative therapies for people with rare (orphan) neurological diseases treatable by PKG signaling modification such as: Hemiplegic Migraine, Orphan Epileptic conditions, Neural Trauma (TBI, Spinal shock), and other Ischemic conditions.

Papa, Hollywood (www.joinpapa.com),  is a home health technology platform that allows members to connect to home health services in their community. They are working to simplify healthcare. Though the Papa Platform, they make it easy for members to access and manage health care services for their family members.

Rotation Manager, Miami (www.rotationmanager.com), is an online platform for hospitals, schools, and nurses to manage clinical rotation scheduling and compliance. Software as a Service.

Symplast, Plantation (www.symplast.com), is the first practice management platform that revolutionizes patient engagement from any smartphone. A complete eHealth solution for aesthetic practices, Symplast increases communication between patients, providers and staff. Fully functional on any computer, tablet, or smartphone, Symplast provides doctors the freedom to focus on what matters most: their patients.

Tender Armor, Fort Lauderdale (www.tenderarmor.com), CVV+ is a real-time, two-factor fraud prevention solution that authenticates cardholders conducting Card-Not-Present (CNP) transactions including e-commerce and phone transactions. CVV+ validates the authorized cardholder conducting the transaction, not just the payment card.

Whoop Wireless, Boca Raton (www.whoopwireless.com), their patented technology is used by major academic, hospitality, and corporate institutions to provide in-building cellular coverage at less than half the cost of a distributed antenna system (DAS).

The other companies are:

Admiral, Gainesville (www.getadmiral.com), offers an advanced adblock analytics and automatic revenue recovery. They provide a multi-faceted platform that enables publishers to size and solve the unique adblock problem presented by their unique userbase.

Feathr, Gainesville (www.feathr.co), is a digital marketing SaaS company focused on the vertical of live events, such as trade shows and music festivals.

Auxadyne, Keystone Heights (www.auxadyne.com), has an exclusive licensing agreement with FSU for the design, manufacture and distribution of the first commercially available auxetic foam in a variety of medical device and protective equipment applications.

Droplit, Melbourne (www.droplit.io), provides software development tools for hardware companies in the Internet of Things. With full-stack cloud infrastructure and rich developer tools, Droplit enables rapid development of IoT products, allowing product teams to accomplish in weeks what currently takes years.

RedTeam Software, Orlando (www.redteamsoftware.com), is a true cloud application built and optimized for construction by people that know the business. From collaboration through accountability, RedTeam is the most comprehensive project management and accounting solution for commercial construction.

GO PUCK, Sarasota (www.gopuck.com), GO PUCK’s founders invented the lithium starting battery, and patented the Supercharger technology used by Tesla Motors. Their work is found in every IndyCar, championship NASCAR & Formula 1 vehicles and recharge millions of Electric powered miles. They now have patented claims for the 1st Wearable Power device, with all the speed, safety and reliability trusted around the World.

Prime Medical, Largo (www.primemedical.com), is revolutionizing infection prevention in healthcare and other verticals with its complete line of SAF-T™ products and OEM capability. Using a patented fabric technology, SAF-T apparel and textiles retain a lasting shield of chlorine molecules after each laundering in EPA-registered bleach. Simple, superior and sophisticated, the chlorine-activated textiles are powered to continuously kill the colonization of harmful bacteria and viruses during use/wear, are completely safe, and feature next-gen color technology that will not fade in bleach.

QURE4U, Bradenton ( www.qure4u.com), the platform answers the need for health professionals to increase patient engagement. The interactive tools, patient monitoring and alerts enable providers and their staff members to more efficiently interact with patients, identify patients at risk, give better treatment, and reduce visits to the ER and hospital admissions as well as gaps-in-care.

SiteZeus, Tampa (www.sitezeus.com), the new evolution in location intelligence, driven by exceptionally engineered big data systems and unparalleled data visualization technology.

TripShock, Santa Rosa Beach (www.tripshock.com), is both B2B and B2C. For the B2B model, they provide booking solutions for activity and tour suppliers. They generate bookings through their distribution outlets and collect a commission for each confirmed sale.

NeuroInitiative, Jacksonville (www.neuroinitiative.com), 100% of attempts to stop or slow progression of Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases have failed. They can change that, and in the process bring relief to 57 million patients worldwide, introduce a new way to develop effective drugs, and capture sizable portions of both the $37 billion annual pharma R&D market.

Ardusat, Salt Lake City, UT (www.ardusat.com),  creates hands-on and engaging STEM experiences on earth and in space. Ardusat’s open STEM platform provides curriculum resources mapped to national and state standards, classroom management tools for teachers, and step by step guides for students to build experiments. Ardusat has operations in Florida.

 - Submitted by Florida Venture Forum

 

April 30, 2017

Startup Spotlight: Visual Blasters' FlipaClip app can make anyone an animator

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Jonathan Meson, who heads up the team behind Visual Blasters, at his downtown Miami office. The team’s app FlipaClip is a hit on Android devices and is now available on iOS. AL DIAZ adiaz@miamiherald.com


 

 

Company name: Visual Blasters (creators of FlipaClip)

Headquarters: Downtown Miami

Concept: Visual Blasters develops gaming, multimedia and animation mobile apps. “We provide high quality, intuitive apps with an eye toward making the world a better place by helping people express their creativity, discover music and have fun while doing it,” said CEO Jonathan Meson.

Story: In 2010, brothers Jonathan Meson, 33, then a software engineer for Motorola, and Marcos Meson, 38, a senior motion graphics designer at HairDirect.com, founded Visual Blasters, with the mission of designing apps that create “communities” around people’s passions and creative pursuits such as music, animation and games.

​The brothers combined their programming and design skills to create their first product, “XiiaLive,” an internet radio app that offers an uninterrupted Internet radio experience. The app has been downloaded more than 5 million times and has about 100,000 active users. “Xiialive was a success, but was more a product of opportunity, not long-term strategic planning,” said Jonathan. That changed with its next release.

Youngest brother Tim Meson, 26, a software engineer at Oracle, joined the startup to launch a free animation app for Android users in 2012 called FlipaClip. This flip-book style drawing and animation app for Android grew faster than anyone expected, quickly earning a 4.3/5.0 star rating, and over 4.5 million downloads. In less than a year, FlipaClip doubled monthly active users from 250,000 to more than 550,000.

The app, now also available for iOS, allows people to make their own animations by drawing a series of pages through the app to achieve the motion. “People are using it on social media to express their artistic side,” Jonathan said. Here’s a tip: “You don’t have to be a really good artist. We give them all the basics they need to get started.”

The company’s competitive advantage is a combined laser-focus on ease of use and simplicity, a robust set of features, and a platform that ensures products scale effortlessly. The startup makes money through in-app purchases that unlock additional animation tools and ads within the app. Plans for FlipaClip include adding audio as an animation tool.

A key milestone came in 2014, when Visual Blasters entered into a licensing agreement with Fuhu Holdings, a company that makes children’s tablets for Target and Walmart and was recently acquired by Mattel. The agreement resulted in more than 400,000 devices with FlipaClip tech pre-installed.

FlipaClip has attracted all age groups, but the brothers are seeing lots of traction among the 13- to 18-year-olds. “They are spending hours animating instead of watching video games,” said Jonathan, who created stop-motion animation with Legos when he was a kid and made movies with his brothers. “A sense of creation was embedded in us and this app was born out of that.”

In March, FlipaClip launched on iOS with the help of the Animate ‘Unravel’ Contest – a partnership with Miami-based indie band “Tell Her I Love Her” to promote its first single. The contest, underway through May 12, seeks animation entries inspired by the band’s “Unravel” song; entrants are vying for $2,000 in cash prizes. The FlipaClip team learned that the contest can be a powerful vehicle to introduce people to the FlipaClip app, earning some 72,000 views of more than 180 contestant animated videos so far.

Launched: Flipaclip (Cartoon Animation) launched 2012

Website and social: www.visualblasters.com, www.instagram.com/flipaclip and flipaclip.tumblr.com.

Management team: Jonathan Meson (CEO and co-founder), Tim Meson (co-founder and software engineer); Marcos Meson (co-founder and lead designer), Jeremiah Meccage (head of business development).

No. of employees: 8, including contractors in Argentina and the Philippines.

Financing: Self-funded. Considering seeking an angel round of financing.

Recent milestones: In February, reached 5.5 million downloads and 550,000 active monthly users with FlipaClip for Android. in March, FlipaClip went live in Apple’s App store. Also in March, launched the Animate ‘Unravel’ Contest with Miami-based indie-band “Tell Her I Love Her” to announce iOS version of FlipaClip.

Biggest startup challenge: Working with a remote workforce and communicating with developers and customer service team members in different countries and time-zones.

Next steps: “Our plan is to grow FlipaClip and slowly release new applications that fit within our product portfolio and that makes sense with our company focus,” Jonathon said. “New products experience greater growth when they have the power of an existing user base and known brand to leverage. ... In the coming years, we’re going to devote more attention to honing our marketing and brand message and activating our user community in ways that are both fulfilling to them and beneficial to us.”

Follow @ndahlberg on Twitter

FlipaClip-Team

The Meson brothers, of Miami-based Visual Blasters, and one of their company advisors, at eMerge Americas in 2015. From left: Tim Meson, Marcos Meson, Jeremy Meccage. Jonathan Meson. Visual Blasters



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Q&A with MDLIVE CEO Scott Decker: Taking telehealth to the masses

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By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

When Scott Decker told friends and colleagues in Portland, Oregon, he was going to be taking the helm of MDLIVE in South Florida, they were surprised.

“The outside perception is that there is no technology market down here and that is clearly not the case,” Decker said. Today, MDLIVE, a fast-growing provider of telehealth services, has more than 300 employees and has been growing about 60 percent a year, he said.

The longtime health-tech executive was named CEO of the Sunrise-based MDLIVE in November, succeeding Randy Parker, MDLIVE’s visionary founder and now chief business development officer.

Decker joined MDLIVE with nearly 30 years of experience as both an innovator and health information technology leader. Most recently, he served as CEO at HealthSparq, where he built the industry’s first cloud-based shopping/transparency platform for healthcare consumers. In four years, HealthSparq grew from startup to servicing 70 health plans and 70 million Americans. Prior to HealthSparq, he held CEO and president roles at NextGen Healthcare and HealthVision.

MDLIVE, founded in 2009, was one of the early entrants in telehealth, where the doctor is a click away. The company’s virtual healthcare service covers more than 20 million people for the 2017 health plan year and is on track for 22 million by year end. MDLIVE has raised more than $73 million in venture capital financing, making the company one of the best-funded South Florida tech companies. Nationally, it competes with Teladoc, Doctor on Demand, American Well and others.

Already this year, MDLIVE has launched a new virtual health and wellness package to support the country’s 28 million small businesses that traditionally have a difficult time obtaining affordable health benefits. The offering, MDLIVE Prime, is designed as a cost-effective, stand-alone benefit for businesses that are unable to offer traditional health insurance benefits or as an add-on benefit to traditional health plans, the company said. The package includes virtual doctor visits, including behavioral health, with no co-pay, pharmacy benefits, and second opinion services. MDLIVE couldn’t provide a cost for this service as it will vary widely depending upon the service details selected, but said a virtual care offering typically costs roughly $2 to $15 per employee per month.

MDLIVE also announced this year that it is the first telehealth provider to offer virtual psychiatric services in all 50 states through a network of more than 1,300 mental health professionals, and Decker sees that as a fast-growing part of the business going forward. The market is huge, as about 20 percent of people in the U.S. have a diagnosable mental disorder and current wait times to see a behavioral health expert average 30 days.

MDLIVE also plans to begin offering virtual dermatology visits in a few months.

The Miami Herald interviewed Decker in early April about his transition, the company and the telehealth sector.

Q. You moved from Portland, Oregon, in November. How are you finding South Florida?

A. Portland winters are rainy and cold. Pretty easy transition!

Q. What new set of challenges does leading MDLIVE bring?

A. Most of my background is purely on the technology side, providing technology that helps healthcare organizations be more efficient and effective, and this is combining the two. It’s not only the technology of how do we make it easier for consumers to get to doctors, but in reality we are also running a very large physician practice on the back-end at the same time, where we have more than 1,800 licensed physicians and therapists in our network. It’s marrying those two things together in delivering healthcare in a way it hasn’t been delivered before.

Q. Do you think telehealth has lived up to its expectations so far?

A. I don’t know that it has lived up to its expectations, but expectations are low because I think most people still don’t even know the service exists. In a lot of respects I equate it to my early days using Uber. I was an early adopter and I can still remember sitting on a corner in Washington, D.C., and having to wait 20 minutes to get a car because there weren’t enough drivers yet. And we were thinking, ‘Is this really living up to expectations, is it really going to take off?’ That’s where we are in telehealth right now, we are just in the very beginnings of it.

I fully expect that three or four years from now when we are talking, [telehealth] will be as common place as Uber is for how people are getting healthcare delivered. The customer satisfaction level we get of consumers who do use it is off the charts compared to traditional physician visits.

Q. What trends do you see in the sector?

A. We are starting to see adoption pick up fairly dramatically. On an average day, MDLIVE now sees about 1,200 patients a day, whereas a year ago it was half that amount. The bigger trend is we are seeing consumers get comfortable with the basic things we have traditionally [addressed], like ‘I have a sore throat or a UTI.’ We now have launched behavior health services; we’ve launched psychiatry services; we will soon be launching dermatology services. What you are starting to see as we get consumers comfortable with the concept is that we can expand to more and more things that make more sense to do virtually rather than burdening the consumer to go to a physical facility.

Q. Virtual psychiatry — how big a part of your business is that and what is its potential?

A. It’s about 10 percent of our business now. I think its market is tremendously untapped. It could be as big as our core business over time, and it probably fits our model even better than a basic physician office visit. A virtual visit can take away the stigma that has been associated with behavior health issues.

Q. You recently launched a new mobile health platform. What does that bring you that you didn’t have before?

A. We’ve now made it a completely native application — so you get a complete iOS or Android based experience. We’ve incorporated a brand new video conferencing capability that is getting really good reviews from consumers.

Q. What do you see ahead as the biggest opportunities for MDLIVE?

A. We are on the way, to be honest. The opportunity for us is to take advantage at what I think will be a commonplace way to see physicians in the future and making sure that happens sooner rather than later.

Q. Do the new healthcare proposals out there help or hurt telehealth and MDLIVE specifically?

A. The shift toward value-based care as opposed to fee for service just helps us more and more because people are looking for more efficient, cost-effective ways of providing care to broader populations. We definitely fit that bill. There is nothing in the changes that are occurring that we see as a headwind for us, really only tailwind. Generally in the market, what is helping us more than anything right now is two or three years ago, almost no insurers covered telehealth visits. We are well down the path and probably only a year away from almost all health plans covering telehealth as a core benefit. That is probably the biggest barrier that will come down for us.

Q. Can you tell me more about your recent growth?

A. MDLIVE has been trending the last few years at a 60 percent growth rate and does not see anything slowing that down over the next few years. MDLIVE is up to about 300 employees in the company, and more than two-thirds are in South Florida.

Q. Are you fund-raising?

A. Yes. We’re in that high-growth stage, so part of that is to always be out making sure we have the capital in place to take care of that growth.

Q. What sets MDLIVE apart from competitors?

A. For us, it is a lot about customer service and also scale. There are a lot of startups in this space, but I think if you are really going to be delivering care 24/7 365 days a year in 50 states, it’s a pretty big game and you need a big infrastructure to do that. We are clearly one of the companies that has scaled up in this space, and as I was saying, we have really put an emphasis on the customer service side of things, and the feedback we get is that is resonating well, and that’s both in our internal people and also training our physicians in a new way of taking care of patients in the virtual world.

Q. What are some other areas MDLIVE is looking to get into?

A. We have a new offering for small employers, which gives them a packaged opportunity to get access to these services. A lot of times the benefit we provide doesn’t come in the regular health plan package so we give access to these kinds of services with an all-you-can-eat model even for a lot of the small employers. For a small monthly per-employee fee, the employees can get access to as much of our network as they need. That’s a new program we are putting together and it is getting good reception in the market.

Traditionally we work with Fortune 1000 companies, and more and more health plans are working telehealth into their benefits, but a lot of that doesn’t flow down to the small employers.

Q. And you are getting into dermatology?

A. We are launching that later this summer. That’s kind of an obvious one, right? You don’t necessarily need a live visit. You can share pictures of what you are concerned about with the physician network and they can get back to you.

Q. What are some of the qualities a leader should have?

A. Making sure it is really clear to everyone in the organization where you are trying to get to, especially in technology and a high growth market where the future isn’t clear. The second is building a great team; it’s about surrounding yourself with the right people. Already I’ve been pleased with the market in South Florida, the high diversity in the workforce of executive and team players we have been able to bring aboard.

Q. What was the best advice you’ve received and from whom?

A. ‘Always try to find opportunities that can provide five years of experience every year … rather than the opposite.’ That was from my first branch manager at IBM.

Q. What is one thing colleagues may not know about you?

A. I worked on a project for NASA in college analyzing atmospheric data collected by the Voyager spacecraft as it passed Mars.

Q. How are you finding talent in South Florida?

A. I’ve been pleasantly surprised. As soon as I started telling folks I was moving to South Florida and I was hearing, ‘oh my gosh, how are you going to run a tech company down there?’ it’s been anything but. There is probably a cap to it, but for a company this size there is definitely enough talent down there and a great university system to feed into it. We may have to do a little more training to get people onto the top technologies, but I have found there is a hunger for that. We have worked with a lot of incubator and training facilities down here to make sure they are helping us feed our future growth. On the executive side, there are some really talented healthcare and technology executives I have been able to tap into in the local markets. And recruiting up north in the winter does have benefits.

Q. Are you hiring now?

A. Always. We are looking for technical people to customer service to sales and marketing. We are always looking for talent.

Q. Do you have any observations on what could make South Florida a stronger area for healthcare technology?

A. It will feed on itself; it’s an emerging market. What it needs are some good winds and that will attract more talent. The biggest barrier right now is just perception. The outside perception is that there is no technology market down here, and that is clearly not the case. So I think a little bit of PR will help and a few of us need to be wildly successful. So we’ll work on both.

READ MORE: Prescription for economy – healthcare startup energy

Nancy Dahlberg: @ndahlberg.

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April 28, 2017

More contest news: FAU Wave Competitions announces winners

Florida Atlantic University’s Division of Research has announced the winners of the 2017 FAU Wave Competition, an undergraduate and entrepreneurial research contest. Participants received $500 this past fall to develop new ideas to address societal problems, and worked throughout two semesters to develop their proposed projects.

Vithulan Suthakaran, a FAU High School student who is dual-enrolled in FAU’s College of Engineering and Computer Science, took home $1500 in prize money for his SEA Skimmer project, which won first place. Suthakaran developed an inexpensive autonomous oil skimmer to decontaminate oil from large bodies of water to protect aquatic species. The SEA Skimmer is cost effective, efficient, sustainable and collects oil nearly three times faster than current devices on the market.

“I’ve always had a passion for marine life and love to visit marine life centers,” he said. “I started noticing more marine mammals showing up at these centers because of oil pollution and I wanted to find a way to help out.”

Alexis Base, a FAU High student studying ocean engineering at FAU, tied for second place with electrical engineering undergraduate Ben Coleman, earning them $1000 for their projects. Base developed an autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) with an onboard camera image recognition system to locate lionfish, an invasive fish species in the Atlantic Ocean. Coleman’s Transient-Image Density Evaluation System (TIDES) improves smartphone sensing technology by deleting additive noise and reducing the effect of multiplicative noise.

“The FAU Wave competition teaches students how to get published in journals, launch a start-up, file for a patent and connect with other experts in their fields,” said Dan Flynn, Ph.D., vice president for research. “It primes them for future opportunities in entrepreneurship and technology start-ups, like FAU Tech Runway or a Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship.”

FAU High student Hannah Herbst, also studying biology at FAU, tied for third place with Pedro Flores, an undergraduate majoring in physics. Herbst developed an inexpensive device that quickly identifies the presence of airborne chemicals and issues a warning or evacuation notice. Flores created an artificial intelligence project that uses math algorithms to create music.

Other projects included a drone that can detect air pollution, filters that reverse the effect of sea coral diseases, an African-inspired clothing company and a portrait project focused on better understanding the LGBTQ population.

            For more information on the FAU Wave competition, visit www.fau.edu/research/fau-wave/fau-wave-competition.php.

- Submitted by FAU 

April 27, 2017

FAU Business Plan Competition: And the winners are ...

FAUbusiness-plan-competition-newsdesk

Pictured left to right are: FAU College of Business Dean Daniel Gropper, Barbara Ruiz, Rodrigo Gayoso, Christopher Waddington, Regynald Augustin, Kendrick Dubuisson, Kristopher Stewart, William Hahn, Brandon Jadotte, Kurtis Rodriques, Quintin Warren.

 

A team of four engineering students took home the top prize at this year’s Florida Atlantic University Business Plan Competition with a system that helps prevent the theft of printed classified or proprietary documents. 

Their company is Protection Against Physical Element Removal or PAPER for short. Founding members Alyssa Harris, Kris Stewart, Quintin Warren, and Wesley Klemas formed PAPER earlier this year in their senior engineering design class. 

The idea started when Harris, who previously worked as an intern in the defense industry, read news articles detailing one of the issues the defense community grapples with – how to prevent people walking out with pages containing proprietary or classified information. 

“She came up with the initial idea of trying to track the pages, and from there all of us together developed the idea of printing RFIDs onto the page,” Warren explained. 

RFID stands for radio-frequency identification, which uses electromagnetic fields to automatically identify and track tags containing electronically stored information, which are attached to objects. PAPER utilizes conductive nanoparticle ink to tag classified documents, allowing its system to detect if documents are being removed from the premises. 

Andrew Duffell, president and CEO of the Research Park at FAU and one of the judges for the competition, said the fact that government would be a good customer for PAPER’s services and the company could get funding through various grant mechanisms gives them a good opportunity to ramp up their business to become revenue-positive. 

“They showed us a huge market that really has never been addressed in a comprehensive way,” he said. “Their technology and their solution and the way prepared their plan and they pulled out the answers very carefully was impressive. It was just a very interesting concept, well thought out and well presented.”

While classified information is well-secured and encrypted in a cyber environment, government and large enterprise businesses haven’t had a successful solution to securing their printed classified documents. This has led to these sensitive materials being leaked online. The PAPER team said this can be remedied using their system, which allows organizations to know when printed, classified material is removed before it even leaves the premises, ensuring it doesn’t get leaked.

The PAPER team won $10,000 for taking first place in the competition, along with an additional $1,000 for being named Best Interdisciplinary Team.

Ripple, a creative micro-influencer and marketing agency that empowers local celebrities by offering them the ability to rent their social media real estate, was awarded $5,000 for second place.

Idle Automation, which uses a mobile app to provide self-driving shuttles for university campuses, retirement communities and resorts where short-distance travel is cumbersome or inaccessible, took third place and $2,500.

Fit Families of South Florida won the People's Choice award and $1,000.

The students on the PAPER team said they received support from faculty in the College of Engineering & Computer Science, as well as the College of Business, which hosted the competition in conjunction with the Adams Center for Entrepreneurship. The competition took them out of their comfort zone as engineers, but they got the result they wanted.

“Coming up with the actual business plan was probably the most difficult part of the competition because it was out of our discipline,” Stewart said. “The part I enjoyed the most was competing and getting to talk about the business aspect of it versus the technical side of the project.”

 - Submitted by Florida Atlantic University

April 25, 2017

CarHopper raises $1.5 million, plans expansion

Bora Hamamcioglu  Founder of CarHopper

By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

CarHopper, an app-enabled booking platform for luxury car rentals, announced Tuesday its plans to expand operations to Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Orlando and Fort Lauderdale.

The South Florida startup also announced it has raised $1.5 million in seed funding, raised from a syndicate of angel investors, which will help the company expand product development and sales and marketing efforts.

CarHopper recently honed its focus to a more curated inventory, sourced from boutique luxury car rental purveyors. “Latest trends demonstrate that people prefer buying experiences rather than assets,” said founder and CEO Bora Hamamcioglu, a Turkish entrepreneur who founded the company in Miami in 2016 (pictured above). In addition to private jet services and luxury homes with other services, sophisticated shoppers now have easy and streamlined access to luxury cars with CarHopper, he said.

 

April 24, 2017

Deadline extended until May 2: Enter American Entrepreneurship Award contest now

The American Entrepreneurship Award business plan competition offers aspiring and early stage entrepreneurs the opportunity to win a share of $125,000 as well as free mentorship and business support services. The competition is available to entrepreneurs currently living in, currently operating in, or who plan to open or expand their businesses to the areas of The Bronx, New York and Miami-Dade County, Florida.

To enter this competition, please visit: http://www.AmericanAward.com/ and click the “Register Here” on the page. Follow the instructions to create a profile and you will be taken to the online application. Once you complete the online application, you will be entered into the contest.

The deadline to complete your application is  now 11:59 p.m. May 2 so start your application today!

For any questions about the application or the award please contact: info@americanaward.com