May 15, 2016

Entrepreneurship Datebook: Workshops, events in South Florida May 16-22

Tech eggBrainfood: Monthly speaker series features Frank Azor, hired in 1998 as Alienware’s fourth employee who now oversees Dell’s premium consumer business units, 6:30 to 9 p.m. Monday, The LAB Miami, 400 NW 26th St. More info:

Startup Nation Conference: Showcasing successful Israeli startups, this daylong conference aims to strengthen ties between the Miami and Israeli startup ecosystems and highlight best practices, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday, Miami Dade College Auditorium, Building 1, Wolfson Campus. More info and tickets:

Jurnid Sessions: Q&A series explores multicultural marketing with a panel from the industry, 6:30 to 9 p.m. Wednesday, The LAB Miami, 400 NW 26th St. More info:

CS50x Miami Blast Off: Jim McKelvey, Square co-founder and founder of LaunchCode, will discuss his approach to entrepreneurship, as well as information about the upcoming free CS50x coding program; and by video, Yulan Lin, a member of NASA’s Data Team, will discuss her unconventional journey into the world of coding, 6 to 8 p.m. Wednesday, The Idea Center at Miami Dade College, Building 8, fifth floor.

Startupbootcamp Digital Health Miami: A breakfast discussion about the role of tech and health in Miami, 10 to noon Thursday,, 120 SW Eighth St., Miami.

StartUP FIU Launch: Network with students, faculty, alumni and community members and learn about this new program called StartUP FIU, 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday, FIU Faculty Club, 11200 SW Eighth St., Miami.

Ironhack HackShow: Watch presentations by IronHack graduates and network with the tech community, 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. Thursday,, 120 SW Eighth St., Miami. RSVP here.

CEO Summit for Second-Stage Entrepreneurs: Event features industry leaders from the human resources, finance, gaming, legal and other fields. Program presented by GrowFL, in association with the Innovation Hub at Broward College, 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m., Friday, Broward College — South Campus, 7200 Pines Blvd., Pembroke Pines. More info on Eventbrite.

Starting Gate

Find startup news and community views on the Starting gate blog on Have news? Email ndahlberg@miami"

Nancy Dahlberg @ndahlberg


May 13, 2016

Co-living comes to Miami; Roam opens at historic River Inn



By Nancy Dahlberg /

Part of a growing trend around the world, the first “co-living” concept has arrived in Miami. Roam openend its first U.S. location at the historic River Inn Miami this month.

Like other startup companies beginning to offer co-living, an offshoot of the popular co-working concept, Roam targets creatives, working professionals and business travelers who want an instant community and don’t want to be tied down with longterm leases or mortgages.

Roam guyRoam personifies a modern day interpretation of what the River Inn Miami was in the early 1900s – a boarding house. “The River Inn Miami was the ideal site for Roam, just by the way it lends itself to the very essence of community living,” said Roam co-founder Bruno Haid. Calling the location a serene oasis in Miami’s urban core, Haid said, “Its history and environment is exactly the kind of inspiration that Roam is all about. ... Roam is creating a way for people to live according to their interests and curiosities, rather than around the traditional 30-year fixed rate mortgage.”

River Inn Miami in Little Havana is home to a cluster of wood-frame vernacular houses. Developer Avra Jain’s Vagabond Group purchased the inn a year ago for $8.6 million and restored it to maintain its vintage charm with its original windows, polished Dade County Pine floors and refurbished antique furniture. “We’ve locked in a moment in time that would have been gone,” said Jain in a news release, describing the site as “a true gem, brought back to the level that it should be and once was.”

Roam Miami offers 38 furnished bedrooms with bathrooms within the houses. Each house has a communal porch, a kitchen, laundry room and living and dining areas that double as co-working spaces with Wi-Fi, and come with cleaning services. The homes are situated around a lawn for community activities such as pop-up dinners and member-led classes and a swimming pool. Room memberships cost $500 per week or $1,800 per month, and cover all Roam locations, a spokesman said Thursday evening during a public unveiling. A few people have moved in, but the full opening is planned for this summer.

Miami is Roam’s second location; it also has a site in Ubud, Bali, and plans to open soon in Madrid. Sites in Marrakech, Buenos Aires, London, Tokyo, Mexico City, Berlin and Lisbon are under development, the company said. The startup (, founded in 2015, recently raised $3.3 million to fuel its expansion in a funding round led by CRV and including Collaborative Fund, NextView, Corigin and angel investors such as SoundCloud founder Eric Wahlforss.

Starting in New York and San Francisco, other co-living networks, such as Common, are opening around the country, often appealing to millennials moving to new cities and already used to co-working. WeWork, the co-working company that has raised more than $1 billion in venture capital funding, is also venturing into co-living with new “WeLive” sites in New York and most recently Crystal City near Washington DC.




May 12, 2016

5 South Florida startups to present at Florida Early Stage Capital Conference

The Florida Venture Forum has selected 20 Florida-based companies to present at its 9th annual Florida Early Stage Capital Conference being held at the Hilton Carillon in St. Petersburg on Tuesday, May 17.

Presenters were selected from a pool of about 100 applicants by a committee of active Florida venture capitalists and other investors. In addition to company presentations and other programming, the conference will feature a total of $150,000 in cash awards presented to the first, second and third place winning companies, provided by Space Florida.

Twenty companies were selected to present. The five from South Florida are:

Candidate.Guru, Weston (, is a paradigm changing human resource tool that uses cloud-based, big data analytics to predict a culture “fit” between job candidates and potential employers. (Also winner of the Miami Herald Business Plan Challenge)

Festival Pros, Miami (, organizes the world’s festivals and enables commerce for event organizers and local businesses to sell any product or service, creating a one stop shop for visitors. 

Generatorsmart, Doral (, is a designer and manufacturer of a wide range of power generation equipment and other engine-powered products designed to be ultra light, compact and easy to use. Its hybrid drone is set to revolutionize the commercial drone market by allowing drones to fly for hours.

Streann Media, Miami (, provides the tools required for content providers (cable operators, TV broadcasters, mobile operators) to go “over the top” (OTT) of their current distribution technology platforms and offer their viewers the next generation “TV Everywhere Experience.”

Symptify, Sunny Isles Beach (, is a virtual doctor that helps users decipher causes for their symptoms, what to do about them and where to go for help. 

More information about the conference:

Startup Nation Conference to explore Israel-Miami ties at Miami Dade College on May 17

How did a country the size of New Jersey end up with the second-highest concentration of startups in the world? What can Miami learn from Israel's global success?

The Idea Center at Miami Dade College and Tel Aviv University will host the inaugural Startup Nation Conference on Tuesday at MDC’s Wolfson Campus in downtown Miami as a way to explore the hows and whys of Israel’s global success and to connect Miami’s tech and innovation community with that of Tel Aviv’s — the world’s most successful innovation ecosystem after Silicon Valley. in the last decade, Israel produced six Nobel Prize winners and 800 exits — companies that were acquired or went public.

Each conference session will reflect the four steps in every startup’s life cycle: ideation, launch, growth and exit. In addition, the conference will feature more than 20 speakers, including Maurice Ferré, former CEO and chairman of Mako Surgical Corp., which sold for $1.65 billion in 2013, and Jonathan Medved, founder and CEO of OurCrowd, invested more than $16 million in 18 portfolio companies in just under six months.

The Startup Nation Conference was born out of a recent Knight Foundation collaboration with Project Interchange, an educational institute of the American Jewish Committee. A delegation of 12 Miami entrepreneurs and tech community leaders, including The Idea Center’s Executive Director Leandro Finol, traveled to Israel in March 2015 to learn from the country’s dynamic tech and innovation sector. After that, MDC and Tel Aviv University forged a knowledge-sharing partnership.

“During my visit to Israel, I had the opportunity to interact with some of the world’s best problem solvers. Miami will benefit from discovering their methods of coming up with creative solutions and succeeding at resolving the most unsolvable issues in our community,” Finol said.

Startup Nation will take place from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday at the Idea Center, MDC’s entrepreneurship hub in Building 8 on the Wolfson Campus. Tickets are $99. For more information, visit 

Read more: Israel’s tech and startup success – what can Miami learn?

Read more: A Q&A with the president of Israel’s Technion University 

May 11, 2016

Still time to join Startup Weekend EDU, coming to FIU this weekend


By Kiesha Moodie

Want to know what it’s like to launch a company in a weekend? Do you have ideas for new educational tools, school models or learning spaces? Are you passionate about creating change in the education sector? Then join us this weekend, May 13-15!

Teach For America has teamed up with The Knight Foundation, Florida International University and 4.0 Schools to host Startup Weekend EDU, a 54-hour event that takes you from pitch to prototype. We are looking for educators, technologists, designers, students and parents to develop new ideas that will impact the education system.

With support from NBCUniversal Open Possibilities, we are presenting the challenge of “21st Century Readiness.” The weekend will be filled with collaboration and lots of food (all meals included), fun, swag and prizes!

Friday night, individuals pitch their ideas, which are voted on and teams are formed. Saturday, expert mentors will be on site to coach teams through their prototyping and business modeling. Sunday, teams will pitch their solutions to an all-star panel of entrepreneurs, investors and education leaders.

The event, to be held at FIU's Tech Station on the Modesto Maidique campus, is free for students and parents. For others to register with a 50% discount, use the code “future305” at

Brian Brackeen, Founder & CEO - Kairos
Johanna Mikkola, Co-Founder - Wyncode
Matt Mawhinney, Community Manager - Launchcode
Juha Mikkola, Co-Founder - Wyncode
Christina Freire, Senior Instructional Designer - FIU Online

Robert Gordon, Advisor - Investor Solutions
Willie Avendano, Co-Founder - Zero1 & Wynwood Maker Camp

Jade Palomino, Manager - Endeavor Miami
Mario Cruz, Director - Watsco Ventures
Leslie Miller Saointz, Board Chair – Teach For America
Sasha Lopez, Executive Director - Miami Dade County Public Schools Human Capital
Archie Cubarrubia, Vice Provost for Institutional Effectiveness – Miami Dade College
Alia Mahmoud, Sales & Business Development Exectuive, Kairos

Kiesha Moodie is the Managing Director of Alumni and Community Impact at Teach For America Miami-Dade.


May 10, 2016

Raising money through a portal may be better route than crowdfunding

By Jason Stark

Jason starkWe know how difficult and time consuming capital raising is for a new startup, and South Florida is no exception.  It takes vital time from a founder’s schedule.  You of course should try the local investor groups like Endeavor, the Knight Foundation, AGP Miami, New World Angels and Tamiami Angels.  However, those efforts may not net you the vital funding you need.

What else can you do?  Give up?  Of course not.  In the glacial world of the securities laws, we now have CROWDFUNDING.  Well, that at least is the word on everyone’s mind.  I will help clarify distinction between Crowdfunding (which finally begins on May 16, 2016), and using Internet portals to raise through traditional accredited investor offerings.  You may find that you may be really interested in raising through an Internet portal, but not through Crowdfunding. 

Below I describe various pre-IPO fundraising options.  The Rule 506(c) offering may be the sweet spot for your capital raise.  Rule 506(c) permits general solicitation (advertising), which allows an Internet portal to communicate your offer to its accredited investor base, but without your company jumping through all the hoops required under Regulation Crowdfunding. 

By “Internet portal”, I mean an online marketplace that facilitates the sale of securities.  Examples include SeedInvest, Circle-up and Crowdfunder.  This differs from Kickstarter (which allows companies to fundraise through the pre-sale of a product or outright donations), by permitting the actual sale of stock through the Internet.    

A year ago, I had worked with clients on zero Internet portal deals.  Over the past few months, we’ve seen them more and more frequently.  Clients that were not able to find adequate funding elsewhere have found new life through small Rule 506 rounds using Internet portals. 

Pre-IPO Fundraising Options under the Securities Laws

Raising money through Internet portals requires compliance with the same securities laws as traditional fundraising.  Below is a brief description of the most commonly used exemptions, and a cost/benefit analysis of each. 

Rule 506(b) is the typical exemption used in venture capital deals that was available long before JOBS Act 506(c) and Regulation Crowdfunding.  It permits raising unlimited capital from accredited investors (generally, a person with $200k income ($300k with a spouse) or $1 million in assets, excluding the value of such person’s home).  Under this exemption, an issuer may sell its securities to accredited investors and up to thirty-five sophisticated non-accredited investors (however, if you have even one non-accredited investor, you will need to provide disclosure documents (i.e., now you must prepare an offering memorandum with financial statements and we’re looking at a more expensive round)).  

Rule 506(c) is similar to the traditional 506(b) accredited investor offering.  The major benefit to 506(c) is advertising the round (which allows an Internet portal to reach out to its investors).  The additional requirements compared to 506(b) are reasonable: a simple Form D must be filed 15 days in advance of the deal instead of after the deal; and accreditor investor status must be verified using records like W-2’s, tax returns and bank statements (under 506(b), you could rely on self-reporting by the investor).  The Internet portal should already have the procedures in place to verify accredited investor status, and therefore, if you are raising through an Internet portal, it should not be too much more difficult to conduct a 506(c) offering than a 506(b). 

Regulation Crowdfunding allows the sale of securities to almost anyone, and not just the small minority of accredited investors.  A major benefit.  However, there are significant new requirements not required for a 506 offering, including the following:

  • * Maximum of $1 million raised through crowdfunding in any 12-month period.
  • * Reporting and financial disclosure requirements (information regarding the offering, the company and its financials), for rounds over $100k, financial statements that in some cases are reviewed by an accountant and in others, audited, plus ongoing disclosure requirements.
  •  * Limits to the amount an investor may invest through Crowdfunding based on income.
  •  * Limited advertising (only may directing to the funding portal and limited factual terms).
  •  * The issuer must be a U.S. company.


Other Offerings.  There are a few other private offering methods that you might consider, but that are not available through Internet portals.  Regulation S may be used if the offering is made entirely to non-U.S. citizens/residents and the securities are offered outside the U.S.  Regulation A+ is often used for larger rounds, given that it requires certain offering documents and filings (somewhat like a mini-IPO – also expensive compared to 506 offers). 

For more specifics on these exemptions, check with your attorney.  See also: regarding Regulation D, Rule 506(b) and 506(c); regarding Regulation Crowdfunding; and for a description of accredited investors. 

Deciding whether to fund raising through an Internet Portal

When deciding whether to fund raise through an Internet portal, you must weigh the benefit of quicker access to investors and valuable time savings (locating and speaking with such investors, networking, meeting with Angel groups, etc.) against the associated fees (some combination of cash and equity).  An Internet portal develops its own database of accredited investors - a very helpful resource you could not hope to replicate.  Regarding services, some Internet portals are more involved and help run and champion the round, while others are more like LinkedIn for investors and just provide access.  Make sure to do your research on the Internet portal’s network of accredited investors, the services provided and the fees.


Internal portals can be a great way to raise money.  Certainly explore all your options, but using an Internet portal can save you quite a bit of your precious time and sanity, and that may well be worth the cost.  Don’t get caught up in the whole “Crowdfunding” concept.  Traditional offerings to accredited investors may well provide an easier fundraising avenue with significantly less hoops to jump through, and may be accomplished through an Internet portal, the same as for Crowdfunding.

Jason Stark is a partner at Private Advising Group, P.A., a law firm in Miami.  Jason is an attorney (and also is a non-practicing certified public accountant) who advises emerging and growth companies.  He can be reached at Jason@private-advising.comThe information in this article is provided for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice.  You should not act or rely on any information contained in this article without first seeking the advice of an attorney.

May 09, 2016

2016 Miami Herald Business Plan Challenge: And the winners are ...

Challenge illo (1)

We are pleased to introduce you to the winners of the 18th annual Miami Herald Business Plan Challenge.

The winners’ circle contains concepts in healthcare, mobile commerce, big data, retail, human resources and law. To rise to the top, winners had to make a strong case for how they planned to execute their business plan.

South Florida is often recognized as one of the nation’s most entrepreneurial communities, and the 2016 winners and contestants represent the passion and diversity of the region’s emerging businesses. This year, a record 255 entries competed in our three tracks of the Miami Herald Challenge, sponsored by Florida International University’s Pino Global Entrepreneurship Center, and about 250 people attended our free Business Plan Bootcamp in March. The three-page plans were judged by experts from our community — successful entrepreneurs, investors, executives and academics — as well as by the public via our popular People’s Pick video competition.

For the FIU track, the judging included a live pitch session for the six finalists, which helped determine the final winners. Each team received up to five minutes to present their companies, followed by time for Q&A and feedback.

And the winners are ...

Community Track: Candidate.Guru, big data for human resources, won first place; Ride2MD, the Lyft for medical transport, came in second; and Shoes Dsire, a robust tool for shoe lovers, was third. Candidate.Guru was also named the Challenge Champion for having the highest judge rating in the contest.

FIU Track: ValueDOC, an online health and wellness marketplace for cash patients, won first. Second place was Jurbid, a platform for legal services; and SkyBOX Checkout, an international e-commerce tool, was third.

High School Track: Digifeet, a solution for flat feet by a School of Advanced Studies student, was first. Smart-BagPack, a backpack reimagined by a Ransom Everglades student, was second; and RentAll, a peer-to-peer renting marketplace being developed by a trio from American Heritage, was third.

The weeklong People’s Pick, which attracted 12,646 votes, heated up social-media networks with images of sexy shoes, cars, kids and dogs in the quest to attract votes. In the FIU track, Joust, an automotive-services quote platform run by FIU students, tried to fight off Pooch Perks, a goodie-box subscription service for pampered pets. But in the end dogs won over cars. Pooch Perks drew 1,707 votes, while Joust fetched 1,556. ValueDOC was in third place.

In the Community Track’s People’s Pick competition, Ride2MD coasted to victory with 1,927 votes, but not without a fight from second-place Shoes Dsire, with 1,709 votes. Social-media followers were treated to shoe eye candy throughout the week. Coming in third was AlphaTechBlocks, creator of smart toys for kids.

What separated today’s featured winners from the pack? The quality of entries was so high that the written business plans scored well in all key areas, such as marketing strategies, financials, management teams, market opportunity, value propositions and growth plans. With many of the plans that were entered, judges liked the ideas, but the plans themselves were not developed enough to win.

Some of today’s winners are first-timers; others are serial entrepreneurs or professionals with decades of industry experience. But all are in the early stages of their businesses — we’ll be following their progress!

Read the accompanying profiles of the 2016 Challenge winners linked above and on

May 06, 2016

AquaVault, Daymond John will be featured on ‘Beyond the Tank’ tonight

Aquavault 08042015 1 JLB


By Nancy Dahlberg /

Team AquaVault is back in the spotlight.

You may recall that the Aventura-based startup made a splash on ABC’s hit show Shark Tank in March of last year, garnering an investment by Daymond John. AquaVault is the maker of portable safes that can be locked onto the backs of beach chairs or onto bikes or even dorm room closet bars.

Now, AquauVault will featured on the Friday night episode of Beyond the Tank, which will air on ABC on Friday (May 6)  at 8 p.m., just before Shark Tank. The show will follow up on the company since the Shark Tank show.

The AquaVault co-founders say viewers will get a deep dive into what Jonathan Kinas, Avin Samtani and Robert Peck have gone through after making a deal in the tank, and what it's like to endure the roller coaster of being an entrepreneur. Mistakes are made, lessons learned, experiences embraced.

Since the company founders originally pitched on Shark Tank, they say they have successfully figured out how to team up with some of the biggest players in the industry, including hotels, water parks, theme parks, casinos and cruise ships.

Although being on Shark Tank undeniably contributed toward the jump start in their expansion, Kinas said it was what the team did with that experience that catapulted the brand. He said the show will capture strategy sessions with Shark Daymond John, who at moments strongly disagrees with their decision making, as the co-founders try and corner a market that they are essentially creating.

Read more: Will the Sharks bite on AquaVault? (original appearance)

Read more: South Florida’s consumer product makers are on a roll

May 05, 2016

FIGS receives $5 million in Series A funding led by Campfire Capital



Tina Spear, co-founder of FIGS, delivers medical apparel as part of its Threads For Threads philanthropic program.

By Nancy Dahlberg /

FIGS, a medical apparel startup in South Florida, received $5 million in Series A funding. The round of financing was led by  Campfire Capital, a Vancouver-based venture capital group that funds companies that combine retail and technology in their innovations.

 Founded in 2013 by Heather Hasson and Trina Spear, FIGS identified a need for alternatives to currently available products in the medical scrubs industry, the bulk of which were made up of low-quality, uncomfortable styles. Its fashion-forward designs are antimicrobial, wrinkle resistant and made from lightweight, breathable fabric. FIGS' philanthropic 1-for-1 program, Threads for Threads, has donated 75,000 scrubs to in-need health care professionals across 26 countries. FIGS, an Endeavor company selected out of Miami last year, has operations in South Florida, where Spear is based, and Los Angeles.

FIGS has raised $10 million in funding to date. The new capital will be used to increase inventory to meet demand, explore and expand new product categories, and scale its team. About Campfire Capital, Spear said, “It's been wonderful to align with a group who brings not only capital, but shares an unparalleled breadth of industry expertise and networks.”

FIGS will join Campfire’s growing list of portfolio companies, including Montreal-based menswear retailer Frank & Oak and San Francisco-based food tech startup Juicero.

 Christine Day, partner at Campfire, current CEO of Luvo and ex-CEO of lululemon, said: “In addition to capital, what entrepreneurs really need is access to the broad expertise required to build a successful retail business. We see a tremendous opportunity to leverage Campfire's collective experience and relationships to further brand and scale FIGS to transform this $9 billion unbranded industry.”

Read more: FIGS, SkyPatrol chosen for Endeavor network

Read more: Four healthcare startups in the spotlight


May 04, 2016

LiveNinja closes $2 million round of financing, launching messaging tool for businesses


LiveNinja co-founders: Will Weinraub, CEO, center. Emilio Cueto, CTO, left, and Alfonso Martinez, CCO. File Photo by CW Griffin of the Miami Herald.

By Nancy Dahlberg /

LiveNinja, a Miami-based technology company that provides communications tools for businesses, announced Wednesday that it has closed a $2 million round of financing, bringing its total funding to $3.5 million.

The bridge funding is from Scout Ventures, Anzu Partners, Comcast Ventures Catalyst Fund, Citi Ventures, Accelerated Growth Partners and SeedInvest.  LiveNinja will use the funding to build out its product line and expand its sales and marketing team. LiveNinja, founded in 2012, is a team of 19 people.

Along with the funding, LiveNinja announced a new product, LiveNinja Messenger, to make it easier for businesses to manage conversations, no matter where or how the customer chooses to engage. This differentiates it from the pack of applications out there, including Facebook Messenger, Twitter, Skype and others, which can’t be embedded on a company website.

LiveNinja CEO and co-founder Will Weinraub gave a demo of its newest tool at a recent weekly Waffle Wednesdays networking event that the company puts on each week at its Wynwood offices free for the tech community, most days for breakfast and one Wednesday a month after work.

“We’re entering a new era for business-to-customer communication but to do it right, we have to think about what businesses really need to make messaging work for them,” said Weinraub in the announcement. “Most messaging apps are walled-gardens that operate in a separate environment. We built LiveNinja to be more flexible. You can use it as a standalone messaging application, but you could also embed it within your existing website and share it on other channels as well.”

He showed the crowd that using LiveNinja Messenger, brands can not only start conversations on their website, but also on social media and other apps with an easy to share link. Instead of one-off conversations that frustrate customers, each of these conversations can be easily managed in one seamless thread, giving both the customer and the brand the ability to scroll up to view what they spoke about last. An iOS application makes it easy for businesses to maintain customer conversations on-the-go, he said. Part of the new funding will be used to build out new features for the tool.

Weinraub said anyone can sign up at to try LiveNinja Messenger for free for a limited time, and he encouraged feedback. In time, it will evolve into a "pay as you grow" model where brands will only pay on a per-customer engagement.

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