March 09, 2018

How to apply to pitch at - and attend - this women-led startup challenge

Women

On April 18, MIT Enterprise Forum (MITEF) South Florida is teaming up with Aminta Ventures to present Geek Tank 5, a startup competition that will be fully funded by local South Florida female angel investors and will showcase the area’s most promising female-led, early-stage businesses. Four companies will be selected from all entrants to pitch their idea to an all-female panel of angel investors for the chance to win $15,000 in funding. The winner will be announced at the event on Wednesday, April 18.

All competing startups must have either a female founder or a C-level executive on their team and be looking to fund a new idea or fill their Seed round. The top four companies — based on innovativeness and viability of startup’s product or service — will be asked to pitch at MITEF’s Geek Tank 5: Presented by Aminta Ventures on April 18th at CIC Miami. At least one woman must be involved in delivering the pitch for each of the four finalist companies.

“Women make up less than 25% of angel investors“ says Alia Mahmoud of Aminta Ventures. “This is a problem because male investors, on average, favor male founders, even though businesses with female executive leadership outperform male-only led organizations. That is why Aminta Ventures is dedicated to creating an environment for female investors to thrive in South Florida and why we're thrilled to partner with MIT Enterprise Forum South Florida on this edition of Geek Tank to encourage more gender diversity in South Florida's investment community.”

The annual Geek Tank is open to the general public. In addition to learning about exciting new startups and gaining insights into how angel investors make funding decisions, this year’s audience -- for the first time in Geek Tank's history -- will get to vote for their favorite startup in the People’s Choice category. The event takes place Wednesday, April 18th, at 6:00pm at CIC Miami.

Register for the Event:

To Apply as a Startup: http://bit.ly/geektank2018 (Deadline March 25)

To Attend the Event: http://bit.ly/2FpccqL

- Submitted by Aminta Ventures

March 07, 2018

Adriana Cisneros joins Knight Foundation board of trustees

Adriana_CisnerosAdriana Cisneros, the Miami-based CEO of global media and real estate group Cisneros, will join the John S. and James L. Knight board of trustees. With the appointment, Knight gets an executive who has played a leading role in supporting Miami’s burgeoning startup ecosystem.

Adriana Cisneros is the third generation to head the family company, with offices throughout Latin America but much of its operations in Miami. Before taking the helm as CEO in 2013, she led the group’s digital strategy and created the company’s three divisions: Cisneros Media, Cisneros Interactive and Cisneros Real Estate.

Cisneros is also active in the Miami entrepreneurship community. She has been the founding co-chair since 2013 of Endeavor Miami, which supports high-impact entrepreneurship. She is also on the advisory board member of coding school Wyncode and accelerator and fund TheVentureCity.

 “Knight Foundation’s support for the arts and entrepreneurship in Miami has been transformative, and the foundation’s work on trust, media and democracy puts it at the center of one of the most important discussions of our time,” said Cisneros, in a statement. “I am honored to be able to contribute to the foundation’s work promoting informed and engaged communities.” 

Cisneros also is president of Fundación Cisneros, the family’s non-profit focused on improving education in Latin America. She is on the boards of the International Academy of Television Arts & Sciences, the Paley Center for Media, MoMA’s Latin American Acquisition Fund, which is dedicated to contemporary art, the University of Miami and Parrot Analytics.

“Adriana Cisneros’ leadership is characterized by innovation, the smart utilization of new technology and a commitment to the communities where her family’s company operates,” said Alberto Ibargüen, Knight Foundation president. “She reflects, in the 21stcentury, the values that guided the Knight brothers as they built a 20th century news company and created Knight Foundation.”

She holds a bachelor’s degree from Columbia University and a master’s degree in journalism from New York University. She is also a graduate of Harvard Business School’s Program for Leadership Development, and is an Aspen Institute Henry Crown Fellow.

RECENT COVERAGE: Knight Foundation chooses Raul Moas to run Miami program

Yes, more, more, more: Magic Leap raises $461 million, primarily from Saudi investors

By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlbergbiz@gmail.com

Magic Leap, the Plantation-based mixed-reality startup, announced Wednesday that it has raised $461 million from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s investment arm, The Public Investment Fund. Magic Leap has raised more than $2.3 billion in funding to date.

 The Saudi Arabian fund contributed $400 million of the raise, which was forecast by Bloomberg.

The additional Series D funding is in addition to a previously reported $502 million funding round led by Singapore’s Temasek in October. The  Series D funding now stands at $963 million, the company says.

 “The Magic Leap team and I are happy to welcome The Public Investment Fund and the other new investors to the Magic Leap family. We look forward to having them join us on our journey to build an amazing future,” CEO Rony Abovitz said in a statement.

Magic Leap’s “mixed reality” glasses feature its digital lightfield technology. In December, it unveiled some more details of its first product in development, Magic Leap One, which will be available first to selected developers and designers. '

Magic Leap, founded in 2011 by Abovitz, is based in the former Motorola plant space in Plantation. Greater Fort Lauderdale Alliance president and CEO Bob Swindell told the Sun Sentinel that the company already is outgrowing the space and the economic development agency is working with Magic Leap on options.

READ MORE IN THE SUN SENTINEL HERE.

 

March 05, 2018

Magic Leap sues employee who allegedly tried to extort ‘millions’

Magic Leap sued its senior director of global security, asserting he attempted to “extort millions of dollars” by threatening to make legal claims against the Plantation company, the Sun Sentinel reported.

In a lawsuit filed by Magic Leap on Feb 28 in U.S. District Court in the Eastern District of Texas, the company alleges that Todd Keil has demanded the payment of millions from Magic Leap in exchange for not publicly filing “whistleblower claims” that include alleged illegal conduct concerning competitor Microsoft’s HoloLens virtual reality headset, the Sun Sentinel report said.

Keil is a Texas resident who was hired in 2015 after leaving his assistant secretary position at the Department of Homeland Security in 2012. He oversees workforce and intellectual property-related security as well as strategic business risk mitigation, according to the lawsuit.  According to the South Florida Business Journal, Keil has said he was forced to resign from his Homeland Security post after criticizing management of a program to protect U.S. chemical plants from terrorist attacks.

At Magic Leap, Keil alleges wrongdoing centered on the company's receipt of advance copies of HoloLens. Magic Leap said they were obtained legally but returned as soon as they were discovered, all but one unopened.

Read the full story in the Sun Sentinel or the South Florida Business Journal.

READ MORE: More, more, more? $400 million investment may be in works for Magic Leap  

March 01, 2018

Former UM basketball star takes stake in MyRentHero, with big assist from LAB.Ventures

Davon Reed HeadshotBy Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlbergbiz@gmail.com

Davon Reed, a former University of Miami basketball star who is now a shooting guard for the Phoenix Suns, jumped at the opportunity to invest in a young Miami startup.

MyRentHero  is a real estate-technology startup focused on simplifying the off-campus housing process for students, parents, and landlords. With Reed as a shareholder, MyRentHero is now launching now on the campuses of UM and the University of South Florida.

The startup received a big assist from LAB.Ventures, the venture building arm of Wynwood's The LAB Miami. “We are very excited to be launching LAB.Ventures' first internally developed business MyRentHero, which goes live today at UM and USF,” said Thomas “Tigre" Wenrich, CEO of The LAB Miami and LAB.Ventures. 

LAB.Ventures, funded by the Knight Foundation in 2016, works with entrepreneurs, engineers and designers to test and build promising business ideas. LAB.Ventures also connects startups to corporate partners through programs such as the ongoing Pitch to PERY fashion-tech startup competition and the inaugural Future of Travel Summit it held in February.

Wenrich is an active angel investor and startup mentor who helped Open English, a online English language education company, raise over $120 million in venture capital funding while serving as its founding CFO/COO. Prior to Open English, he was a partner at The Boston Consulting Group. He is also on the board of Miami Angels.

[READ MORE ABOUT LAB.VENTURES HERE.

MyRentHero allows students and parents to easily find pre-screened housing that best meets their needs – including price, distance, and amenities – and to apply online or through a mobile app, which can be downloaded from the App Store here.  

The startup (team pictured below) plans to add another six markets by the end of the year while building awareness and gaining student feedback, said CEO and co-founder Greg Rothman, who worked with Wenrich, a former VP of strategy at Open English who had been itching to build his own startup.

“Davon is not that far removed from knowing first-hand how hard it is to find the right place off campus,” Rothman said of Reed, who signed with the Suns out of the 2017 NBA draft. “Davon is a very smart guy who is going to help us with strategy and marketing as we prepare to roll out MyRentHero across the nation.”

Wenrich said the idea for MyRentHero came out of a discussion with people working in the shared economy,  including Parker Stanberry from Oasis Collections who has become an advisor to the business. Rothman came aboard in November, and since then LAB.Ventures and the MyRentHero team has been developing the business full speed ahead.

LAB.Ventures has built out an internal staff to take ideas further before bringing in a full time team, Wenrich said. It is currently also building a product in the food delivery space and another in the B2B marketplace.   "In both cases, we have a number of potential corporate partners lined up, and this is still the model we believe in for successful company building," Wenrich said. "This is our point of differentiation: If we work collaboratively with industry leaders to solve real world problems from the outset we will be able to move much faster to revenue traction."

  MyRentHero UM Team Photo

 

Follow @ndahlberg on Twitter

February 24, 2018

More, more, more? $400 million investment may be in works for Magic Leap

  Magicleap

 This time, Magic Leap investment dollars may come from Saudi Arabia government wealth fund

By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlbergbiz@gmail.com

A half billion here, a half billion there, and another potentially huge leap for South Florida’s secretive startup.

The latest news: Magic Leap, the mixed-reality technology company based in Plantation, is in talks for a $400 million investment from Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, the Financial Times reported on Friday. That would bring Magic Leap’s funding to $2.3 billion, unprecedented for a company that hasn’t yet launched its first product.

According to the FT, the deal is expected to be announced in the coming weeks, said the report, which cited sources close to the deal.

While Magic Leap and the Saudi wealth fund would not confirm the news, if true it follows a pattern. In October, just a month after Bloomberg revealed a half billion mega-deal was in the works, Magic Leap announced it had raised $502 million in a funding round led by Singapore government-owned investment firm Temasek Holdings TEM.UL and began dropping more hints the technology will be revealed soon.

The new funding is an extension of the $502 million round and would be at the same $6 billion valuation, the FT said.  If completed, the FT said it would be the second high-profile U.S. tech investment for the $230 billion Saudi government fund. In 2016, the fund invested $3.5 billion into Uber.

The internationalization of Magic Leap's funding follows a pattern too. Earlier Magic Leap raised a similar amount from Alibaba in China. Its other funders include Google, Fidelity, various studios and other Silicon Valley funders.

Magic Leap’s “mixed reality” glasses feature its digital lightfield technology. In December, it unveiled some more details of its first product in development, Magic Leap One, which will be available first to selected developers and designers. Founder Rony Abovitz has said the spatial computing technology will provide a more natural computing experience that could replace the phone.

READ MORE ABOUT MAGIC LEAP ONE AND THE JOURNEY TO GET THERE HERE.

Two weeks ago, at a Recode conference, Magic Leap announced a partnership deal with the NBA.  Shaquille O’Neal starred in a promotional video too.

Follow @ndahlberg on Twitter. 

February 22, 2018

Home61 launches flat-fee service aimed at increasing efficiency, decreasing costs of home-selling

Home61_2

The traditional way isn’t the only way.

A Miami real estate-tech startup is offering owners a flat-fee service to sell their house or condo, rather than paying the traditional 3 percent.

Until now, Home61, which uses technology to streamline the residential home buying process, was primarily tackling the buying side of the market. But on Thursday, Home61 launched a flat-fee service that provides homeowners with dedicated agents who use  a data-driven platform to efficiently list, market, schedule viewings and close the sale of their properties.

“We are now entering the sell side with this flat fee structured home-selling service, aimed at offering a better service at an honest price to homeowners,” Olivier Grinda, CEO and co-founder of Home61, told Starting Gate. “Our ambition at Home61 has always been to become the real estate ecosystem for our clients. Adding the sell side offering was the natural next step.”

The fee, $6,100, would be lower than the traditional 3 percent real estate agent commissions for listing most homes . For any home selling for about $332,000 – the median existing-home sales price in South Florida – the service would save more than $4,000. On a $500,000 home or condo, the savings would be about $9,000. Home61 aims to sell over 200 homes through the service in 2018 and double that number in 2019.

“Our agents will maintain their commission split on deals with buyers, but for selling properties, the clients will work with a specialized team that has been trained on selling homes and work with the flat fee model,” said Grinda (pictured below), who was raised in France and moved to Miami from Brazil in late 2013. “We see both sides of the business as complementary, as managing listings brings new buyers to our traditional team and buy side clients will eventually sell.”

Home61

Home61 tested the service with a client in December. That client introduced Home61 to other clients and it ended up with seven properties under management. Two properties have already sold. “We did not anticipate such a ramp-up and had to hire more people faster,” Grinda said.

Home61 has about 65 real estate agents and expects to reach 100 agents by June on the buy side. In 2017, it generated more than $100 million and sales and completed its 1,000th closing of homes and rentals. Home61 expects to do 800 closings this year. [Read about its startup story here.]

Last fall, Home61 raised a $4 million round of financing from FF Angel, Founders Fund’s early stage investment vehicle, global marketplace investment firm FJ Labs, co-founded by brother Fabrice Grinda, and Miami Angels, South Florida's largest angel network formerly called AGP Miami, to help fund its national expansion.

“This new service is a continuation of our aim to bring honesty and transparency to the real estate industry,” said Grinda. “Innovation is sorely lacking in the space, and consumers end up paying the price for it – they pay overinflated commissions for sub-par service. Adding on this service allowed us to take a more holistic approach in addressing this problem by serving both sides of the market, buying and selling.”

February 20, 2018

New name, new leader for South Florida angel network

AGP Miami has a new name -- Miami Angels -- and new leadership.
 
South Florida’s largest angel network has about 100 active members and about 24 startups in its portfolio.
 
"While AGP Miami served us well, we felt that we needed a brand that better represented who, what, and where we are," said outgoing Managing Director Raul Moas. 
Miamiangels logo
 
RebeccadantaAs Moas takes the reins as Miami Program Director of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation's Miami Program, Venture Associate Rebecca Danta will become managing director, effective March. 1. 
 
"Rebecca has been an integral part of our team over the last year. We are incredibly excited to see her step into this new role and take our investment group to new heights," Moas said in a note to supporters.
 
Before coming aboard last year, Danta was an Operations Lead for  General Assembly in New York City. She graduated from the University of Florida in public relations. 
 
With a primary focus on South Florida, Miami Angels has recently began expanding its investment focus to include in other areas of the state, including Gainesville where it has made several investments, and in Latin America.
 
Miami Angels' most recent investment was in Caribu, an education platform that helps parents and extended families read and draw with kids when they're apart.
 
Other recent fundings include AnimusoftHome61Nearpod, Gramercy, Birch Finance and Eventplicity. AGP also recently added Melissa Krinzman, managing partner of Krillion Ventures, Mark Kingdon, founder of Quixotic Ventures, and Tigre Wenrich, CEO of the LAB Miami who heads up LABVentures, to its board of directors. Find out more about Miami Angels here: www.miamiangels.vc.
 
"Miami Angels has been a catalyst for Miami’s early-stage investing landscape, having invested $8 million across 24 companies since our launch in 2014," Danta said. "We'll continue to bring together exceptional entrepreneurs and investors as we look to expand our reach throughout the state and Latin America."
 
 
 
 
 

February 17, 2018

How LaunchCode is tackling the tech talent gap in Miami with the help of community partnerships

CS50xMiami-GroupCoding_lg

 

By Matt Mawhinney

Air Force veteran Judy Rincon was balancing her transition back into civilian life and being a single mother when she saw a newspaper article about LaunchCode, a nonprofit creating pathways for driven people seeking careers in technology. Although coding was something she never considered, Judy took the free class, honed her skills and started her journey on the path to become a developer.

“Being completely new to coding was frightening,” Judy admitted, “but the devoted LaunchCode staff made this new journey an effortless one for me.” This week, Judy was thrilled to find out she has been placed with MasterCard and will begin as an apprentice next month. “Working hard and staying focused throughout the program wasn’t easy, but well worth it in the end.”

Judy’s story is not uncommon to the staff at LaunchCode, which opened an office in South Florida in 2015 thanks to a grant from the Knight Foundation. LaunchCode provides free technology education to aspiring technologists like Judy looking to get their foot in the door without having to go into debt.

LaunchCode was founded as an innovative solution to the shortage of talent to fill tech jobs in America. Code.org estimates there will be 1 million more computing jobs than applicants who can fill them by 2020. By creating pathways for nontraditional students to enter the workforce, LaunchCode gives employers a low-risk way to add fresh, diverse talent to their teams and in turn, reduce this gap.

But the tech talent gap is an issue that no one individual or organization can solve alone. LaunchCode works closely with community partners in South Florida who are equally invested in creating career pathways in the region. The CodeCamp program, where Judy gained her skills, was funded by CareerSource South Florida and supported by Employ Miami-Dade and the Neighbors and Neighbors Association.

Judy’s apprenticeship marks the 120th career which began as a result of LaunchCode’s innovative training program in South Florida. In 2018, the mission to launch tech careers of even more Floridians continues. With the help of its partners, LaunchCode will continue to provide both technical and soft-skills training free of charge to make careers in technology as accessible as possible.

It takes a village to solve the shortage of tech talent in our region and when community partners come together, the success is shared by all.

Matt Mawhinney is the Candidate Engagement Manager - South Florida for LaunchCode. Find out more at:  https://www.launchcode.org.

 

February 15, 2018

Fort Lauderdale insure-tech startup ChronWell raises $4.5 million in funding

ChronWell, a Fort Lauderdale startup that is developing a technology-enabled platform company for the workers’ compensation insurance industry, raised $4.5 million in Series A funding, the company announced this week.

The investors were not disclosed.

ChronWell was launched in September 2017 by long-time veterans in the healthcare information technology and insurance industries. Dr. Joe Rubinsztain, ChronWell's CEO, and his brother Sam Rubinsztain, VP of Product Development, together founded Weston-based gMed in Weston in 1997, which was sold to Modernizing Medicine in 2015. ChronWell's president, Salomon Sredni, was formerly president and CEO of TradeStation, one of the largest online brokers in the U.S.

The company said that it aims to be the first line of care for injured workers, while getting them back to work faster and reducing costs.

 “Our mission is to use technology to bridge the gap between employee, employer and insurance company,” said Joe Rubinsztain. “In making the process more efficient, we will improve outcomes and help injured workers receive the care they deserve. Everyone agrees the workers’ compensation market is long overdue for disruption, and this is the right time to do it.”

The funding will support the first phase of the company’s innovative platform, which covers triage, on-site care, care coordination and personalized assistance service, the company said. When an employee is injured on the job, a ChronWell healthcare professional backed by Artificial Intelligence will determine the best course of action by recommending self-care, on-site care or a health care facility. The service provides follow-up with the worker and manages the claim.

“The current workers’ comp system is broken,” said Sredni. “We strongly believe in bringing compassion and empathy back into a system that is failing to serve those most in need.”