By Joseph A. Mann Jr.
Several years ago, two freight forwarders in Spain found to their dismay that they had lost a client.
The customer called their Barcelona company after hours to urgently request information on a freight shipment — transportation schedules, costs, alternative ocean routes — but could not reach the two agents and switched to a competing company.
The two Spaniards — Iván Tintore and Carlos Hernández (pictured here) — decided they needed to offer a more efficient way to meet the needs of their international clientele, who move large volumes of cargo each year by ocean and air freight.
As a result, they developed iContainers, a pioneering online service that allows shippers anywhere to log onto iContainers.com 24 hours a day, search thousands of transportation options, and find the best routes, schedules and rates for moving their merchandise.
“We realized that the freight-forwarding industry was old-fashioned and needed to change,” said Hernández, iContainers’ co-founder and global managing director. “We are like Kayak.com and Expedia.com, but instead of moving people, we move freight.”
The two developed the first Internet-based freight-forwarding system in Barcelona at the end of 2007, secured financing from venture capital firms and set up the new company. “We offer our clients the option of searching for the best routes for ocean or air freight, and quoting and booking online,” Hernández said. “Essentially, you log onto iContainers.com and compare the cost of shipping goods from point A to point B, anywhere in the world.”
One of the main pages on the iContainers website, showing a cargo vessel loaded with multicolored containers in the background, summarizes what the company offers: “SEARCH. CHOOSE. BOOK. Best rates guaranteed.”
The company helps clients move freight throughout Europe, North and South America, Africa, Asia and Australia via sea and air, charging a fee for its services.
VSN Mobil, a Fort Lauderdale tech startup that developed 360-degree image technology, has signed a letter of intent to sell that technology to 360fly of Pittsburgh.
360fly will buy the assets and intellectual property rights to VSN's 360-degree technology, not its other products, the companies said in a news release. A definitive agreement has not been reached, and terms of the deal were not disclosed.
“We're very pleased to be pursuing this direction with VSN. There are a lot of synergies between our two companies, and the work we’re doing around 360-degree video, virtual reality, and even more advanced applications of our technology,” said Peter Adderton, CEO of 360fly Inc.
VSN Mobile was founded in 2013 by former product designers from Motorola, Foxconn, Samsung and General Dynamics. VSN Mobil president Peter Aloumanis said in the Sun-Sentinel that the agreement positions the companies to advance more innovations at a quicker pace.
VSN Mobile developed a technology for seamless 360-degree high-definition images. During its pitch during the finalist round of the eMerge Americas Startup Showcase this year, VSN Mobile demonstrated its V.360 -- think a 360-degree version of a GoPro camera, with applications for outdoor sports, security, video conferences and drone overviews. VSN mobile won the competition, which included $100,000 in investment from the panel of judges, including the Miami Heat’s Chris Bosh.
VSN Mobil will continue to independently operate its other business units, including one for its V Alert personal alert device. Two dozen engineers who developed VSN Mobil's 360-degree technology may join the Pittsburgh company, according to the news release.
Bucking a trend in the sharing economy, Shyp, the app-enabled shipping service, said today it is re-classifying its couriers from 1099 contractors to W2 employees, making it the first on-demand company with a workforce made up entirely of employees.
“This move is an investment in a longer-term relationship with our couriers, which we believe will ultimately create the best experience for our customers,” said CEO Kevin Gibbon in a blog post. “This is an operational decision based on our interest in owning the entire, end-to-end Shyp experience; it is not in response to recent lawsuits against other technology companies.”
Newly classified W2 couriers will now get workers’ compensation, and Shyp will pay for their vehicle expenses, in addition to unemployment, Social Security, and Medicare taxes. Depending upon the number of hours worked, Shyp provide additional benefits such as healthcare. Added Gibbon: "This is a huge step forward for Shyp."
Shyp launched in Miami just before Art Basel last year, its third city after San Francisco and New York. It's now also in Los Angeles and headed to Chicago, and it has continued to grow. In an interview earlier this year, Gibbon said the Miami market skews particularly high for international shipments, including art. Shyp now has a team of about 25 in Miami, including couriers, drivers and warehouse technicians, said Johnny Brackett, who heads communications.
Kogi Mobile announced the company has moved its app development operations to Miami.
Founded by Nick Aldridge, who previously co-founded and exited Mobile Interactive Group, Kogi has developed nearly 200 apps and hundreds of mobile and responsive websites for its international client base, including Hitch Radio in LA, the company said. Kogi offers startups specific development services as well as project lifecycle management solutions, often working with clients from concept to series A financing and beyond. The company manages development in-house and sometimes invests in the startups; it says it has launched over 10 startups since 2014.
Kogi’s main commercial headquarters is now Miami, where its operations and creative team is based. Medellin, Colombia, is its back office where it was founded and does its development work. Kogi also has a offices in New York and Bogota, Aldridge said. Kogi currently is based at The LAB Miami.
“Kogi Mobile works on everything from MVPs to full working interfaces for iOS, Android, and Web, as well as full backend stacks,” says Aldridge, Kogi Mobile's CEO. “We have many customers across the U.S. ... who have $50-100k but this is not enough to get their initial product into the marketplace with the local agencies who simply cannot afford to offer their world-class solutions for this cost. Kogi is enabling U.S. companies to do this on these budgets and now with our presence in Miami we want to be able to offer our personalized, localized service to budding entrepreneurs in South Florida.”
Beepi, a peer-to-peer marketplace to buy and sell pre-owned cars online, continues its eastward expansion by launching in South Florida.
Starting Tuesday, consumers in Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties can conveniently sell their vehicles as well as have Beepi cars delivered to their driveways. Beepi operates in eight major metropolitan areas in four states. The Silicon Valley-based startup, launched in 2014, has raised $79 million in funding from Redpoint Ventures, Sherpa Ventures, Foundation Capital and others.
“Our success in California, Arizona and Texas has enabled us to continue growing in line with the demand for a safe and easy car buying experience that meets the needs of today’s consumer,” said Beepi CEO and co-founder Ale Resnik.
The process of connecting buyers and sellers, according to Beepi, goes like this: When selling on www.Beepi.com, sellers schedule an appointment to have a local Beepi Inspector come to their home or office to conduct a comprehensive 185-point inspection. If the car is approved, they get free professional car photos taken and receive a guranteed sale price. If the car doesn’t sell in 30 days, Beepi will buy it. The price paid would be more than what a dealer would pay for the car.
Buyers purchasing cars through Beepi.com will get free delivery of a certified, fully detailed car wrapped in a bow. All cars come with a three-month, 3,000-mile bumper-to-bumper warranty. The prices would be less than what a dealer would sell the model for, according to the company. No test drives, but Beepi provides a 10-day money-back guarantee for any reason. So far, however, fewer than 1 percent of customers have returned their cars, the company said.
Beepi, part of a wave of companies leveraging the online marketplace and the “on-demand economy” in traditional industries, says the company is able to narrow the spread because it doesn’t have overhead such as inventory, parking lots and dealerships.
Beepi is on track to book about $100 million in revenue over the next year and has plans to expand to seven more regions by the end of 2015, according to a recent New York Times article.
Beepi founders Ale Resnik and Owen Savir.
Waleteros, which created a mobile banking solution for the underbanked, launched its app on Google Play this week and an iOS version is close behind. The Miami-based startup offers a way for the millions of people in the U.S. who don't use or have a bank account - of which Hispanics represent a disproportional percentage - to use their smartphones as their banking solution.
To cash checks, pay bills and send money to their families in their home countries, underbanked consumers typically go to check cashing stores and pay hefty fees. The company saw an opportunity to cut out the middleman and offer these services digitally, understanding that Hispanic consumers are adopting smartphones at a higher rate than any other demographic group.
CEO Etienne Gillard explained that after completing a short registration via the app, users receive a Prepaid Debit MasterCard with no monthly maintenance, minimum balance or overdraft fees. The card can be used to make purchases in stores domestically and internationally, online, and to withdraw money from a network of thousands of surcharge free ATMs. Through the app, users can track transactions and send money instantly to other users for a small fee.
"We are Latinos living in the U.S. and we wanted to find a way to send money for less than $10. And guess what... we did much better than that. Thanks to Waleteros, now anyone, regardless of whether you have a bank account or not, can send money anytime anywhere for only 75 cents," said Gillard.
Waleteros, now a team of six, participated in the 2014 Venture Hive accelerator class and closed a $600,000 seed round in March. The company plans to roll out an iOS version of its application next month.
Finding the Miami market hungry for grocery delivery, Instacart announced Tuesday it will begin serving up a much bigger delivery zone: much of Northeast Miami-Dade County.
The fast-growing app-enabled grocery delivery service, which uses “personal shoppers” to hand pick and deliver items, launched in the Miami metro area, its 16th location, a month ago, beginning with a zone that included Brickell, downtown, Coral Gables, Coconut Grove, Wynwood, Midtown and Miami Beach. Now it says customers north of that zone can order from Whole Foods Market, Costco, Winn-Dixie and Petco stores and have everything delivered by Instacart in as little as one hour. Instacart customers do not need a Costco membership.
Additional cities and neighborhoods being served by Instacart as part of the expansion include Surfside, Sunny Isles, Golden Beach, Aventura, Miami Shores, North Miami, North Miami Beach and North Bay Village. For a map of Instacart’s Miami-area coverage, visit www.instacart.com/locations/northern-miami-dade.
“With the Zip Codes added in the zone expansion, we have nearly doubled the population that we can serve in the Miami area,” said Instacart Southeast General Manager Nick Friedrich, adding that the delivery area will be expanded again soon.
Friedrich said Miami’s launch was the most successful yet for the service that launched in San Francisco in 2012 and now includes 16 cities including New York, Chicago, Atlanta and Los Angeles. Instacart began with 60 personal shoppers but now has hundreds servicing the Miami metro area, he said.
Delivery fees are $5.99 for one-hour delivery; $3.99 for two-hour delivery; or $3.99 for scheduled delivery (you pick the day and hour). New customers can open an account at www.Instacart.com, and get free delivery on their first order of $10 or more. Instacart also offers a $99 Instacart Express annual membership that eliminates delivery fees for all orders of $35 or more.
Headquarters: Fort Lauderdale
Concept: Boatyard delivers boater happiness on-demand. Boat owners can now order fuel delivery, boat washing and any other service they need with a few clicks on their mobile device.
Story: Boatyard was incubated as a peer-to-peer boat rental platform as part of the inaugural accelerator class at Venture Hive. While building out the platform, Nathan Heber (pictured above) heard over and over again about the pains that boat owners had to endure. It wasn’t until months after demo day, right before taking final delivery of the Boatyard platform, that Heber had his “aha moment” and Boatyard changed course.
“We set our sights on a giant white space in the boat services market. The reason Boatyard exists is to deliver happiness to the boating community,” said Heber, who continued to grow the company at Thesis Ventures’ Fort Lauderdale studios.
“We knew so many people who weren’t using their boats because they didn’t want to deal with the hassle of maintenance, cleaning or taking the ride to the fuel dock,” Heber said. Some couldn’t find a good mechanic or enough free time to keep their boats seaworthy, while others shared horror stories about their experiences with unqualified and unreliable service providers. Said Heber: “We knew there had to be a better way, so we built one.”
Launched: Dec. 1, 2014
Management team: Nathan Heber, CEO, founder; Matias Penela, chief technology officer; Christian Romer, chief creative officer; Richard Smith, director of operations; John Robinson, community manager.
Financing: $25,000 grant from Miami-Dade County/Venture Hive. Raised a $250,000 seed round in September 2014 funded by Thesis Ventures. Currently raising a seed round of $500,000.
Recent milestones: Over the company’s first six months, gross revenues have increased at a compound monthly growth rate of 56 percent, with month-over-month growth of 89 percent in May. Recently partnered with the fast-growing boat-sharing marketplace Boatbound to provide its boat owners with Boatyard services, including refueling and cleaning. Named “Top Product of 2015” by Boating Industry Magazine. Featured on TechCrunch Radio Pitch-Off on May 26 and on ProductHunt on June 9.
Biggest startup challenge: Finding employee talent that is passionate about delivering the highest levels of customer service.
Next steps: Crafting new strategic partnerships, scaling the business to additional boating markets and adding new product offerings.
Strategy for next steps: Building out new features for users and vendor partners and expanding business development efforts in key markets. Features include geo-targeting and advanced customer service capabilities for servicing its vendors, Heber said. “Like we are doing with Boatbound, we are working on partnerships with broker-dealers and technology companies in the marine industry to expand our user base and scale the business.”
Advisor’s view: “Nathan Heber has a killer blend of deep passion for the domain, big vision, in the weeds tenacity, operational know-how, and a great sensibility for customer service. He understands his brand’s voice very, very well,” said Jon Vanhala of Crossfade Partners and a board member, investor and advisor for Boatyard.
He has advised Heber that great partnerships drive mutual value. “Put your empathy hat on and identify real ways to add true value to your target partners before you can expect them to do business with you or care about your needs. Look to turn your perceived competition into collaborators where it makes sense,” Vanhala said.
“We are also constantly white-boarding and brainstorming expanded product offerings in software and hardware that fit the criteria of 1) make boater's lives better … and 2) help “all boats rise” in the industry — sorry, couldn't help that one,” Vanhala said. “Boatyard turns the age old boating joke on its head such that now the two best days in a boat owner’s life are the day they buy it, and the day they join Boatyard.”
RingCentral, a leading provider of cloud communication services, has acquired Glip, a Boca Raton tech startup focused on modern business messaging built for teams, the companies announced Friday. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.
Glip, founded in 2012, makes teams more efficient by embedding shared calendars, task and project management, video conferencing and file sharing directly in the conversation stream. It launched its product in early 2014, relaunched with a Glip 2 early this year and launched an iOS and Android app this spring.
This is not the first exit for the Glip team. Led by co-founders Peter Pezaris, Claudio Pinkus and David Hersh, Glip's management team has worked together for 20 years and started and successfully exited several other startups, including Multiply, inventor of the first social news feed. The self-funded Glip, with 13 employees, recently relaunched its product that for the first time enabled the seamless integration of team conversation with advanced task and project management, Pezaris said.
Glip was being actively used by more than 10,000 teams – including at IBM, CBS Interactive, The Economist and Harvard University -- helping them be more productive with team messaging closely integrated with task management, group calendars, notes, annotations and file sharing. The product also includes integrations with Asana, Box, Dropbox, Evernote, JIRA, GitHub, Google, Zendesk, and many others.
Glip’s capabilities will be integrated and made available to all RingCentral Office customers. RingCentral also plans to keep the current stand-alone Glip application, renamed as RingCentral Teams, available for web, Windows, Mac, iOS and Android for all current and future customers, said Vlad Shmunis, CEO of RingCentral, a publicly traded tech company based in Belmont, Calif.
“Collaborating with employees, partners, and customers to solve business problems is becoming more complex, and email is no longer sufficient by itself,” said Peter Pezaris, CEO of Glip (pictured here). “We started Glip with the vision of empowering employees to work more efficiently by developing a world-class messaging solution with integrated productivity tools. We’re excited to join RingCentral to take our vision even further by combining with their state-of-the-art business communications platform.”
Pezaris and the R&D team will join RingCentral.