December 02, 2016

StartUP FIU helps Miami software startup Addigy scale

Addigy

Jason Dettbarn with part of his Addigy team.

By Jason Dettbarn

Addigy,  a local Miami software company that helps corporations manage their Apple Mac fleet, is preparing to expand its global reach with the help of Florida International University’s StartUP FIU.  Addigy is a quintessential Miami startup with deep roots within FIU.  As founder and CEO, I hold a Masters in Computer Science from Florida International University and cut my teeth in the industry managing worldwide sales operations at Kaseya, a major Miami tech company.  Three years ago, I left Kaseya in order to devote my full energy on creating and building the first full-stack IT management platform for managing Apple Mac computers.

Addigy is a self-funded company based on the sweat labor of extremely talented local Miami talent.  The engineering team consists fully of FIU computer science graduates who have immigrated from Cuba over the past 10 years.  Addigy was recently honored as one of the Top Ten late-stage Miami startups selected for eMerge Americas two years running and is one of the fastest growing companies in StartUP FIU's program.  Building upon Addigy’s 100-plus customers globally that use Addigy to manage their company's world-wide Mac networks, the company’s growth is expected to increase significantly in 2017. Addigy continues to expand at a record pace helping customers not only secure and manage the ever vulnerable Macs in their enterprise, but also helping them attract the top millennial talent, some of whom have never used a PC.

StartUP FIU is an intensive 14-week accelerator program that rapidly guides entrepreneurs through the paces needed to develop their new business ideas into successful growth companies. The accelerator program is open to FIU students, faculty and early-stage startup entrepreneurs in South Florida. All types of companies are welcome including traditional companies, high-tech ventures and social enterprises.

StartUP FIU has been integral to helping Addigy prepare for the next stage in funding and scaling our growth. StartUP FIU has provided us with an abundance of resources at FIU and very deep networks of talent throughout Miami.  Our mentor Mario Cruz (director of Watsco Ventures), for example, has been integral in guiding us through critical areas of the Addigy business.  There is nothing else like StartUP FIU in South Florida, period.

Keep an eye on Addigy as it breaks new ground in Miami and globally in the coming years, as well as the many other great companies being groomed for success in the StartUP FIU Accelerator program in Miami.

Jason Dettbarn is founder and CEO of Addigy, a Miami-based tech startup.

You’re invited to FIU Pitch Day on Dec. 6

Pitch Day is an important milestone for the inaugural Empower Accelerator Program cohort. By this day, StartUP FIU teams will have successfully completed the 14-week Empower Accelerator program. They would have participated in nearly 30 presentations and workshops, taken part in critical mentoring and business advice, and presented their required weekly deliverables in preparation for this one day. It will be 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on Dec. 6 at the Graham Center Ballrooms on the Modesto Maidique campus.

To RSVP, click here.

Read more about the StartUP FIU teams here. 

 

December 01, 2016

Startupbootcamp's Demo Day shines spotlight on startups and healthcare ecosystem

SbcMediconecta

 Mediconecta, a telehealth company serving Latin America, makes a Demo Day pitch at Startupbootcamp Miami.

By Startupbootcamp Miami

Miami is home to a robust health industry and is considered one of the largest health districts in all of the United States. From Miami, Startupbootcamp and Mana Wynwood are partnering to create a unique space that capitalizes on Miami’s competitive advantage - from demographic diversity, geographic endowment bridging populations between the Americas together, and Miami’s art scene - to create a distinct and defendable ecosystem for innovation.

“Startupbootcamp has brought new talent and energy to Miami’s expanding innovation ecosystem. Building on this momentum, Demo Day is a chance for this first class of entrepreneurs to put their potential on display and show how they can contribute to the growth and success of our city,” said Matt Haggman, Knight Foundation program director for Miami.

“Miami is a perfect market for entrepreneurs working at the intersection of healthcare and technology with its highly successful clinical facilities, booming tech scene, and emerging startup ecosystem,” said Jaret L. Davis, co-managing shareholder of Greenberg Traurig Miami, who is leading the team of attorneys working with Startupbootcamp and serves as Vice Chairman of Miami Children’s Hospital. “Our firm is thrilled to play a key role in Startupbootcamp and serve as the connector with many of the key players in the market. In light of the work we were already doing with Miami Children’s Health Systems in this field, it made sense to introduce the two, and we are beyond pleased to see how this relationship has blossomed. We look forward to being a catalyst for future growth and remain confident that the success of Startupbootcamp Miami will encourage more accelerators to make their home here.”

Startupbootcamp Demo Day on Thursday  combined  innovations in healthcare technology with Miami’s Art Basel. On Demo Day, Startupbootcamp’s portfolio of digital health companies shared the insights they’ve garnered working in Miami over the past several months to a room of investors, healthcare customers and providers, press, and other esteemed guests.

“Startupbootcamp has really brought to life the technology startup scene in Miami,” said Dr. Narendra Kini CEO at Nicklaus Children’s Hospital, an early supporter in Startupbootcamp. “By focusing on health it is really building out the ecosystem for innovation. We hope to see the next major healthcare players originate in Miami.”

In addition, the Startupbootcamp Demo Day was also paired with Miami’s Art Week, harnessing the influx of general cultural activity into an instrument for broader good. Recognizing that the worlds of Art, Health and Technology traditionally exist independently of one another, Startupbootcamp, in partnership with Mana Common, are forging an unprecedented platform for innovation.

Art is continuously playing a significant role in this development by using creativity to address healthcare and patient livelihood, and to broaden access to wellness resources. Artful thinking is increasingly becoming a meaningful and serious strategy towards better healing, as demonstrated through the partnership of Startupbootcamp and Mana Common.

The goal is to look at Miami’s competitive advantages in terms of industry – Health, Technology, and Art – to create a defensible value chain.

Here are  highlights of some of the major accomplishments that our companies have achieved over the last three months.

Aces Health:

Aces Health’s a 5 global finalists for the Mayo "Think Big" entrepreneurship challenge, has signed a LOI and is looking to close it’s pre-seed funding round led by Miami Children's Health System.

BabyScripts:

Partnered with Aurora Healthcare to build the first technology enabled Medicaid care plan that makes necessary pregnancy care available to any patient from the comfort of their own home. The product went live last week.

Additionally, Dr. Narendra Kini and the Miami Children's Health System have served as a pivotal strategic mentor and partner in the South Florida market. They are currently working together on a comprehensive Go-To-Market as well as new exciting product developments.

CareAngel:

CareAngel as awarded 1st Place in the AARP Foundation’s $50K Innovation Challenge for its partnership with the Philadelphia Local Association of Areas on Aging to support enhanced remote care for low income and underserved populations. As part of the SBC program, CareAngel is now piloting with the University of Miami Health System around med adherence for it’s mammogram patients.

Keep Livin:

KL has closed several revenue generating deals in the past 90 days with substantial partners such as Univision and Florida Blue. Keep Livin will be Florida Blue’s community engagement partner, entail enrolling those in Broward County during the current enrollment period.

Mediconecta (pictured above):

Mediconecta has signed an agreement with Miami Children's Health System to support their outreach for children and their families in Miami, throughout the nation and in Latin America.

Additionally, Mediconecta is contracting with University of Miami Health System to deliver a one of a kind model that will extend their providers' reach into new care settings throughout their markets.

QoC Health:

QoC Health as signed 6 new project contracts (including Canada's largest hospital network, Canada's largest home health organization, 2 internationally recognized universities, and 1 global health organization). The projects cover a variety of content areas, including mental health, population health data collection, and chronic disease management.

Overl.ai:

With the help SBC, Overl.ai has pivoted their resources and technologies to a single product around patient intake.  Since then, the company has experienced more meetings and follow throughs with the investors, new strategic partnerships,  and more customer opportunities.

TruClinic:

TruClinic has added 5 new customers since the beginning of our journey with Startup Bootcamp. The Company also won an RFP with a Florida Children's Hospital. TruClinic has been recognized by the Journal of Health as one of the most innovative digital health companies in the world as an honoree of the 2016 Global Digital Health 100 List.

VoiceITT:

In South Florida, VoiceITT will collaborate with specialty clinicians, disabilities advocates, and therapists, including testing and research toward clinical validation of its signature product, which will be commercially available in 2017. It is in discussions with the University of Miami UHealth System, which will be the site of its first hospital pilot implementation as well as its first enterprise sale.

SBC

A panel of community experts in healthcare discuss the ecosystem at Startupbootcamp's Demo Day.

November 30, 2016

EDC launches “Inside the Investors Head” series with Miami DDA

EDCRob Strandberg intro Steve O'Hara

 

By Deborah Johnson

Enterprise Development Corporation launched a new series of investor/startup events meant to provide entrepreneurs valuable funding insights.  The series combines one-on-one investor/startup introductions with a reception for a broader audience of entrepreneurs.    The objective of these “capital Introductions” is to both help startups acquaint themselves with active Florida and non-Florida early stage investors and help investors identify South Florida’s best emerging investor-ready companies. 

The series launch event featured New World Angels (NWA) and their new president, Steve O’Hara.  Mr. O’Hara met in the afternoon with five NWA selected companies from a growing event database of over 30 companies.   Each company received feedback on their presentation, an initial interest level and specific advice in applying for formal consideration by NWA. 

The five companies selected were:  Recordgram – a mobile music and video recording studio that allow for instant song collaboration; BBConnect – a cloud based reservation and marketing solution for the $3B B&B industry; Cargo42 – an on-demand marketplace for local trucking scheduling; YouCloud – a digital coach for team effectiveness; and Magneceutical Health – Magnetic Resonance Therapy addressing chronic stress and related conditions. 

These 1 on 1s were followed by an evening reception where Mr. O’Hara shared with the audience general funding guidance for entrepreneurs as well as specific insights into NWA’s selection and funding process. 

Future events in this series will be ongoing throughout 2017, with the January investor announced soon so please check www.enterbusiness.org for updates.

For entrepreneurs wishing to participate in future events, please submit an executive summary and investor slide deck to team@edc-tech.org

November 27, 2016

Startup Spotlight: The Wynwood Coloring Book

Wynwoodcoloringbook

The Wynwood Coloring Book is a coloring book for adults inspired by the world famous street art of Wynwood. A second edition is planned, as well as a broader book featuring street artists from throughout the U.S.

Company name: The Wynwood Coloring Book, by AimfulMedia

Headquarters: MADE at the Citadel, 8325 NE Second Ave., Miami

Concept: The Wynwood Coloring Book is a coloring book for adults inspired by the world famous street art of Wynwood.

Story: As an entrepreneur, Diego Orlandini (pictured above) has always been passionate about ideas that are socially responsible and community-oriented and that deepen the human experience. He admires TOMS Shoes and similar companies that bring tangible positive social impact to their business models.

“Last year, when I was stressed trying to build AimfulMedia and writing a novel, my girlfriend at the time introduced me to a coloring book for adults. We imagined how cool it could be to color the murals of the city, and I saw that as the opportunity to put all my passions into one single project,” Orlandini said. Orlandini, a yoga enthusiast who traveled to India this summer, also discovered firsthand what research has shown to be true: Coloring can be a “mindful” way of relaxing and focusing.

Orlandini partnered with a number of Wynwood artists, and with the help of that community, the first edition of the $25 coloring book published in April. The 64-page book, made with high-quality environmentally friendly wood-free paper, features the work of 43 street artists, including Alex Senna, Mijares and Patch Whisky and includes a directory with information about each artist and work of art.

“The Wynwood Coloring Book is a lot of things. It’s a tool for mindfulness, to help people take a break from the hustle and remember a simpler time. It’s a souvenir for visitors who want to bring home a part of this place. And it’s a time capsule, capturing Wynwood at a pivotal moment in its young life, preserving today’s art long after it is painted over to make way for a new mural,” The New Tropic wrote earlier this year about the book.

The first printing of the Wynwood Coloring Book sold out in June and a second printing is nearly sold out. There will be one more printing before the next edition of Wynwood Coloring Book comes out featuring a new set of street artists. About 5,000 copies have been sold so far.

Orlandini also has plans to expand beyond Wynwood: “We are now embarking on the next bigger, larger project: A coloring book featuring over 100 artists around the country and a buy-one, give-one initiative that will come with it. For every book sold, we will place a textbook in the hands of schoolchildren in the developing world.”

Orlandini said he is working on a prototype for the national book now and will put out a call to artists in January.

Founded: 2015 (first book in 2016)

Management team: Diego Orlandini

Website: wynwoodcoloringbook.com

Financing: $5,000 via a successfully funded Kickstarter campaign. Hoping to raise $50,000 for a national project.

Recent milestones reached: The Wynwood Coloring Book is now available at Miami International Airport, Books & Books, several museum gift shops including PAMM, and top retailers in Wynwood, including The Wynwood Walls Shop, Glotman, Frangipani and Wynwood Letterpress. Faber-Castell approached the company and together they launched a Wynwood Coloring Book colored pencil set to accompany the book. The startup organized a coloring party at the Miami Book Fair that entertained hundreds of attendees, adults and children alike.

Biggest startup challenge: “Not having a mentor to guide me through the process was the biggest challenge,” Orlandini said. “I’m still looking for one!”

Next step: A coloring book with 100-plus artists and their street art from around the country and a buy one, give one program (for every book sold, the company will give a textbook to schoolchildren in the developing world). “Doing something like this has been a dream of mine since my college years,” he said.

Strategy for next step: With the rapid experience, important connections and growing audience as a result of The Wynwood Coloring Book, the company will implement the same lean process used to create this book, but at a much larger scale.

Follow Nancy Dahlberg on Twitter @ndahlberg.

Read more Startup Spotlights

Why Shark Tank bet on these Jerks who make filet mignon jerky

How a trip to the Congo inspired a skincare startup

One juicy story: Caribe Exotic offers tastes of the tropics

Would you wear business jammies? Fashion startup creates ultra comfy work clothes

Rising Tide Car Wash stars in new Starbucks video series

Toy inventors believe 'there's a hero inside every boy'

This startup wants to take you shopping – through virtual reality

November 26, 2016

Cubans wake to global Castro news via free internet from Miami-based nonprofit Apretaste

ApretastelocoWithin hours of the death of Fidel Castro, Miami-based nonprofit Apretaste distributed within Cuba links to international news media about the world’s reaction.

Cubans awoke to learn the news through their phones, via Pizarra, a social network built specifically for the Cuban people that overcomes the connectivity issues on the island, said Apretaste founder Salvi Pascual.

Apretaste runs a platform out of Miami where any Cuban with a cell phone and email service can have access to any information on the internet. Shortcuts to international news sites such as cnnespanol and EFE were made available through Pizarra and Cubans immediately reacted by posting their feelings from within the island.

Posts came  with mixed feelings.  Some Cubans on the island posted hopeful messages such as "Esto es trascendental,se abre una nueva etapa quizas podremos empezar al fin a ver la luz" [translation: This is transcendental, a new era opens, maybe finally we will see the light] posted Apretaste user @yulie14. While others were honoring Castro's memory with words such as "Hoy Cuba esta de luto, el mundo tendra que inclinar su cabeza para ver el paso a la inmortalidad de Fidel." [translation: Today Cuba is in mourning, and the world will have to bow its head to view as Fidel steps into immortality] posted by Apretaste user @ynapn.

Salvi-pascual-HD“Giving a voice to the Cuban people and sharing it with the world is important to us at Apretaste, especially at a time like today when the world’s eyes are on Cuba,” said Pascual, a software developer and professor in Miami.  To learn more about what the Cuban people have to say about Fidel Castro and life in Cuba, and for a live feed of posts by Cubans via Pizarra, follow the @HeyCuba twitter page at https://twitter.com/HeyCuba.

Apretaste connects more than 40,000 people in Cuba to the web, via email, through technology designed and implemented in Miami by a community of open source software developers. Features include access to international news sites, Wikipedia, weather forecasts, Google maps and 30 more sites, all by email.

 

November 21, 2016

Startup Spotlight: After 'Shark Tank, Three Jerks Jerky manages hyper-growth, expands product line

1Three Jerks Jerky 01 EKM

Three Jerks Jerky created a line of filet mignon beef jerky that is all natural and scored a Daymond John investment on Shark Tank. Now the startup has expanded, even offering burgers.

Company Name: Three Jerks Jerky

Offices: Miami, Los Angeles, New Jersey

Concept: Why should something as incredible as filet mignon be relegated to special occasions and celebrations? Friends Jordan Barrocas and Daniel Fogelson didn’t think so, so they formed Three Jerks Jerky and created a beef jerky that is and all natural and that fans say is melt-in-your-mouth delicious.

Story: After being disappointed with all of the jerky available — it was either too tough to eat or loaded with so many chemicals it was scary — Barrocas and Fogelson decided to make their own. “We didn’t want to make regular old jerky and felt that we needed something special. Filet mignon it was,” said Barrocas, who earned an MBA from the University of Miami and worked in the footwear industry before taking the entrepreneurial plunge.

After going door to door to stores with their samples they caught their first big break. “We aired on ABC’s ‘Shark Tank’ in October 2015 and partnered with Daymond John. The exposure from the show produced an overnight growth spurt and we expanded 600 percent in two months,” said Barrocas said.

[Read more: Miami entrepreneur will feed beef jerky to the sharks]

That short growth spurt brought more than a million dollars in sales but also significant challenges: They couldn’t supply the demand and maintain their production standards. “Our production partners were at max capacity and we weren’t coming close to filling our orders on time,” Barrocas said. To keep the wheels from falling off and alleviate growing pains, Daymond John introduced Three Jerks to Rastelli Foods Group, and they partnered up. “Rastelli quickly organized a supply chain for our filet mignon, improving price and reliability. They took control of managing our production schedules and sources new manufacturers for us,” Barrocas said. “Daniel and myself could get back to focusing on our brand and selling our jerky — essentially back to the Jerks we once were.”

Three Jerks Jerky is expecting to close the year up another 500 percent over last year, due to growth in the retail business, including expanding into Publix, Hy-Vee and Meijer grocery chains. Three Jerks offers five core filet mignon jerky flavors: Original (the best seller by far); Memphis BBQ; Chipotle Adobo; Maple Bourbon Churro; and Hamburger (yep, it tastes like a burger). A two-ounce pack (two servings) is $8.99 on threejerksjerky.com.

Next year, a new flavor will join the lineup. “It’s a teriyaki flavor that we developed in partnership with the company Soy Vay. They make the most amazing teriyaki sauce and I have been purchasing it for as long as I can remember. We figured the best teriyaki sauce and the best jerky were a match made in heaven,” said Barrocas, who enjoys cooking.

Beyond Jerky: The partnership with Rastelli has also helped the company introduce two burger varieties this past August: 100 percent Filet Mignon and the first-ever-to-market Pork Belly Blend (60 percent beef filet, 40 percent pork), Barrocas said. “Just like our jerky, the burgers are made from only the most premium cuts and contain no preservatives or artificial ingredients.”

Launched: October 2013

Website: www.threejerksjerky.com

Management team: Jordan Barrocas (based in Miami), Daniel Fogelson (Los Angeles), Ray Rastelli III (New Jersey)

No. of employees: Five

Financing: Primarily self-funded. Launched on Kickstarter and raised $40,000. Appeared on “Shark Tank” in 2015 and secured a deal with Daymond John, resulting in an investment of $100,000.

Recent milestones: Appeared on Shark Tank in October 2015. Secured an investment deal with Daymond John and grew the business 650 percent in 2015. Have since joint ventured with Daymond John and Rastelli Foods Group to create a partnership with strengthened supply chain and operations. Consequently, have lowered unit costs and are on pace to grow an additional 250 percent in 2016. Three Jerks has broken through in major grocery retail in the fourth quarter with Publix, Michigan-based Meijer and Iowa-based Hy-Vee.

Biggest startup challenge: Maintaining quality, consistency and on-time delivery through hyper-growth.

Next step: Deepen retail presence with continued supply chain growth and operational efficiencies with Rastelli partnership.

Follow Nancy Dahlberg on Twitter @ndahlberg

Read more Startup Spotlights

How a trip to the Congo inspired a skincare startup

One juicy story: Caribe Exotic offers tastes of the tropics

Would you wear business jammies? Fashion startup creates ultra comfy work clothes

Rising Tide Car Wash stars in new Starbucks video series

Toy inventors believe 'there's a hero inside every boy'

This startup wants to take you shopping – through virtual reality

Wyncode outgrows The LAB, will open its own campus Jan.8

Wyncodefounders

By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

Wyncode Academy, a homegrown coding bootcamp that teaches computer programming in 10 weeks, is outgrowing The LAB Miami, where it has been based, and is moving into its own stand-alone code school campus on Jan. 8. But staying true to its name and roots, the company is staying in Wynwood.

"We have loved being at The LAB and it is always going to be a special place for us. That said, we are ready to double down on Miami and move into our own dedicated campus," said Juha Mikkola, who founded the code school with his wife, Johanna (both pictured above) in Miami in 2014.

Along with the expansion, Wyncode also announced it will also be launching its first part-time course for those who want to learn how to code without leaving their jobs and offering more corporate training.

Wyncode’s new custom-designed campus, called Wynbase, is located at 549 NW 28th St. and at 3,100 square feet is more than four times larger than its dedicated space at The LAB. Wynbase, when it opens Jan. 8, will include two full-size classrooms, a smaller classroom for corporate training programs and an open concept co-working area for Wyncode students and staff, Mikkola said.

Wyncode’s intensive, immersive full-time web development course will now start every five weeks and provide prospective Wyncoders with more flexibility in terms of start dates. More importantly, this new format provides students with the opportunity to repeat the first 5-week section if they need extra time to work on their fundamentals, said Juha Mikkola. There are benefits of culture too: The more experienced students can inspire and help the newer class, he said.

Wyncode’s part-time web development course will meet three evenings a week for 12 weeks and offer career-oriented students the option to keep their day jobs while learning to build web applications at night. More information on the new program, which will start in February, is available here. Both the full-time and part-time classes will be capped at 30 students.  

Wyncode will also follow on its first successful corporate workshop with Visa and build more corporate training programs for Miami companies looking to adopt Agile methodologies and innovate their processes through automation and other technologies. 

"This is a move to centralize and strengthen the overall experience and quality at Wyncode," said Juha Mikkola. Wyncode will be consolidating its bootcamps at Wynbase but will continue to do Wyntroductions (one-day bootcamps) and other events in Fort Lauderdale, where it has held cohorts.

Wyncode Academy, now with 13 full-time and 18 part-time employees, was the first bricks and mortar coding school to be licensed by the Florida Department of Education. About 350 people have completed the programs with a 97 percent job placement rate. Over 100 companies have hired Wyncoders, who come from a variety of careers such as  chefs, lawyers, salespeople, accountants, concierges, marketing executives and entrepreneurs.  Applications for the programs are accepted on a rolling basis and interested candidates should apply at wyncode.co.

“We’re incredibly excited to launch Wynbase and provide the best possible learning environment for our students,”  said Johanna Mikkola. She and Juha were chosen as Endeavor Entrepreneurs in 2015. "We believe the future for Miami tech is bright and we can’t wait to welcome the entire tech community to Wynbase in 2017.”

Read more: Following up on White House pledge, Wyncode releases its graduation, placement rates

Read more: Learn to code in 10 weeks? Try one day.

Wyncodeclass

A Wyncode class, above, and a Pitch Night, which ends each bootcamp, below.

Wyncodepitch

November 18, 2016

FAU Tech Runway graduates third class of startups

Florida Atlantic University’s Tech Runway recently celebrated the graduation of Venture Class III, the third class of companies to complete the yearlong FAU Tech Runway program.

The founders of the four companies in “Venture Class III” were honored at the ceremony: Thomas Gregory of Sofla Sunwear, a lifestyle brand of clothing established to represent the unique culture of South Florida; Ray Briant of TiloTag, a patented smartphone app that allows you to discover the memories that surround you; June Adams and James Khalil of PowerCalc, the first SaaS-based software that completely automates the electrical engineering calculations for the building, construction, and facility management industries that is compliant with the National Electrical Code (NEC); and Carly Asher Yoost of The Child Rescue Coalition, a nonprofit organization that builds sophisticated technology to track child predators across the globe.

“We are incredibly proud of what this third FAU Tech Runway® Venture Class has accomplished,” said Rhys L. Williams, associate vice president for research and the managing director for FAU Tech Runway. “Several of these companies were little more than concepts when they began our program. Now they have products, customers, sales, patents, employees, and have become real businesses. For these four companies that have launched from FAU Tech Runway, the sky’s the limit.”

Tech Runway is a public-private partnership formed to foster technology startups and early-stage companies; selected companies receive a $25,000 non-equity grant, participate in a 16-week intensive boot camp, engage in a yearlong mentoring program with a team of five business mentors, and are provided workspace for one year.

Since its launch in fall 2014, FAU Tech Runway has provided financial support, strategic development, entrepreneurial education, free workspace, investor introductions, and expert mentoring for 29 startup companies. As a result of the program, 239 jobs have been created, 57 FAU students have been employed, more than $6 million in revenue has been earned, and more than $18 million investment capital has been raised.

For more information on FAU Tech Runway, visit techrunway.fau.edu.

November 10, 2016

Argentina to Miami, a bridge worth building

Wolox

By Natalia Martinez-Kalinina

As we often hear, Miami is a city uniquely poised to be a hemispheric hub. But despite being the transit isthmus that connects our hemisphere and representing a natural landing pad for companies growing from Latin America, we have historically fallen short of creating a sustained bridge for tangible and bidirectional engagement.  Entrepreneurs from Latin America come half blindly and arrive without a fully nuanced understanding of our infrastructure, differences, logistical shortcuts, critical stakeholders. As such, the learning curve is often steeper and the adjustment period longer than it should be - and that is in part our fault.

Argentina has long been recognized as one of the primary entrepreneurial ecosystems in Latin America with regards to high potential entrepreneurs. In equal measure, however, it has also been plagued by political malaise, economic instability, unreliable institutional resources, and its own absence from global capital markets. Now, although the country is very much in a transitional period after the 2015 election and the myriad economic and legal changes underway, Argentine entrepreneurs can - for the first time in several decades - see a horizon in which the country’s public sector, institutions, markets, and workforce can truly dovetail to generate growth, investment, and innovation.

Miami has a ways to go before we can truly claim the title of regional epicenter, but figuring out how to support Argentina’s wave of growth and appetite for engagement represents a unique opportunity to add value to the region and truly deliver on our vision as a gateway.

As a first step to test these waters, a group of us came together to co-author a full day of programming within StartupWeekBuenosAires - the largest event of its kind in Latin America-  specifically focused on how to engage with the U.S. ecosystem and market by way of Miami. Ahead of the full agenda being announced shortly, if you are interested in participating or learning more, please fill out this form.

Leading up to the event in December, we will be featuring interviews with a varied range of Argentine entrepreneurs and companies making their way to Miami. The first installment and inspiration for this series was an interview with Balloon Group. Below, we take a closer look at Wolox (pictured above), a growing software development company currently exploring its potential for expansion to the US from Buenos Aires, starting with a footprint in Miami. We spoke with Luciana Reznik, Wolox’s CEO (pictured here).


WoloxlucianaTell us about Wolox - how the company emerged, how has it changed over the years?

In 2011, Wolox was founded to innovate and help startups with all their product strategy and technological needs. With the lack of cutting edge tech solutions in Buenos Aires at the time, our goal was to bring high impact technology to the entrepreneurial ecosystem of South America. Concurrently, Buenos Aires was beginning to position itself as a major entrepreneurial city making for an ideal target market. After the great successes of the 90’s such as MercadoLibre, Despegar, and the first accelerators opening their doors, many new success stories continued to emerge. Like so, being an entrepreneur became an attractive career for many.

At this time, we were (all) finishing our degrees in computer engineering at The Buenos Aires Institute of Technology, a prestigious engineering university in Argentina. With other entrepreneurial experiences under our belt, an opportunity became clear to us: from a business standpoint, there were a larger number of individuals with good ideas and execution capabilities, than those with tech talent who could successfully carry out these ideas. This was our “aha” moment if every one of these individuals could be the CTO of a business venture, why not join together and become the CTOs of many business ventures?

Through the years, not only did we become experts in software development, but in all disciplines that influence the creation of top quality products as well as best practices when developing a startup. From the stage of conception to execution, researching the product market fit and implementing strategies to scale the business, Wolox is the team startups choose to partner with. Today, having worked with more than 80 startups has given us the know-how and key experiences to stand out within the industry which is invaluable to our clients.

Where do you see the growth and future of the company in the next years?

Today, we have around 100 employees and 100 products developed, with continual growth every day. We have managed to penetrate new markets in the USA and other countries in Latin America. Additionally, Wolox has established a team of exceptional individuals who discover innovative solutions to the challenges we are presented with while working ethically and professionally. Thanks to our ongoing positive recognition, larger companies have begun to use our services of design thinking to find solutions to their problems and/or establish innovation within their brands.

At Wolox, we have also been able to create a unique organizational culture that defines who we are and allows us to establish a challenging, flexible, innovative and respectful environment where our employees come to work motivated and happy. That is perhaps one of the biggest achievements and where we focus our energy every day to continue improving and not conform with what we have already achieved. Wolox is a company created by and for Millennials. A place which seeks to break with tradition, rife with challenge, and where rules are created to be broken in order for continual success.

In the coming years, we plan to continue the immense and rapid growth we have been experiencing up until now- opening new operating centers throughout the country as well as sales offices in various cities around the world. We will continue to train experts in the diverse cutting-edge technologies that emerge such as AR, VR, Internet of Things, among others, to be able to provide the best technological solutions to the problems we encounter within the market industry. In addition, we hope to become key leaders and influencers for the working culture we possess. We believe that we can transform problems into solutions and ideas into quality products, from Argentina to the rest of the world, managing to be positive and happy throughout the journey.

When did Wolox come to Miami, and why? What opportunities are you looking to find here? What risks may you come across? What is the evaluation and product release process in the United States?

As the next logical step in terms of company expansion, Wolox began its operations in Miami in January

of 2016. Our percentage of US clients is constantly growing and we want to continue this growth in the coming years, therefore, we believe opening offices in the United States is the rational next step for the company.

In Miami (and South Florida in general) we saw an interesting opportunity: an expanding entrepreneurial ecosystem, with tremendous support from various institutions and government funding to put Miami on the map of the entrepreneurial world. With the large Latino community many of the bigger enterprises or brands targeting the Latin American market have offices in Miami.

Our biggest challenge now is to manage a high volume of deal flow to maintain our operations during the period of growth of this entrepreneurial community, until it has fully consolidated. We do have to keep in mind we are in a new community and network, with a blank slate, where people still do not know us. We'll have to work hard to achieve a strong reputation and to position ourselves just as we have in Argentina.

Success stories like Magic Leap, Open English, Kairos, among many others have helped encourage and push the creation of tech startups. New co- working spaces are constantly opening their doors, making Miami an attractive spot for companies to set up shop. Miami is a city with immense multicultural and creative talent and a low cost of living. It really has all the key ingredients to make for the ideal entrepreneurial hub. Our goal now is to start generating and executing new startups and to bring capital to risky investments. Wolox arrived in Miami to help entrepreneurs pursue their ideas and build the entrepreneurial ecosystem just like we did in Buenos Aires 5 years ago.

From the perspective of the Latin American entrepreneur, what do you expect as a contribution from Miami?

Miami has access to a far greater pool of investors than we do in Latin America. A seed capital in Miami is at least us$ 500,000 whereas Latin Amércia it rarely exceeds us$ 50,000. On the other hand, it's very strategically located between Latin America and many other entrepreneurial hubs like New York, San Francisco, Boston, Austin, and Los Angeles, where many of our customers reside. Being closer provides an added value to our clients. Miami has many investment funds that focus on this type of enterprise and entrepreneurs of each country in Latin America that can help in this expansion.

As a Latin American entrepreneur, from day one we are constantly thinking globally as our native country itself is usually not a big enough market. Often times the market for our product is in the United States, making it very hard to measure the startup’s early stages from a distance. Even if the market we are appointing to is Latin Amércia as a whole (and not just a particular country) it is a lot easier to access those countries from the USA than from Argentina for example.

From this same perspective, what do you think Miami can do better to become a true "hub" in the region and support entrepreneurs who come here?

Often times, legal and accounting issues end up being a major roadblock when trying to focus one's energy on business. Visa issues/procedure, difficulty in the opening of bank accounts or being unable to access credit are just some of the disadvantages foreign entrepreneurs encounter. To overcome these difficulties, we must be in a privileged position within our country of origin to be able to access the necessary resources. This is something we consider a limitation in attracting top talent.

On the other hand, we must continue to focus on the education and the transmission of entrepreneurial culture. Some of the best practices when carrying out a startup such as energy and entrepreneurial execution speed (which are found in the most important hubs in the region), are  built through education and example. Therefore, it is necessary for the successful entrepreneurs of Miami to stay in order to transmit their learnings and knowledge and channel their entrepreneurial spirit to help and motivate those who are just getting started. Of course, the active participation of organizations - both public and private -that help entrepreneurs to perform this work is a key factor to achieve development.

What is your view on the political and economic situation in Argentina at the moment? What perspective does this experience give you on the growth of Miami?

Argentina is in the process of rebuilding political and economic relations with the United States. They are putting a lot of effort in generating public policies which support entrepreneurs and are strengthening programs and incentives of exchange between the two countries.

For example, only for the year 2016 will the budget allocated to the co- state investment in enterprises by local accelerators, triple. Undoubtedly, this will have a huge impact on the amount of Argentine entrepreneurs who choose Miami as the next step in its expansion process.

It is also expected for there to be at least two new public-private angel investment funds formed, whom will seek to have an active participation from foreign funds. This presents itself as a very interesting opportunity for foreigners: entering the entrepreneurial ecosystem of Argentina with limited risks.

Finally, the Argentine peso is at an exceptionally competitive value for the US market. Making for a very appealing strategy to realize the commercial development of Argentine companies in the USA.

Organizations like Endeavor have talked a lot about the Argentine model (not just the shortcomings, but the great achievements and opportunities). What do you think Miami can learn from Argentina’s case?

I believe Argentines are very entrepreneurial in nature. Things in our country are never simple, predictable or easy. We have overcome several crises throughout our history and from day one we have to address the daily challenges we face in an innovative way. From this, one learns to find solutions to the problem effectively, efficiently, and while working collaboratively.

As entrepreneurs, we have the need to create enterprises with sustainable business models from the get-go, since the ability to raise capital is quite small. I see this as a major difference between the Argentine entrepreneur and the US entrepreneur. Here entrepreneurs sometimes do things thinking only of the next round of investment or how to improve the KPIs the investors are going to ask for, instead of focusing on making a profitable business. Perhaps in the coming years, this paradigm will begin to change if the access to capital becomes more difficult. Which we are beginning to see in some parts of the USA.

In Argentina, there is a very strong sense of community. Entrepreneurs share their experiences, they teach, and invest in and mentor those just getting started. This ‘multiplier effect” is essential for the growth of the entrepreneurial community anywhere around the world and is one of the values ​​promoted strongly by Endeavor in Argentina. I believe this is something interesting and important to try and replicate in Miami. First, identify these stories of success and then take advantage of their transmission of knowledge that can render for following generations.

[This is part 2 of a series. Read part 1 here - Honey vs. Vinegar: How are we luring and keeping the companies we want in Miami?]

Natalia Martinez-Kalinina is the General Manager of CIC Miami and the Founder of Awesome Foundation MIAMI. If you are an Argentine company looking to expand to Miami or a Miami-based entrepreneur/investor looking to connect with the argentine ecosystem, please reach out to Natalia at martinez@cic.us

November 07, 2016

Startup Spotlight: Eben Naturals

EBEN

Photo of Milain David by Roberto Koltun

 

 

How a trip to the Congo kickstarted a skincare startup

Company name: Eben Naturals

Headquarters: WeWork Lincoln Road

Concept: Eben Naturals is a Miami-based skincare line geared toward the dark complexion segment. Its products are meticulously crafted to address issues common to its target market, such as uneven skin tone, dry body, breakouts, excess sebum secretion and oily skin.

Story: Milain David first thought of starting a skincare company about two years ago during a trip to the Congo, his native country.

“There I noticed the widespread use of skin-lightening products by misguided consumers who had no information whatsoever about their harmful effects. As a matter of fact, they feature a high dosage of hydroquinone, a product defined as carcinogenic by the FDA. So I thought it’d be great to promote products that would encourage people to embrace their natural skin tone,” he said.

When he returned to the U.S., he began looking into the beauty industry and realized that there was a lack of beauty solutions geared towards his demographic. This was later confirmed through extensive market research. “That’s when I decided to dive in and create Eben.”

David, an alumni of the University of Miami in economics and finance, received strategic advice about business planning and researching the market from UM’s entrepreneurship resource center, The Launch Pad. “It was like getting a very good business consulting firm, but for free.”

Once he graduated in May 2015, he jumped into Eben 100 percent, putting the business plan into action. Over the next year, he hired a chemist, and together they visited farms around the U.S. and rented small labs for R&D and creating the formulations. Once David had the formulations, he found a Doral manufacturer, The Pure Source, and began testing the product with his target market. To finance the production and get more early feedback from consumers, he launched a crowdfunding campaign this past summer. He raised $16,000, which was just enough to finance initial production and create some early marketing buzz.

David said Eben’s three-step product line is all-natural, vegan and cruelty-free. The company has launched its first line of products this fall and is selling on Amazon as well as www.ebennaturals.com.

Founded: June 2015; launched first product line in October.

Management team: Milain David, CEO and Chief Financial Officer; Valeria Quiros, branding and social media; Khadija Andrews, head of marketing; Daniel Lamus, sales adviser.

Website and social media: www.ebennaturals.com; https://www.facebook.com/ebennaturals/; https://www.instagram.com/ebennaturals/

Financing: The company is mostly bootstrapped and raised $16,000 on Kickstarter.

Recent milestones: Eben received approval from Amazon to become sellers in its highly competitive and restricted “Beauty and personal care category.” Eben also has an agreement with a major beauty sampling company to be featured in their limited edition Christmas box. “This would give us a major boost in terms of brand awareness.”

Biggest startup challenge: “The biggest startup challenge we face is to garner brand awareness with a very limited marketing budget. I like to think of it as having given birth to a child no one can see just yet,” David said.

Next step: The next step is to raise a seed round to finance customer acquisition efforts and improve processes. “The strategy is to consolidate our brand identity to show potential investors that they are putting their money in a viable lifestyle company and not just another startup,” David said.

Mentor’s view: David said he met Jacques Cohen, a long-time executive in the cosmetics industry, at a friend’s Shabbat dinner. They exchanged small talk and numbers, and Cohen has offered his guidance ever since. “Milain reminded me when I started, the enthusiasm and the will to succeed. Milain recognized and accepted some of the early constructive criticism, too,” said Cohen, CEO of Prestige Cosmetics, a leading cosmetics manufacturer based in Deerfield Beach.

“Though Milain’s category is not that crowded, he is going to have to promote and make his products known. His advantage is his positioning. The ethnic market is mainly and traditionally positioned as mass market. That demographic has evolved enormously and is looking for and willing to pay for good products,” Cohen said. “Fortunately, today advertising can be done very economically through social media.”

By Nancy Dahlberg, @ndahlberg

Read more Startup Spotlights:

One juicy story: Caribe Exotic offers tastes of the tropics

Would you wear business jammies? Fashion startup creates ultra comfy work clothes

Rising Tide Car Wash stars in new Starbucks video series

Toy inventors believe 'there's a hero inside every boy'

This startup wants to take you shopping – through virtual reality

Grocers, distributors catch the Banana Wave