January 16, 2017

Why we chose Miami as the US headquarters for Solomoto

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CEO Pasha Romanovski, CEO of Solomoto, presents at the Startup Nation conference at the Idea Center last summer.

By Pasha Romanovski

Following my visit in May to Miami for the Startup Nation Conference at Miami Dade College's Idea Center, it became clear that the city would be the future home of Solomoto in the US. And next month we are finally making this decision a reality.

Solomoto is a global company that helps small business owner  grow online, simplifying the confusing world of digital marketing. We recently crossed the 100 000 mark of small business owners using the platform, and these entrepreneurs from Latin America, Europe and now the US are enjoying our simple dashboard to grow their business digitally in only 30 minutes a day.

 What makes Miami a good fit for us? After scouting different locations, we liked these two ingredients:

Talent – Miami has one of the most diverse populations in the US, an important fact that aligned with our team culture in both Israel and Europe. As a global company, we have found talent of every nationality to support our global growth.

Open ecosystem – Miami is an open city. In a relatively short period of time, we have met key stakeholders of the city’s growing innovation ecosystem. We get a sense of ambition and commitment to build a real tech hub, so we decided to be pioneers, not followers, and be part of this emerging hub.

What is Solomoto?

Solomoto is a digital marketing solution for small businesses. We understand that online visibility is an area many business are looking to grow, but they don’t understand its complexities or don’t have the time to dedicate to it.

Our solution is to provide an affordable alternative to agencies, a DIY platform where any small business owner can create an online presence that will help attract more consumers. With ready-made content, cross platform publishing tools for advertising and social media, a small business owner can grow his online visibility with just 30 minutes of digital marketing.  All of from one simple dashboard!

Pasha Romanovski is co-founder and CEO of Solomoto, based in Tel Aviv.

READ MORE: How to think big: Israeli entrepreneurs show how it's done

 

January 15, 2017

VR tech startup Avenue Planet launches its first 'v-commerce' location: Lincoln Road

 

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Avenue Planet, which brings the world’s best shopping streets to your virtual world, launched with a splash last week, unveiling its Lincoln Road shopping experience to the real Lincoln Road. The tech startup is developing a content hub for immersive VR experiences, including the first e-commerce platform using virtual reality. Its Miami office is at Pipeline Brickell.

Above, Miami-Dade’s Beacon Council and Miami Beach officials participated in its client’s VIP launch at the Lincoln Road Books & Books on Friday morning. Avenue Planet’s two founders, Sanjay Daswani and Bruno Carvalho,  along with Miami Beach City Commissioners John Elizabeth Aleman and Michael Grieco, Miami Beach Chamber President Jerry Libbin, Miami-Dade Beacon Council Chair Jaret Davis and Interim President Sheldon Anderson test their first virtual reality shopping avenue, Lincoln Road, their first virtual commerce "v-commerce" location.  The company has announced that 5th Avenue in New York City will be next.

Avenue Planet also held a community launch party at Drinkhouse Fire & Ice Bar in Miami Beach Thursday night, where attendees got to experience Avenue Planet on  multiple VR devices or via a huge projection screen. Below, Kabir Frutos, North and South America director of Avenue Planet, helps an attendee experience the technology.

Read More: This startup wants to take you shopping – through virtual reality

 

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January 12, 2017

Miami e-commerce startup iguama scores $5 million in funding

IguamaBy Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiheraldcom

Miami startup iguama plans to open up its online shopping mall for U.S. brands to more consumers across Latin America, with the help of a $5 million Series A financing round led by technology venture capital firms Kibo Ventures and PeopleFund.

The company provides consumers in Latin America access to U.S. retail brands typically not available in local malls. Founded in 2014, iguama is the first cross-border e-commerce shopping club where members receive competitive pricing and exclusive deals, promotions on purchases from merchants such as Nordstrom, BCBG, Target, Overstock, Juicy Couture and others. All local customs, taxes and shipping are handled by iguama, removing international barriers from customers and providing a seamless shopping experience.

“iguama’s cross-border e-commerce technology provides tremendous value to millions of Latin American shoppers looking to access the best U.S. merchants and get delivery of their purchases to their door,” said Aquilino Peña, co-founder and managing partner of Kibo Ventures, a venture capital firm in Spain that has made nearly 40 investments.

DiegofernandezWith the new funding, iguama plans to expand throughout Latin America – and beyond, said Diego Fernandez (pictured here0, co-founder and CEO of iguama, who had been owned a freight forwarding franchise before founding iguama. The company currently services Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala and Panama, with several more countries including Mexico on the runway. iguama’s 35 employees are split between Guatemala, New York, China and Miami, where its logistics partners are based. Next week, iguama will be releasing a new version of its mobile site with a shopping assistant.

“A lot of Latinos like to go to Miami to buy their clothes. But [through iguama], people who don’t have access to travel can have access to the U.S. products, in a convenient way,” said Fernandez, a native of Guatemala. “Our goal is to personalize the shopping experience so customers will have the brands that they like. We are committed to expand our cross-border e-commerce platform to the rest of Latin America and eventually Europe as well.”

Cross-border e-commerce in Latin America is still an underserved market, and iguama has assembled a unique and experienced team in technology, e-commerce and cross-border logistics to become an important player, said Matias de Tezanos, co-founder and CEO of the Miami-based PeopleFund, an early backer of iguama.

iguama recently announced that Weihua Yan, co-founder and former CTO of diapers.com, has joined the company as Chief Technology Officer. Last year, Michael DeSimone, former CEO of cross-border logistics company Borderfree, joined the board of directors.

Follow @ndahlberg on Twitter.

January 10, 2017

New ClassWallet investment follows $1.1 million raised in Q4

RosenbergBy Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

ClassWallet, a Miami-based company that streamlines the tracking of education funds, has closed a new minority investment from Brentwood Associates.

For Brentwood, a private equity investment firm, ClassWallet represents its fifth education-related investment.  Several existing ClassWallet investors also participated in the funding round.
 
Founded by Jamie Rosenberg, ClassWallet is a platform for school systems to disburse and track funds. The company also is gaining traction with university athletic departments for per diem expense management, as well as with states for education savings account management, an integral component to school choice, Rosenberg said.  ClassWallet is used in over 850 schools and in some of the largest school districts in the United States, including Los Angeles Unified. 

The amount of the investment wasn’t disclosed, but Rosenberg said it was not part of the $1.1 million financing round ClassWallet raised in the fourth quarter of 2016 that brought the company’s total funding to more than $5.1 million. ClassWallet plans to use the new funds for sales and marketing. “We are getting great traction and have a scalable sales process in place, so it will be for accelerating growth,” Rosenberg said.

ClassWallet plans to release the latest version of its platform this month, which will allow schools to accept cash payments from parents without taking cash into the school building or classroom.  Several districts are already working with ClassWallet to implement the solution. “Brentwood brings a variety of value-add capabilities, including digital marketing and salesforce expertise, which will allow us to invest in new customer acquisition efforts and expand our distribution,” he said.
 
Brentwood Partner Eric Reiter added: “ClassWallet aligns well with our strategy of targeting growing companies with a differentiated product offering and high levels of customer loyalty and satisfaction.  ClassWallet’s patent-pending technology is highly innovative and satisfies a real need in a large addressable market.” 

 

January 09, 2017

Startup Spotlight: Sociallybuzz

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Company name: Sociallybuzz

Headquarters: Weston

Concept: Sociallybuzz helps businesses grow using social media and data.

Story: Andre Kay bootstrapped Sociallybuzz from a small social media “do it for you” company to a nationally recognized social media agency and software company. But Sociallybuzz today is not anything like what it was conceived to be seven years ago. “It was supposed to be a social media influencer platform. The idea was to connect businesses with celebrities. I hired an outside engineer to assist me with building out the platform. After three months, he disappeared with my money and my codes. I was down thousands of dollars and nothing to show for it,” Kay said. “I was stuck at a two-way street deciding to quit or keep going.”

He kept going but changed the course of Sociallybuzz into a human-powered social media and tech agency. “That essentially became my greatest decision,” said Kay, who had co-founded and helped run Go Media Marketing, an outdoor marketing company, and was in bank management prior to launching Sociallybuzz. “I eventually grew the company from $0 to over $5 million with no outside investments. My ‘why’ for running this company is knowing that something that we’re doing at Sociallybuzz is helping other businesses grow. When they grow, the owners can support their families, hire more people, and those people can also support their families. That is what drives us to do what we do.”

There are many aspects to running a business that are never taught in school. So Kay applied for and was selected to be part of the three-month Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses at Miami Dade College in 2014 to get a better grounding in all aspects of running a small business – particularly the human resources side of the company. “I knew hiring the right people would be essential to growing the company,” said Kay, who is 34 and a proud graduate of the program. In 2015, Kay, who has won several entrepreneurship awards, launched the Sociallybuzz giveback program, which included pledging 1 percent of time, talent and treasures to the community. That pledge included donating over 200 turkeys and toys to families in need.

Growth often springs from more focus on the core business. In early 2016, Kay made the difficult decision of closing down the app side of his business, because it wasn’t gaining the traction the company needed to self-fund it, and went back to investing time and resources in growing Sociallybuzz’s core business model. Because of that change, company revenues grew 100 percent in 2016, said Kay, who was born in Kingston, Jamaica, and moved to South Florida when he was 16

“We’re now executing on our biggest change at the company. We’re adding content development, creative and paid media as core services, to complement our social media managed services and will be accepting up to 50 carefully selected new clients per year,” Kay said. “We want to continue to do amazing work to help our clients grow, but we can only do that if the businesses we’re working with also appreciate and understand the true value of social media. We’ll be launching the new website this month.”

Launched: 2009

Website: www.Sociallybuzz.com / Social: @Sociallybuzz

Management team: Andre Kay, founder and CEO; Thuy Nguyen, founding partner and account executive; Sharon Walters, human resources director.

No. of employees: 10

Financing: Self-financed

Recent milestones reached: Increased revenues by 100 percent in 2016; recently hit $5 million in revenue; launched new business model at start of 2017; added three core services: content development, creative and paid media.

Biggest startup challenge: Not understanding early on the true value of having the right people to help you run the company, whether they are at the executive level or at the day-to-day, getting your hands dirty level.

Next steps: To grow the company to $10 million.

Strategy for next steps: To continue to adapt to the constant change in social and digital media while expanding the knowledge of Sociallybuzz’s core team and hiring more talent.

Mentor’s view: “Many entrepreneurs do not have the discipline or the flexibility to put sales and marketing on hold for several months while prioritizing putting the right staff and back office operations in place. Andre had that discipline, and once he made corrections to the fundamentals that were not working smoothly, revenues and profits began to scale,” said John Hall, executive director of the local 10,000 Small Businesses program. Going forward, Hall’s advice for Kay is “to continue to push revenues in his current growing niches while pursuing ‘innovative differentiation’ in services and product lines that are not easily replicable, possibly with a tech component.”

Follow Nancy Dahlberg on Twitter @ndahlberg

Read more Startup Spotlights

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

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This startup wants to take you shopping – through virtual reality

January 04, 2017

Net2Phone acquires LiveNinja, but the team -- and #WaffleWednesday -- will live on in Miami

LiveNinjaFounders (1)

By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

Net2Phone, a subsidiary of IDT Corporation, acquired LiveNinja, a Miami-based messaging and live chat technology startup, the companies announced Wednesday.

Net2Phone, based in New Jersey, will be integrating LiveNinja’s messaging technology into its new product now in development, called PicuP, a self-service communications platform that gives small and medium sized businesses tools to professionally answer, route and manage their inbound calls at an affordable price. LiveNinja, a team of 14, will stay in Wynwood, and will immediately add employees to enhance and support PicuP. Terms of the transaction weren’t disclosed.

“This is a big deal for us because we are joining a company that is just as bullish about the future of our product as we are,” said LiveNinja CEO Will Weinraub, who founded the company with Emilio Cueto and Alfonso Martinez (pictured above). “It just became clear that if we were going to scale this thing and reach the audience we were trying to reach, we needed additional resources and someone who believed in it to take it further. The two platforms complement each other well, and we can get the product out to market faster and reach a bigger audience.”

Was it the team or was it the tech? Net2Phone, founded in 1990 to pioneer VoIP communications, was attracted by both, said Zali Ritholtz, Net2Phone’s chief operating officer, who met Weinraub through a mutual acquaintance. Net2Phone had already built the extensive telecom components to its PicuP product and was planning to add live text messaging, but changed course after seeing what LiveNinja had built and what hundreds of LiveNinja’s business customers were already using.

“I took a look at [LiveNinja’s technology] and in my head said wow, this is the missing piece we were about to build for PicuP and these guys have done a phenomenal job and are such an energetic and amazing team,” Ritholtz said. With LiveNinja, PicuP will become a multi-channel platform that spans phone, messaging, SMS and live chat, he added. “Now we will have a super powerful tool to provide to small and medium-sized businesses so they can communicate with their customers however they like.”

LiveNinja, founded in 2012 as a video-chat platform, changed its own course and last year unveiled its messaging application that lets companies and their customers have seamless conversations across multiple messaging and chat channels, including live chat, SMS and Facebook Messenger – the messaging channels that businesses most often use to meet, convert and serve their customers. Over the years, LiveNinja raised more than $3 million in venture funding and is also well known for serving up innovative waffles at the lively community networkers the company hosts every week in its Wynwood office.

For LiveNinja, the new owner brings resources it needed to market and scale its technology. Weinraub said he will be posting eight software engineer jobs right away, doubling the engineering team in Miami. “Everybody’s staying, we’ll still be based in Miami,” he said. “[Net2Phone] came down and saw the space, saw the energy and felt the vibe of the community and wanted to be part of the community. There will still be #WaffleWednesdays with LiveNinja. It’s a big win all around for us.”

PicuP will be launched shortly and LiveNinja will continue to offer its messaging platform as a standalone product until the full integration of the two companies’ services has been completed later this year, Ritholtz said. At that point LiveNinja’s customers will be transitioned to PicuP.

In A Facebook posting Wednesday morning, Weintraub said: "We're absolutely thrilled to be joining forces with IDT and Net2Phone to not only scale our team, but to create a one-of-a-kind product that we truly believe in. We couldn't be more excited about this next chapter. It’s been a long ride, but it feels like we’re just getting started."

Is it the team or is it the waffles -- we can't be 100 percent sure -- but congratulatory messages flowed in by the dozens on Twitter and Facebook.

  

Liveninja3

 

  WaffleWednesday1

Nancy Dahlberg: @ndahlberg

December 30, 2016

SBA's 3rd InnovateHER competition launches: Will a South Florida company win again?

Will South Florida produce another winner in the national InnovateHER competition?

The U.S. Small Business Administration today announced the launch of the 2017 InnovateHER: Innovating for Women Business Challenge, a nationwide business competition to drive attention and resources to innovative products and services that make our lives easier and longer.  Competitors vie for $70,000 in prize money provided to SBA for the InnovateHER competition through a gift from the Sara Blakely Foundation.

“The return of SBA’s InnovateHER Business Challenge presents an exciting opportunity for some of our nation’s foremost entrepreneurs and innovators,” said SBA Administrator Maria Contreras-Sweet.  “Women represent half of the U.S. workforce and control 80 percent of the nation’s purchasing power, but still make up less than five percent of venture capitalists. I decided to launch this annual competition two years ago so that we could begin to address that opportunity gap, because when women have an equal role in the marketplace and are able to chart their own paths, our nation as a whole is stronger and more globally competitive.”

The South Florida District is home to the 2nd place winners of the agency’s 2015 and 2016 InnovateHER Business Challenges.

“In 2016, Miami Beach-based “Flat out of Heels” owner Dawn Dickson took a need to provide a comfortable, yet fashionable alternative for women who wear high heels on a daily basis, and produced rollable ballet flats as a stylish alternative,” said SBA South Florida District Director Francisco “Pancho” Marrero. “Lisa Crites, inventor of the only water-resistant mastectomy garment on the U.S. market and owner of the Shower Shirt Company in Cocoa Beach was 2nd place winner in 2015.  Women and families across the country will benefit from these inventions."

The number of women venture capital partners has dropped from 10 percent in 1999 to just six percent in 2014, a trend directly correlated to women’s access to capital; only about seven percent of venture capital funding in the United States currently goes to women-owned ventures. Gender bias is well documented in this area: a Harvard Business School study asked potential investors to rate a series of pitches, some of which were narrated by women and some by men. Even when the scripts were exactly the same, only 32 percent of people said they would fund the woman, compared to 68 percent who said they would fund the man.

InnovateHER: Innovating for Women Business Challenge officially kicks off in winter of 2017 with local competitions to be hosted by universities, accelerators, clusters, scale-up communities, SBA resource partners, and other economic development organizations.  Through the competition, SBA is seeking to amplify products or services that fill a need in the marketplace and have the potential for commercialization.  SBA continues in its efforts to expand the InnovateHER Challenge, focusing on empowering more women in the investment and innovation space.  Additional details on the InnovateHER can be found on the online competition platform www.challenge.gov

Entrepreneurs selected as winners in local competitions will advance to the semi-final round.  From the pool of semi-finalists, SBA will select up to 10 finalists who will be invited to the National InnovateHER: Innovating for Women Business Challenge to be held in mid-2017.  The finalists will pitch their products and ideas to a panel of expert judges and compete for the top three awards along with $70,000 in prizes.

Over the past two decades, women entrepreneurs have been critical to growing businesses and creating jobs in cutting-edge fields such as precision medicine or cybersecurity, as well as through advances in agriculture and manufacturing.  Women across the nation will benefit from investing in research and inventions that impact their experiences.  A lack of inclusion in the innovation space leads to missed opportunities, especially when women make the majority of the buying decisions.  The SBA is encouraging organizations across the country to participate in this important business challenge.

For more information including competition rules, go to www.sba.gov/innovateHER

- Submitted by the SBA

December 18, 2016

Startup Spotlight: Caribu app bridges the miles to connect families for reading, learning

BMStartupCaribu1200 Travele

 

 Miami-based Caribu offers a free app and marketplace that brings together children and family members through a video-call to read books, draw and learn together.

Company name: Caribu

Headquarters: Miami

Concept: Caribu is an innovative app and marketplace that allows families to connect through a video-call to read books, draw and learn together in real-time no matter where they are. Think FaceTime meets Kindle in a shared screen.

Story: By the time Alvaro Sabido conceived of the idea for Caribu with his co-founders, he had lived in four countries across the Americas and Europe and was accustomed to talking to his family via phone or video-calling services. Both of his parents worked at media and publishing companies, so he grew up exposed to books and the importance of literacy as a skill.

Around the time he and his teammates were brainstorming business ideas during their master’s program at Imperial College in London, a picture of a soldier that was trying to read a book to his daughter by holding up a book to his laptop was trending, That very image struck them into thinking: surely, there must be a better way to engage with your kids when you’re not together.

“We did a bit of research and found that the concept of sharing content through a video-call did not exist for the children’s content market,” said Sabido, who studied entrepreneurship and management in graduate school and industrial engineering and computer science as an undergraduate. His team won two competitions at the business school and used the prize money to bring the concept to life.

Shortly after releasing the first version, the team joined the Microsoft Ventures Accelerator in London and the UK’s Sirius Programme and went on to raise $100,000. Caribu brought international brands on board such as Mattel, Maverick and Usborne as well as worked with talented content creators big and small.

By the end of that first year, reality hit, and the startup went from a fun school project to a business that had to be run. Three of the guys opted to take their post-grad school offers and Sabido decided to come back to Miami, where he grew up, to continue with Caribu.

To rebuild his team, he looked for someone who could run the business side of Caribu, had a background in education, and was willing to move to Miami. Enter CoFounders Lab, a website that helps founders find each other. After five months of searching he found Maxeme Tuchman.

Tuchman was finishing up a White House Fellowship in D.C. but was from Miami, had run Teach For America Miami-Dade and was a former Miami-Dade County Public Schools teacher. She taught 12th grade Government and Economics to struggling readers, and because of that, recognized how important it was to get the fundamentals of literacy right in the early grades. “I was determined to provide the resources to parents and educational programs that are also focused on ensuring that all of our children have the basic skills to succeed in school and life,” she said.

BMStartupCaribu1200 PhoneDeThe app is free in the Apple App Store and revenue comes from in-app purchases of books that range from free to $3.99. Once Caribu introduces its B2B strategy, it plans to transition to a subscription model that will allow organizations to purchase access for their employees, patients, members, etc. The team is prototyping new literacy products that complement the platform and would add another revenue stream. The app’s bookshelf contains over 200 books, including educational workbooks and drawing pads, from publishers such as Mattel, Ustime and Santillana,in English, Spanish, Mandarin, French, German and Arabic. Caribu plans to include an Android and web version in the next development cycle.

“Caribu has been a huge hit in our house and with my mother-in-law in Las Vegas. She is a speech pathologist and loves that she can see the same thing my son does, so she can help him sound out tougher words,” said Brooks Anderson, a mother of three who lives at Bolling Air Force Base in Washington, D.C. “It's interactive and by having a grown-up reading along, my son was able to work on books above his reading level. Anything to help kids with their reading proficiency is a plus.”

Launched: January 2014

Website and social: Caribu.co / @CaribuApp / fb.com/Caribu

Management team: CEO: Maxeme Tuchman / CTO: Alvaro Sabido (pictured above)

Financing: $100,000 from a friends and family round and a $60,000 grant from UK Sirius Programme. Caribu seeks to raise $600,000 in seed capital.

Recent milestones: Officially global. Caribu is available worldwide and features 200-plus books in five languages. Caribu recently partnered with Education.com and Santillana to bring educational workbooks and Spanish-language stories to the platform. The company will also be introducing a new product in 2017 to build literacy skills and reading comprehension."

Biggest startup challenge and why: Taking its mainly B2C (business to consumer) company and incorporating a B2B model where it can license Caribu to partners that can reach more people who need its services, such as hospitals, early childhood centers, military organizations, organizations focused on seniors and corporate clients where employees work late or travel frequently.

“I would say that another challenge, that personally pains me, is fighting to keep our company in Miami,” Tuchman said. “We have a lot of potential investors that don’t know enough about the startup infrastructure here in Miami. I was born and raised here and believe deeply in Miami’s diverse community and the entrepreneurial ecosystem that community investors like Matt Haggman and the Knight Foundation have nurtured here. I want to keep our company in Miami and believe we can build the network of funding and mentorship that we need without leaving to an ed-tech mecca like New York City or Boston.”

Next steps: To move from a reading app to a literacy app. “Most parents know that reading to their child is important, but they aren’t trained to teach their children how to read. There is a huge demand for better apps that enrich literacy skills and have the added benefit of videoing in a tutor/ teacher/ parent,” Tuchman said. The team’s strategy is proprietary but it would involve adding features that will help parents know if and how their child is progressing in their ability to read on grade level. Stay tuned.

Nancy Dahlberg  @ndahlberg 

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December 15, 2016

Nabbed? Tech startup will fight your traffic ticket — with a no-points guarantee

TIKD

Christopher Riley, CEO and founder of TIKD, and Tim Berthold, COO, are shown at their offices in Coral Gables. TIKD is a tech startup that will fight traffic tickets and offer a no-points guarantee. PATRICK FARRELL pfarrell@miamiherald.com

By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

Did you ever just want to make that speeding ticket go away but didn’t want the hassle of fighting it?

TIKD.com, a new South Florida tech startup, says it will do it for you, save you a little money, and perhaps prevent an argument with your spouse. And it promises you no points on your record, guaranteed, which could save you from a costly insurance hike (and another argument with your spouse).

In this on-demand economy, there’s an app for just about everything. In this case, TIKD.com is a web application so there is no app to download, and the entire process takes two minutes or less, the company says. A consumer can upload a photo of a ticket, get a response on what the consumer will pay TIKD for services — always less than the ticket cost — and TIKD takes it from there. It’s the last payment a consumer will have to make, TIKD says.

As with many start-up stories, this one spawned from the founder’s own experience — in this case, getting nailed in a Coral Gables speed trap. Christopher Riley wanted to fight it but didn’t want to go through the hassle of hiring a lawyer or spending multiple hours in traffic court. Yes, he thought there had to be the proverbial better way – through technology.

“We want to take the stress away,” said Riley. “We hope people will view this as a cheaper, simpler alternative to just paying it.”

"As a tech entrepreneur who has started other companies, Riley put the power of big data to work. In the company’s research stage, TIKD.com parsed government data on traffic tickets, every which way, gaining insight into who gets tickets and how they are settled. It also confirmed what consumers may already surmise: Most tickets that are challenged do get dismissed (and that has spawned a whole industry of ticket lawyers).

Next, TIKD’s tech team built an algorithm that can quickly digest the details of a ticket and predict chances of a dismissal. The consumer uploads a photo of the ticket, answers a few basic questions and within a minute or two will learn if the ticket is accepted and what TIKD will charge to challenge it. “We have a pretty sophisticated model for how we look at the tickets and what we think will happen,’ Riley said.

The consumer pays a price that is typically 15 to 30 percent off the traffic ticket; TIKD assumes the risk and hires the lawyer. In the event that the decision doesn’t go the consumer’s way, TIKD will refund the consumers’ payment and will pay the ticket and all court costs.

TIKD won’t accept tickets from minors, cases with accidents or injuries, or those involving alcohol or drugs. It will also decline certain major infractions: If you are caught drag racing down I-95, TIKD isn’t likely to help you out.

Because this company is just getting started, it’s service currently is only offered in Miami-Dade. TIKD says it plans to expand nationally next year. In its beta testing, TIKD put several dozen tickets through the system; so far all have been dismissed without points on the consumers’ records, potentially saving them thousands in higher insurance costs, according to the company. TIKD has been mainly self-funded by Riley, who plans to raise funds for a national expansion.

Riley’s chief of operations, Tim Berthold, was his classmate at the U.S. Naval Academy. Riley, a former Naval officer with a Harvard MBA, has started other tech companies and is currently also president of Guzman Energy. Berthold, who holds a Wharton MBA, has a background in business development and management consulting; he has consulted with a number of startups and hosts the Miami Hussle Series podcast. They have a tech team in Austin, Texas, have hired a marketing firm, and employ a small group to do back office work in Coral Gables.

TIKD contracts with a network of licensed and experienced ticket lawyers to do the legal wrangling.

Riley and Berthold say TIKD’s market is not the 5 percent or so of people nationally who challenge their tickets. They say it is the other 95 percent, what they call the “just-pay crowd.” In Miami-Dade, the population apparently has more fight in them, so about 80 percent just pay, Riley said. Tickets are public record, so if you get a ticket in Miami-Dade and later in other cities, you’ll likely hear from TIKD, said Berthold, who said the company plans to launch a brand marketing campaign as well.

TIKD has a couple of competitors, such as Off the Record, that match up consumers with ticket lawyers. But Riley said he knows of no rivals with the same business model as TIKD. “Our difference is that we also take on the liability of our customers’ tickets, so the customer always pays less than their fine and only pays once,” Riley said. “We have more incentive to fight and win versus simply avoid points since we take on the fine and court costs.”

"Because TIKD is targeting consumers who would pay rather than fight, TIKD is expanding, not contracting, the market for ticket lawyers, Riley said. “Lawyers in the trenches challenging these tickets see this as an opportunity. To the extent we’re successful getting the just-pay crowd, we are making the market bigger and we are making more business for these folks,” Riley said.

And the police and government who make revenue from these tickets? “They aren’t going to love it,” Riley concedes.

Of course, the impact on revenue will hinge on how many consumers actually use the service. TIKD’s team has run into a road block in initial marketing: People think it is too good to be true.

Jennifer Paccilli fell into that camp — at first. After she received a flyer in the mail that said TIKD would be launching soon, she checked the website about a week later and TIKD was live. “It was very appealing to me that this process with TIKD could be done completely online,” said Paccilli, 34, who had used Ticket Clinic once and found the process cumbersome because it involved phone calls and trips to the post office.

As advertised, TIKD kept her updated every step of the way, including when her case went to court, with reassurances everything was being handled by TIKD. Her expired registration ticket was dismissed, she said. ‘It was so ridiculously easy... I never expected this to be one of the nicest customer service experiences I have ever had.”

Nancy Dahlberg: @ndahlberg

Did you know?

In Miami-Dade County, according to state data on traffic tickets:

Most common moving violation: Red light camera tickets. 161,490 issued in 2015, up from 103,432 in 2014.

2nd most common: Speeding. 89,637 issued in 2015.

Gender that gets the most tickets: Males (about 65 percent)

Age group that gets the most tickets: 25-29 year olds (almost 17 percent)

Average ticket cost: $188

Average tickets per traffic stop: 1.4

Most likely day to get a ticket: Monday

SOURCE: TIKD.com

December 13, 2016

Boatsetter reels in $13 million in funding to fuel marketing, operations

By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

Aventura-based peer-to-peer boating marketplace Boatsetter reels in a round of funding in its quest to dominate a young industry. 

BaumgartenBoatsetter announced Tuesday that it has completed $13 million of Series A funding that will help the company aggressively expand its sales and marketing efforts as well as broaden and accelerate its operations in the United States. The investment round includes existing and new investors, including Great Oaks Venture Capital, Stanford University DAPER Fund, ZG Ventures and Peninsula Ventures. 

Last year, competitors Boatsetter, founded by South Florida marine and tech industry veteran Andrew Sturner in 2014, merged with Cruzin, founded by serial entrepreneur Jaclyn Baumgarten in 2012 in San Francisco but already with a large presence in South Florida. Baumgarten (pictured here) became CEO of the combined company and Sturner is executive chairman. Like others in the boat-sharing economy, Boatsetter attempts to make the boat rental experience as seamless as booking a room on Airbnb. But Boatsetter differentiates itself by giving users access to a large network of licensed captains in addition to a global roster of boat rentals for yachting, cruising, fishing or sailing, many through marinas it partners with. 


“We've taken boating from being a rare pastime for a fortunate few boat owners to being a universally accessible lifestyle activity for anyone with a smartphone and a credit card,” said Baumgarten. Boatsetter is expected to host 10,000 high quality rental boats, activate 200 marinas and connect boating enthusiasts to 2,000 captains in 2017, she said.

Andy Boszhardt Jr., partner at Great Oaks Venture Capital, said he has watched for some time Boatsetter's growth in the boat sharing sector. “We're thrilled that its team of marine industry heavyweights and tech startup veterans is making a global push for renters to experience the yacht life, this time from just about anywhere in the world,” he said. “Boatsetter's best-in-class marketplace tool is, without doubt, an outstanding player in the sharing economy.”

Boatsetter raised a $5 million seed round earlier this year and about $2 million before that, according to venture capital database Crunchbase.