New research on women entrepreneurs: Quality but not enough quantity

Early-stage venture capital firm First Round recently released findings from its deep dive into 10 years of investment data. Among the Silicon Valley firm’s findings among the 300 startups it has invested in over the decade: Its investments in companies with at least one female founder performed 63 percent better than its investments in all-male teams. And, if you look at First Round's top 10 investments of all time based on value created for investors, three of those teams have at least one female founder — far outpacing the percentage of female tech founders in general.

You can read about First Round's other findings, all very interesting, at 10years.firstround.com.

While women-founded companies perform better, there needs to be more of them. The Kauffman Foundation, an authority on all things entrepreneurship, also released some interesting research about women in entrepreneurship recently.

While the number of women entering the workforce has significantly increased over several decades, they are still half as likely as men to start a business, and the findings are fairly consistent across all age groups, according to Kauffman’s most recent Entrepreneurship Policy Digest.

Women are one-third as likely to access equity financing through angels or venture capital, and they begin their companies with about half the capital of men.

Kauffman Foundation found the lack of women entrepreneurs is not just a gender issue, it’s an economic issue. Research shows a lack of female mentors (in one survey, half reported challenges finding mentors), challenges to maintaining work-life balance and an implicit bias against women as entrepreneurs as major obstacles.

The Digest offered suggestions to entrepreneurial programs and organizations to help more women become successful. Among them:

* Develop and report entrepreneurial program metrics by gender to better understand what works best for women entrepreneurs.

* Increase the number of women represented in entrepreneurship programs to expand access to female mentors.

* Partner with women’s professional organizations to increase awareness of Small Business Innovation Research awards. Just 15 percent of SBIR awards went to women-owned businesses in 2012.

* Celebrate successful women entrepreneurs to counter the false narrative that only men are successful entrepreneurs.

Read more from the Policy Digest here.

Follow @ndahlberg on Twitter.

July 28, 2015

Wyncode offers bootcamp scholarships in low-income communities

Wyncode Academy, which runs coding bootcamps, will provide scholarships to nine Miami-Dade County residents from low-income neighborhoods.  The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation is investing $75,000 to fund the scholarships.

Recipients of the Future Leaders of Tech scholarships will be enrolled in a nine-week Wyncode Academy cohort at its Miami campus, which is located within The LAB Miami in Wynwood.  Wyncode’s coding bootcamps are focused on project-based learning and promote hands-on education as students learn to build full stack Web applications.

“Our mission at Wyncode is to give anyone the skills and tools to begin a career in coding,” said Wyncode Academy co-founder Juha Mikkola said the scholarships “enable us to extend this opportunity to members of our community who lack the means, but certainly not the passion and drive, to follow their dreams and learn to code.”

Scholarships will be awarded on an ongoing basis, but to be considered for a scholarship in time for Cohort 7, which starts on Sept. 23, applications must be received by Sept. 2.   For more information or to apply, visit wyncode.co/futureleaders.

July 26, 2015

Startup Spotlight: Symptify

Symptify

Brandt Delhamer, M.D. (left), CEO Jalil Thurber, M.D., (center) and Mazyar Rouhani, M.D. (right), started a company called Symptify which helps users figure out causes for their symptoms, what to do about them and where to go for help. | PETER ANDREW BOSCH MIAMI HERALD STAFF

Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/news/business/biz-monday/article28679911.html#storylink=cpy

Company name: Symptify

Headquarters: Sunny Isles Beach

Concept: Symptify is a virtual doctor. It helps users figure out causes for their symptoms, what to do about them and where to go for help.

Story: As emergency physicians, Symptify’s co-founders have seen many people make needless and costly ER visits after “Googling” their symptoms online. In many cases, an online search for answers actually led to an unfounded escalation of fears. A recent study by Microsoft found that the medical content on the Internet is skewed toward more serious conditions. This is part of the reason why “Googling” your symptoms is not the best way to arrive at a diagnosis.

The Symptify team created a proprietary, patent-pending algorithmic engine that renders virtual consultations by asking users a series of questions regarding their symptoms. Because Symptify takes into account a user’s own medical history, it gives personalized and precise results. This has helped many people become more knowledgeable regarding their health conditions, helping them avoid “cyberchondria.” Symptify also facilitates a user’s access to healthcare providers by allowing the person to transmit his or her consultation record and medical profile to participating facilities.

“Ninety million Americans go online to self-diagnose their symptoms. But they didn’t have an app for that, so we made one,” said Dr. Jalil Thurber, CEO of Symptify.

Founded: 2013.

Management team: Co-founders Dr. Jalil Thurber, CEO; Dr. Mazyar Rouhani, COO; Dr. Brandt Delhamer, CCO; Nicola Mazola, CTO; Pierre Schiro, CIO.

Number of employees: Three developers.

Website: www.symptify.com

Financing:. The company has been funded by its founders, who have provided $1.5 million in cash and services. Seeking $2 million in additional seed funding.

Recent milestones reached: Won the eMerge Americas Startup Showcase for early-stage companies, and through that victory Symptify obtained first outside investment of $50,000. Participated in Miami’s first Healthbox Studio, a program that was sponsored by Florida Blue. Last year signed up 10 emergency rooms that renewed their contracts three months ago. Launched a Spanish version of the platform in May. Launched a doctor appointment scheduler app in February and several physicians have enrolled for this service.

Biggest startup challenge: Raising capital in South Florida.

Next step: “We have a large sales funnel and anticipate that we will announce partnerships with large and well recognized brands soon,” said Thurber.

Strategy for next step: Continue building Symptify’s brand, which emphasizes the functionality and ease of its unique medical self-assessment platform. The end goal is to brand Symptify as synonymous with an online “virtual doctor” and essentially create a new paradigm through which users self-diagnose their symptoms online, Thurber said.

Advisor’s view: “This is a company founded by people with deep subject matter expertise. That's exciting and not necessarily common. Their company is solving a real problem and will have meaningful impact on probably the most important thing in life, our health,” said Payam Zamani, board member of Symptify and chairman of Reply! Inc. “The core technology and the highly intelligent platform that allows you to diagnose yourself using your smart phone is light years ahead of anything else out there.”

NANCY DAHLBERG

 

July 21, 2015

Miami-based BoatDay launches with new twist on boat-sharing concept

Boatdayapp

BoatDay has joined the boat-sharing party, launching recently in the sizzling hot and increasingly crowded Miami market. However, this Miami-based company says it has a new take on the concept: per-person pricing. 

While other services make it easy to rent a boat or even a yacht for a day of fun in the sun, the BoatDay app connect potential passengers with boat owners, what it calls “Hosts,” who are willing to take guests out for a "BoatDay" for such activities as cruising, fishing, sailing or water sports. “We created BoatDay to provide all those interested in boating experiences with a more convenient, reliable, and affordable way to enjoy a day on the water,” said BoatDay founder Kimon Korres, who practiced corporate law at White & Case before launching BoatDay.

According to BoatDay, here’s how it works: Users download the iOS app and can choose from boating activities to partake in.  Filters will match users with BoatDays meeting their criteria, including the hosts willing take them out on the water. Boat owners essentially get paid to take out their boats rather than handing over the keys to strangers, BoatDay says.

BoatDay, which is only available in South Florida so far, says its hosts are fully screened, including criminal background checks. Like other boat-sharing services, hosts and guests provide ratings and reviews. BoatDay requires its hosts have their own private boat insurance, and BoatDay provides $500,000 in liability coverage, less than some of its competitors. Emergency on-water assistance is accessible through the app. More info: boatdayapp.com.

As of now there are just 10 listings on the BoatDay site, which include  $35 for four hours of fishing or paddle-boarding to $66 for sailing and $136 person on a 50-foot yacht. There are no user reviews so far for the current version of the app or the hosts.

Which of the boat-sharing companies will make the biggest splash? We'll have to wait and see. But I guess my high school friend and his "brother with a boat" were ahead of their time when they would charge us $5 or $10 to sign up for one of their weekend "short or long" boat trips. They made a killing -- long before the Internet. 

 

July 16, 2015

South Florida startup offers first flood-risk score for home, business

By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

A Fort Lauderdale startup believes you should be able to get an affordable flood-risk score for your home, similar to a credit score for your finances or a Carfax report for your car.

Coastal Risk Consulting’s new online products forecast the frequency and severity of flooding due to sea-level rise, sinking land and coastal erosion for individual properties over a 30-year mortgage cycle. It also forecasts the depth of flood waters relative to a property’s base elevation and storm surge risk in the case of a category 3 hurricane. Starting this week, its products are available to more than 50 million coastal properties in the United States, said Albert Slap, founder and president of the 1-year-old company.

This information has always been available from big engineering companies, said Slap, who had a 40-year career as an environmental lawyer and professor at Florida International University and University of Cincinnati. “We’re democratizing this information to make it available to millions of people at an affordable price.”

By entering a property’s address at coastariskrapidassessment.com and paying $49.95, the property owner or potential owner will get a short report and score based on the projected number of days of flooding over time. Detailed 20-page reports costing $250 to $400 are also available, as well as custom reports for neighborhoods, communities, businesses and governmental facilities. All use the company’s proprietary algorithms. A sample report is available on its website.

 

CRC’s target market is homeowners, home buyers, investors, Realtors, home inspectors, lenders, insurers, businesses and governments — essentially for anyone who needs to make informed decisions about the resilience of real-estate assets in the face of rising sea levels and other climate impacts, said Slap, a serial entrepreneur. In the late 1990s, he co-founded GeoSphere Emergency Response Systems, a venture-backed enterprise software company.

In CRC’s first couple of days on the market, property developers, a golf course, a power plant and homeowners have learned whether their properties are at significant risk of flooding over the next 30 years.

CRC has partnered with the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors (InterNACHI) to enable its 14,000-member inspectors to provide CRC services to their residential and commercial clients.

Home inspectors already point to risks of termites, mold and lead paint, said Slap. “This technology is not going away. People are going to be adding it to their market baskets of tools with which to judge properties. … Better information leads to better decision-making.”

CRC, a 2015 Miami Herald Business Plan Challenge finalist, has also been working with IBM’s Smarter Cities program, as the predictive flood modeling technology can be used to evaluate transportation processes and logistics of a smart city. The need has never been greater to be “climate-ready and storm-safe,” Slap said.

Follow Nancy Dahlberg on Twitter @ndahlberg.

 

July 15, 2015

Magic Leap to move into Motorola facility in Plantation

Magicleap

In another signal of its growing South Florida presence, the secretive technology company Magic Leap is consolidating the majority of its Florida workforce into a former Motorola facility in Plantation.

The company, led by Mako Surgical co-founder Rony Abovitz (pictured above), will be occupying the facility at 8000 W. Sunrise Blvd., said Andy Fouché, head of public relations and government affairs for Magic Leap. Magic Leap would not disclose timing of its move.

According to Broward County property records, the facility once owned by Motorola is 339,813 square feet in size and last sold for $38 million in 2013 to a private investment group. The Plantation site has five sections and reportedly now houses Motorola Solutions, Motorola Mobility and other tenants.

The heavily funded Magic Leap says it is developing a new “mixed reality” computing platform that will “enable people to interact with the world in ways never before possible.” Magic Leap, believed to have hundreds of employees and many of them now working in its base at DCOTA in Dania Beach, also has offices in Santa Cruz, Los Angeles and Mountain View, all in California, Seattle, Austin, Texas, the United Kingdom and New Zealand.

In early June at MIT Technology Review’s EmTech Digital conference in San Francisco, Abovitz said Magic Leap will build a 300,000-square-foot pilot manufacturing facility in Florida for its “photonic lightfield chip.” Fouché would not confirm if this was the same facility but it is about the same size. He would also not say how many employees would be working at the Plantation facility.

In February before Abovitz gave a speech at his alma mater, the University of Miami, the CEO told the Miami Herald that Magic Leap was approaching “a few hundred” employees spread between Dania and Mountain View, Calif., as well as New Zealand and London. Abovitz said then he would like to base 80 percent of the company in South Florida.

More than 100 jobs were listed on its website this week, including optical, systems, software and vision systems engineers, machine learning positions, designers, art directors and cinematic producers, most of them for South Florida, but some were in Mountain View and Austin, Texas.

One of the first articles that have begun to explain the technology was published earlier this year in the MIT Technology Review. Said the writer, Rachel Metz, who tried an early prototype of the technology: “It’s safe to say Magic Leap has a tiny projector that shines light onto a transparent lens, which deflects the light onto the retina. That pattern of light blends in so well with the light you’re receiving from the real world that to your visual cortex, artificial objects are nearly indistinguishable from actual objects.”

The company raised more than half a billion dollars in a funding round led by Google last fall.

Follow Nancy Dahlberg on Twitter @ndahlberg

 

July 13, 2015

Miami-based Court Buddy begins national expansion

Court Buddy, a Miami-based online legal matchmaking service, is expanding to six states and  and Washington, D.C., all areas where the company has already seen high demand for its service, said CEO James Jones Jr.

This week, Court Buddy launched in Texas, California and Washington, D.C., and plans to start service in Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina and Virginia by September. Court Buddy will remain available to people and attorneys in Florida.

IMG_1933James and Kristina Jones (pictured here) co-founded Court Buddy in an effort to help make legal representation more affordable for consumers and businesses and provide a marketplace for attorneys seeking clients. The online service helps people and businesses with pending court cases or other urgent legal matters get matched quickly with attorneys based on their budget and can also help with ongoing services, they said. Court Buddy launched in  South Florida in January and expanded to the rest of Florida in April.

What differentiates Court Buddy, which was a People’s Pick winner in the Miami Herald Business Plan Challenge, is its a-la-carte legal services, which allows people and businesses to break up legal needs to make it more affordable and easier to financially plan for, said James Jones, an attorney. The practice areas include business law, immigration, tax, personal injury, criminal defense, real estate and family law.

 There are now about 50 attorneys and about 200 members using Court Buddy. The expansion “brings us closer to fulfilling our mission of ensuring that everyone, regardless of their situation, has access to an attorney when needed,” said James Jones.

Instacart offers Miami 'personal shoppers' option to be part-time employees

When is an independent contractor really an employee? On-demand delivery services are beginning to wrestle with this question.

Instacart, the fast-growing on-demand grocery delivery service, said Monday that it is offering its in-store "Personal Shoppers" in Miami, Atlanta and Washington, DC, the option to apply as part-time employees.

Instacart offered the option to its in-store shoppers in Boston and Chicago last month, and the company plans to expand the program to additional cities. Instacart’s drivers will continue to be contractors, the company said. Instacart launched its service in the Miami metro area in May, and has already expanded it to include much of north Miami-Dade County.

Instacart CEO Apoorva Mehta said most of the in-store shoppers in Boston and Chicago, who are embedded in its retail partners’ stores such as Whole Foods, elected to become part-time employees. “This model enables us to train our shoppers to improve the efficiency and quality of order picking, which makes for a better customer experience,” he said.

Instacart, now in 16 markets, has hundreds of personal shoppers in the Miami area, one of its most succesful launches to date.

Two weeks ago, Shyp, an app-enabled shipping service, said it is re-classifying its couriers from contractors to employees, making it the first on-demand company with a workforce made up entirely of employees. 

Like Instacart’s Mehta, Shyp CEO Kevin Gibbon said the move was an operational decision to ensure strong customer service and allow more training. Shyp launched service in Miami late last year.

Yet, the moves by Instacart and Shyp come amid growing controversy over the classification of workers in the nascent on-demand economy, in which independent contractors deliver groceries, meals and other items to homes and businesses.

Last month, the California Labor Commission ruled that the ride-sharing giant Uber should have treated one contractor as an employee, finding the company liable for back pay and other costs. Instacart, Shyp and Postmates, as well as Uber and Lyft, are all reportedly facing legal claims from workers who allege they should be classified as employees, not contractors.

Follow Nancy Dahlberg on Twitter @ndahlberg.

 

ClassWallet raises $1.9 million in seed financing

ClassWallet, a platform for school systems to disburse and track funds, has closed a $1.9 million round of seed financing, the company said Monday.

Total funding raised to date by ClassWallet is $2.53 million.
 
The Miami-based company said the latest round was oversubscribed by 30 percent. Investors include NewSchools Venture Seed Fund, Kaplan Ventures, William Guttman, as well as several edtech and fintech angel investors. Accelerated Growth Partners and other leading Miami-based angel investors, including MaverixLab, founded by former Noodle CEO Joe Morgan, continued their support by contributing to the round. ClassWallet is a graduate of the Kaplan EdTech Accelerator, powered by Techstars.
 
RosenbergThe company will use the funding for sales and product development. The team plans to release the next version of its platform this summer, which will include a reloadable ClassWallet debit card and a Pay by ClassWallet API for vendors to integrate, said Jamie Rosenberg, ClassWallet’s founder and CEO (pictured here).
 
“As school budgets shrink, an increasingly larger portion of procurement is being funded by corporations, foundations, parents and teachers to meet student needs,” said Rosenberg. “The size of this market, up to $23 billion annually, and the amount of inefficiency and lack of transparency is staggering."
 
Organizations and school districts using ClassWallet include Harrington Park School District, Albuquerque Public Schools Education Foundation, Reading is Fundamental, Broward Education Foundation, as well as many others.
 
Companies including Amazon, Office Depot, Best Buy, School Specialty, Scholastic and 40 more accept ClassWallet as a form of payment. Each provides ClassWallet with SKU level purchasing data, which makes tracking and reconciling of purchases seamless. Most recently, Marqeta, the program manager behind Facebook and eBay’s card platforms, joined forces with ClassWallet to power the ClassWallet debit card for offline purchases such as professional development, field trips and more.

Rosenberg launched AdoptAClassroom.org in 1998, one of the first crowd-funding sites and national education philanthropy platforms on the Internet.

July 12, 2015

Startup Spotlight: Waleteros offers mobile banking app for the underbanked

Waleteros1

Company: Waleteros

Headquarters: Venture Hive in downtown Miami.

Concept: Waleteros, the mobile banking app for the underbanked, offers a way for the more than 60 million people in the U.S. who don’t use or have a bank account to use their smartphones as their banking solution. U.S. Hispanics represent a disproportional percentage of this population.

Story: When Etienne Gillard (pictured above) moved to t Waleteros2he U.S. from Spain two years ago, he realized that millions of people in this country don't use or have a bank account. In order to meet their financial needs, they rely on alternative solutions such as check-cashing stores that are time-consuming, extremely expensive and quite unsafe. Together with two friends with complementary professional experience, they decided to develop a mobile wallet solution that is cheaper, safer and more convenient than any other alternative, said Gillard, Waleteros’ CEO, who previously co-founded a language training company.

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 keep track of their transactions and send money instantly to other users for a small fee.

Waleteros, part of the 2014 Venture Hive Miami Accelerator class, launched its app on Google Play on June 18. It plans to roll out an iOS version this summer.

“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,” Gillard said.

Founded: 2014

Management team: Co-founders Etienne Gillard and Sergio Carrera; Antonio Talledo, business development manager.

Number of employees: Six.

Website: www.waleteros.com

Financing: In March 2015, Waleteros closed a $600,000 seed round with angel investors from AGP Miami and others. The team plans to raise a Series A in 2016.

Recent milestones reached: Went live with app on Google Play on June 18; Partners with more than 100 independent cellphone dealers in Miami that are distributing Waleteros services. Raised $600,000 seed round in March. Upgraded its direct deposit solution allowing users to receive their payroll up to two days earlier than usual.

Biggest startup challenge: “Our biggest challenge is to be good at pushing the viral marketing snowball,” Gillard said. Goal: “1,000 happy early adopters!”

Next step: Running promotional campaigns in cellphone stores, taking part in events where potential users are gathering and being proactive on social networks.

Investor/advisor’s view: Thomas “Tigre” Wenrich was paired with Waleteros founders during the 2014 Venture Hive accelerator because of his prior experience owning a chain of brick-and-mortar check-cashing stores. Over the following four months as a mentor, he said he became very impressed with the team’s experience and product, and at the end of the program offered to participate alongside them as a founding investor.

“They have done a great job bootstrapping — which is important because the process from idea to launch has been an 18-month ride,” Wenrich said. “They have some innovative distribution channels to get the app in front of the people who need it, but it will take some time to build momentum. They are targeting a population that has a high penetration of smartphones, but it isn’t a group that is used to transacting online. Check-cashing store customers are generally very loyal customers, and the two biggest drivers of their decision-making are convenience and trust. Waleteros offers convenience in spades, but they will have to work on developing the trust of consumers.

“They need to find channels that already have consumer trust, where it will be easier to introduce them to this new and better concept for managing their money. That is the idea of partnering with independent cellphone dealers, and they have several other complementary channels that they will be testing soon. Once they gain critical mass, this should really take off.”

Nancy Dahlberg

Walet

 Co-founder Etienne Gillard; Antonio Talledo, business development manager; and co-founder Sergio Carrera. Photos by Jessica Bal.

 

July 10, 2015

Favor joins on-demand delivery startups serving the Miami area

Favor

 

For consumers who crave convenience, Favor, an on-demand delivery startup, announced Friday that it has expanded to Miami, its eighth city.

Users can order lunch or dinner, groceries, party supplies and more through Favor, whose runners arrange pick-ups from local merchants that don't already offer delivery service. Orders processed via Favor’s iPhone or Android app can be delivered within an hour. Delivery charges, paid through the app, are $6 plus 5 percent of the order. First-time customers get a free delivery (using promo code PLAYA) and deliveries in July are $1.

Favor's initial delivery area includes Miami Beach, downtown, Brickell, The Roads, Coconut Grove, West Flagler, Little Havana, Coral Way, Coral Gables, Grapeland Heights, Allapattah, Overtown, Wynwood and South Beach. Favor will operate from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily.

Founded in 2013 in Austin, Texas, Favor is now also in Atlanta, Boston, Dallas, Denver, Houston and San Antonio. The company recently raised $13 million in Series A funding to expand nationally. Favor boasts a 4.5-star rating on Yelp and has completed over 500,000 deliveries in the past year. “We’ve taken a mobile-first strategy and made it super simple to order anything, almost as easy as texting a friend,” said Favor CEO Ben Doherty.

Favor joins a crowd of on-demand delivery startups that have started operating in the Miami area within the last year, including Postmates, which will deliver just about anything, Caviar for restaurants, Instacart for groceries, and Minibar and Klink for alcohol.