June 24, 2017

Miami startup RecordGram brings a recording studio to your phone


New World Angels' Sandra Arber (left) and Gary Manheimer (right) get together with RecordGram founders, Grammy-winning music producer Winston “DJ Blackout” Thomas; Erik Mendelson, a music industry veteran; and hip-hop’s Shawn Mims on a rooftop in Wynwood. New World Angels invested in RecordGram. PATRICK FARRELL pfarrell@miamiherald.com


By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

A trio from the hip-hop music industry hopes to make its next hit in the worlds of venture capital and technology.
Miami startup RecordGram — co-founded by Grammy-winning music producer Winston “DJ Blackout” Thomas, hip-hop musician Shawn Mims and music industry veteran Erik Mendelson — is not unlike the aspiring artist in search of one’s first big break. The team has knocked on endless numbers of doors, made countless pitches, relentlessly sought meetings. And it’s working: Just last month, the “wildcard” startup was named best startup at TechCrunch Disrupt, one of the tech startup world’s largest conferences.
Now the company’s co-founders are closing a $1 million investment round from Silicon Valley funders and the Boca Raton-based New World Angels investment group.
The basis for all this excitement is RecordGram’s music collaboration app that lets amateur musicians create original songs with award-winning music producers without having to trek to L.A., New York, Nashville or land a spot on “The Voice.” It empowers users “to awaken their inner-musician,” said Mendelson, who has worked in the industry since 2001 leading marketing, promotion and artist management.
“We’re democratizing music collaboration so that anyone, regardless of where they live in the world or how much money they have, can create an original song,” said Mendelson, CEO of RecordGram.
On the free RecordGram app for the iPhone or iPad, those inner-musicians can search for beats (music sans voice), upload them to a virtual recording studio, write lyrics and record vocals for a professional-sounding audio file. They can also make a music video. Both song and video can be shared to their social-media platforms or privately sent to producers.
The company makes money by charging producers a $90 annual subscription, or $9.99 monthly fee, to upload 15 beats per month to the platform. Producers then can lease tracks for up to $4.99 to aspiring artists, retaining copyrights but perhaps discovering the next Justin Bieber, Lil Wayne or Eminem.
In less than a year, more than 700 songs and videos have been created from the 500-plus beats currently available in the app, Mendelson said.
The trio first came together in 2014 to work on an app called uRemix, a concept that involved creating personal mixes with portions of top songs — say, instrumentals from Dr Dre and vocals from Jay-Z.
“I thought it would be easy transitioning from hip-hop to the tech space,” Mims said. “I had a show in San Francisco, and I said ‘You know what, I’m here. Let’s go knock on some VC doors.’ It wasn’t that easy. No doors were opening, no one took any meetings.”
As it turned out, the licensing fees were too onerous to make uRemix work, so the collaborators quickly shelved that idea and pivoted in late 2015 to RecordGram.
RecordGram sprang from “some of the things I lacked in my musical career in the early stages,” said Mims, best known for This is Why I’m Hot. “I felt it was an unfair system for the artists who are just trying to discover their talent. … In order to collaborate with a producer as an amateur artist, I would have to pay thousands of dollars just to get into that world.”
The co-founders bootstrapped development. They were selected for Project Music, a Nashville accelerator backed by 15 of the world’s biggest record labels, management companies and music publishers. After finishing the program in May of 2016, they launched version 1 of RecordGram in the App Store. But investment dollars did not follow.
To get noticed, they hit the contest circuit. They entered a YPO pitch contest (they didn’t know the letters stand for Young Presidents’ Organization) and won.
After the event, the Enterprise Development Corp., a nonprofit in South Florida that mentors startups, connected them with the 68-member New World Angels. NWA, which has invested more than $10 million in Florida companies since 2014, is best known for its investments in the healthcare space but has also supported South Florida startups Raw Shorts, which provides an explainer video-making tool, human analytics tech company Kairos and gaming startup Synkt Games, among others.
“I sensed the excitement in the team,” said Gary Manheimer, a New World Angels member who led the due diligence team on RecordGram. “It is coming to market at the right time. It’s solving a problem in a very exciting way. Looking at their app, it’s very well developed — and fun.”
At about the same time, RecordGram pitched at a TechCrunch meetup in Miami, winning two tickets and exhibit space at the media company’s New York conference. Once there, they were unexpectedly selected to pitch on stage as a “wildcard;” two rounds later, they were crowned the winner last month. Mendelson said a high energy, musical pitch that included a live demo separated RecordGram from the pack.
Was it the pitch or was it the flamingo print jacket Mendelson wore on stage? Said Mendelson, “People said, ‘There’s the flamingo guy.’ People noticed us.”
Whatever the reason, winning the contest was tech validation, Thomas said. “When you look at what we’ve done for a living for a decade or more, it has been strictly music. When you get validation from one of the biggest tech outlets saying you have an incredible startup, that just puts another battery in our pack to go back to the music industry and say, ‘This is what you need to pay attention to.’ … Now we have a lot more doors opening up in the music world, and in the tech world.”
New World Angels, which has invested $250,000, hopes to help the team with connections, business direction and mentorship, said Manheimer, who has experience growing companies in the tech and entertainment industries. “They are proven winners. It’s exciting to see these types of companies coming through Florida.”
With the funding, RecordGram has hired a chief technology officer and a growth hacker to onboard more users. It has also hired a development team in Russia to give the app a facelift and position it for additional features. Other marketing opportunities and partnerships are in the works.
Mendelson says that any company with a music and original content strategy will need RecordGram. “Microsoft, Spotify, Google, Apple and Samsung are all competing in the streaming music space. What will separate them is how they compete with original content. We think what we have created will fill that void.”
Among its fans is soul artist Jimmy Levy of Miami, who was encouraged by his manager to try RecordGram, Mendelson said. “Now Grammy award-winning producers are putting together his first album, and several labels have expressed interest in signing him. That’s why when we say RecordGram is built for musicians by musicians, we really mean it.”
Nancy Dahlberg: @ndahlberg

June 21, 2017

Kairos receives follow-on investment from New World Angels


New World Angels announced this week that it has invested $347,500 into a planned $2 million Series B round of Miami-based Kairos.

The round is aimed at funding Kairos’ continued expansion of its human analytics SaaS platform.  Combining facial recognition with emotion analysis and demographic information, Kairos provides developers the building blocks to add the benefits of facial analysis to any product, app or service, helping businesses solve security, marketing and other challenges.

“We are grateful to New World Angels for their on-going support through funding and business advice," said Kairos CEO and founder Brian Brackeen in a news release.  "We are excited to have their additional support to expand our product and marketing efforts to build Kairos into a leading supplier of human analytics to retailers, advertisers, consumer marketers, as well as security, healthcare and mobile workforce providers.”

NWA President and Kairos Board member Steve O’Hara added: “Since its pivot from a single payroll product to a provider of facial recognition, demographic and emotion analytic API’s and SDK’s in 2015, Kairos has shown the flexibility, creativity and resolve needed to build a new business.   This is our third investment in Kairos having led the Series A offering and supported the subsequent convertible debt offering. “

New World Angels is a group of 68 accredited private investors  providing equity capital to early-stage entrepreneurial companies with a strong presence in Florida.  Since 2014, NWA has invested over $10 million into these companies.


June 20, 2017

4 South Florida startups advance to finals in WeWork Creator Awards

BM cover tech hub 4 d epf

WeWork today announced that four Miami entrepreneurs have been selected as finalists for The Creator Awards South Regional Final on June 27 at ACL Live in Austin, Texas. Chosen from a pool of more than 2,000 applicants from all across the South, these finalists, along with approximately 30 others, will present before a live audience and compete for financial awards, which range from $18,000 up to $360,000.

“We’re beside ourselves to be accepted by the WeWork Creator Awards to compete against what we know is a massive community of exceptional thinkers, inventors, entrepreneurs: creators,” says AlulA co-founder Thomas Byrd. “To be recognized for our vision to be fellow ‘creators’ by WeWork and the Creator Awards, an organization centered on creators is humbling to say the least.”

Byrd and his founders were inspired by the disappearance of the Malaysia Airlines flight MH370. They wanted to find out how this was possible and prevent it from happening again in the future. The team has worked over the past two years to find a simple and affordable crowdsourcing method of retrieving aircraft data to make air travel safer and more efficient.

This will not only help track planes location but will also help with collect data for environmental research and help improve air travel over all -- shorter flights, cheaper flights and less burning of fossil fuels.

According to previous winners, these awards can be a game changer for companies and organizations looking to reach the next level.

Jill Bigelow, founder of a company making products for new mothers called Pelv-Ice, says her company’s prize money “allowed us to launch our sales team expansion sooner than anticipated.”

“It’s going to allow us to take advantage of a bunch of opportunities that we were going to have to skip before we won,” says Bigelow. “It will certainly help us scale faster.”

The AlulA team is at the stage where they are ready to begin product testing. “We have completed the prototype for the small box to allow our vision to become a reality,” explains Byrd. “ With the winnings we could put these small boxes on aircrafts and immediately impact flight safety and climate change research. This, we feel is the least we can do out of respect for those who lost loved ones on MH370, and the future of our planet.”

In addition to the pitch competition and awards show, the Creator Awards involves masterclasses with celebrity influencers, a career fair, pop-up market with local food vendors and live music. Creators from Austin, Houston, Dallas, Miami, Atlanta, San Antonio, Santa Fe, to name a few, will be competing. 

Subsequent events will take place in North America, Europe, and the Middle East. Winners from each event will come together for the global finals, to be held at Barclays Center in New York City on November 30.

Complete List of Miami Finalists

Launch: Businesses or nonprofits that have launched but are still learning ($72K - $180K)

AlanaAt Alana Athletica, we focus on combining four factors that we think are currently not intertwined into any women™s active-wear brand in the market – quality, price, women empowerment, and social responsibility. We design and manufacture premium quality yoga pants that enable empowerment for ALL women (regardless of size, race, background, age, etc.) at an affordable price, and we do so by employing and empowering women abuse survivors in Sri Lanka who are joining our all-women production facility - all while giving back to deserving local communities.

AlulA - Inspired by the tragic disappearance of Malaysia flight MH370, we have innovated a system to stream black box data in real time affordably from planes in flight. This allows safer air travel, as well as enabling the ability to predict and fix critical aircraft components before they fail. This makes air travel safer and more affordable!

Scale: Proven record of success and are ready for the next level (Awards: $180K - $360K)

Debris Free Ocean (nonprofit) - We provide in-classroom education about marine debris, host adventure cleanups, host zero-waste lifestyle awareness events, provide sustainability consulting services to businesses, and propel pro-ocean legislation. While providing all of these services, we ensure that our messaging is positive and uplifting so as to motivate individuals to take action towards cleaner oceans on a daily basis. We consider ourselves a warm and inviting environmental group, specifically positioned to captivate audiences who may ordinarily not appreciate aspects of the environmental movement.

Viera Academy - Viera Academy is a free college prep platform that helps students gain admission to college by maximizing their academic development and providing a personalized application strategy. We conduct a proprietary analysis of students' academic profile, personal interests, and financial need to recommend colleges and create an individualized month-by-month action plan.

- Submitted by WeWork

Meet the finalists of the American Entrepreneurship Awards; winners announced Friday

The American Entrepreneurship Award, a non-profit that aims to support American start-up businesses and entrepreneurs, will announce the selected winners of their business plan competition at their second annual ceremony taking place Friday, June 23, 2017. The awarded entrepreneurs will win business services, mentorship, and a share of $250,000 towards their businesses.

The American Entrepreneurship Award will work with their partner, Miami Dade College to present the awards. The ceremony is set to take place at Tuyo, Miami Dade College’s acclaimed restaurant located on the top floor of the Miami Culinary Institute. The event will commence with a cocktail reception at 6:00pm – 7:30pm followed but the presentation of awards at 7:30pm.  

“We’re excited for these tremendous companies who’ve shown the courage to apply and make it this far through the process. I truly believe entrepreneurship can be a catalyst for helping individuals and families achieve economic self-sufficiency. The skills and knowledge one has the opportunity to gain through their entrepreneurial pursuit stands to enhance their viability. The American Entrepreneurship Award exists to aid these business owners and help them harness their true potential.” Said Christopher Upperman, CEO of the American Entrepreneurship Award.

The finalists are... 

* UX Gofer (com): a user research platform that empowers startups and enterprises to create innovative experiences for their customers. Make better design decisions by incorporating live user feedback through our guided usability tests.

* PIERCE Plan (com): a SaaS LMS licensing and delivery model to automatically track academic requirements in real time so high school student-athletes are eligible for scholarships to play college sports, prepared to compete in the classroom, and positioned to succeed in life.

* VITAL On Demand (com): dietician-approved, nutritious and delicious meals and snacks delivered in under 15 minutes for a $1 delivery fee. They serve the professional lunchtime crowd the most flavorful, nutritious meal faster and for a lower delivery fee than anyone else.

* Full Circle (co): a platform where people can purchase products and services that ideally memorialize their deceased – both humans and pets. The company empowers people with the products and services that help them honor their loved one the way they deserve, and helps them through the grieving process.

* SOP Technologies (com): provides cities with innovative solutions to manage and protect the environment. The company's mission is to Stop Ocean Pollution, and it works towards this goal by developing cost-effective physical and digital technologies to prevent trash and contaminants from entering waterways.

* Ustaff: an on-demand healthcare staffing platform that serves as a conduit for healthcare facilities and healthcare professionals to directly connect, in order to service their scheduling and staffing needs.

* Major Marketplace (com): an online marketplace for minority businesses and those who want to support them. They curate local and international products and services made and offered by passionate creators, bridging conscious buyers to minority businesses.

* Arslin.com (arslin.com): provides consumers with a dealership-free online platform for purchasing of used cars.

* Smart Barrel (co): an Internet of Things (IoT) company that builds and designs products focusing on the construction industry. Smart Barrel products are physical field products that are introduced into the jobsite to assist and enhance the communication between Office and Field personnel.

* Cargo42 (com): a digital marketplace for local trucking committed to reduce empty miles for trucking companies and to offer lower freight rates for Less than Load (LTL) shippers.

Prior to the ceremony, The American Entrepreneurship Award will host a small business expo located next door to Tuyo, at the Idea Center at Miami Dade College. Doors to the expo will open at 4pm and will host a multitude of Miami’s local business support services such as Neighborhood Lending Partners, Beacon Council, and Venture Café among others.

All members of the community are encouraged to attend both the expo and ceremony. Both events are free of charge and open to the public.

Past American Entrepreneurship Award winners from Miami-Dade County are:

* StatLab Mobile (com): a complete mobile laboratory with the capabilities to test blood and urine samples on site at any location. Their goal is to provide quality blood testing for the insured and the uninsured at a fraction of the traditional cost.

* ValueDoc (valuedoc.com) a free online health and wellness marketplace where cash or self-pay patients find local, quality, pre-screened doctors offering basic services, like dental cleaning, cardiology consultations, MRI, urgent care visits, plastic surgery, physical therapy, acupuncture, skin consultation, etc., at discounted prices of up to 80% off retail.

* CourtBuddy (com): an automated legal matchmaking system that pairs consumers and small businesses with solo attorneys for a-la-carte legal services based on an individual’s budget.

 To learn more about the American Entrepreneurship Award, please visit: www.americanaward.com.


- Submitted by AEA

June 12, 2017

Facebook alum pulls back curtain on TheVentureCity, to be based in Miami


By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

Former executives of Facebook, Google, eBay and other hyper-growth companies have come together to form a global “city” with everything a startup needs to scale internationally.

Laura headshotCo-founding the unique venture, called TheVentureCity, is Laura González-Estéfani (pictured here), former director of international business development and mobile partnerships for Facebook, and Clara Bullrich, a 20-year private banking and asset management veteran. They call it an accelerator for the global tech ecosystem.

With an “international-first” approach, the accelerator will create cross-functional bridges between key regions to scale startups on a global level, González-Estéfani said. The headquarters of TheVentureCity will be in Miami Beach, currently in the 1111 building off Lincoln Road, with a second campus in Madrid and a presence in San Francisco, with plans to expand into a number of cities worldwide by 2020, González-Estéfani she said.

“All my team has worked all over the world, they have all spent years working outside their countries of origin,” González-Estéfani said, in an interview last week. “When we see a startup that has all the right bones, we will advise where to scale first and how the product needs to be tailored for those companies.”

In addition to the international focus, the all-in-one approach for startup needs and consistent support is what will set TheVentureCity apart, said González-Estéfani, who is a native of Spain. “While others provide entrepreneurs with the initial tools to get them started, TheVentureCity is our response to the need for a solution that offers startups everything from engineering and product optimization to data analysis, guiding them throughout the entire process.”

To be considered for either theVentureCity’s 36-month incubator or 18-month accelerator program, startups that can be in any place in the world must demonstrate at least a six-month track record and solid numbers on growth and engagement metrics, not necessarily revenue. Using a data-driven approach, TheVentureCity builds on that foundation of solid data to help them make the best business decisions to achieve long-term growth. “We aren’t afraid of working with international-first companies all over the world, we just have to fall in love with the founders,” she said.

About 25 startups a year from all over the world will be selected to enter the “factory” each year. Other parts of the “city” include the “data library,” the heart of the city, the airport for internationalization, the laboratory for the product engineering and the bank for venture capital. TheVentureCity will help startups with their funding strategy and tapping into funding resources, she said.

TheVentureCity will be paid in startup equity as the partnership progresses, González-Estéfani said.

Directing the Miami campus will be Elisa Rodriguez-Vila, who formerly worked at Fusión and was part of the co-founding team at The LAB Miami. TheVentureCity is already working with 15 startups, including Boatsetter, Playground, The Fastmind and RecargaPay from South Florida.

TheVentureCity has forged partnerships with a number of entitities including Beacon Council, Startupbootcamp, Venture Café and Facebook on the local level. She said TheVentureCity has been working with Miami Dade College on a two-year degree in entrepreneurship and innovation, for instance. “We make things happen, we are not afraid of taking risks,” González-Estéfani said. “That is the mindset we want to bring here and we are learning everyday from the pioneers and we want to partner with them.”

González-Estéfani came to Miami 2 1/2 years ago with Facebook; she also worked in Facebook’s operations in Silicon Valley and Europe from 2008 to 2014. Before that she worked at eBay, Siemans and Ogilvy.

Upon arrival from Silicon Valley she noticed something quickly: a welcoming community.

“The Medinas [Manny Medina, founder of eMerger Americas] opened the door to their home to us. That is something I have never seen before in Business. "They introduced me to to everything that was happening here. That soul, that spirit, is something that I have never seen anywhere else. Everyone they introduced me to, the Knight Foundation, the Endeavor family, everyone was the same way,” González-Estéfani said.

“There must be something in the water in Miami that makes everyone so welcoming and so enthusiastic about the unknown. I found that willingness to take a risk. Hopefully I can contribute with my team to help make this one of the most exciting and vibrant ecosystems in tech around the world.”
González-Estéfani will be giving a talk about TheVentureCity at eMerge Americas at Miami Beach Convention Center on Tuesday.

Nancy Dahlberg: @ndahlberg.

Rokk3r Labs spins out 10xU, a global education platform

By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

Rokk3r Labs, a venture builder that has worked with more than 40 portfolio companies, moved into new headquarters in Wynwood last fall. This spring it launched an investment fund. Now Rokk3r is announcing that it’s adding an engine for education called 10xU.

DeleoThe global platform and will be tailored to both tech entrepreneurs and corporations who need the tools and the mindset to compete in the age of innovation moving at warp speed, said Lorenzo de Leo, CEO and co-founder of 10xU, which is a separate Rokk3r Labs portfolio company. 10xU will have a booth at eMerge Americas this week.

De Leo (pictured at right) has been involved with Rokk3r for three years as an investor and most recently ran its cobuilding unit, which exposed him not only to the Rokk3r’s methodology but also to the startups’ dreams and opportunities and 10xU was a natural evolution “10xU aims to teach individuals how to act as entrepreneurs no matter where they sit in their professional career.”

10xU will have courses geared to entrepreneurs at all stages – whether they are looking to harness their industry expertise into a fast-growth startup, evaluating the world-changing potential of an idea they have or already have a company. The programming will cover the principles of company building – from developing a vision, to building a team, to raising capital and scaling – but will be focused on moving people to action rather than theory, incorporating mentorship, pitch opportunities and measurable goals, de Leo said. “10xU is about empowering people to understand the world in which we live, and to take advantage of that to grow individually and as a community.”

Courses will also be tailored to corporations that will all likely face the Uber of their industries. 10xU has developed educational programs and conducted personalized assessments for companies that need a startup mindset or might be considering developing a spinout company. 10xU is also working with educational institutions; for instance, it participated in the DronesUp program at Miami Dade College in a module exploring how to transform deep expertise into a company, de Leo said.

NabylJoining de Leo, former managing partner of Rokk3r Labs, will be Mike Lingle, an experienced entrepreneur and coach who will serve as managing partner of 10xU. For individuals, 10xU will cost $700 to $2,500, depending on the level of services sought. “We believe this is a piece of the ecosystem that’s been missing,” said Nabyl Charania, CEO of Rokk3r Labs (pictured at left).

As 10xU develops, the platform and programs will be available globally, connecting people and resources. Said de Leo: “We believe in the great potential of Miami, and we think a good way to help Miami is to connect Miami to other tech hubs around the world.”

June 04, 2017

Startup Spotlight: PartyTap is at your service


PartyTap CEO Jordan Hamilton of Miami shows off his PartyTap app on Thursday. On the app, hosts can order bartenders, waitstaff, photographers, videographers and other staff needed for an event. Bryan Cereijo bcereijo@miamiherald.com

Startup Spotlight: PartyTap

Headquarters: Miami

Concept: A party and event staffing app that allows anyone to order staff with a few taps on a smartphone.

Story: After graduating from the Culinary Institute of America in upstate New York, Jordan Hamilton moved to sunny Miami to attend Florida International University’s hospitality/tourism management program and worked as a private chef for extra cash. “I would very often get requests to bring bartenders, waitstaff and photographers with me for larger events and was surprised my clients didn’t have a good place to get these services. That’s when I would search Google to call each company, compare reviews, compare pricing, and it would take days or sometimes weeks to confirm,” Hamilton said. “It was that ‘apple on the head’ moment I thought of a platform where people could open their smartphone and order party staff like they would order an Uber.”

Party2Hamilton shared his app idea with one of his private chef clients, Sarah Lacharlotte, one evening after an event, and she became his first investor and co-founder. So he hung up his chef’s hat, and it took him about a year to design and develop the PartyTap app, with the help of WorkN, a tech company from Atlanta, and teams in India and Hungary.

PartyTap essentially democratizes party staffing by pairing up private party planners and small companies with bartenders, waitstaff and other service providers so that individuals and smaller organizations can easily put together the same type of events large corporations with big budgets can. The app saves time and money by offering bartenders, servers, photographers, DJs and cleanup services in one place, with preset pricing so you know what you are paying before booking, whether it’s months in advance or even just six hours. Coming later this month to the app: catering and valet services. All PartyTap’s staff are vetted and hand-selected to ensure they are the best fit for the job. After the event, they are rated 1-5 stars so PartyTap can monitor how each staff member is performing.

“With this app you simply open it, select the staff you need, add your credit card and send the request. You are updated in real time with staff who accept your request and that’s it. What would have taken multiple phone calls and days of planning now takes less than five minutes and a couple taps on our app,” Hamilton said.

The free app is available on the Apple App and Google Play stores. PartyTap makes a percentage of each transaction booked on the app. PartyTap is servicing Miami Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties, and Hamilton is launching in Aspen and Las Vegas — two big party markets — in the next couple of months as he begins a national expansion. “Expansion into key markets like Las Vegas, New York City, Atlanta, Aspen, Los Angeles and San Francisco will really help us do some damage in the party/event staffing space,” Hamilton said.

Launched: Jan. 15, 2017, on Apple App Store and Google Play

Website: www.partytap.com

Management team: Jordan Hamilton, founder and CEO; Sarah Lacharlotte, co-founder.

No. of employees: 2 employees and 400-plus contractors who work for the app (DJs, bartenders, photographers, valet, catering and waiters).

Financing: $85,000 raised from friends and family last year. Currently raising a seed round, aiming for $250,000 to $500,000.

Recent milestones reached: In South Florida, more than 400 service providers have joined the app, which has been downloaded more than 2,100 times. Revenue spiked 550 percent from March to April on services booked through the app and that momentum continued through May, Hamilton said.

Biggest startup challenge: Driving awareness about the app.

Next step: Expanding into key markets. Hamilton is raising seed funding to help fuel existing growth, increase marketing, hire city managers and recruit staff for expansion cities.


Follow  @ndahlberg on Twitter


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May 31, 2017

Blackstone invests in Broward tech startup Entic


By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@MiamiHerald.com

When a satisfied customer becomes an investor, that’s a good day for any early-stage company — especially when that customer is a giant private equity firm.

Entic, a South Florida technology company that helps commercial building owners save energy, announced Wednesday that it has received a strategic investment from Blackstone.

Blackstone has used Entic’s technology to provide operational efficiency and energy savings at several buildings owned by the firm’s real estate funds, including Park Avenue Tower in midtown Manhattan and the Howard Hughes Center in Los Angeles. “We’ve closely followed Entic’s track record for some time as part of a search for a best-in-class energy analytics platform,” said Don Anderson, executive director for Blackstone.

Entic CEO Carlos Diaz said the investment will help accelerate six-year-old Entic’s growth plans. Blackstone will also provide the company support and expertise from Blackstone’s Real Estate and Innovations teams. Before the deal with Blackstone, Entic had attracted about $13 million in investments and provided services to about 65 properties, according to the Wall Street Journal. Terms of the investment were not disclosed.

“Blackstone’s investment and decision to deploy our technology are together a major recognition of our success in reducing energy waste and increasing operational performance in commercial buildings,” said Diaz, a seasoned software architect who co-founded the company with Manuel Rosendo, an HVAC industry veteran (pictured above).

Entic, headquartered in Pembroke Pines with more than 45 employees, uses real-time data analysis of major energy-consuming systems to provide prescriptions for improving building operations. Its longtime customers include Marlins Park and the Diplomat Resort & Spa.


May 28, 2017

How to be selected for cohort 3 at StartUP FIU


Pitch Day for StartUP FIU's Cohort 2

By Robert Hacker

StartUP FIU has just opened applications for the third cohort of its Empower Accelerator. The first two cohorts each received over 150 applications and we expect the same number by the June 11 deadline. The new cohort will begin the formal 14-week accelerator program in September and there is no cost or equity position given to participate. The program is open to both social and traditional entrepreneurs and their early stage companies.

The question we are most frequently asked is how can I improve the chances of being selected for the StartUP FIU accelerator.


We have interviewed over 90 applicants, worked with another 60 entrepreneurs that did not necessarily apply and advised the 39 teams comprising Cohorts I and II. The first thing all our staff are trained to look for is coachability--can the entrepreneur listen to critical feedback, thoughtfully consider it and make a reasoned adjustment. Every team in the program is assigned at least one mentor and these seasoned entrepreneurs are a critical success factor in incubators and accelerators worldwide. If the entrepreneur is not able to demonstrate they can take critical feedback from mentors and staff, their likelihood of commercial success and acceptance to the program is much lower.

 Problem Validation

Everyone who applies to Empower has a concept for a new business. Many applicants have a prototype or a beta, particularly the engineers. Surprisingly few have talked to potential customers about their problem, pain or need. After coachability, the next characteristic we look for is a demonstration of customer knowledge gained in the market. Of course, the best demonstration of customer knowledge may be revenue.


Competitive advantage, barriers to entry, what Warren Buffet calls moats--these are all descriptions of the same factors that can create value for customers and particularly shareholders. Perhaps the simplest way to demonstrate uniqueness is to describe the founder’s insight about the customer or problem that the company is addressing. Another effective technique is to describe the technology and simply describe how it is proprietary.


Entrepreneurship is the epitome of a team endeavor, hopefully beginning with co-founders and then building out the minimally necessary technical and management team. In our experience, companies with a team already established get more benefit out of the program and make more progress.

As we progress with the Empower Accelerator, we encounter an insatiable demand for all aspects of the entrepreneurship experience.  We are excited to be a part of Miami’s entrepreneurial support network and will continue to iterate to be able to offer different services for the multiple needs of the community and FIU.

Robert Hacker is the Director of StartUP FIU and teaches social entrepreneurship at FIU, MIT and UM. He is the former CFO of One Laptop per Child and prior to that built a publicly traded billion-dollar company in seven years in Indonesia. His books on entrepreneurship and social entrepreneurship are available on Amazon.


May 27, 2017

Calling all Miami area creators: WeWork holding regional contest awarding $1.5M+ in grants open to all


The way we work is changing and WeWork believes that the way we recognize and reward work must change too. Miami entrepreneurs, SMBs, non-profits, artists or anyone with a great idea are eligible to compete for a grant from the $1.5 million-plus prize pool available at the Creator Awards South Regional Finals in Austin over June 27. But hurry, the application deadline is June 12.

What's exciting about the opportunity is that it's open to everyone (WeWork members, non-members, all industries, all stages, even folks who may just have a good idea) and that beyond the financial awards there will be a full day of public programming in Austin. This is the first year of what will become an annual program. 

Grants from $18,000 to $360,000 will be awarded in three categories: Incubate (ideas or projects); Launch (startups and nonprofits that have launched but still learning); and Scale (a record of success, ready for next level).  

Winners have ranged from a nonprofit teaching tech skills to low income individuals, to a new coalition of journalists who improve care for Alzheimers patients by writing their life stories, to a new trading platform for sustainable agriculture. (See photo from Washington DC regional event below)

"WeWork wants to honor all types of creators from entrepreneurs to artists to nonprofits. There are incredible things happening and big ideas being born in Miami every day,” said Adam Wacenski, WeWork’s General Manager for the South. “The Creator Awards is a new opportunity to share their ideas, connect with other creators and hopefully win a grant that can make a real difference in their work and in their life."

Here are the details:

WHAT: Entries are now open for the Creator Awards, a new global initiative from WeWork that will award $20 million-plus to entrepreneurs who are thinking in new ways, building fresh projects and achieving real change across all industries.

Miami applicants are eligible to compete for $1.5 million-plus at the Austin Regional Finals on June 26 and 27 and have the opportunity to advance to the Creator Awards Global Finals in New York in November where additional prizes will be awarded.

WHO: WeWork, a global platform for creators with 140+ locations including Miami, Miami Beach, Dallas, Austin, Atlanta and coming soon to Houston, Nashville and Kansas City

WHERE: Residents of Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and West Virginia

WHEN: Application Deadline: June 12

Creator Awards South Regional Finals: June 27

In addition to financial awards, the South Regional Finals brings together everything it takes to make a life, not just a living. The public event will include a pop-up market with local sellers, a series of master classes and workshops, a job fair as well as live pitches and an awards ceremony and celebration.

HOW: To apply or to nominate others: https://creatorawards.wework.com/

Wework Creator Awards DC-366_Credit WeWork

Photo taken at a WeWork Creator Awards regional finals event in Washington DC. Photo provided by WeWork.