Want to know about Miami startups? A user's guide to this blog

Dear reader, Starting Gate has been providing and archiving South Florida startup and tech community news, views and resources since 2012. New to the Miami area? Thinking about relocating here? Just want to keep up with news, events and opportunities? We're there for you.

How to use Starting Gate: Besides scrolling the blog for the latest entries, you can access news and views by category. The "Funding" category will capture venture capital and angel funding news of individual startups as well as stories about funders. The startup categories chronicle news and my regular "Spotlights," and in Q&As you'll find interviews with CEOs and leaders in the entrepreneurship ecosystem. There are also categories for guest posts, views, accelerators/incubators, resources, events and more.

Have news? Have an idea for a guest post? Send it to me at ndahlbergbiz@gmail.com. (See my Facebook announcement here)

Thank you for your support through the years and please come back often. Follow me on Twitter @ndahlberg. - Sincerely, Nancy Dahlberg

March 28, 2018

Miami serial entrepreneur Albert Santalo announces his next big tech venture: 8base

Santalo

"8base has an enormous democratizing effect by affording businesses of all shapes and sizes the ability to digitally transform without enormous budgets or timeframes” - Albert Santalo

 

It’s not every day when a successful South Florida serial entrepreneur officially announces his or her next venture. This is one of those days.

Albert Santalo, founder of CareCloud and Avisena, is bringing 8base out of stealth mode. 8base is a platform and ecosystem for software development. The venture, incorporated in March 2017, has so far been funded by Santalo and angel investors in South Florida and Boston.

According to Santalo, 8base will allow citizen developers, or people with limited technical proficiency, to build and host their own enterprise software without having to contract software developers. It also allows engineers around the world to contribute new capabilities to the platform and earn one-time or recurring compensation in the process, he said. The product can be used to build blockchain as well as traditional software applications, something its competitors don't offer, Santalo said.

Market research firm IDC estimates that $2 trillion will be spent worldwide over the next five years on digital transformation initiatives. "8base has an enormous democratizing effect by affording businesses of all shapes and sizes the ability to digitally transform without enormous budgets or timeframes,” Santalo said in an email on Wednesday.

One of the pillars of a healthy startup ecosystem is exiting entrepreneurs launching and investing in new ventures, and Santalo has been doing that. He was most recently CEO of Miami healthcare-tech company CareCloud, raising more than $55 million in venture funding and building it in six years to hundreds of employees and customers before the founder stepped down nearly three years ago. Before that, he founded and led another health-tech software company, Avisena.

Before making a mark in health-tech, Santalo, with an MBA from FIU, worked in fintech and in management consulting in numerous industries and functional areas of business.

“8base is the culmination of 30-plus years spent building large, expensive systems over and over again. 8base makes the process easy and inexpensive. We believe that a pure technology company like this can make an enormous impact on South Florida,” said Santalo, an avid cyclist.

8base is already a team of 16, including some former CareCloud employees and Jax, the crypto guard dog. Stay tuned for more news about this new company, Santalo said. We will. 

Follow @ndahlberg on Twitter.

March 22, 2018

Miami startup Caribu wins worldwide competition and $100,000

Maxeme

By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

Caribu CEO Maxeme Tuchman took home the big check at a global startup competition.

Tuchman beat out 19 other top teams from around the world at the Challenge Cup Global Finals, sponsored by accelerator and seed fund 1776 and Revolution, an investment firm started by AOL co-founder Steve Case. Caribu, a Miami-based education-tech startup, won a $100,000 equity investment from Revolution at the grand finale event in Washington DC Thursday night.

Caribu created a storytime app that connects families, even if they are miles apart. The Caribu app lets families to read books and draw together during a real-time video call. Tuchman’s co-founder is CTO Alvaro Sabido, who came up with and developed the concept with classmates in grad school in London before moving to Miami to pursue growing the company. Tuchman, the former executive director of Teach For America in Miami, and Sabido, a software developer, met through a co-founder matchmaker organization in 2016.

“We have an open seed round so this couldn't have happened at a better time or with a better fund. Steve Case and the Rise of The Rest Fund are focused on investing in companies in emerging startup ecosystems that are disrupting major industries so there is nothing more aligned than investing in a Latina CEO from Miami whose company is focused on improving early childhood literacy globally,” Tuchman said from Washington Friday morning.
 
Thursday night's big win caps off a year of accolades for the startup. Most recently Tuchman was named one of three top Mother of Invention winners by Toyota and Tina Brown’s Women in the World Foundation, which came with a $50,000 prize and exposure in the New York Times and in a Toyota commercial. Caribu was also a winner or finalist in 18 other contests, including Tech.co’s Collision pitch contest, Teach For America’s Social Innovation award, Harvard Business School’s New Venture competition and locally with eMerge Americas and the 2017 Miami Herald Business Plan Challenge, to name a few.
 
Among the diverse group of competitors in the 1776 contest was an Israeli startup that farmed and then sold roasted grasshoppers, as well as other startups in technology, education, finance, women's health and consumer products.
 
Caribu generates revenue through subscriptions and recently Caribu partnered with the Blue Star Families nonprofit on a campaign targeted at military parents so that active duty soldiers will never miss another storytime. Families receive six months of Caribu free.
 
Tuchman said Caribu doubled growth and brought on more publishers in the past year as well as raised pre-seed financing. She is also  participating in the Babson Win Lab accelerator for women entrepreneurs and Caribu was recently named a Startup to Watch by Platform Miami.
 
Tuchman, whose family are Cuban immigrants, makes it part of her personal mission to represent and promote women and minorities in tech, an industry with woeful statistics on those fronts.
 
“Being able to represent Miami, female founders, and Latinas on a global stage, and then take home the top prize was an insanely proud moment,” she said.
 
On Thursday, Tuchman also took home a big win for Miami. 
 

Caribu

Photo at top and above are photos at the 1776 Global Challenge from social media. Below is Tuchman and Sabido in a 2016 Miami Herald file photo.

BMStartupCaribu1200 Travele

March 21, 2018

500 Startups decides to 'double down' on Miami, opens office for Florida, Latin America

Miami skyline

By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlbergbiz@gmail.com

In a surprise to almost no one in Miami’s startup scene, 500 Startups is putting down deeper roots in the Magic City.

If you’ve been reading Starting Gate, you know that 500 Startups has been holding programs and events here, including a Series A accelerator and a PreMoney conference. The Silicon Valley company, which has invested in more than 2,000 startups in 60 countries, is an investor in a number of South Florida startups, including (at the risk of leaving some out) Home61, FIGS, Court Buddy, Alta5 and Senzari.

Now the venture fund and accelerator company is opening a large office in Miami, where it will host an expanded menu of programs and serve as its base for South Florida, Latin America and other markets in the eastern U.S., Managing Partner Bedy Yang told Bloomberg in its report Tuesday. 500 Startups has about $400 million under management in multiple funds, said Yang, who has been a speaker at several Miami area events.

 “Today, we believe the Miami entrepreneurial ecosystem is at an inflection point, with more high-potential founders launching locally than ever before. Further, we believe the city is uniquely poised to become a global hub for entrepreneurship and innovation that will hopefully connect South Florida with Silicon Valley, the East Coast, Latin America, Europe, Africa and beyond,” wrote Ana Paula Gonzalez, who has been on the ground for more than a year leading the efforts to establish a larger presence here, in a blog post announcing the news today.

CEO Christine Tsai said in a statement: “We believe Miami is a key market for us to double down on and continue to serve all three parts of that mission,” Tsai took over the reins of the company after Dave McClure resigned when his sexual misconduct toward women was brought to light.

Helping to fund the Miami endeavor is the Miami Downtown Development Authority, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and Visa.

500 Startup Miami’s offices will be in downtown Miami at Mindwarehouse, where it will have about 7,200 square feet. Programs will include founder bootcamps, accelerator programs, corporate innovation programs, demo days and more. Learn more about 500 Startups Miami here.

Welcome (officially) to Miami, 500 Startups.

Follow @ndahlberg on Twitter.

UPDATE: Read more in the Miami Herald's report here.

March 15, 2018

Co-founder Ryan Cohen stepping down as CEO of Chewy, a homegrown success story

ChewymiamiHerald

Ryan Cohen, CEO of Chewy.com, and his poodle Tylee at the company’s photo studio in Dania Beach in 2016. Photo by C.M. GUERRERO. cmguerrero@elnuevoherald.com


By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlbergbiz@gmail.com

PetSmart announced today that Ryan Cohen, the co-founder and CEO of Chewy.com, is stepping down.

In six years, the 32-year-old Cohen grew Chewy to a homegrown success story, selling it to PetSmart for about $3.35 billion last year, the largest e-commerce acquisition in history.

Chewy, headquartered in Dania Beach, will be led by Sumit Singh, current chief operating officer of Chewy, who joined the company in August 2017 from his role as director of Amazon Fresh Worldwide, the company said.

It’s a familiar story in corporate acquisitions -- that is, the founding CEO steps down to pursue other passions or is replaced at the top -- and it gives Cohen the opportunity to start or fund something anew in South Florida, which is what ecosystems are all about.

Cohen has quite a story of his own. Growing Chewy.com from zero revenues to a multi-billion company was an incredible ride, Cohen said in a keynote appearance at the Florida Venture Capital Conference early this month (see a post here). The pet supplies retailer now has about 7,000 employees nationwide.

Cohen, who has always been entrepreneurial and has no college degree, said he started Chewy to replicate the same “amazing” customer experience of his neighborhood pet store (he is pet parent of a poodle, Tylee), but online. He used Zappos, the massive shoe e-tailer, as a model and inspiration. When he needed capital to grow, he approached more than 100 investors – and they all passed. “But I thought there’s a chance … we were on to something genius. I felt with scale we will prove them wrong,” Cohen told the audience of investors and entrepreneurs at the conference.

When the sale to PetSmart was announced, some longtime customers worried their beloved brand would change, and this news will not make them feel better. Still, the hyper-growth continued after the acquisition. In February, Chewy opened a 100,000-square-foot facility for its customer service team, which had outgrown its space in the Dania Beach headquarters. In total, Chewy employs 1,500 in South Florida, with 1,000 in Hollywood, out of its 7,000 worldwide. Chewy plans to hire 400 more customer service employees for Chewy Hollywood this year, Cohen said earlier this year.

For its part, PetSmart said in a news release announcing the CEO change that the company will continue to operate largely as an independent subsidiary of PetSmart, focusing on its current business strategy.

“Ryan is an amazing leader who has built a unique and powerful ecommerce business with a strong culture that is laser-focused on serving the needs of customers and their pets. I have full confidence that this will continue under the leadership of Sumit, a seasoned ecommerce leader who is well equipped to carry Chewy’s strategy forward and grow the company,” said Raymond Svider, a managing partner at BC Partners and executive chairman of PetSmart.  “We have enjoyed a great relationship with Ryan and respect his desire to step back from running the company after the relentless pace of the last seven years; he has our unwavering support and we wish him well.”

Said Singh: “We will remain focused on Chewy’s founding vision, core values, operating principles and goals. Our business momentum remains strong as we continue to scale while improving our customers’ experience and lowering our costs. We will stay focused, keep moving forward and continue with our vision of making Chewy the best pet retailer on the planet.”

Singh has served as the chief operating officer of Chewy.com since November 2017. Prior to Chewy, Singh served as the Director of Amazon Fresh, and before that he worked for Dell. He received his M.B.A. from the University of Chicago, Booth School of Business and an M.S. in Operations and Logistics from the University of Texas at Austin.

In a statement Thursday, Cohen said: “The past 7 years have been a tremendous journey and the learning experience of a lifetime. In a short time span, Chewy has gone from a concept to disrupting and redefining an entire industry. I feel the time is right for me to pass on the torch so I can pursue personal goals and spend time with my family. I’m confident in Sumit and believe he will continue to carry on the vision of making Chewy the best and biggest pet retailer on the planet.”

What’s next for Cohen? He’s not saying yet, but no doubt it will be entrepreneurial. He also has the means to support other startups, should he want to go the investor route. But to be sure, entrepreneurship is in his DNA, he told the audience at his most recent appearance in South Florida.

“I have never been a clear cut career path kind of person. I started my first business when I was 14 or 15 building websites… My father was a business owner so I saw what it was. It was very clear early on that I would be my own boss,” he said at the appearance in January.

In the recent talk, he discussed the challenges along the way and shared war stories about Chewy, including the difficulty finding funding. He said he moved forward and never changed his business strategy, even after a hundred investor doors were shut on him.

“I spoke to over 100 investors and they all passed for one reason or another. At one point I got so desperate … we took a trip to Sand Hill Road [in Silicon Valley]. I literally went door to door -- that didn’t work. But one of those 100 investors that passed made a visit later and I remember it like yesterday.  I was 25 at the time, and looked like 15 years old. He followed up with us, was impressed with all of our numbers and ultimately he invested.”

Cohen, who describes himself as obsessive, relentless and contrarian, said the biggest challenge was managing the hyper-growth. He  talked about the transformative decision to bring fulfillment in house in 2014, rather than relying on a third party. “It was three or four months of pain. Everything that could have gone wrong went wrong. We worked through those problems and … in order for us to scale a billion dollar company we needed to go through that.”

Cohen also had some advice to aspiring entrepreneurs.

“You need to make sure you are in a place in the world that you are ready for this. Scaling a business is going to test you physically and emotionally, it’s not for everyone. I have an 11 month old now, and scaling a startup from inception to reality is like taking a human being from infancy to adulthood in a very short period of time. It’s going to get sick in the middle of night and you are going to be up all night taking care of it. It’s going to make mistakes and you will learn from it. It is a huge act of selflessness and dedication and if you are ready for it, it is going to be a crazy, crazy, crazy roller-coaster and it will be the journey of a lifetime.”

Follow @ndahlberg on Twitter.

March 13, 2018

RIP, Jugofresh, thanks for leading the way.

AthewshermanONLINE
Matthew Sherman: Jugofresh. Gesi Schilling Jugofresh

By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlbergbiz@gmail.com 

RIP, Jugofresh.

Matthew Sherman, founder and CEO of the cold-pressed juice store company, announced to the Jugofresh community the locations are closing as of today and thanked his customers, employees and vendors.

“I love people and I love creating but running a business is different than creating. I started Jugofresh with the sole intention to create a community that carried the vibration of plants and approached healthy eating with open hearts and childlike mind. I believe we were able to achieve a lot of our goals. I thought that if you make a business and do good in the community, everything will work out. The truth is that a business must be run tightly and I made a lot of mistakes,” the former fitness trainer wrote in his emailed note.

Make no mistake, running a food business is hard. Running a chain of locations is really, really hard. Start with the fact that your product is perishable, and add in rising rents, high overhead, workforce issues, online competition and the fact that most investors shy away and it is no wonder that even the most popular, on-trend eateries fail, despite the best efforts of their passionate founders.

And Sherman was certainly that. He was lauded in the Miami Herald in 2015, named to the Food 50: As an entrepreneur, “he has helped Jugofresh morph from a juice company to a destination for healthy eaters with its raw, vegan food options, even offering specialty vegan pies during the holidays. Sherman is ... giving today’s consumers the kind of unprocessed, locally sourced food they want as part of their healthy, active lifestyles,” the Herald wrote.

Before rapidly growing to multiple locations, Jugofresh launched in 2012 with one store in Sunset Harbor, and called it magic. "I have learned that you cannot bottle magic … My lack of experience and the rapid expansion are what ultimately lead us to close,” Sherman wrote. He told New Times he lost a significant amount of money but said the endeavor was "a great experience." He urged people to patronize local businesses in Miami's culinary scene "or risk a world of national chains."

Some of the entrepreneurial lessons learned, he wrote:

* Employing people that are not making a thriving wage doesn’t feel good and is not functional for a consistent guest experience.

* When you sign a deal with a large company it is difficult to maintain a clear brand message.

* Culture is everything and it’s elusive.

* When expanding a business, it’s all about people and processes.

 “We were faced with 100,000 decisions over the years and we tried to make the right ones but at the end of the day, it just didn’t work,” he wrote to followers.

Jugofresh wasn’t riding a trend, it was leading it. Sherman helped start a healthier eating and wellness wave in South Florida, and leaves Miami with more mindful options than ever.

Jugofresh

 

March 12, 2018

This cute home can be 3-D printed for $4,000 -- and be a solution for the developing world

  Home

 

By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlbergbiz@gmail.com

Building a home in a day for under $4,000? It can be done with 3-D printing technology and could be a sustainable solution for Haiti and the rest of the developing world.

New Story, the nonprofit startup that created hundreds of small concrete homes for Haitians after other nonprofits faltered, partnered with ICON, a construction technologies company, to unveil the first permitted, 3D-printed home created specifically for the developing world. The 350-square-foot home was unveiled Monday at South By Southwest in Austin, Texas.

In the past couple of years, New Story has funded and built hundreds of homes in Haiti and El Salvador. But even though its crowdfunding model is efficient and effective, the nonprofit can’t keep up with the demand building homes the traditional way. The 3D-printed home unveiled Monday serves as proof-of-concept for sustainable homebuilding that will allow for safer, more affordable homes for more families, faster than ever, said Brett Hagler, the CEO of Silicon Valley-based New Story.

 “We feel it’s our responsibility to challenge traditional methods and work toward ending homelessness,” said Hagler, who grew up in South Florida and co-founded the nonprofit with a friend, Mike Arrieta, who attended the same Broward high school, Coral Springs Christian Academy.

Other companies are working on 3-D homebuilding technology, but they are primarily targeting high-end consumers. “We thought, okay, what if the bottom billion weren’t the last ones to get this, but the first ones to get this? It made sense for us to try to leapfrog what’s happening domestically, because our homes are so simple,” Hagler told FastCompany, which broke the story.

The 3-D printer, called the Vulcan, is designed to work in places like Haiti and rural El Salvador where power, potable water and technical assistance can be sparse. It will be built to fit on a truck, so it can be easily transported from site to site. The printer will use a common mortar and the same concrete foundation the YCombinator-funded New Story has been using at its other houses, including in Leveque, Haiti, 40 minutes from Port-au-Prince.

“Conventional construction methods have many baked-in drawbacks and problems that we’ve taken for granted for so long that we forgot how to imagine any alternative,” said Jason Ballard, co-founder of ICON. “With 3D printing, you not only have a continuous thermal envelope, high thermal mass, and near zero-waste, but you also have speed, a much broader design palette, next-level resiliency, and the possibility of a quantum leap in affordability. This isn’t 10 percent better, it’s 10 times better.”

New Story’s goal: To print the first community of homes for poor families in El Salvador in the coming 18 months, and then through partnerships, scale up production in the developing world over the next few years.

New Story currently works in Mexico, Haiti, El Salvador and Bolivia and in three years has funded more than 1,400 homes for families in need. More than 850 of those $6,500 concrete homes have been built and families have moved in. The nonprofit says 100 percent of donations goes to build homes while organization overhead and R&D is covered by private donors.

And this little home, now sitting in an Austin backyard, could be the start of something big in social ventures. Hagler hopes New Story's upcoming project will serve as a catalyst for the industry.

 



 

Miami startup Neighborhood Fuel gets gassed up, too: $2 million in venture funding

Neighborhood Fuel_Photos

By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlbergbiz@gmail.com

Need more time back in your day? This Miami startup makes sure your car is fueled up so it’s one less thing to worry about.

Neighborhood Fuel, which provides an app-driven, on-demand service that fuels up your car while you are at work or at home in your condo, on Monday announced it received a fill-up too: a $2 million Series A round of financing.

Venture firm Softbank Capital NY led the investment round with participation from Lerer Hippeau, a New York-based fund focused on early-stage companies. The $2 million investment will help accelerate the company’s expansion plans to businesses, corporate campuses and residential complexes throughout South Florida -- and beyond.

“Our vision is simple, to give people time back in their day. Peace of mind is getting into your car and not worrying about whether you have enough gas or dealing with the time and traffic it takes to get to the pump,” said Neighborhood Fuel CEO and founder Jorge Camaraza. formerly CEO of Vertical Textiles and international marketer for Universal Music Group. “We view the process of filling your tank as a benefit businesses can offer employees and an amenity residential complexes can offer residents.”

Founded in 2014, Neighborhood Fuel partners with businesses and residential complexes to deliver gasoline directly to company fleets, employees and residents’ vehicles onsite, rather than direct to consumer. Its clients simply download the Neighborhood Fuel app, set up payment and then select the schedule that best works for them. Prices are the same as at the pump, the company said.

Neighborhood Fuel already services clients such as Royal Caribbean, Carnival Cruise Lines, Perry Ellis, Southern Wine and Spirits, University of Miami Health, Enterprise, Sixt and Alamo, the company said in a news release. It is currently expanding into Broward and Palm Beach Counties.

“They are truly applying technology, from logistics to the mobile app, to solving an issue most consumers encounter several times a week,” said Jordan Levy, partner at Softbank Capital NY, which manages $600 million across four funds. “Neighborhood Fuel’s offering is well-timed with the rapidly increasing need for on-demand solutions. We believe Neighborhood Fuel is a powerful solution for the industry and we are excited to collaborate with and support them as they work to build a great company in an exciting category.”

March 07, 2018

Yes, more, more, more: Magic Leap raises $461 million, primarily from Saudi investors

By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlbergbiz@gmail.com

Magic Leap, the Plantation-based mixed-reality startup, announced Wednesday that it has raised $461 million from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s investment arm, The Public Investment Fund. Magic Leap has raised more than $2.3 billion in funding to date.

 The Saudi Arabian fund contributed $400 million of the raise, which was forecast by Bloomberg.

The additional Series D funding is in addition to a previously reported $502 million funding round led by Singapore’s Temasek in October. The  Series D funding now stands at $963 million, the company says.

 “The Magic Leap team and I are happy to welcome The Public Investment Fund and the other new investors to the Magic Leap family. We look forward to having them join us on our journey to build an amazing future,” CEO Rony Abovitz said in a statement.

Magic Leap’s “mixed reality” glasses feature its digital lightfield technology. In December, it unveiled some more details of its first product in development, Magic Leap One, which will be available first to selected developers and designers. '

Magic Leap, founded in 2011 by Abovitz, is based in the former Motorola plant space in Plantation. Greater Fort Lauderdale Alliance president and CEO Bob Swindell told the Sun Sentinel that the company already is outgrowing the space and the economic development agency is working with Magic Leap on options.

READ MORE IN THE SUN SENTINEL HERE.

 

March 05, 2018

Magic Leap sues employee who allegedly tried to extort ‘millions’

Magic Leap sued its senior director of global security, asserting he attempted to “extort millions of dollars” by threatening to make legal claims against the Plantation company, the Sun Sentinel reported.

In a lawsuit filed by Magic Leap on Feb 28 in U.S. District Court in the Eastern District of Texas, the company alleges that Todd Keil has demanded the payment of millions from Magic Leap in exchange for not publicly filing “whistleblower claims” that include alleged illegal conduct concerning competitor Microsoft’s HoloLens virtual reality headset, the Sun Sentinel report said.

Keil is a Texas resident who was hired in 2015 after leaving his assistant secretary position at the Department of Homeland Security in 2012. He oversees workforce and intellectual property-related security as well as strategic business risk mitigation, according to the lawsuit.  According to the South Florida Business Journal, Keil has said he was forced to resign from his Homeland Security post after criticizing management of a program to protect U.S. chemical plants from terrorist attacks.

At Magic Leap, Keil alleges wrongdoing centered on the company's receipt of advance copies of HoloLens. Magic Leap said they were obtained legally but returned as soon as they were discovered, all but one unopened.

Read the full story in the Sun Sentinel or the South Florida Business Journal.

READ MORE: More, more, more? $400 million investment may be in works for Magic Leap  

March 01, 2018

Former UM basketball star takes stake in MyRentHero, with big assist from LAB.Ventures

Davon Reed HeadshotBy Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlbergbiz@gmail.com

Davon Reed, a former University of Miami basketball star who is now a shooting guard for the Phoenix Suns, jumped at the opportunity to invest in a young Miami startup.

MyRentHero  is a real estate-technology startup focused on simplifying the off-campus housing process for students, parents, and landlords. With Reed as a shareholder, MyRentHero is now launching now on the campuses of UM and the University of South Florida.

The startup received a big assist from LAB.Ventures, the venture building arm of Wynwood's The LAB Miami. “We are very excited to be launching LAB.Ventures' first internally developed business MyRentHero, which goes live today at UM and USF,” said Thomas “Tigre" Wenrich, CEO of The LAB Miami and LAB.Ventures. 

LAB.Ventures, funded by the Knight Foundation in 2016, works with entrepreneurs, engineers and designers to test and build promising business ideas. LAB.Ventures also connects startups to corporate partners through programs such as the ongoing Pitch to PERY fashion-tech startup competition and the inaugural Future of Travel Summit it held in February.

Wenrich is an active angel investor and startup mentor who helped Open English, a online English language education company, raise over $120 million in venture capital funding while serving as its founding CFO/COO. Prior to Open English, he was a partner at The Boston Consulting Group. He is also on the board of Miami Angels.

[READ MORE ABOUT LAB.VENTURES HERE.

MyRentHero allows students and parents to easily find pre-screened housing that best meets their needs – including price, distance, and amenities – and to apply online or through a mobile app, which can be downloaded from the App Store here.  

The startup (team pictured below) plans to add another six markets by the end of the year while building awareness and gaining student feedback, said CEO and co-founder Greg Rothman, who worked with Wenrich, a former VP of strategy at Open English who had been itching to build his own startup.

“Davon is not that far removed from knowing first-hand how hard it is to find the right place off campus,” Rothman said of Reed, who signed with the Suns out of the 2017 NBA draft. “Davon is a very smart guy who is going to help us with strategy and marketing as we prepare to roll out MyRentHero across the nation.”

Wenrich said the idea for MyRentHero came out of a discussion with people working in the shared economy,  including Parker Stanberry from Oasis Collections who has become an advisor to the business. Rothman came aboard in November, and since then LAB.Ventures and the MyRentHero team has been developing the business full speed ahead.

LAB.Ventures has built out an internal staff to take ideas further before bringing in a full time team, Wenrich said. It is currently also building a product in the food delivery space and another in the B2B marketplace.   "In both cases, we have a number of potential corporate partners lined up, and this is still the model we believe in for successful company building," Wenrich said. "This is our point of differentiation: If we work collaboratively with industry leaders to solve real world problems from the outset we will be able to move much faster to revenue traction."

  MyRentHero UM Team Photo

 

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