April 20, 2017

Miami real estate-tech startup Gridics raises $1.1 million from developer Avra Jain and others

Gridex

By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

Efficient isn't a word most people would use to describe a planning and zoning process, but a Miami-based real estate technology startup wants to change that.

Gridics announced Thursday that it has raised a $1.1 million round of seed funding. The round was led by Dune Road Capital and included John Dyett, managing director of Salem Partners, Robert Kall, CEO and co-founder of Cien.ai, and Miami real estate developer Avra Jain. 

Gridics, short for Grid Analytics, is a real estate dataa and software development company founded in 2015. From applications on its platform,  users can visualize real estate data in order to make smarter investment and development decisions while streamlining inefficient processes in the real estate world, the company said.  For example, the Zonar.City application helps bridge the gap between the private sector development community of architects, developers and attorneys by automating development feasibility analysis and streamlining the development plan approval process. 

"By creating a solution that can digitize and automate any zoning code, the Gridics team has created a way to streamline an antiqued process," said Peter Richards, managing partner of Dune Road Capital.

The company, which has raised over $2 million  to date, is focused on further strengthening its product and driving adoption of its Zonar.City application. 

"Our new automated compliance module allows cities and developers to quickly check development plans against site-specific zoning requirements.  Cities that integrate their code with Zonar.city will streamline their zoning approval processes resulting in faster approvals, improved transparency and significant reductions to backlogs," said Gridics CEO Jason Doyle, in announcing the funding.

Gridics is also developing a Market Intelligence application, which allows real estate professionals to conduct hyper-local market analysis.  More than 1,000 members of the Miami Association of Realtors have joined Gridics since February, the company said.

 

Gridics2

 

April 18, 2017

PetSmart to buy Chewy.com, and the price fetched may be eye-popping

Chewy1%20ceo%20biz%20cmg

By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

The biggest e-commerce acquisition deal in history could be going to the dogs.

PetSmart, the nation’s largest pet-supplies retailer, has agreed to acquire Dania Beach-based Chewy.com, the market’s No. 1 online retailer.

The combination of Phoenix-based PetSmart, with 1,500 stores nationwide, and Chewy will enhance both companies’ reach, the companies said Tuesday. The acquisition, which is subject to customary regulatory approvals, is expected to close by the end of PetSmart’s second fiscal quarter.

Terms of the transaction were not disclosed. However, tech media site Recode is reporting that the deal in place is valued at $3.35 billion, according to its sources. That would make the sale of Chewy the biggest e-commerce acquisition to date, even larger than Wal-Mart’s $3.3 billion deal for jet.com last year.

“We are focused on improving our customers’ experience in-store and online as we continue to execute against our long-term strategic initiatives. Chewy’s high-touch customer e-commerce service model and culture centered around a love of pets is the ideal complement to PetSmart’s store footprint and diverse offerings,” said Michael Massey, PetSmart president and chief executive officer, in the announcement.

Chewy, which had been rumored to be a candidate for going public, has seen explosive growth since it was founded by Ryan Cohen (pictured above) and Michael “Blake” Day in 2011. The privately held company registered $26 million in sales during its first full year in business and logged more than $900 million in sales in 2016, the company said.

Although it was not yet profitable, Cohen said in February Chewy was projected to increase revenues to nearly $2 billion this year — nearly a 7,600 percent growth spurt in just six years. Today it has about 5,000 employees nationwide.

[READ MORE: Chewy has seen fantastic growth, but can it keep up the pace?]

The company built its following — more than 2 million customers nationwide — on customer service. Among its many campaigns, it sends hand-painted pet portraits as thank you gifts to 700 randomly selected customers every week.

“Since we started Chewy, we have been dedicated to understanding and satisfying the evolving needs of our customers to deliver the highest quality pet products and customer service,” said Cohen, Chewy’s CEO. “Combining our strong e-commerce expertise with PetSmart’s best-in-class infrastructure, footprint and breadth of offerings including services will help us wow our customers even more.”

Chewy will operate as an independent subsidiary of PetSmart run by Cohen and will remain focused on its current business strategy, while PetSmart will continue to execute its strategic initiatives across the combined company, PetSmart said.

Chewy tried to reassured customers on social media Tuesday that Chewy wasn’t going anywhere and the level of service would not change after the acquisition.

According to 1010Data, Chewy.com holds 51 percent of the online pet food market, including 40.5 percent in direct sales and 10.2 percent in subscription sales. But Chewy always had bigger aspirations.

“If you look at where we are today in the business, we’re still scratching the surface in terms of the total addressable market. We want to be No. 1. We’re No. 1 online. We want to be the largest pet retailer in the world,” Cohen said in a Miami Herald cover story in February.

Chewy had raised several rounds of capital — about $236 million in total — to support its growth. On Feb. 1, Wells Fargo Capital Finance had become the latest investor, announcing an agreement to lend $90 million over the next five years to Chewy.

Nancy Dahlberg: @ndahlberg

Chewy2%20reception%20biz%20cmg

 

April 14, 2017

Susan Perry of SpeechMED honored by AARP for innovation helping older Americans

SusanperrySusan Perry, founder and CEO of Miami-based SpeechMED, is one of AARP’s  50+ Innovation Leaders, an AARP initiative administered by MedCity News to recognize entrepreneurs, companies and ideas behind innovative new products and services for Americans aged 50 and older.

“We are thrilled to be recognized by AARP as an innovator of audio, multi-lingual, patient engagement technology that enables seniors and their caregivers to hear their medical directions via human voice instead of in written form, which gives them a far greater chance of processing those critical directions, and always in the language that they know best” said  Perry, in a news release.

The winners of the inaugural 50+ Innovation Leaders program were revealed today during the AARP Innovation@50+ Live Pitch event by representatives of MedCity News and AARP. The full list of winners can be seen at medcitynews.com/50-plus-innovation-leaders/.

“AARP works to empower people to choose how they live as they age,” said Jeffrey Makowka, AARP’s director of market innovation. “We are pleased to join MedCity News in showcasing entrepreneurs who are driving change and improvements in the healthcare industry for the more than 100 million Americans aged 50 and older."

SpeechMED is a simple to use platform to empower patients, caregivers and their healthcare providers by removing obstacles to clear communication. "Our mission of inclusion is to make patient’s medical information understandable to them regardless of their age, vision, language preference or literacy level," Perry said. Visit speechmed.com for more information.

READ MORE: A Startup Spotlight on SpeechMED 

 

April 12, 2017

Cheers! Delivery.com buys Boca Raton-based alcohol delivery startup Klink

KlinkTeam

Klink team, from left: Jeffrey Nadel, CEO; Nicholas Bowers, CTO; Craig Bolz, COO; and Geoff Castillo, chief creative officer. Photo provided by Klink


Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/news/business/article144161594.html#storylink=cpy

By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

KlinkappRaise a glass for Klink: The South Florida-based alcohol-delivery startup has been acquired.

Klink, founded in 2013, was one of the first companies to legally provide on-demand, technology-powered alcohol delivery, said the startup’s CEO Jeffrey Nadel. On Wednesday, New York-based delivery.com, a company that also delivers food, groceries, laundry and other products and services, announced that it had acquired Klink. Terms of the transaction were not disclosed.

Klink’s first location was the University of Central Florida because two team members were students there. But the startup quickly pivoted from the college campus model and built a loyal customer base in Miami, Dallas and Washington, DC, markets that delivery.com has targeted for expansion. delivery.com has been offering food and laundry pickup and delivery in the Miami area for some time, but has never offered alcohol delivery in the area, said Nadel.

Significant recent milestones for Klink include its partnership with Total Wine & More, which included a campaign emphasizing the stories behind the products, and its campaign with Corona, in which customers could have Corona delivered by boat or jetski. For the co-founders born and raised in South Florida, the sale as a validation point for the growing South Florida tech scene is significant, too.

Klink, most recently based in Boca Raton, was part of a wave of South Florida startup companies creating concepts in just about every aspect of the spirits industry, including brewing and distilling, packaging, selling, dispensing – and delivering. Klink’s app, available on iOS and Android, brought the party to the customer, who could order beer, wine and spirits for delivery in under an hour.

But Klink was far from alone in the booze delivery game. In addition to delivery.com, Klink competed in various markets with a number of competitors, including Drizly, Velocity, Thirstie and Minibar, and recently national delivery apps Instacart and Shipt more known for delivering groceries have launched alcohol delivery in South Florida. The sale marks one of the first consolidation moves in the alcohol-delivery space.

READ MORE: South Florida’s spirited startups serve up innovation

Nadel wouldn’t disclose personnel transition plans for the Klink team of 10. “The immediate focus of the entire Klink team is working hand-in-hand with the delivery.com team to ensure the smoothest possible transition for our customers and retail partners. We are confident this will be a huge value-add for both our customers – who will be able to order food along with their beer, wine and spirits purchases – and our retail partners, who will have access to a wealth of new customers,” said Nadel, adding that Klink customers have been clamoring for an offering that combines booze and food almost since Klink’s launch.

The companies said a transition of Klink customers and merchants to delivery.com will be completed in coming weeks. delivery.com, founded in 2004, has made at least three other acquisitions over the years, the most recent being BrewDrop of Austin, Texas, last year.

READ MORE: Delivery on-demand – apps at your service

 

April 01, 2017

Startup Spotlight: Emerge.me reinvents shopping for emergency insurance

Emerge

Wes Thompson, far left and pictured below, founder and CEO of Emerge.me, a tech startup simplifying shopping and buying insurance for medical emergencies. He has assembled a management team, from left, consisting of Whitney Romanchuk, head of user experience; Mike Rolfe, head of product; and Marc Howard, head of growth marketing and analytics. They are seen in their Wynwood office, inside of Rokk3r Labs, on March 8. Carl Juste cjuste@miamiherald.com


Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/news/business/biz-monday/article142123609.html#storylink=cpy


By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

 

Startup Spotlight: Emerge.me, a Miami startup, has reinvented the customer experience of shopping for and purchasing an emergency insurance policy. Traditionally, buying a gap policy would require you to spend days corresponding back and forth with an agent or broker about your coverage needs, the available policies and the application process. That’s all changing.

Company name: Emerge.me

Headquarters: Rokk3r Labs in Miami

Concept: Emerge.me makes insurance for medical emergencies accessible, simple and easy to purchase.

Emergewes Story: Wes Thompson was inspired to create Emerge after hearing the story of a former employee who was struggling to pay medical bills for his wife’s illness. Even though they had health insurance, they could not afford the out-of-pocket costs of deductibles, special treatments, travel costs for care and lost wages. The burden of paying these costs ended up putting the family into serious medical debt.

“This isn’t just an isolated story — in fact millions of Americans are not equipped to deal with the financial reality of these emergencies even if they have health insurance,” Thompson said.

Thompson should know: He has 30 years experience in the insurance industry and most recently was president of Sun Life Financial U.S. What’s more, as an intrapreneur, he helped pave the way for a restructure of a major Philadelphia-based insurance company in the early 2000s that resulted in a new business model. This is Thompson’s first startup.

Emergency insurance solutions — supplemental or gap policies — exist to protect individuals from the risk of unexpected medical emergencies not covered by health insurance. Emergency insurance is designed to complement health insurance by providing a cash benefit that can be used for any out-of-pocket costs related to a covered illness or accident.

But here’s the problem, according to Emerge: They are neither straightforward nor easily accessible to most consumers. These products are sold essentially as an afterthought or add-on to health insurance exclusively through brokers and agents, there is no digital marketplace for customers to compare pricing for policies, get educated, get advice and apply online.

The big picture: Rising healthcare premiums are causing consumers to take on more and more risk, and medical costs are now the leading form of consumer debt in the U.S. today.

Emerge.me has reinvented the customer experience of shopping for and purchasing a policy. Traditionally, buying an emergency insurance policy would require you to spend anywhere from two days to a few weeks corresponding back and forth with a broker or agent about your coverage needs, the available policies and the application process.

That’s all changing. Before launching Emerge late last year, the company spent a year building an in-house algorithm. Now, a customer can come to emerge.me, and engage with tools, get coverage advice, compare personalized quotes, and apply online — all within 15 minutes or less, the company said. Emerge primarily markets to the consumer but sees significant opportunities in the B2B arena.

Emerge has launched with two products, critical illness insurance for financial protection against cancer, heart attack, stroke and more and physical injury insurance, which provides benefits for falls, injuries, broken bones, etc. Emerge is already planning to add other supplemental insurance products in the near future such as hospital indemnity and short-term disability.

“We have a great team and great partners,” Thompson said. “The space is ripe for disruption.”

Launched: December 2016

Website and social: emerge.me, blog.emerge.me, www.facebook.com/tryemerge/

Management team: Wes Thompson, founder and CEO; Mike Rolfe, head of strategy and product development; Whitney Romanchuk, head of product design and UX; Marc Howard, head of growth and data analytics; Cheryl Egazarian, project manager.

No. of employees: 13

Financing: Raised $1.8 million in seed funding via Thompson’s self-funding and private investors; seeking an additional $400,000 via convertible notes prior to Series A funding targeted for June.

Recent milestones reached: Emerge is now licensed in all 50 US states as an insurance broker. Digital insurance carrier partners include trusted companies such as United Health One/Golden Rule, Mutual of Omaha, Assurity, Manhattan Life and SureBridge. Secured $1.8 million in seed funding. Won second place in TechCrunch Miami Pitchoff event. Recognized by Plug&Play as a finalist for its InsurTech accelerator program.

Biggest startup challenge and why: Convincing insurance companies to innovate and participate on emerge.me, as emergency insurance products have traditionally been distributed exclusively through traditional agents and brokers.

Next steps: Seeking Series A funding in order to expand the product offerings, continue to improve the user experience and invest in customer acquisition and talent acquisition.

Follow @ndahlbergon Twitter.

Read more Startup Spotlights

Traditional trucking meets the sharing economy with Cargo42

Want the yachting life - even for a day? Miami startup will hook you up

Want a fast, safe way to sell your gadgets? These entrepreneurs created one

Miami startup offers car washes on demand that save water too

Sociallybuzz refocuses to help other small businesses grow

Never miss storytime: App bridges the miles to connect families for reading, learning
 

March 26, 2017

Q&A with JetSmarter's Sergey Petrossov: What it's like to run a billion-dollar startup -- at age 28

Sergey

By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

Sergey Petrossov, the 28-year-old founder of JetSmarter, says when you go all-in as an entrepreneur, you don’t look back.

That may be, but 2016 must have provided quite a tailwind.

In December, the Fort Lauderdale-based private jet marketplace announced that it raised $105 million from new and existing investors, including the Saudi royal family and celebrity rapper Shawn “Jay Z” Carter. Investors value JetSmarter at $1.5 billion, which in venture-capital speak makes it a “unicorn,” a private company valued over $1 billion.

[READ MORE: JetSmarter attracts $105 million to bring jet-set lifestyle to the merely wealthy]

“In 2015 we had no more than 50 employees. The majority of all our cities were launched in 2016,” Petrossov said. “We have done massive hiring spread all over.”

Today the company has more than 260 employees, Petrossov said. JetSmarter already flies into cities in the United States, Europe and the Middle East, and plans to soon expand into India, China and South America. In addition to its corporate headquarters in Fort Lauderdale, it has offices in London, Dubai, Zurich, Moscow and Saudi Arabia.

JetSmarter offers a mobile app that lets its members charter an entire jet, travel on a private jet shuttle or create their own shared charter. It doesn’t own jets but works with a network of charter companies. Annual membership fees are $14,000. JetSmarter reportedly has about 8,000 members.

The company offers four flight services, both scheduled routes and on-demand, where members create their own flights on their own schedule. Most innovative is its shared services for both customized, on-demand flights and its scheduled JetShuttle services on more than 50 routes on three continents. The company also offers JetDeals, last-minute flash sales that pop up on “empty legs.”

“We’ve been able to surround the globe. Last year we had close to 45,000 unique passengers,” Petrossov said.

But that’s just one pillar of the brand, Petrossov said. It’s also a social community between members and a service that extends to on-the-ground services that a customer will not even have to ask for. “Our vision is to create this travel and lifestyle community and to deliver an end-to-end experience for how you get there, who you meet and where you go,” Petrossov said.

The Miami Herald sat down with Petrossov in his office in Fort Lauderdale earlier this year to talk about his vision, what’s ahead and the entrepreneurial ride so far. Over the past few weeks, however, that ride has been rocky.

Since the Miami Herald’s interview, JetSmarter has run into turbulence in its executive ranks: One of JetSmarter’s former executives, Edward Gennady Barsky, was arrested on grand theft charges in a California case unrelated to JetSmarter and has resigned. Barsky was JetSmarter’s president, vice chairman and one of its first investors. JetSmarter’s statement: “Gennady Barsky has resigned from JetSmarter for personal reasons. The charges he faces are wholly unrelated to JetSmarter, and pre-date the founding of JetSmarter,” said spokesperson Ronn Torossian. There’s been public relations turbulence too, with tech media site The Verge reporting that JetSmarter required a positive article if it let a reporter take a free roundtrip flight to try out the service.

Here are excerpts of the Miami Herald’s earlier conversation with Petrossov.

Q. How did you end up in South Florida?

A. I was born in Moscow, I moved to the U.S. when I was 4, and I’ve lived between California and Colorado and South Florida. I moved to South Florida when I was 11 or 12.

Q. How did you get involved in technology?

A. I went to the University of Florida [studied finance], and I always had a math and analytical bent. When I was 18, I wasn’t really into college that much — I was more interested in getting out of college — and I got involved with my first startup. It supported chat for audio and video for website customer service. I wasn’t the founder but since I got involved early they called me a co-founder. That was my first experience working with engineers and I learned with technology how much value you can bring in a short amount of time. I knew then that I wanted to start companies and tech was the field I wanted to be involved in.

Q. What was the first company you founded?

A. In ’09, I graduated and I went off to co-found my own company, in education technology. We built a team of engineers in South Florida and we were building cloud-based software for schools and universities that wanted to teach people online and remotely. We targeted Russia and Eastern Europe, meaning the universities and schools that didn’t have big budgets that needed a cheap software solution. The name of the company is the Federal System of Distance Education and it is still operating today.

Q. How did you make the leap from ed-tech to private jet aviation?

A. In ’09 an acquaintance had introduced me to a private jet company (in South Florida) and the operator invited me to take a flight. The topic of that was how they needed some help potentially expanding into Eastern Europe and Russia, but to me it was like, what do I know about private jets?

I was just having fun with it. I didn’t think I could be helpful to them and I was just going for the experience. But in going through this I quickly found out the only way to reserve this on your own was to call and talk to somebody and a couple hours later they would send you an invoice. The bottom of the invoice said sign it, scan it or fax it back ... and I was thinking what the heck is going on here, this is ’09 and this is like the ’80s. The airline and hotel industry had been revamped with the concept of dynamic pricing yield management and a digital interface. Nothing like that existed if you looked on the back end of this company. It was a mom-and-pop operation and everyone was operating like this, like one big mom-and-pop industry.

I then found out there are 21,000 private flights a day in the U.S.; there are only 23,000 commercial. There are 17,000 private jets around the world; 12 to 13,000 are in the U.S. The average airplane is only flying 200 hours a year, and optimally they could be flying 1,500 hours. And out of those 200 hours they were flying, one-third were empty. They were repositioning. Out of the ones that were occupied, the percentage of seats filled was only 25 to 30 percent. This was like a plague of inefficiency.

I was intrigued. I started doing some consulting work with them, thinking some day I might want to get back in it, while continuing to work with the ed-tech startup.

Then in 2012, I started a side project. I had the relationships; I had already learned a lot about how data interacts in this space and I wanted to build a real-time pricing engine. From January through August of 2012, I built a little team. We built a beta, a prototype, and we gave it out to friends and family and people I knew that flew now and then. Literally in 30 seconds, real-time prices and you could see this was something that could really get traction. People wanted me to drop everything and I had some initial investors. By March 2013, we went all-in and launched the company.

Since then it has been one long hectic ride.

Q. You say JetSmarter is more than a private jet service. Can you explain your vision?

A. What we realized is that in this process of sharing in the sharing community, what we are building is a community. The people who are sharing rides together are like-minded and are similar, and the value as the community has a lot to do with that social effect. People will join just to meet other people in the community, not for the flying.

That transcends this concept of commodity and price. Today people are thinking about travel by how much it costs — do you think of your health like that, do you think of the food you eat like that? It is not a price discussion, and when you add a community effect to it, there’s relevance to you and your life and who you are sharing it with.

I believe the future of travel is going to transcend the language of commodity. It is going to have association, it is going to have a community effect. So what JetSmarter really stands to be is what we call the world’s greatest travel and lifestyle community. It’s built on three pillars. It’s built on air travel; we deliver air travel on private jets so we’ve solved the first problem of how to get there and we’ve made flying fun again. In the process you are meeting great people, and when you land, we want to navigate where you go.

Q. How will you solve that last piece?

A. That’s built on something we call predictive hospitality. We have enough data on our consumers that we understand the behavioral patterns so much we can help them have a unique experience when they land. That end-to-end experience of how you get there, who you meet and where you go is the JetSmarter experience. You can go to your same favorite locations and you might have a unique JetSmarter experience there and you will use us to transact there. It’s like coming into your house, that’s why we call it a house account." You’ll go to your favorite restaurant and say put it on my JetSmarter account and you won’t even have to ask for the bill, and it’s all based on GPS technology.

All of this is part of our vision to create this travel and lifestyle community and to deliver an end-to-end experience for how you get there, who you meet and where you go. This is what we are capable of delivering now and we are working on the technology and digital interfaces to help bring it to life in a digital software form. It’s more proactive than reactive. It’s not you asking, ‘can you get me something.’ It knows what you want when you go somewhere. That’s where the future of lifestyle is, it’s just going to be simpler, easy. When you go to a city or when you want something we generally know how to guide you. This is really what we are about: delivering the end to end experience."

Q. Can you give me some examples?

A. We are about to launch access for our members to 8,000 or so luxury residences through a company called ThirdHome. These residences you can’t just request, you have to be part of a club. Our members will have access to it. We’re creating a JetSmarter experience on top of it. This is one big relationship that is key and important to us.

We are also working with a few restaurant groups that will allow us to create a unique experience in 100 to 110 restaurants. We are going to start in four cities — New York, London, Los Angeles and the Miami area — and our members will have a unique experience there, unique menus custom-curated for them and they won’t have to ask for a bill when they leave, like a country club. That’s around the corner.

We are working with a few luxury hotel brands, big ones, for unique partnerships and benefits for members at those locations. We are working with a very large luxury retailer; we believe we can create a unique retail experience for our members when they go shopping. There will be a loyalty system built in to that; as our members transact business they earn flight credit they can use on JetSmarter — it’s a virtuous loop.

Q. What do you think most attributed to JetSmarter’s progress so far?

A. When we launched sharing deals — we call it JetDeals — in mid-2014, that is when we started aggregating supply, offering last-minute flash deals. We lowered prices significantly, and that is when we saw a new consumer set come into the market very fast. That is when we discovered this was really big and that people wanted to have another experience that wasn’t waiting in a commercial airport. That’s when we realized those products had a lot of power. Then we launched JetShuttles in early 2015. We had to raise capital to do that, and that allowed us to offer a unique product to consumers.

Q. What are your goals for this year?

A. From a brand perspective, we want to be seen as an overarching brand and lifestyle community so we want to make sure the other two pillars of our business are presented in the forefront as much as the aviation piece — the social network and the predictive hospitality piece.

Q. What has been most challenging in all of this?

A. Getting someone to try something that is completely new. It’s why our marketing is word of mouth, because you can trust your friend. But it is very hard to get someone to take that initial leap of faith.

Q. Your team is 260 people?

A. Yes, a little more. About 120 are here. We have every function of the business here and the executive team. We also have a sales and biz dev team in London, operations in Zurich, engineering in Moscow, sales and operations in Dubai and Riyadh. And for each of our cities [that JetSmarter flies to], we have employees that will meet and greet you when you land.

Q. How many do you have on your top management team?

A. Probably 12 to 15 people. We are fairly decoupled, we’re circular, people operating on independent teams. We’re not a traditional vertical corporate structure.

Q. Why did you base your business in South Florida?

A. I grew up in South Florida and I got exposed to aviation here. I had a lot of relationships for aviation here, and this is one of the capitals for private aviation. A lot of people take residency here and park their airplanes here for tax reasons.

The only bad part about South Florida is there are not that many high quality engineers here. We took that handicap on and we built an engineering team in Moscow, where we have 25 to 30 engineers today. We import some, and moved people here, and we have still hired people here but it is much harder.

Q. Where did you get your tech know-how?

A. I’m not an engineer by trade but I can understand complex problems, and that is a lot of what we do. We solve an optimization and yield management problem by building out predictive algorithms on demand and supply [that] you can dynamically price and make sure you operate at optimal efficiency — meaning you reduce the amount of dead-head flying, you increase the load factor on flights that are occupied. We pride ourselves on our flights between New York and South Florida — we fly as many as 30 times a week round trip, as many or more than many commercial carriers — and we have a load factor of 96 percent. It’s a very efficient operation.

Q. Do you think entrepreneurs are born or made?

A. There’s an age-old saying, managers are taught, entrepreneurs are born. I’ve always had a bent for it since I was 10 or 11, I always wanted to do something. When I was little, I’d have a lemonade stand and a car wash and I organized garage sales.

Nancy Dahlberg: @ndahlberg

 

March 16, 2017

$300,000 in Florida Institute funding closes $1.1 million round for Candidate.Guru

MONEY

By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

Candidate.Guru received a $300,000 investment from The Florida Institute for the Commercialization of Public Research, closing out its financing round at $1.1 million.

The Boca Raton-based startup developed its human resources software solution with technology developed at the Florida Institute for Human Machine and Cognition so it was eligible to apply for Florida Institute funding. The Florida Institute supports new company creation based on publicly-funded research, and bridges early funding gaps for companies spinning out of Florida-based universities and research institutions. To date, 65 Florida companies have been funded through the Institute, which makes matching investments up to $300,000; Candidate.Guru received the maximum.

Candidate.Guru developed a big-data software solution that can predict a culture fit between companies and prospective job candidates without the need for surveys and assessment tools. It was the winner of the Miami Herald Business Plan Challenge in 2016.

ADVERTISING

“Our customers can easily submit job candidates to Candidate.Guru via LinkedIn, job boards and human resource systems, and we then return them in rank order based on strength of the culture fit with a specific hiring manager, team or the company itself. This enables our customers to prioritize thousands of job candidates instantly and reach out to the best culture fits first,” Candidate.Guru CEO Chris Daniels said in the news release. Daniels, a former executive recruiter, founded the company in 2014.

“Candidate.Guru is improving the hiring process by enabling companies to hire the best candidates more efficiently, thereby increasing long-term employee productivity,” added Jackson Streeter, Florida Institute’s CEO.

The new funding extends Candidate.Guru’s previously reported round to $1.1 million, which also included funding by Florida angel groups The FAN Fund, Florida Funders and Miami Innovation Fund. Before that, Candidate.Guru raised about $475,000 from friends and family. The revenue-generating Candidate.Guru has more than 20 corporate customers.

The Florida Institute has also funded South Florida companies Vigilant BioscienesBiscayne PharmaceuticalsKairos, Heart Genomics and Genetic Networks, among others.

Follow @ndahlberg on Twitter.

READ MORE: Candidate.Guru’s big-data solution solves HR quandary: Will the new hire fit in?



March 06, 2017

Startup Spotlight: Traditional trucking meets the ‘sharing economy’ with Miami tech startup Cargo42

 

Cargo

By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

Through a simple-to-use app, Cargo42 provides companies an option to ship locally for a lower rate with trucks that have empty space in them. At the same time, trucking companies enjoy an additional revenue stream and maximize the trucks’ productivity.

COMPANY NAME: Cargo42

Headquarters: CIC Miami, 1951 NW Seventh Ave.

Concept: Through a simple-to-use app, Cargo42 provides companies an option to ship locally for a lower rate with trucks that have empty space in them. At the same time, carriers (local trucking companies) enjoy an additional revenue stream and maximize the trucks’ productivity.

Story: The truck-sharing economy concept came from Francine Gervazio’s professional experience in the logistics and tech industries. She frequently saw trucks driving nearly or completely empty, and her company was paying the price for that empty space. Once Gervazio came to the United States in 2015, she confirmed this was not only a problem in her home country, Brazil, but a global issue.

She decided to spin the opportunity into an actual business during her Babson College MBA program in 2015. That’s where she met Murilo Amaral and Alfredo Keri, who were essential pieces to make this happen. After having performed a pilot test in Boston, the Cargo42 team moved the operations to Miami last summer because of the big opportunities as a result of inefficiencies in this important U.S. logistics hub. The decision was also based on a competitive analysis and strategic positioning for future expansion and market growth, the founders said.

“We knew already that Miami was a very big logistics hub, but we were really impressed when we saw the numbers and said, yea, that’s where we are going,” Gervazio said.

Before attending Babson for their MBA degrees, Cargo42’s co-founders had diverse experiences and backgrounds, including logistics, supply chain and operations as well as e-commerce and marketing and sales.

Gervazio managed new operations for Easy Taxi, a Rocket Internet company, in Southeast Asia and Latin America, after working in logistics in Brazil and Australia. Amaral founded a packaging company with 250-plus employees, which acquired 6 percent of the Brazilian market share. Keri worked in sales and marketing for multinational companies, including British American Tobacco in Latin America.

Last summer, the founders spent their summer going door to door in the South Florida territory to build their initial truck base. That was followed up with online marketing, cold calling and lots of networking at trade shows and industry events. Today, the company has 85 shipping companies and 380 carriers using the service. Its goal is to partner with a large company so it can expand much faster.

Gervazio participated in the WIN Lab, Babson’s accelerator program for female founders, in Boston, and the whole team is part of StartUP FIU’s Cohort 2 now in progress.

“With Cargo42, we are sure we can help carriers reduce their empty miles and get more customers, as they have limited resources to acquire new customers. We also support their cash flow problems, issuing payments three times faster than the industry. For shippers, we provide a lower price, increasing their tight margins. Also, our platform saves their time giving real-time quotes and online tracking even when using a small trucking company. Finally, we also play an important role to help to reduce the traffic and pollution in communities and cities, by making more effective use of the trucks,” Gervazio said.

“In the last four years, 20 percent of the small trucking businesses have closed their doors in Florida,” Amaral said “We are changing the rules and leveling the field to get them back in the game.”

Launched: July 2016.

Website: https://www.cargo42.com/

Management team: Co-founders Murilo Amaral, Francine Gervazio, Alfredo Keri (pictured above).

No. of employees: Eight team members, including interns.

Financing: Self-funded.

Recent milestones: 85 shipping companies and 380 carriers are now using the Cargo42 platform.

Biggest startup challenge: Customer acquisition. The trucking industry is very traditional, and it takes time for people to accept and embrace the changes to the process they have been doing for years, Keri said. “But once they give it a shot, they immediately see the benefits.”

Next steps: Closing important strategic partnerships that could lead to exponential growth and begin the company’s geographic expansion.

Adviser’s advice: Nabil Malouli, vice president of Customer Solutions and Innovation at DHL, said Cargo42 has developed a model that can be flexible at this stage. “I have recommended to use a multi-channel approach, such as partnerships with established companies that have complementary products and solutions, and to focus on the big deals. The sales and implementation cycles of small and big deals are very similar, and you have to focus on the big deals that will truly help you grow the business.” He also recommended that the team focus strongly on Cargo42’s first customers and have them become the indirect sales team. “First customers need to have an amazing experience so they can help you grow the business much faster,” he said.

Malouli believes Miami, already a global logistics hub, has the potential to become a global hub for logistics innovation. “This is a huge opportunity and we have to keep promoting entrepreneurship in the logistics industry in Miami, as Cargo42 is doing.”

Read more Startup Spotlights

Want the yachting life - even for a day? Miami startup will hook you up

Want a fast, safe way to sell your gadgets? These entrepreneurs created one

Miami startup offers car washes on demand that save water too

Sociallybuzz refocuses to help other small businesses grow

Never miss storytime: App bridges the miles to connect families for reading, learning

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

 

February 20, 2017

Startup Spotlight: Want the yachting life, even for a day? Miami startup will hook you up

Spotlight News rk

From left to right, YachtLife cofounders Patrick Curley and Nick Cardoza pose for the picture at River Yacht Club in Miami. Roberto Koltun rkoltun@miamiherald.com

 

Company: YachtLife Technologies

Headquarters: Miami, one of the world’s only year-round yachting destinations.

Concept: YachtLife aggregates local inventories of fully crewed luxury yachts and displays them on one platform. The YachtLife app has photos, specs and pricing for all yachts, so users can browse available inventory, and even book on the fly, without needing to speak to a broker or owner. A concierge assists when needed to plan itineraries and attend to the needs of the user to ensure a luxury, fluid and memorable experience, and at prices less than what a broker would typically charge. YachtLife gives yacht owners a direct way to list their own yachts for day or multi-day charters to offset their costs.

Story: Nicholas Cardoza, co-founder and designer of YachtLife, is vice president of the luxury yacht company VanDutch and has been involved in yachting his entire life. In 2008, Cardoza got his start working in the yachting industry as a personal chef and deckhand on mega- and super-yachts, and later obtained his captain’s license and began delivering yachts during the off-season. In 2012, Cardoza joined VanDutch and has since helped build the company’s presence as a major luxury brand.

Patrick Curley, co-founder of YachtLife, quit his job in finance in New York to start a mobile tech startup in the hospitality space and moved to Miami three years ago. When visiting, his friends would occasionally inquire about chartering a yacht, and since he had no idea how to go about chartering yachts, he would refer them to Cardoza and VanDutch would help his friends. After a number of times doing this, both Curley and Cardoza realized how the yacht charter industry was still light-years behind other industries — few websites actually list pricing, so customers need to search multiple websites and call brokers for quotes. After receiving quotes from multiple websites, customers then needed to go back to the site with the best quote and finalize all booking details over the phone.

“YachtLife has assembled a top-notch portfolio of some of the nicest yachts for charter in Miami and beyond. Since we removed the middleman and negotiated the best terms, users can now book fully crewed luxury yachts for the day, in most cases without even speaking to a broker — simply choose your yacht, pickup time, and tell us what day you’d like to go out. YachtLife usually confirms your charter within an hour,” Curley said. “The YachtLife concierge also helps with any questions before, during or after your charter.”

Today, YachtLife operates in South Florida, the Bahamas, the Hamptons, Chicago, New England, Spain, the South of France, Italy, Greece and Turkey. Prices for half-day to multi-day private yacht charters vary widely, but start at about $1,600 in Miami.

YachtLife currently lists about 250 yachts on its platform, from a 40-foot VanDutch to a 154-foot Feadship with a crew of 12 — “It’s a 6-bedroom floating mansion on the water with all the water toys you can imagine,” Curley said.

Launched: May 2015

Website and social: www.yachtlife.club; @yachtlifeapp; www.facebook.com/yachtlife.club

Management team: Patrick Curley, Nick Cardoza, Anko Mast

No. of employees: 12

Financing: VanDutch Yachts, a leading luxury yacht manufacturer, purchased a stake in YachtLife in 2016. YachtLife is raising a $1 million seed round. The gener8tor accelerator fund and a handful of angel investors have already committed half of the round.

Recent milestones reached: On Saturday, YachtLife announced it has launched a membership club, and has already attracted a Miami Heat player and other YachtLife users. Members receive discounts on yacht charters and benefits from partners, such as hotels, yacht clubs and restaurants. YachtLife recently signed a deal to act as exclusive yacht provider for the two-weekend long Fyre Festival, a music and cultural festival in April/May 2017 in a private cay in the Exumas, Bahamas; the festival is expecting 20,000 and YachtLife is the exclusive yacht provider for the festival, including yacht accommodations and tender service for VIPs. It offered a Valentine’s partnership promotion with the Standard Hotel. YachtLife recently completed the gener8tor accelerator program, which has been instrumental in helping YachtLife from a strategic and tactical perspective. The startup acquired space at the River Yacht Club on the Miami River in partnership with the VanDutch Lounge to open its own YachtLife Lounge, where users and members can enjoy yacht club amenities and benefits.

Biggest startup challenge and why: Scaling inventory and opening up new regions. Each region has cultural and legal differences, and you need to really have good on-the-round relationships with luxury yacht owners/brokers/management companies in order to negotiate favorable deals, the co-founders said.

Next steps: Campaigns to grow inventory in existing areas YachtLife services as well as partnerships with strategic hospitality and luxury brands. After fund-raising, YachtLife will hire a sales rep with group-sales experience in order to target corporations to host events on yachts.

Mentor/Investor’s view: “We are big fans of marketplace companies, in particular those with high margins and that leverage the broader trend in the sharing economy. Yachts are a perfect example of an underutilized asset, and YachtLife allows yacht owners and renters to better utilize those assets for mutual benefit. In addition, YachtLife’s exclusive partnership with VanDutch is truly unique in the industry and allows their marketplace to be seeded with the most popular yachts available,” said Troy Vosseller, co-founder of gener8tor.

Follow @ndahlberg on Twitter.

Read more Startup Spotlights

Want a fast, safe way to sell your gadgets? These entrepreneurs created one

Miami startup offers car washes on demand that save water too

Sociallybuzz refocuses to help other small businesses grow

Never miss storytime: App bridges the miles to connect families for reading, learning

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

SSS00 Spotlight News rk

YachtLife co-founders Patrick Curley, left, and Nicholas Cardoza pose for the picture at River Yacht Club in Miami.Roberto Koltun rkoltun@miamiherald.com



 

February 15, 2017

One year later: Miami-based MealPal raises $15M, expands internationally

Katie and Mary

By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

5.5-inch (iPhone 6+) - Screenshot 1One year ago, Mary Biggins launched MealPal, a subscription restaurant lunch service, in the Brickell area of Miami, and quickly expanded to Boston, New York and four other U.S. cities. On Wednesday, Biggins announced the startup is jumping across the pond to London, its first international expansion, and it has raised $15 million in venture capital to fund its growth.

The Series A financing round was led by Comcast Ventures, the venture capital affiliate of Comcast Corp., with participation from Bessemer Venture Partners, Haystack Partners, NextView Ventures and Miami-based Krillion Ventures, said Biggins, who co-founded the Miami-based company with Katie Ghelli (both are pictured above).

“MealPal has built an exciting business in the huge, but overlooked meal takeout space, using technology to create a win-win for consumers and restaurants,” said Daniel Gulati of Comcast Ventures, in a statement. “Their early traction has been outstanding.”

In the markets it serves, Miami-based MealPal offers hundreds of affordable and curated local restaurant lunch options to its members near where they work or live for a flat, monthly fee. Every weekday, members can browse the curated list of offerings on MealPal’s website or app and pre-order the night before or in the morning and then skip the takeout line. For restaurants, it can increase revenue and exposure. In London, it launched with 125 restaurants.

With London, the tech-enabled subscription meal service is now in eight cities, including San Francisco, Washington DC, Chicago and Philadelphia. The service has facilitated more than 1 million reservations for lunch – doubling its total in the last four months – and has thousands of restaurants on the platform, said Biggins, who previously co-founded ClassPass, which offers fitness classes by subscription.

In September, the company rebranded from MealPass to MealPal and introduced “Pal,” a smart bot that uses artificial intelligence to make reserving lunch easier and more personalized. “Pal will know if you like big lunches or small lunches, if you like cheese, if you like meat or are a vegetarian, if you likes beets, etc, so it can make really good recommendations to you,” Biggins said then.

Now? “We’ve captured preference data for hundreds of thousands of meals at this point with Pal,” Biggins said on Wednesday.

MealPal has about 45 employees, most of them in its biggest market, New York. Although Biggins travels a great deal between all MealPal locations, she and her Miami team are based at Building.co. Krillion Ventures also participated in MealPal’s seed funding round.

Follow @ndahlberg on Twitter.

READ MORE:

MealPass rebrands as MealPal, unveils ‘Pal’ feature, launches in Chicago, Washington, DC

Tech Talk: From ClassPass to MealPass, the Big Apple to the Magic City