August 23, 2017

Demian Bellumio announces launch of Miami-based AI startup GraphPath, acquisition of Socialmetrix

Demian

GraphPath office in Buenos Aires.

By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

AI is redefining entire industries, and entrepreneur Demian Bellumio believes Miami can have a leading role in shaping how the entire Latin American market takes advantage of these powerful technologies to improve the lives of 500 million people.

On Wednesday, Bellumio launched a new company, GraphPath, that builds on his 10+ years working on semantic computing and machine learning. He said it is the industry’s first Knowledge Graph-as-a-Service that allows organizations to evolve from Big Data to Big Knowledge through the creation and management of large-scale enterprise knowledge graphs.

“The increased interest in adopting machine intelligence and AI technologies across enterprises has accelerated the need to turn data into knowledge so that machines and humans could make better use of it,” said Bellumio, founder and CEO Aunken Labs, parent company of GraphPath. “Additionally, GraphPath allows organizations to collaborate seamlessly across all functional areas, from data engineering to the C-suite, so that knowledge is universally available and actionable.”

Aunken Labs also announced on Wednesday the acquisition of Buenos Aires-based Socialmetrix, a leader in the multi-language social analytics and listening space, to accelerate the deployment of GraphPath into enterprises across the U.S. and Latin America. As part of the acquisition, Socialmetrix’s founders Martin Enriquez and Gustavo Arjones will be joining as COO and CTO of Aunken Labs, respectively.

“I’m personally very excited about the impact that GraphPath can have in the local data science, machine learning and AI ecosystem, as I truly believe that these are the verticals that can have the most transformative impact in our community in the shortest amount time," said Bellumio, who was previously COO of Senzari, which is a minority shareholder in GraphPath. GraphPath already is a team of 18 and has a number of investors and advisors from the AI, tech and venture capital industries. "We already have presence in Miami, Buenos Aires and Guadalajara, and plan to continue to expand throughout the region."

 

August 17, 2017

Shoring up the boat-sharing industry, Boatsetter buys Boatbound, raises more funding

Boater

By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

South Florida is already one of the world’s great boating capitals. Now the region can also claim to be a boat-sharing industry leader, as more people seek out accessible ways to get out on the water and more boat owners oblige by turning their pleasure crafts into money makers.

Boatsetter, a peer-to-peer marketplace for boat rentals, has acquired its Seattle-based rival Boatbound, powering up the South Florida startup’s presence throughout the United States. The Aventura-based company also announced that it has raised an additional $4.75 million in funding, on top of the $13 million announced in December, to fund its international expansion.

Like others in the boat-sharing economy, Boatsetter attempts to make the boat rental experience as seamless as booking a room on Airbnb by connecting people seeking rentals with boat owners looking to monetize the time their boats aren’t used. But Boatsetter differentiates itself by giving its users access to a large network of licensed captains as well as a growing roster of high-end boat rentals for yachting, cruising, fishing or sailing, 24/7 customer support and insurance coverage for renters, boat owners and captains.

Jackie headshot“This acquisition now makes us the No. 1 peer-to-peer boat rental community in the United States hands down,” said Jaclyn Baumgarten, CEO and co-founder of Boatsetter, who wouldn’t disclose terms of the deal. “It means about 5,000 quality vessels ready to be rented, it brings us 1,500 U.S. coastguard licensed captains, it will mean about 10,000 transactions between the companies in 2017 and it brings us 300 locations.”

Baumgarten said the acquisition particularly expands Boatsetter’s inventory in Chicago, Los Angeles, Seattle and Washington, DC.

“Additionally, we will be getting some great new talent from the Boatbound team, and we will be relocating them and the entire Seattle office to South Florida with us – a true Miami startup expansion,” said Baumgarten, in an interview with the Miami Herald on Wednesday. Boatsetter’s team will grow to 27 employees.

While accelerating operations in the U.S. five-fold is the goal for 2017, Baumgarten said, the acquisition and additional funding will also help fuel Boatsetter’s international expansion in 2018. Boatsetter plans to focus first on the Caribbean and Mediterranean, driving demand through global partnerships. It already has “phenomenal boats” in Bali, Ibiza, Mexico and South Africa, she said.

“This market is ripe for consolidation and I believe we are strongly positioned to lead that consolidation,” Baumgarten said. “We worked with a third-party investment bank and they value the peer-to-peer and charter business at $50 billion that we expect in the years to come to grow to $100 billion. That’s a huge opportunity and we are primed to lead a rollup strategy over the years to come globally.”

To that end, Boatsetter extended its Series A round, adding $4.75 million in funding to the $13 million the company raised in December. Key investors of the most recent round include Nordic Eye Venture Capital and the Miami-based TheVentureCity.

Laura Gonzalez-Estefani, co-founder of the TheVentureCity, which acts as an incubator for international-focused high-growth startups, said it’s the “super-driven” CEO and Boatsetter team, their data-driven approach to growth, international strategy and local expertise that attracted TheVentureCity as an investor. “The numbers are astounding in terms of engagement rates, their expansion plans are very interesting in the U.S. but also in Europe and we hope we can help them,” she said.

The young boat-sharing industry began making waves in South Florida in 2013.

That year, Boatbound entered the market in Miami, setting up a small office in Key Biscayne and developing a local network of boats. Boat-sharing was just getting started then, and rival Cruzin, led by Baumgarten, had also put down stakes in South Florida, too. As other rivals such as Sailo began expanding into the market, several locally based startups were developing, including Boatsetter, led by South Florida marine industry veteran and serial entrepreneur Andrew Sturner. Boatsetter and San Francisco based Cruzin merged in 2015, and Baumgarten became the CEO of the combined company. Sturner is executive chairman.

As the industry has matured and consolidated, locally based technology companies serving niches of the boat rental and sales industry have emerged here too, such as YachtLife serving the highest end of the market and Boatyard to handle boat-sharing related management and maintenance tasks for the owners. Meanwhile, a large online boat-sales marketplace, Boats Group, relocated its headquarters to Miami this year.

This summer, Boatsetter began offering uniquely curated experiences through the Airbnb platform in Miami, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Barcelona, Baumgarten said. In Miami, the experiences range from watersports trips, experiences for fishing fanatics and luxury excursions with full course meals.

“We’ve taken boating from being a rare pastime for a fortunate few boat owners to being a universally accessible lifestyle activity for anyone with a smartphone and a credit card,” Baumgarten said in an earlier interview.

Nancy Dahlberg: @ndahlberg

August 16, 2017

A match made in startup heaven? Candidate.Guru acquires Elevated Careers by eHarmony

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Cadidate.Guru co-founders Chris Daniels and Steve Carter in 2016.

By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

It's a match.

Boca-Raton startup Candidate.Guru, provider of a recruiting technology platform that matches job candidates to employers, has acquired Elevated Careers by eHarmony, an employee engagement, personality and skills matching solution by the dating-software pioneer.

Terms of the deal were now disclosed, but Candidate.Guru CEO Chris Daniels said eHarmony will become a shareholder in the company.

Elevated Careers will deepen Candidate.Guru’s technology holdings and widen its product offerings, Daniels said.

Candidate,Guru, founded in 2014, uses artificial intelligence and machine learning to help companies better vet and rank their massive candidate pipeline by culture fit and is used by companies in the early part of the recruiting process. Elevated Careers, founded about three years ago and launched last year, does a deeper analysis internally and externally with an employee engagement solution that assesses how its employees feel about their organization and a candidate-matching feature to determine whether job candidates match up by personality, culture and skills, he said. But eHarmony reportedly found some irreconcilable differences with the human resources industry and put Elevated Careers up for sale earlier this year.

“With this acquisition, we are gaining cutting-edge employee/job candidate survey and matching technology, the perfect complement to the artificial intelligence technology Candidate.Guru has already developed to predict a culture fit between job candidates and companies,” said Daniels, a former executive recruiter whose company won the Miami Herald Business Plan Challenge in 2016.

Candidate.Guru will sell Elevated Careers as a separate product rather than incorporating it into Candidate.Guru's product, at least initially, Daniels said. Dan Erickson, general manager and vice president of Elevated Careers, will join Candidate.Guru and be based in Los Angeles.

Candidate.Guru is a team of eight based at FAU TechRunway. In March, 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, which also included a number of Florida angel groups. The revenue-generating startup has more than 20 corporate customers.

Follow @ndahlberg on Twitter.

 

 

 

August 11, 2017

Miami-based fintech startup Dvdendo attracts $1.5 million in funding

A Miami-based  startup that helps people make investments has landed an investment of its own.

Dvdendo has attracted $1.5 million in seed funding round led by Ideas & Capital Fund and including existing angel investors, according to a news release. Dvdendo  operates a high-tech financial management platform that develops and manages portfolios according to the risk profile of users. The funds will be used for customer acquisition and continued development of its technology.

This platform offers access to  diversified equity instruments typically reserved for clients with high equity, as well as a  a simple mechanism that facilitates and promotes the habit of saving through digital means. "Dvdendo was founded by a group of financial and technology professionals dedicated to making saving easy and automatic and making professional investment advice available to everyone," its website says. Users can open an account on Dvdendo from their cellphone and start saving with only $5, the company said.

The team is led by CEO Gabriel Montoya, an entrepreneur previously involved with Next University and before that was an executive at Cisneros Group of Companies,  and by COO Matthew Meehan, a former portfolio manager and trader for Merrill Lynch and Lehman Brothers in Latin America.

To read more funding news of South Florida startups, go to the "funding" category of this blog.

August 08, 2017

Yes, it’s safe to go into the water with this startup’s invention

Aquavault

By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

But who’s going to watch the stuff?

It’s a familiar question, if you are among friends at the beach who want to take a swim. One Aventura-based startup, AquaVault, has a solution for that – and the crowd gives it a thumbs up.

The crowd is fans on Indiegogo, a crowdfunding platform that lets companies solicit donations, with promises of thank you gifts, generally the products themselves, in return. Crowdfunders donated $235,598 to AquaVault, which plans to produce a new version of its portable safe that can be attached to beach chairs or other objects, safely storing electronics, wallets and other valuables. Strategically, AquaVault held its campaign in prime beach-going season.

Jonathan Kinas, Avin Samtani and Robert Peck founded the Aventura company in 2014 after their valuables were stolen while, you guessed it, they were cooling off with a swim at a South Beach resort. They brought their first product to market with the help of ABC’s Shark Tank in 2015, where they lured in an investment from Daymond John (pictured below with AquaVault team). Since then, nearly all South Beach hotels have been offering the safes to their guests, Kinas said.

The newest version of the startup’s safe, called FlexSafe+, is made with cut-and-slash resistant material and sports a motion sensor alarm and a water-proof solar charger. Like the other portable safe, FlexSafe can be locked to a beach chair, a golf cart or a bike, or even a rod in a dormatory or hotel room. It was offered at the $99 giving level.

With the Indiegogo campaign over, AquaVault moves into production with FlexSafe+. “We will be producing roughly 10,000 units and will be delivering in November right before the holidays,” Kinas said.

Crowdfunding has its fans, especially among consumer product makers. But few score funding at the level that AquaVault did, in its campaign that ended July 30. Although Indiegogo does not publish statistics, its more dominant rival Kickstarter does. On Kickstarter, only about 1 percent of companies launching campaigns raise more than $100,000.

Follow Nancy Dahlberg on Twitter @ndahlberg.

Aquavault founders

August 06, 2017

Travel-tech company Oasis sets its sights on Asia, with new funding from Hyatt

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An Oasis property in Miami. Photo from Oasis 

By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

StanberryWith just 15 portfolio properties  in 2009, entrepreneur Parker Stanberry started Oasis, a curated marketplace of private homes offering upscale travel accommodations. Today, Miami-based Oasis offers 2,400 properties in 22 markets worldwide, and has 150 employees.

Last week, Hyatt made a significant, strategic minority investment in Oasis, which brings the brand’s total fund-raising to $35 million, Oasis said. This new investment will allow Oasis to expand its footprint to additional cities in the U.S., Europe and Latin America and enter Asia.

In 2014, Oasis joined the ranks of Latin American tech startups moving their headquarters to Miami. Stanberry, an expat from the U.S. who lived in Argentina for eight years, relocated to Miami in 2015 but spends about two-thirds of his time traveling to Oasis’ expanding portfolio of locations that include Barcelona, Cartagena, New York and Paris.

“Oasis is home meets hotel, the next generation of accommodations,” said Stanberry, who started Oasis as a passion project. “We have all the benefits of home sharing – bigger spaces, better locations, more value – with an added layer of quality control, curation and hospitality services.”

Those hospitality services include Oasis staff onsite for check-ins, on-demand concierge services and a members club. Others apparently also see the opportunity.

“Travelers who book Oasis Collections homes are looking for something different than a traditional hotel experience. They’re leisure and often business travelers who seek more space for a longer time, but also want the peace of mind, personalized service and amenities they expect when staying with Hyatt,“ said Steve Haggerty, global head of capital strategy, franchising and select service for Hyatt, in a statement. “While we are at an early stage, we believe this category has the potential to serve new stay occasions for our customers and to add meaningfully to Hyatt’s growth over time.”

Oasis grew revenues 100 percent year over year in 2015 and 2016, and is on track to surpass that this year, Stanberry said. In the past 18 months it has launched in 13 new markets in the U.S., Europe and Latin America. Oasis was the leading accommodations partner for sponsors of the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, including Nike and Visa. 

Stanberry said he will use the funding to take customer experience to the next level in current markets, and expand into Asia.

 “It’s not just about a place to stay, it’s about maximizing your experience. We’re adding a concept called Upgrades, where a guest can order extras like a stocked fridge or an airport transfer, and generally creating a seamless mobile-driven experience for the traveler,” said Stanberry, who was selected as an Endeavor Entrepreneur in 2014.

Neither Hyatt nor Oasis would disclose the size of the Hyatt funding, but Stanberry called it "significant" in a Skift article and it brings total funding to $35 million. After some initial angel funding that allowed Oasis to expand and move its headquarters from Argentina to Miami, last year Oasis raised a $10.6 million Series B round, said Stanberry. Oasis also raised a $2.5 million convertible debt financing earlier this year.

Oasis advisor and angel investor Marco Giberti cited Stanberry's work ethic, courage and strong commitment to keep learning and improving the product and user experience. “He is a great leader, and I’m really glad to see his new deal and excited about future opportunities for him and Oasis.”

With the new Hyatt funding, Oasis joins a number of Miami area startups who have raised significant funding rounds this year, including Modernizing Medicine, Nearpod, Neocis, MealPal, Boatsetter, Nymbus and Kairos.

Follow @ndahlberg on Twitter

Read more

From Argentina to Miami - a bridge worth building (guest post featuring Oasis)

Hatching a tech future: South Florida startups are gaining strength 

How international startups are making Miami their U.S. base

Rioproperty

 A residence in Rio offered by Oasis. Photo from Oasis

July 29, 2017

App to help divorced parents manage everyday life featured on 'Planet of the Apps'

Gwyneth Paltrow Michael Daniels Fayr Presentation 1

Michael Daniels, with Gwyneth Paltrow, making his presentation for "Planet of the Apps." 

Fayr app was created by a divorced dad in Weston

By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

Weston resident Michael Daniels and his new iTunes app, Fayr, were featured on  Apple Music’s “Planet of the Apps” this week. Daniels, a divorced dad with two young children, created Fayr to help divorced parents streamline family management, such as scheduling and budgeting.

The app won the support of “Planet of the Apps” judges and Daniels secured a partnership with Academy Award-winning actress and “conscious uncoupling” advocate Gwyneth Paltrow, who's now an advisor for Fayr. This week, Fayr was the featured app on the iTunes store.

Daniels, 37, a custom home builder, says he was inspired to create Fayr when the challenges of co-parenting began to overwhelm him. The app creates a joint family calendar to track activities and time-sharing, and generates digital records of expenses and real-time location check-ins. It also offers in-app texting to simplify communication between parents.

“My favorite thing about Fayr is that it was created with the whole family in mind. Separating is a challenging transition for any couple. When children are involved, it’s especially tender and worrisome,” Paltrow said, in a news release. “Fayr removes unnecessary stresses and tension so parents can collaborate to create calm and stability for their children.”

Fayr launched in beta mode several months ago and attracted the attention of  “Planet of The Apps,”  Apple’s new reality series for aspiring app developers. Working with entrepreneur advisors Jessica Alba, Gwyneth Paltrow, Gary Vaynerchuk and Will.i.am, developers and their concepts endure an intense incubation period and then a high-stakes pitch. New episodes debut Tuesdays on Apple Music.

Fayr is available on iOS with a monthly subscription of $4.99. An Android version is planned by year's end. More information:  www.fayr.com.

Follow @ndahlberg on Twitter

 

July 18, 2017

Ironhack receives $3 million in funding for global expansion

Ironhackclass

Ironhack, a coding bootcamp in Miami with campuses in Madrid, Barcelona and most recently Paris, received $3 million in financing led by Madrid-based JME Venture Capital.

The funding will be used for international expansion, including coding campuses in Latin America and Europe, TechCrunch reported.

Founded by Ariel Quinones, who is based in Miami, and Gonzalo Manrique, Ironhack launched its bootcamp in Miami in 2015 after launching them in Madrid and Barcelona. The company opened its Paris location earlier this year. Its Miami bootcamps are held at Building.co.

"We’re very excited to have JME join us as our partners. Their investment will allow us to accelerate our pace of expansion, improve our product and curriculum, and hire top talent as we continue build one of the world’s top tech schools," said Quinones in TechCrunch.

Ironhack has been part of a wave of coding bootcamps opening across the nation, including Wyncode in Miami. Its cohorts end with demo nights, and it recently provided coding school scholarships to Uber drivers and riders in Miami.

July 16, 2017

Heading to Dadeland Mall? App finds you prime parking spot

By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

MyPark Dadeland Screenshot (2) (1)For shoppers who might hit the mall more often if they could snag a parking spot by the door, a Miami startup has a solution.

Beginning Tuesday, MyPark, an app-based parking service used by malls and private and public garages, is partnering with Dadeland Mall for the debut of its on-demand self-parking service. With the app, shoppers willing to pony up a few bucks can book a prime parking spot when and where they need it.

Dadeland Mall has installed 30 reserved, numbered spaces in various locations, such as near the main entrance, the food court, CVS, Macy’s and the fashion wing. Luis Mayendia, CEO of the Miami-based MyPark, said the company hopes to expand the relationship as the results prove the value for customers and tenants at Simon Properties.

To save themselves from the endless circling or a long schlep to the entrance in the summertime rain, a shopper can reserve a prime space for $3 for up to two hours, and $3 an hour thereafter. Users of the app, available for iPhone and Android devices, choose their section (the best spot is selected automatically by default). Once users arrive at their reserved space, they tap a button on the app and a MyPark reservation unit blocking the space will lower to give them access. (No, you can’t scalp your coveted spot at holiday time). Retailers and restaurants can offer validated parking to their customers if they wish.

“We continually evolve to offer our customers more choices and enhance their experience,” said Maria Prado, general manager of Dadeland Mall.

While Dadeland Mall is MyPark’s first foray into Florida malls, MyPark is in use at a handful of other malls including Simon’s Lenox Square in Atlanta and Westfield Garden State Plaza, New Jersey’s largest mall. MyPark is also available at South Beach’s Pelican Garage and several office buildings.

Later this summer, MyPark (usemypark.com), founded in 2013, plans to expand into Puerto Rico, Mayendia said.

Plum, maker of innovative wine appliance, attracts $9 million in funding

Plum2

By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

David Koretz introduced the first appliance that preserves, chills and serves wine by the glass. A $9 million round of funding will help the South Florida entrepreneur further expand into the luxury hotel center.

His startup, Plum, announced Thursday that its Series A round was led by Khosla Ventures, locally based Las Olas Venture Capital and several angel investors. Wine and hospitality industry veterans also participated in the funding round.

“The support from investors of this caliber is a welcome validation of our core mission to let people enjoy a single perfect glass of wine on demand in their homes and hotel guest rooms,” said Koretz, Plum’s founder and CEO, in a press release.

Plum appointed Joe Berger, executive vice president and president of the Americas for Hilton Hotels & Resorts, to its board. “There is an incredible need for innovation inside the hotel room to surprise and delight guests and elevate their experience with each stay,” said Berger, who oversees operations of more than 350 corporately managed Hilton hotels and Hilton Grand Vacation resorts. 

The company’s Plum for Hotels program brings on-demand, in-room wine by the glass to guests. Plum has already signed deals with Four Seasons, Marriott, SBE Group, Langham, Hyatt, Hilton, and Rosewood flags. 

“Hoteliers will be able to unlock new incremental revenue streams,” said Mark Volchek, founding partner at Las Olas Venture Capital that has funded several South Florida companies in the past year. “David is an experienced entrepreneur who has a strong track record of success, and we are excited to be backing him on his latest venture.”

Plum’s appliance, which is in production, holds and preserves two bottles and serves each wine at the idea temperature for that varietal. Plum is headquartered in Dania Beach and has offices in Silicon Valley. Koretz moved to South Florida in early 2015 from the valley to start Plum, even though VCs at the time told him he was crazy.