April 16, 2015

AdMobilize launches its AdBeacon to collect data from physical spaces

Admobilize-logoBy Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

AdMobilize, a big data company for outdoor and indoor advertising,  launched its AdBeacon, which the company says is the world's first "plug and measure" analytics platform for outside digital signage advertising and retail, enabling  operators and agencies to understand ad campaign performance in real time.

The fast-growing Miami Beach company, now with 26 employees, has also moved into new offices, unveiled a new logo and has three four more "Internet of Things" products in the pipeline.

AdMobilize describes the AdBeacon this way: The AdBeacon device is about the size of an iPhone 5 and uses a camera sensor to collect data from physical spaces. Metrics such as impressions, confirmed views, dwell time, peak times, and audience demographics are captured and displayed on an intuitively designed dashboard all in real time.  For digital signage with built-in camera sensors, AdMobilize offers a seamless and comprehensive API solution. 

Roldolfo"AdMobilize's technology provides operators and agencies the only turnkey solution to solve the very complex physical world analytics problem.  Our goal is to work on the really hard things, so you can focus on growing your business while benefiting from this cutting edge disruptive solution," said AdMobilize's founder and CEO, Rodolfo Saccoman.

He explained that the  AdBeacon analytics platform is accompanied by an intuitive and intelligent dashboard.  "The big advantage of the system is just how easy it is to install, including the AdRemote App available for IOS and Android.  I'm a big fan of Apple, and we emulate UI/UX concepts of beautiful design that marries intuitive usability and function," Saccoman said.
He said the platform is now being piloted by several of the biggest Out of Home and Digital Out of Home companies in  the USA and the UK, and several global advertising agencies and brands are  experimenting with AdBeacon.
AdMobilize has been a partner of Rokk3r Labs for a couple of years and had been based at the Rokk3r offices, but it has just moved into its own offices in Miami Beach, which features an AdBeacon Technology Showroom and Big Data Control Center as well as several creative experience areas. There will be an open house at the new  offices at 1680 Michigan Ave., Suite 900 (upstairs from Rokk3r), Friday night at 5:30 p.m. and the community is invited, Saccoman said. With a little room to grow in (for now), Saccoman plans to have a community contest next month, and offer the winners free workspace.

In addition, AdMobilize has offices in Bogota and London,  where 11 of its 26 employees are currently based, and has a presence in Washington, Tel Aviv and Boston.

"We are in a strong hiring mode and will be hiring six to eight full-time employees and are also offering challenging internships starting now. We are hiring engineers, data scientists, computer vision, business development and marketing superstars," said Saccoman.

Saccoman has raised a total $4.5 million from a combination of VC firms, local and foreign angels and a Rokk3r fund. Launched in 2012, AdMobilize was a Miami Herald Business Plan Challenge winner in 2013.

Up next:  AdMobilize is working on three new products, all in stealth mode.  "During the the next four to six months we will be unveiling these products which have the potential to connect the physical environment to consumers in ways never thought of before," said Saccoman.  "Our team and products all work toward imagining what Internet of Things and Big Data can become."

Follow Nancy Dahlberg on Twitter @ndahlberg.


April 15, 2015

Coastal Risk Consulting announces seed investment

Coastal Risk Consulting, a South Florida startup helping property owners, businesses and communities become climate ready and storm safe, announced that management and consulting firm Trexin Consulting has agreed to make a $515,000 seed investment in CRC.  

 CRC has developed the Coastal Risk Rapid Assessment, an online tool that provides residential and commercial customers with an analysis of flooding risk at individual properties over a standard 30-year mortgage cycle, said Albert J. Slap, CRC's president. "Over 50 million residential property owners in coastal areas, as well businesses and municipalities, now can assess the impacts on their property values and make informed decisions regarding inevitable future rising water levels," he said.


April 13, 2015

Wyncode expands to Fort Lauderdale's General Provision

After graduating four cohorts and nearly 70 students from their Wynwood location at The LAB Miami, Wyncode founders Juha and Johanna Mikkola have decided it’s time to expand to General Provision co-working space in downtown Fort Lauderdale’s FATvillage.

The development boot camp welcomes programming newcomers. Over the nine-week period in a small class, students spend at least 300 hours learning and working collectively to create their own web apps. At the end of the course, Wyncoders pitch their apps to a panel of South Florida technology leaders and could walk away with a cash prize and/or a job. In the first four cohorts, Wyncode has a 92 percent placement rate.

The Fort Lauderdale campus’ lead instructor, Damon Davison, will be leading a free information session and demo lesson at Wyncode’s Open House on April 13. Wyncode’s first cohort in Fort Lauderdale on April 20. For more information, visit www.wyncode.co.

Davison studied  web development at the University of Cologne and worked as the Director of Technology at Southern Records in London and at other companies. Since moving to South Florida, he has quickly integrated into the tech community, organizing Rails Girls South Florida and the Broward Ruby Brigade.

April 10, 2015

News from amp.it: Winner of Take Back the Mic contest to be unveiled at eMerge Americas





Today, Miami-based tech startup amp.it, founded by musician, entrepreneur and broadcast personality Derrick N. Ashong (DNA), announced the finalists for Season 1 of its first media property – TAKE BACK THE MIC: THE WORLD CUP OF HIP HOP.  They are ComboIO from Brazil, Crew Peligrosos from Colombia and Italee from Jamaica – all chosen from the competition’s inaugural country.sies by fans on amp.it, a social network that amplifies the voices of a new generation, by rewarding fans for sharing the music they love.

Each four-minute, digital episode of Take Back the Mic gives the audience an artist’s-eye view of the streets of Rio de Janeiro, Medellín, and Kingston, as the artists struggle to overcome the odds, using their talent as their launching pad.  Of the 9 semifinalists championed by fans on amp.it, 3 have advanced to the live May 4th finale to be held at Miami’s New World Center, where they will be joined by the highest-scoring fans. This culminating event will serve as the main entertainment for the eMerge Americas tech conference, launched last year by Medina Capital Founder and Managing Partner Manny Medina.

During the eMerge Americas party at the New World Center, fans will be able to vote at home for the winner of the World Cup of Hip Hop.

You can see the artist stories at www.takebackthemic.com.



April 07, 2015

Budsies: They are cute but will "Shark Tank" take the bait?

Alex Furmansky - Founder & CEO of Budsies small (1)


Will the Sharks bite on Budsies? Tune in Friday night to find out.

Alex Furmansky (pictured above) is the founder and CEO of Budsies, a Lake Worth company that turns drawings and pictures into custom-sewn plush figurines or stuffed animals. Furmansky launched Budsies out of his South Florida home in August 2013 and has sold about 8,000 Budsies so far. He will now get a chance at exposure to 8 million ABC "Shark Tank" fans – and a possible investment. (see a quick video cameo of Budsies products on Shark Tank's video promo here.

Budsies taped its Shark Tank episode last fall and is not allowed to say more about the investing outcome, but Furmansky is excited about the marketing opportunity:“Budsies has already brought a tremendous amount of joy into the lives of so many of our customers – including children who are fighting cancer and create Budsies of their superhero parents and armed forces members who can’t be home for the holidays but send Budsie Selfies of themselves instead. I cannot wait to see what the imaginations of this new influx of customers will create.”

The company has worked with and received orders from professional illustrators, corporate brands, video game producers, book authors, creative adults, teenagers and children, Furmansky said. The product line includes The Original Budsie, Budsie Selfies and Budsie Petsies.

Budsies is the second South Florida company to appear on Shark Tank already this year. Last month,  AquaVault was on the show, and ended up making a deal with Shark Daymond John: $75,000 for 25 percent of the company.

Here's the pitch! Let's see if the Sharks cuddle up to Budsies.


 UPDATE AFTER THE SHOW: No deal. Kevin O’Leary (aka Mr. Wonderful) and Daymond John both gave Alex offers (50% and 40% respectively for $100K) following his pitch but Alex Furmansky declined both believing the Sharks were undervaluing the company.  Over the weekend, the Budsies website received 100K visitors from fans, supporters and new customers, the company said.

Nice touch giving the Sharks Budsies that looked like them. 

April 06, 2015

News: Pipeline Workspaces announces minority investor

Pipeline 3

Pipeline Workspaces, a fast-growing shared workspace concept that started in Miami and is expanding nationally, announced Monday that it has sold a minority stake valuing the company at about $15 million.

The investment comes from Gordon G. Pratt, founder and CEO of Fund Management Group (FMG), a private holding and investment company. Pratt has been a member of Pipeline Brickell, the company’s original location, for two years.  FMG became a limited partner in Pipeline’s second shared workspace located in Philadelphia and followed up with the minority investment in the Pipeline Workspaces general partner.

Todd Oretsky headshot“Gordon tested our business platform first-hand as a member and experienced how the concept we offer and our management team is different from other co-working spaces in the US today,” said Todd Oretsky, co-founder of Pipeline Workspaces, in a news release.

In 2 1/2 years, Pipeline has opened collaborative workspaces in Miami’s Brickell Financial District and Philadelphia’s Center City. A third location is under construction in Coral Gables and should open in the first half of this year. In the planning phase is a co-working and co-warehousing space in Little River area for artists and small business owners.

Philippe Houdard - headshot 2Pipeline is also exploring expansion in Atlanta, Charlotte, Denver and Dallas, as well as other locations in South Florida.

 “Across our current locations, we already are seeing members take advantage of the opportunity to work out of multiple offices and network in new cities, which makes expansion of their businesses into new markets much more seamless,” said Philippe Houdard, co-founder of Pipeline Workspaces. “Imagine having a network with one degree of separation from many industries in multiple cities.”

That is what the Pipeline team is building.

News: Kairos acquires emotion analysis company IMRSV


By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

When Brian Brackeen, the founder and CEO of the facial recognition software company Kairos, was asked by his customers for a capability his Miami tech startup didn’t offer, he set out to add it.

Those customers -- software developers in a variety of industries, including healthcare, retailing, advertising and banking -- wanted not only the advanced facial recognition technology that Kairos offered, but they also wanted to know about emotions behind the faces. Were they happy, sad, attentive, agitated? How do they respond when they look at ads or products?

Rather than build the technology, Brackeen bought it. "We went looking at companies in the space and found one that was far and away the best,"  he said.

On Monday, Kairos announced it acquired the New York-based emotion analysis startup IMRSV. With this acquisition, Kairos becomes the only facial biometrics company offering both facial recognition and emotion analysis tools for developers, said Brackeen. The IMRSV team will be moving to Miami.

“I feel like I can finally offer my customers everything they want and it is all in house,” said Brackeen, who started the company in 2012. “The acquisition of IMRSV positions Kairos to take a leadership role in the rapidly growing facial biometrics sector. It also helps us, as a developer centric company, achieve our goal of delivering enterprise quality tools to developers and making facial biometrics and emotion analysis accessible to all.”

 Brackeen said that about a third of Kairos’ projected $4 million in revenue this year will come from the acquisition: “This is a big deal for us.”

Said Jason Sosa, founder of IMRSV who will be joining Kairos: “Kairos shares in our belief of converting the complex into the simple. The impact of these technologies has enormous potential to transform countless industries."

It wasn’t long ago when Brackeen was heading a small team working around a big table at The LAB Miami co-working space in Wynwood, going through the ups and downs of the startup journey, even running out of money at one point. But the company powered through it, and last fall Brackeen was selected as an Endeavor Entrepreneur, which brings with it a global network of mentorship and support. The Endeavor network helped Brackeen throughout the acquisition negotiations as well as with Karios' recent fund-raising roadshow plans, said Brackeen, who worked at Apple, IBM and other companies before starting Kairos.

Now, with 17 employees and soon to grow to 25 with the acquisition, Kairos has recently moved out of The LAB and into its own offices nearby. Marketing expert Freddie Laker, formerly with SapientNitro, Gui.de and other companies, joined the team three months ago as chief marketing officer and also oversees sales. Brackeen is interviewing candidates for COO and a chief science officer.

Brackeen says more acquisitions are most likely in Kairos’ future, and he believes startups teaming up, as his did with IRSV, will be the trend as startups strive for the exponential growth venture capitalists want to see, while still holding onto their startup cultures. “Our world, the facial recognition world, the computer vision world, are full of amazing PhDs who leave amazing universities to start companies, but they don’t have experience in running a company. We are really good at that and we feel like we have a lot to offer all these firms.”

Together with the acquisition, Kairos has raised $5.5 million in seed financing so far, and hopes to close a Series A round in the fall. Kairos' shareholders now include Kapor Capital, New World Angels, VenVelo, Quotidian Ventures, Great Oaks Venture Capital, Eniac Ventures, 500 Startups and TechStars.

In conjunction with the acquisition, Kairos released a new suite of tools and analytics software for developers. Kairos currently supports more than 4,600 developers.

Follow Nancy Dahlberg on Twitter @ndahlberg.


 KAIROS TEAM: Meyako Williams, Neil Pitts, CEO Brian Brackeen and Freddie Laker, at Kairos, a facial recognition company located in Wynwood. | Photo here and above by CHARLES TRAINOR JR MIAMI HERALD STAFF

How it all works:




Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/news/business/article17474594.html#storylink=cpy

March 21, 2015

Startup Spotlight: Caribbean Journal

Caribbean journal

Guy Britton, executive vice president, and Alexander Britell, editor-in-chief/founder, of Caribbean Journal in the offices of Pipeline Brickell on March 16, 2015. WALTER MICHOT MIAMI HERALD STAFF

Caribbean Journal

Concept: Caribbean Journal is a daily digital magazine covering news and travel in what the publication likes to call the “Greater Caribbean.”

Story: Alexander Britell graduated from Harvard College cum laude and received a scholarship to attend the University of Miami School of Law, where he soon began studying Caribbean law. He had been a journalist since high school, and one night before graduating from law school, had the idea to launch a regional Caribbean news source. In 2013, Britell joined forces with longtime media executive and former Caribbean and Travel and Life Publisher Guy Britton and expanded the site with more robust travel and tourism content.

“The Caribbean is unique in the world in that it is a place that everyone wants to know about and visit, but for which there has long been a significant information deficit, even more so for people who live within the region,” said Britell, editor of Caribbean Journal. CJ aims to bridge that gap by focusing on two major areas: news (politics, economics, energy and the environment) coupled with travel and tourism, the region’s single largest economic driver. “The goal is to unite two often disparate worlds: the people who live in the Caribbean, and the people who travel and invest in the Caribbean, and to inform them about what’s happening in the region and why it matters to everyone,” Britell said.

Today, the magazine has grown to become the world’s largest website covering the Caribbean and the leading resource for news and travel information on the Caribbean, Britell said. It is read in more than 200 countries and territories, with the largest concentration (about 65 percent) in the United States.

CJ has its office at Pipeline Brickell, which has proven to a valuable collaborative resource for the company’s growth. CJ even hosts regular Rum Tasting at the space as part of its Rum Journal section.

Founded: 2011

Management team: Alexander Britell, editor-in-chief/founder; Guy Britton, executive vice president.

Number of employees: Five.

Website: www.caribjournal.com

Financing: $500,000 in angel equity financing

Recent milestones reached: 460,000 visits in one month in January, just topped 44,000 subscribers (email newsletter goes out every day of the week) and 88,000 Facebook likes, 268 percent year-over-year audience growth. Won two Caribbean Tourism Organization media awards. Hired Caribbean travel expert Sarah Greaves-Gabbadon as travel editor at the end of 2014. “Among our staff, we’ve now visited every country in the Caribbean,” Britell said.

Biggest startup challenge: Building an Internet audience from scratch. In the very early days, CJ was getting 50 people a day. Now it’s 15,000, Britell said. 

Next step: Hosting conferences and small events in Miami and expanding audience development. “We believe that there’s nothing stopping us from reaching 5 million visits a month or more. But what’s important is that we stay lean and efficient and maintain our editorial vision,” Britell said.

Partner’s view: “I knew the minute I saw Caribbean Journal what a great opportunity there was to grow the audience and make it valuable for advertisers,” said Britton, who has more than 20 years of digital publishing experience and knowledge of the Caribbean. “We will continue to produce new, useful and entertaining content that attracts the right readership. Events are a great way to grow. We will continue to host rum tastings, small press conferences and accept speaking engagements.”

Nancy Dahlberg @ndahlberg

March 17, 2015

Shyp makes tracks in Miami, adds feature to make the dreaded return easier

Shyp images

If online shopping is all about the convenience, why are returns such a hassle?

Shyp, the on-demand shipping service that launched in Miami just before Art Basel, introduced a service this month that expedites the return of unwanted items. No more printing out the return label, repackaging the box and killing your lunch hour at the post office, the company says.

With the startup’s Shyp Returns feature, you simply launch the Shyp app (iOS or Android), select the retailer you’re returning to -- there are 13 popular ones right now such as Amazon, Target and J.Crew -- enter your order number, take a picture of what you’re returning, and you’re done. A Shyp courier will arrive within 20 minutes to  pick up your item and take care of the rest, including packaging, for $5, the company says. “We know where it needs to go in a couple of taps," said CEO, Kevin Gibbon, founder and CEO of the company in an interview last week. With less hassle to return, “consumers actually buy more," he said. “It’s beneficial for Shyp, it’s better for the retailers and better for the consumer.”

The return feature is new but Shyp, which simplifies the process of shipping packages using a mobile platform and a fleet of Shyp couriers, has already been making tracks in South Florida. Since launching in late November, its third expansion after San Francisco and New York (L.A. is next), Shyp has been experiencing 20 percent month-over-month growth, said Gibbon, who thinks easing online returns – now 15 percent of its business -- will increase that. Shyp has also raised $12.2 million in venture funding.

Shyp, now a team of six in Miami and hiring, is one of a growing army of startups targeting the entrenched logistics industry. Want to send a gift or do you have a large small-business order to get out? Shyp charges a $5 pickup fee no matter the number of items and does the packing for you at its warehouse; the consumer also pays the retail cost of shipping. The company makes money because it negotiates large volume discounts on shipping, says Gibbon, who was a eBay power seller in college who  experienced the hassle of shipping first-hand.

Shyp strategically launched in Miami just before Art Basel, Gibbon said. Along with small businesses, Gibbon said, “we are seeing traction with hotel concierges, who are using  it as an on-demand service for their guests. Property managers  have been promoting Shyp to their tenants, so we are seeing a lot of shipments from highrises. And of course shopping -- it becoming clear to us what people already know, Miami loves to shop.”

Miami is also skewing higher for international shipments, he said. "You don’t have to go to the post office for the custom declaration forms anymore. We do it all through the app.” And that includes art, lots of art. Shyp provides $1,000 of insurance for free; but customers can purchase more through Shyp.


March 16, 2015

Startup Spotlight: Wyncode


Johanna and Juha Mikkola are the founders of Wyncode, which runs nine-week-long coding boot camps at its school at The LAB Miami. AL DIAZ MIAMI HERALD STAFF



Headquarters: The LAB Miami in Wynwood.

Concept: Wyncode is a nine-week development boot camp immersing ambitious individuals in a demanding and inspiring learning environment engineered to develop successful coders with business acumen. “We believe in promoting programming literacy using a disruptive education model and feel that a boot camp environment is the best way to learn practical and relevant coding skills quickly,” said Juha Mikkola, who co-founded Wyncode with his wife, Johanna (pictured above).

Story: WyncodeAcademy aims to address the need in Miami’s tech ecosystem for developer talent, which parallels what’s seen elsewhere in the country: recent estimates show that there will be a million more computer programming jobs in 2020 than candidates to fill them. The rapidly growing demand for developers provides an opportunity for a career accelerator for those determined to change their path and make an impact in the startup technology scene.

Wyncode got started after Juha Mikkola attended a development boot camp in Toronto, Canada, where he saw firsthand the power and effectiveness of the accelerated learning model. Improving upon that experience with better hiring partner relationships and a “Made for Miami” curriculum, Wyncode hit the ground running with a 14-person inaugural class in May 2014. Wyncode graduated its fourth cohort last week.

Wyncode has held four Pitch Days with each drawing an audience of about 250 people to see the app creations of Wyncode students. Last week’s Pitch Day drew 267 people and six of the students received full-time job offers even before the event.

Launched: Website went live in February 2014; first classes started in May.

Management team: Co-founders Juha and Johanna Mikkola.

Website: www.wyncode.co.

Number of employees: Five full-time employees, five part-time employees, in addition to the co-founders. Wyncode’s lead instructor, Edward Toro, is an MIT graduate, veteran of six startups, and a Miami tech scene pioneer.

Financing: Self-financed. Currently raising $500,000.

Recent milestones: Nearly 70 students have graduated from the program while Wyncode has maintained a 92 percent placement rate within three months of graduation; first Code School/Development Bootcamp in Florida to receive Florida Department of Education licensing; won Tech Cocktail’s Best Company Culture Award; invited to the White House to participate in its Accelerated Learning Program panels and meet the US CTO Megan Smith, and then invited back; Wyncode and nine other coding schools nationwide recently formed a new trade organization called the New Economy Skills Training Association (NESTA) to establish best practices, standards and increase accountability in the industry.

Biggest startup challenge: Finding out that accelerated learning programs required Florida Department of Education licensing, after students joining the first cohort had already quit their jobs to attend Wyncode. “We’re fortunate that the state saw the great impact we are having and worked with us as we fulfilled the requirements, but it made for a lot of sleepless nights,” Juha Mikkola said. “Even through the difficult times all of our students stuck by us!”

Next steps: Expanding programming at flagship location in Wynwood. “We introduced our first part-time course in February, which is for iOS App Development. Next we plan to expand to our second location in Fort Lauderdale in April, pending state approval, and add more part-time courses,” Johanna Mikkola said.

Strategy for next step: “Our strategy is laser-focused on maintaining our quality no matter what we do. We will continue working closely with our hiring partners to make sure that we are teaching relevant tech skills that allow our graduates to jump straight into the workplace and contribute from day one, or build a minimum viable product and start their own tech company,” Juha Mikkola said.

Nancy Dahlberg @ndahlberg

2 wyncode021315 ADD

The Wyncode team, left to right, Walter Latimer, Damon Davison, Bryce Kerley, Frank Ortiz, Juha Mikkola, Diego Lugo, Edward Toro and Johanna Mikkola, above. Below, Alexander Moraleza and other students participate in a class at Wyncode at The LAB Miami. AL DIAZ MIAMI HERALD STAFF