May 18, 2016

A South Florida trifecta: Candidate.Guru, Symptify, Streann Media win at Early Stage Capital Conference

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By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com 

Candidate.Guru of Weston took home the top prize, $100,000, at the  Florida Venture Forum Early Stage Capital Conference in St. Petersburg on Tuesday.

The company, also the  winner of the Miami Herald Business Plan Challenge, offers a big data solution  that can predict a culture fit between corporate hiring managers and prospective job seekers without the need for surveys and assessment tools, says CEO Chris Daniels (pictured above with co-founder Steve Carter). Candidate.Guru has been part of FAU Tech Runway for the past year.

Candidate.Guru was not the only South Florida winner -- in fact all three of the top cash winners were from South Florida. Space Florida, the state’s public-private effort to grow aerospace-related businesses, provided $150,000 in prize money to the winning presenters at the conference.

Symptify of Sunny Isles Beach, which helps users figure out causes for their symptoms and where to go for help, won second place, winning $30,000; Symptify also won the early-stage competition at eMerge Americas in 2015.

Streann Media of Miami, took third, winning $20,000. Streann Media,  offers cloud-based software  that enable content providers to offer their viewers a “TV everywhere experience” on any smart device. Streann recently received funding from the Tamiami Angel Fund II.

The Florida Venture Forum  selected 20 Florida-based companies to present at its all-day Florida Early Stage Capital Conference held at the Hilton Carillon in St. Petersburg. The presenting companies -- five from South Florida -- were selected from a pool of about 100 applicants by a committee of active Florida venture capitalists and other investors. In addition to the awards, the conference offered the presenting companies the opportunity to pitch on stage to a couple hundred attendees and meet individually with investors. The 2016 conference attracted the best investor attendance in the event's nine-year history, said Kevin Burgoyne, president and CEO of the Florida Venture Forum.

This is the first time cash prizes have been awarded at an Early Stage Conference, he said. "Our partnership with Space Florida added an exciting dimension to the event, providing three worthy companies with much needed capital they can use to continue to grow and scale their businesses."

Read more about the conference from the Tampa Bay Business Journal here.

Read more about Candidate.Guru here.

Read more about Symptify here.

Read more about Streann Media here.

 

May 16, 2016

Spotlight: Nomads making tracks in app development, world of video

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Photo by Patrick Farrell of Kostresevic inside Miami Entrepreneurship Center, where Nomads has an office. 

 

 

Nomads, founded in 2011 by Bosnian immigrant Andrej Kostresevic, specializes in building high-scale video platforms for clients. Now the company has clients all over the country and is launching its own product, too.

Company: Nomads

Headquarters: Miami.

Concept: Nomads is an elite tribe of cloud and mobile engineering talent, specialized in building high-scale video platforms for mobile, web and connected devices. Its clients range from startups to a top U.S. sports league.

Story: At the age of 11, Andrej Kostresevic escaped Bosnia in 1992, one year after the start of the civil war, and one day after the borders were officially closed. He lived as a refugee in Serbia until about three months before the bombing campaign of 1999, when he managed to come to the U.S. The naively optimistic 17-year-old arrived alone with nothing but two suitcases and rudimentary programming skills.

“This experience is something I still draw from when the going gets tough, and I am still reminded frequently of the incredible importance of pure confidence and willingness to just go for it,” he said.

After working his way through Luther College in Iowa and then gaining more technology work experience for a number of years at Bombardier Recreation Products, Tire and Battery Corp., Myxer and other companies, he had the entrepreneurial itch. He took the plunge in 2011 and started Nomads in Miami.

“Nomads was born from an organic need I saw from the Miami community while organizing the Miami Android Developers,” said Kostresevic, CEO. “The group was getting frequent inquiries from startup founders looking for mobile engineers, as well as from engineers looking for work. I put those two together and that formed the basis for the tribe.”

The company quickly grew, as Nomads began working with startups all over the country, and it often takes equity in partial exchange for services. Today, its clients range from startups to the nation’s leading broadcast provider. Its apps have generated over $2 billion in revenue for Nomad clients and have won accolades, Kostresevic said. As one example, the work Nomads did for one of its clients was recently highlighted on stage by Google at one of its major launch events.

Nomads now also launches its own products, driven by opportunities and needs it runs into working with clients. “Our incentive is to maximize a client’s likelihood of success,” Kostresevic said. Its first product: NomadTV.

“The problems we’ve been solving for our clients over the last four years have helped us identify several interesting opportunities, which we have pursued into new proprietary products such as NomadTV,” Kostresevic said. Rather than using digital distributors such as Amazon, Hulu, Netflix and YouTube, companies increasingly wanted to get their video content directly to consumers but had limited engineering capabilities and found development costs for a custom video application too high. NomadTV allows content owners to create their own branded video apps for mobile, web, and connected devices.

“NomadTV offers a scalable, customizable, industry-standard Netflix-like experience, with no upfront engineering effort, and low up-front expense. We provide this product as a service, for the most popular mobile, web and connected devices. The end result is the ability to deploy our customers’ catalogs via a set of custom-branded apps for all major platforms, literally overnight.”

Launched: 2011.

Management team: Andrej Kostresevic; Marly Rufin; Vojkan Dimitrijevic; Giannina Amato.

No. of employees: Five employees and more than 50 contractors.

Website: www.nomads.co.

Financing: Nomads is self-funded through a fast-growing service business.

Recent milestones: 300 percent growth year-over-year for three consecutive years. Built the flagship video product for a top U.S. sports league. Expanded footprint into Puerto Rico. In addition to scaling services, Nomads launched its first product, NomadTV.

Biggest startup challenge: Scaling the revenue of a service business requires a corresponding scaling of the team. “We’ve been able to overcome this challenge by being unconstrained by geographic location, but the inherent variability of demand for services still presents some unique challenges for growth,” Kostresevic said. “While we are able to mitigate these by extensive use of independent contractors, we look forward to the type of growth we expect to achieve through our new products, which can be scaled more independently of team size.”

Next steps: Diversifying revenue sources by scaling products, such as NomadTV.

Kostresevic said his team is excited about the possibilities in this transformative industry: “We are already seeing a proliferation of content that could not exist in the traditional high-stakes broadcast world, and we believe this will have a transformational effect on our society at large. No other industry shapes our worldviews quite as much.”

- Nancy Dahlberg @ndahlberg

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NomadTV allows any content owner to create their own branded video apps for mobile, web, and connected devices (top photo). Nomads don't always work in the same physical space, but when they do, it's probably in front of a whiteboard (middle photo). Part of "the tribe" during a live taping inside one of their clients' studios (bottom photo). 

May 12, 2016

5 South Florida startups to present at Florida Early Stage Capital Conference

The Florida Venture Forum has selected 20 Florida-based companies to present at its 9th annual Florida Early Stage Capital Conference being held at the Hilton Carillon in St. Petersburg on Tuesday, May 17.

Presenters were selected from a pool of about 100 applicants by a committee of active Florida venture capitalists and other investors. In addition to company presentations and other programming, the conference will feature a total of $150,000 in cash awards presented to the first, second and third place winning companies, provided by Space Florida.

Twenty companies were selected to present. The five from South Florida are:

Candidate.Guru, Weston (www.candidate.guru), is a paradigm changing human resource tool that uses cloud-based, big data analytics to predict a culture “fit” between job candidates and potential employers. (Also winner of the Miami Herald Business Plan Challenge)

Festival Pros, Miami (www.FestivalPros.com), organizes the world’s festivals and enables commerce for event organizers and local businesses to sell any product or service, creating a one stop shop for visitors. 

Generatorsmart, Doral (www.generatorsmart.com), is a designer and manufacturer of a wide range of power generation equipment and other engine-powered products designed to be ultra light, compact and easy to use. Its hybrid drone is set to revolutionize the commercial drone market by allowing drones to fly for hours.

Streann Media, Miami (www.streann.com), provides the tools required for content providers (cable operators, TV broadcasters, mobile operators) to go “over the top” (OTT) of their current distribution technology platforms and offer their viewers the next generation “TV Everywhere Experience.”

Symptify, Sunny Isles Beach (www.symptify.com), is a virtual doctor that helps users decipher causes for their symptoms, what to do about them and where to go for help. 

More information about the conference: www.flventure.org

May 06, 2016

AquaVault, Daymond John will be featured on ‘Beyond the Tank’ tonight

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By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

Team AquaVault is back in the spotlight.

You may recall that the Aventura-based startup made a splash on ABC’s hit show Shark Tank in March of last year, garnering an investment by Daymond John. AquaVault is the maker of portable safes that can be locked onto the backs of beach chairs or onto bikes or even dorm room closet bars.

Now, AquauVault will featured on the Friday night episode of Beyond the Tank, which will air on ABC on Friday (May 6)  at 8 p.m., just before Shark Tank. The show will follow up on the company since the Shark Tank show.

The AquaVault co-founders say viewers will get a deep dive into what Jonathan Kinas, Avin Samtani and Robert Peck have gone through after making a deal in the tank, and what it's like to endure the roller coaster of being an entrepreneur. Mistakes are made, lessons learned, experiences embraced.

Since the company founders originally pitched on Shark Tank, they say they have successfully figured out how to team up with some of the biggest players in the industry, including hotels, water parks, theme parks, casinos and cruise ships.

Although being on Shark Tank undeniably contributed toward the jump start in their expansion, Kinas said it was what the team did with that experience that catapulted the brand. He said the show will capture strategy sessions with Shark Daymond John, who at moments strongly disagrees with their decision making, as the co-founders try and corner a market that they are essentially creating.

Read more: Will the Sharks bite on AquaVault? (original appearance)

Read more: South Florida’s consumer product makers are on a roll

May 05, 2016

FIGS receives $5 million in Series A funding led by Campfire Capital

 

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Tina Spear, co-founder of FIGS, delivers medical apparel as part of its Threads For Threads philanthropic program.

By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

FIGS, a medical apparel startup in South Florida, received $5 million in Series A funding. The round of financing was led by  Campfire Capital, a Vancouver-based venture capital group that funds companies that combine retail and technology in their innovations.

 Founded in 2013 by Heather Hasson and Trina Spear, FIGS identified a need for alternatives to currently available products in the medical scrubs industry, the bulk of which were made up of low-quality, uncomfortable styles. Its fashion-forward designs are antimicrobial, wrinkle resistant and made from lightweight, breathable fabric. FIGS' philanthropic 1-for-1 program, Threads for Threads, has donated 75,000 scrubs to in-need health care professionals across 26 countries. FIGS, an Endeavor company selected out of Miami last year, has operations in South Florida, where Spear is based, and Los Angeles.

FIGS has raised $10 million in funding to date. The new capital will be used to increase inventory to meet demand, explore and expand new product categories, and scale its team. About Campfire Capital, Spear said, “It's been wonderful to align with a group who brings not only capital, but shares an unparalleled breadth of industry expertise and networks.”

FIGS will join Campfire’s growing list of portfolio companies, including Montreal-based menswear retailer Frank & Oak and San Francisco-based food tech startup Juicero.

 Christine Day, partner at Campfire, current CEO of Luvo and ex-CEO of lululemon, said: “In addition to capital, what entrepreneurs really need is access to the broad expertise required to build a successful retail business. We see a tremendous opportunity to leverage Campfire's collective experience and relationships to further brand and scale FIGS to transform this $9 billion unbranded industry.”

Read more: FIGS, SkyPatrol chosen for Endeavor network

Read more: Four healthcare startups in the spotlight

 

May 04, 2016

LiveNinja closes $2 million round of financing, launching messaging tool for businesses

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LiveNinja co-founders: Will Weinraub, CEO, center. Emilio Cueto, CTO, left, and Alfonso Martinez, CCO. File Photo by CW Griffin of the Miami Herald.

By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

LiveNinja, a Miami-based technology company that provides communications tools for businesses, announced Wednesday that it has closed a $2 million round of financing, bringing its total funding to $3.5 million.

The bridge funding is from Scout Ventures, Anzu Partners, Comcast Ventures Catalyst Fund, Citi Ventures, Accelerated Growth Partners and SeedInvest.  LiveNinja will use the funding to build out its product line and expand its sales and marketing team. LiveNinja, founded in 2012, is a team of 19 people.

Along with the funding, LiveNinja announced a new product, LiveNinja Messenger, to make it easier for businesses to manage conversations, no matter where or how the customer chooses to engage. This differentiates it from the pack of applications out there, including Facebook Messenger, Twitter, Skype and others, which can’t be embedded on a company website.

LiveNinja CEO and co-founder Will Weinraub gave a demo of its newest tool at a recent weekly Waffle Wednesdays networking event that the company puts on each week at its Wynwood offices free for the tech community, most days for breakfast and one Wednesday a month after work.

“We’re entering a new era for business-to-customer communication but to do it right, we have to think about what businesses really need to make messaging work for them,” said Weinraub in the announcement. “Most messaging apps are walled-gardens that operate in a separate environment. We built LiveNinja to be more flexible. You can use it as a standalone messaging application, but you could also embed it within your existing website and share it on other channels as well.”

He showed the crowd that using LiveNinja Messenger, brands can not only start conversations on their website, but also on social media and other apps with an easy to share link. Instead of one-off conversations that frustrate customers, each of these conversations can be easily managed in one seamless thread, giving both the customer and the brand the ability to scroll up to view what they spoke about last. An iOS application makes it easy for businesses to maintain customer conversations on-the-go, he said. Part of the new funding will be used to build out new features for the tool.

Weinraub said anyone can sign up at www.liveninja.com to try LiveNinja Messenger for free for a limited time, and he encouraged feedback. In time, it will evolve into a "pay as you grow" model where brands will only pay on a per-customer engagement.

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April 19, 2016

Announced or launched at eMerge Americas: Wyncode-Lynn U degree, World Cup of Sales, LifeWallet

Wyncode, Lynn University team up on new graduate degree program

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Photo by Pedro Portal

Lynn University today announced a partnership with Miami-based coding bootcamp Wyncode Academy. The announcement comes one year after Lynn and Wyncode executives participated in the “Disruption of Education” panel at eMerge Americas, during which they identified a collaboration opportunity. 

“A traditional liberal arts education develops strategic thinking abilities, but doesn’t always provide the opportunity for technical skill development and exploration,” says Lynn President Kevin M. Ross. “Technology is evolving continuously, and the nature of bootcamps provides flexibility needed to quickly adapt to market needs. We identified a great alignment between Wyncode and Lynn’s services to enable individuals to get high-demand coding experience while earning a degree.”

The partnership makes way for a new graduate degree program comprising Lynn’s Master of Business Administration or Master of Science in Media and Communication foundation courses and Wyncode’s nine-week immersive web development program. Students who complete the bootcamp will earn nine credits toward an MBA or M.S. that focuses on web design strategies, development and management.

“The majority of Wyncode students have college degrees, so it was a natural fit for us to partner with Lynn and offer bootcamp participants the option to further their education,” says Wyncode Co-Founder Johanna Mikkola (pictured above making the annoucement at eMerge Americas on Tuesday). “In addition to learning to code at Wyncode, traditional graduate degree-seeking students will be immersed in Miami’s up-and-coming startup ecosystem, which is positioned to become a major tech center due to its entrepreneurial climate and close links to Latin America. Our accelerated nine-week schedule allows university students to complete the course quickly, like during the summer, without disrupting their traditional studies”

Wyncode has three Florida locations in Wynwood, Miami Beach and Fort Lauderdale, and Lynn’s graduate programs can be completed at its Boca Raton, Florida, campus, online or a combination of both.

World Cup of Sales launches sales platform geared to product launches


OutlookEmoji-1456423587517_WCOS_VR_Full.pngWorld Cup of Sales, a product market fit and sales platform geared toward startup companies and product launches, unveiled its platform at the eMerge Americas conference in Miami. World Cup of Sales is at booth C16.

WCOS is providing millennials social sharing tools so that they can leverage their social media followers to sell products and earn money on what they sell. Millennials already spend over 5 hours a day on social media, so it's an easy way for students to share to their networks, get some cool selling experience, and earn some money along the way. The $10,000 Grand Prize for the top seller is a massive draw for students.

What's new about WCOS is its product market fit concept that helps product owners identify their target demographic and the ideal price point for their products. The 2 week tournaments offer quick insight for new companies. WCOS ambassadors across 300 US campuses review product samples and provide feedback on look and feel, missing features, and any other info companies need to track. This type of market intelligence can save huge money by ensuring companies launch the right product to the right market.

A Rokk3r Labs’ portfolio company, World Cup of Sales aims to change the way companies launch and hopes to make Miami the place where startups go to market. “World Cup of Sales has a unique vision to engage the ‘crowd’ and create a powerful, community-driven user base,” said Nabyl Charania, CEO of Rokk3r Labs. “With an aggressive growth plan for their platform to connect the crowd with startups, World Cup of Sales is poised to create a shift in the entrepreneurial ecosystem.”

 LifeWallet unveils HealthFluence product, setting up Healthy Hub at eMerge

At eMerge Americas, LifeWallet, a leading healthcare technology company based in Miami, is introducing its HealthFluence, LifeWallet’s easy-to-use App-based solution designed to help healthcare providers take a more active role in helping individuals focus on improving their health. 

LifeWallet has an interactive Healthy Hub at the show (pictured below) and will — after key vitals are taken by onsite nurses — be able to nearly instantly provide attendees with their American Heart Association Life’s Simple 7 score using HealthFluence’s iPad App.  These include blood pressure, blood sugar, cholesterol, weight and other key healthcare components such as smoking and activityThus, HealthFluence will provide an instant, detailed ‘snapshot’ of the consumer’s health. LifeWallet will be at booth B19-B.

The eMerge Americas technology expo and conference is the first official announcement of HealthFluence, which has been three years in the making. LifeWallet is working closely with leading healthcare organizations like West Kendall Baptist Hospital to demonstrate HealthFluence at eMerge.  A Beta test of HealthFluence is slated to begin during the second quarter of 2016. 

 LifeWallet seeks to  revolutionize consumer engagement and change the face of digital healthcare with modern ‘Digital Assistants’ that enhance life.

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See announcements from Monday at eMerge here.

Read daily coverage of eMerge Americas here.

 

April 18, 2016

Launched or announced at eMerge Americas: mPower, ChallengeStar, Z9 Capital fund

mPower Solar Generator launches Buy 1-Donate 1 model, Indiegogo campaign

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mPower Solar Generator CEO Will Perego chose eMerge to launch his South Florida company and its Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign; its first product is a portable solar generator. For every generator sold, the company will donate one to a family without electricity, Perego said.

Next year, the company hopes to offer a 24-hour solar roof.  To create the products, Perego liscensed technology licensed from four universities: University of Miami, Florida International University, University of Central Florida and Georgia Tech.

Along with the crowdfunding campaign, the company also announced its challenge “Travel with Purpose—Help Us Light Up the World.”  The focus of the challenge is to find an ambassador who will represent the mPower brand in 2017. The mPower Ambassador is a one-year, salaried position, where the representative will travel with mPower and its partner Techo.org to deliver solar generators to developing countries through the “Buy 1—Donate 1” program. The company plans to deliver approximately 5,000 units in 2017.

“Customers can now buy the lightest and most powerful solar generator on the market to power their outdoor activities or their next blackout while, at no extra cost, helping families in need,” Perego said.

The mPower Solar Generator is all-in-one, with two solar panels, plus battery, plus inverter, to allow users to have AC and DC power anytime, anywhere. Up until now, gas generators have provided off-grid electricity, but users complain of the noise, weight, difficulty in refilling the generator and that they have a high carbon footprint. mPower Solar Generators solve these problems by utilizing sun light, solar panels and batteries to provide electricity day and night.

Perego, pictured above in the center, participated on a planel about clean-tech at eMerge Americas Mpnday afternoon.

ChallengeStar launches charity challenge app

ChallengestarChallengeStar, a Miami-based tech startup. launched its new mobile app of the same name Monday at eMerge Americas.

The app is aimed at revolutionizing fundraising and social media competition, said Jed Royer, CEO of ChallengeStar. "People can create contests that help raise money and awareness for their causes.”

The app is free to download from either the App Store or Google Play Store, and registered users can play for a cause by setting up a “CharityChallenge” or play for themselves by setting up a “Winner Takes All Challenge.” In either instance, users create their own challenges, message their followers to participate and raise money online using ChallengeStar’s secure payment gateway via PayPal.

Supporters can also pledge from the convenience of their social media pages without having to download the app through ChallengeStar’s “EasyPledge” technology. This allows participants to click on a challenge that was shared on social media and pledge directly through that screen, without being rerouted to another page.

One nonprofit that is putting ChallengeStar to good use is the Live Like Bella Foundation, which raises money for pediatric cancer research. Live Like Bella began a “Super Selfie Challenge” where participants post photos and videos of themselves in their favorite superhero outfits.

Z9 Capital launches venture fund

z9 Capital of Boca Raton  announced the launch of its $25 million venture capital fund at eMerge Americas.

z9 invests $250K to $4M in early-stage that have demonstrated product-market fit and are seeking growth capital. z9’s investment thesis is rooted in active management and aims to provide startups with both the liquidity and the operational resources needed to thrive.

Founded in 2014, the firm has already made several investments to date; notable portfolio companies include Videoo (who came in 2nd place at last year’s eMerge Startup Showcase), Aroma360 and Public Reputation.

The firm is led by Benzion ‘Benny’ Aboud, who while in college grew a wireless phone business from a single location to 120 retail stores spanning the east coast; he later sold the business to AT&T.  Since then,. Aboud has founded and exited various companies, most notably Qology Direct.

 “My passion has always been growing and incubating early stage businesses,” said Aboud. “There’s something magical about plunging head first into the unknown; working feverishly with a core group of individuals to build something that defies conventional wisdom, accelerates change and creates a lasting impact.”

To learn more, visit www.z9capital.com

Read daily coverage about eMerge Americas here.

 

 

April 17, 2016

ClassWallet raises $1.5 million from Idea Bulb Ventures, others

ClassWallet, a platform for school funds disbursement and tracking, has closed a $1.5 million round of seed financing, bringing total fundingto date to $4.03 million, the company announced Sunday. 
 
The priced round was led by Idea Bulb Ventures, a U.S. based Investment company working with China’s Innovation Works, an early stage venture capital firm established by the founding President of Google China Dr. Kai-Fu Lee. Other investors include Techstars Ventures and William Guttman, as well as several education and financial technology angel investors.

“We have a number of investments in the education technology sector and we love what ClassWallet is doing,” says Chris Evdemon, partner at Idea Bulb. "We are excited by ClassWallet’s traction in K12 education and see universal application for its technology.”

ClassWallet’s patent-pending technology combines a virtual wallet with an online marketplace, the company aid. Partners such as Amazon, Office Depot, School Specialty, Scholastic, Nearpod and others in the ClassWallet marketplace accept ClassWallet as form for payment.

ClassWallet partners return SKU-level data to ClassWallet, affording school administration and funders with detailed reporting and pre-approval permissions on every item purchased, otherwise obtained through paper receipts or laborious purchase order processes.  In addition, DiscoverCard and Marqeta, the program manager behind Facebook and eBay’s card platforms, joined forces with ClassWallet to power the ClassWallet debit card for offline purchases such as professional development, field trips and more.  

Founder and CEO Jamie Rosenberg said ClassWallet’s  user base grew over 400 percent last year "and the company has already booked customers to exceed 400 percent growth in 2016.” Customers include some of the largest school districts across the United States including Chicago, Newark, and Broward.


March 28, 2016

Home61: A real estate startup powered by tech

 

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The Home61 management team in the office: Brian Paran, left, Olivier Grinda, center, and Olivier Brion, with snapshots of their happy clients are on the walls. Photo by Carl Juste.

 

By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

A Miami-based upstart is trying to shake up the way home buying and selling has been done for decades.

In buying his own condo, Home61 CEO Olivier Grinda found the experience stressful and unnecessarily complicated — “not the level of service you should expect in 2016,” he said. As a serial entrepreneur, he thought there had to be a better way.

Home61 is a tech-enabled brokerage that brings automation and transparency to the residential real estate experience. Technology enables easy scheduling of viewings, anytime access to notes and analytics and a streamlined contractual process for buyers and renters as well as sellers and agents. If agents are unburdened by administrative work, they can better focus on service, which receives star ratings on home61.com.

“Our business is the client,” said Grinda, who moved from Brazil to Miami in late 2013. “We’re known as the teddy bear guys,” pointing to a large wall in the company’s Midtown Miami office adorned with snapshots of happy Home61 clients holding the bears in their new homes.

Grinda’s startup has lots of company in its greater mission. From techy brokerages like Home61 and property listing services like Zillow to commercial leasing and real estate analytics, real estate tech companies aim to transform a massive industry, according to tech research and data analytics firm CB Insights.

The multibillion-dollar real estate industry is now seeing a slew of real estate tech startups, including virtual property-viewing services, property management software and real estate investing platforms. It’s a global trend that looks to be on the upswing. Last year, a record" $1.7 billion in venture capital was injected into the sector, a 50 percent increase over 2014, and this year is on track to top that if current trends hold, according to CB Insights.

Home61 chose Miami for its launch site in September 2014 because of its location, location, location, with real estate already one of the region’s biggest industries. This year, Home61 began expanding throughout Broward County, too. Now with 26 agents, some full time and some part time, Home61 acts very much like a traditional broker in its commission structure and basic model, but the innovation comes in with the back-end technology that helps agents, and buyers and renters make appointments, track analytics and automate much of the process.

A recently added feature, called Seller Dashboard, lets property owners see in real time the total impressions and online visits to a listing, physical visits to the property, a comparative market analysis and marketing objectives. A proprietary pricing bar allows a seller to calculate the best asking price compared to the comparable properties, as well as metrics on the condo building or neighborhood, with alerts when a sale is made or another property hits the market. A calendar makes it easy to view showings or confirm appointments, and a document center stores all signed contracts.

Most of Home61’s transactions last year were rentals, but the company is making a bigger push for sales. Doris San Martín used Home61 recently to buy a home in South Miami and said she would use Home61 again and would recommend it to friends.

That word-of-mouth is mainly powering the growth of the hyper-local Home61, which was named after the record-breaking 61 points that then Miami Heat star LeBron James scored the night the co-founders were mulling company names. In 2015, the company netted 204 closings and has closed another 92 transactions since January. It has generated more than $32.5 million in gross revenue since inception, Grinda said. Home61 has raised" $1 million in funding from tech investors, including 500 Startups, Kima Ventures and a number of angel investors including Grinda’s brother, Fabrice.

In addition to traditional brokers, competitors include the heavily funded New York-based Compass, which has a sizable Miami team but focuses more on higher-end listings than Home61, Grinda said. TripleMint and Redfin are potential competitors, but for now they are focusing primarily on other markets, Grinda said.

Grinda, raised in France, had founded a number of Internet businesses in Brazil, including the venture-funded e-commerce site Shoes4You, which he closed in 2013, and a buying club, BrandsClub. His Home61 co-founder and business partner, Olivier Brion, brings real estate industry experience to the team. Brion was COO of the vacation rentals site Roomorama before it merged with Lofty, and he co-founded and ran Previsite, a cloud-based marketing solutions company for the real estate industry.

The company appeals to technology-loving millennials — many of them first-time buyers and renters — as well as international buyers and sellers.

Stefanie Schmalz said she and her husband, who were moving from Zurich, had earmarked a week to learn the neighborhoods and rent a condominium. She found Home61 on the Internet and decided to give it a shot. After submitting a request through the site, she was quickly paired with agent Carlos Gauch, who like her is Brazilian and speaks Portuguese. Schmalz said Gauch was sensitive to what her family was looking for and smart and effective throughout the process.

“Within just a few days, we found an apartment, we made the offer and submitted all the documents. Home61 gave us a really nice welcome,” Schmalz said.

Gauch, one of the company’s top-performing agents, joined nearly a year ago when he saw a Home61 ad boasting that agents could expect 20 to 25 leads a month. That sounded good to him because he was relatively new to real estate and did not have a large network.

Gauch said that 90 percent of his leads are generated through Home61, from people looking for their own rentals to investors seeking to acquire income property to rent out or flip. Lately, he has been getting more lucrative sales leads than rental leads: “I don’t bring a single piece of paper when I go to a showing. Everything is through the iPad. It makes our jobs a whole lot easier.”

There is a sense of teamwork in the office rather than every agent out for him or herself, Gauch said. “There is friendly competition inside, but everyone helps each other.”

U.S. expansion is on the company’s road map, but for now, the focus is at home. Grinda isn’t worried about a real estate slowdown.

As he sees it, Home61 could thrive in down times, too: Efficient systems will be that much more valuable, and sellers will want to keep a close eye on what’s happening with their properties.

Follow @ndahlberg on Twitter.