October 11, 2014

Voices of the tech community – Part 5: And about the money…

Tech eggAs part of a look back -- and look ahead -- at community-wide efforts to build or accelerate a technology-entrepreneurial  ecosystem in South Florida, I asked a sampling of entrepreneurs, investors and service providers for their views with a variety of questions. We've put a sampling on this blog throughout the week. This is the last installment.

Find the main stories in the tech hub series here: fundraising and progress/challengesSee Part 1 herePart 2 here,  Part 3 here and Part 4. Find the entire series easily under the Tech Hub Series category of this blog. 

 What's your view? Add your comment on this post, email me at ndahlberg@miamiherald.com or tweet me @ndahlberg. Thank your for reading.

Today's questions:

As an investor, how would you describe the quality of deals you are seeing in South Florida?

"The deal are getting better in quality but we still need to see more companies. It's a numbers game and we need to increase the size of the funnel to increase the number of successful companies coming out of South Florida." - Ed Boland, Scout Ventures

"Improving with confidence and organization, such as the newly launched AGP, where I sense palpable excitement." - Peter Kellner, Richmond Global, Endeavor

 “Without doubt I am seeing a larger and better deals out flowing, driven by the emergence of the number of accelerators and incubators during the last 12-24 months.  The quality and preparation of the entrepreneur teams is also unequivocally superior.  However, I am still not seeing deals that seem to ‘jump the curve’ in uniqueness and potential.” - Ricardo Weisz, NorthVest, Miami Innovation Fund

Deal quality has been extremely high over the past two years.  We are seeing (1) technologies and products that address real and often novel market needs, (2) more complete management teams with deeper domain expertise, (3) realistic expectations from founders regarding their venture's intrinsic valuation and acceptance of the deal terms which investors require in order to make an attractive risk-adjusted return." - Rhys Williams, New World Angels

If you have raised funds, have the sources been local or elsewhere?

"SportsManias has been able to raise funds locally with ideal investors whom not only have provided the resources needed, but completely understand our vision. Jorge Mas of Mas Equity Partners is the ultimate sports fan that is precisely whom our app and website is designed for, therefore, he gives us important feedback as an end user, as well as, providing us the investment and network needed to continue to grow exponentially." - Aymara Del Aguila, SportsManias

"We were fortunate to have worked in our industry for over a decade before launching our business and initially raised funds from a friend who knew of our background. Eighteen months later, one of our new customers, which is based in Broward county, loved our solution so much they initiated a conversation that's leading to us closing a round of funding on Oct 1st. - Marlon Williams, Fenero

 How would you characterize the fund-raising environment here?

"Very poor. Investors do not pull the trigger fast enough and only a couple are truly doing early stage. B2B startups can have revenue early but B2C startups have a very hard time getting revenue until after a launch and sometimes months of customer acquisition, which is a prerequisite for most investors here." - Susan Amat

"Unhealthy for entrepreneurs. Slim pickings, low evaluations, and lacking in network reach critical for future fundraising needs." - Stonly Baptiste, Urban.Us

"The fund raising environment is slim to none in South Florida. It is dominated by a small handful of organizations which all seem to be part of each other. Makes it tough for entrepreneurs to get the best deal in their fund-raising activity. We raised a small pre-seed locally, but had to find sources outside of the market for my next round, which came from an angel in New York." - Darren Atinsky, WedWu
"On the seed level, it's thriving. There is a lot of new angel activity. However, it's still difficult for startups to make the jump from seed level rounds to a proper Series A or B round locally. Most entrepreneurs here are still going to have to go out West or to the Northeast to get those kind of deals done." - Will Weinraub, LiveNinja 

What will it take to develop a stronger investor network here?

"Money follows talent. We need to incubate companies at the earliest stages and allow talent, drive and opportunity to thrive," Jeff Brown, Palm Beach Angels

"Investors network with other investors constantly. For investors here or from out-of-state, we need draws to bring them together – things like eMerge and the Forum’s Capital Conferences, and other networking opportunities. There is a tremendous amount of money in Florida that doesn’t get deployed in early or venture-stage companies – often referred to as “money behind the palm trees” – but that is changing thanks to initiatives like the Forum’s that educate investors on becoming angels, and South Florida’s own EarlyShares that provides a platform for investors to find and invest in growing companies." - Kevin Burgoyne, Florida Venture Forum

 "Education, success cases of local entrepreneurs and investors from other cities coming to Miami are helping to develop a stronger investor network here. Talent attracts capital too. There are many local leaders that are supporting younger entrepreneurs which is critical for the ecosystem. In the same spirit, at Endeavor Miami we believe that a key to success is the example and commitment that a few local high-impact entrepreneurs dedicate to their local community - by supporting others as mentors and/or eventually as investors." – Laura Maydon, Endeavor Miami

We need leaders and role models in our investor community. We need more investors like Mark Kingdon, highly connected individuals who are experienced investors and tech entrepreneurs themselves.” – Carlos Garcia, Nobox

"Continued examples of success, greater connectivity and easier ways to plug in to the community we are continuing to build, and telling our story well. We've seen more and more opportunities for investors to learn more and connect around successful startups through initiatives like Endeavor, Accelerated Growth Partners, Florida Institute for Commercialization of Public Research angel investor seminars, and Enterprise Development Corporation. As a result, the momentum is growing." - Matt Haggman, Knight Foundation

If you could add one ingredient to the South Florida entrepreneurial ecosystem right now, what would it be? 

"Liquidity. The more exits that our market experiences, the more smart-money that'll be on the table. Excellent entrepreneurs tend to fund excellent entrepreneurs. The council of folks who have been through the journey and can relate empathetically is extremely valuable. A confluence of both will lead to a more robust ecosystem." Richard Lent, Thesis Ventures

Leadership, growth and mentorship are all vital to the tech scene in South Florida.  However, more important are the cutting-edge technologies that leverage Miami’s unique Latin American footprint.  We should focus on leveraging our strengths and seek to innovatively remedy issues that affect the Latin American market.  With the recent Apple Pay news, the mobile payments industry is on the forefront of technology growth. At YellowPepper, we’re harnessing similar mobile technology that has historically had its sights set on the U.S. market, and enabling its use for a growing middle class across the region. We want to see more of this taking place in our Miami backyard and are eager to help fuel future innovation.” -   Serge Elkiner, YellowPepper

"A BIG Google office!  A mega billion dollar exit!  Seriously, though, we could use more developer entrepreneurs." - Mark Kingdon, angel investor

In building an ecosystem, in what area has the most progress been made in the last year?

Exposure.  Thanks to the national and international efforts of eMerge Americas, the Knight Foundation and some far reaching programs such as Venture Hive, Miami is becoming known for its pioneering and entrepreneurial community.” – Mike Tomas, Bioheart

"South Florida’s technology community has grown beyond the plethora of great ideas; we have built a support system, providing entrepreneurs with the tools, resources, talent and funding that are needed to turn their ideas into viable products.  In parallel, top talent from the corporate world is joining the community. At Rokk3r Labs, we are gaining leaders and entrepreneurs from this pool, providing the tech hub with a wealth of knowledge and experience to help co-build amazing companies. Attracting more talent and investors to the community will be key for the upcoming year to help continue the development momentum." - Nabyl Charania, Rokk3r Labs 

"Organizations have been doing a great job of bringing in individuals and institutions that have brought technology to the forefront of Miami's political and business communities.  Many conferences have taken place, educational institutions have taken notice, and the local community has expressed interest in taking part in the tech movement.  Unfortunately, the low income communities are still being left behind and out of the conversation." - Derick Pearson, Code Fever

If it takes a village to raise a child I believe it takes a city to raise a startup. Diverse new players​ have come in the ecosystem in the last year (eMerge conference, Scout Ventures, MaverixLab, the "new" AGP, Wyncode, Thesis Ventures, Code for America, the Microsoft Innovation Center at the Venture Hive to name a few) creating ​a higher "density” of people who can be there at the right time and ​at the right place to connect startups with money, experience, knowledge and services.” - Ivan Rapin Smith, Idealy

 Posted Oct. 11, 2014

October 09, 2014

Voices of the tech community: Part 4

Tech eggAs part of a look back -- and look ahead -- at community-wide efforts to build or accelerate a technology-entrepreneurial  ecosystem in South Florida, I asked a sampling of entrepreneurs, investors and service providers for their views with a variety of questions. We'll put a sampling on this blog throughout the week.

Find the main stories here: fundraising and progress/challengesSee Part 1 herePart 2 here and Part 3 here.

 What's your view? Add your comment on this post or email me at ndahlberg@miamiherald.com. What's next: fund-raising. 

Today's questions:

Have you been able to find the talent you need locally?

Although Miami has not yet been recognized as a city that is tech-savvy, SportsManias has found amazing tech talent in our hometown. Our team includes a group of expert programmers that have built and maintained our website, as well as, our mobile app that is consistently rated 5-stars, validating the quality of content and functionality.” - Aymara Del Aguila, SportsManias

Finding talent is really no longer an issue.  Technology startups should be virtual, and hire the best talent wherever you can find it.  We are on 4 continents. “ Brian Garr, LinguaSys 

As we began recruiting our developer team we looked to tech hubs like Silicon Valley, New York and Boston thinking those individuals would be tough to find here. Fortunately (and to our surprise) we found incredibly skilled people right here in Miami. Our team is mostly local which brought with it the added value of having team members who have been working to build this ecosystem for some time and know the history but are also passionate about its future.” – Johanna Mikkola, Wyncode 

Absolutely! South Florida is a net-exporter of top talent – we keep sending our best and brightest off and need to do a better job of making sure that people – such as the leadership, professors and students at our area universities – know about the opportunities right here at home.” – Dan Cane, Modernizing Medicine

We have an amazing team and building this team was probably the biggest challenge we overcame.  I stuck with it and kept recruiting locally. I think people underestimate the talent in this area. But the truth is, you just have to keep looking and you'll find your perfect team." –Adam Boalt, LiveAnswer

Absolutely. Contrary to popular belief, there’s a huge and impressive talent pool here. My entire team – development, marketing, sales – was recruited from the local workforce and previously, as Managing Director of Silver Hill Financial, I grew a team to several hundred in South Florida. I’m proud of that, and I think the human capital in the region is only going to get better in years to come.” Joanna Schwartz, EarlyShares

We have had great success finding talent here as well as bringing talent here. We live in a truly global city that people want to move to from all over the world. Our Head of Design is moving here from London next month, a world class talent, and I'd dare to say that he feels blessed to have the opportunity to live and work in Miami.” – Brian Brackeen, Kairos  

 “So far, so good but I’ve been fortunate to work with Rokk3r Labs.  It’s definitely a challenge to convince US based development talent to move to Miami.” – Brad Liff, Fitting Room Social

Yes, but we had to import most of our top-engineering talent. In some cases we had to invest in getting them visas. If you are serious about building a tech company in South Florida you have to be willing to travel a lot and recruit talent outside of our community.” – Carlos Garcia, Nobox

"We are location agnostic for talent.  Since our raise, we now have 28 employees and have opened offices in London, Bogota, Tel Aviv, Washington.  Nowadays, collaboration tools make it possible to cross boundaries to achieve challenging milestones." - Rodolfo Saccoman, AdMobilize

In your view, what is the biggest challenge South Florida faces in developing a tech hub and what will it take to overcome that challenge?

"One of our greatest challenges is the disconnect between talent and opportunity. There is great talent here, but it is not as visible as it needs to be to fuel mobility. When talking to startups, tech talent doesn't seem to be a grave concern, but managerial talent that understands the dynamics of a startup is difficult to find. It isn't as simple as plucking a successful manager from a leading local corporation. As they say, startups are not smaller versions of corporations. Furthermore,  our graduates across institutions are facing a market that is not as clear in determining a long-term career path, hence why equipping them with an entrepreneurial skill set and mindset is key to their survival in a "gig economy." –Wifredo Fernandez, Idea Center @ MDC

"There is a tendency to continually assess Miami, to define its weak spots or seek validation from elsewhere. Don’t. Instead, just build. We’ve seen lots of success by entrepreneurs in Miami who identify an opportunity and pursue it. We’re seeing success comes from doing, not assessing or defining. We should stay focused on that." - Matt Haggman, Knight Foundation 

 "Early stage investor capital is by far the largest issue but a more subtle challenge (that is tough to fix in the short term) is our lack of a large tech job “safety net” for entrepreneurs to fall back on if their startup plans get derailed.  ...   While in SFL we have great universities graduating very strong business students, engineers and scientists, our corporate community – both small and large firms – is still relatively thin;   particularly compared to the other US regions where tech startups are flourishing in larger numbers.    And despite what I believe are some huge advantages for employers in South Florida, to fix this corporate density issue, we need to continue to focus on the core high level factors – quality of our public schools (so companies will more easily decide to relocate or add S FL branches), continued enhancements in transportation infrastructure, business tax incentives, labor training incentives, R&D tax credits, etc."  –Rob Strandberg, Enterprise Development Corp.  

"The biggest challenge is the misalignment, in fact disconnect, between what technology companies are seeking and what our universities are supplying. Tech firms complain our workforce is not up to par, while our graduates complain there are not enough tech companies here to employ them. The failure of the state of Florida to adequately fund university research and commercialization in STEM (compared to North Carolina, Texas. California, Massachusetts and New York) impedes tech hub development." –Jerry Haar, FIU College of Business

"A lot have been done in the ecosystem to develop a tech hub in Miami including top tech events such as SIME and eMerge, the opening of Endeavor office, WeXchange.com to promote women entrepreneurship and  amazing co-working and innovation centers such as  The Lab Miami and Venture Hive. 
Areas of opportunity: 
  • The VC and angel ecosystem can be  further developed and expanded. There is a lot of money in Miami, coming from Latam that it is not invested in tech startups mainly because they don't know how to do it .  
  • A more organized network of mentors can be greatly beneficial for entrepreneurs. 
  • It will also be nice to have more support and programas that foster and drive women entrepreneurship." - Silvina Moschini, Yandiki.com

I'd say that it's the false perceptions that many people have of the scene. I've heard lots of notable people in the industry discount South Florida for it's lack of success stories, but all that tells me is that they haven't been paying close enough attention. There have been a ton of success stories here." - Will Weinraub, LiveNinja 



"Outside of South Florida, changing the perception of Miami is still an ongoing challenge. Until we see serious exits, solid growth and long-term sustainability of the ecosystem, shedding the "South Beach image" could take some time." - Brett Hudson, Axis Space

 If you could add one ingredient to the entrepreneurial ecosystem, what would it be?

"Significant, organized involvement from experienced, well-known investors.  Boulder has Techstars and the Foundry Group, Vegas has Tony Hsieh's group, and San Francisco has countless Sand Hill types. South Florida needs an experienced group that mentors and cultivates founders and deploys strategic investment tactics.    -- Kubs Lalchandani, Lalchandani Simon PL

"I would like to increase visibility into the growth and talent of our community. One of the ways we could do this is by taking some of the best representatives of our local tech scene to present and showcase as a collective at events like SXSW, TechCrunch Disrupt, Collision Conf and demonstrating the level of talent and growth through our strength in numbers. We have startups doing really innovative things like LiveNinja and Kairos, budding funds like Urban.Us and educational organizations like Refresh Miami, The LAB Miami and Wyncode that deserve more attention and recognition. Many have no idea there is a growing community here in South Florida and it's time we made some noise. We may not be Silicon Alley, Silicon Beach, Boulder or Austin, but even those startup cities started somewhere. It's about creating awareness both home and away." - Pabla Ayala, pFunk Media

"A centralized, coordinated communications effort to get the message out to the local community and to the world that South Florida has strong technology that is getting better." - Bob Nagro, Next Horizon Communications
Formal small groups of entrepreneurs/CEOs/Founders willing to share their mistakes, lessons learned. “ Jose Li, 71 Lbs.
"More accelerators to come like 500Startups, NXTP Labs and others that can complete the rising ecosystem and attract more investors interested to invest in an excellent place to make business, pretty close to Latam and with great connections to all US." - Fernando Cuscuela, Everypost
"Harness more talent. We need a swell of brilliant people working on crazy ideas." –Stonly Baptiste, Urban.Us

 Posted Oct. 9, 2014

October 08, 2014

Voices of the tech community: Part 3

As part of a look back -- and look ahead -- at community-wide efforts to build or accelerate a technology-entrepreneurial  ecosystem in South Florida, I asked a sampling of entrepreneurs, investors and service providers for their views with a variety of questions. I’ll put a sampling on this blog throughout the week.

Find the main stories here: fundraising and progress/challengesSee Part 1 here  and Part 2 here.

 In coming days I will include comments on talent, fund-raising, progress, challenges and more. What's your view? Add your comment on this post or email me at ndahlberg@miamiherald.com. 

Today's questions:

Have you been able to find the talent you need locally?

Techegg"In most cases, the answer is yes.  In building and growing .CO, most of our talent was recruited by attending local tech events, tapping into entrepreneurship programs in South Florida colleges, and through referrals by friends and colleagues.  Whether looking to hire a developer or bring an intern on board for the summer, we’ve been able to attract some incredible local talent for sure.  In some cases, it has been a bit more challenging to find local talent.  The good news is that, when necessary, we have also been able to use the allure of life in Miami to inspire people to relocate to our sunny shores!” - Lori Anne Wardi, CO

“Absolutely, we have had success finding talent across South Florida. We have done this in large part due to our work with local universities as well as building a strong culture of innovation that attracts some of the best and brightest in the area. People are CareCloud’s number one asset.” – Albert Santalo, CareCloud

“I have held leadership roles in technology for the past decade and have built a solid network of talented technologists who are ready to work. The key to finding the tech talent needed for your business in South Florida is in growing your network - you'll rarely find talented resources willing to jump ship without having a previous relationship. We simply do not have enough nerds here to make this the norm.” – Marlon Williams, Fenero

 “Finding good talent has been very challenging.  The current talent pool is overloaded with people who have hospitality and real estate backgrounds.  It was very difficult for us to source top talent for what we were looking for.  However, we did find good quality people after making use of referral and personal networks.” – Umut Tekin, Park Jockey

“Finding great talent is only half the battle and talent is only as good as the time leadership commits to coaching. We've been fortunate enough to find talent both locally and in other states and it comes down to some basic principles: raw talent, commitment to learning quickly, and grit. That combination seems to be difficult to find anywhere.” – Frankie Coletto, PassTheNotes 

“For Shiver Entertainment, we are always on the look-out for great software engineers and digital artists to create amazing video games.  Finding them locally has been the most challenging issue for us.  While we have been able to find a few great digital artists within the local area (mostly Broward County), we have only found one local software engineer who can meet our qualifications.  We have some very large local colleges (FIU, Miami Dade, UM) that produce many computer science graduates who are ready for web and enterprise software development.  Unfortunately, they aren’t graduating with the skills necessary to jump into video game development or lower-level application development – even at an entry level.  As such, we’ve had to recruit from other universities around the nation and “import” our talent, which is very time consuming, costly and difficult.” – John Schappert, Shiver Entertainment

 In your view, what is a big challenge South Florida faces in developing a tech hub and what will it take to overcome that challenge?

"I believe the biggest challenge is reaching a nationally recognized “critical mass” of scalable,tech-oriented deal flow.   In the short term, we need to craft a better story about the plethora of existing benefits for attracting and retaining Miami-based tech start-ups (for instance, an active and growing angel network, less competition for the emerging tech spotlight, the eMerge Americas Conference, increasing college graduates in tech, an emerging entrepreneurship support system, a critical mass of LA headquarters of Fortune 500 companies, Miami International Airport, Port of Miami, a network of Free Trade Zones, economic strength in key real estate and tourism growth sectors, a fascinating and magnetic international culture, a banking and transshipment center, low taxes, a world class entertainment and arts mecca and great weather.) – John Hall, Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses

“South Florida is a significant tech hub – certainly for Latin America and the Caribbean, and increasingly for the rest of the US – and we need to start from that premise. All of the necessary pieces – pro-business culture and regulatory landscape, talent, capital, academic and research institutions, entrepreneurial culture, and start-up support infrastructure – are present, growing, and in some cases, thriving. Our challenge is to continue the momentum and maintain our focus on raising the tide, rather than any one boat.” - Kevin Burgoyne, Florida Venture Forum 

“Convincing the rest of the US that there is actually a vibrant tech scene here in Miami and they should invest in it, and participate in it.” – Mario Cruz, Choose Digital


"Developing a permanent and competitive technology hub requires many factors to develop over time. While we need increased funding for viable ventures, we also need to continue pushing on the course we have set to connect our schools and universities with our technology industry, so the students are learning what they need to know to contribute to and create new technology ventures locally, as well as to showcase the growing technology opportunities available for these students to stay in South Florida. As this initiative gains more and more traction, we will not develop more home-grown technology ventures, but we will also experience an increased relocation of technology ventures to our region, which in turn will attract more funding opportunities for South Florida technology ventures." – Kevin Levy, Gunster

"The demand for creative digital content (gaming, apps, wearable tech, user interface) is growing at a staggering pace. A new non-profit called Americas Council for the Creative Economy is emerging under the leadership of Diane Sanchez to make Miami the world's top city when it comes to attracting, training, and retaining young people to produce the artistic digital user experiences of the future. Miami is a city of the future, and to become "Silicon Beach" we aspire towards we must focus on melding: 1) Art Basel 2) Our burgeoning tech corridor 3) The Latin America connection and 4) Flexible 1099 freelance business models of the future." - Jessica Kizorek, Two Parrot Productions

“In order to achieve the hyper-growth expected by venture investors, entrepreneurs need to keep their hiring standards high. I believe that much of the talent is already here and the rest will be recruited or home-grown as Miami continues to brand itself as a start-up hub. What’s been missing is the visibility into the local talent. The creation and collaborative nature of the Talent Development Network is a good start.” – Melissa Krinzman, Krillion Ventures

If you could add one ingredient to the entrepreneurial ecosystem, what would it be?

“I would have the Beacon Council focus their efforts on bringing VC's here to open offices.” –Brian Brackeen, Kairos 

“Encouraging people to think local and test, test, test. Big ideas start small and develop through teamwork and feedback. I guess my one ingredient would be ‘curiosity.’ “ - Rob Davis, Code for Fort Lauderdale

Persistence and attention span. We have to keep people engaged for the long run. We are on a 10 year mission, not a 10 month one.” --Adriana Cisneros, Cisneros Group, Endeavor Miami

 “Silicon Valley investors.” –Brian Garr, LinguaSys

“More women! We still fall short in bridging the gap between women and the localtech/entrepreneurial ecosystem.” Fabiola Fleuranvil, Blueprint Creative, Beacon Council New Leaders Taskforce

Posted: Oct. 8, 2014 


October 06, 2014

Voices of the tech community: Part 2

Tech eggAs part of a look back -- and look ahead -- at community-wide efforts to build or accelerate a technology-entrepreneurial  ecosystem in South Florida, I asked a sampling of entrepreneurs, investors and service providers for their views with a variety of questions. I’ll put a sampling on this blog throughout the week.

Find the main stories here: fundraising and progress/challengesSee Part 1 here.

 In coming days I will include comments on talent, fund-raising, progress, challenges and more. What's your view? Add your comment on this post or email me at ndahlberg@miamiherald.com. 

Today's questions:

What will it take to develop a stronger investor network here?

"As leaders within Miami’s technology ecosystem, it’s important that we come together and focus on the strengths of the community to help showcase to investors the growth and potential that is coming out of our region. There is a solid base here, and it’s a matter of us going out and telling this story to investors and influencers, allowing them to experience the benefits, especially those seeking to tap Latin America’s expanding technology market.' - Nabyl Charania, Rokk3r Labs

"More good companies. The more startup founders focus on building businesses that create real value with solid metrics, the more investors will come. At the end of the day, investors want to see returns and invest in scalable startups that generate revenue in a large enough market. ​In my opinion, this could mean going less for 'cool & sexy' consumer startups and more for b2b startups that provide real value for businesses in a very specific market and charging for a portion of the value generated. Good examples are Modernizing Medicine, Carecloud, Everypost, Kipu, Choose Digital and Learner Nation to name a few." - Ivan Rapin Smith, Idealy

"Miami needs 3-5 venture capital firms that do A and B rounds to bridge the funding gap between local angel and seed investors and the later money available from the major markets such as New York and Atlanta." – Robert Hacker, GH Capital

"More deals and more high net worth individuals and families making venture a part of thier overall investment portfolio." - Ed Boland, Scout Ventures

If you could add one ingredient to the entrepreneurial ecosystem right now, what would it be? 

"I think the city should embrace the tech commununity and create an online space that helps foster this growth by showcasing local tech startups and connect these companies to potential job candidates that are looking to relocate to Miami. Minneapolis has a great site, MinneADpolis.com, where they promote the advertising community by featuring their work and bios of firms across the city. It would be great to have the city of Miami promote the local tech community." - Adam Boalt, LiveAnswer 

"We need to ensure greater inclusion of opportunities for disenfranchised and impoverished communities.  They purchase goods and services as well and deserve opportunities to reach their fullest potential and to build wealth." - Marlon Hill, delancyhill

"Cooperation and collaboration between tech organizations, the education community, and the tech ecosystem to establish a common set of goals and measure the effectiveness and progress.  There are many initiatives and much excitement in South Florida.  Let's take it to the next level." – Lenny Chesal, Host.net, SFTA 

"A prestigious accelerator program associated with Techstars or Y Combinator." - Darren Atinsky, WedWu  

"Strong public sector support and engagement at the state, regional and local level. We need targeted investments to transition our economy to a knowledge economy and take advantage of the corporate base that we have in Miami that is actively supporting Miami as a Tech Hub." - Diane Sanchez, Americas Council for the Creative Economy 

"I would love to see more tech leaders and startup entrepreneurs from other parts of the country and world visiting us and speaking at events. This benefits us not only through their thought leadership, education, and contacts, but also because they become our best ambassadors when they return home and talk about South Florida's tech scene. - Alex de Carvalho, FIU Knight Innovator in Residence

"Although funding is always on top of every entrepreneur's mind, in every interview we have conducted via Our City Thoughts and even from my personal experience, meaningful mentoring is the most important piece missing. Meaningful mentoring equates to smart navigation for a startup, is what I think will help this ecosystem blossom." – Binsen Gonzalez, Our City Thoughts  

"I wish there was more around building a solid business vs just the 'start up hype.' I'm concerned that with one downturn in the market, the startup landscape could change significantly and quickly. There is a lot of talk of raising funds, building apps and exits but less around solid business practices." – Eric Dosal, BrightGauge 

"A major operations center for one of the world's most important technology companies. That kind of a move would elevate our global profile as a technology hub, help stimulate hundreds of employment opportunities, attract other companies to make a similar move, and increase the economic impact of the technology sector in Miami all at the same time." -Manny Medina, eMerge Americas, Medina Capital

 "We REALLY need more coders." - Jeff Brown, Palm Beach Angels

Posted Oct. 6. 2014 



October 05, 2014

Nurturing an entrepreneurial ecosystem: Voices of the tech community

TechhubimageAs part of a look back -- and look ahead -- at community-wide efforts to build or accelerate a technology-entrepreneurial  ecosystem in South Florida, I asked a sampling of entrepreneurs, investors and service providers for their views with a variety of questions. I’ll put a sampling on this blog all week.

Find the main stories here: fundraising and progress/challenges

In coming days I will include comments on talent, fund-raising, progress, challenges and more. What's your view? Add your comment on this post or email me at ndahlberg@miamiherald.com. 

Today: If you could add one ingredient to the ecosystem right now, what would it be?

“1,000 rockstar developers. Seriously, we need a lot more tech talent here in S. Florida. I think the local mayors should give first class tickets for the world’s best CTO’s to come here for Art Basel. Once they experience what the rest of us know (and why we love it here) they will never leave.” - Barry Stamos, Videoo

“Investors with backgrounds in tech and B2B / Development - there are maybe 1-2 here locally but that's changing for the better.” - Michael McCord, LearnerNation

“It all starts with promising entrepreneurs who have great ideas and can execute on them.  When they emerge, the money follows, the developers gravitate to the companies, quality executives get hired, and successful companies grow.  Great cities know that they have to attract and retain extraordinary people and companies, making their presence a big deal, working hard to make them happy.  We have to do that because everyone benefits from their success.  The rest will follow.” - Philippe Houdard, Pipeline Brickell

“I think if we saw one or more world-class technology companies in the South Florida area have significant impact in a specific industry, it would spur innovation in other sectors. I think a great example of this is salesforce.com. They took on much larger incumbents in their industry, had a successful IPO, hired leading talent that has gone on tostart companies and drive innovation in other industries – we need that to drive our technology ecosystem and South Florida.” - Albert Santalo, CareCloud

“I would add two ingredients: more funding and more positive energy. There’s a vision of the future that some of our leaders see and others may just be opening up to. Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez shares the vision and is committed to growing this industry. We have all theessential elements, the infrastructure, the universities and the innovators. The Beacon Council is ready to tell the world our story and to provide the groundwork to build a global innovation ecosystem.” - Larry K. Williams, Beacon Council

“A couple of VC funds who are more South Florida centric and signing Series A+ checks. I think that these sort of investors will allow us to keep growth companies in Miami instead of losing those companies going to places like NY or Silicon Valley.” - Marco Giberti, AGP

“A unified message.  The rest of the world understands the important part Miami plays in the world economy. Most of the US does not. Miami needs to be focused on explaining to other US cities what makes us integral to the flow of capital, talent, and information. That leads to mutually beneficial partnerships.” - Richard Schuchts, UM Life Science and Technology Park

“More diversity.” - Derick Pearson, Code Fever

“I would add a dash of optimism and a hint of evangelism. Ok, that’s two ingredients – but we first need to truly believe that we can become a tech hub, and then we need to tell the world.” - Dan Cane, Modernizing Medicine

“The one ingredient I would add to our ecosystem would be a coherent communications strategy, so that every great tech company in the region that succeeds can count on being known far and wide so that their successes help raise the game for all those still here trying to make it.” - Will Silverman, The Launch Pad at UM, Accredify

“A centralized resource hub to help anyone with entrepreneurial interest in South Florida navigate the entire tech eco-system.” - Andrew Quarrie, Jurnid

“High-caliber technical talent - we need to get computer engineering students to intern and apprentice under world-class technical people so they understand the difference between theory and practice in a high-growth global play.” - Susan Amat, Venture Hive

“A top-down road map that includes the allocation of financial resources, educational partnerships, knowledge sharing and facilities to increase the number of women and blacks in technology entrepreneurship.” - Christine Johnson, DiversiTech

“On a global scale, technology has become crucial to address the biggest social and environmental problems by, for example, leveraging solutions across the base of the pyramid (i.e. mobile based solutions, access to education through online platforms). It would be incredible to see in Miami all these newborn ventures considering the triple-bottom line and making a stronger push on social innovation. It wouldn’t be about creating technology for the sake of it, or even for the profit, it would be about addressing a need, creating a solution, and changing a pattern." - Maria Escorcia, Ashoka Miami

“Bring the cruise industry to the table.  Can you make the introduction to Micky Arison?” - Ricardo Weisz, NorthVest, Miami Innovation Fund

 “I’d like to see one story per week on the Starting Gate announcing a $1mm or higher funding round for a Miami-based company from a Miami-based lead investor.  Does that count as one ingredient?” - Bradley Liff, Fitting Room Social

 “Smart money: Miami needs successful people to commit their time to help companies strike deals, manage legal work, secure funds, offer advice, help companies overcome obstacles and accelerate their growth.” - Cory Hoffart, Hair Construction

Tune in each day this week for more responses on this topic and others. What's your view?


Nurturing an entrepreneurial ecosystem: Challenges include tech talent, inclusion, mentorship

By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@MiamiHerald.com

It seems like everyone is catching startup fever.

Last week’s breakfast event hosted by commercial law firm Bilzin Sumberg was yet another opportunity to explain and share South Florida’s tech-entrepreneurship efforts to date with the greater community. The event, titled “Miami: The Next Entrepreneurial Frontier,” attracted nearly 200 professionals. It wasn’t lost on that well-dressed crowd that what’s good for local technology is good for the economy as a whole. 

South Florida’s technology industry has actually been growing for 04eMerge Americas0506C(2)three decades, and there have certainly been ups and downs. But, as the group at Bilzin Sumberg heard, the most recent efforts to accelerate a tech-entrepreneurial ecosystem hub picked up considerable steam the past 24 months with the proliferation of events, conferences, pitch opportunities, incubators and co-working spaces, many of them supported by the Knight Foundation.

The past year saw two big milestones: the inaugural eMerge Americas conference, which attracted 6,000 people to check out what South Florida’s tech community has to offer and served as a gathering space for tech across the Americas, and the launch of SIME MIAEndeavor Miami, which accelerates high-growth companies and has already chosen seven entrepreneurs to support. There were also a number of other firsts: the inaugural SIME MIA conference just before Art Basel, the opening of the Microsoft Innovation Center, the first one in the United States, a Miami Mini-Maker Faire that attracted nearly 2,000 people (many of them pint-sized), and last month a focused conference called Fintech Latam.

Also launched: a plethora of programs to teach kids technology and entrepreneurship, including Code Fever, Code Now, Black Girls Code, Girls Who Code and Wynwood Maker Camp, among others. And next week Venture Hive’s TechCEO gets underway for Miami-Dade County high school students, teaching entrepreneurship in the real world. At the higher-education level, Florida Atlantic University rolled out its Tech Runway entrepreneurship accelerator and program and Nova Southeastern is building an $80 million NSU Center for Collaborative Research, with a technology incubator, as well as a new big data center. Miami Dade College rolled out Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses for the community and this fall is Idea Center @ MDC for its 165,000 students. 

The Knight Foundation has committed $8 million in 90 investments in entrepreneurship programs, from Endeavor to The LAB Miami, a coworking and education center in Wynwood, to programs and organizations that help startups and the ecosystem with everything from legal help, talent acquisition, funding, communication and more.

Continue reading "Nurturing an entrepreneurial ecosystem: Challenges include tech talent, inclusion, mentorship" »

Nurturing an entrepreneurial ecosystem: Bring on the money


INVESTING IN THE FUTURE: Thesis Ventures is a new venture funder. Some of the companies it has invested in are represented here. From lower left: Nestor Villalobos, Tudor Ice; Umut Tekin, Park Jockey; from upper left: Cindy Diffenderfer, Smart Wine; Nathan Heber, Boat Yard; and Nicholas Bowers, Klink. Thesis also provides residency for its portfolio companies in its studio in Fort Lauderdale, shown here.CHARLES TRAINOR JR/MIAMI HERALD STAFF


INVESTING TOGETHER: From left: Melissa Krinzman of Krillion Ventures; Leo Armas and Fernando Cuscuela of Everypost; Nico Berardi of AGP; Mark Kingdon, angel investor, gather at Everypost’s location in Burö Miami. | WALTER MICHOT/MIAMI HERALD STAFF

By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@MiamiHerald.com

It took New York venture capitalist Brad Harrison only two days in South Florida to validate his belief Miami was the right place to open his fund’s first office outside of the Big Apple. Scout Ventures, which invests in early stage companies and has a track record of success, is already beginning to look at local companies.

“All the elements are here,” said Harrison, citing Miami’s creative culture, its position as the gateway to Latin America, and a growing ecosystem of entrepreneurs. “There’s energy here, and we want to be a part of it.”

That’s what the South Florida’s tech-entrepreneurship community wants to hear as efforts to try to establish the area as a technology hub develop. The past year has brought some major milestones — eMerge Americas’ first conference in May, the nonprofit Endeavor opening its Miami office one year ago, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation surpassing 90 investments in the entrepreneurial community and university programs growing and expanding are just a few of them. Arguably, the biggest missing element has been a strong funding network for entrepreneurs, particularly startups.

That may be starting to change. Scout’s announcement last week marks the most recent of a string of developments in the early-stage investment arena. New funds and investment networks are launching, angel organizations are regrouping and becoming more active, and serial entrepreneurs here are jumping into the investing arena. Some local startups are already beginning to reap the benefits.

“I can name at least five new early-stage investment funds that have launched within the last six months and are actively making local investments. A stronger investor network is already happening — the money is here and growing,” said Melissa Krinzman, managing partner of Krillion Ventures, one of the new funding organizations.

Continue reading "Nurturing an entrepreneurial ecosystem: Bring on the money " »

Mark your calendar: Season of the Startup

A sampling of major tech and entrepreneurship events this fall and beyond:

Startup Weekend Education, Oct. 10-12 at Venture Hive, welcomes technologists, educators and entrepreneurs with education-related company ideas to bring the idea to life and compete for prizes. More info:eventbrite .com.

Product Hunt, a website for discovering new apps and products, is having a Miami meetup Oct. 17, hosted by Kairos. The event at The LAB will feature demos by Glip, Waleteros and Katana. The audience votes and the winner receives prizes from NewMe Accelerator. NewME’s Angela Benton will also hold a Q&A. More info: producthuntmiami.splashthat.com

NewME PopUp Accelerator, Oct. 18-19, will have a creative edge to it, as it is partnering with the Revolt Music Conference. The event will include fireside chats, networking, a pitch competition and more pre-event mentoring. More info: newme.in/popup-acceler ator.

Emerging Technology Business Showcase, on Oct. 23 at Miami Dade College/Wolfson, features startup pitches, product demos and panel discussions, including one on foodpreneurs. ETBS is produced by the nonprofit Enterprise Development Corp. More info: www.edc-tech .org.

FinTank: Tech Weekend @ The Dolphins, Oct. 25-26. This free hackathon at SunLife Stadium hopes to attract 500 participants, including young students. A teach-athon is planned, too. More info: thefintank.com.

TigerDirect’s TechBash will welcome 20,000 to Marlins Stadium on Nov. 7 from 7 to 11 p.m. for a free event that will feature more than 150 vendors, entertainment, food, exhibits, opportunities to purchase the latest technologies at Black Friday-like prices and “many surprises,” say the organizers. For the first time, the event will also include the finals of the Build Your Own PC Race For Charity. Info: tigertechbash.com.

The Miami Mini-Maker Faire, an all-day, family-friendly celebration of the maker movement is back to a second year in Wynwood Nov. 8 and will include a street festival with more than 120 makers, including artists, engineers, entrepreneurs and educators. Info: makerfairemiami.com.

WebCongress, a two-day conference Nov. 13-14 at the James L. Knight Center in downtown Miami, is back for a third year and will feature national and international speakers on digital media and marketing trends, workshops and a party. Info: webcongress.com/miami.

SIME MIA will once again gather global thought leaders from technology, media and the arts. The event, at the New World Symphony Center and The LAB Miami, Dec. 1-2, will include dozens of speakers, including Jimmy Maymann, CEO of Huffington Post, Bobby Moresco, Oscar-winning screenwriter for Crash and Million Dollar Baby; and Karin Nilsdotter, CEO of Spaceport Sweden. Info: simemia.co.

ITPalooza, Dec. 4 at Nova Southeastern, is an all-day event for tech professionals, with a hackathon, workshops, exhibits and holiday party. Info: itpalooza.com.

WeXchange 2014, an event to promote Latin American women entrepreneurs and offer networking, education, a pitch competition and opportunities to meet with investors, will be Dec. 11-12 at Miami Dade College and The LAB Miami. Info: wexchange.co.

And next spring …

eMerge Americas 2015, April 29-May 5, a week of events again culminating in a two-day conference at the Miami Beach Convention Center. Exhibits, keynote speakers, panels, pitch competitions, a mayoral summit, parties and more are on the agenda. Watch for details atemergeamericas.org.


January 25, 2014

Message loud and clear: We are one big tech community

By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com / @ndahlberg 

Photo (2)Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine’s comments, posted on a Washington Post blog this week, that he believed Miami Beach was inappropriate for a tech hub unleashed a flood of passionate response.

In tweets to Facebook comments 
 to open letters (and invitations) to the mayor, the entrepreneurial community expressed that Miami Beach is an important part of a regional tech hub and challenged the mayor to get to know the them. Weighing in with guest posts on my Starting Gate blog were Refresh Miami’s Brian Breslin, Knight Foundation’s Matt Haggman, Our City Thoughts’ Binsen Gonzalez, LiveNinja founder Will Weinraub and Manny Ruiz of Hispanicize, along with Kairos' Brian Brackeen on WLRN - and they represented the community sentiment well. “I welcome Mayor Levine to join me to learn about the work we’ve been doing over the last decade to turn Miami (the area) into a city we can be proud to bequeath to our children and grandchildren. In fact I invite all of the local political leaders to come together and discuss the things that our burgeoning tech community needs to accelerate its existing growth,” Breslin said in his response titled “Miami is the brand, Miami is the region.”

First on my blog and later on WLRN-Miami Herald Radio’s Florida Roundup, the mayor said his comments were taken Rokk3rout of context and that he was only talking about the small city of Miami Beach. He expressed that “I may have used a poor choice of words” and that he “learned a lesson” about regionalism -- “I guess being the mayor of Miami Beach I speak for the whole region,” he said on WLRN. He went on to say that Miami Beach could play a role in a regional tech hub through its conferences and angel investment community. To that end, the entrepreneur mayor also invited promising Miami Beach entrepreneurs to pitch their businesses to him because he is an investor.

Still, some in the community worried the Greater Miami tech brand may be tarnished, because outsiders will think tech isn’t welcome here. I believe the South Florida tech community’s response that arose will show outsiders that not only is tech building here, but there are plenty of passionate and motivated champions of the movement.

On the day the blog post was circulating, I also reported that a promising venture-funded startup targeting immigration solutions, Clearpath, was moving to Miami. The team is taking offices at Pipeline Brickell, and will be growing its team of 15 with more developers and business development talent. It’s one of a steady stream of promising young companies making the move. One company at a time, the community is making progress.


October 02, 2013

Voices of the tech community: Views of entrepreneurs, investors

We asked a sampling of South Florida entrepreneurs, leaders of entrepreneurship organizations, educators, investors and service providers a few questions about developing a tech hub and entrepreneurial ecosystem. Some of the answers selected have been condensed. Read the previous voice columns here and here

What do you think? Add your opinion to the comments section here or on the blog.     

Read more here: http://miamiherald.typepad.com/the-starting-gate/2013/09/voices-of-the-tech-community-share-your-opinion-on-building-a-tech-hub.html#storylink=cpy

If you believe South Florida  is on the way to building a tech hub, what was the signal for you that this is real?

Where as 10 years ago, a budding entrepreneur may have said ,"I want to open a restauraant!", now more folks are saying, "I want to be the next Twitter or Facebook!", which is a hugely positive paradigm shift in thinking. Entrepreneurship is being infused in all aspects of higher ed as well. For example, Miami Dade College and Miami-Dade County Public Schools are partnering to develop Engineering and Technology Entrepreneurship summer camps for students in their Academies of Engineering and IT. Things are definitely looking up. 

-- Miguel Alonso, School of Engineering, Miami Dade College


I feel that 2013 was the tipping point.  It’s when South Florida raised its collective hands and said we are in the game and ready to play, as evidenced by The Knight Foundation’s focus on and investment in entrepreneurship; the announcement of the eMerge Americas Conference; the new leadership and energy behind the South Florida Technology Alliance; the growth and development of the Miami Innovation Center; the formation of the Group of Groups; the inaugural class of Project Lift; the launch of Startup Delray and Startup Palm Beach; the choice of Miami as the first US location for Endeavor; The LAB Miami’s new space and programming; the burgeoning Maker Movement across the tri-county area; and much more.

-- Irene Revales, Startup Delray founder

At Pipeline, we’ve been seeing early stage companies attract very talented people from outside of Miami.  It’s a sign that companies from here have enough juice to have people leave everything behind and invest themselves into quality companies here.

-- Philippe Houdard, Pipeline Brickell


The high quality entrepreneurs from around the world who apply to the Venture Hive accelerator program and express a strong desire and motivation to come to Miami to build their startup.

-- Ivan Rapin-Smith, Venture Hive program director


Although there is still a lot to accomplish the young minds of South Florida are starting to engage in the present and future of their community in ways we haven’t seen before. Young changemakers from 27 different high-schools are launching ventures that are making their communities and neighborhoods a better place to live for all. This enables us to imagine a South Florida where young talent remains connected to their communities because they have actively and positively affected their quality of life.  

-- Lorena Garcia Duran, Ashoka Miami


As an entrepreneur, what could the ecosystem most help you and your company with?

The Miami ecosystem has already helped us tremendously. The individuals and organizations associated with the Miami tech community have been incredibly supportive of our work from the beginning. Through advice from other founders, tech help from experienced developers, PR introductions, we've felt like this community has been cheering us on, and that's been an incredible part of running a startup. Moving forward, we're looking for great advisors and investors. And as this ecosystem grows, we're really hoping to find individuals and/or firms that can provide a unique combination of funding and industry expertise.

-- Sabrina Sandar, Vividly co-founder 


The best thing the ecosystem can do is bring more talent here and not just tech talent, but all types. We need to recruit more forward thinking minds to our city and give them all the tools they need to thrive. When more of those types of people becomes locals, then everybody benefits. 

-- Will Weinraub, LiveNinja founder

Continue reading "Voices of the tech community: Views of entrepreneurs, investors" »