May 16, 2016

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


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.


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



Nomads_studio(3) (1)

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 02, 2016

Registration open for free CS50x coding course at MDC

Registration is underway for CS50x Miami, the in-person version of Harvard University’s flagship online introduction to computer science course. It is now being offered free through an expanded partnership between The Idea Center at Miami Dade College and LaunchCode, a nonprofit that places aspiring developers and technologists into paid apprenticeships and jobs. The Idea Center is MDC’s hub for entrepreneurship. 

The 20-week class will provide students with a foundation in computer programming and web development that puts them on a path to launch a career in technology. All applicants must register and complete a skills assessment test prior to enrolling.

 “CS50x is the most efficient and cost-effective way to learn the skills needed to be a successful programmer,” said  LaunchCode Executive Director Brendan Lind. said  The Idea Center’s Executive Director Leandro Finol added, “Now, by offering it for free, we are confident in our ability to attract South Florida’s best and brightest applicants, particularly focusing on the inclusion of minorities and women.”

In addition to providing educational opportunities for students interested in learning how to code, LaunchCode places qualified candidates into apprenticeships and jobs in tech. To date, LaunchCode has placed CS50x Miami graduates with companies including MasterCard, Boeing, Modernizing Medicine, and Kairos.

To register or for more information, visit CS50xMiami.comClasses begin Monday, June 13.

April 30, 2016

Zumba: What the global fitness brand can teach Miami tech


Zumba filer

By Nancy Dahlberg /

It doesn’t get more Miami than the story of Zumba.

Perlman mug (1)Alberto Perlman, who appeared at The LAB Miami for the monthly  "Brainfood" series, is co-founder and CEO of Zumba Fitness, the largest branded fitness program in the world. He shared war stories and lessons learned.

Zumba dance fitness classes attract more than 15 million weekly participants in 200,000 locations in more than 180 countries. The brand also includes music, clothing, DVDs, video games, a charity platform and most recently its first food product.

Perlman oversees day-to-day operations, manages brand and product development, and negotiates partnerships with fitness clubs and organizations around the world. The Hallandale Beach-based company has about 220 employees and a development team of about 30. He co-founded the company with two other Albertos from Colombia, Alberto Aghion and Alberto “Beto” Pérez.

But Zumba used none of the traditional methods to grow. It hasn’t acquired any companies. Except for accepting one private equity investment, it hasn’t raised financing. Instead it was at the right place at the right time with the right idea, amid a confluence of healthy living trends, a resurgence of interest in all things Latin, and a fresh business model that relied on harnessing the passion of Zumba instructors to build the business. Today, they lead more than half a million classes every week. What’s the secret to building a worldwide movement? “You start with heart,” Perlman said at the discussion led by entrepreneur Marco Giberti on Thursday night.

Perlman said Zumba has been testing live streaming and virtual reality, and looks forward to testing augmented reality, but he told the tech audience that the live experience will always be the center of all Zumba does.

“The live experience is never going to be replaced. Face-to-face is never going away. Everything we do is to drive people to the classes.”

Not that there weren’t low points. One of them was in the downturn of 2008, when the team was running low on money and bracing for the worst. But 2008 was also an inflection point for the company because they realized that despite the recession, people were flocking to the classes to de-stress and have fun. The instructor ranks swelled also, as a means of employment in tough times. “We were there and the people found us.”

Since then, apparel has become a very big business for Zumba, which like all its products are co-created with the instructor network. Last year Zumba sold 4 million units, 90 percent of which are sold through the website, he said.

Zumba possibly would consider developing another fitness brand if it was the right fit (he said he didn’t see CrossFit coming), but it’s not a priority, Perlman said. “The Zumba brand keeps us very busy,” he said, and there is still innovation to do. For instance, in the last few years its charity platform, Zumbathon, has taken off, raising about $5.7 million. Its Zumba Stories website is packed with personal, life-changing stories. And the company this year introduced its first food product, Zumba Shake Shake Shake, a super healthy plant-based protein drink.

He said finding talent has been difficult in Miami, but he also believes that if he had started Zumba in New York or Los Angeles, it may not have gotten off the ground. Being under the radar and not having intense local competition has its advantages when you are building a company.

Perlman’s advice to entrepreneurs: “Focus on your product and customers — don’t spend all your time raising money. Customer-centric companies win.”

And perhaps he should have also added: “Listen to your mother.” She had a very instrumental part in the Zumba story, encouraging him to meet with her dance-fitness instructor, “Beto,” the accidental entrepreneur who invented the Zumba dance concept and became his co-founder. "Maybe you can start a gym together," she said then.

Nancy Dahlberg; 305-376-3595; @ndahlberg



April 26, 2016

Code Art Miami funds MDC scholarship to encourage women to get into animation, gaming

Members of Code Art Miami’s event committee present MDC with a check to fund a new scholarship for Animation and Gaming students at MAGIC. From left to right: Diana Bien Aime (MDC Wolfson Dean of Academic Affairs), Josie Goytisolo, Sofia Garcia, Mauricio Ferrazza (MAGIC Chairperson), Amy Austin Renshaw, Lander Basterra, Maria Mejia, Lisa Hauser and Allison Cammack.

By Amy Austin Renshaw

For the past two years I have had the privilege to be an instructor with the Girls Who Code Club at iPrep Academy. The club was founded last school year by then junior, Maria Mejia, who was inspired to get more girls into coding after completing the Girls Who Code summer immersion program. This year Maria wanted to do even more to inspire girls to learn to code, and from that was born the idea for Code Art Miami, an event aimed at encouraging more girls to learn to code by highlighting the creative side of computer science through a student digital art exhibition and speaker symposium. 

Volunteers from three local Girls Who Code Clubs (iPrep Academy, The Idea Center @ MDC, and Pinecrest Library) and CODeLLA, a local organization that teaches coding and tech skills to Latina girls, came together to plan the event, which was hosted in early February at the Miami Animation & Gaming International Complex (MAGIC) at MDC Wolfson Campus. The event was a great success with over 300 attendees and over 150 student submissions of art-generating programs that ran on digital flat screens throughout the event venue.

In addition to the event, Maria worked to establish the Code Art Miami Scholarship fund at MDC to give back to our host and to make a positive impact on more lives. "A disadvantaged student should not be limited by finances in order to pursue an education, especially when the odds are already against her. Just as I have been fortunate enough to have an entire network of supportive friends and mentors, the Code Art Miami scholarship is my way of providing those same resources to someone else,” said Maria. 

"In setting up the scholarship, we were amazed to learn that just $7,000 would cover tuition costs for one student for both years in the two-year MAGIC program,” said iPrep math teacher and Girls Who Code Club advisor Lisa Hauser. Funds for the scholarship were raised at the event through a silent auction, which included donations from Miami Heat player Chris Bosh and artist Ahol, and through continued post-event sales of a limited-edition print donated by London-based artist Ryca. By early April, we reached our fundraising goal, and on April 20th, Maria and the rest of the Code Art Miami planning committee presented MDC with a check for $7,000 to establish a scholarship fund for women or other underrepresented minorities enrolled in one of MAGIC’s two-year programs. “Currently only about one-fifth of gaming developers are women. This new scholarship will help encourage more women to enter this field,” said Mauricio Ferrazza, MAGIC Chairperson. 

Volunteers who helped Maria make the event and the scholarship fund a reality include my event co-chairJosie Goytisolo and executive planning committee members Lander Basterra, Allison Cammack, Marina Ganopolsky, Sophia Garcia and Lisa Hauser, all of whom share a passion for education — particularly computer science eduction — and a belief in its ability to change lives. Speaking for the group, Allison said, "Coding teaches problem-solving, teamwork, and tenacity. Whatever you can dream, coding gives you the tools to build. And with imagination and determination, you can change the world.” 

Work is already underway for next year’s event. We are reaching out now to area schools to schedule information sessions and workshops in the fall for both teachers and students in the hopes of involving more girls next year. In addition to including more students, we plan to add age brackets and categories for next year’s competition. “It was incredibly difficult to choose just three winners from this year’s submissions, which came from girls in grades 4-12 and included still images, 3D-printed art, animations, and interactive art programs,” said Head Judge Marina Ganopolsky. To learn more about Code Art Miami or schedule an information session at your school or club, email

April 19, 2016

Magic Leap releases new video of its ‘mixed reality’ technology in action


Wired magazine writer Kevin Kelly received an exclusive look at the technology and reports that it worked “amazingly well.” Magic Leap also released a new video on its YouTube channel.

By Nancy Dahlberg /

Magic Leap, the high-flying South Florida company developing “mixed reality” technology, released a new two-minute video showing its technology, timed with the publication of an extensive report in Wired magazine.

As with other videos it has released, a Magic Leap spokesman said the video was shot directly through the Magic Leap system, and no special effects were used in its creation. It is dated April 8. See it above.

Wired’s co-founder and “Senior Maverick” Kevin Kelly received an exclusive look at the Magic Leap technology for his report in Wired’s May issue, which was also a deep dive into the world of virtual reality, augmented reality and mixed reality and the technologies of Magic Leap’s competitors. The article explained Magic Leaps’s technology and its “photonic lightfield chip” in greater detail than past reports, but the references are vague, such as these:

“The user sees the outside world through the glass, while the virtual elements are projected from a light source at the edge of the glass and then reflected into the user’s eyes by the beam-splitting nano-ridges,” Kelly wrote. “Magic Leap claims that its device is unique in the way it beams light into the eye, though the company declines to explain it further at this time. ...

“In trying out Magic Leap’s prototype, I found that it worked amazingly well close up, within arm’s reach, which was not true of many of the other mixed- and virtual-reality systems I used. I also found that the transition back to the real world while removing the Magic Leap’s optics was effortless, as comfortable as slipping off sunglasses, which I also did not experience in other systems. It felt natural.”

Natural is what Magic Leap founder and CEO Rony Abovitz is going for – technology that is an extension of the body, rather than an intrusion, “that will deliver and Internet of presence and experience and rather than just data,” he has said in past interviews. While exactly how Magic Leap’s technology will be delivered hasn’t been disclosed, it has been assumed in the tech press that it will be through some type of glasses or headset. Said Kelly: “It’s no great leap to imagine such glasses also replacing the small screens we all keep in our pockets. In other words, this is a technology that can simultaneously upend desktop PCs, laptops, and phones. No wonder Apple, Samsung, and everyone else is paying attention. This is what disruption on a vast scale looks like.”

The secretive company with more than 150 patents still gave no timetable on bringing its first product to market. Funding will not be an issue: Magic Leap has received nearly $1.4 billion in venture capital from Google and others, including $793.5 million in the first quarter in a round led by Alibaba, to develop and manufacture the technology.

Follow @ndahlberg on Twitter.

April 11, 2016

An Open Letter to the Miami Tech Community

By Kim Grinfeder

I direct and teach in the Interactive Media Program at the University of Miami, a new program that I helped create with hopes it would someday contribute to Miami’s budding tech scene. It was always my hope that the program be integrated into Miami’s community, and so I have always encouraged my students to participate in local meet-ups and hackathons. In fact, until recently, it was a requirement for students to attend at least five local meet-ups or hackathons as part of their class grades.

Last week, a female student shared her experience at a local hackathon. She attended the hackathon for the normal reasons: she wanted to hone her programming skills, meet new people, and have a good time. Because she did not know anyone there, she joined a group who happened to be all-male. She told them that she could help with design or front-end coding since she was proficient in both. One of the guys asked if he should “dumb it down for her.” The night went on with macho jokes that made her feel uncomfortable and ended in “not-bad-for-a-girl” high fives. Unfortunately, it is not the first time that I hear such a story from a student who attended a local coding event. I am not saying this type of gender-based disparagement happens all the time, but I have heard similar tales enough times from my students to warrant calling it out.

That being said, she also mentioned that a few of her teammates worked cordially with her and that she learned quite a bit from them. In fact, these teammates seemed put off by the rest of the team’s behavior, even though they did not exactly step in to stop it. It is unfortunate that too often good behavior is overshadowed by some vexatious comportment.

If we seriously aspire to become a blossoming tech community intent on recruiting and keeping talent in Miami, we cannot tolerate such behavior. Next time that you are at a local hackathon, look at the male/female ratio and ask yourself why this is so. We need to strive to make these events safe and fun for everyone if we want them to succeed. Meet-ups should implement a code of conduct and adhere to it so that everyone can feel welcome. This recommendation has already been carried out at some of our largest local meet-ups and has helped them grow (see I would like, with this letter, to see more local groups and events adopt this policy.

Again, the vast majority of tech events in Miami have been welcoming to everyone, and great things are happening here like the WIN Lab and Girls Who Code, which are designed to attract women and encourage them to enter the industry. But we should also ensure that our mixed gender events are welcoming and safe for everyone. We should not have to rely only on gender exclusive events. It is hard enough to get things going in Miami without excluding people. Our new tech community should be built on shedding the old-school male-dominated STEM paradigm for a model that strengthens and benefits from our local gender diversity.

Kim Grinfeder is Associate Professor in the Department of Cinema and Interactive Media at the University of Miami. Twitter: @kimgrinfeder

March 28, 2016

Home61: A real estate startup powered by tech


Home61 picture

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 /

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

“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.

March 18, 2016

14 fintech companies faced off in Temenos Innovation Jam: And the winners were....

PictureWinnersF60A9053 (1)

From right to left: Joel Brown from DocuVital, author and futurist Brett King and Javier Mira from FacePhi

Submitted by CVOX Group

Last week, the Temenos Innovation Jam  at The Lightbox at Goldman Warehouse in Miami’s Wynwood Arts District featured fintech companies from South Florida and around the Americas. Each  had the opportunity to pitch products and solutions to renowned financial institutions. 

Fourteen companies were pre-selected to showcase their company: AppDome, BillBit, Billshark, Coinapult, Facephi, DocuVital, HID Global, iQuantifi, Lenddo, Mesfix, Quotanda, Strands, VU and Zave App Inc. 

Each company had even minutes to make a presentation and the audience of bankers and community supporters voted to choose two winners. And the winners were (drumroll please)...

The first prize went to Javier Mira from Facephi and second prize to Joel Brown of Miami-based DocuVital.

Facephi, headquartered in Spain, is a global leader in facial recognition technology.   Its product is rapidly becoming a service used by banks all over the world.  This innovative technology enhances the client experience effortlessly by simply using the camera on their mobile device to take a selfie; this then becomes their method of identification and interaction with the bank’s mobile application. 

DocuVital is the turbo tax for end of life planning.  Over 100 tasks need to be completed by the family after a loved one dies.  DocuVital, based at Miami's Venture Hive, solves this problem by organizing your vital information and documents, automating the process, storing it all using bank level security and encryption, and finally delivering it all seamlessly to your loved ones when you are gone.   Banks now want to provide services for the whole life cycle of their clients and Docuvital is a great tool for end-of-life issues and planning. 

The DocuVital platform is very simple to use, guiding the user through a simple step-by-step process of uploading all their vital information and documents. Using a set-up wizard, the platform quickly and easily instructs the user what information will be needed and then takes them to a dashboard page where they can seamlessly navigate through different sections, including personal, financial, legal, funeral and miscellaneous. (This was Brown's second fintech win)

“The Fintech Innovation Jams provide a unique opportunity for each for us to engage, identify and partner with the hottest fintech companies in the world. Through the Temenos MarketPlace, fintech companies get access to the more than 2,000 financial institutions running our software, who serve more than 500 million banking customers. Our clients in turn get access to cutting-edge innovation, making it a true win-win situation,” said Ben Robinson, CMO for Temenos.

He added that “Latin America is a region bubbling with technology innovation and we are excited to help propel fintech to the forefront as a sector with great opportunities for innovative entrepreneurs.”

Now the winner has the opportunity to travel to Barcelona in May 2016 and compete in the Temenos Community Forum (TCF) with finalists from Singapore, Dubai and London.  


March 17, 2016

SXSW: I'm Silicon Valley and I have a problem

By Nancy Dahlberg /

Turns out the Elephant in the Valley was also the elephant in the room at the massive South by Southwest Festival this past week.

President Obama talked about it; so did his chief technology officer. Tech pioneers Steve and Jean Case discussed it, as did Pinterest and Twilio engineers, executives at Facebook and Yelp, several venture capitalists and the CEO of Vox Media.

The diversity issue in Silicon Valley took center stage at the SXSW Interactive Festival, in keynote speeches, panels, workshops and networkers. This comes several years after the embarrassing numbers that showed few women and minorities worked at Silicon Valley’s elite tech companies were brought to the forefront. One keynote session was even titled: Why we are still talking about it.

Why? Because the numbers are still going in the wrong direction, said Tracy Cho (pictured below), a software engineer at Pinterest. She was one of the people who raised the issue, penning a post on Medium in 2013 titled, “Where are the numbers?” Lack of diversity affects business results both through poorer products and lackluster shareholder returns, Cho said, citing research.

Her call to action and those of others helped spur employment reporting by Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Twitter and other Silicon Valley companies but she said two years later the numbers really hadn’t budged. “In hindsight, hoping the numbers would improve themselves was not a plan,” Cho said.

Now Pinterest and other companies are beginning to tackle the problem in a business-centric way: tracking metrics, setting goals, creating accountability, experimenting, learning and iterating, Cho said.

How bad are the numbers?

The current status at Silicon Valley tech companies that have reported their numbers: Less than 20 percent of tech employees are female. Under-represented minorities in tech number in the low single-digit percentages. Women in senior leadership roles make up 15 percent to 30 percent of the companies reporting, but for blacks and Latinos in senior leadership, it’s back to the single digits.

The investing landscape looks similarly bleak. Women comprise less than 8 percent of investment decision makers in venture capital firms. Less than 1 percent of VCs are black; 1.3 percent are Hispanic, Cho said. A paltry 3 percent of funding goes to women-led startups and 1 percent to African American founders, said investor Trae Vassallo. In an earlier session at SXSW, Jean Case, CEO of the Case Foundation, said half of all successful Kickstarter campaigns are led by women, proving that good concepts and the appetite for funding are out there.

Vassallo and Michele Madansky recently released, inspired by conversation coming out of the Ellen Pao/Kleiner Perkins trial last year that served to raise the issue no one wanted to talk about once again. They were joined on a panel by Obama’s CTO Megan Smith and Laura Weidman Powers, CEO of Code2040, a nonprofit aimed at increasing the numbers of minorities in tech (panel pictured above).


“We believe this is a systemic ecosystem issue,” said Powers to a packed SXSW ballroom. In 1984, 35 percent of the computer science degrees went to women; now it is about 19 percent. In high school AP classes in computer science, the trend is similar.

There are many reasons commonly cited for why fewer women are going into computer science, much of it cultural. Noting that Grace Hopper invented the first programming language and the history-making computing team documented in The Imitation Game was actually heavily powered by women, Smith said, “We kind of ran our history through a rinse cycle and washed the women and people of color out and wrote the story without them.”

In the Elephant in the Room survey, the authors found some alarming results, including 60 percent of women suffered unwanted sexual advances in the workplace, and about the same number perceived they did not have the same opportunities as men. The authors also surveyed SXSW’s female attendees, and 74 percent said they believed they were less well compensated to their peers. [story can end here for print] "


Research abounds showing the diverse teams perform better, Smith said. “We are at version 1.0 in solving this but we have to do it together.” Vox Media CEO Jim Bankoff admitted on stage that his biggest misstep was not building a diverse team from the start.

Some of the solutions offered by the panelists: Widen your net. Go outside your network for candidates. Have a surfing party with your team, look at award sites and other unconventional places for possible candidates. Mentor and sponsor promising women and minorities. Be role models. Get in the classrooms and help the teachers.

Cho added some of her own: To create a welcoming culture, it starts with the founders. Set goals and hold people accountable. She was also heartened to see some universities making their intro CS courses “more friendly,” rather than weed-out courses.

Earlier at SXSW, Obama spoke of the 1.5 million job openings expected in tech by the end of this decade, and that universities will not be able to fill that need. Help us get more Americans into these jobs, including women and people of color, and encourage them to tackle the biggest challenges of our time, he said.

Smith and Obama also brought up the White House’s TechHire initiative to train and place thousands of coders, which now includes 50 metro areas, including Miami. Coding boot camps are great placed to diversify your pool of candidates, the panelists said.

Diversity was a hot topic at Miami’s recent Blacktech Week, including Magic Leap founder Rony Abovitz asking the crowd to apply because he does not want his company to look like Silicon Valley. Code Fever, Codella, Girls Who Code and Black Girls Code are offering coding programs locally to inspire more youth into tech. Recent moves to help prime the pipeline include the announcements that PowerMoves, a fellowship program and national network for entrepreneurs of color, and WIN Lab, an accelerator for women entrepreneurs run by Babson College, are setting up operations in Miami this year.

“If everyone in this room would take an action, we could move incredibly quickly as a tech community because that is how we roll,” said Smith.

Find more South By Southwest coverage, including about President Obama’s keynote talk as well as talks about the Hyperloop and the Google self-driving car, on the Starting Gate blog. Follow @ndahlberg on Twitter.


March 15, 2016

Meet the 5 graduating startups of Founder Institute Miami


By Melanie Haselmayr

Over the course of 3½ months, 30 ambitious startup founders followed a strict curriculum. Only a handful of them made it to graduation day.

The Founder Institute is renowned worldwide as one of the toughest yet rewarding incubator programs. The goal of the foundation is to support early stage startups in the most crucial phases of their companies’ phases: from conceptualization to launch. The program consists of weekly meetups, mentor presentations and detailed assignments based on a lineup of topics - all in all, an orchestrated ensemble of elements that guides young entrepreneurs in achieving their milestones toward their startup launch.

Program directors Juan Meza, Gustavo Fernandez and Enrique Sierra invited some of Miami’s most outstanding business leaders to share their knowledge and insights with the aspiring newcomers, and included Cody Littlewood of Codelitt, Kevin Levy of GrayRobinson PA, Leonel Azuela of Quaxar and Nestor Villalobos of Tudor Ice Company.

Just five companies survived the rapid pace of the program and concluded the Miami semester in a ceremony  Tuesday night:

LiVi - Live Stream by Request, led by Carlos Romero, is the only live stream mobile App that gives the control to its users.  LiVi is redesigning this technology by applying peer-to-peer and on-demand models while the competition is focused on mass broadcasting, making it difficult to monetize.  

VOICE YOUR VOICE, led by Camilo Silva and Jose Aliaga, aims to encourage the public to actively engage in politics and democracy by addressing issues that impact them through a mobile platform that aims to connect the community with its respective political leaders on the city, district, county, state and national level.

IMPACT COACH, led by Coach Guillermo Juliao, is an educational coaching platform to help the Hispanic community find their passions, purpose and strengths so they can start their own companies or find their dream jobs.

DRONELANCER, led by Matt Hall, is a marketplace to connect licensed drone owners with businesses looking for aerial photos and videos. the marketplace allows clients to interview, hire and work with drone owners through its easy, transparent platform. 

TRANSPARENT, led by Melanie Haselmayr, helps renters, realtors and landlords engage in simplified rental transactions. The company helps landlords and realtors filter potential applicants, and offers an escrow service to renters to safeguard their money until move-in.

The Founder Institute is a startup incubator out of Silicon Valley that hosts programs in 110+ around the world to help startup founders build sustainable companies. For more information about the Miami program, please visit

The graduation ceremony took place Tuesday at TamboWorks, a co-working space in South Miami, located at 5790 Sunset Drive. "TamboWorks is proud to have hosted this first group of entrepreneurs who have met in our space on a weekly basis," said TamboWorks co-founder Adolfo Taylhardat.