February 21, 2017

#Miamitech on immigration: 'Now is not the time to shut the door."

Everymundo

By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

Everymundo, a fast-growing Miami tech company, was and continues to be built by immigrant talent.

That’s even reflected in its company name. Recently the Everymundo team proclaimed its message from the windows of their downtown Miami office – “We are immigrants. Everymundo.”

Today, Everymundo, which develops and licenses marketing automation software and solutions to airlines and joined the Endeavor network of high-impact Miami companies in 2015, has 54 full-time employees in Miami and 30 of them were born outside the United States. A quarter of them are working for Everymundo on professional visas, said CEO Anton Diego.

Diego was born in Moscow and raised in Havana and Spain before moving to the U.S. in high school. “My story is just another story of the fabric of Miami.” For Diego, a biography of Andy Grove, the founder of Intel who was a Hungarian immigrant who survived Nazi Germany and communism in Hungary, proudly sits on his desk. “Without immigration, Silicon Valley wouldn’t exist ... He never made excuses, he just wanted to grow a business and employ people.”

Without the visas, Diego would not be able to recruit the top talent Everymundo needs. Miami has a growing tech community and talent base but can not yet supply the levels of senior level talent these growing companies need, a sentiment echoed by Alexander Sjögren, chief technology officer at YellowPepper, a Miami-based company pioneering mobile banking and payments in Latin America. Sjögren, a Swede who lived and worked in Latin America, moved to Miami in 2012 on an H-1-B visa to work with YellowPepper. He said about 90 percent of YellowPepper’s Miami workforce is foreign-born.

Statistics bear this out. Two out of every three engineering degrees in the U.S. are granted to foreigners. Nearly half of Fortune 500 companies established in the early 2000s were established by the foreign-born.

Johanna Mikkola, the Finnish-Canadian co-founder of Wyncode, a coding education company that is also part of Endeavor, said her company would not be as successful placing their 400 graduates in junior developer jobs at tech firms without senior level talent on staff, often immigrants, that enable companies to hire, train and nurture younger local talent. recently, Wyncode announced it will be partnering with a Swedish company to grow its impact in Miami. They were part of a panel opening up a one-day Urbanism Summit that explored issues from climate change to sustainability to urban food deficits at Palm Court in the Design District on Tuesday.

“Now is not the time to shut the door,” said Ted Hutchinson, Florida organizing director for FWD.us, who moderated the event. FWD.us, which has an office in Wynwood, is a bi-partisan national advocacy organization that was started in 2013 by Silicon Valley tech titans. “FWD is committed to finding solutions to fix immigration and part of that is raising awareness of immigration and immigrants’ contributions to tech and the entire economy of Florida.”

About 54 percent of Miami area businesses are founded by immigrants, Hutchinson said, and about one in four in Florida. But behind the numbers are people.

“We’re truly about the American Dream,” said Diego. “We want to make a difference in this city. We need to be able to recruit outside the United states and look South. Some of our top developers come to the U.S., they bring their families ... and they teach junior developers their skills. The reality is that Miami today lacks AI and big data experts, these are the fields we play in. We need to find ways to them to Miami, to bring their families to Miami. They improve our world.”

And it’s for the long term, Diego said. “We want to build a company our kids will want to work in.”

READ MORE

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Fwd

Panelists from the Miami tech community talk about their need for attracting top tech talent via immigration at the Urbanism Summit in Miami on Tuesday. At top, Everymundo displayed the message "We are immigrants" in its downown office windows recently.

 

February 20, 2017

Startup Spotlight: Want the yachting life, even for a day? Miami startup will hook you up

Spotlight News rk

From left to right, YachtLife cofounders Patrick Curley and Nick Cardoza pose for the picture at River Yacht Club in Miami. Roberto Koltun rkoltun@miamiherald.com

 

Company: YachtLife Technologies

Headquarters: Miami, one of the world’s only year-round yachting destinations.

Concept: YachtLife aggregates local inventories of fully crewed luxury yachts and displays them on one platform. The YachtLife app has photos, specs and pricing for all yachts, so users can browse available inventory, and even book on the fly, without needing to speak to a broker or owner. A concierge assists when needed to plan itineraries and attend to the needs of the user to ensure a luxury, fluid and memorable experience, and at prices less than what a broker would typically charge. YachtLife gives yacht owners a direct way to list their own yachts for day or multi-day charters to offset their costs.

Story: Nicholas Cardoza, co-founder and designer of YachtLife, is vice president of the luxury yacht company VanDutch and has been involved in yachting his entire life. In 2008, Cardoza got his start working in the yachting industry as a personal chef and deckhand on mega- and super-yachts, and later obtained his captain’s license and began delivering yachts during the off-season. In 2012, Cardoza joined VanDutch and has since helped build the company’s presence as a major luxury brand.

Patrick Curley, co-founder of YachtLife, quit his job in finance in New York to start a mobile tech startup in the hospitality space and moved to Miami three years ago. When visiting, his friends would occasionally inquire about chartering a yacht, and since he had no idea how to go about chartering yachts, he would refer them to Cardoza and VanDutch would help his friends. After a number of times doing this, both Curley and Cardoza realized how the yacht charter industry was still light-years behind other industries — few websites actually list pricing, so customers need to search multiple websites and call brokers for quotes. After receiving quotes from multiple websites, customers then needed to go back to the site with the best quote and finalize all booking details over the phone.

“YachtLife has assembled a top-notch portfolio of some of the nicest yachts for charter in Miami and beyond. Since we removed the middleman and negotiated the best terms, users can now book fully crewed luxury yachts for the day, in most cases without even speaking to a broker — simply choose your yacht, pickup time, and tell us what day you’d like to go out. YachtLife usually confirms your charter within an hour,” Curley said. “The YachtLife concierge also helps with any questions before, during or after your charter.”

Today, YachtLife operates in South Florida, the Bahamas, the Hamptons, Chicago, New England, Spain, the South of France, Italy, Greece and Turkey. Prices for half-day to multi-day private yacht charters vary widely, but start at about $1,600 in Miami.

YachtLife currently lists about 250 yachts on its platform, from a 40-foot VanDutch to a 154-foot Feadship with a crew of 12 — “It’s a 6-bedroom floating mansion on the water with all the water toys you can imagine,” Curley said.

Launched: May 2015

Website and social: www.yachtlife.club; @yachtlifeapp; www.facebook.com/yachtlife.club

Management team: Patrick Curley, Nick Cardoza, Anko Mast

No. of employees: 12

Financing: VanDutch Yachts, a leading luxury yacht manufacturer, purchased a stake in YachtLife in 2016. YachtLife is raising a $1 million seed round. The gener8tor accelerator fund and a handful of angel investors have already committed half of the round.

Recent milestones reached: On Saturday, YachtLife announced it has launched a membership club, and has already attracted a Miami Heat player and other YachtLife users. Members receive discounts on yacht charters and benefits from partners, such as hotels, yacht clubs and restaurants. YachtLife recently signed a deal to act as exclusive yacht provider for the two-weekend long Fyre Festival, a music and cultural festival in April/May 2017 in a private cay in the Exumas, Bahamas; the festival is expecting 20,000 and YachtLife is the exclusive yacht provider for the festival, including yacht accommodations and tender service for VIPs. It offered a Valentine’s partnership promotion with the Standard Hotel. YachtLife recently completed the gener8tor accelerator program, which has been instrumental in helping YachtLife from a strategic and tactical perspective. The startup acquired space at the River Yacht Club on the Miami River in partnership with the VanDutch Lounge to open its own YachtLife Lounge, where users and members can enjoy yacht club amenities and benefits.

Biggest startup challenge and why: Scaling inventory and opening up new regions. Each region has cultural and legal differences, and you need to really have good on-the-round relationships with luxury yacht owners/brokers/management companies in order to negotiate favorable deals, the co-founders said.

Next steps: Campaigns to grow inventory in existing areas YachtLife services as well as partnerships with strategic hospitality and luxury brands. After fund-raising, YachtLife will hire a sales rep with group-sales experience in order to target corporations to host events on yachts.

Mentor/Investor’s view: “We are big fans of marketplace companies, in particular those with high margins and that leverage the broader trend in the sharing economy. Yachts are a perfect example of an underutilized asset, and YachtLife allows yacht owners and renters to better utilize those assets for mutual benefit. In addition, YachtLife’s exclusive partnership with VanDutch is truly unique in the industry and allows their marketplace to be seeded with the most popular yachts available,” said Troy Vosseller, co-founder of gener8tor.

Follow @ndahlberg on Twitter.

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SSS00 Spotlight News rk

YachtLife co-founders Patrick Curley, left, and Nicholas Cardoza pose for the picture at River Yacht Club in Miami.Roberto Koltun rkoltun@miamiherald.com



 

February 09, 2017

Blacktech Week receives $1.2 million in Knight funding to expand entrepreneurship programs

Twitterguy

By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

This month’s Blacktech Weekend will bring the CEO of Y-Combinator and other tech leaders to Miami, and it is just a slice of what’s to come.

The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation on Thursday announced $1.2 million in new support for Code Fever’s Blacktech Week and related programs that aim to expand opportunities for black entrepreneurs.

Based in Miami, Code Fever is a non-profit organization dedicated to connecting people of color to the startup and tech ecosystem in South Florida and is run by Felecia Hatcher and Derick Pearson. In 2015, with support from Knight Foundation, Code Fever launched Blacktech Week, a six-day conference that was also held last year.

New support from Knight, awarded over three years, will go toward expanding Blacktech Week programming year-round to include Blacktech Weekend and continued monthly office hours and meetups. Code Fever will also introduce VC in Residence, a new program that will invite venture capitalists to spend a month in Miami advising and guiding minority entrepreneurs.

Hatcher said these events will continue to bring together participants eager to connect, learn and explore ideas around how to grow black entrepreneurship and make sure people of color are represented in the tech industry. “The talent and the demand are there. With our new, expanded programming, we’ll be able to provide greater year-round access to networking, mentorship and funding,” she said.  

Matt Haggman, Knight’s Miami program director, believes the funding will help Code Fever expand and deepen the impact of Blacktech Week. In addition to the signature event, a regular calendar of events will ensure an ongoing presence throughout the year while helping to create “an inclusive and equitable entrepreneurial ecosystem in Miami,” he said. The lack of diversity in the Silicon Valley tech industry is a well-documented problem with little progress made.

“We are still in the early days of building a Miami innovation ecosystem, and we want to be very intentional that this ecosystem includes the whole community. We see Black Tech Week as a key part of this effort,” said Haggman, who has spearheaded Knight’s involvement in Miami ecosystem-building. “The more the whole community is involved, the more success we will have.”

The first Blacktech Weekend — a condensed version of Blacktech Week — will take place Feb. 23-25, with a focus on business development and raising capital. Speakers include the CEO of Y-Combinator Michael Siebel, Richard Kirby of Venrock Capital and Marlon Nichols of Cross Culture Ventures, and panels and presentations will be on topics ranging from pitching investors and asset framing to storytelling and building hubs for inclusive innovation.

This year, Blacktech Week will be Sept. 25-30. The event will feature speakers from around the globe, panels, an interactive tech career fair, workshops, networking opportunities, pitch competitions, and a new government-tech track. Code Fever will also expand its monthly Blacktech meetups and office hours to better connect Miami’s black entrepreneurs with advisors, mentors and investors throughout the year.

Past speakers and panelists at Blacktech Week have included NFL Champion and AsktheDoctor.com founder Israel Idonije and Magic Leap CEO Rony Abowitz (pictured below), Maker’s Row Founder Matthew Burnett, DreamIt Ventures Managing Director William Crowder, Priceline.com co-founder Jeff Hoffman and former Twitter Engineering Manager Lesley Miley (pictured above), among many others.

Additional details about Blacktech Weekend and Blacktech Week can be found at blacktechweek.com.

Over the past three years Knight has made more than 200 investments in entrepreneurship in South Florida.

Nancy Dahlberg: @ndahlberg

 

READ MORE

Blacktech Week: Innovating, scaling, giving back

Why I quit Twitter (and turned down a seven-figure severance package)

Black Tech Week spotlights pioneers, rising stars

Numbers don’t lie: Silicon Valley still has a big diversity problem

 

Rony

January 16, 2017

Why we chose Miami as the US headquarters for Solomoto

Sn

CEO Pasha Romanovski, CEO of Solomoto, presents at the Startup Nation conference at the Idea Center last summer.

By Pasha Romanovski

Following my visit in May to Miami for the Startup Nation Conference at Miami Dade College's Idea Center, it became clear that the city would be the future home of Solomoto in the US. And next month we are finally making this decision a reality.

Solomoto is a global company that helps small business owner  grow online, simplifying the confusing world of digital marketing. We recently crossed the 100 000 mark of small business owners using the platform, and these entrepreneurs from Latin America, Europe and now the US are enjoying our simple dashboard to grow their business digitally in only 30 minutes a day.

 What makes Miami a good fit for us? After scouting different locations, we liked these two ingredients:

Talent – Miami has one of the most diverse populations in the US, an important fact that aligned with our team culture in both Israel and Europe. As a global company, we have found talent of every nationality to support our global growth.

Open ecosystem – Miami is an open city. In a relatively short period of time, we have met key stakeholders of the city’s growing innovation ecosystem. We get a sense of ambition and commitment to build a real tech hub, so we decided to be pioneers, not followers, and be part of this emerging hub.

What is Solomoto?

Solomoto is a digital marketing solution for small businesses. We understand that online visibility is an area many business are looking to grow, but they don’t understand its complexities or don’t have the time to dedicate to it.

Our solution is to provide an affordable alternative to agencies, a DIY platform where any small business owner can create an online presence that will help attract more consumers. With ready-made content, cross platform publishing tools for advertising and social media, a small business owner can grow his online visibility with just 30 minutes of digital marketing.  All of from one simple dashboard!

Pasha Romanovski is co-founder and CEO of Solomoto, based in Tel Aviv.

READ MORE: How to think big: Israeli entrepreneurs show how it's done

 

January 15, 2017

VR tech startup Avenue Planet launches its first 'v-commerce' location: Lincoln Road

 

Aveplanet

 

Avenue Planet, which brings the world’s best shopping streets to your virtual world, launched with a splash last week, unveiling its Lincoln Road shopping experience to the real Lincoln Road. The tech startup is developing a content hub for immersive VR experiences, including the first e-commerce platform using virtual reality. Its Miami office is at Pipeline Brickell.

Above, Miami-Dade’s Beacon Council and Miami Beach officials participated in its client’s VIP launch at the Lincoln Road Books & Books on Friday morning. Avenue Planet’s two founders, Sanjay Daswani and Bruno Carvalho,  along with Miami Beach City Commissioners John Elizabeth Aleman and Michael Grieco, Miami Beach Chamber President Jerry Libbin, Miami-Dade Beacon Council Chair Jaret Davis and Interim President Sheldon Anderson test their first virtual reality shopping avenue, Lincoln Road, their first virtual commerce "v-commerce" location.  The company has announced that 5th Avenue in New York City will be next.

Avenue Planet also held a community launch party at Drinkhouse Fire & Ice Bar in Miami Beach Thursday night, where attendees got to experience Avenue Planet on  multiple VR devices or via a huge projection screen. Below, Kabir Frutos, North and South America director of Avenue Planet, helps an attendee experience the technology.

Read More: This startup wants to take you shopping – through virtual reality

 

Aveplanet2



January 11, 2017

U.S. venture capital dipped in 2016, but took a Magic Leap in Florida

Money

By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@Miamiherald.com

While venture capital investment cooled nationwide last year, investment in companies in the Sunshine State heated up, producing the best result since 2001.

Venture capitalists injected $1.12 billion into 71 deals in Florida in 2016, but most of that total went to Plantation-based “mixed reality” technology company Magic Leap, which raised $793.5 million in the first quarter, according to the MoneyTree Report from PricewaterhouseCoopers and CB Insights, which was released on Wednesday.

Florida’s total would  be the lowest total since 2011 without the mega-deal by Magic Leap. But with it, Florida companies raised 29 percent more venture capital than in 2015, according to the report, a 15-year high. Even so, Florida's venture capital take is less than 1 percent of the U.S. venture capital pie.

In the fourth quarter alone, $98.7 million flowed into the state, and South Florida companies received two-thirds of the state’s total. Companies that received funding included: CareCloud of Miami, $31.5 million, Boatsetter of Aventura, $13 million, Batanga Media of Coral Gables, $9 million and $6 million; Carevive of Miami, $4.25 million; and ClassWallet of Miami, $1.1 million, according to MoneyTree.

JetSmarter, which reportedly raised $105 million in the fourth quarter, was not included in the MoneyTree report, possibly because the investment round has not closed.

Magic Leap and JetSmarter were the two largest raises from South Florida for the year, followed by Finova Financial’s $52.5 million, Woundtech’s $40 million and CareCloud’s $31.5 million.

Nationally, investment in VC-backed companies ended the year on a weak note, as quarterly deals and dollars fell for the second-consecutive quarter, according to the MoneyTree Report. The U.S. full-year funding total of $58.6 billion represented a 20 percent drop from 2015, while the number of deals, 4,520, fell 16 percent, compared to the previous year. Globally, the trend was similar, with global deals and dollars declining 10 percent and 23 percent, respectively, in 2016, compared to full-year 2015.

Bolstered by the $1.2 billion raised by OneWeb, investors deployed $11.7 billion to U.S.-based VC-backed startup companies across 982 deals in the fourth quarter of 2016. That was down 17 percent in dollars and 14 percent in deals from the third quarter. Both quarterly figures were also down from the fourth quarter of 2015 and set the quarterly lows for 2016, which had already seen startup investment recede from the peaks of 2015. Deal activity, having fallen off consistently throughout the year, has now reached a multi-year low with the quarterly count failing to crack 1,000 deals for the first time since the fourth quarter of 2011.

“For those who predicted 2016 would be the popping of the venture bubble, it was not,” said Anand Sanwal, co-founder and CEO of CB Insights. “Yes, it was a tougher year in terms of deal activity and funding, but versus 2014, which we can call a more normal period, 2016 compares quite favorably. In 2017, unicorns and mega-rounds could see some of the same headwinds as in 2016, but interestingly, the introduction of new big money investors from the likes of Asia and increasingly the Middle East may serve to offset that. An expected healthy IPO and M&A market should also serve to help the VC market as well.”

All three of the major technology and startup hubs of Silicon Valley, New England (including Massachusetts), and New York Metro saw deal activity declining from the quarter prior. Silicon Valley-based companies saw the sharpest drop-off, with $3.9 billion invested across 310 deals, down 37 percent in dollars and 22 percent in deals from the third quarter of 2016.

MoneyTree Report results are available at www.pwcmoneytree.com. MoneyTree changed data providers and now uses CB Insights, a venture capital data analytics company, so some past data has been revised. CB Insights research can be found online here.

 

January 10, 2017

Six South Florida companies to present at Florida Venture Capital Conference

The Florida Venture Forum, Florida’s largest statewide support organization for investors and entrepreneurs, announced  its lineup of 20 high quality companies that will present and exhibit at the 2017 Florida Venture Capital Conference, to be held Feb. 2-3 at the Waldorf Astoria in Orlando.

Six South Florida companies are among the presenters. They are:

Breezer Holdings, LLC, (www.powerbreezer.com), Deerfield Beach, their products combine custom fan technology with a highly efficient water atomizing system that delivers the cooling effect of misting (at distances up to 100 feet) without getting people or machinery wet.

Citizen, (www.citizen.co), Miami, provides its customers with a frictionless, convenient experience in filling-out and submitting U.S. government forms.

Everyware, (www.everyware.com), Boca Raton, is a consumer relationship platform targeted to businesses who are underserved by technology. Ease of adoption, low cost and a virtual marketing assistant give the business owners capabilities in marketing, CRM and mobile engagement.

iraLogix, (www.iralogix.com), Miami, provides the only institutionally priced, fully managed, paperless IRA technology platform, including advice and education.

MyTaskit, (www.mytaskit.com), Hobe Sound, is a comprehensive software solution for coordinating and managing tasks within companies and between multiple businesses and their customers.

VortexLegal, (www.vortexlegal.com), Ft. Lauderdale, disrupts the “agency” business model and connects law firms and corporate legal departments with all legal vendors resulting in savings of 10-20% on all services by using our technology platform to “go direct” to each vendor.

 "Our investor-only selection committee has done an outstanding job of selecting 20 companies that will make the Conference one of the best in the event’s 26-year history,” said Travis Milks, Chairman of the Selection Committee of the 2017 Florida Venture Capital Conference and a partner with Stonehenge Growth Equity Partners in Tampa.

The diverse group of presenters includes companies focused on multiple industries and technologies selected from over 100 applicants by a committee of active equity investors. The other presenters are:

 Captozyme Inc., (www.captozyme.com), Gainesville, develops and manufactures highly effective enzymes in superior manufacturing processes allowing for consumer food products and therapeutics with exceedingly high margin.

Fattmerchant, (www.fattmerchant.com), Orlando, is a subscription-based merchant services provider and payment technology company revolutionizing the industry by providing a transparent, wholesale model where merchants pay direct cost of credit card processing with no markups, no ancillary fees, and no contract, for a flat monthly membership.

Fortress Information Security, (www.fortressis.com), Orlando, is the leading third party risk management (TPRM) security technology and services provider for organizations that have large, complex vendor and supply chain networks.

ProAct Health Solutions, (www.proacthealthsolutions.com), Celebration, is a Florida based provider of a nationally scalable, technology enabled, turnkey solution for obstructive sleep apnea.

Vestagen Protective Technologies, (www.vestagen.com), Orlando, develops and markets advanced performance textile products and technologies.

Catalyst OrthoScience LLC, (www.catalystortho.com), Naples, is a medical device company that is commercializing a novel design for a total shoulder replacement system known as the Catalyst Shoulder Replacement System (the “CSR”).

Happy Grasshopper, (www.happygrasshopper.com ), Safety Harbor, their service combines the strengths of marketing automation and professional copywriting to help salespeople acquire more opportunity and close more business.

Mize, (www.m-ize.com), Tampa, enables durable goods manufacturers to maximize customer lifetime value by helping them to retain the customers and grow the revenues and profits from the loyal customer base.

PikMyKid, (www.pikymykid.com), Tampa, is the first and only communication portal to simplify student dismissal process in K-12 schools, increasing teacher efficiency & student security while reducing traffic around schools. PikMyKid was the winner of the 2016 Florida Early Stage Capital Conference.

That’s Us Technologies, (www.lotvantage.com), Tampa, is a digital marketing company for dealerships. The company is acquiring a tablet-based, end-to-end sales process for dealerships and eventually, technology to complete the online purchase process for the dealer and to remove the hassle for the consumer.

NanoLumens, (www.nanolumens.com), Norcross, Georgia, designs, builds and sells display solutions to hundreds of the world’s largest retailers, airports, corporations, transit stations, hospitals, casinos, universities and sports teams.  With a large intellectual property portfolio and a proprietary building block called a "Nixel", NanoLumens is proud to include hundreds of the largest and best brands as their clients. 

 RSVP Loans, LLC, (www.rsvploans.com), Hurst, Texas, is an online provider of personal loans to nonprime consumers. Their proprietary technology platform automates the entire loan process from marketing offer through loan origination and servicing, resulting in superior cost position and scalability.

Exhibiting Companies:

BioTools, Inc. (www.btools.com), Jupiter, is a Life Sciences tools company. It is recognized worldwide as the innovator that commercialized two of the most advanced techniques for critical structure characterization of molecules. They specialize in two types of pharmaceuticals – chiral and biologics - both kinds comprising blockbuster examples which include drugs such as Plavix, Lipitor and Humira.

Society Plus, (www.societyplus.com), Melbourne, is a vertically-integrated brand selling plus size clothing directly to millennial women through its website (B2C) and to wholesale customers (B2B)

For more information about the Florida Venture Forum or the upcoming Florida Venture Capital Conference. www.flventure.org.

 

 

January 06, 2017

The LAB Miami to kick off 2017 with 3 events, including new Product Council and GrowthHacking series

Brainfood
 A Brainfood with Martin Varsavky in 2016 attracts a big crowd at The LAB Miami.  

The LAB Miami is kicking off 2017 with three events ‑ Brainfood and two new event series, Product Council and GrowthHacking ‑ with the aim to bridge the gap between the corporate and startup communities, spark meaningful conversations around new relevant content, and bring the Miami ecosystem together. 

Jan 18: Brainfood with Mary Biggins Link 

Brainfood with Endeavor @ The LAB is a monthly, hands-on discussion with successful entrepreneurs, investors, and CEOs from around the world. 

Jan 24: Product Council Link  

Product Council provides startups and existing companies a fresh new outlet for critical feedback, ideation, and improvement of their products. Join product makers, (designers, developers, etc.) and founders to learn valuable lessons and insights from experienced product owners as they dive deep into the challenge, success and failure of product design. This month we will hear from DermaSensor and CareCloud

Jan 31: GrowthHacking with Grant Lingel, Head of Growth in Latin America for Neil Patel Link 

Many businesses struggle with brand awareness and getting their products/services seen by potential customers. Because content marketing takes a lot of time and persistence, many people seek shortcuts in order to get the word out. That's where growth hacking comes in handy. There are many simple yet extremely effective growth hacks that can be implemented that will help get the word out about your business and not break the bank doing so. This talk will discuss some of the best ones.

With $1.1 million in new funding from the Knight Foundation and under a new CEO, Thomas “Tigre” Wenrich, The LAB announced in October it was planning to launch LAB.ID, which will use educational, community programming to encourage greater collaboration between startups and established businesses. These programs are part of that new effort. At the same time, The LAB announced it would will launch a venture builder called LAB.Ventures, which will work with entrepreneurs, engineers and designers to test and build promising business ideas. The program aims to incubate several technology startups by 2019, the majority of which will be run by women and minorities.

READ MORE: Knight invests in LAB's next chapter; new CEO named

 

 

January 04, 2017

Net2Phone acquires LiveNinja, but the team -- and #WaffleWednesday -- will live on in Miami

LiveNinjaFounders (1)

By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

Net2Phone, a subsidiary of IDT Corporation, acquired LiveNinja, a Miami-based messaging and live chat technology startup, the companies announced Wednesday.

Net2Phone, based in New Jersey, will be integrating LiveNinja’s messaging technology into its new product now in development, called PicuP, a self-service communications platform that gives small and medium sized businesses tools to professionally answer, route and manage their inbound calls at an affordable price. LiveNinja, a team of 14, will stay in Wynwood, and will immediately add employees to enhance and support PicuP. Terms of the transaction weren’t disclosed.

“This is a big deal for us because we are joining a company that is just as bullish about the future of our product as we are,” said LiveNinja CEO Will Weinraub, who founded the company with Emilio Cueto and Alfonso Martinez (pictured above). “It just became clear that if we were going to scale this thing and reach the audience we were trying to reach, we needed additional resources and someone who believed in it to take it further. The two platforms complement each other well, and we can get the product out to market faster and reach a bigger audience.”

Was it the team or was it the tech? Net2Phone, founded in 1990 to pioneer VoIP communications, was attracted by both, said Zali Ritholtz, Net2Phone’s chief operating officer, who met Weinraub through a mutual acquaintance. Net2Phone had already built the extensive telecom components to its PicuP product and was planning to add live text messaging, but changed course after seeing what LiveNinja had built and what hundreds of LiveNinja’s business customers were already using.

“I took a look at [LiveNinja’s technology] and in my head said wow, this is the missing piece we were about to build for PicuP and these guys have done a phenomenal job and are such an energetic and amazing team,” Ritholtz said. With LiveNinja, PicuP will become a multi-channel platform that spans phone, messaging, SMS and live chat, he added. “Now we will have a super powerful tool to provide to small and medium-sized businesses so they can communicate with their customers however they like.”

LiveNinja, founded in 2012 as a video-chat platform, changed its own course and last year unveiled its messaging application that lets companies and their customers have seamless conversations across multiple messaging and chat channels, including live chat, SMS and Facebook Messenger – the messaging channels that businesses most often use to meet, convert and serve their customers. Over the years, LiveNinja raised more than $3 million in venture funding and is also well known for serving up innovative waffles at the lively community networkers the company hosts every week in its Wynwood office.

For LiveNinja, the new owner brings resources it needed to market and scale its technology. Weinraub said he will be posting eight software engineer jobs right away, doubling the engineering team in Miami. “Everybody’s staying, we’ll still be based in Miami,” he said. “[Net2Phone] came down and saw the space, saw the energy and felt the vibe of the community and wanted to be part of the community. There will still be #WaffleWednesdays with LiveNinja. It’s a big win all around for us.”

PicuP will be launched shortly and LiveNinja will continue to offer its messaging platform as a standalone product until the full integration of the two companies’ services has been completed later this year, Ritholtz said. At that point LiveNinja’s customers will be transitioned to PicuP.

In A Facebook posting Wednesday morning, Weintraub said: "We're absolutely thrilled to be joining forces with IDT and Net2Phone to not only scale our team, but to create a one-of-a-kind product that we truly believe in. We couldn't be more excited about this next chapter. It’s been a long ride, but it feels like we’re just getting started."

Is it the team or is it the waffles -- we can't be 100 percent sure -- but congratulatory messages flowed in by the dozens on Twitter and Facebook.

  

Liveninja3

 

  WaffleWednesday1

Nancy Dahlberg: @ndahlberg

December 30, 2016

Why mobile payment tech is leap-frogging in Latin America

YELLOW PEPPER SPOTLIGHT b e

YellowPepper, a Miami-based tech company, is undergoing a growth spurt, recently deploying its mobile payments technology in Colombia, Ecuador and Mexico and looking to expand to other Latin American countries. To further power that growth, Volta Global, run by emerging markets specialist Marko Dimitrijević (pictured above at right), recently became an investor in YellowPepper, run by Serge Elkiner (pictured above, left).

 

BY NANCY DAHLBERG / ndahlberg@maimiherald.com

The world of mobile payments is one of the hottest segments of the financial technology industry. Based in Miami, YellowPepper has been a pioneer of mobile payment technology in Latin America, where an immense market need and a millennial-rich population of early adopters converge.

YellowPepper has done this before. Years ago, the YellowPepper team targeted the untapped Latin American mobile banking market and developed a state-of-the-art platform to enhance the overall consumer experience. While continuing to grow the mobile banking side of the business, YellowPepper is now focused on another untapped opportunity: mobile payment solutions for consumers in the region. The company, founded in 2004 in Boston, provides financial institutions with the latest technology that alters the way in which consumers and retailers transact.

YellowPepper is undergoing a growth spurt, recently deploying its mobile payments technology in Colombia, Ecuador and Mexico and looking to expand to other Latin American countries. To further power that growth, Volta Global, run by emerging markets specialist Marko Dimitrijević, recently became an investor in YellowPepper. The terms of the investment weren’t disclosed, but Miami-based YellowPepper has raised more than $40 million in venture capital to date, making it one of the highest funded early-stage fintech companies in Miami.

With such a large market opportunity, mobile payments continues to attract attention in the venture capital community. The global mobile wallet market is expected to reach $635 billion by 2020 from $113.5 billion in 2015, increasing 41 percent annually between 2015 and 2020, according to Research and Markets. The turning point, many experts cite, is the growing availability and use of mobile phones. With the mobile and financial expertise of CEO and co-founder Serge Elkiner coupled with the emerging markets and investment experience of Volta, YellowPepper is poised to exceed its expansion goals in the coming months, the company said.

On the heels of YellowPepper’s success in the Latin American mobile banking space, the Belgian-born Elkiner moved the headquarters to Miami, where offices of U.S. and Latin American financial institutions are based and a growing number of fintech companies have set up operations. YellowPepper, now with a team of 68, currently partners with top financial groups and institutions, including FIS and MasterCard, in the region and is poised to launch in Peru and the Dominican Republic shortly. After years of heavily investing in research and development, YellowPepper turned profitable last year.

The tech company is hiring, too. It is looking to add up to a dozen engineers to its Miami headquarters, located in art-adorned offices in Wynwood. YellowPepper now has about 16 employees in Miami.

Dimitrijević, who has been investing in emerging markets for more than 25 years, has recently focused on frontier markets, or smaller emerging markets beginning to take off, and recently authored a book, “FRONTIER INVESTOR: How to Prosper in the Next Emerging Markets.” Prior to founding Volta, the Stanford MBA graduate ran hedge fund company Everest Capital, which managed more than $3 billion in assets at its height, but a single bad bet in January 2015 wiped out one of its funds after the Swiss National Bank unexpectedly removed the franc’s exchange-rate cap against the euro, sending the currency surging, media reports said. He returned investors’ capital, later started Volta and now invests with his own funds, making strategic investments. I set up Volta Global as a private investment group and we do both public and private investments, and that’s how we got to meet YellowPepper,” Dimitrijević said.

To get the view from both sides of the table, the Miami Herald met with Elkiner and Dimitrijević before the holidays and asked about YellowPepper’s growth, recent developments and the future, as well as about frontier investing and why YellowPepper falls into Dimitrijević’s investment wheelhouse. Here are excerpts from that conversation.

Q. I know you are actively hiring in Miami. How will you use the new funding, Serge?

A. To support our growth. We’ve been able to grow internally in markets where we were growing very fast, Colombia, Ecuador and Mexico, and we are launching our mobile payments in the Dominican Republic and Peru. We already had a strong presence in Peru in mobile banking for the past 10 years. We are also in Bolivia with mobile banking.

Yepex is our mobile payments platform and we develop separate white label products with financial institutions from the platform.

For our mobile payments solution, we have more than 100,000 users in Colombia and it is growing every day, Today it is our biggest market.

In Colombia, Ecuador and Mexico, 220,000 merchants are currently enabled with our mobile payments technology. In the next four to six months, there will be 365,000 merchants coming on board.

Q. Marko, you have a new book on investing in frontier markets and mobile payments is one of the themes of investments that is growing in Latin America. Why do you believe in mobile payments?

A. We’ve seen the story before. We have been early investors before in several frontier markets and we saw a leap-frogging in some of those countries. For example, in some countries only a fortunate few had a fixed-line phone and basically [the countries] skipped directly to mobile and everyone has a mobile five years later. We see that in payments in countries like Kenya, where very few people had a bank account but went directly to apps and mobile and we think the same story is happening in Latin America, particularly in Ecuador and Colombia, which are frontier countries. And we believe YellowPepper is really at the forefront in Central and Latin America and that is really exciting.

Q. What is a frontier market?

A. Frontier markets are smaller emerging markets. Think emerging markets of the future. Twenty years ago few people focused on India, few people focused on Russia and even fewer focused on China — they were all novelties. Few people today focus on Ecuador or Colombia or the DR or Vietnam or Bangladesh, but those will be the markets of the future. You catch them at their inflection points, right before the hockey stick starts to turn up. That is what is so exciting about those markets.

In Latin America, that is everything but Brazil, Mexico and Chile — it’s a very, very large market.

The frontier markets — that’s where the growth is in the world. In the large emerging markets, Russia, Brazil, China, all are slowing or have slowed over the past five to 10 years. If you look at the top 75 fastest-growing economies in the world, 71 are in the frontier markets. They are starting at a much lower base and are going to be growing much faster over the next 10 to 20 years.

Q. Marko, what attracted you to YellowPepper?

A. The people, and obviously they have been at it for a number of years. They have built a cohesive and attractive team and created something we think is a very powerful mousetrap and building it in our backyard. It’s exciting for Miami to have a company of this caliber here.

The potential growth for YellowPepper is much higher than a company doing a similar thing in the U.S. or a more developed emerging market.

Most people don’t realize how attractive the frontier markets are because they are all individually small. But when you take them all together as a group they are larger than the U.S. or China. That’s why it is remarkable when companies like YellowPepper get on our radar screen because they have taken advantage of this very powerful force and the fact that the demographics go in favor of those markets. YellowPepper focuses on the most attractive segment, 15- to 34-year-olds, the early adopters, and those are massively located in frontier markets.

Q. What’s next for YellowPepper, Serge?

A. One thing is consolidating the markets where we are right now. By the end of the second quarter [2017] in Colombia you will be able to make mobile payments in 100 percent of the shops that take credit card or debit cards. That’s 250,000 merchants, and 100 percent of that is based on our technology.

And expansion. In the last 18 months, we have built the second generation of our platform. It’s an inhouse platform that connects to international platforms, like Mastercard, Visa, American Express and other institutions in those countries. We are also integrating with Facebook messenger for our clients. Given that we are connected to these global platforms, the technology we built is fully deployable globally. This changes the story for us.

Right now we can pitch a bank in Vietnam, for instance. … What we learned and have done in Latin America is totally applicable to other markets that are similar, such as Southeast Asia. We could in the future do a distribution deal to push our technology outside of Latin America and this was not possible 18 months ago. Now it’s completely viable.

And we are one of the very few players in emerging markets with a very deep understanding of emerging market dynamics.

The potential is huge. But Latin America is still virgin territory for us. … We’ve built the highway and any cars that want to use it are welcome to come and pay the toll and use it. It cost us a fortune to build it, but now the value is there.

Q. And what is your biggest challenge?

A. People still don’t understand that it is more secure to do things with your mobile phones. There is a lot of work still ahead of us in the markets we have been strong.

Tokenization of the transaction means the credit card or account number of the debit card is no longer part of the transaction. What goes through is a one-time generated number used for that transaction. If someone steals your token, they can’t do anything with it. There is a lot of security around that and so far we have had no problems.  

Q. Who are your users?

A. In Colombia, I can tell you there are almost twice as many millennials using our product … than the traditional credit card and debit card. … We have 63 percent in the 18-35 segment. Another statistic that is very interesting: 65 percent of our users have used [our product] twice already meaning they are becoming repeat users. The challenge is breaking that barrier with the consumer so they use it the first time, but the first time they use it, they are likely repeat users.

SERGE ELKINER

Title: CEO and co-founder of YellowPepper, a Miami-based company that provides mobile banking and payment solutions across Latin America.

Previous: Vice president of business development at HelloTech Technologies, an Israeli firm providing remote monitoring and mobile payment solutions for vending machines.

Education: Bachelor of science in accounting from Boston University.

MARKO DIMITRIJEVIĆ

Title: Founder and chairman of Volta Global, a private investment group. Author of “FRONTIER INVESTOR: How to Prosper in the Next Emerging Markets” (Columbia University Press, 2016).

Previous: Investor for more than three decades, mostly in emerging markets, and ran hedge funds.

Education: MBA, Stanford University; bachelor’s in economics, finance and management science, University of Lausanne.

 

Nancy Dahlberg: @ndahlberg

 

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