Aminta Ventures launches to support women investors, plans workshop

Womeninvestimage

By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com 

The numbers say it all. 

Women make up only about 25 percent of angel investors in general, and women received just 29 percent of angel capital sought in 2015.

It gets worse as the checks get bigger. In the venture capital world, less than 5 percent of VCs are women. Only about 3 percent of venture capital goes to companies with female CEOs, and 85 percent of funded companies have no women on the founding teams.

Aminta Ventures, a new South Florida organization aimed at educating and supporting aspiring women investors, wants to attack that gap – at least locally. The big goal: a new wave of female angel investors that will ultimately help to shape a stronger, more diverse ecosystem.

“Given the powerful role that women play in leading a myriad of business, philanthropic, and community efforts in our city, it is a natural extension to think of them playing a strong role in the progress of our entrepreneurship and innovation sector,” said Natalia Martinez-Kalinina, one of the co-founders of Aminta, in a news release. “Currently, we don’t necessarily see much parity reflected in the makeup of our local investor network so our intention is to capacitate and shepherd more women to throw their hat in the ring and join the existing momentum.”

In addition to Martinez-Kalinina, the Aminta Ventures team includes Deborah Johnson, Mary Anderson, Carolina Canida, Rosario Chozas, Julia Ford-Carther,  Nelly M. Farra and Alia Mahmoud. For their first educational event, Aminta has teamed up with Startup Angels to bring an angel investing workshop to the Cambridge Innovation Center in Miami  May 23-24. Speakers include Bethann Kassman, Go Beyond Investing; Joy Randels, New Market Partners; Pandwe Gibson, EcoTech Visions; Melissa Krinzman, Killion Ventures; and Jaclyn Baumgarten, Boatsetter.   More details are here.

The Startup Angels Workshop will provide education, strategies and tools for startup investing to investors at all levels, whether someone is writing their first $1,000 check to a crowdfunding platform or a $1 million check to a VC fund. “Miami is poised to expand its pool of investors by breaking down barriers for more women to participate,” said Leslie Jump, founder and CEO of Startup Angels.

After the workshop, the Aminta team plans to expand efforts to develop a support network for mentorship and guidance for angel investors and female-founded startups. This is not a fund, but rather a resource to help them navigate and plug into the existing ecosystem, Martinez-Kalinina said. They plan to partner with existing angel groups and investor networks in the city and the state in ongoing programming efforts, including a second workshop this year.

To learn more and buy tickets for the upcoming Startup Angels workshop, visit the event registration page at StartupAngels.com

April 20, 2017

Miami real estate-tech startup Gridics raises $1.1 million from developer Avra Jain and others

Gridex

By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

Efficient isn't a word most people would use to describe a planning and zoning process, but a Miami-based real estate technology startup wants to change that.

Gridics announced Thursday that it has raised a $1.1 million round of seed funding. The round was led by Dune Road Capital and included John Dyett, managing director of Salem Partners, Robert Kall, CEO and co-founder of Cien.ai, and Miami real estate developer Avra Jain. 

Gridics, short for Grid Analytics, is a real estate dataa and software development company founded in 2015. From applications on its platform,  users can visualize real estate data in order to make smarter investment and development decisions while streamlining inefficient processes in the real estate world, the company said.  For example, the Zonar.City application helps bridge the gap between the private sector development community of architects, developers and attorneys by automating development feasibility analysis and streamlining the development plan approval process. 

"By creating a solution that can digitize and automate any zoning code, the Gridics team has created a way to streamline an antiqued process," said Peter Richards, managing partner of Dune Road Capital.

The company, which has raised over $2 million  to date, is focused on further strengthening its product and driving adoption of its Zonar.City application. 

"Our new automated compliance module allows cities and developers to quickly check development plans against site-specific zoning requirements.  Cities that integrate their code with Zonar.city will streamline their zoning approval processes resulting in faster approvals, improved transparency and significant reductions to backlogs," said Gridics CEO Jason Doyle, in announcing the funding.

Gridics is also developing a Market Intelligence application, which allows real estate professionals to conduct hyper-local market analysis.  More than 1,000 members of the Miami Association of Realtors have joined Gridics since February, the company said.

 

Gridics2

 

March 15, 2017

Most tech employees would leave state for better job, survey shows

Bigdata2 (1)

By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

Nearly 60 percent of tech employees would consider moving out of state because of a limited job market, an annual survey of more than 1,300 tech professionals in South Florida revealed.

At the same time, about half of the 138 tech managers that responded to the survey cite turnover as a chief concern and about 45 percent of them plan to invest more in employee training and retention programs.

The 2017 South Florida Tech Leadership and Workforce surveys released by South Florida IT search and staffing firm Protech revealed additional insights. The primary reasons cited by employers for losing staff are compensation (50 percent; down from 73 percent) followed by “lack of career path” (50 percent). Yet, 91 percent of tech employees said they would leave their current employer for a better opportunity, with compensation cited as the top reason by 45 percent, followed by “lack of career path” and “work-life balance.”

In a separate question asking what would be considered to be a top perk, about half of the employee respondents cited “flextime/telecommuting,” while about 10 percent cited additional vacation and 10 percent cited bonuses.

There was a significant jump in employees willing to consider a move out of Florida (57 percent versus 43 percent last year). Among the reasons: “limited job market/lack of career advancement” with a 51 percent response, followed by 24 percent citing “cost of living too high,” compared to 19 percent last year.

“Although salaries continue to increase, the rising costs of real estate directly influence the number of people considering an out-of-state move. Over the years, we’ve seen this number rise and fall in parallel with real estate market swings,” said Protech CEO Deborah Vazquez.

About two-thirds of hiring managers expect to grow their staffs this year, the surveys found. Another finding: The average pay increase reported by employees for 2016 was 4 percent, unchanged from 2015.

The Tech Leadership survey showed a continued shift from direct hire to contract employees with IT leaders reporting 28 percent of their workforce being contract employees, compared to 23 percent last year.

Follow @ndahlberg on Twitter.

READ MORETech talent in South Florida – making progress?



March 10, 2017

More Miami startup capital on way: Rokk3r Labs launches investment fund

Rokk3r

Rokk3r Fuel team, clockwise from top left: Jeff Ransdell, Jonas Tempel, Germán Montoya and Nabyl Charania. Rokk3r Fuel is a new fund from Miami-based venture builder Rokk3r Labs. Rokk3r Labs

 

By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

Rokk3r Labs has launched an investment fund and it is already beginning to deploy capital into Miami’s startup community.

The Wynwood-based venture builder announced the launch of Rokk3r Fuel this week. The fund will be led by founding partners Jeff Ransdell and Jonas Tempel in partnership with Rokk3r Labs managing founders Nabyl Charania and Germán Montoya. Ransdell said the goal is that Rokk3r Fuel will be a $150 million fund, which would make it one of the region’s largest, and fund-raising is well underway.

Ransdell most recently was divisional director at Bank of America Merrill Lynch, joining Merrill Lynch in 1994, and was responsible for $138 billion in private client investments. Tempel, a serial entrepreneur, was co-founder of Beats Music, which Apple acquired in 2014 to create Apple Music, and the first CEO of Beatport, which SFX acquired in 2013.

“We see Miami as a growing international destination and hub for entrepreneurs throughout the U.S., Latin America, Western Europe and Northern Africa,” said Germán Montoya, co-founder of Rokk3r Labs, in the announcement. “Jeff and Jonas bring a unique combination of experience and expertise in entrepreneurship and investing at the most established levels. We are thrilled to have them connecting investors to what we’re building at Rokk3r Labs.”

Independent of Rokk3r Fuel, Ransdell and Tempel recently were investors in Miami-based Taxfyle’s $2 million fund-raising round. Taxfyle matches tax specialists with consumers and small businesses. Ransdell said he is an investor in 30 to 40 companies although Taxfyle is the first Miami startup he has backed.

But that will likely change soon. Through Rokk3r Fuel, “we are going to make some deployments next month. Of those investments in April, they will all be Miami companies,” Ransdell said in an interview. Some of those will be Taxfyle as well as Rokk3r companies AdMobilize and Emerge, he said, as well as some earlier stage companies they will begin to develop. “We will be making more deployments in June.”

Rokk3r Fuel is aimed at bringing early-stage capital to the best-performing companies emerging from Rokk3r Labs, which partners with entrepreneurs to cobuild ventures. About half of the Fuel portfolio will be from the Rokk3r universe. But Ransdell said the other half of the fund could be from anywhere in the world, as well as other South Florida companies.

“The whole idea is to inject fuel into these companies at strategic times of their growth,” Ransdell said. “I am here and purposely in Miami to support what I believe is a very, very expanding startup ecosystem.”

Rokk3r Labs, founded in 2012, is currently working with about 40 companies, including Hyp3r, AlzhUp and HotSwitch. It has recently moved its headquarters from Miami Beach to Wynwood.

Follow Nancy Dahlberg on Twitter @ndahlberg.

READ MORE: Rokk3r Labs relocating its headquarters to Wynwood

READ MORE: Miami-based Taxfyle raises $2 million, launches version 2.0 of app

 

March 06, 2017

Startup Spotlight: Traditional trucking meets the ‘sharing economy’ with Miami tech startup Cargo42

 

Cargo

By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

Through a simple-to-use app, Cargo42 provides companies an option to ship locally for a lower rate with trucks that have empty space in them. At the same time, trucking companies enjoy an additional revenue stream and maximize the trucks’ productivity.

COMPANY NAME: Cargo42

Headquarters: CIC Miami, 1951 NW Seventh Ave.

Concept: Through a simple-to-use app, Cargo42 provides companies an option to ship locally for a lower rate with trucks that have empty space in them. At the same time, carriers (local trucking companies) enjoy an additional revenue stream and maximize the trucks’ productivity.

Story: The truck-sharing economy concept came from Francine Gervazio’s professional experience in the logistics and tech industries. She frequently saw trucks driving nearly or completely empty, and her company was paying the price for that empty space. Once Gervazio came to the United States in 2015, she confirmed this was not only a problem in her home country, Brazil, but a global issue.

She decided to spin the opportunity into an actual business during her Babson College MBA program in 2015. That’s where she met Murilo Amaral and Alfredo Keri, who were essential pieces to make this happen. After having performed a pilot test in Boston, the Cargo42 team moved the operations to Miami last summer because of the big opportunities as a result of inefficiencies in this important U.S. logistics hub. The decision was also based on a competitive analysis and strategic positioning for future expansion and market growth, the founders said.

“We knew already that Miami was a very big logistics hub, but we were really impressed when we saw the numbers and said, yea, that’s where we are going,” Gervazio said.

Before attending Babson for their MBA degrees, Cargo42’s co-founders had diverse experiences and backgrounds, including logistics, supply chain and operations as well as e-commerce and marketing and sales.

Gervazio managed new operations for Easy Taxi, a Rocket Internet company, in Southeast Asia and Latin America, after working in logistics in Brazil and Australia. Amaral founded a packaging company with 250-plus employees, which acquired 6 percent of the Brazilian market share. Keri worked in sales and marketing for multinational companies, including British American Tobacco in Latin America.

Last summer, the founders spent their summer going door to door in the South Florida territory to build their initial truck base. That was followed up with online marketing, cold calling and lots of networking at trade shows and industry events. Today, the company has 85 shipping companies and 380 carriers using the service. Its goal is to partner with a large company so it can expand much faster.

Gervazio participated in the WIN Lab, Babson’s accelerator program for female founders, in Boston, and the whole team is part of StartUP FIU’s Cohort 2 now in progress.

“With Cargo42, we are sure we can help carriers reduce their empty miles and get more customers, as they have limited resources to acquire new customers. We also support their cash flow problems, issuing payments three times faster than the industry. For shippers, we provide a lower price, increasing their tight margins. Also, our platform saves their time giving real-time quotes and online tracking even when using a small trucking company. Finally, we also play an important role to help to reduce the traffic and pollution in communities and cities, by making more effective use of the trucks,” Gervazio said.

“In the last four years, 20 percent of the small trucking businesses have closed their doors in Florida,” Amaral said “We are changing the rules and leveling the field to get them back in the game.”

Launched: July 2016.

Website: https://www.cargo42.com/

Management team: Co-founders Murilo Amaral, Francine Gervazio, Alfredo Keri (pictured above).

No. of employees: Eight team members, including interns.

Financing: Self-funded.

Recent milestones: 85 shipping companies and 380 carriers are now using the Cargo42 platform.

Biggest startup challenge: Customer acquisition. The trucking industry is very traditional, and it takes time for people to accept and embrace the changes to the process they have been doing for years, Keri said. “But once they give it a shot, they immediately see the benefits.”

Next steps: Closing important strategic partnerships that could lead to exponential growth and begin the company’s geographic expansion.

Adviser’s advice: Nabil Malouli, vice president of Customer Solutions and Innovation at DHL, said Cargo42 has developed a model that can be flexible at this stage. “I have recommended to use a multi-channel approach, such as partnerships with established companies that have complementary products and solutions, and to focus on the big deals. The sales and implementation cycles of small and big deals are very similar, and you have to focus on the big deals that will truly help you grow the business.” He also recommended that the team focus strongly on Cargo42’s first customers and have them become the indirect sales team. “First customers need to have an amazing experience so they can help you grow the business much faster,” he said.

Malouli believes Miami, already a global logistics hub, has the potential to become a global hub for logistics innovation. “This is a huge opportunity and we have to keep promoting entrepreneurship in the logistics industry in Miami, as Cargo42 is doing.”

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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

Why mobile payments is leap-frogging in Latin America

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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

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Black Tech Week spotlights pioneers, rising stars

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Rony

January 16, 2017

Why we chose Miami as the US headquarters for Solomoto

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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.