March 08, 2017

For HEICO's Victor Mendelson, Miami is a pro-business environment of optimists

Heico

 

By Alma Kadragic

 

As Co-President of HEICO – the world’s largest designer and maker of commercial aircraft replacement parts - Victor Mendelson likes to remind businesspeople here that Miami is “a town of small and smaller businesses” where entrepreneurs know how to “bounce back.” He cites his own company as an example of how creative reinvention can save a company and keep it growing.

 

In the closing address at Mapping Miami’s Financial Future, a signature event organized recently by the Miami Finance Forum, Mendelson described how HEICO changed direction repeatedly from its founding in 1957 as Heinicke Instruments, designing and selling lab equipment.

 

A merger in 1974 brought Heinicke into the aviation market, but the company also dabbled in other directions including a car wash system and medical diagnostics. The car wash turned out to destroy automotive paint. The medical technology was sold. By 1986 when the name was changed to HEICO Corporation, the company was in decline.

 

However, around that time the Mendelson family became involved when Victor’s father bought into HEICO. Eventually, he was able to take over the company and place his sons, Victor and Eric, in top management. Although no one had a background in aviation, that industry became the focus, and Victor himself invested $100,000 in HEICO in 1990, believing in its future success.

 

Along the way, HEICO got permission from the FAA to make generic parts for aircraft. That led to a lawsuit from United Technologies, which HEICO fought, believing in the family and being optimistic.  HEICO won the case, and today produces more than 10,000 aircraft parts.

 

With 4800 employees and 60 facilities in 20 states and 11 other countries, HEICO todayis a diversified aerospace, defense and electronics manufacturing and services company. It’s been named one of the “World’s Most Innovative Growth Companies” by Forbes.

 

Mendelson’s lessons for startups and entrepreneurs at any stage:

1.      Serve your customers – no room for failure

2.      Treat team members fairly

3.      Focus on cash, not accounting gimmicks

4.      Invest in the future – people and facilities

 

“We’re in the middle of the cycle,” says Mendelson about South Florida, meaning there’s every reason to remain optimistic and benefit from Miami’s diverse population, pro-business environment, and strong legacy of family business.

 

 Alma Kadragic is president of Alcat Communications International and president of the National Association of Women Business Owners Miami, nawbomiami.org.

March 03, 2017

To boost the tech ecosystem, turn traders into thinkers

Albert Santalo, Tom Hudson

By Alma Kadragic

When a serial entrepreneur talks, it’s a good idea to listen if you’d like to have not only more tech entrepreneurs in Miami but also more who grow their companies into multi million dollar enterprises with the help of venture capital.

The problem in Miami, says Albert Santalo, is that it’s a city founded on trading with a trader mentality as opposed to hotbeds of technology development like Boston and Silicon Valley where the thinker mentality prevails.

Thinkers don’t care if a business fails. In fact, having been associated with a failed venture can be a badge of honor. What counts is being honest: better to fail than to cheat.

That’s the opposite of the trader mentality where staying in business is what counts, and sometimes that can involve some ethical fuzziness.

Santalo says, “It’s not hard to become a thinking economy. All it really takes is a lot of hard work, some good decisions, and some luck.”

Required elements include investment capital and overall support for entrepreneurs. “There’s no excuse for an entrepreneur not getting what he needs,” insists Santalo. He points out “much documentation exists” and mentions the site http://exponentialorgs.com as a good source.

The secret of huge successes like Airbnb or Uber, according to Santalo, is that they were “small and scrappy” at the beginning and ready to grow or scale hugely. He was speaking during an interview with WLRNs Tom Hudson (pictured above) at Mapping Miami’s Financial Future, a signature event organized last week by the Miami Finance Forum.

Albert Santalo has started several tech companies that attracted substantial venture capital investments including Avisena, managing revenue cycles for doctors, and CareCloud, a cloud-based platform for healthcare. His current company Thrillient helps businesses utilize state-of-the-art payment and front-office technologies.

Santalo is a computer scientist and internet entrepreneur who has raised more than $100 million for companies he founded from angel and venture investors. When he says converting Miami into a thinking economy is feasible, we should be listening.

Alma Kadragic is president of Alcat Communications International and president of the National Association of Women Business Owners Miami, nawbomiami.org.

 

February 26, 2017

Ironhack bootcamp gave me foundation to go all-in on building Stardom Up charity

By Lu Martinez

About six years ago, the tech bug bit me hard.

I Lu matrinez was a graduate of the University of Miami Law School and a licensed attorney. I worked as Chief Privacy Officer for Jackson Health System, where I had grown from a manager role and later became Director of Policies, Training and Education. From the outside view, my traditional career was growing. However, I realized a need to ramp up my technical abilities to better form, test, and scale ideas for new programs and innovations that I wanted to develop.  While I contemplated how to best be an intrapreneur within a large corporate setting, my long-term goal was contribute to society and help others.

In my free time, I co-founded a small, self-funded charity called Stardom Up, Inc. To accelerate my tech knowledge and apply it to Stardom Up, I enrolled in Ironhack, a bootcamp in Miami, which offers full-time and part-time courses in web development, coding, and design.  I created the initial version of StardomUp.com as my final project during the Ironhack course in the summer of 2015.

Ironhack was the glue that brought my diverse skill sets and community impact aspirations together. Once I completed my Ironhack training, and after considering multiple factors and alternatives, I left my job in 2016 and devoted myself full-time to building Stardom Up.

Stardom Up creates educational programs to support student curiosity about technology and innovation. We're currently partnered with Miami-Dade County Public Schools, via Shenandoah Middle School in Miami, to enhance the STEAM (Science, Technology, Arts, Engineering, and Math) curriculum.  As the first and only program in the region to combine an online platform with in-person learning during school hours, Stardom Up expands students’ problem solving and critical thinking abilities and engages them into Miami’s growing tech community. We help prepare young talent for an unpredictable future.

Stardom Up is currently in the "scale up" phase at Shenandoah Middle School. It’s supported by Shenandoah’s administrators and teachers, as well as volunteers from Miami’s growing tech community.  Best of all, it generates results: along with helping them in their core subjects, the students in the program - especially girls - are fascinated by technology, innovation, and entrepreneurship, and have expressed their interest in pursuing careers in technology-related fields.

Our plan is to continue to collaborate with tech leaders and innovators in the community and engage at least 10,000 middle school students within the next five years. With approximately 80,000 middle schoolers in Miami-Dade County alone, there’s a lot of young talent we hope to nurture and inspire to become tomorrow’s technologists and innovators. It begins by showing them what’s possible, and by supporting their ambitions to become the community’s future stars.

Lu Martinez is the founder of Stardom Up.

Bootcampironhack

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

Wyncode coding school raises $1 million to fund growth and next phase

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.

 

January 20, 2017

Why the Maker Movement can help bridge the social, economic and digital divides of our community

Makerfaire
Pablo Ricatti watches a 3D printer demonstration during the last Miami Mini Maker Faire, held at Young Arts Plaza. AL DIAZ adiaz@miamiherald.com

By RIC HERRERO and DALE DOUGHERTY

Herrero%20(2)Makers are a global community of talented innovators — designers, fabricators, artists, engineers, educators, entrepreneurs and civic leaders — driven by personal passions and a spirit of lifelong learning and creative hacking.

You will find them from Silicon Valley start-up founders and Burning Man artisans to Havana’s cuentapropistas and Barcelona’s urban hackers. They see objects and systems not as finished things, but as collections of components that can be remixed, repurposed and reimagined to shape worlds around them.

Some are entrepreneurs like Rodolfo Saccoman. He develops innovative products in Miami Beach such as the MATRIX Creator, an Internet-of-Things development board that enables software developers to build hardware applications regardless of their skill level. Others are educators like Willie Avendano and Nelson Milian of the 01 education lab in Wynwood. They foster a sense of agency and creative confidence in young students through hands-on STEAM-based learning.

DaleOthers are using tools for social good. For instance, architects Tony Garcia and Sherryl Muriente’s wonderful Biscayne Green public space project has shown us the power of urban prototyping and open collaboration to promote public transit and strengthen communal bonds in Downtown Miami.

The act of making is rooted in play, collaboration and curiosity. It develops a mindset that enables us to see ourselves as more than just consumers, but as creators with a bias toward action. Makers love to tinker with hardware and technology, but mostly see these as a means to an end. They combine domain expertise and traditional craftsmanship with modern tools such as digital fabrication, micro-controllers and data analytics to innovate solutions for themselves and their communities.

The maker mindset helps people better bridge the social, economic and digital divides in an era of technological acceleration and dislocation. When so many of today’s jobs are expected to disappear in coming years because of advances in artificial intelligence and automation, few skills become as important as collaboration, resourcefulness, communication and creative problem-solving. The maker movement helps nurture those skills, letting us look closely at the things around us, explore their complexity and identify opportunities to add value.

For makers to prosper in a community, they require physical spaces with access to tools and expertise that foster local productivity. In Miami, the Moonlighter makerspace makes fabrication tools available to people of all ages. The Discovery Lab at FIU’s School of Computing and Information Sciences has introduced vertically integrated programs to foster cross-disciplinary collaboration. And Miami Dade College hosts the Design for Miami and Make1 programs through its Idea Center, which teach students how to apply design thinking and prototyping practices to solve problems, along with Maker Faire Miami, the region’s largest showcase of maker talent and one of almost 200 such Maker Faires around the globe.

But that’s not all cities need to be productive. They also require community organizers who can leverage resources among the city’s schools and universities, libraries, museums and large and small businesses, in order to build a well-connected ecosystem of creative and learning environments where makers can thrive. They require business associations that recognize the need for vocational programs that prepare the local labor force for the current and future job market. They require city officials who embrace open data and work with civic hacking groups like Code for Miami to improve municipal services and address challenges such as affordable housing, homelessness and adapting to climate change. Finally, they need planning and zoning boards that minimize red tape and create more favorable conditions for urban production and entrepreneurship to flourish.

We want to grow the Maker Movement to include everyone, helping them become innovators in their own lives and communities. We also seek to expand the opportunities that makers have to innovate, defining shared missions that makers can join. We’re happy to see Miami off to such a promising start and are eager to help all who want to see it go further.

Today (Jan. 20) at 4 pm: Join Make: Magazine founder Dale Dougherty and the international network of Maker Faire producers at Miami Dade College - Wolfson Campus to explore how the maker mindset is revitalizing our cities. Co-hosted by MANO, Miami Dade College and Maker Faire with the support of Knight Foundation, this event is open to the public and tickets are available via Eventbrite: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/making-the-maker-city-opening-plenary-for-the-2017-maker-faire-global-summit-registration-30470654548

Ric Herrero is the co-founder and president of MANO Americas; reach him at ric@manaamericas.org. Dale Dougherty is the founder of Maker Faire and author of “Free to Make”; reach him @dalepd. This column was first published on the Miami Herald op-ed page Friday. 

Read past coverage of Miami Mini Maker Faire here.

 

 

November 10, 2016

Argentina to Miami, a bridge worth building

Wolox

By Natalia Martinez-Kalinina

As we often hear, Miami is a city uniquely poised to be a hemispheric hub. But despite being the transit isthmus that connects our hemisphere and representing a natural landing pad for companies growing from Latin America, we have historically fallen short of creating a sustained bridge for tangible and bidirectional engagement.  Entrepreneurs from Latin America come half blindly and arrive without a fully nuanced understanding of our infrastructure, differences, logistical shortcuts, critical stakeholders. As such, the learning curve is often steeper and the adjustment period longer than it should be - and that is in part our fault.

Argentina has long been recognized as one of the primary entrepreneurial ecosystems in Latin America with regards to high potential entrepreneurs. In equal measure, however, it has also been plagued by political malaise, economic instability, unreliable institutional resources, and its own absence from global capital markets. Now, although the country is very much in a transitional period after the 2015 election and the myriad economic and legal changes underway, Argentine entrepreneurs can - for the first time in several decades - see a horizon in which the country’s public sector, institutions, markets, and workforce can truly dovetail to generate growth, investment, and innovation.

Miami has a ways to go before we can truly claim the title of regional epicenter, but figuring out how to support Argentina’s wave of growth and appetite for engagement represents a unique opportunity to add value to the region and truly deliver on our vision as a gateway.

As a first step to test these waters, a group of us came together to co-author a full day of programming within StartupWeekBuenosAires - the largest event of its kind in Latin America-  specifically focused on how to engage with the U.S. ecosystem and market by way of Miami. Ahead of the full agenda being announced shortly, if you are interested in participating or learning more, please fill out this form.

Leading up to the event in December, we will be featuring interviews with a varied range of Argentine entrepreneurs and companies making their way to Miami. The first installment and inspiration for this series was an interview with Balloon Group. Below, we take a closer look at Wolox (pictured above), a growing software development company currently exploring its potential for expansion to the US from Buenos Aires, starting with a footprint in Miami. We spoke with Luciana Reznik, Wolox’s CEO (pictured here).


WoloxlucianaTell us about Wolox - how the company emerged, how has it changed over the years?

In 2011, Wolox was founded to innovate and help startups with all their product strategy and technological needs. With the lack of cutting edge tech solutions in Buenos Aires at the time, our goal was to bring high impact technology to the entrepreneurial ecosystem of South America. Concurrently, Buenos Aires was beginning to position itself as a major entrepreneurial city making for an ideal target market. After the great successes of the 90’s such as MercadoLibre, Despegar, and the first accelerators opening their doors, many new success stories continued to emerge. Like so, being an entrepreneur became an attractive career for many.

At this time, we were (all) finishing our degrees in computer engineering at The Buenos Aires Institute of Technology, a prestigious engineering university in Argentina. With other entrepreneurial experiences under our belt, an opportunity became clear to us: from a business standpoint, there were a larger number of individuals with good ideas and execution capabilities, than those with tech talent who could successfully carry out these ideas. This was our “aha” moment if every one of these individuals could be the CTO of a business venture, why not join together and become the CTOs of many business ventures?

Through the years, not only did we become experts in software development, but in all disciplines that influence the creation of top quality products as well as best practices when developing a startup. From the stage of conception to execution, researching the product market fit and implementing strategies to scale the business, Wolox is the team startups choose to partner with. Today, having worked with more than 80 startups has given us the know-how and key experiences to stand out within the industry which is invaluable to our clients.

Where do you see the growth and future of the company in the next years?

Today, we have around 100 employees and 100 products developed, with continual growth every day. We have managed to penetrate new markets in the USA and other countries in Latin America. Additionally, Wolox has established a team of exceptional individuals who discover innovative solutions to the challenges we are presented with while working ethically and professionally. Thanks to our ongoing positive recognition, larger companies have begun to use our services of design thinking to find solutions to their problems and/or establish innovation within their brands.

At Wolox, we have also been able to create a unique organizational culture that defines who we are and allows us to establish a challenging, flexible, innovative and respectful environment where our employees come to work motivated and happy. That is perhaps one of the biggest achievements and where we focus our energy every day to continue improving and not conform with what we have already achieved. Wolox is a company created by and for Millennials. A place which seeks to break with tradition, rife with challenge, and where rules are created to be broken in order for continual success.

In the coming years, we plan to continue the immense and rapid growth we have been experiencing up until now- opening new operating centers throughout the country as well as sales offices in various cities around the world. We will continue to train experts in the diverse cutting-edge technologies that emerge such as AR, VR, Internet of Things, among others, to be able to provide the best technological solutions to the problems we encounter within the market industry. In addition, we hope to become key leaders and influencers for the working culture we possess. We believe that we can transform problems into solutions and ideas into quality products, from Argentina to the rest of the world, managing to be positive and happy throughout the journey.

When did Wolox come to Miami, and why? What opportunities are you looking to find here? What risks may you come across? What is the evaluation and product release process in the United States?

As the next logical step in terms of company expansion, Wolox began its operations in Miami in January

of 2016. Our percentage of US clients is constantly growing and we want to continue this growth in the coming years, therefore, we believe opening offices in the United States is the rational next step for the company.

In Miami (and South Florida in general) we saw an interesting opportunity: an expanding entrepreneurial ecosystem, with tremendous support from various institutions and government funding to put Miami on the map of the entrepreneurial world. With the large Latino community many of the bigger enterprises or brands targeting the Latin American market have offices in Miami.

Our biggest challenge now is to manage a high volume of deal flow to maintain our operations during the period of growth of this entrepreneurial community, until it has fully consolidated. We do have to keep in mind we are in a new community and network, with a blank slate, where people still do not know us. We'll have to work hard to achieve a strong reputation and to position ourselves just as we have in Argentina.

Success stories like Magic Leap, Open English, Kairos, among many others have helped encourage and push the creation of tech startups. New co- working spaces are constantly opening their doors, making Miami an attractive spot for companies to set up shop. Miami is a city with immense multicultural and creative talent and a low cost of living. It really has all the key ingredients to make for the ideal entrepreneurial hub. Our goal now is to start generating and executing new startups and to bring capital to risky investments. Wolox arrived in Miami to help entrepreneurs pursue their ideas and build the entrepreneurial ecosystem just like we did in Buenos Aires 5 years ago.

From the perspective of the Latin American entrepreneur, what do you expect as a contribution from Miami?

Miami has access to a far greater pool of investors than we do in Latin America. A seed capital in Miami is at least us$ 500,000 whereas Latin Amércia it rarely exceeds us$ 50,000. On the other hand, it's very strategically located between Latin America and many other entrepreneurial hubs like New York, San Francisco, Boston, Austin, and Los Angeles, where many of our customers reside. Being closer provides an added value to our clients. Miami has many investment funds that focus on this type of enterprise and entrepreneurs of each country in Latin America that can help in this expansion.

As a Latin American entrepreneur, from day one we are constantly thinking globally as our native country itself is usually not a big enough market. Often times the market for our product is in the United States, making it very hard to measure the startup’s early stages from a distance. Even if the market we are appointing to is Latin Amércia as a whole (and not just a particular country) it is a lot easier to access those countries from the USA than from Argentina for example.

From this same perspective, what do you think Miami can do better to become a true "hub" in the region and support entrepreneurs who come here?

Often times, legal and accounting issues end up being a major roadblock when trying to focus one's energy on business. Visa issues/procedure, difficulty in the opening of bank accounts or being unable to access credit are just some of the disadvantages foreign entrepreneurs encounter. To overcome these difficulties, we must be in a privileged position within our country of origin to be able to access the necessary resources. This is something we consider a limitation in attracting top talent.

On the other hand, we must continue to focus on the education and the transmission of entrepreneurial culture. Some of the best practices when carrying out a startup such as energy and entrepreneurial execution speed (which are found in the most important hubs in the region), are  built through education and example. Therefore, it is necessary for the successful entrepreneurs of Miami to stay in order to transmit their learnings and knowledge and channel their entrepreneurial spirit to help and motivate those who are just getting started. Of course, the active participation of organizations - both public and private -that help entrepreneurs to perform this work is a key factor to achieve development.

What is your view on the political and economic situation in Argentina at the moment? What perspective does this experience give you on the growth of Miami?

Argentina is in the process of rebuilding political and economic relations with the United States. They are putting a lot of effort in generating public policies which support entrepreneurs and are strengthening programs and incentives of exchange between the two countries.

For example, only for the year 2016 will the budget allocated to the co- state investment in enterprises by local accelerators, triple. Undoubtedly, this will have a huge impact on the amount of Argentine entrepreneurs who choose Miami as the next step in its expansion process.

It is also expected for there to be at least two new public-private angel investment funds formed, whom will seek to have an active participation from foreign funds. This presents itself as a very interesting opportunity for foreigners: entering the entrepreneurial ecosystem of Argentina with limited risks.

Finally, the Argentine peso is at an exceptionally competitive value for the US market. Making for a very appealing strategy to realize the commercial development of Argentine companies in the USA.

Organizations like Endeavor have talked a lot about the Argentine model (not just the shortcomings, but the great achievements and opportunities). What do you think Miami can learn from Argentina’s case?

I believe Argentines are very entrepreneurial in nature. Things in our country are never simple, predictable or easy. We have overcome several crises throughout our history and from day one we have to address the daily challenges we face in an innovative way. From this, one learns to find solutions to the problem effectively, efficiently, and while working collaboratively.

As entrepreneurs, we have the need to create enterprises with sustainable business models from the get-go, since the ability to raise capital is quite small. I see this as a major difference between the Argentine entrepreneur and the US entrepreneur. Here entrepreneurs sometimes do things thinking only of the next round of investment or how to improve the KPIs the investors are going to ask for, instead of focusing on making a profitable business. Perhaps in the coming years, this paradigm will begin to change if the access to capital becomes more difficult. Which we are beginning to see in some parts of the USA.

In Argentina, there is a very strong sense of community. Entrepreneurs share their experiences, they teach, and invest in and mentor those just getting started. This ‘multiplier effect” is essential for the growth of the entrepreneurial community anywhere around the world and is one of the values ​​promoted strongly by Endeavor in Argentina. I believe this is something interesting and important to try and replicate in Miami. First, identify these stories of success and then take advantage of their transmission of knowledge that can render for following generations.

[This is part 2 of a series. Read part 1 here - Honey vs. Vinegar: How are we luring and keeping the companies we want in Miami?]

Natalia Martinez-Kalinina is the General Manager of CIC Miami and the Founder of Awesome Foundation MIAMI. If you are an Argentine company looking to expand to Miami or a Miami-based entrepreneur/investor looking to connect with the argentine ecosystem, please reach out to Natalia at martinez@cic.us

November 09, 2016

The art of bringing Miami together

By Cristian F. Robiou
 
Dear Miami Startup Community,

RobiouI write this with dual intentions but one audience in mind.

The first purpose is to formally invite you all to the Startupbootcamp Demo Day to be held on December 1st at the Mana Convention Center in Wynwood. You can RSVP HERE. The second reason is to provide broader context on the motivations that power the bulk of our work: what are we doing in Miami and why should you care?   

Our motivations found voice after confronting a wake of questions commonly posed but less frequently acted upon: "how do we do well for ourselves, while also doing good for others?"

At Startupbootcamp, we have made measurable strides in service of this vision of comprehensive growth, rather than the unbalanced approach put forth by our counterparts in San Francisco, Boston, New York and elsewhere. While successful in the traditional sense, the chief failure of our sister-cities has been neglecting the real, human interests technological progress is intended to serve. When combined with the long term tax created via unstated but widely recognized policies of exclusion, the glow of our own city, of our own Miami, takes an even more important hue. We’ve arrived at an answer after long months spent evaluating: to pair our Demo Day with Miami’s Art Week, and in so doing harness general cultural activity into an instrument for broader good. Specifically this means showing and sharing widely the lessons learned from building for our expanding community so that we protect and accelerate Miami’s startup trajectory. We will be hosting panels on industry specific topics that bear directly on Miami’s growth prospects. This will be paired with a broader art and health tech symposium and, of course, our own Demo Day where our portfolio companies will share the insights they’ve garnered over months working with us here.

Because we work in the health sector, this is easier said than done. But despite the challenge we’ve managed to make considerable strides. We can reach new heights with your help.

In a few week’s time, the world will turn its eye to Miami. Art Basel is one of those distinguishable events where our city brims with the spirit and promise of culture, a complexity of values expressing one of the the best shorthand indications of what we can stand for as a people: growth of all forms, diversity of distinct shades, and appreciation of the transformative power of color, origin, and perspectives.

Our work entails crafting a protected space that encourages a commitment to living, not just alongside one another as strangers in polite company, but instead as stakeholders sincerely invested in each other’s well-being. And though admittedly not the perfect forum - we acknowledge Basel itself suffers from serious inclusiveness deficiencies - our goal now is to offer a pointed method to address them, and continue to strengthen our ecosystem. In marrying the industries of technology with the world of art in Miami, we can begin forging commonality of value while celebrating diversity of experience. We can strive to make this part of Miami’s emblem. A time and place dedicated to recognizing the breadth of distinct histories while holding steadfast to the view that together we are truly are a collection of the world’s finest range of humanity.

This is an unsung philosophy we practice daily: that in this way more of us can find richer and continuous opportunities for improvement, and that we have a duty to share that as widely as possible. If the promise of Miami means anything, it is this commitment to inclusion and accommodation that separates us from those that came before.

At Startupbootcamp, we have devoted significant resources to create a non-trivial response to this issue, meeting passion with reason in equal measure. We have started this project, of fusing art and health tech under a common banner, with substantive as well as symbolic goals in mind. Though our focus industries do not form the full picture of what Miami offers, we nonetheless hope to see you on December 1st.

Cristian F. Robiou is the acting chief operating officer at Startupbootcamp Miami, a digital health seed fund and accelerator. 

September 18, 2016

Why every incubator needs social entrepreneurs

Startupfiucohort1

Photo by Daniela Cadena

By Robert Hacker

In January 2016, Emily Gresham and I began to design the program that became StartUP FIU, Florida International University’s (FIU) new incubator. Emily, who is Assistant Vice President for Research and Economic Development, holds the strong belief that hospitals and universities are the anchor institutions in cities. This philosophy lead to StartUP FIU’s focus on serving the entire community and not just the Brickell-Wynwood corridor. I believe there is much confusion between small business management and entrepreneurship and that Miami would be best served if StartUP FIU supported the entrepreneurship that grows large, scalable ventures. With community and scalable ventures in place as the founding principles, Emily and I quickly added other key principles:

Inclusion We welcome everyone to apply to StartUP FIU, from high schoolers and college students to faculty from any university in South Florida. We welcome retired people, FIU alumni and people with no formal education. We received 160 applications to Cohort 1 and the applications were split almost evenly between students, alumni and the community. As they say, “we bet on the jockeys and not on the horses”.

Free: To be truly inclusive a program cannot have financial barriers to entry. The signature, 13-week incubator program “Empower” is totally free--no application fees, no payments or charges during the program and no equity participation for the incubator. We also provide mentors, consultants, space and university resources at no charge.

Stage Agnostic: When we first started talking to prospective entrepreneurs, we realized that many people did not even know how to advance their ideas beyond their first doodles on a piece of paper. Therefore, we decided that we would accept people who just had ideas, people that had a minimal viable product (MVP) but no revenue and companies with revenue. Applicants did not even have to have a company formed.

General Incubator: We think of StartUP FIU as a startup. We are iterating to determine the best way to serve the South Florida community. Today we accept all types of ideas from food and fashion to edtech, high tech and medical diagnostics. We even have a chair company in Cohort 1. We may experiment with specially “themed cohorts” in the future as we continue to explore what types of entrepreneurship will best serve South Florida, but today we welcome applications from all industries.

Authenticity: When one spends a lot of time with students, one realizes that they are most engaged by hands on, experiential learning. StartUP FIU’s incubator is offered through a group of entrepreneurs that use the customer fieldwork approach in a modified Lean Startup methodology. We do not use the professorial approach so common in most academic incubators. Demo Day at StartUP FIU is a pitch day to angel, seed and “A” round VCs.

The last key decision Emily and I made was to combine traditional and social entrepreneurs in the same cohort. Several institutions have separate incubators for traditional and social entrepreneurs, but we found that perhaps only Y Combinator shares our view that all the entrepreneurs should be combined in one cohort. We opted for this approach in part because we believe that diversity breeds better collaboration.

Secondly, we believe that the social entrepreneurs will help the traditional entrepreneurs to remember their responsibility to not only make a profit but also to improve society.

Lastly, millennials have a high level of genuine social concern. As they reach the years where they become the major purchasers, they will force all entrepreneurs to become social entrepreneurs.

Perhaps the evidence for this view of social entrepreneurship comes from the people and companies that began Cohort 1 Sept. 6 (pictured above). We have a former Detroit schoolteacher trying to provide better information about higher education alternatives to students. We have a team originally from Venezuela working to use bee keeping as a micro-entrepreneurship concept to help poor women raise their standard of living. We have a team composed of about fifteen FIU computer science graduate and undergraduate students from all over the world creating a new pedagogy for early child learning using the agile development methodology. We also have a PhD researcher from Baskin Palmer working on a new approach to eye diagnostics and a team building prosthetics with 3-D printers. As is obvious, the line between social and traditional entrepreneurship is becoming very cloudy.

[Who's in Cohort 1? See the list here.]

StartUP FIU will begin accepting applications Sept. 19, 2016, for its second cohort beginning in January 2017. Applications and more information about StartUP FIU can be found at Startup.FIU.edu.

Robert Hacker is the Director of StartUP FIU and teaches social entrepreneurship at FIU, MIT and UM. He is the former CFO of One Laptop per Child and prior to that built a publicly traded billion-dollar company in seven years in Indonesia. He consults to companies in the U.S., the Caribbean and Central America on growth strategies and complex problems through GH Growth Advisors. His books on entrepreneurship and social entrepreneurship are available on Amazon.

READ MORE: Multi-campus StartUP FIU gets ready for takeoff

READ MORE: Q&A with Robert Hacker on scaling social entrepreneurship, finding partners, thinking big

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 Above, Bob Hacker introduced the mentors to the StartUP FIU entrepreneurs. At top of post, the first cohort of StartUP FIU.

September 10, 2016

How I became a Maker (again) -- and you can, too

  Moonlighter1

Join the movement. Let's make Miami a Maker town!

 

@MarioCruz

I often get asked by people what a maker or maker space is. A maker is someone who likes to DIY by repairing or creating electronic devices, building models, creating cosplay or 3D printing items, but in reality anyone who creates things can be considered a maker.

I was the kid who liked taking things apart and putting them back together. This was not always a successful process, but I got better and better. I eventually started to repair broken instruments, games, stereos and other electronic devices for my friends and me. The deal was when I repaired things for my friends, I charged a low price with the disclaimer that whatever I was repairing might end up as a pile of parts inside a Ziplock bag.

Additionally, I was interested in computers, which became an increasingly inexpensive way to create and invent because there was no need to purchase materials, no delay while waiting on mail orders, and no special tools were needed. My hardware career was short lived and my days of replacing broken screens or modifying gadgets were over as I got more and more into software and networking.

Last year the universe conspired to get me back into becoming a maker. First, Moonlighter Miami opened up and once again gave me access to all the things I had as the son of a mechanic: an awesome workshop and even new digital tools only available to real fabricators. Second, I took a job at Watsco Ventures and started working on extremely cool projects that required building prototypes using Raspberry Pi and Arduino. This made me spend even more time at Moonlighter tinkering and learning for my day job and as a curious maker.

Over the last year I have built lots of “stuff,” most of which is work related to be shown at a later date. However, I have made some things that have been shown off, including the Moonlighter photo booth that was built with a broken laptop’s monitor and a Raspberry PI, the modified PiGRRL 3 used for Moonlighter summer camp, and the poetry printer for the O'Miami poetry festival (See photo below). These are just some of the “stuff” that I have created as a maker, not to mention the bounty of projects I have in store for the future.

I have also helped on countless projects for others and have received help on my own projects. It's one thing to build something alone at home, but another thing entirely if you do it while surrounded by other makers. The communal experience of sharing thoughts and know-how, as well as having access to digital fabrication prototyping and manufacturing tools has made me more involved in the community. The teamwork and togetherness at Moonlighter this past year have not only been experienced by me, but also by my own young children, as they’ve created their own projects and received help and feedback from the community.

The barriers to becoming a maker have shrunk significantly with the cost of kits decreasing and with increasing availability of access to memberships to places like Moonlighter. These barriers that previously prohibited people from inventing, making prototypes or simply creating are a thing of the past. All you need today to become a “maker” is to use free tools like TinkerCad or Google Draw to make this into a reality.

The shop classes we all participated in when we were in school are nearly extinct, and there are little to no digital fabrication classes to take their place. Moonlighter and Learn01 have added summer camps, workshops, after-school classes  and events to fill the gap, but we have a long way to go before 3D printing and Raspberry Pi become household names.

Join the movement, mentor a future maker, and allow making to be something you do and share. Let's make Miami a Maker town!

Mario Cruz is a director at Watsco Ventures, an entrepreneur, a mentor and a drummer. He is not an investor in Moonlighter, but is a proud Moonlighter member and Maker Dad. 

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Photos taken at Moonlighter provided by Mario Cruz.

August 15, 2016

Q&A with Loren Ridenger: Changing the face of beauty

LorenRidinger-globalannualreport (1)
By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

Loren Ridinger has been changing the face of the beauty business as well as internet shopping for more than 20 years, and the entrepreneur and senior executive has no plans to slow down. “It’s not in my blood,” she says.

With humble beginnings working out of their rental home’s garage at the time, she and her husband, JR, co-founded internet retailing giant Market America in 1992, in Greensboro, North Carolina, where the company is still headquartered. Earlier this month, the company held one of its twice yearly empowerment conferences there, hosting 25,000 people, and she gave the opening speech. Today, the Ridingers live in Miami Beach, and each February, the Market America World Conference takes over AmericanAirlines Arena in Miami, bringing about 25,000 people to town.

Market America | Shop.com has generated more than $5.5 billion in accumulated retail sales and individuals have earned more than $2.9 billion in commissions and retail profits, the company said. In addition to the U.S., the company operates in Canada, Mexico, Australia, Hong Kong, Taiwan, the United Kingdom, Singapore, Mexico and Spain.

Ridinger also founded the award-winning cosmetics line Motives, her first line. She also created the solution-oriented personal care line Fixx and the jewelry collection Loren Jewels. Her daughter Amber is also an entrepreneur, having created DNA Miracles, a line of body and wellness products designed for babies, children and expectant mothers. Loren speaks about entrepreneurship regularly and has mentored young entrepreneurs. Last year, she partnered with Miami Beach startup Flat Out of Heels to create a line of shoes for the young fashion company.

Active on social media, Ridinger blogs regularly on www.LorensWorld.com, named one of Forbes’ Top 100 websites for women, and her fashion blog, www.MyFashionCents.com, often speaking about inspiration and women’s empowerment. “I use my voice wherever I can to make a difference,” she says. “The message cannot be heard enough. Sometimes thousands of people have to read for one of them to get it, but if one of them gets it, that’s all that matters, right?”

Loren Ridinger, senior executive vice president of Market America, serial entrepreneur, fashionista, mentor, mom and grandmother with a third grandchild on the way, surrounds herself with successful people and those who want to be. She calls Jennifer Lopez and Eva Longoria good friends. Still, Ridinger is a self-described private person, who puts socializing at the bottom of her priority list as she manages her many ventures and adventures.

She took time out this month to share her views about Market America, entrepreneurship, what’s next and the importance of knowing your “why.” Here are excerpts of that conversation.

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