February 24, 2015

Rokk3r Labs, journalist Lilia Luciano launch Coinspire, a video series with groundbreaking entrepreneurs


Rokk3r Labs and journalist Lilia Luciano officially announce the launch of Coinspire, a thought-leadership video series uncovering insights of groundbreaking entrepreneurs. Coinspire challenges the concepts of failure, self, risk, business, reality, success, and achievement through intimate interviews with some of today’s more innovative minds.

For the premiere of Coinspire, Lilia Luciano has conducted in-depth interviews with leaders from the entrepreneurial community:

 * Alexandra W. Wilson @AWilkisWilson - Founder, Gilt

* Benzion Aboud @benzionaboud - Founder, Saveology

* Chris Dannen @chrisdannen - Editor, Fast Company

* Gary Mahieu - Serial Tech Entrepreneur

* Jeremy Office - Principal, Maclendon

* John Stuart @jstuartFIUMBUS - Director, CARTA FIU

* Juan Carlos Ortiz @juancarlosortiz - CEO, DDB Latina 

* Juan Pablo Cappello @cappelloJp - Founder of private advising group

* Laura Maydon @limaydon - CEO, Endeavor Miami

* Rodolfo Saccoman @RodolfoSaccoman - Founder, AdMobilize

The interviews are presented both in full, demonstrating the continuity of thought and questioning involved, and segmented by topics, empowering viewers to explore their interests. Rokk3r Labs Chief Strategy and Creative Officer German Montoya says, “We are in an era where it is common to see the upstart entrepreneur disrupting the unsuspecting traditional business. We hope that with Coinspire, we can collectively catalyze this global movement to accelerate even faster.”

Visit www.coinspire.org for free access to the entire video series.

Lilia Luciano, an accomplished journalist, documentary film director, will serve as host and creative director of Coinspire in partnership with Rokk3r Labs. She is currently directing a feature documentary for HBO and has worked as a national correspondent for NBC News. Rokk3r Labs launches companies through its comprehensive cobuilding approach, with its specialized team of engineers, creatives and strategists.

Posted Feb. 24, 2015 

February 02, 2015

Q&A with Cindy Provin: On the frontlines of cyber-security

Cindy Provin
From her perch at the helm of Thales e-Security since 1999, Cynthia Provin has been a key player in the growth of a new industry: data security.

As president of Thales e-Security, she oversees the company’s operations in the United States, Canada, Latin America and the Caribbean. She is also vice president of sales and marketing, overseeing strategy worldwide. Thales e-Security is part of Thales Group, a French multinational company that supports aerospace, defense, transportation and security with 65,000 employees in 60 countries. Thales e-Security, with about 400 employees, including 70 in Plantation, provides solutions to protect data.

“The attacks are becoming much more advanced, and firewalls and passwords are not enough. We promote encryption,” which renders the data unreadable, Provin said from her offices in Plantation.

Before joining Thales e-Security, Provin was vice president of the Product Division for Racal Data Group, managing the Racal Data Group product operations in the Americas. In the fall of 1998, she was instrumental in the sale of Racal Data Group and the formation of Racal Security and Payments, now known as Thales e-Security.

Born in Baltimore but raised in South Florida since she was 10, Provin attended CooperCityHigh School and earned a bachelor’s of business administration from the University of Miami. She met with the Miami Herald recently to talk about her work at Thales e-Security and trends in cyber-security.

Continue reading "Q&A with Cindy Provin: On the frontlines of cyber-security" »

December 11, 2014

Linda Rottenberg: 'If you aren't being called crazy, you aren't thinking big enough'


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"If you aren't being called crazy, you aren't thinking big enough," Linda Rottenberg, co-founder and CEO of Endeavor, told gatherings of entrepreneurs at the WeXchange conference and a book signing at The LAB Miami this week. She was in town for Endeavor's International Selection Panel being held in Miami and her best-selling book, "Crazy is as  Compliment,"  is  out. She shared her own "kitchen table moment" when she and Peter Kellner hatched the idea for Endeavor, a global nonprofit that finds, mentors and accelerates high-impact entrepreneurs,  and  how everyone including her parents thought they was crazy.

Indeed, the biggest barriers  entrepreneurs face are themselves and getting past the fear is key, she said. Sometimes the people closet to you don't get it either.  In fact, in a survey by Babson College,  the No. 1 regret entrepreneurs expressed was telling friends and family too early -- friends don't let friends start businesses. She said that is why it is really important that an ecosystem has entrepreneurial role models in the community, a key mission of Endeavor, a global nonprofit that selects, mentors and accelerates high-impact entrepreneurs.

Find like-minded communities at entrepreneurship centers like The LAB Miami and online, she said. Crowdfunding can be a great way to find the like-minded too, and they can become your storytellers and carry your message forward, she said.

Telling stories of other famous entrepreneurs, including several females such as Este Lauder, she left us with this message, especially well received at WeXchange, a conference focused on women entrepreneurship in Latin America where she was the keynote speaker: Being an entrepreneur is not a one-size-fits-all endeavor.  "You don't need a hoodie to be an entrepreneur."

Posted Dec. 11, 2014


December 05, 2014

WeXchange announces pitch finalists; conference is next week

This is the second time around for the WeXchange Pitch Competition, an initiative that is part of WeXchange 2014, a forum for dynamic women entrepreneurs who work in the Latin American and Caribbean region. The Pitch Competition will reward the most innovative female entrepreneur in Latin America and the Caribbean, and the finalists have just been chosen.

A group of experts conducted a pre-selection process involving all of the registered projects, and decided that the following six women will have the opportunity to present their companies to investors, mentors, and experts on December 11th in Miami:

  • * Priscilla Maciel (Argentina): Co-founder of Almashopping, a virtual store that offers beauty products and cosmetics, and serves all of Argentina.

  • * Sofía Giraudo (Chile): Founder of Firstjob.me, a site that recruits young professionals with 0-2 years of job experience.

  • * Cecilia Retegui (Argentina): Co-founder of Zolvers, a platform designed to facilitate household chores of a wide variety, which may be used in Argentina, Chile, Colombia, and Mexico.

  • * Lorena Amarante (Argentina): Co-founder of OM Latam, the first Latin American interactive social network geared toward marketing professionals.

  • * Carolina Medina (Colombia): Co-founder of Soko Text, an application that helps to improve the distribution of food products and other basic goods in impoverished neighborhoods.

  • * Maria Leal (Guatemala): Founder of Zynn, a tool that facilitates precision in business, by means of mobile devices and working in the cloud.

The entrepreneur selected as the winner in this decisive competition will receive the following prizes: Four 1-hour mentoring sessions provided by  NXTPLabs, an investment fund to speed up the growth of startups that is a major partner  in WeXchange); a license to Scopia, a videoconferencing platform developed by Avaya; a one-month subscription to the toolWideo; and a subscription to MSDN Ultimate, which offers more than 900 Microsoft products available for download; as well as other prizes.

The lucky winner will follow in the footsteps of the 2013 Pitch Competition  winner, the Italian-Mexican Angela Cois, who received recognition for Lastroom, her application for making last-minute hotel reservations.

There is still time to sign up and take part in the entrepreneurial climate at WeXchange 2014: Registration is open until the 5th of December for those who wish to attend this forum in Miami. Additionally, women entrepreneurs across Latin America and beyond will be able to view all elements of this event live online, vía livestream ,using their computers or mobile devices.

Information provided by WeXchange

November 28, 2014

As 2014 wanes, tips to turn your idea into reality

By Cindy Krischer Goodman

85-CindyGoodmanWhen I ushered in the new year, I came up with an idea for a book I wanted to write, a business I wanted to start and an app I wanted to launch. Now, I am eating a turkey feast and realizing I have not focused on turning any of them into reality.

This Thanksgiving, I’m going to step back, look at all I am grateful for, and ponder the ideas I had wanted to pursue in 2014. With one month left in the year, I plan to ask myself some tough questions about where I have gotten stuck and what I can do to move at least one idea into action.

A friend of mine says she, too, has stalled while trying to move an idea forward. She wants to add an ancillary service that could help her pet-sitting business become more profitable. But like me, she has become bogged down in the daily struggle of balancing work and family.

Recognizing we all need help bringing our ideas to reality, I have turned to experts to share their best methods for follow through.

▪ Do your research. Wifredo Fernandez has seen dozens of ideas come to fruition as co-founder of The LAB Miami and now as founding director of CREATE Miami, a venture incubator and accelerator at the new Idea Center at Miami Dade College. Fernandez tells entrepreneurs to propose their idea to at least 100 potential customers and even ask for feedback on how to improve on it. “You need to validate that there is a big enough problem to make a venture out of solving it,” he says.

▪ Let passion drive the idea: The pivotal shift from idea to reality happens once you find yourself unable to think about anything else but solving the problem. “The specific idea may change, but if you’re passionate and focused, your drive to solve the problem will push you to execute,” Fernandez says. Miami business strategist Dave Lorenzo tells his clients to pursue an idea when they want to achieve it as much as they want to breathe air everyday. “That’s when it is going to become a reality. That is how badly you have to want it.”

Continue reading "As 2014 wanes, tips to turn your idea into reality" »

November 20, 2014

WeXchange returning to Miami, plans two-day event

  WeXchange, a forum designed to advance the work of high-impact women entrepreneurs from Miami, Latin America and the Caribbean, is back for its second year. Organized and led by the Multilateral Investment Fund, a member of the Inter-American Development Bank, with $40,000 of support from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the forum will be held from Dec. 11-12 at Miami Dade College.

Investors and women entrepreneurs who focus on Latin America or the Caribbean are encouraged to apply to attend WeXchange 2014. The event aims to empower women entrepreneurs, promote them as role models and help them connect to expand their networks and build impact. It will feature networking opportunities with investors, coaching sessions, workshops, and a pitch competition, in which 6 pre-selected finalists present their business ideas to a jury of international experts.

Foto Susana-1“Our research and experience show that women in Latin America and the Caribbean are highly motivated to start businesses and can be just as successful as their male counterparts, but face many barriers related to limited access to finance and weaker networks,” said Susana Garcia-Robles, principal investment officer of the MIF’s Early Stage Equity Group, in a news release. “WeXchange is seeking to break down those barriers by building a powerful community for dynamic women entrepreneurs. We are very much looking forward to returning to Miami — the most important city for doing business in and with Latin America and the Caribbean — for the second WeXchange forum.”

Research conducted by MIF, such as its WEGrow study of high-growth women entrepreneurs, show that women entrepreneurs tend to face more challenges than men in the region, mostly due to the lack of strong networks, which can limit access to capital. Other research such as the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor’s 2012 Women’s Report found that women-owned businesses attract less than 5 percent of venture capital funds worldwide.

Support for WeXchange programs is part of Knight Foundation’s efforts to invest in fostering an entrepreneurial community in South Florida. “By helping to propel the work of women entrepreneurs in Miami, WeXchange is providing some of the main assets they need to scale and grow — strong networks, access to investors, as well as mentorship and support opportunities,” said Matt Haggman, Knight Foundation program director for Miami.

Visit www.wexchange.co for more information and to register.

Read last year's guest column by Susana Garcia-Robles

Posted Nov. 20, 2014


November 17, 2014

Startup Spotlight: Yandiki


Photo of Silvina Moschini of Yandiki by Charles Trainor Jr./Miami Herald


Headquarters: The LAB Miami

Concept: Yandiki is an employment platform for the connected workforce generation. It provides immediate access to curated creative talent from around the world, in the cloud, on demand, transparently, with no hassle.

Story: Silvina Moschini has been managing public relations and online visibility projects for major U.S. corporations for more than 15 years. She has witnessed firsthand the difficulties many companies have in hiring creative talent. Top creative talent in major U.S. cities is costly and, often, not immediately available. Moschini resolved this challenge for her own agency (called Intuic) by creating TransparentBusiness — a platform that allows for hiring and efficiently managing creative talent in Argentina, Colombia, Chile and other low-cost countries. Later, she founded Yandiki to offer the same convenience to other U.S. ad agencies and companies adding curated talent and creating a marketplace of talent for hire.

With TransparentBusiness.com, clients can manage virtual teams seamlessly, can provide immediate feedback on all work-in-progress and access the status and cost of each project.

With Yandiki.com, clients can find and hire creative talent at their fingertips and on demand. “The goal is to create the perfect work platform for millennials, the connected workforce,” Moschini said.

Launched: May 2014

Management team: founders: Silvina Moschini (CEO), Marcelo Altamura (chief strategy officer), Nadia Di Vito (chief creative officer).

No. of employees: 17

Financing: So far, the founders have financed the project from personal funds. “While we can continue developing the project without outside financing, finding a strong equity investor would allow for faster growth,” said Moschini.

Recent milestones reached: Within two months of its launch, Yandiki landed major clients such as International Development Bank, Cable & Wireless and MFS (a joint venture of MasterCard and Telefonica), and it recently added EMC and Sony.

Biggest startup challenge: Coping with slow payment cycles in many major corporations.

Next step: Forming a sales team to target major corporate accounts in the United States and Canada, and forging alliances with governments in Latin America to help them create curated marketplaces of qualified creative experts, and export the professional services in the cloud. For them is the opportunity to increase their GDP, keep talent at home, and create employment. “For the talent, this is their chance to access world-class employment opportunities,” Moschini said.

Strategy for next step: Yandiki is interviewing people with experience in B2B sales and working with government programs and institutions to obtain financing and implement the programs.

Advisor’s view: “As a VC, I have seen many entrepreneurs — very few are as talented and driven as Silvina,” said Vanesa Kolodsiej, founder of Nazca Ventures, who has been advising Yandiki for about six months. She applauds Moschini for making progress educating governments and corporations about the advantages of the talent cloud and attracting the best creative talent in Latin America. “My advice is to be focused and be patient. Implementing a platform such as Yandiki [across the region] can take much time and effort, but once it is in place, the payoff is enormous.”

Nancy Dahlberg

November 01, 2014

Random thoughts on a random week: exits, age, heart -- and a start

I had an interesting conversation with a South Florida entrepreneur who built a very successful company that has been sold a few times now. At each juncture he could have exited  but chose to stay and continue to contribute to the company and build his team, which now numbers hundreds. While that is not the typical course, he stayed because his job was still rewarding, and his team was still growing and having an impact as well as providing jobs for South Florida.  I'll be writing more about him in a few weeks as he approaches yet another opportunity to exit. Will he stay or will he go? -- stay tuned! (Yes, that's a tease)

MoneyExits are certainly up in South Florida. Since I have been covering startups and  tech full time (about a year now), there have been a number of them  -- off the top of my head, Mako Surgical, New Wave Surgical, .CO Internet, Choose Digital, BlueKite, Simplikate, Kwiksher, The Fresh Diet ... -- and I am sure I have missed a bunch. (I will be adding Exits to the categories on this blog soonest!).  On the funding front, it will most certainly be a record-setting year, with the magic leap venture capital in South Florida will take in the fourth quarter. In fact, if Magic Leap's $542 million raise from Google and friends had come in any of the other quarters this year, Florida would be ranked number 4 (just behind the big three in venture: California, Massachusetts and New York) instead of 27th or thereabouts. But there have been other sizable South Florida raises, Technisys, of course, but several more are on the burner and should complete this quarter (yes, that is another tease). 

Then at the Miami Open Coffee Club, I met an entrepreneur, David Kay of Video Rehearser, who said that he is finding that his age and gray hair is a detriment when talking to investors, even though he brings 40 years of technology and business experience to the table. Does youth and energy trump subject matter expertise? Charles Irizarry of Rokk3r Labs doesn't think so. He said Rokk3r looks for founders with experience starting up companies as well as experience in their industries. And  Kauffman Foundation research finds that, year after year,  each of the 35-44, 45-54 and the 55-64 age groups starts businesses are  far higher rates than their 20-34 counterparts.  That's good because  a Venture Beat post argues that in the next generation of innovation -- robotics, etc. -- the expereinced entrepreneur will be in high demand. Lately I have also been seeing more young teams with one, shall we say significantly older co-founder that brings extensive experience, subject matter expertise and often a different network to the table.

 By the way, Irizarry took part in a real-life role play about pre-launch strategy with Xavier Cossard of Plarity (and a Rokk3r portfolio company) -- both are pictured below -- as part of Miami Open Coffee Club's new format. Expect subsequent MOCCs to address post-launch strategies. Next up: marketing, says MOCC organizer Tito Gil:  A session on marketing featuring Kairos and Jaques Hart of Roar Media. After the interview there is time for Q&A.

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On Wednesday, I attended Women in Innovation at Pipeline, expecting a great networking event to meet people, as I already know and have reported on the stories of the panelists. It was a great networker, with 150 in attendance, almost all women. But I also enjoyed the panel discussion, in which all the women -- Christine Johnson (DiversiTech), Dawn Dickson (Flat Out of Heels), Fatima Lalani (Blo Blow Dry Bars) and Felecia Hatcher (Feverish Pops and Code Fever) and hosted by Paula Celestino (Kloset Karma) -- kept it real and were incredibly open and personal about their entrepreneurial journeys. While they all went through periods where they weren't sure their business would make it, they said doing what they needed to do to survive and eventually thrive was what women really rock at. Some lessons learned: Nurture your friendships and  support network; there's no such thing as work-life balance as an entrepreneur but do set priorities, and trust your gut.  They spoke from the heart -- refreshing -- and as one women noted in the elevator on the way out: When was the last time you were at a tech or entrepreneurship event where the overwhelming majority attending and on panels were women?

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Highlight of a busy week: The packed official opening of the Miami Dade College's Idea Center, which will serve MDC's 165,000 students with an accelerator, workshops, a speaker series, an idea factory, a venture growth program and more. With so much support from the community clearly evident on Tuesday morning (below), the center is off to a great start. 

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Posted Nov. 1, 2014 



September 30, 2014

Study: Large gender gap persists in VC deals, industry

MoneyWomen entrepreneurs have made progress obtaining venture capital, yet a wide gender gap persists, according to a new study released by Babson College on Tuesday.

The amount of early-stage investment in companies with a woman on the executive team has tripled to 15 percent from 5 percent in the last 15 years, the study found. Yet 85 percent of all venture capital-funded businesses have no women on the executive team and only 2.7 percent of venture capital-funded companies had a woman CEO, according to the study titled “Women Entrepreneurs 2014: Bridging the Gender Gap in Venture Capital.”

The study was conducted by Babson professors leading the Diana Project, a program founded in 1996 to research women-led businesses globally. The study analyzed 6,793 unique companies in the United States that received venture capital funding between 2011 and 2013.

Among other key findings:

* Businesses with women entrepreneurs perform as well as or better than those led by men. Businesses with a woman on the executive team are more likely to have higher valuations at both first and last funding (64 percent higher and 49 percent higher, respectively).

* Venture capital firms with women partners are more than twice as likely to invest in companies with a woman on the executive team (34 percent of firms with a woman partner compared to 13 percent of firms without a woman partner) and more than three times as likely to invest in companies with women CEOs (58 percent of firms with women partners versus 15 percent of firms without women partners).

* The total number of women partners in venture capital firms has declined significantly since 1999, dropping to 6 percent from 10 percent. Just 139 of the country’s 1,562 venture capital firms had women partners, at the time the Babson report was compiled.

“Only a small portion of early-stage investment is going to women entrepreneurs, yet our data suggest that venture capital-funded businesses with women on the executive team perform better on multiple dimensions,” said Candida G. Brush, Babson professor, report author and Diana Project co-founder. “Enormous untapped investment opportunity exists for venture capitalists smart enough to look at the numbers and fund women entrepreneurs.” 

The report included several recommendations for the venture capital industry, including examining the reasons why so few women enter or stay in venture capital roles, showcasing the successes of growth-oriented, venture-funded women entrepreneurs and doing more to seek out early-stage, women-led businesses across the country.

“For years, it was believed that women entrepreneurs needed to change their approach to networking, pitching or industry sector in order to secure venture capital,” said Patricia G. Greene, a co-founder of the Diana Project and the Paul T. Babson Distinguished Professor of Entrepreneurial Studies at Babson College. “It is increasingly apparent that many women entrepreneurs have followed these prescriptions, yet they have not been able to achieve proportionate increases in early-stage growth capital.

"The tremendous work within the entrepreneurship ecosystem to support and foster growth of women entrepreneurs, and the findings of this study, demonstrate it is not the women who need fixing; the model for venture capital that has been in place since the 1980s simply does not work for women entrepreneurs,” Greene said.

The full report is available at www.babson.edu/DianaProject.

August 17, 2014

When bringing on co-founders, set expectations properly

By Susan Amat

At the beginning everything is hot and heavy, full of passion, sleepless nights, chemistry making everything seem like it is destiny. Then something becomes annoying, or promises are broken, and the excitement starts to fizzle. A failed romance unraveling is usually a fairly easy cleanup: returning some items and looking for closure. A co-founding partnership gone awry is, at best, a big mess.

We spend a fair bit of time in our accelerator and incubator programs having discussions that could be considered marital counseling for new companies. Rarely do we find true co-partners, where they are 50-50 from day one and both invest the same amount of time, energy and expertise to make the magic happen. The biggest challenges occur in situations where there is a clear single founder who brings on a co-founder or two. In setting the expectations properly, not only in terms of ownership and decision making, but in vesting of equity, time commitments, etc., the startup will have the proper foundation to flourish while mitigating risks if a problem does arise between the partners.

I asked Daniel Eisner, co-chair of the US Private Equity Practice at DLA Piper, what issues founders need to address in bringing on co-founders. I sought him out for this specifically because DLA is the market leader in servicing firms from startup through exits. In his New York-based role, he regularly sees the repercussions of not having the right documents in place 3-10+ years later, when the company is worth $100<TH>million or more and the founder has headaches in managing his or her partners in addition to going public or closing a mega-investment round.

According to Eisner, a document between the founder and any co-founders should address the following elements:

1. The role of co-founder: Most co-founders will not be jointly responsible for everything. Better to set out the parameters of the co-founders functional responsibilities up front. Failure to do so can result in unnecessary turf battles.

2. Right of termination: An employment agreement with a co-founder can reserve for the founder the right to terminate the co-founder’s employment at any time and for any reason. If not addressed, the right to hire and fire will rest with the board or CEO. If anyone other than the founder retains this right, the co-founder can always seek to sway the board’s opinion against the founder. Such agreements should require the co-founder to provide a full release to the company for all pre-termination matters.

3. Equity grant: Equity grants should be subject to vesting, which may include both time vesting and performance hurdles, as well as a share buyback right upon termination for any reason. The buyback price may be set based on lower (pro-company) or higher (pro-co-founder) price of last round or next round. The company does not benefit by allowing terminated employees to retain the value of future equity appreciation.

4. Composition of board of directors: Whether or not a co-founder has a right to sit as a member of the company’s board of directors, the co-founder can be required to enter into a shareholders agreement or proxy to allow other shareholders, including the founder, to set the composition of board of directors. Failure to do so may put the composition of the board of directors into the hands of the co-founder.

5. Restriction on transfer of shares: Whether or not a co-founder is continuing as an employee, the co-founder’s right to sell shares should be limited to sales in connection with a sale of the company or following an IPO, subject only to customary exceptions for transfers for wealth planning. Control over a company's equity capital is critical to realization of a company's long term strategic objectives.

6. Sale of company and other fundamental matters: The founder or other majority owner may retain express control over fundamental decisions, including timing and terms of a sale of the company or capital raise. The co-founder can exert influence, but should not be in a position to force fundamental actions or to bring claims if the company fails to take actions that the co-founder deems beneficial.

While the tone of these clauses may not be representative of the warm fuzziness you feel for your partner and the beautiful new startup you are bringing to life, this exercise will help keep the emotion out of decisions by documenting a shared set of expectations and roles and responsibilities to help the team withstand the thousands of other stresses and challenges that come in building a business. The fun never ends, so choose wisely.

Susan Amat is the founder and CEO of Venture Hive, an entrepreneurship education company that runs an accelerator and incubator program in downtown Miami. You can follow her on Twitter at @SusanAmat