Want to know about Miami startups? A user's guide to this blog

Dear reader, Starting Gate has been providing and archiving South Florida startup and tech community news, views and resources since 2012. New to the Miami area? Thinking about relocating here? Just want to keep up with news, events and opportunities? We're there for you.

How to use Starting Gate: Besides scrolling the blog for the latest entries, you can access news and views by category. The "Funding" category will capture venture capital and angel funding news of individual startups as well as stories about funders. The startup categories chronicle news and my regular "Spotlights," and in Q&As you'll find interviews with CEOs and leaders in the entrepreneurship ecosystem. There are also categories for guest posts, views, accelerators/incubators, resources, events and more.

Thank you for your support through the years and please come back often. Follow me on Twitter @ndahlberg. - Sincerely, Nancy Dahlberg

October 04, 2017

Court Buddy co-founder becomes 14th African American woman ever to raise $1 million or more

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By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

Only 14 African American women have raised $1 million or more in venture capital, and Kristina Jones of Miami-based Court Buddy is one of them.

Court Buddy is a legal tech startup founded by James and Kristina Jones that helps clients save money on legal fees by avoiding paying high retainers and hourly fees that traditional law firms charge while also helping thousands of attorneys grow their law firms. The company announced Wednesday that it has raised $1 million in seed funding.

When Court Buddy launched in 2015 in Miami, its web-based instant-matching platform allowed consumers to choose the a-la-carte legal services  at flat rates and then matched them to pre-screened solo and small law firm attorneys. Since then, Court Buddy has launched an app, CourtBuddy Chat, and a secured attorney-client payment exchange, CB Direct Pay. Now once matched, consumers can instant message, video chat and pay  attorneys for the legal services that they need, and solo attorneys can create and manage the legal tasks they perform for clients and collect legal fees.

The Court Buddy platform has grown to match over 11,000 consumers with attorneys across the country.

Earlier this year while participating in the 500 Startups seed program, Court Buddy soft-launched Instaclient for lawyers, which allows lawyers to pre-screen payment-verified clients who have pending court appearances or court-related matters before representing them. More than 5,000 lawyers signed up within 30 days of the launch. It also opened its San Francisco office.

LDR Ventures led the seed funding round, with participation from XFactor Ventures/Flybridge Capital, UpHonest Capital, GingerBread Capital/KKR, LSS Fund, Equipo Ventures, 500 Startups, L.A. Women Angels, and angel investors. Andrew Koven of LDR Ventures will join Court Buddy’s board of directors as part of the deal.

“With the new infusion of capital from our investors, not only can we continue building on our core products, but we can also hire more top talent to support the company’s rapid growth and expansion,” said CEO James Jones Jr., also a Florida attorney.

Court Buddy was named the winner of the American Bar Association’s Brown Select Award for Legal Access earlier this year, a winner of the inaugural American Entrepreneurship Award in 2016, and was the 2015 Miami Herald Business Plan Challenge People’s Pick Winner.

September 27, 2017

11 South Florida leaders selected for cohort 4 of Social Entrepreneurship Bootcamp

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Rebecca Fishman Lipsey, center, is founder and CEO of Radical Partners, a social impact accelerator.

 

By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

What are some of the most pressing issues facing our region, and how can we solve them?

Ask the alumni and new cohort of Social Entrepreneurship Bootcamp, an accelerator program for social-impact ventures based in South Florida.

The program, led by Radical Partners, announced its fourth cohort on Wednesday, selecting 11 leaders at the helm of some of the most innovative organizations seeking to improve our region. From expanding opportunities for diverse food entrepreneurs to providing a support network for transgender locals, the cohort of both for-profit and non-profit companies is committed to strengthening communities, increasing equity, and improving the quality of life for those in our city.

Each participant is offered a full scholarship to enable participation in the 12-week accelerator program focused on scaling the impact of their ventures. Upon completion of the program, participants are welcomed into an active alumni network, where they will continue to focus on strengthening Miami alongside some of the most celebrated social innovators in the region.

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In an effort to diversify the investor base in the social innovation sector, Radical Partners sought to fund the entire program through support from female investors and philanthropists. All scholarships for this fourth cohort were made possible by female investors who are committed to the future of Miami, including Tere Blanca of Blanca Commercial Real Estate, Leslie Miller Saiontz of Achieve Miami and Teach For America, CL Conroy of The Conroy Martinez Group, Ruth Admire of The William J. and Isobel G. Clarke Foundation, Dr. Elizabeth Leight, Stephanie Ansin, and Michelle Huttenhoff, among others.

The cohort will also benefit from expert advice from financial advisors, branding experts, and lawyers through partnerships with Desnoyers CPA, Fiscal Management Associates, and Milkcase Creative. Participants will also receive legal health checks from Akerman and have access to the AkermanX/Radical Partners innovation space housed at the Cambridge Innovation Center for all 12 weeks of the program.

Here are the 2017 Social Entrepreneurship Bootcamp cohort members (list provided by Radical Partners):

Communities In Schools of Miami

Elyssa Linares, President and CEO

Nonprofit providing wraparound resources to help students succeed, whether that’s clean clothes, help with school work, or emotional support to cope with or recover from a traumatic event.

Melanites

Jennifer Pierre, Founder and CEO

Toy company that creates diverse toys, storybooks, and games that celebrate brown boyhood and inspire children of color to dream big.

Mind&Melody

Cristina Rodriguez, President and Co-Founder

Nonprofit that creates novel music programs at healthcare facilities to improve the quality of life for individuals with neurological impairments like dementia.

Moonlighter

Tom Pupo, Co-Founder

S.T.E.A.M. Learning Center, Fabrication Lab, and Co-Working Space that encourages creative collaboration among artists, designers, engineers, students, educators, and innovators in order to catalyze meaningful solutions through education, technology, and community.

O, Miami

Scott Cunningham, Founder and Director

Annual festival with the goal of every single person in Miami-Dade County encountering a poem.

Open Referral Initiative

Greg Bloom, Founder and Leader

Open-access platform that enables people in need (and related organizations) to get accurate information about the health, human, and social services available in our region.

The New Tropic

Ariel Zirulnick, Director

Local media startup that connects people to their cities through storytelling and events.

TransSOCIAL

Ashley Mayfaire, Co-Founder and Director of Operations

Trans-led nonprofit working to build LGBTQ+ unity and expand community resources and support.

Unconventional

Jordan Magid, Founder and CEO

Art production agency beautifying neighborhoods, strengthening relationships and inspiring citizenship.

The Wynwood Yard

Della Heiman, Founder and CEO

Culinary incubator and community hub designed to foster the development of innovative Miami-based food, culture, design and fitness entrepreneurs.

Young Musicians Unite

Sammy Gonzalez, Co-Founder, President and CEO

Nonprofit giving students a voice through music by providing underserved communities with free, comprehensive music programming.

 

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A scene from Radical Partners Social Entrepreneurship Bootcamp Cohort 2 workshop

 

September 24, 2017

MealPal raises $20 million in venture funding, expands services

 
Mealpal
Mary Biggins, right, and Katie Ghelli founded MealPal, a restaurant lunch subscription service, in Miami. It's now international.
MealPal
 
By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

MealPal, the Miami-based startup offering a subscription restaurant lunch service, announced it has raised a $20 million Series B investment, led by Silicon Valley firm Menlo Ventures.

The round brings MealPal's total funding to $35 million since its Jan. 2016 launch. In February, MealPal raised a $15 million Series A round; Miami-based Krillion Ventures is an investor. MealPal aims to make lunch pick-up from restaurants convenient and affordable. MealPal offers its service in  Miami, as well as New York, Boston, San Francisco, Toronto and a number of other cities around the world. 

Along with the funding, the company recently announced it expanded its lunch pickup service to include dinner, starting in New York City, its largest market. 

"MealPal has helped thousands of people upgrade their lunch break by skipping long restaurant lines and getting lunch for as little as $6. Now we're excited to bring this quality, affordability and efficiency to dinner," said CEO Mary Biggins, who co-founded MealPal with Katie Ghelli.

MealPal has serviced more than 3 million lunches and expended to 12 markets, most recently Manchester in the United Kingdom and Melbourne, Australia, said Biggins, who previously co-founded ClassPass, which offers fitness classes by subscription.

Previous MealPal investors, including Bessemer Venture Partners, Comcast Ventures, Haystack Partners and Next View Ventures, all participated in this new round.

The new funding will support further team and market expansion in the United States, United Kingdom Canada and Australia, as well as new markets throughout Europe in the next several months.

Follow @ndahlberg on Twitter. 

READ MORE:

MealPass rebrands as MealPal, unveils ‘Pal’ feature, launches in Chicago, Washington, DC

Tech Talk: From ClassPass to MealPass, the Big Apple to the Magic City

September 19, 2017

Meet the next class of women selected for WIN Lab Miami

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By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

A straw that helps detect date rape, advances in breast pump technology, a dinner party in a box. These are products and services in development by just a few of the 17 companies selected by Babson College to participate in the 2017-2018 Women Innovating Now (WIN) Lab Miami.

WIN Lab Miami, an eight-month accelerator program entering its second year in the region, aims to catalyze the long-term success of female entrepreneurs by fostering creativity and collaboration, increasing visibility, providing mentorships, identifying branding and marketing tactics, and leveraging funding opportunities and competitions.

Around the world, female entrepreneurship is on the rise. According to the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor's 2017 survey of 63 economies, Total Entrepreneurial Activity among women increased by 10 percent in the past two years, and the gender gap (ratio of women to men participating in entrepreneurship) narrowed by 5 percent. WIN Lab seeks to accelerate the trend by offering a supportive rather than a competitive environment of traditional accelerators. It's program is part-time over a longer period to better work with entrepreneurs at their own stages of growth. 

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 “We have selected a group of incredibly impressive women entrepreneurs to join WIN Lab Miami’s next cohort,” said Babson’s WIN Lab Miami Director Carolina Pina (pictured above). “One team won the Miami Herald Business Plan Challenge, some have already made strides as participants of the Idea Center’s CREATE program at Miami Dade College; one has just recently won an American Entrepreneurship Award; and two have been selected to pitch their businesses at the upcoming Demand Solutions competition. We look forward to helping further develop and advance their businesses, and being witness to all of their accomplishments to come.”

WIN Lab's Advisory Board will be chaired by Carol Faber, Partner at Akerman LLP. Faber was recently named one of Real Estate Forum’s 50 Women of Influence in Real Estate, and is also the Chair of Akerman’s Women’s Initiative Network and Co-chair of its Distressed Property Practice Group.

WIN LAB has also named its Entrepreneurs-In-Residence and Investors-In-Residence for the second cohort.

Entrepreneurs-In-Residence are Johanna Mikkola, Co-Founder, Wyncode Academy; RJ Joshi, Co-Founder and COO, Bodhi Tree Asset Management; Silvina Moschini, Co-Founder and CEO, SheWorks!; and Ze’ev Feig MBA’03, CEO, Zensah.

 Its Investors-In-Residence are Adam Smith, investor; Blaire Martin, Co-Founder and Executive Director, Florida Angel Nexus; and Raul Moas, Managing Director, AGP.

WIN Lab Miami was founded with support from John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, FedEx, and Akerman LLP, and sponsor HSBC. The Miami program’s inaugural cohort of ‘WINners’ raised nearly $2 million in funding in the first year, WIN Lab said, and celebrated with a grand finale pitch competition in April 2017.

Here are the 2017-2018 Miami WINners (list provided by WIN Lab), which were to be announced Tuesday night at its  kickoff event at CIC Miami, where WIN Lab is based.

Caribu
Maxeme Tuchman, Co-Founder and CEO

Communication and collaboration platform that helps parents, extended family, and mentors read and draw with children when they are not in the same location. Caribu is one of two WINners selected by the Inter-American Development Bank to compete at Demand Solutions. It also won third place in the Miami Herald Business Plan Challenge.

ETC

Karley Chynces, Founder and CEO

Mobile app that will allow students to buy and sell books and dorm supplies locally.

Ginger Straps
Leana Loh, Founder and CEO

Add-on ankle strap for high heels and flats to transform shoes from strapless to strappy.

Imalac, LLC
Noreen Gordon Sablotsky, Co-Founder and CEO; Rachael Sablotsky Kish, Co-Founder and COO

Healthcare technology company focused on increasing the efficiency and practicality of breast pumping.

Impetus Social
Sonia Hinestrosa, Founder

Education technology company providing critical skills in areas like digital literacy, STEM, leadership, and financial literacy.

Lean Orb
Anastasia Mikhalochkina, Founder

Plant-based, biodegradable catering supplies. Lean Orb has also been selected to compete at Demand Solutions this fall.

Luxe Fête Social
Nathalie Anne Cadet-James, Founder

Service company that provides a dinner party in a box.

MADSTUDIOS, Inc.
Jennifer Nicole Hardcastle, Co-Founder

Platform that provides resources and access to all creatives with the tools needed to be successful.

Major Marketplace
Leyanis Diaz, Co-Founder and CEO

Online marketplace for minority businesses and those who want to support them. Diaz also participated in Miami Dade College Idea Center’s 10-week go-to-market program called CREATE. She recently won an American Entrepreneurship Award.

PEX+
Jessica Coane, Founder and President

Travel search engine for using miles and points.

Prizm Art Fair, LLC
Mikhaile Solomon, Founder and Director

Cutting-edge art fair that expands the spectrum of exhibiting international artists from Africa, the global African Diaspora, and emerging markets.

Sayblee
Ashley Sebok, Founder and CEO

100 percent natural, organic, handmade hair care system formulated to repair damaged hair, and maintain healthy hair.

Smart Straws
Susana Cappello, Victoria Roca, Carolina Baigorri, Co-Founders

Straw that detects the most common date rape drugs, GHB and Ketamine, found in alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks. Cappello, Roca, and Baigorri won this year’s Miami Herald Business Plan Challenge High School Track.

SpeechMED Inc.
Susan Alanna Perry, Founder and CEO

Patient engagement platform that makes healthcare information accessible to all patients regardless of age, language, or literacy levels.

TeaRado Tech
Nicole Tirado, Founder

Tech-infused tea cup that allows users to consume tea hands-free.

Voyz.es, Inc.

Ana Maria Carrano, Co-Founder and CEO

Agile and collaborative transcription platform that allows users to transcribe audio and video content fast, with high accuracy and affordable rates, using machine learning and crowdsourcing.

Wedding QuickQuote
Madeline Daryadel, Founder and President

Extranet software program featured on venue sites that expedites the search and sales process providing users with an instant reply to an online inquiry.

Massachusetts-based Babson College has also recently announced an expansion of its graduate programs to Miami. The new effort builds on the ongoing success of WIN Lab Miami, as well as its Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses program hosted at Miami Dade College, which empowers local small business owners to help their companies grow. The application period for the graduate programs is open and classes are set to begin in Fall 2018.

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A scene from an event, shown above, for WIN Lab Miami's first cohort, shown below.

Group Photo - Lobby 2

Follow @ndahlberg on Twitter

 

September 01, 2017

Inaugural ITWomen Leadership Summit coming to FAU Tech Runway

 

 

ITWomen, in partnership with FAU Tech Runway, will host the inaugural ITWomen Leadership Summit on Friday, Sept. 15 from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. at FAU Tech Runway, 901 NW 35th Street, Boca Raton.

The ITWomen Leadership Summit is designed to provide women across the fields of technology with a rich development opportunity and will include influential keynote speakers and multiple sessions with more than 18 local leaders across different industries. Keynote speakers include Heather Cabot, an angel investor and author of “Geek Girl Rising,” and Angela Sebaly, an entrepreneur and author of “The Courageous Leader.” Sessions will feature CXO leadership insights, developing a culture of innovation and a startup showcase on FAU Tech Runway female founders.

ITWomen is a not-for-profit organization founded in 2002 by senior-level women across technology industries. Through their partnerships with nonprofits, universities, corporate sponsors and professional organizations, they work to narrow the gender gap in technology and increase the potential for innovation and economic growth through gender equity. ITWomen is a multi-generational organization, which began in South Florida and has expanded with a presence in the greater Orlando and Tampa metro areas.

All net proceeds from the event will fund camps and STEM programs for under-served girls in the community.

To purchase tickets to attend the event, click here. For more information on the ITWomen Leadership Summit, visit https://leadersummit.itwomen.org.

- Submitted by ITWomen

August 30, 2017

Entrepreneurship degree students will be taught by Facebook, Lyft, tech and media execs

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Melissa Medina, executive vice president of eMerge Americas, will be one of the instructors in Miami Dade College’s revamped entrepreneurship degree program. Carlos LLano

By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

The Idea Center, Miami Dade College’s entrepreneurship hub, and TheVentureCity, a new internationally focused tech accelerator in Miami, partnered up to redesign MDC’s Associate in Science in Business Entrepreneurship degree. As a result, students will be taught by some of the region’s top business leaders.

In the two-year degree program, which kicked off Monday, the leaders will serve as instructors to mentor students in becoming visionary entrepreneurs who turn ideas into products, services, businesses and social ventures. “An engaged and supportive mentor has a transformative impact on a young person,” said Miami Dade College President Dr. Eduardo J. Padrón, in the news release.

Instructors include Adriana Cisneros, CEO of Cisneros; Francesca de Quesada Covey, Head of Platform Partnerships for Facebook in Latin America; Melissa Medina, executive vice president of eMerge Americas; Sam Cohen, GM for Lyft in Florida; and Laura Gonzalez-Estefani, CEO and founder of TheVentureCity.

Students will work with teams of their peers to bring ideas to life. Topics covered will include startup strategy and execution, product development, project management, digital and social media marketing, user experience design, human resources and team management and organizational development.

TheVentureCity was founded by former executives of Facebook, Google, eBay and other leading companies. It launched its program at eMerge Americas in June, and at the time Gonzalez-Estefani said partnering with colleges and universities would be a pillar of its venture. The Idea Center at MDC launched in 2014. Some of its other programs include MarketHack, CREATE accelerator, CodePro, The Startup Challeng, and the Innovation Lab,

More information: mdc.edu/entrepreneurship

August 17, 2017

Shoring up the boat-sharing industry, Boatsetter buys Boatbound, raises more funding

Boater

By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

South Florida is already one of the world’s great boating capitals. Now the region can also claim to be a boat-sharing industry leader, as more people seek out accessible ways to get out on the water and more boat owners oblige by turning their pleasure crafts into money makers.

Boatsetter, a peer-to-peer marketplace for boat rentals, has acquired its Seattle-based rival Boatbound, powering up the South Florida startup’s presence throughout the United States. The Aventura-based company also announced that it has raised an additional $4.75 million in funding, on top of the $13 million announced in December, to fund its international expansion.

Like others in the boat-sharing economy, Boatsetter attempts to make the boat rental experience as seamless as booking a room on Airbnb by connecting people seeking rentals with boat owners looking to monetize the time their boats aren’t used. But Boatsetter differentiates itself by giving its users access to a large network of licensed captains as well as a growing roster of high-end boat rentals for yachting, cruising, fishing or sailing, 24/7 customer support and insurance coverage for renters, boat owners and captains.

Jackie headshot“This acquisition now makes us the No. 1 peer-to-peer boat rental community in the United States hands down,” said Jaclyn Baumgarten, CEO and co-founder of Boatsetter, who wouldn’t disclose terms of the deal. “It means about 5,000 quality vessels ready to be rented, it brings us 1,500 U.S. coastguard licensed captains, it will mean about 10,000 transactions between the companies in 2017 and it brings us 300 locations.”

Baumgarten said the acquisition particularly expands Boatsetter’s inventory in Chicago, Los Angeles, Seattle and Washington, DC.

“Additionally, we will be getting some great new talent from the Boatbound team, and we will be relocating them and the entire Seattle office to South Florida with us – a true Miami startup expansion,” said Baumgarten, in an interview with the Miami Herald on Wednesday. Boatsetter’s team will grow to 27 employees.

While accelerating operations in the U.S. five-fold is the goal for 2017, Baumgarten said, the acquisition and additional funding will also help fuel Boatsetter’s international expansion in 2018. Boatsetter plans to focus first on the Caribbean and Mediterranean, driving demand through global partnerships. It already has “phenomenal boats” in Bali, Ibiza, Mexico and South Africa, she said.

“This market is ripe for consolidation and I believe we are strongly positioned to lead that consolidation,” Baumgarten said. “We worked with a third-party investment bank and they value the peer-to-peer and charter business at $50 billion that we expect in the years to come to grow to $100 billion. That’s a huge opportunity and we are primed to lead a rollup strategy over the years to come globally.”

To that end, Boatsetter extended its Series A round, adding $4.75 million in funding to the $13 million the company raised in December. Key investors of the most recent round include Nordic Eye Venture Capital and the Miami-based TheVentureCity.

Laura Gonzalez-Estefani, co-founder of the TheVentureCity, which acts as an incubator for international-focused high-growth startups, said it’s the “super-driven” CEO and Boatsetter team, their data-driven approach to growth, international strategy and local expertise that attracted TheVentureCity as an investor. “The numbers are astounding in terms of engagement rates, their expansion plans are very interesting in the U.S. but also in Europe and we hope we can help them,” she said.

The young boat-sharing industry began making waves in South Florida in 2013.

That year, Boatbound entered the market in Miami, setting up a small office in Key Biscayne and developing a local network of boats. Boat-sharing was just getting started then, and rival Cruzin, led by Baumgarten, had also put down stakes in South Florida, too. As other rivals such as Sailo began expanding into the market, several locally based startups were developing, including Boatsetter, led by South Florida marine industry veteran and serial entrepreneur Andrew Sturner. Boatsetter and San Francisco based Cruzin merged in 2015, and Baumgarten became the CEO of the combined company. Sturner is executive chairman.

As the industry has matured and consolidated, locally based technology companies serving niches of the boat rental and sales industry have emerged here too, such as YachtLife serving the highest end of the market and Boatyard to handle boat-sharing related management and maintenance tasks for the owners. Meanwhile, a large online boat-sales marketplace, Boats Group, relocated its headquarters to Miami this year.

This summer, Boatsetter began offering uniquely curated experiences through the Airbnb platform in Miami, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Barcelona, Baumgarten said. In Miami, the experiences range from watersports trips, experiences for fishing fanatics and luxury excursions with full course meals.

“We’ve taken boating from being a rare pastime for a fortunate few boat owners to being a universally accessible lifestyle activity for anyone with a smartphone and a credit card,” Baumgarten said in an earlier interview.

Nancy Dahlberg: @ndahlberg

June 12, 2017

Facebook alum pulls back curtain on TheVentureCity, to be based in Miami

Newcity

By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

Former executives of Facebook, Google, eBay and other hyper-growth companies have come together to form a global “city” with everything a startup needs to scale internationally.

Laura headshotCo-founding the unique venture, called TheVentureCity, is Laura González-Estéfani (pictured here), former director of international business development and mobile partnerships for Facebook, and Clara Bullrich, a 20-year private banking and asset management veteran. They call it an accelerator for the global tech ecosystem.

With an “international-first” approach, the accelerator will create cross-functional bridges between key regions to scale startups on a global level, González-Estéfani said. The headquarters of TheVentureCity will be in Miami Beach, currently in the 1111 building off Lincoln Road, with a second campus in Madrid and a presence in San Francisco, with plans to expand into a number of cities worldwide by 2020, González-Estéfani she said.

“All my team has worked all over the world, they have all spent years working outside their countries of origin,” González-Estéfani said, in an interview last week. “When we see a startup that has all the right bones, we will advise where to scale first and how the product needs to be tailored for those companies.”

In addition to the international focus, the all-in-one approach for startup needs and consistent support is what will set TheVentureCity apart, said González-Estéfani, who is a native of Spain. “While others provide entrepreneurs with the initial tools to get them started, TheVentureCity is our response to the need for a solution that offers startups everything from engineering and product optimization to data analysis, guiding them throughout the entire process.”

To be considered for either theVentureCity’s 36-month incubator or 18-month accelerator program, startups that can be in any place in the world must demonstrate at least a six-month track record and solid numbers on growth and engagement metrics, not necessarily revenue. Using a data-driven approach, TheVentureCity builds on that foundation of solid data to help them make the best business decisions to achieve long-term growth. “We aren’t afraid of working with international-first companies all over the world, we just have to fall in love with the founders,” she said.

About 25 startups a year from all over the world will be selected to enter the “factory” each year. Other parts of the “city” include the “data library,” the heart of the city, the airport for internationalization, the laboratory for the product engineering and the bank for venture capital. TheVentureCity will help startups with their funding strategy and tapping into funding resources, she said.

TheVentureCity will be paid in startup equity as the partnership progresses, González-Estéfani said.

Directing the Miami campus will be Elisa Rodriguez-Vila, who formerly worked at Fusión and was part of the co-founding team at The LAB Miami. TheVentureCity is already working with 15 startups, including Boatsetter, Playground, The Fastmind and RecargaPay from South Florida.

TheVentureCity has forged partnerships with a number of entitities including Beacon Council, Startupbootcamp, Venture Café and Facebook on the local level. She said TheVentureCity has been working with Miami Dade College on a two-year degree in entrepreneurship and innovation, for instance. “We make things happen, we are not afraid of taking risks,” González-Estéfani said. “That is the mindset we want to bring here and we are learning everyday from the pioneers and we want to partner with them.”

González-Estéfani came to Miami 2 1/2 years ago with Facebook; she also worked in Facebook’s operations in Silicon Valley and Europe from 2008 to 2014. Before that she worked at eBay, Siemans and Ogilvy.

Upon arrival from Silicon Valley she noticed something quickly: a welcoming community.

“The Medinas [Manny Medina, founder of eMerger Americas] opened the door to their home to us. That is something I have never seen before in Business. "They introduced me to to everything that was happening here. That soul, that spirit, is something that I have never seen anywhere else. Everyone they introduced me to, the Knight Foundation, the Endeavor family, everyone was the same way,” González-Estéfani said.

“There must be something in the water in Miami that makes everyone so welcoming and so enthusiastic about the unknown. I found that willingness to take a risk. Hopefully I can contribute with my team to help make this one of the most exciting and vibrant ecosystems in tech around the world.”
González-Estéfani will be giving a talk about TheVentureCity at eMerge Americas at Miami Beach Convention Center on Tuesday.

Nancy Dahlberg: @ndahlberg.

May 06, 2017

Zuke Music was $10K winner at Babson WIN Lab finale event

Zuke

Babson College’s Women Innovating Now (WIN) Lab celebrated its inaugural cohort’s completion of the eight-month Miami program on April 25, with over 250 guests at The Jewel Box at the National YoungArts Foundation headquarters. The WIN Lab® expanded into Miami in 2016 with the support of The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and corporate sponsors including Akerman LLP.

WIN Lab Miami’s Director Carolina Pina led the evening’s progression stating, “We are determined to impact the existing growth gap in the city; Miami ranks No. 2 in entrepreneurial activity but No. 38 in growth. By having more scalable businesses run and led by women, we’re hoping investors will be more willing to invest in them so we can also contribute to narrowing the funding gap.”

Matt Haggman, Knight Foundation Miami Program Director, added, “We’re trying to build a community that’s unlike any other. Innovation is built on a diversity of ideas and people.”

Haggman was one of three representatives judging WIN Lab Miami’s grand prize pitch session, with $17,500 in prizes sponsored by FedEx. For the pitch, three cohort companies who exceptionally leveraged the venture accelerator’s resources were given five minutes each to share their business vision in hopes of winning the grand prize.

Arielle Cohen’s Zuke Music—a digital networking platform for music industry professionals—took home the evening’s top honor of $10,000. (pictured above)

Kelly Pierce’s PIERCE Plan—a NCAA standards tracking software program—landed second place and $5,000.

Jessica Do’s Palmpress Coffee—a personal craft coffee maker for hot coffee and cold brew—earned third place and $2,500.

The accelerator is currently accepting applications for its second cohort, which has been extended until May 19. WIN LAB Miami applications can be found at www.thewinlab.org/apply.

- submitted by WIN LAB MIaimi

May 04, 2017

How a 305 native became 'Crowdsourceress'

Hear Alex Daly read from her new book and share tips about crowdfunding at Books & Books on Friday.

Alexdaly

By Alex Daly

I grew up in Miami in the 1980s and ’90s, long before the invention of crowdfunding as we know it. My dad owned a company that created anti–money laundering software for banks and financial institutions, and my mom had her own company doing marketing for radio and television stations. Through my parents, I learned the value of hard work, which pushed me from job to job through different New York boroughs until I found my life’s work.

I never thought I’d be the industry’s “Crowdsourceress,” an expert in the field of crowdfunding. It wasn’t like I had a guidance counselor in college telling me I was perfectly suited to the role of “Kickstarter campaign manager.” And yet, just three years ago, I launched my company Vann Alexandra from my kitchen table in Brooklyn –– a creative services agency that helps clients raise money for their creative projects through crowdfunding. Since then, my team and I have managed over 50 crowdfunding campaigns across the design, technology, film, music, and publishing categories, raising over $20 million dollars for our clients from close to 100,000 backers worldwide.

The road here, like any entrepreneurial journey, was full of bumps and twists and turns. After college, I worked as a fact-checker for New York and WSJ. magazines. Then I tried my hand at film and worked as a production manager at a boutique documentary production company. My role included managing a team, working on several documentary projects, and writing lots of grants to raise money for these projects. Grant after grant after grant. So many grants. I was beginning to think this wasn’t the kind of work I wanted to be doing. 

Then one day an office mate I barely knew who was trying to raise money for his documentary asked me what I knew about Kickstarter. 

The short answer? Pretty much nothing. Still, I told him I was game to help. 

We planned the campaign on our lunch breaks and after work. Really, I knew almost nothing. I remember having to Google how to write a press release. But we worked really hard and launched a stellar project. When we went live on Kickstarter, we discovered there was a passionate audience who responded to our campaign and lept on board as backers. Meanwhile, we worked around the clock sending personal emails to friends and family and pitching press to cover the project. By the last day of the 30-day campaign, we surpassed our $35,000 goal by more than 150%, raising over $80,000.

I was immediately hooked. I managed another documentary campaign, and another. Both were successful. As word got out about my success rate, more creatives started coming to me for campaign management, and that’s around that time I was named the “Crowdsourceress” by the press. 

A big part of my job was connecting meaningfully with my clients, and gaining their trust by leveraging — or at least projecting — my growing expertise. I had to figure out what the essence of the project was so that I could talk about it effectively to potential backers. Then I had to frame the campaign pitch for those people — who were sitting at home online or swiping away on their phones — in a way that was so compelling that they couldn’t ignore it. I needed to give backers a feeling of real investment in these campaigns, and a sense that they were going to feel good about their donation. Over time, I was getting better and better at what I was doing.

Then one day, just two years after my first campaign, I got a text from my friend about handling a huge Kickstarter. The product was a high-resolution digital music device called the PonoPlayer, and the client was Neil Young. Yes, that Neil Young. 

I got the job and had to start immediately because the campaign was launching in just over a week. Then, for 35 days I managed Pono’s Kickstarter and helped them raise a whopping $6.2 million. At the time, it was the third highest funded Kickstarter project ever. 

It was after the Pono campaign wrapped that I finally realized it was time to launch a full-time, full-service agency. Since then, we have managed incredibly campaigns like the NYCTA and NASA Graphics Standards Manual reissues, TLC’s final album, the Joan Didion documentaryEric Ries’ Leader’s Guide, the Maya Angelou DocumentaryMakerarmBellingcat, the Today Clock, and many more. 

Now, I'm thrilled to share both my journey and top crowdfunding tips in my new book: The Crowdsourceress: Get Smart, Get Funded, and Kickstart Your Next Big Idea. This book will give you the tools not only to run your own successful crowdfunding campaigns, but also to build, launch, and grow your brand and your business. 

I will be reading and signing The Crowdsourceress at Books & Books in Coral Gables on Friday, May 5 at 7:00 pm. I hope to see you there!

Alex is the founder of Vann Alexandra and the industry’s “Crowdsourceress." Alex has shared her expertise at top film festivals, universities, and organizations, and is in the class of 2016’s Forbes 30 under 30.  

Find information on her book here: www.thecrowdsourceress.com

Find information on the Books & Books event here:

https://www.eventbrite.com/e/the-crowdsourceress-book-reading-and-signing-cinco-de-mayo-party-tickets 

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