February 26, 2015

I Hacked Miami was the spark, but civic open-data projects need your input

By Maggie Diaz-Vera / @codeformiami

Code for Miami is setting the tone for civic hacking and community engagement in South Florida. With help from The Knight Foundation, Code for Miami and Miami Ad School hosted I <Hacked> Miami last Saturday, a Code Across 2015 hackathon coinciding with events from around the world hosted by Code for America brigades. Miami brigade members used human-centered design to create applications that would allow residents to gain easy access to public data.

Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos A. Gimenez launched Miami-Dade County’s open data portal to kick-off the event. The Mayor commented on the future of technology in Miami-Dade, “we cannot attract innovators without being innovative ourselves.” The portal provides free, up-to-date access to public data on civic services, geographic information, building permits, and employee salaries. The portal will continue to be updated with additional data over time.

Gimenez

The goal of the hackathon, and Code for Miami, is to engage residents in creating applications for the community. "What is cool is that citizens feel like they have a stake in building the government they want," shared brigade co-captain Rebekah Monson. Hackathon participants joined to create tools that will help residents make informed decisions about the community they live in and apply it to their own personal and business goals.

The hackathon focused on 3 major projects:

Miami Answers is a platform to answer frequently asked community questions in regards to public services. The questions and answers were written by volunteers in a casual and friendly voice so that it could easily be followed and understood by everyone.

                     Awesomest Mentor: Elizabeth

                     Awesomest Team: Miami Answers

https://twitter.com/urbanlayers/status/569229292128890880

Public services were also the focus for Open 211, a technical project to format sample data provided by Switchboard Miami so that it can be easily pulled by developers for future applications.

                     The “Dale” Award: Bryce

                     Awesomest N00b: Walter

                     Awesomest Project: Open 211

https://twitter.com/TheCodeCrimson/status/569258480525316096

Open311 utilizes the newly open Miami-Dade data portal to display county information so that it can be easily interpreted and analyzed. Through visualization and data mapping, citizens and government officials will be able to efficiently identify trends and gain insights on how and where resources are being allocated.

The data was used to create visualizations such as: Map of Reported Dog Bites by Volume; Flood Zones Map; Evacuation Centers by distance and animal acceptance

Residents like you are needed to user-test these apps and give feedback to complete the projects. Join Code for Miami at 7PM on Monday nights at LAB Miami in Wynwood to share ideas and develop these applications further.

 

Women's specialty shoewear startup receives seed funding

Sensational Soles,  a Boca Raton startup online retailer of specialty women’s footwear,  closed on an early-stage financing round of  debt and equity totaling $635,000. The funding will be used to increase inventory and designs and enter new markets.

Sensational Soles was founded last June to meet the needs and growing demand for affordable, quality, women’s footwear in sizes 11 – 14, incorporating styles and construction methods designed to minimize the appearance of a larger foot while providing extraordinary support and comfort, said Sensational Soles CEO Lisa Taylor in a news release. The company has developed and created a proprietary line of custom footwear after spending the past year developing its designs and supply chain.  The company recently began offering its collection via its retail website at www.sensationalsoles.com.

Michael Stango, Regional Marketing Director with Lincoln Financial Group, will join the company’s Board of Managers, and Brian Wornow, formerly a Managing Director at Morgan Stanley, will become an advisor to the company in conjunction with this financing. “With this new round of funding, Sensational Soles will be able to accelerate its rapid growth and have the capital needed to meet the company’s projected demand,” said Stango.

 

MIA Music Summit, HackDay out to help make Miami a hotbed for digital music startups

Hackday

Shown above, last year's MIA Music HackDay in progress at The LAB Miami,  and below, when the winners, Erik Mendelson and Brandon West, were announced at the MIA Music Summit for their app to  make your own remix.

Hackday2

By Demian Bellumio

DemianOn March 26th, 2015, with the support of the Knight Foundation, the MIA Music Summit will once again bring together some of the world’s leading digital music experts to discuss the future of this fast-growing industry.  More importantly, we will continue to explore how Miami can become an ideal location for creating and growing digital music startups.  

As a city, we have a rich music history that includes musical legends like The Beatles, Bee Gees and Bob Marley, and which today is home to top record labels, music executives, artists, festivals, media companies and even some globally recognized digital music startups, such as Choose Digital, Batanga Media, F# and Senzari, the startup I lead from this city.

The event will gather approximately 400 attendees at the classic Colony Theater on the same day that Miami Beach turns 100 years old, which is no coincidence.  Music will be front-and-center at the Miami Beach Centennial celebration, where maestro Rudy Perez will be coordinating performances from over two dozen musical artists, including global stars  Andrea Bocelli, Gloria Estefan and Flo Rida, as well as hot local acts, such as Raquel Sofia and Afrobeta.  In addition, that same week, Miami is host to the Winter Music Conference and the Ultra Music Festival, so there will be no better time to celebrate Miami’s music scene.

As in 2014, we have an amazing line up of musical guests and industry experts that are coming to Miami from all corners of the world to share their insights and experiences.  On the artistic side, we are very excited that we will have as panelist and musical guest Ryan Leslie, who recently spoke and performed DLD in Munich, as well as Sony Music’s rising local artist Raquel Sofia, and Guti Talavera, as the resident DJ for the event.

From a corporate standpoint, we will have global industry leaders 8tracks, Havas Sports & Entertainment, Atom Factory and Qualcomm, among many others, who will be joined by disruptive startups like Jukely, Splice and JustGo.com.  We will cover topics such as branding and music, investing in music startups, artist and music marketing in the digital age, Big Data techniques for music, and many other relevant themes of great importance to anyone dealing with musical content, including artists, songwriters, record executives, entrepreneurs, advertisers, ad agencies, artist managers, broadcasters and investors.  For example, to provide attendees with in-depth analysis of the major market trends, we will feature two amazing keynotes by Liv Buli (Next Big Sound) and Robby Towns (EDMTCC), who will present 2014: State of the Industry and The EDM Guide: Technology, Culture, Curation, respectively.

But going back to the our key objective of making Miami a hotbed for digital music startup creation, I’m thrilled to announce today the second edition of the MIA Music HackDay, which will take place the weekend before the MIA Music Summit, on Saturday March 21st and 22nd.  Over the course of the weekend, we will be hosting 50 hackers who will be competing for a chance two win a cash prize and two VIP tickets to attend the 16th Annual Latin GRAMMY Awards and Official After Party in Las Vegas on November 19th!

The event will take place in Miami's newest co-working space, Building.co, and run for 12 consecutive hours each day.   Five teams will be chosen on Sunday evening by a panel of expert judges (based primarily on the technical merits of the hack), to then go on to pitch on the main stage of the MIA Music Summit on Thursday 26th for the grand prize.

This could be the best chance for local developers and entrepreneurs to build the music startup that they have been dreaming about.  And to make it even more exciting, this year’s MIA Music HackDay will be powered by Rokk3r Labs! Therefore, the five finalists won’t have to prepare for the main show by themselves, as they will have expert guidance on how to turn their hacks into disruptive, exponential startups.

During the course of the week, the Rokk3r Labs team will meet with the five teams and introduce them to their proprietary "cobuilding" process, which has been utilized over and over to successfully launch their portfolio companies.  So, fame and fortune will surely follow for the lucky hackers!

“Like other industries, music is seeing a significant disruption via exponential technologies. Rokk3r Labs is excited to provide local entrepreneurs with a unique opportunity to go through our strategic process to inspire, empower and cobuild their ideas to disrupt every aspect of the music industry in a very high-profile way.” explains Nabyl Charania, CEO of Rokk3r Labs.  “It is also a great showcase for Rokk3r Labs’ proven methodology that can be leveraged by the stakeholders of the local music industry, from labels to artists, to launch their disruptive projects in partnership with us.”

Lastly, all team members that finish and pitch their hacks will get a free pass to the MIA Music Summit ($199 value).  And since it’s a "music" HackDay after all, there will be plenty of music throughout the weekend, including cool entertainment both evenings of the event.

It is free to register and capacity is limited, so make sure you register to secure your participation today at www.mms.co

For those interested in attending the MIA Music Summit, the first 50 users to use the code HERALDVIP, will get $50 off the current early-bird price of $149, so act fast! 

 Demian Bellumio is COO of Senzari and a founder and organizer of the MIA Music Summit. 

Read reports on last year's MIA Music Summit here and here.

 

 

February 25, 2015

Miami life science startup attracts $5.5 million in funding for oral cancer system

Vitgilant

Matthew H.J. Kim, who founded Vigilant Biosciences, and serves as the company’s chairman and CEO, is shown with Dr. Elizabeth Franzmann, who is looking at a OncAlert point-of-care test prototype. Vigilant is working on an early detection system for risk of oral cancer. PATRICK FARRELL MIAMI HERALD STAFF

By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

Matthew H.J. Kim, a patent attorney by training, was heart-broken seeing the the suffering and aggressive treatment his mother went through with oral cancer. He also saw first-hand the results of what he calls an inadequate standard of care resulting in most cancers of the mouth not being detected until stage three or four. A mortality rate as high as 50 percent could be cut way back with early detection, he believed.

“I felt helpless and wanted to do more. ... You are fighting great odds by the time you get to that stage,” said Kim, explaining his mother had to lose a portion of her jawbone as part of her treatment.

More than four years ago, Kim began researching technologies in development and found one at the University of Miami. After more research and talking to the scientists there, he began negotiating the license. “In homage to my mother, I executed the license on Mother’s Day of 2011,” he said, and Miami-based Vigilant Biosciences was born.

Since then Vigilant’s products — a point-of-care oral rinse test and a more quantitative lab test that can aid in early detection of risk for oral cancer — have been in development and have passed one of the key regulatory hurdles toward commercialization in Europe. On Tuesday, the company announced it has completed its Series B round of funding, which will pay for commercialization in Europe and the start of the regulatory process in the U.S. this year.

The company’s $5.5 million investment round brings the total amount raised to date to $7.8 million. The financing includes investments by White Owl Capital Partners, venVelo, the Florida Institute for the Commercialization of Public Research and several existing investors, as well as a group of private and angel investors committed to the life sciences.

Specifically, Vigilant will use the funds to drive toward CE Mark approval in Europe and U.S. regulatory approval for its OncAlert Oral Cancer Risk Assessment System. The funds raised will support the international product launch and commercialization of the OncAlert System as well as other products in Vigilant’s pipeline.

“As hundreds of thousands continue to be diagnosed with oral cancer every year, we are committed to providing an accurate, effective and affordable way to aid in the early detection of risk for the disease. This funding will enable us to address this critical market need that has gone unmet for far too long,” said Kim, who founded two other companies and developed a number of medical screening and monitoring systems.

Vigilant’s OncAlert Oral Cancer Risk Assessment System is based on patented technology that detects specific protein markers known to indicate an elevated risk for oral cancer, even prior to the observation of visual or physical symptoms. The simple, oral rinse procedure is easy to administer during a dental checkup and non-invasive for the patient, the company said. Both the rapid point-of-care test and the more extensive lab assay that comprise the OncAlert Oral Cancer Risk Assessment System could be on the market in Europe by mid-year. 

“Together, it will be a very effective early detection system for the risk of oral cancer. Our test is a very simple and elegant solution that can be easily integrated into the standard of care,” said Kim. While his mother is now five years cancer free, others aren’t so lucky. “We are now focused on oral cancer but we believe the technology has promise for other cancers,” said Kim.

According to the World Health Organization, there are more than 600,000 new cases of head and neck cancer and 300,000 deaths each year worldwide. Currently, the vast majority of patients are detected through a visual exam and/or are symptomatic, at which point they are likely late stage. As a result, oral cancer often goes undetected to the point of metastasizing. Early diagnosis of oral cancer results in a cure rate of up to 90 percent, the company said.

Dr. Elizabeth Franzmann, an associate professor of otolaryngology at the University of Miami’s Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center, is scientific founder and chief scientific officer of Vigilant. Her clinical research on selective salivary biomarkers for head and neck squamous cell carcinoma serves as the foundation for the company’s initial product. The company last week added a vice president of global sales and marketing to the team.

Vigilant, now a team of 10, received support and mentorship from the U Innovation team, led by Norma Kenyon, chief innovation officer at the UM Miller School of Medicine. U Innovation also connected Vigilant with the Florida Institute for the Commercialization of Public Research, which provided the company’s initial seed funding of $300,000 that served as a catalyst to attract more seed capital.

The Institute invested another $200,000 in the Series B round, and like U Innovation, it helped with introductions and access to resources, Kim said.

“Matthew started the company to address the lack of good diagnostics for oral cancer, a disease that both of his parents suffered from,” said Jane Teague, chief operating officer of the Institute. “Vigilant exemplifies what programs like ours are all about, providing seed funding to early-stage companies to bridge the gap until they qualify for and can attract later-stage financing.”

Follow Nancy Dahlberg on Twitter @ndahlberg.

Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/news/business/article11095052.html#storylink=cpy

February 24, 2015

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

Coinspire

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 

Magic Leap's Rony Abovitz on starting a company: Don't do it if it's not rocking, if it's not awesome

  Rony2

By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com 

Rony Abovitz, CEO of the mysterious Magic Leap startup, returned to his alma mater, the University of Miami, to share some secrets of entrepreneurial  success -- and just a very few snippets about the company he is currently building.

"There's a whole mystery to what Magic Leap does and I hope half the room isn't here to find that out because I am not really going to unveil it," he told the group of about 250 gathered at the UM Newman Alumni Center for the College of Engineering's Entrepreneurship Forum, part of its Engineering Week events. Instead he talked about pivotal moments in his career of starting companies, including a couple that will no doubt become part of Magic Leap lore, and what he has learned about being a leader.

Magic Leap, founded in 2011 and  based in Dania Beach, is developing "Cinematic Reality" backed with an eye-popping $542 million  from Google and venture capitalists, the third largest fund-raising round of the year last year. "I still go holy crap, I still can't really believe it," he said of the round. The company is now valued at about $2 billion. 

One of the first articles that have begun to explain the technology was published this month in the MIT Technology Review. Said the writer, Rachel Metz, who tried an early prototype of the technology: "It’s safe to say Magic Leap has a tiny projector that shines light onto a transparent lens, which deflects the light onto the retina. That pattern of light blends in so well with the light you’re receiving from the real world that to your visual cortex, artificial objects are nearly indistinguishable from actual objects."

Metz said the company is aiming to fit its technology into a "glasses-like wearable device" and that, according to Abovitz, the technology  "is not far away." He may share a few more details with the world today: Abovitz is hosting a Reddit AMA (Ask Me Anything) at 2 p.m. EST.   (Update: read it here)

The fast-growing Magic Leap is approaching "a few hundred" employees spread between Dania and Mountain View, Calif., as well as New Zealand and London, Abovitz said in a short interview before the UM talk. Abovitz said he would like to base 80 percent of the company in South Florida.

He also said in the interview he wants to help South Florida grow a technology community and would like to see UM become a Stanford of the South. Abovitz earned his engineering bachelor's and master's degrees at UM in the mid-90s and was in one of the university's first biomedical engineering programs, which he credits with stirring his interest in developing technology for the human body. Before starting Magic Leap, Abovitz was co-founder of Mako Surgical, the South Florida medical robotics company that sold for $1.65 billion to Stryker in 2013.

Abovitz believes in the next five years augmented reality technology will become widely adopted. But what sets  Magic Leap apart from its competitors is how it works with the body rather than against it, he said before the talk. "No one else is doing that.... Put the body first and engineer around it... All computing will be biomedical going forward."

 In the talk at UM, Abovitz shared some of the defining moments of his career. For instance, one day after receiving good news about funding for the robotics company, Sept. 11, 2001 happened. Another one: Going public in 2008.

During both times, the world was ending but the team kept going. In 2001, after his investors pulled out, that meant taking a van around the country, prototype robot in the back, and not coming back until the company secured funding. In 2008, Mako was known as that crazy team trying to go public during the Great Recession.  These are the times you learn what you are made of, he said.

But these defining moments also included the first time a Mako robot was used in a surgery on a human.  "That was one of the greatest moments of my life," he said of the successful surgery in a Fort Lauderdale hospital in 2006.

There have already been a few pivotal moments in the Magic Leap story, too. Abovitz said a trip with music industry mogul Chris Blackwell to Blackwell’s GoldenEye resort in Jamaica in 2011 helped to ferment Abovitz’s idea for Magic Leap. He loved being out in the environment, not staring into the phone, and realized computing had to change. “That’s where the world becomes your new desktop. … We shouldn’t bend to technology, technology should bend to us.”

 Four days after Magic Leap received the "serious capital" from Google and other investors,  Google executive Alan Eustace parachuted a record-setting 135,000+ feet from a balloon near the top of the stratosphere. Eustace had spent time in Magic Leap in May, and was one of the engineers who pushed for the funding. That was a message too: "For cool things to happen, you have to get out of your comfort zone," said Abovitz, who  took up his own challenge of becoming a javelin thrower on the UM team during his college years.

"When you are doing something neat and you’re doing it with neat people and there is that convergence, something amazing will happen," he said. "If you really want to change the world, you have to have that attitude."

On leadership, he told the engineering students and alumni, you have to be bold. "It's little like jumping off a cliff with your backpack, a bag of parts and you are building the plane wings and engine  on your way down.... You also have to be insanely tough, you'll get pummeled over and over again and you have to keep getting back up. ... And you have to attract a team that is freaking smart."

Creativity and finding a counter-balance play a big role too -- it's why he was a cartoonist for the school newspaper during his UM years and now plays in a band, Sparkydog & Friends. But he told the students the most important thing to learn is teamwork. "Starting a company is like doing 100 Iron Mans [competitions] in a row," he said. And while it requires endurance and mental toughness, have fun. "Don't do it if it is not rocking, if it's not awesome."

And don't take yourself too seriously, said Abovitz, who once gave a TED talk dressed as an astronaut.

Posted Feb. 24, 2015 

February 23, 2015

UHack: and the winners were....

 

Uhack1For the third straight year, the University of Miami hosted UHack, a 24-hour technology competition that brought together some of the brightest, most tech-savvy students in South Florida. Participants were asked to use their technical acumen to “hack for a better U,” focusing on building projects for the benefit of improving one’s lifestyle.  The hackathon was also part of Major League Hacking (MLH) powered by Dell and Intel and students participating earned valuable points for their schools and improved chances to win an MLH Spring Semester championship.

And the winners were:

1st-Place: "Xenfit"

http://challengepost.com/software/xenfit-trainer

Brian Hans

Zohaib Khan

Vinay Chitepu

Ivan Leonov

Description:- Used a Zensah Armband, organic wires, Arduino Processor, and LCD to count the number of reps one would do when working. Fully functional & wearable.

 

2nd-Place: "Firnet.io LCC" - University of Miami

http://challengepost.com/software/fitnet-io

Cameron Philips

Arsalan Mohammad

James Callado

Matt Ross

Description: "Internet of Things" device uses a Zensah Armband, Arduino Microprocessor, and a heart detector to calculate sweat produced, muscles used, and time exercised to be sent to a database, where the information can be posted on social media & track the time one exercised

3rd-Place: "Icebreaker" - Florida Polytechnic University

Jacob Chen

Henry Chao

James Amodie

Britt Mathis

Description: "Pivotal social interactions as pure human engagement through localization. Find a stranger to talk to by locality using Blue-tooth technology. We will provide you the "ice-breaker". Engage your social gear."

 

Uhack2

 

Posted Feb. 23, 2015

 

Singularity University opens competition in Miami to address sea-level rise

New%20skyline

 Hector Gabino El Nuevo Herald

According to research on Virginia Key by the University of Miami’s Department of Atmospheric Sciences, sea levels on Miami’s coast have risen 3.7 inches since 1996, and the rate of increase has been accelerating. If the rate of sea rise over the last five years holds steady for the next 50 years – and indications are it could rise faster – high tide levels in Miami would go up over five feet, leading to high risks of flooding and saltwater intrusion.

With the clock ticking, Silicon Valley’s Singularity University, a teaching organization and accelerator, launched its Global Impact Competition in Miami on Monday calling on innovators to find solutions for South Florida’s sea-level rise by using technology, The competition is supported by $70,000 from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

Two winners will receive full tuition to Singularity University’s 10-week Graduate Studies Program in Mountain View, Calif., this summer where they will work in teams with participants from around the world. The competition is open to all U.S. residents, but ideas must focus on of sea-level rise in South Florida. Applications can be submitted online until April 17. Shortlisted applicants will be invited to pitch their ideas during the closing event hosted in Miami. To apply, visit global.singularityu.org/miami/gic/.

"The Global Impact Competition offers Miami tech innovators and entrepreneurs a unique opportunity — inviting them to address a local challenge on an international stage," said Matt Haggman, Knight Foundation program director for Miami. "The hope is that the competition will help forge new connections between Miami entrepreneurs and their counterparts across the globe, while helping to build the city’s network of innovators and problem-solvers so they can work together to address pressing community concerns."

Singularity’s Global Impact Competitions help identify promising innovators and connect them with mentorship opportunities and training, and after the program participants return to their communities and continue work to implement their ideas. "Sea-level rise poses a real threat to the future of Miami," said Rob Nail, associate founder and CEO of Singularity University. "We look forward to hearing from the innovators who are working to address this problem with technology and to connecting them with changemakers everywhere."

This program is one of a number of initiatives launched recently that call for innovators to solve South Florida’s environmental challenges. Last week, the nonprofit CappSci and the Patricia and Phillip Frost Museum of Science teamed up to offer a $1 million prize program to attract environmental and health solutions; one of its first challenges is coral reef restoration. Last fall, the Everglades Foundation announced a $10 million prize for a solution to the chronic problem of phosphorous pollution that has sickened the Everglades and coastal estuaries.

Follow Nancy Dahlberg on Twitter @ndahlberg.

February 22, 2015

Entrepreneurship Datebook: Black Tech Week, expo, more

TecheggBLACK TECH WEEK: A weeklong series of events celebrating innovators of color and tech innovation, with speakers from around the globe, Monday through Saturday, Feb. 23-28, Miami Dade College North Campus. A two-day summit, pitch contests, Hours of Code at local schools, mentor meetups and a hackathon are planned. The week's activities open at 5 p.m. Monday with a Pitch Competition at EcoTech Visions; the winner will receive a $1,000 grant. Full schedule and tickets at blacktechweek.com

GCVCA EXPO 2015: The Gold Coast Venture Capital Association’s annual Expo will feature 30 Florida startups as well as two panel discussions, 4-9 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 24, Embassy Suites Boca Raton. More info: gcvca.org

BRAINFOOD: The Brainfood series presents Jim McKelvey, co-founder of Square and his nonprofit LaunchCode, 6:30- 8:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 26, The LAB Miami, 400 NW 26th St. More info: thelabmiami.com

REFRESH MIAMI: Brian Brackeen, CEO of Kairos, to speak on “The Raw Truth: a Startup Story” and host a Q&A session, 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 26, Patricia and Phillip Frost Museum of Science, 3280 S. Miami Ave., Miami. More info: refreshmiami.com

STARTING GATE

Hialeah-based Entopsis received seed funding from Krillion Ventures and other partners; LoopPay, a mobile wallet technology developed in Miami Beach, is sold to Samsung; Wevorce, for "amicable divorce, expands to Miami; and the Patricia and Phillip Frost Museum of Science announced a $1 million innovator-in-residence program. Find more startup news and views on the Starting Gate blog on MiamiHerald.com/business.

Nancy Dahlberg @ndahlberg

Posted Feb. 22, 2015

February 21, 2015

Business Plan Bootcamp: Focus, share, test, learn

 

 

By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

Focus on customer experience first. Share your idea widely to gain valuable feedback. Start building your network and never stop learning.

A panel of serial entrepreneurs and investors — most were both — shared that advice and more with 325 attendees at the Miami Herald’s Business Plan Bootcamp Wednesday night at Miami Dade College. The bootcamp was held in conjunction with the

2015 Business Plan Challenge, the Miami Herald’s annual entrepreneurship contest that is open for entries until March 16.

Panelists included Melissa Krinzman, co-founder of Krillion Ventures; Steven McKean, serial tech entrepreneur and startup advisor; Benoit Wirz, director of venture investments for the Knight Foundation; Leandro Finol, executive director of Miami Dade College’s Idea Center; and Adam Smith, partner at Medina Capital.

What do they look for when they are reviewing business plans?

"What’s the problem you are trying to solve but also how do you know it is a real problem, what’s the evidence?" Wirz said. "What is it about you, specifically the team, that makes me believe you can solve that problem? As a general rule, the more competitive the space, the more important it is you have a very specific background that gives you an unfair advantage."

Wirz also looks for a plan for how customers find out about your product. "If you have some secret hook, an advantage you can leverage, that’s great," Wirz said. Be sure to show evidence of product-market fit, added McKean.

Krinzman and McKean, veteran Business Plan Challenge judges, also advised paying attention to the storytelling. Said Krinzman: "You have to remember that there is a person reading the plan, and we need to be interested. ... Work hard on your first paragraph and define the problem you are solving: why should we care, why should we keep reading, and do we understand what you are talking about. Share at least your first couple of paragraphs with someone who doesn’t know your business and see if they understand it."

Include financials in your plan, but be realistic and include assumptions. A photo or rendering is good to include, particularly if you are a product company. In live pitches, product demos are effective, Smith said. If you get to the finalist stage of the Challenge, you will be presenting your elevator pitch on video.

Advice on starting a business came pouring out. "If you are small and don’t have a lot of capital, go after a small but growing market and think about world domination later," Finol sad. In selecting your idea, follow your passion and do it because you love it, he said. "Branding is important but focus on user experience first," Finol added. Focus on the why — why should customers tell others to use your products. The branding will evolve."

Wirz said in most cases entrepreneurs shouldn’t be so secretive: "Tell everyone about your idea, and get feedback. The more feedback the stronger your idea will become and the more ready you are to build your business."

If you are a first-time entrepreneur, you can establish some credibility through social proof, said Krinzman. One way to do this: Create a board of advisors of people who believe in you and have credibility in your category or can add value.

When capital raising, do your homework and target investors in your industry or sector, Smith said. It sounds obvious, but the investors said the great majority of emails they receive are not fits. If you do get in the door, "don’t be defensive, you are going to be challenged, and you can’t have all the answers so don’t worry about that," said Smith. "Be engaging and conversational and you will get through it."

Get introduced the right way. Get active on LinkedIn and build your networks, McKean said. It’s a relationships game.

The good news on that front: Thanks to the Knight Foundation and others, South Florida’s entrepreneurial ecosystem has evolved. "It’s an ecosystem that is very open and if you are part of it, opportunities will come to you as well. More doors will open," Finol said.

A not to be missed event, particularly if you are in tech, is the eMerge Americas conference coming up in May. A sampling of other resources mentioned by the panelists (get on their mailing lists): Refresh Miami (refreshmiami.com), the largest meetup group for early stage entrepreneurs; The LAB Miami (thelabmiami.com), a co-working space in Wynwood with many events; and AGP (AGPMiami.com), an active angel network. For companies much further along, there’s Endeavor Miami (endeavormiami.org) providing mentorship and support. Take advantage of local resources and follow the Starting Gate blog (on MiamiHerald.com/business).

Some recommendations on other blogs, books and websites from the panel: The Hard Thing about Hard Things, by Ben Horowitz, Brad Feld’s books on capital raising, blogs by well-known investors such as Fred Wilson (http://avc.com/) and Mark Suster (http://www.bothsidesofthetable.com/); and Eric Reis’ The Lean Startup, particularty if you are a tech company. Pitchenvy.com is an enviable collection of investor decks, and there’s "How to get an investor to say yes," by Adeo Ressi (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3tzef-oKee0).

"Over the winter break I went through "How to Start a Startup" by YCombinator’s Sam Altman (http://startupclass.samaltman.com/). It is free and it is unbelievable," said Finol.

Listen to podcasts. Smith suggests Jason Calacanis’ "This Week in Startups" podcast (http://thisweekinstartups.com), which includes a new series for his Launch incubator with great speakers. Another is "Startup," a series by Gimletmedia (http://gimletmedia.com/show/startup/)

At eMerge Americas last year, Manny Medina interviewed Pitbull; an amazing and enlightening interview worth watching, the panelists said (watch it here).

Just getting started? Finol said the Idea Center, theideacenter.co, offers a workshop on design thinking every month that will help you create, refine, validate and test innovative ideas. After the Bootcamp, he suggested  this template  may also help -- start with the pains and gains sections.

"Find mentors who have been there before to help get you there faster," McKean said. "Your ability to grow a company will be dependent on of how fast you are able to learn. The fastest learning will come from who you surround yourself with."

 

 

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Panelists were Melissa Krinzman, co-founder of Krillion Ventures; Steven McKean, serial tech entrepreneur and startup advisor; Benoit Wirz, director of venture investments for the Knight Foundation; Leandro Finol, executive director of Miami Dade College’s Idea Center; and Adam Smith, partner at Medina Capital.

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Follow Nancy Dahlberg on Twitter @ndahlberg and find rules, tips, a Q&A and other resources for the Business Plan Challenge at MiamiHerald.com/challenge.

Posted Feb. 21, 2015