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30 posts from April 2012

April 30, 2012

View: Venture capital fueling LatAm entrepreneursip

By Boris Hirmas
Special to The Miami Herald

Venture capital has begun playing an increasing role in fueling the Latin American region’s entrepreneurial endeavors.

In its 2011 Scorecard, the Latin American Venture Capital Association estimated that funding for venture capital and private equity deals in Latin America more than doubled from 2009 to 2010, topping $8.1 billion. Of the 12 nations in the region evaluated by the association, Chile, Brazil and Mexico respectively scored highest on a range of criteria that define a favorable investment climate, including political, legal, regulatory, tax and other risk measures.

Latin America (including Central America, Mexico and the Caribbean) is a diverse, dynamic market of nearly 600 million people, almost twice the U.S. and Canadian populations. While the region’s $5.3 trillion 2010 GDP is just a third of those countries’ combined GDP, prospects for the area’s economic growth are bright, due to booming commodity exports and a rising middle class.

A United Nations study revealed that the number of Latin Americans considered “poor” declined from 44 percent of the population in 2002 to 32 percent in 2010. In effect, the region’s market for middle-class consumption grew by 70 million people in just eight years.

For all that progress, Latin American venture capital investing lags behind countries such as the U.S., Europe, Israel and other major economies. That’s partly due to the need for continued entrepreneurship support from governments, financial institutions and regulatory authorities. More fundamentally, however, Latin America’s traditionally risk-adverse business culture must change its mindset to accept failure not as shameful defeat but as the price of eventual success.

Fortunately for the region, signs of entrepreneurship are growing. In a keynote speech at the Americas Venture Capital Conference in Miami last November, serial entrepreneur Wences Casares said that today, when he speaks before university-level business classes in Latin America, the number of students interested in starting their own companies is the highest he’s ever seen.

“Fifteen years ago,” he said, “everyone preferred working for large multinational companies or their governments.”

As founder of two successful online businesses in Latin America, Casares also noted that technology allows startups to flourish with much less capital than more traditional brick-and-mortar businesses. What’s more, Internet-based startups can transcend national boundaries in Latin America, effectively creating pan-regional markets where none existed before.

The Latin American Venture Capital Association has noted that the number of Latin America technology deals funded in the first half of 2011 rose 133 percent versus the year prior to nearly a third of all funded deals, far ahead of any other sector.

Miami serves Latin America as a wellspring of Angel and venture capital funding, thanks to a large expatriate community from the region that understands its history, traditions, culture, challenges and, above all, its potential. Miami’s Angel and venture capital community has much more of a pan-regional view of Latin America’s markets and cross-border business opportunities than in-country investors.

Given this broader perspective, Miami’s Angel and venture capital community can provide Latin American startups with a more nurturing entrepreneurial environment and encouragement that’s free of any national parochialisms that could hinder a new enterprise. For instance, a new venture in Chile aiming to quickly expand to other Latin American countries may receive pushback from its local Chilean investors.

The Miami Angel and venture capital community can also act as intermediaries with venture capitalists in Silicon Valley and elsewhere, providing introductions to Latin American entrepreneurs — along with guidance about navigating the region’s challenging business environment.

That guidance can be vital to winning support in the United States. Latin American entrepreneurs who have traveled to Silicon Valley to pitch venture capitalism there, report a general lack of knowledge about the region. Certainly that’s partly due to the overwhelming number of deals from within the Silicon Valley and elsewhere, where political, legal and regulatory risks are known and stable. After all, venture investing inherently involves high risks, so why add unknowns to the mix?

The answer to that question: Any Latin American entrepreneur making it past the seed stage has already met major challenges posed by their still-maturing Latin American business environment and that entrepreneur has a much greater chances of success. As that environment continues to mature, with risks better known and stabilized, the region itself will become ever more attractive to venture capitalist investments.

Boris Hirmas is the entrepreneur-in-residence at Florida International University’s College of Business Administration’s Eugenio Pino and Family Global Entrepreneurship Center.

Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/2012/04/29/v-print/2774257/venture-capital-fuels-latin-american.html#storylink=cpy

April 27, 2012

GMCC honors Technology Leaders of the Year

The Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce today honored the winners of its sixth annual Technology Leaders of the Year Awards at Jungle Island. The awards luncheon recognized individuals and organizations with extraordinary technological hands-on experience whose management of technology resources and/or technological innovations have made outstanding contributions to their organization and the community. 

The recipients of the Chamber’s Technology Leaders of the Year Awards are (by category):

Technology Student -- Christina Zarrilli is a junior in Florida Atlantic University College of Engineering & Computer Science’s Innovation Leadership Honors Program, majoring in Ocean Engineering. She also works as an active volunteer having logged in more than 4500 hours with the Civil Air Patrol, her church, the university’s Service Learning Board and the Society of Women Engineers.

Technology Student Entrepreneur -- Tyler McIntyre is a junior at the University of Miami. Originally from Philadelphia, he started his application development company out of his dorm room in 2009. He was voted one of Inc. Magazine’s Top College Entrepreneurs due to his early success. Tyler develops applications for desktop, mobile, and web platforms that have been used by more than a million users in 130 countries. His applications have been featured on the front page of iTunes and ranked among the best-selling applications in the App Store.

Technology Project -- The Foram Group is a real estate investment advisory and management company founded in 1978 in Atlanta, Georgia. The Foram Group provides a wealth preservation platform for high net worth families through real estate investment and manages a diversified portfolio of rural and commercial properties in four states. Foram’s services include developing sustainable building practices and the creation of enduring properties, brokerage services, asset and fiduciary services.

Bioscience Company -- Bioheart Inc. is focused on the discovery, development and, subject to regulatory approval, commercialization of autologous cell therapies for the treatment of chronic and acute heart damage and peripheral vascular disease. Bioheart’s product candidates are MyoCell®, MyoCell® SDF-1, LipiCell™ and MyoCath. Founded in 1999, Bioheart owns or holds licenses or sub-licenses to an intellectual property portfolio consisting of approximately 19 patents and 19 patent applications in the United States, and approximately 12 patents and 57 patent applications in foreign countries, all for use in the field of heart muscle regeneration.

Technology Organization -- The Launch Pad at University of Miami, a novel entrepreneurship initiative, helps both students and alumni create and grow enterprises, with a particular focus on the University’s home in South Florida. Currently boasting an active community of 2000+ members, Launch Pad participants have created 75+ new businesses and 165+ new jobs. Locally, The Launch Pad is actively engaged in educating and connecting the tech community through the Launch Pad Tech initiative. In the last year, The Launch Pad has hosted and promoted 12 Refresh Miami events, six Android Developer meetups, a 54-hour Startup Weekend, WordCamp Miami, Super Conf, and the Lean Startup Circle. 

Technology Entrepreneur -- Albert Santalo is President and CEO ofCareCloud. An experienced serial entrepreneur, he founded the company in 2009 with the vision of becoming a healthcare information technology leader focused on eliminating the waste and inefficiency in the healthcare industry. Previously, Albert was founder and chairman of Avisena, a software-enabled revenue cycle management company in the healthcare industry. He led the growth of the firm from $0 to $16 million, increasing revenue an average of 55% per year between 2004 and 2008. He is also the lead inventor and received a U.S. patent for Avisena’s Accounts Receivable Management Methodology. Albert has an MBA from Florida International University and is a member of various industry associations.

Technology Executive -- Fernando Martinez is a veteran healthcare executive and a recognized technology and security expert who has worked for multi-billion dollar organizations serving in executive IT roles. For the last two years, Fernando served as the Vice President and Chief Information Officer for the Jackson Health System in Miami, Florida. Fernando holds graduate and undergraduate degrees in Information Technology with a concentration in IT security and is a doctoral candidate in Educational Leadership. He is an active member of the Dade County Public Schools IT academy program and serves as a fundraiser, mentor and internship sponsor for high school students on an ongoing basis.

Technology Company -- MotionPoint Corp.’s mission is to drive client growth by making it easy to penetrate new markets at home and around the world.  MotionPoint’s technology platform for website translation and globalization makes it easy for clients such as Akamai, Best Buy, Capital One, Delta Air Lines, Estee Lauder, Ford and hundreds of others to generate the greatest return possible from new markets.

April 26, 2012

How does South Florida foster the startup culture?

There is a startup culture brewing in South Florida -- on that the panelists at a Miami Finance Forum breakfast could agree. But a lot of the discussion formed around how does South Florida build on the momentum, taking some lessons from Silicon Valley and other successful ecosystems but at the same time finding its own identity? And how can we unite the assets that we do have -- local universities turning out plenty of students, significant wealth to fund ventures, as well as the area's diversity and cross-cultural connections as the gateway to Latin America -- and foster that growth?

A panel discussion titled, “South Florida’s Start-up Culture: Obstacles and Opportunities for Growth,” with Matt Haggman of Knight Foundation (moderator); Greg Baty of Florida Growth Fund, Steven A. McKean of Acceller, Raul Lamus of New World Angels, Albert Santalo of CareCloud, and Michael Wasserman of H.I.G. Capital, packed the Banker's Club.

Some interesting tidbits:

Steven McKean says South Florida doesn't get enough credit for the companies already here, for instance Citrix. It lacks the big name company, like a Groupon or Facebook, that would help put the region on the map. That said, Miami has to be itself, we are never going to be a Silicon Valley, he says. And we have advantages: The weather is huge, the real estate crash resulting in lower housing prices has helped with recruiting, and the cross-cultural connections are a big plus. "We have to figure out our identity and we have to pool our energy," but he does see a startup culture brewing. He's proudly been basing his fast-growing tech company, Acceller, in the Miami area since 2000. It now employs more than 100.

Greg Baty wishes the regions of the state were known for something. if you look at centers of innovation, he said, they often developed around a regional focus and grew from there. Life sciences and healthcare tech come to mind because our demographics and infrastructure already watching. he also said when a very early stage entrepreneur comes to his fund, he challenges that entrepreneur to find a mentor. "There are a lot of wealthy experienced businessmen living here, retired, been there done that, and they really want to mentor someone, pass on their passion and industry knowlege onto the next generation of entrepreneurs." The Florida Growth Fund in a VC that invests in growth-stage companies with a significant Florida presence in areas such as technology and life sciences.

Michael Wasserman: It's not necessarily a part of the South Florida entrepreneurial mindset yet to get together, share networks and experiences. Fostering relationships with first-time entrepreneurs, for instance students, is absolutely necessary. It's not that it is not happening here, it is, but it's a matter of critical mass. Wasserman and Baty are among a group of VCs volunteering on a government initiative to identify and promote research and tech companies spawning from universities. H.I.G., headquartered in Miami with offices around the world, is a leading private equity and VC firm with $8.5 billion under management.

Albert Santalo: Challenges for South Florida include an isolationist mentality we have to get over. In Silicon Valley, it is ok to fail -- it's a badge of honor. Around here we are very fearful of failing -- we have to develop a culture of risk. He said at some point in the future Carecloud plans to have a fund and an incubator to help young companies. "We'd love to line the city with Carecloud incubated companies that address some aspect of healthcare technology." CareCloud is a healthcare technology company that launched in 2009 and already has more than 100 employees.

Raul Lamus: Noting that of the some 150 angel groups in the biggest angel association, only four are from Florida. He does see a need for more angel groups, like his group, but also earlier stage. "What I think we need is another step before the angel round. It's crawling before walking. When I look at a typical business plan that we receive, many of them have skipped very necessary steps. You see major flaws. The need to me is an accelerator culture, from coaches to mentors, the process." New World Angels, with chapters in South Florida and the Tampa area, invests in early-stage Florida companies.

Brian Breslin, who founded Refresh Miami, which has several thousand members around South Florida and holds monthly meetups, pointed out from the audience that his members would love the opportunity to meet and mingle with the caliber of people at the MFF event and learn from their experience and knowledge. But his members have had trouble getting past their secretaries. He questioned, how can we bring these groups together?

Entrepreneurs, what has been your experience?


April 25, 2012

Entrepreneurs: Who inspires you?


(Photos of Bob Parsons of GoDaddy.com, Richard Branson of The Virgin Group, and Richard St. John of 8 Secrets to Success)

Is there an entrrepeneur who particularly inspires you? A story that keeps you going? Ana Cela Harris, owner of Cela Advisors and a repeat Business Plan Challenge judge for the FIU track, says that when she went back and looked at her own experience in starting her business, she found that listening to other entrepreneur’s stories was the most helpful to her during the most difficult times. Here is her guest post:

Ana Cela HarrisThe best business plans, and thus the best businesses, are driven by passion and conviction; not the desire to make money. And, it’s a good thing too, because it requires a lot of passion and conviction to persevere. And that’s where the stories of other entrepreneurs was the most helpful—they gave me inspiration, and the will to persevere. So, I’d like to refer other entrepreneurs to the entrepreneurs that I found inspiring. Some of their quotes still drive me.

For example, Bob Parsons, the chairman and founder of GoDaddy.com, the largest domain name registrar (who recently entered into a partnership with some private equity partners for $2.25 billion), has a blog, and a poster listing his 16 rules for success. One of my favorites is “When you’re ready to quit, you’re closer than you think.” (Similar to, “it’s always darkest before the dawn” but his example of how close he came to quitting, and is now a huge success, is very inspiring.) His blog can be found at: www.bobparsons.me.

Another entrepreneur who is very inspiring is Richard Branson, the founder and president of The Virgin Group, which has 200 companies across 30 countries, and in the U.S. is probably best known for Virgin Atlantic airline. His blog can be found at: http://www.virgin.com/entrepreneur/blog. His company will even consider ideas for new companies and critique them — all they ask, of course, is a summary business plan similar to the one required in the Business Plan Challenge.

And, lastly, a website that is full of entrepreneurs and their wisdom, is TED-Ideas Worth Spreading (www.ted.com). One of my favorite videos is Richard St. John’s 8 Secrets of Success (http://www.ted.com/talks/richard_st_john_s_8_secrets_of_success.html). I always remember his rule that to be successful you have to “persevere through failure and persevere through CRAP --Criticism, Rejection, Assholes, and Pressure.”

-- Ana Cela Harris

Readers, who do you find inspiring?


April 24, 2012

Keeping the family business growing

Today's guest post was written for the University of Miami School of Business Administration. How do you pass the entrepreneurial mindset to the next generation? Readers, what is your experience?

By Marianna Makri

Makri_headshot_08The skills required to start a business are often very different from the ones required to lead it — and that can be an advantage when a second generation joins the top ranks of a family business. That was the consensus from the members of a panel discussion I hosted on the dynamics of family businesses, called “Keeping It in the Family,” held at the school during Global Entrepreneurship Week, an international initiative aimed at inspiring entrepreneurship.

Three father-son pairs talked about their experiences working side by side in the family business: Rick Tonkinson and his son Steven, of the financial planning and advisory firm Rick Tonkinson & Associates; Arthur Steier and his son Alex, of manufacturer SSI Chusei; and Sandy Goldstein and his son Sean, who expects to graduate this year from the School, of Capsicum Group, a digital forensics, data recovery and technology support company. All three fathers are members of the School’s Entrepreneurship Programs Advisory Board; Steier is chairman.

A key question was: “How do you pass on to your sons the entrepreneurial mind-set that made you so successful?” Rick Tonkinson responded: “As a family business, my mind-set of continuing to build on what we have already achieved over the past 20 years is embedded into the company culture. Passing on my mind-set to move forward, despite the economic conditions, is conveyed by me by Steven through our weekly meetings. We are constantly evolving to another level of efficiency and level of service. It is not having to create something new from scratch, but rather mold what you already have.”

Sandy Goldstein suggested that entrepreneurs of the next generation need to be effective managers and process innovators. He distinguished between two types of entrepreneurs: those who invent something new and change the boundaries of their existing industries, such as Apple founder Steve Jobs, and what he deemed “incremental innovators” like Papa John’s founder John Schnatter, who built his pizza business by refining the process for an existing concept.

Entrepreneurs like Schnatter could be called process improvers or industry hawks. Often, the members of the second generation in a family business must fall into the second category.

Arthur Steier noted that the first-generation entrepreneur may have been motivated by economic need. If so, then it may be difficult to instill that spirit in his children, as that necessity likely doesn’t exist for them. Steier’s conclusion was that entrepreneurs are neither taught nor born; rather, they are created by external forces that ignite an internal drive.

The panelists agreed that while you cannot teach someone to be a visionary, you can certainly help guide the development of an effective leader.

Marianna Makri is an associate professor of management at the University of Miami School of Business Administration. Her areas of expertise include strategic management and entrepreneurship, corporate governance, innovation and technology management, and business policy. She has authored more than twenty book chapters and academic journal articles in top management publications including the Academy of Management Journal, Strategic Management Journal, and Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice.


April 23, 2012

How to rock your elevator pitch -- part 2

Since many entrepreneurs need a polished pitch because they are seeking funding, last year I  interviewed angel and venture capital investors about what they looked for in an elevator pitch. Here were their responses as well as advice they had for entrepreneurs looking for investors:

  Jonathan Kislak, partner of Antares Capital Corporation:

Essential elements: "Make sure to tell us why you are the person who can make this work. Not enthusiasm alone, but track record, too. Why should we trust you to execute the plan? Also, don't confuse a product with a company. VCs are in the business of financing companies. Products are usually best licensed to someone already in the business who has a production and marketing presence."

Mistakes he sees: "Too much attention gets paid to the big market and not enough to exactly who will buy, why they will buy and how you will reach them to get them to buy.''

His advice: "Be realistic. Listen to the feedback you get. If you keep hearing the same thing over and over maybe you need to change your plan. Not every good idea is worthwhile pursuing."

Mike Tomás, president of Astri Group and CEO of Bioheart (and a Business Plan Challenge judge this year):

Essential elements: "Traditional elevator pitches are 30 to 60 seconds. With tenured investors, you do not have that long. Please grab my attention in the first 5 seconds; use a BDP (best demonstrated practice) comparison if you have to [ie, 'My company is the reverse eBay for bankers']. Keep it simple - but lead with the substance and get to the point. Please let me do my own math - tenured investors already think your financials are fractured. "If I'm still listening when you are done, you've got me. Make sure you have an Elevator Pitch Part II ready and on deck."

Mistakes he sees: "Overambitious projections. Launch a browser and fine-tune comps. You will not acquire 10 percent of a billion-dollar market in your first year of operations."

His advice: "Many disagree with me but I firmly believe that in the long run debt is cheaper than equity. If you believe, borrow. Pay your debt and keep your equity."

Barbara Boxer, founder of Women Angels Network:

Essential elements: "Specifics. Has the person been a successful entrepreneur before? And I need to understand how big an idea this business is and how much money it will take, what are the business milestones going to be to get more and more money."

Mistakes she sees: "How much money the entrepreneur needs and what he or she is going to use it for is often left out of pitches."

Her advice: "Have a business plan with an executive summary and financials that has been beta tested and is in its third or fourth version before seeking outside money. "I do not want to see a business idea, I want to see a business that I can invest in."

Ricardo Weisz, board member of New World Angels and founder of Northvest (and a Challenge judge this year):

Essential elements: "A well-rehearsed, fluid delivery of a pitch focused on the product [solution or service], a seasoned management team, the funding need, the pre-money valuation and what the money will be used for. I am impressed when the entrepreneur has taken the time to research me and my area of expertise."

Mistakes he sees: "Too many poorly prepared presentations and too many unrealistic expectations in terms of company valuations and timing of the investments."

His advice: "The process of obtaining outside financing [from a qualified investor] is time consuming, long and frustrating. The entrepreneur needs to research carefully for investors that have an interest and are actively [past 24 months] investing in the space of the product or service that the entrepreneur participates in. The entrepreneur needs to have realistic expectations of the effort and time required to obtain funding and not get easily discouraged. "Take every presentation as a learning experience and an opportunity to hone the presentation further."

See my earlier post here.

 The top six finalists in the Community and FIU tracks of the 14th annual Miami Herald Business Plan Challenge were asked to give their elevator pitches under the bright lights of Miami Herald and FIU studios. All of them are now competing in the Challenge's People's Pick competition. Watch their videos here.

These emerging businesses in South Florida are not necessarily seeking investor money but they are seeking your vote! Please vote early and often through April 30! The winners of each track will be honored in the May 7 edition of Business Monday. 

April 22, 2012

How to rock your elevator pitch

MelissaKrinzmanThe elevator pitch is one of the most important items in an entrepreneur's tool kit. Melissa Krinzman, managing director of Venture Architects, a Business Plan Challenge judge and a University of Miami Launch Pad senior fellow, has led workshops on perfecting your elevator pitch. According to Krinzman, these are must-have components of a tight elevator pitch:

 * An explanation of the problem you are solving for customers

 * Product description

 * Proof that your product rocks

 * Description of your team's relevant experience.

 * Then, end with a call to action, such as, "We are starting meetings with investors next week and would love to show you our demo."

 Susan_Amat_CHALLENGE_mhz_hoSusan Amat, executive director of UM's Launch Pad, director of Startup Florida and a Business Plan Challenge judge, adds these tips:

 * Show your passion!

 * Hook the audience fast. Be clear and succinct from the first sentence.

 * Practice your pitch a lot, with the goal of sounding natural and relaxed.

 * Tailor the pitch to the audience.

The top six finalists in the Community and FIU tracks of the 14th annual Miami Herald Business Plan Challenge were asked to give their elevator pitches under the bright lights of Miami Herald and FIU studios. All of them are now competing in the Challenge's People's Pick competition. Watch their videos here.

For many of them, it was their first attempt at a pitch. Based on the tips from Melissa and Susan above, how did they do? How could they improve?

Support these emerging South Florida businesses and vote early and often through April 30! The winners of each track will be honored in the May 7 edition of Business Monday. 

Tomorrow, I'll share more tips on elevator pitches aimed specifically at hooking investors.

Business Plan Challenge finalists named; vote in People's Pick

Today we unveil the Miami Herald Business Plan Challenge finalists in all three contests, and you get a chance to vote for your favorite plans in the Community and FIU Tracks. The People’s Pick competition, now in its 6th year, is open for voting.
The contestants: The top six finishers in both the Community and FIU Tracks. With just a couple days’ notice, the finalists presented their elevator pitches in Miami Herald and FIU studios on the same day in early April.
To vote, here’s what to do:
Go to this link or click on the vote button on MiamiHerald.com/Challenge (top left). View any of the short videos of the finalists’ elevator pitches. To view the selections in the FIU track, click on the FIU Track tab.
Then scroll down to cast your ballot, voting for one video in each track. You may vote once per day.
Lastly, get out the vote! Give your favorite entrepreneur or team more support by asking your social networks to vote. In previous contests, we’ve had votes from all over the world. Follow along on Twitter with #mhbizplan.
Voting closes at 11:59 p.m. April 30. The business plans with the most votes in each track will be awarded the People’s Pick. The People’s Pick winners and the judges’ selections will be honored in the May 7 Business Monday section celebrating all the winners of the 14th annual Business Plan Challenge, sponsored by FIU’s Pino Global Entrepreneurship Center.

 In the People’s Pick competition, the finalists are:
Community Track
* Abilene Alliance, by Dr. Felix A. de la Iglesia, Gary L.W.G. Robinson and Terence M. Dolak. Team’s mission is to develop and commercialize a group of custom-designed, multi-functional small molecules to treat Parkinson’s Disease.
* Agape Marine Ventures, by Barbara Wooden. By growing fish from eggs to maturity in cages 80 feet below the ocean’s surface, AMV aims to deliver fish that are free from mercury and contaminants and grown in an environmentally sound manner.
Blend Craft Wines, by Jeffrey Maltzman. Company creates a winery onboard a cruise ship — giving guests unique, interactive behind-the-scenes winery experiences while generating additional onboard revenue for cruise lines.
Medivantix, by Eduardo J. Garcia. Company aims to empower the healthcare consumer to make better-educated decisions and seeks to become a national resource for both consumers and professionals, through a variety of products and services.
My Cup of Cake, by Sharon Tracy. A Sprinkle and a Dash’s first product is My Cup of Cake, a restaurant-quality Belgian chocolate soufflé that can be made in under three minutes in its own ceramic cup. More flavors are on the way.
WedWu, by Darren Atinsky. WedWu’s “Name-Your-Own-Price” format allows brides and grooms to shop, bid and book services. Once a reasonable offer is accepted, WedWu selects from a pool of pre-qualified vendors.
FIU Track
* Algebra Express, by Natalie Paul. Company would provide online and mobile learning instruction in algebra and geometry, customized for the individual learner, more affordably and conveniently than personal tutoring.
BidThatProject, by Alan S. Macken, Andrew Verzura and Seth Saperstein. A website application helps project owners locate, evaluate and hire qualified contractors for home improvement and/or construction projects, at the best available prices.
Geopon, by Rachel Fiegler and Ido Meros. This single source solution provider combines geo-targeted coupons and savings, consumer reward services and mobile payment processing in an easy-to-use mobile application.
LegalFileIt, by Milana V. Kuznetsova and Sean M. McNamara. A proprietary, Internet-based software platform cuts costs and increases revenue for law offices by enabling efficient financial, administrative and operational processes.
• Nutritionease, by Vanessa Y. Vazquez, Nilsa Roberts and Ana Castro. Company is dedicated to the convenient packaging and dispensing of portion-controlled diet kits related to healthcare issues and/or personal choice.
Viewbox, by Drs. Luther Adair, Seth J. Crapp and Jonathan Johnson. Viewbox offers proprietary technology that allows users, such as radiologists and other medical professionals, easy mobile access to view, share and present medical images.
High School Track
Today, we are also unveiling our finalists in the High School Track. On May 7, we will profile the winners. The finalists are:
• Big Cheese Express, by Garrett Duell of Christopher Columbus High School. An express version of the popular Italian restaurant that offers the top 12 sellers of the lunch and dinner menus to be located near college campuses.
• Cupcake 1+2=3 Cookbook, by Nelysa Ventura of Edison Senior High. A cookbook that promotes quality parent-child bonding time and helps children learn how to read, do math and follow directions.
• Listen Up! No Time for Crime, by Jacob Stern of Ransom Everglades. Specializes in educating high school students about teen mistakes that may place them in adult criminal court, how the law affects them, and the consequences of criminal behavior.
• Music Connection, by Carlos Cruz-Taura of New World School of the Arts. A music management and development business that will nurture the development and promotion of emerging musicians throughout South Florida.
• RevWallet, by Celine Klepach of Ransom Everglades. A secure smartphone app that acts as a virtual wallet and organizer, eliminating the need to carry personal information susceptible to theft.
• TeamBeam, by Cole Press and Louis Segall of Ransom Everglades. Sports fans won’t have to navigate dozens of media outlets to find news they care about; TeamBeam “beams” it to them.
Follow Nancy Dahlberg on Twitter @ndahlberg

April 20, 2012

News: VC funding for startups down; Florida hit hard

By BARBARA ORTUTAY, AP Technology Writer

NEW YORK– Funding for startups fell 19 percent in the first three months of the year, as cautious venture capitalists funneled less money into fewer deals.

According to a study out Friday, startup investments fell to $5.8 billion in the January-March quarter from $7.1 billion in the same period in 2011. The companies receiving deals were mainly in the Internet, energy and medical device sectors in the later stages of development. There were 758 deals completed during the quarter, 15 percent fewer than the 889 a year earlier.

The news was even worse for Florida. In the state, just three companies received deals valued at $36 million. That's down from 15 companies receiving $114 million in deals in the first quarter of 2011.

The MoneyTree study was conducted by PricewaterhouseCoopers and the National Venture Capital Association based on data from Thomson Reuters.

SquareTrade Inc., a provider of extended warranty services for electronics, had the largest funding deal in the quarter with $238 million. At No. 2 was Sapphire Energy Inc., a developer of algae-based crude oil, which received $139 million in early-stage funding. Fisker Automotive Inc. was in third place. The electronic vehicle company got $130 million in later-stage funding.

The decline was seen for investments at all stages:

– Fifty-three seed-stage companies received $141 million in funding, down from 86 companies and $211 million a year earlier.

– Venture investors poured $1.61 billion into 290 early-stage startups, down from $1.81 billion and 320 companies.

– A total of 207 expansion-stage companies received $1.71 billion, down from 221 companies and $2.26 billion.

– For later-stage startups, 208 companies grabbed $2.28 billion. That's down from 234 companies and $2.41 billion.

“The industry continues to contract and consolidate, which is beginning to manifest itself in fewer dollars being invested in fewer deals,” said Mark Heesen, president of the National Venture Capital Association, in a statement.

He added that, as innovation continues to advance very quickly, many seed-stage companies are likely being funded in “stealth mode, forming a pipeline that is not yet visible to the public eye.” 


Free small business workshop Saturday

In an effort to help small business owners and those interested in started a small business, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (FL-20) is hosting her third annual free small business workshop on Saturday, April 21 from 9a.m. – 3 p.m. at the Broward County Convention Center.  Federal, state and local partners will be on hand to provide marketing, management and financial guidance during a series of seminars. 

 During the workshop, Deputy Administrator of the U.S. Small Business Administration Marie Johns will give the keynote speech. The Department of Commerce will honor Marcy and Vince Colangelo with the Export Achievement Award.  The Colangelos attended Rep. Wasserman Schultz’s small business workshop in 2010, and after attending the exporting break-out session, they were able to grow their business substantially.

 Attendees are encouraged to pre-register at http://wassermanschultz.house.gov/smallbizevent.