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48 posts from October 2012

October 31, 2012

The creepiest Facebook Messages feature you don’t know

In honor of the holiday, a guest post! Happy Halloween, everyone!

NateBy Nathan Mendenhall

Because Halloween is the creepiest time of year, I thought I would shed some light on a particularly unnerving feature that is found in Facebook Messages that you probably don’t know about. There is a way for people that you have conversations, with via Facebook Message on a mobile device, to find out your exact location if you have location settings enabled. If you go into your messages dashboard and look at an individual conversation, you might notice a small gray location icon. This icon indicates the person you are messaging with has their location settings enabled for Facebook on their phone.



Now, here is the creepy part. If you click that icon, a small pop up will appear with a mini map displaying a location icon in the approximate area of the person you are messaging.


Wait, it gets better. The pop up features a “Get Directions” button and when clicked, Bing does a search for directions to the approximate location where Facebook has geo-targeted the person. So in essence, you can find the approximate area (down to the street) of anyone who you have interacted with in a Facebook message that has location settings enabled.


With more and more people accessing Facebook via mobile and fewer and fewer people knowing how to secure their privacy online, this could become a problem.  I would recommend disabling your location settings and not engaging in lengthy conversations via message with people you don’t know. It’s a crazy world out there these days, you can never be too careful.

Does this feature worry you? Let us know in the comment section below.

 Nathan Mendenhall is a social media strategist at THAT Agency in West Palm Beach, Florida. He specializes in social media strategies for small business.


October 30, 2012

View: 4 calls to action for the Miami tech community

By Tom Ordonez

Tom_OrdonezMiami is a contradiction. 

I spoke with some employers that said "there is no talent in South Florida." Non developers say there are no developers in South Florida. Developers say there are a lot of developers.

Here are 4 calls to action for the Miami and South Florida's tech community.

1. Synthetic collaboration of developers and non-developers.

Bringing an army of developers to an event is counterproductive if they don't collaborate with non developers.

Organic does not seem to be working too well. So let's do some synthetic collaboration. Let's make an effort to meet new people. Go to hackathons and discourage your friends to join you, instead join unknowns.

Next time you go to an event, hackathon or tech meetup. Don't hang out with your friends. Instead make your goal to meet at least 2 new people each week and offer them some help.

2. Build micro communities with events

Events bring people together to network, create teams and build products. Networks can promote products with the community. Communities buy products. Teams expand, creating jobs. Win-win.

Miami and South Florida cannot localize a tech hub in one place. Public transportation sucks. The train will never reach remote places. Carpooling doesn't work well. Traffic is so bad that commuters spend 1 to 3 hours in traffic. Not everybody lives in Coconut Grove, Brickell or Wynwood.

Instead let's build micro communities wherever people live, with meetups and mini-events. And let's help each other with bigger centralized events.

3. Digging out the dark matter developers and entrepreneurs

You go to a meetup and you bump into the usual suspects, entrepreneurs and developers.

Where are the developers, marketers and wannabe-entrepreneurs from American Airlines, Carnival Cruise, American Express, Amadeus, Publix, FPL, Fedex, Royal Caribbean, City of Miami, Terremark, MTV, LAN Chile, IBM, Bellsouth, etc...?

Richie Rump, organizer of the .NET meetup group, sent me a blog post that talks about "Dark Matter Developers" (google it). Developers that don't read blogs, don't write blogs, don't go to meetups, don't go to conferences.

Miami suffers from Dark Matter entrepreneurs and developers.

Please come out of your cave. Miami and South Florida need YOU!

4. Participate in your community

There are a lot of people in Miami and South Florida contributing to the tech community. There are meetups like Refresh, Ruby, Android, .NET, Lean Startup, LAB Miami and so many others.

My brother Carlos Ordonez and I are promoting a couple of events too:

**Code Retreat Miami 2012**

December 8, 2012: A software development workshop created by Corey Haines. It improves your coding skills by using Test Driven Development and pair programming. http://coderetreatmiami.eventbrite.com/

**App Awards**

Feb. 22, 2013: The App Awards celebrates web and mobile apps where the judge is you. The People’s Choice awards of apps. http://appawards2012.eventbrite.com/#


AppDojo is an idea-stage incubator/hackerspace, where entrepreneurs can find team members and get mentorship. http://www.appdojo.co/

Participate and go to events. Network. Meet new people. Offer help, mentorship, advising. Let's show the rest of the world that Miami and South Florida have the power to grow.

Tom Ordonez is a Managing Director of Creatus Angels and CEO of Aerostock.co in Miami.

Senzari buys Germany's wahwah.fm mobile music service

SenzarilogoGlobal Internet radio provider Senzari announced today it acquired Berlin-based Disco Volante, creator of mobile music service wahwah.fm.

Disco Volante was spun off from Deutsche Telekom Innovation Laboratories in Berlin after pioneering technologies for the legal co-listening of radio stations across mobile devices. wahwah.fm was launched in 2011 and operates in the German and U.S. markets. The startup received funding from leading German investors including Hasso Plattner Ventures and other local Internet entrepreneurs.

Demian and Philip Signing wahwah.fm dealThe acquisition “injects a mobile-first approach into our organization, which is something that we were lacking as we have always been a very web centric company,” said Demian Bellumio, Senzari's chief operating officer.  “This follows the approach that leading companies, such as Facebook, are following in order to capitalize on the rapid growth of smartphone users.”

As part of the transaction, Philipp Eibach, wahwah’s CEO, will become Senzari’s vice president of music services and head of Senzari Germany, working with the Miami team on the development of Senzari’s next generation music services and expanding the team at the Berlin office. The Berlin office will focus on extending Senzari’s service to iOS, Android and Windows devices, as well as continuing the data science work on its large scale music data set involved in AMP3, Senzari’s proprietary music recommendation platform, Senzari said in its press release. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Senzari Germany, in its new office in Berlin’s Betahaus, is already working on the first mobile version of Senzari, due to launch in the coming months. Senzari expects to expand the Berlin team to about 10 engineers over the next year.

Senzari, backed by $4 million in funding from 500 Startups and angel investors from Miami and elsewhere, currently employs 10 in its Miami operations and 16 overall. Its free service, a streaming catalog of more than 10 million songs, is available in Brazil, Spain, Britain and the U.S.  It plans to unveil the initial concept of Senzari mobile at LeWeb Paris Dec. 4-6, along with the latest version of its AMP3  engine.

(Photo provided by Senzari shows Senzari COO Demian Bellumio and Philipp Eibach, wahwah's CEO and now Senzari's VP of music services, after signing the deal in Berlin.) 



October 29, 2012

NewME's PopUp Accelerator kicking off Season of the Startup

Angela_benton-150x150The NewME Accelerator wants to bring some of the same access it provides in Silicon Valley to local markets around the country. That's a big part of the vision of founder Angela Benton (pictured at right) for the accelerator she launched in 2011 aimed at helping and promote entrepreneurial minorities and women. And as reported earlier here, NewME has decided Miami will host its first "PopUp Accelerator," bringing in VCs and entrepreneurs from California to coach and provide pitching workshops to South Florida's entrepreneurs. The dates are Nov. 12-14, concluding with a demo night competition.  

"Obviously Miami is a great location given the burgeoning tech industry there," explained Monica Wheat, NewME's national community and events leader. She said it was one of a few emerging startup cities nationwide that kept popping up in NewME's research, and its relationship with the Knight Foundation's Miami office helped seal the deal. The Knight Foundation, together with LAB Miami, the coworking space in Wynwood, will host the event.  

Scott_kupor-150x150What differentiates this program from others, Wheat said, is the high-profile experts it will be bringing to Miami to meet with entrepreneurs, including Scott Kupor, partner and COO of Andreessen Horowitz (pictured at left). Erik Moore, managing director of Base Ventures, will also be participating as will Benton, who has held entrepreneurial roles in design, marketing, development and digital strategy, and Brian Brackeen, the CEO of Kairos who went through NewME's program and is building his company in Miami.

Knowing that many startup founders have day jobs, most of the programming will be in the evenings, explained Wheat. There will be "Master Classes" on assembling a winning pitch deck from 7-9 p.m. Nov. 12 and 13. Participants will be given assignments ahead of time and between classes to help make the workshops more meaningful -- and prepare them for demo night Nov. 14.

Demo night, which will be held at The Light Box in Wynwood, will allow participating startups to pitch to the Silicon Valley judging panel. Prize for the winner: $25,000 in entrepreneurial services plus a space in NewME's accelerator.

Perhaps the high point for many entrepreneurs will be the one-one-one's with Kupor and the other coaches. Each participant will be given a 50-minute coaching session during one of the three days, scheduled at the entrepreneur's convenience. If a team of three attends, each team member will have a timeslot.

That's what enticed John Suarez of Miami-based startup iCare Intelligence to sign up. Suarez, who has been working on his investor presentation as part of Incubate Miami's current class, said he quickly saw the value in the chance to meet with a Valley VC one-on-one combined with the pitching opportunity.

Once the PopUp leaves, NewME plans to live on. It is working on establishing a "NewME Community" here, Wheat said, with regular local events tailored to the Miami startup scene.

For more information or to sign up for the NewME PopUp, which costs $99, go here. The PopUp is open to all, and one does not have to be a minority or woman to participate or win at demo day. There are also $25 tickets available for demo night only. 

NewME's visit will be the first of a half-dozen high-profile events rolling into town this fall, bringing in a host of tech thought leaders and startup stars. Watch Starting Gate for more on all the upcoming events.


October 28, 2012

On the move: Peace Love World opens on Miracle Mile

Plw_logoAlina Villasante’s Peace Love World is on the move again. The Cuba-born entrepreneur's Doral-based casual-chic fashion company opened its new flagship store at 225 Miracle Mile in Coral Gables, which is its sixth corporate-owned retail location in the Miami area and another milestone in its short life as a global brand. 

Plwimage002Peace Love World took root after Villasante began giving her “I AM’ T-shirts (I Am Peace, I Am Love, I Am Happiness) to friends and the demand quickly grew. Peace Love World  opened its first retail store in South Miami in 2009. Since then, the fashion company has been on a tear, with its designs sold in hundreds of boutiques worldwide. Its fashion line has broadened too:  Peace Love World still offers designer T-shirts but also a full line of fashions and accessories for men, women, children, even dogs.  Its brand has a cult-like following and growing list of celebrity fans, including singer/songwriter and actress Maria Conchita Alonso, shown here with Villasante at the opening gala for the new Peace Love World Miracle Mile store. 

October 27, 2012

Tools for small businesses: Time for a year-end tax check-up

By Louis Balbirer

Balbirer Louis2012Small business owners, if you haven’t already done so, now is the time to conduct a year-end tax check-up. With just over a week until the election and about two months until 2013, many tax law changes are still up in the air. Several provisions are set to expire while other new provisions are scheduled to go into effect. What makes tax planning especially challenging this year is not knowing whether Congress will act on these scheduled changes.Here are a few to consider.

Qualified Dividends

The qualified dividend rate is set to expire in 2013. That means that a qualified dividend that will be taxed at a federal income tax rate of 15% this year, will be taxed at the taxpayer’s highest marginal income tax rate. That top rate is scheduled to be 39.6% in 2013.  In addition the dividendmay be subject to the additional 3.8% Medicare surtax on high income earners for a combined rate of 43.4% before considering the state income tax implications.If you have a closely held C corporation or an S corporation with earnings and profits, strongly consider declaring and paying a dividend before the end of the year. 

Business Structure

It may be time for new and existing small businesses torethink choice of entity. Electing S corporation may benefit your business if the following discussed changes go into effect:
* Increase of Medicare taxes on high income earners
* Increase in the tax on self-employment earnings in excess of $250,000, which could include income from businesses organized as partnerships or LLCs treated as partnerships for federal income tax purposes

Business Asset Expensing

Another taxpayer favorable provision scheduled to be reduced is the Section 179 deduction, which will be reduced from $139,000 in 2012 to $25,000 in 2013 if Congress doesn’t act. Purchases of tangible personal property (including software) that are used at least 50% for business may qualify for the Section 179 and be currently expensed. 

Additionally, the current 50% bonus depreciation provision is only effective through the end of 2012.  Qualifying property must be purchased and used this year and meet one of the following eligibility requirements:

* Modified accelerated cost recovery system (MACRS) with a depreciation period of 20 years or less
* Water utility property
* Off-the-shelf computer software
* Qualified leasehold property

Original use of the qualifying property must begin with the taxpayer claiming the bonus depreciation.  Although income tax rates are scheduled to rise, the current opportunity to expense purchases of fixed assets may still outweigh the benefit of deductions over time. 

To learn more about how the proposed 2013 tax changes could affect your small business, speak to a financial professional.

Louis Balbirer, CPA, MST, is a director of tax services with Kaufman, Rossin & Co., one of the top CPA firms in the country.  He has 20 years of experience providing tax and accounting services to clients. Louis can be reached at lbalbirer@kaufmanrossin.com.

October 26, 2012

Who wants to be Director of Happiness? Open English hires one, opens new HQ

Mt_andresI caught up with Andres and Nicolette Moreno (pictured), co-founders of Open English, Latin America’s leading online English language school, at the Coconut Grove-based company’s opening of its new and very cool 10,000-square-foot headquarters earlier this month. I heard about the company’s off-the-charts growth, now with 1,500 employees globally -- and about half of those hired within the last year -- serving more than 50,000 students.

So it’s no wonder the company needed a human resources executive, but it didn’t
Mt_nicolettefollow the traditional rulebook. Instead it hired a "Director of Happiness" — Alain Lagger. CEO Andres Moreno explained that creating a positive and cooperative culture is extremely important but challenging with employees all over the Americas, including fast-growing offices in Caracas, Bogotá, São Paulo and Panamá. As one of the Director of Happiness’s first major projects, Lagger organized the first edition of “Life Changers: The Open English Cultural Summit” this week in Bogota, bringing together Open English team members from across the region for the first time.

As to the Grove headquarters space, it was more than a year in the making, which seemed like "a lifetime" for a company used to working at lightning speed. The dilapidated gym space was gutted and rebuilt with glass offices and lots of open collaborative working space over three floors for the 50 employees at the corporate headquarters. Space to grow? “We’re already running out of room,” Andres said.

Read an earlier post on Open English here.    


Research Park at FAU partners with research network

The Research Park at Florida Atlantic University has signed a long-term agreement with Florida LambdaRail (FLR) to meet increasing demand for advanced data communications services, becoming the first research park in the state to do so.  As a result of this agreement, companies at The Research Park will be able to collaborate on cutting edge research with other companies throughout Florida, the nation and around the world.

 The Research Park at Florida Atlantic University is home to 23 companies that collectively directly support 952 high skill high wage jobs, the park said in its press release. The Research Park’s Technology Business Incubator hosts 22 technology companies and is also home to the Florida Institute for the Commercialization of Public Research, New World Angels and the Enterprise Development Corporation of South Florida (EDC), which manages the incubator.

Also from this morning's press release: The Florida LambdaRail enables participants to collaborate on research projects quickly by sharing vast amounts of data using a high fidelity, high speed and high capacity fiber network.  It also connects those participants domestically and internationally to Internet2, a national fiber optic network supporting research and education throughout the United States. 


Gilt Groupe co-founder to speak at Commonwealth Institute event

By Ina Paiva Cordle

Giltgroup1e2lVr_Em_56Living in New York and working for luxury brands, Alexandra Wilkis Wilson (pictured at right) loved to shop sample sales with her friend, Alexis Maybank, where they could nab amazing designer steals at 80 percent off retail. Wouldn’t it be nice, they thought, if friends in cities like Los Angeles, Chicago and Miami could have access to such great deals, too?

So, with three other executives, they founded Gilt Groupe, an e-commerce company, and in November 2007 launched what is considered the nation’s first and largest luxury lifestyle flash sale site.

“We sell high-end fashion for women, men and kids, food, wine, hotels, experiences,” said Wilson, who is now head of national sales for Gilt City. “Our prices are fantastic, and we spend a lot of time curating what we are offering our members. We really have to believe in it.”

Wilson, who has co-written the book By Invitation Only: How We Built Gilt and Changed the Way Millions Shop, will be in Miami on Tuesday to speak at the Commonwealth Institute South Florida’s 9th Annual Leadership Luncheon at Jungle Island. “I hope to inspire this wonderful group of women in Miami to think about innovation and creativity and think about technology,” said Wilson, 35.

Jodi Cross, executive director of the Commonwealth Institute South Florida, said Wilson’s tale of building her brand is just what her membership of primarily women entrepreneurs and senior executives want to hear.

“She has a really compelling story about being a pioneer in building a business in the online world, and was one of the first people to bring a whole business to that platform with the Gilt Groupe,” Cross said. “We like to bring in speakers who have done it and can tell their story about the lessons learned along the way.”

Miami has played a big part in Wilson’s life. Though she grew up in New York, her mother is Cuban, and she has family here. As a child, she spent summers in Key Biscayne. What’s more, Wilson was engaged on the beach here, and was married at the Biltmore Hotel in Coral Gables. She said she still spends at least six weeks a year here, and calls Key Biscayne her “happy place.”

Prior to founding Gilt, Wilson oversaw retail operations at Bulgari, managing 15 North American stores. Before that, she managed leather goods sales planning for Louis Vuitton. She began her career working for three years in investment banking at Merrill Lynch, predominantly based in London. In between, she got an MBA from Harvard Business School, where she reconnected with Maybank, who went on to work at eBay.

Today, Gilt has 1,000 employees, more than five million members, and ships to 100 countries around the world.

More information: The Commonwealth Institute South Florida is holding its 9th Annual Leadership Luncheon, featuring: A Conversation with Alexandra Wilkis Wilson, founder of Gilt Groupe, head of national sales for Gilt City, and co-author of “By Invitation Only: How We Built Gilt and Changed the Way Millions Shop,” from noon to 2 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 30. Tickets are $125 for members; $150 for non-members. For more information, visit http://www.commonwealthinstitute.org or call 305-799-6547.

October 25, 2012

Flomio powers up a Kickstarter campaign for its FloJack


Kicking its already very busy year into super high gear, the Flomio team just launched a crowdfunding campaign to introduce its latest project, FloJack, to the world.

FlojackAccording to Flomio, FloJack is a pocket-sized NFC (Near Field Communication) reader and writer that brings the power of NFC to the iPad, iPod Touch and the iPhone. Trggered by touch, NFC is a wireless technology that connects your phone to the devices around it in order to trigger new experiences. Until FloJack, it hasn't been available for iPhone, Flomio says.

Founder Richard Grundy said the team is seeking to raise $80,000 on Kickstarter to produce the FloJack. It's quite an ambitious target for a campaign that ends at 11:59 p.m. Nov. 26 -- but after just one day, the team was already nearly $8,000 closer to the goal.

You can read the story of the product -- including its scaledown from lunchbox size to a device that easily fits in a pocket -- and much more about the technology here.

Flomio, conceived in Grundy's head in September of 2010, an Incubate Miami 2011 graduate and presenter at last year's SuperConf, has had a whirlwind 2012. Grundy shared a few of its recent milestones:

The first three months of this year it participated in the TechStars Cloud accelerator program in San Antonio. In January, Flomio delivered access control to Jamaica Jazz and Blues an over 35,000 attendees. In April, it shined at TechStars Demo Day. The following month, Flomio was invited to join the NFC Bootcamp and tour the world to evangelize NFC.

This summer it completed a seed round, raising $425,000 from RMR Capital, Cloud Power Fund, and others. In August, Flomio acquired the NFC Quick Actions app by Fernando Cejas.

Wednesday's launch on Kickstarter marks another milestone for Flomio. What will it do for an encore? There's still two months left in the year, Flomio.

(Photos provided by Flomio show the team -- Rcihard Grundy, John Bullard, Tim Ronan and Fernando Cejas -- and the FloJack.)