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39 posts from May 2013

May 31, 2013

Mayor Gimenez announces internship program, calls for companies to get involved

Here is more details about the Beacon Council internship program I wrote about last week.


By Douglas Hanks

Miami-Dade County joined the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce Friday in promoting a new internship program designed to keep more talented college graduates in the Miami area.

Mayor Carlos Gimenez announced the effort at the business group’s annual Goals Conference, where Chamber leaders map out the agenda for economic development, lobbying and other fronts. The new program aims to tackle the so-called “brain drain,” as graduates from the University of Miami and other schools head elsewhere for high-paying jobs.

“Our homegrown talent will gladly take advantage of opportunities in other cities,” Gimenez said at the meeting in the banquet facility inside Miami’s Jungle Island theme park. “How did Cleveland feel when it lost LeBron James?”

The new AIM program (which stands for Actively Investing in Miami-Dade County) seeks to pair at least 200 students in high school, college and graduate programs with local employers. It was created under the arm of One Community One Goal, the broad blueprint for economic growth released last year by the Beacon Council, the county’s tax-funded economic-development agency. One of the shortcomings cited in the report is the Miami area’s ability to produce college graduates with marketable skills, but the difficulty in them finding career paths locally.

The AIM effort’s target is to create 200 internships within two years, with roughly 20 participating employers committing $5,000 to the AIM effort. Gimenez said Miami-Dade will be providing internships in the program, but that the effort relies on the private sector.

“It is time for us to develop our local talent,” Gimenez said. “I need your buy-in.”

Information is available at miamidade.gov/aim.

His presentation came at the end of the two-day Goals event, which coincides with a transition from one volunteer leader of the Chamber to another. Phillis OetersÖ, head of governmental affairs for Baptist Health, ended her tenure and Al Dosal, owner of a Miami tech company, started his.

 Dosal, chairman of the Dosal Capital, which owns Compuquip in Doral, said he would focus on building up the Chamber’s cash reserves and expanding its membership. He urged Chamber members to use their influence with suppliers and service providers to get them to join the organization — a campaign he dubbed “vendors to members.”

“How shameful is it that all of us here sit and do our civic duty,” Dosal said during the morning meeting, “and then do business with others?” 

MIT Enterprise Forum offering 'GeekTank'

Do you have what it takes to turn the head of an angel investor?  The MIT Enterprise Forum South Florida, the Miami Innovation Fund and Edwards Wildman  are teaming up to offer a "GeekTank" event, giving four startups the opportunity to compete for a $20,000 term sheet from the Miami Innovation Fund, a local angel group that invests in very early-stage companies, $5,000 in legal services through Edwards Wildman’s Help Innovators Thrive program, and a LAB Miami membership valued at $6,000. The four chosen companies will get 15 minutes each to make their presentations at the event from 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday, June 18 at Citrix in Fort Lauderdale. 
If you are a technology startup building a SaaS product, gaming app, mobile app, software product, and/or a social networking product and want to submit your business plan for consideration, do so at http://gust.com/angel-group/miami-innovation-fund. The deadline to submit for consideration has been extended to 6 p.m. June 11.
Even if you are not competing, the event offers an opportunity to gain insights into how angel investors make their decisions (not to mention there is networking, free food and an open bar). There is no charge for startups and students to attend the event. "Our mission at MIT Enterprise Forum South Florida is to foster the entrepreneurial community and we hope this event helps keep the momentum going," said Franc Nemanic, who is on the boards of both the MIT Forum and the MIF.
Register and find more information here: http://geektank2013.eventbrite.com/#

May 29, 2013

Teaming up for stronger small business advantage

For small contractors, the option to team with other business can prove fruitful, especially when bidding on large contracts. A survey by American Express OPEN found that small business owners who engage in teaming win 50 percent more contracts than active contractors overall.

  • * While the data is compelling, few businesses owner take advantage of teaming. To help encourage teaming amongst small businesses, American Express OPEN in partnership with the Small Business Administration is hosting a free all-day event on Friday, May 31 at Miami Dade College Kendall Campus (11011 SW 104th St) from 9am to 4pm. More than 200 businesses are expected to attend. Attending business owners will have access to:
  • * Interactive workshops to help business owners learn about the advantages of teaming, the different types of teaming arrangements, best practices and pitfalls to avoid in developing an effective teaming relationship and how to capture teaming opportunities with one of the largest construction firms, Turner Construction
  • * A day of insights from experienced small businesses and government officials at the Small Business Administration, Department of Transportation, Department of Defense, General Services Administration, Department of Labor, and more
  • * One-on-one meeting with over 25 federal, state and local government buyers – matches are based on small business’ capabilities and agencies’ requirements
  • * Networking opportunities with other small business owners to find potential teaming partners
  • * Small Businesses of the Year Award Ceremony hosted by the SBA South Florida Regional Office

The details

WHAT:  Free day-long event featuring various workshops to spur teaming amongst small businesses so they can go after larger contracts AND one-on-one meetings with federal and local government buyers and large prime contractors. For more information, please visit  http://americanexpressopenvipteamingmiami.eventbrite.com 

 WHO: The event is hosted by American Express OPEN in partnership with the Small Business Administration.

WHEN: Friday, May 31, 2013/ 9:00am– 4:00pm; registration opens at 8am

WHERE: Miami Dade College - Kendall Campus, 11011 SW 104th Street



Event asks techies to code for the community


For many, the idea of being hacked is scary. However, on Saturday and Sunday, the LAB Miami in Wynwood is inviting “hackers” all over the city to put their technical prowess to a good cause.

The event, Hack for Change: Miami, is part of the National Day of Civic Hacking, where local, state and federal governments are calling on tech-savvy citizens to find innovative solutions to civic problems. This will be achieved by these institutions providing challenges they hope to accomplish and tools such as data sets to work with.

In participation of the event, Miami-Dade County will be providing data from their 311 service requests; these requests relate to things such as varied as broken traffic signals, potholes, stray dogs, and code violations that may indicate the quality of life in certain neighborhoods.

“We hope to come out with visualizations of 311 data which improve the understanding of the relationships between neighborhood issues and other factors, [such as] demographic, environmental, and economic [factors], and also with more tools that will help residents submit problem reports easily using any type of device. In the long run, we are hoping that the community begins to use these data sets more regularly for different apps, which will inevitably lead to more informed and more active engagement in civic life,” says Assia Alexandrova, e-Government Solutions Manager for Miami-Dade County.

In addition, the hackers can solve challenges at the national level. A number of federal agencies such as NASA, the FDA, the Department of Agriculture and the Census Bureau have developed challenges that they hope participants can solve during the hack-a-thon. For example, the Census Bureau has asked participants to use data sets about every neighborhood in the United States to create tools to create applications that makes the information more usable to citizens.

However, one need not be a hacker to participate in the event. Daniel Lafuente, LAB Miami co-founder, says half of the people who have registered for the event have been observers. Observers can watch on the sidelines during the over 36 hours of continuous “hacking” or they can also participate in a “write-a-thon” where they are asked to contribute posts to MiamiWiki.org, a collaborative website where anyone can post about topics related to Miami from famous landmarks to major historical events in the city’s lifetime.

John Bullard, co-founder of the local tech startup Flomio and a participant at Hack for Change: Miami, says that there are not nearly as many tech-oriented events in Miami as he would like and that events like Hack for Change: Miami are crucial to connecting those in the local tech community and sparking innovation at the local level.

“Flomio was birthed out of a startup weekend event two years ago ... had we not attended that event early on, who knows if Flomio even existed. ... The spark that put all of that in motion was that event, so I think it’s critical [to host tech events in Miami].”

While many would not consider Miami to be a major tech-hub in the vein of Silicon Valley, Lafuente sees otherwise. He points to many local tech start ups, seed funding accelerators, and large tech corporations that have come to Miami in recent years. He also points to a statistic that says that FIU has graduated more computer science majors in the past 5 years than any other university in the country. Events like these, he says, will help further increase Miami’s rising tech scene.

“This is one of those type of events that tries to capture the momentum of the tech scene and leverage it for the benefit of the city. I think when more people can benefit from something that was created in this manner, in the manner of a hack-a-thon, it will generate more interest in technology.


Message from Women's Success Summit: Write a book, start a blog -- it's about promoting yourself

Share Ross, a bassist who played with the ’80s all-female rock band, Vixen, strongly advocates using video. The founder of Video Rock Star University spoke at the Women's Success Summit last week. Photo by Magdalena Photography.

By Cindy Krischer Goodman


When Marly Quincoces wanted to grab the attention of potential clients for her South Florida event planning company, StarMar Events, she made a YouTube video in front of a white board giving tips on how to land a sponsor. Quincoces quickly learned that even while she was sleeping or directing caterers, she could lure in customers with her online presence. “I’m definitely going to do more,” she says.

Today, efficient self-promotion is a critical component of success in any career. “You need to be top of mind,” says Michelle Villalobos, a Miami personal branding expert and founder of the Women’s Success Summit. “If you’re not shamelessly self-promoting, there are plenty of others who are.”

By now, most of us realize we need to create and market our personal brand to be a rock star in our fields, whether we work for an employer or ourselves. Our success depends not just on our individual capabilities but also on our network’s ability to magnify them.     

 With the venues for self-promotion exploding, the challenge becomes fitting it effectively into our work/life balance. In addressing a few hundred business owners at the recent Women’s Success Summit in Miami, experts shared their secrets for how to build a network that does your bragging for you. It’s time-consuming to promote yourself using every platform available. Experts advise choosing one and using it well.

•  Make a video. Share Ross, a bassist who played with the ’80s all-female rock band, Vixen, strongly advocates using video. After touring with Vixen, Ross began making videos for musical acts. Now she creates videos for dozens of small business owners and teaches them how to do it for themselves through her Video Rock Star University.

“Video is a way to make an emotional connection. Doing it right is not about selling, it’s about tapping into that connection,” she advises. Because YouTube is the second-highest used search engine, ignoring it as an outlet to raise your profile is foolish, she says. A good video doesn’t have to be complicated or awkward, she says. Start out on camera by raising a question and answering it in a way that positions you as an expert, she says.

Making a video doesn’t have to take long, and it can be done at night using a smartphone camera, after the kids are asleep.

Dawwna•  Publish a book. Dawnna St. Louis, a South Florida motivational speaker on women’s empowerment (pictured here), says to build a business, you need to build your credibility. Publishing a book will help. “It puts you in position of being an authority long after do the work of writing it,” she explains.

She published her first book,  YOLO — Standing on the Ledge of Life and Leaping Towards Your Future, launched without any shameless self-promotion, and she sold only 2,000 copies. The next time around she took a different approach. “Create the demand first,” she says. In her case, she reached out to corporate clients, who pre-ordered the book before its release. That book,  Audacious Acts of Successful Women, which encourages women to step out of their comfort zone to become more successful, has sold more than 22,000 copies. And she’s still receiving orders.

She believes almost anyone can position themselves as a expert with a book by identifying a problem and writing about how to fix it. To publish a book efficiently, she advises outsourcing pieces of the process by hiring a copy editor, ghost writer or cover artist. She suggests tackling one chapter a day, setting aside an hour a day for writing.

•  Work the media. Eli Davidson, a business coach and author of  Funky to Fabulous, says it is possible to leverage the media to promote yourself; to start, find a “diamond” niche. She recently coached a client who was a nutritionist and suggested he refocus to become an  expert on nutrition for newly diagnosed diabetics.

Urgency is a big part of finding a good niche, she says. “He doubled his rate and filled his practice. People can die from diabetes. It’s urgent.” If you have a niche that’s solving a problem, it’s easier to get media attention, she says. For example, the nutritionist since has published articles in diabetic magazines and cooking publications. “When you’re in the media, it never goes away.”

•  Start a blog. If you want your network to keep you top of mind, a blog can do that. If it has the right key words, it can send new customers your way when they search for topics.

A blog is a great “home base” and you can set one up in about 15 minutes, says Jay Berkowitz, author of  The Ten Golden Rules of Online Marketing . “Blogs are the simplest websites that you can manage and update without a webmaster.” He suggests blogging to answer questions you get asked by customers, clients or co-workers.

Of course, blogging can be time consuming. However, there are people who will take on the task for you. Lisa Sparks, owner of Verity Content in Miami, launched a business that develops content for others. Sparks suggests quality over quantity and says blog posts can be leveraged further by getting them into article directories such as ezinearticles.com.

•  Become searchable. Take the time to find out how people are searching for the products or services you offer, says Todd Paton of Paton Internet Marketing in Miami. He suggests using Google Keyword Tool to identify popular keywords, then using them on your website. Or you could buy the domain name where potential customers would most likely land.

Villalobos says to become Googlicious, the most important key word you need to own  is your own name. And make sure everything associated with your name tells the right story about your professional accomplishments.

This doesn’t have to be time consuming. “The fastest way is to claim your name on all the social media profiles you can and fill it in with good information,” she says. “Start with Linked In.”

•  Use email marketing. Pamela Starr, Southeastern area director for Constant Contact, believes shameless self-promotion starts with leveraging your existing network. Starr recommends sending up an email marketing newsletter and letting your network know what you are doing to improve their lives — saving them money, helping them eat healthier, offering them unique legal expertise.

To widen your network most efficiently, embed a sign-up for your email marketing pieces right into your email signature. Also, ask recipients to share with their friends. “What’s the best source for new business? Existing customers,” Starr says. “Promote to them and have them promote you to others.”

When shamelessly self- promoting, Villalobos says don’t be intimidated to plug your brand with the people who know you. “They are the low-hanging fruit.” But don’t stop there, she says. “Once you have a strong brand, it will speak for you.”   

Women's Success Summit founder Michelle Villalobos on stage at last week's high-energy summit themed "Shameless Self-Promotion" and held at The Light Box in Wynwood. All photos by Magdalena Photography.

Workplace columnist Cindy Krischer Goodman is CEO of BalanceGal, a provider of news and advice on how to balance work and life. Connect with her at  balancegal@gmail.com or visit worklifebalancingact.com.



Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/2013/05/28/v-fullstory/3421379/write-a-book-start-a-blog-to-promote.html#storylink=cpy


May 28, 2013

Mom Inc.: South Florida mompreneurs turn solutions into businesses

Ready. Set. Cupcake! founders Leslie Kaplan and Carolyn Shulevitz developed a line of frozen ready to bake all natural batter and icing. Photo by C.W. Griffin / Miami Herald Staff

Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/2013/05/26/v-fullstory/3417902/south-florida-mompreneurs-turn.html#storylink=cpy


By Julie Landry Laviolette of MomsMiami.com 

Professional baker Carolyn Shulevitz started experimenting with dairy- and egg-free recipes when her son, Harley, 18, was diagnosed with food allergies as a pre-schooler. Her cupcakes became so popular that she started freezing batter to keep up with demand. In 2010, Shulevitz and Leslie Kaplan, a friend in the hospitality industry, founded Ready. Set. Cupcake! by The Piping Gourmets, www.readysetcupcake.com, a line of frozen, ready-to-bake all-natural batter and icing.

The preservative-free products come packaged in pastry bags to defrost and use. The batter, available in varieties free of gluten, casein and eggs, makes 24 mini cupcakes or one seven-inch cake and sells for $5.99. The buttercream icing is $6.99. The products are sold in freezer cases at Whole Foods Markets, as well as Epicure Market in Miami Beach and Sunny Isles.

Shulevitz graduated from the Culinary Institute of America in New York and has worked as a freelance caterer. Kaplan has worked in her family’s business, The Carousel Yacht and Great Bay Yacht Charters. The women, both Miami Beach residents, met at a Mommy and Me group 20 years ago and remained friends. The two were working together on The Carousel Yacht when a surge in business led Shulevitz to start freezing cake batter to keep up. The women saw a business opportunity, and
jumped in.

Frozen cake batter fills a void for people who want to bake, but didn’t want the mess, Shulevitz said. “Everybody wants fresh-baked goods, but some people don’t know how to bake. They’re intimidated by the process,” she said.

Shulevitz froze the product at different time intervals to test quality, shelf life and freshness. They handed out frozen batter samples to friends to get feedback. They sent samples to a professional testing lab to get a nutritional and shelf-life analysis.

They found a production house in Hialeah. A website was launched and the product hit the shelf in October 2011. They do demos at food trade shows and participate in community and charity events. The line was named Own It Ventures Best Product 2013.

The partners initially spent $100,000 on research, product development, packaging, testing, marketing and inventory. They are now selling about 600 units per week.

“Believe in yourself, because there is a perception that women can’t do it, and that moms won’t have the time,” Shulevitz said. “But if you focus, you know you will.”

This week's Business Monday profiles five mompreneurs, including the cupcake company founders, who turned their clever solutions to everyday family dilemmas into viable businesses. Find their stories here

Find more moms taking care of business in the Mom, Inc. series on  MomsMiami.com, the Miami Herald’s online parenting community, where these stories originally ran.




Entrepreneurship datebook

Here is just a small sampling of events coming up in the next week. To see many more, go to Miamitech.org (under the events tab) or Miami StartupDigest.

PITCHING NON-INVESTORS:  Because friends, family and mentors  are the usually the first to support a seed stage startup, this session by investor, author and speaker Shaun Abrahamson on Wednesday, May 29, from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. at The LAB Miami addresses how to develop the pitch that will sway your crowd. $50/$35 (LAB member). To register: http://pitchingnoninvestors.eventbrite.com/

SEO & MORE: SCORE Miami-Dade’s “Developing your Website and Search Engine Optimization” workshop is 9:30-noon Saturday, June 1, at the SBA Office, 100 S. Biscayne Blvd. $30. More info:
miamidade.score.org (click on local workshops)

HACK FOR CHANGE MIAMI: Develop new technological solutions for some our country’s oldest problems at this free hackathon at The LAB Miami Saturday, June 1. To register: hackformiami.eventbrite.com/   See related post here.

HACKANUI:  This free hackathon Saturday, June 1,  at Caffeine Spaces in Boca has been created around Natural User Interface technology, which uses gestures and motion to interact with applications. Register: hackanui2013.eventbrite.com/ 

The event will be livestreamed here: http://bambuser.com/channel/hackanui

See related post here.

ACCELERATION: Healthbox, in partnership with Florida Blue, is launching a an accelerator program for
healthcare technology startups in Jacksonville.. To learn more, a Miami networking event will be held June 3 from 6 p.m.-8 p.m. at The LAB Miami. Email rsvp@healthbox.com to register.

Using the power of technology to self-finance communities

By Philippe Houdard

Philippe Houdard - headshot 2The concept of micro-financing has existed for centuries, relying on the principle that a tight-knit community can come together to finance the needs of its members.  Historically, this trust-based model has enabled micro-entrepreneurs and young companies to access funds without having to take on the costs and manage the complexities of going through banks.

In more recent times, ground-breaking companies have been proving that applying technology to this concept can solve important social problems worldwide. 

This past week the Ashoka Fellows who co-founded Puddle, an innovative social banking platform, introduced their concept for the first time in Miami at Pipeline, a collaborative workspace in

Created by a group of social entrepreneurs from Spain and the United States, the platform facilitates the creation of a line of credit by obtaining the financing from a pool of trusted family and friends via Facebook, with the participants setting up the rules of loan repayment.

The lively discussion featured the social entrepreneurs and co-founders of Puddle Jean Claude Rodriguez-Ferrera and Salomon Raydan, who is also President of Funderfir, a foundation for funding
rural communities, and was moderated by Matt Haggman, Miami program director of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, which is focused on strengthening Miami’s entrepreneurial ecosystem. 

For several years now, panelists Raydan and Rodriguez-Ferrera have collaborated with fellow Puddle Co-Founder Matt Flannery, founder of Kiva, the world’s first online lending platform, to develop the innovative online micro-financing model in order to expand its geographic reach. The concept of communal banking that Raydan first developed has been meeting the credit needs of some of the most impoverished communities in countries in Latin America, Europe and Africa for more than a decade.

Currently, the Puddle social banking platform is in beta testing with 19 active ‘Puddles,’ or funding groups, but the concept has been utilized by groups offline for eight years, according to Rodriguez-Ferrera.

Entrepreneurs and self-employed professionals are one of the main groups that stand to benefit from this innovative banking platform because it provides an easy-to-use system for friends and family to finance their business concepts.

While it would be reasonable to imagine that the default rate could be a concern for an online version of this type of banking platform, Raydan noted during the panel discussion that the social pressure to repay the loan is significant and results in maintaining an extraordinarily low default rate.

As this type of online communal banking platform gains exposure and users, communities in need across the world are bound to be the biggest winners, obtaining funding for projects that can grow companies, drive social change and help people live better.   

Philippe Houdard is co-founder of Pipeline, a collaborative workspace at 1101 Brickell Avenue. He is also founder and president of Developing Minds Foundation, a non-profit that builds schools and supports education projects in areas affected by conflict and poverty.


Medina Capital invests $11 million in Sunrise-based Easy Solutions

Easy Solutions, a South Florida company offering fraud protection solutions, today announced that it has closed an $11 million Series B financing round from Medina Capital, a high-growth equity investment firm focused on the IT infrastructure sector. The funds will be used to expand sales and marketing in the U.S. and worldwide to meet increasing demand for the company’s total fraud protection platform, said Easy Solutions, which has headquarters in Sunrise and Bogota.

More than 100 enterprise-class customers, from high-value, client-centric market segments such as banking and online retailers, leverage the Easy Solutions platform to secure over 32 million end users worldwide. The company’s comprehensive line of products provide a multi-layered approach to securing transactional environments from fraud, while leaving legitimate users unaffected.

“Online fraud is a growing concern, with sophisticated attacks becoming increasingly difficult to detect and block,” said Manuel D. Medina, founding and managing partner of Medina Capital. “Easy Solutions has a proven, multi-layered approach that enables their customers to prevent both simple and complex fraud attempts. Their customers, including major banks we spoke with, have seen a significant drop in fraud-related losses as a result of leveraging Easy Solutions’ scalable fraud prevention platform.”

Easy Solutions’ products deliver cross-channel fraud protection across transactions performed on online and mobile platforms, as well as via ATMs, Point-of-Sale terminals, and Interactive Voice Response (IVR) systems. This ability to quantify and protect against cross-channel risk in real-time continues to grow more critical, as criminals leverage multiple channels to conduct highly sophisticated fraud.

“The recent US$45 million theft, which utilized both online hacking of credit card processors databases in India, and then physical ATM fraud in New York, is just the latest example of why cross-channel fraud protection is increasingly crucial for financial institutions,” said Ricardo Villadiego, founder and CEO of Easy Solutions. “With this infusion of capital, we are excited to expand our reach to new markets as we deliver the industry’s most comprehensive fraud protection platform to customers around the world.”

Medina Capital focuses on areas such as cloud computing, cybersecurity, big data, software-defined security and software-defined networking.


May 27, 2013

Inversiones.com announces winner in business plan contest

Miami-based startup  Inversiones.com, an Angellist or Gust for Latin Americans, launched only six months ago but already has 6,000 members. With no marketing except on its active Facebook page, the social site for connecting entrepreneurs and investors in Latin America and U.S. Hispanic communities recently launched a business plan competition with a $5,000 cash prize.

In less than four weeks, Inversiones received 150 entries from 12 countries, said Inversiones.com’s founder, Michael Konig. The entries were narrowed down to five finalists, including Elebev from Miami, and today Inversiones announced its winner: Vientos de Energia from Colombia. Meaning "Winds of Energy," the plan was presented by a consortium of university professors who propose to use new technologies to bring energy solutions to indigenous and rural areas of Colombia and other Latin American countries. The plan offers an innovative approach to funding and profitability through public and private partnerships. The other finalists were Tubepol from Mexico, GoodEnergy from Argentina and Easy Pizza, also from Argentina.


Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/2013/05/26/3418405_p2/wanted-a-taste-of-the-startup.html#storylink=cpy