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46 posts from September 2013

September 30, 2013

Nurturing a tech hub: South Florida making progress


By Nancy Dahlberg, ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

For many entrepreneurs and community leaders involved in the tech hub movement, Endeavor’s launch is one of the strongest signals yet that the dream of a strong and sustainable entrepreneurial ecosystem in South Florida is attainable.

Endeavor is a global nonprofit with a 16-year history of identifying and helping high-impact entrepreneurs from all industries become global success stories, creating plenty of jobs for their communities. Those entrepreneurs also become role models, mentors and investors in the next generation of innovators in their regions, adding layers to the ecosystem. Founded in Latin America and now in 17 countries, Endeavor chose Miami to launch its first U.S. program.

“The timing for Endeavor to be here is perfect: Endeavor is what’s going to take the Miami entrepreneurship community to the next level,” said Adriana Cisneros, CEO of the Cisneros Group of Companies and chair of Endeavor Miami.

Champagne flowed at the launch party at The LAB Miami in Wynwood last week, but Endeavor’s arrival is far from the only marker of success in the past year: Co-working spaces buzz, accelerators attract top talent, and high-profile events draw outsiders here to check out the scene. Efforts to unite the tri-county area in building and branding a hub are gaining steam.

Early stage companies have been making headlines, too: Open English, CareCloud, Yellow Pepper, Easy Solutions, TissueTech, SafetyPay and Modernizing Medicine all raised millions of dollars in funding rounds recently, and startups Everypost, Gui.de and Kairos have been drawing national or international coverage.

To be sure, there are still challenges.

Finding funding and enough talent in the region still top the list of areas where improvement is needed, according to an informal survey of entrepreneurs and other leaders within the community. Brain drain continues to be a key concern. And although South Florida has always been highly entrepreneurial — the Miami-Fort Lauderdale metro area is the most entrepreneurial in the nation, according to Kauffman Foundation research — its growth is still dominated by micro-businesses that stay tiny. There are perceptions to fight, too, of Miami as a capital of sun and fun, not entrepreneurship and technology.

Yet, many believe that eMerge Americas, technology pioneer Manny Medina’s large tech conference planned for next May, will be a coming-out party of sorts. “It will be a chance to show the world what we’ve got,” said Diane Sanchez, CEO of Medina’s Technology Foundation of the Americas putting on eMerge.

In the past year, the tech hub movement has grown at a frenetic pace.

The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation has committed $3.8 million to entrepreneurship-focused projects so far, including $2 million over five years to launch Endeavor. Knight also funded eMerge Americas, The LAB Miami, Refresh Miami, Ashoka and other organizations; it has several grants very near completion and many more in the pipeline.

HaggmanThe Knight Foundation began making grants in entrepreneurship last fall, starting out by funding events and projects such as hackathons, idea jams, entrepreneur pitching events and conferences, and will continue doing so. The foundation believes it can make a bigger impact making a greater number of grants in smaller amounts — such as a $20,000 grant it made last week to the Awesome Foundation, which itself makes micro-grants to entrepreneurial projects — and Knight will be “pushing forward aggressively in year two,” said Matt Haggman, Miami program director of the Knight Foundation. Coming up those include funding SIME Miami, a high-profile European conference of technology thought leaders from around the world, and the return of the popular Startup City: Miami early next year.

“We want to remove the question as to whether Miami is the place to launch an idea and can provide the network, tools and resources ... Our contention is that all the elements are here,” Haggman added.

New spaces are joining the ecosystem, such as the five-floor nonprofit MEC261 in downtown Miami, which aims to be an all-in-one center for offices, co-working, funding, acceleration/incubation, education and events, said its founder Maurice Lopes. The fifth floor with offices and conference rooms is already open and 90 percent occupied with about 15 companies, and the fourth floor will open in three to four months with a multi-use event space for up to 400 people, more offices, training rooms and a design laboratory, with other floors to follow, Lopes said.

MEC261 joins about a dozen other spaces around South Florida that cater to entrepreneurs. The Enterprise Development Corporation’s Technology Business Incubator in Boca Raton has expanded twice in the past year, growing to about 18,000-square-feet. It includes the co-working center Caffeine Spaces that has become a hub of startup activity in that area. The EDC, which is also a partner in MEC261, is opening an incubator in Coral Springs on Tuesday, and is partnering with Broward College on another one, said Rob Strandberg, who heads the nonprofit.

Venture Hive, the first tech-entrepreneurship program to receive significant local government support, opened an incubator and is taking applications from around the world for its second accelerator class. Co-working centers Pipeline Brickell and The LAB Miami, both of which opened about a year ago, are curating their memberships with a mix of startups and more established companies, independent contractors and service providers and are nearing capacity in their memberships. Healthcare-focused ProjectLift at the Miami Innovation Center graduated its first accelerator class and other specialized incubators and co-working spaces have opened or are in the works around South Florida for clean tech, nonprofits, food, fashion and filmmaking. This summer, a network of “maker spaces” began taking root across the tri-county area for programmers, inventors and other creatives of all ages to gather and build stuff.

ProjectliftThese organizations as well as universities and other groups have been packing the calendars with events. A snapshot: Earlier this month, the HealthTech Showcase drew about 300 community movers and shakers, entrepreneurs and students to the University of Miami Life Science & Technology Park for startup demos and panel discussions (Pictured here, Susan Perry presents her startup, SpeechMed, at the HealthTech Showcase). Earlier the same day, nearly 200 people — college-educated but underemployed professionals, plus mentors and community members — packed the Signature Grand in Davie for the kickoff of a 10-week tech-entrepreneurship educational program called Startup Quest. Last week, about 250 filled a Citrix auditorium in Fort Lauderdale for a South Florida Technology Alliance discussion on big data.

Also this month, there was a locally organized tech job fest at Miami Dade College drawing 450 jobhunters, a four-day workshop at Venture Hive for Caribbean entrepreneurs, a presentation hosted by Startup Delray on the “maker movement,” and the return of the NewME PopUp Accelerator, a three-day event by a San Francisco organization that wrapped up Sunday at The LAB. Over the next six months, the conference calendar really heats up: SIME MIA, WebCongress, TekFight , Startup City, Rokk Miami and others (see box) all lead up to eMerge May 4-6.

Despite the progress, building an ecosystem takes years. South Florida still needs a few big success stories to put it on the map and the rest will follow, many in the community say.

“We already have strong fundamentals. The region has produced great, talented individuals. We have an awesome geographic location relative to global travel needs, and we’re a city of multiple cultures,” said Juan Diego Calle, co-founder and CEO of .CO Internet, a fast-growing Miami company that markets the .co domain. “With a few big hits leading the way, the talent we produce in the region will decide that it’s OK to stay and build a company in South Florida. And hopefully the talent that already left will return.”


Mark your calendars

Here is just a sampling of the larger events planned in South Florida:

Reforming Education Hackathon, Oct. 11-12, http://lincolnlabs.com/hackathons/miami.html

2013 Continuity Forum, Nov. 6-7, abccontinuityforum.com

WebCongress, Nov. 7-8, webcongress.com/miami

Miami Tech Summit and Holiday Bash, Nov. 7, miamitechbash.com

Emerging Technology Business Showcase, Nov. 14, edc-tech.org

Miami Mini Maker Faire, Nov. 16, makerfairemiami.eventbrite.com

SIME MIA, Dec. 3-4, simemia.co

TekFight, Dec. 6, tekfight.com

ITPalooza, Dec. 12, itpalooza.e2mktg.com

Startup City: Miami, planned for February, date not yet confirmed

Rokk Miami: planned for next spring, date not yet confirmed

Emerge Americas, May 4-6, emergeamericas.org

Americas Venture Capital Conference, May, entrepreneurship.fiu.edu

PayPal's Battle Hack Miami in August attracted many of South Florida's best developers.

Follow Nancy Dahlberg on Twitter @ndahlberg. Follow startup community news on the Starting Gate blog on MiamiHerald.com/business

Posted Sept. 30, 2013

A closer look at four organizations nurturing the ecosystem

By Nancy Dahlberg, ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

The LAB Miami  

LabmiamiIn a year, The LAB Miami has grown from one room to a 10,000-square-foot space in Wynwood, with 130 members representing 85 organizations, four or five events every week, more than 9,500 visitors to date and a growing roster of educational programming open to the community.

From hosting hackathons and civic “idea jams” to teaching a coding class or showing a film series, the aptly named LAB is constantly testing new events and classes at the artsy co-working center that intermingles all the creative industries. Wifredo Fernandez and Danny Lafuente, co-founders of The LAB pictured here, said their members are also stepping up to host events and hold classes, and corporations have been taking an interest, too.

“Look around at what Wifredo and Danny have built here,” said Peter Martinez, co-director of Refresh Miami, at a recent “Tech Swizzle” networker hosted at The LAB for people in tech, music and the arts. “This is a real community. This is a place where everyone wants to be.”

Going into the next year, look for a greater focus on the skills needed in the marketplace, youth development and corporate innovation, said Fernandez. In physical space, The LAB, a for-profit center funded by the Knight Foundation and a group of local angel investors, is just about at capacity. “We want to grow within Wynwood,” he said, adding that The LAB may add a space nearby for events and more offices.

As for The LAB’s educational efforts, expect more multiweek classes on specific skills needed in the tech marketplace, said Fernandez. “We’ve been testing out lots of topics: Ruby on Rails, 3D printing, Python web development. Now we are interesting in having more focused courses startups and technologists need in South Florida — courses like digital marketing, product management. Some training will come from a digital platform developed by member startup LearnerNation.

“We want to create a talent loop — the talent comes in and receives training here for eight to 10 weeks and then will have job opportunities,” Fernandez said.

The LAB is also working with LearnerNation and another local startup, DemoHire, to create a project around talent development and jobs, he said. “Everything we do here is a collaboration.”

The LAB has held workshops for middle and high school students, such as a one-day workshop called Code Fever, and it wants to do much more in this area. These could be after-school events or Saturday workshops, he said.

Another trend is corporate innovation. “We are seeing corporations that want to innovate; they want to plug into the startup community and the creative community, and this is a turnkey way for them to do so,” Fernandez said. Companies like Akerman Senterfitt, MasterCard and Discovery Channel have become members and are planning events for the membership. He sees more corporations setting up “innovation labs” at The LAB.

Longer term, Fernandez would like to find a way to house more startups at all three stages — early, middle and late. For now, he points to successes like DemoHire. “Tamara [Brenes, founder of DemoHire] found her first programmer here, her first investor here; she grew her team to seven or eight and then moved out but is still very involved as a member.”

Other changes to expect: The LAB will be crowdfunding the garden project soon. It also plans to install a cafe in the entrance area and a video production studio.

Venture Hive

AmatSusan Amat believes that one of the keys to growing and sustaining a strong ecosystem is starting young — very young.

So beginning in January, Venture Hive will be opening a high school magnet school for technology entrepreneurship in a partnership with Miami-Dade County Schools. That’s a big development for the accelerator and incubator that opened its doors in January. But it turns out it’s always been part of Amat’s plan.

“We’ve developed a robust curriculum so high school students entering the program will have well-balanced exposure to tech entrepreneurship — everything from the developer mindset to the design mindset to business, communications, PR. We want to give them a strong view of what the rhythm of that world looks like,” said Amat, who founded Venture Hive.

This year’s pilot program, called Venture Hive Prep, will include 20 students in grades 11 and 12. The students will spend their mornings at their schools in regular classes, and then join Venture Hive in the afternoons for intense entrepreneurship and tech programming and will work alongside Venture Hive’s resident entrepreneurs. The application process will be announced soon.

Amat’s dream is to eventually offer a K-12 program.

“I am creating this for the 15-year-old me,” said Amat, a serial entrepreneur who dropped out of high school to start her first business before eventually returning and earning her doctorate. “I want to be able to give a ray of hope to kids who are full of passion — they may see something no one else sees. We are going to take them seriously. ... Entrepreneurship is not about showing someone you can do it, it’s about realizing your vision.”

In effect, the students will be part of the next accelerator class. “Whatever they are looking for, we will find a way to facilitate it. They may want to intern with an existing company — we have them. If they want to intern for a startup, that’s fine, too, but if they have a concept and they want to build it out, we’ll provide all the resources they’ll need to be able to do it. That’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for these kids.”

And other big changes are in store as Venture Hive prepares to enter its second year. In its short life, Venture Hive companies have created 34.25 jobs at an average salary of $40,360, according to its report published in May. It has also been responsible for 13 business relocations and three new business formations, the report said. Venture Hive, a nonprofit, is supported by the Miami-Dade County mayor’s office and the Miami Downtown Development Authority, which together committed $1.5 million in funding.

VenturehiveThe accelerator works with entrepreneurs finding solutions in industries that are strong in Miami-Dade — healthcare, tourism/hospitality and the creative industries (film, music, the arts, design). For the next class starting in January, trade/logistics will also be included. The 10 accelerator companies chosen will again receive $25,000 grants and free office space at the Hive for a year.

Venture Hive will be taking applications on venturehive.co through Nov. 1 for the accelerator. Like this year’s class, in which half the teams selected were from Latin America and moved here, Venture Hive is seeing large interest from international companies, even from as far away as Asia and Africa, said Amat. She said Venture Hive is not a typical accelerator: “The goal is not to come for three months and leave, the goal is to stay. We will have the majority of our first class here as mentors and colleagues — that’s key.”

Next year, Venture Hive will be adding a Knowledge Partners program with 10 hand-picked corporate partners from a range of industries and specialties. Venture Hive will also be continuing its incubator, which accepts companies from all industries. As of now, about 100 entrepreneurs from 28 companies call the 35,000-square-foot Venture Hive home; about a third of the teams are from Latin America. Amat expects to host about 50 companies in about four months.

Amat is also talking to universities both locally and abroad and will be announcing some international partnerships in the coming months.

“Venture Hive is really about full ecosystem development,” said Amat. “Everything we do here is really about changing lives.”

eMerge Americas

MannyThe eMerge Americas conference is just one part of the vision of the Technology Foundation of the Americas, the nonprofit started by tech entrepreneur Manny Medina earlier this year to help accelerate the tech hub movement in South Florida.

“There is this transformation, this wave going on ... What I want to do is get Miami in front of this wave,” said Medina at a recent tech talk at Pipeline Brickell.

Medina says he wants South Florida to take advantage of one of its greatest assets — as the gateway to Latin America — and eventually be the technology hub of the Americas. The first step in the battle is to put on a great conference that shines a light on everything going on here. eMerge Americas is scheduled for May 4-6 at Miami Beach Convention Center, and organizers hope for attendance of 5,000 or more.

SanchezMedina and Diane Sanchez, CEO of the Foundation, say many more details about the conference will be coming out over the next couple of months. But they have said dozens of tech giants — including Cisco, Oracle, IBM, Microsoft and Univision — have expressed interest in participating, and already Canada, the United Kingdom, Spain, Guatemala, Colombia and Chile are committed. The team also has been working with Latin American organizations, including 21212 in Brazil, 500 Startups and Angel Ventures in Mexico, INNpulsa in Colombia and Start Up Chile, to showcase the “best and brightest” emerging companies from the region, Sanchez said recently from Bogota, where she was meeting with companies.

Most important, the conference will be a showcase for South Florida’s tech corridor — one that embraces Latin America but also encompasses all three counties and their many assets. “Our strength is tri-county. We’ll be showcasing 40 or more local emerging growth companies, many will be from Broward and Palm Beach. The idea is to bring VC interest to invest in these companies. This is bigger than we are,” said Sanchez.

There will be pavilions with themes like healthcare, smart cities and media and entertainment. Through the efforts of the TFA, local industry advisory groups have formed to help guide the conference and the greater tech hub movement. “What we are finding is that the stakeholders are rallying behind creating centers of excellence. No one wants to be left out. That’s a great problem to have,” said Sanchez, using the example of the recent HealthTech Showcase at the UM Life Science & Technology Park as an example of public-private partnership success. The TFA is also partnering with the South Florida Technology Alliance on some initiatives.

Like the South By Southwest conference in Austin, Texas, and Miami Beach’s Art Basel, eMerge will incorporate lots of music, culture, celebrities and private parties, the organizers say. There will be auxiliary events, too, including Florida International University’s Americas Venture Capital Conference. Just before eMerge, there are plans for a mayoral summit involving officials from many Latin American, European and U.S. cities. The idea is that there will be a Miami Tech Week — a full week or more of activities.

“The hope is that this conference will be the spark — some of the VCs open shop, some of the companies establish themselves here, education happening, that’s the plan. It’s a gargantuan plan,” said Medina.

“We are evolving into a tech corridor, and this is the first event to show what we have and what we are working toward, and we’ll keep building every year,” added Sanchez.


While Miami has a long history of being highly entrepreneurial, there’s an economic problem: The great majority of the businesses stay very small.

The number of micro-businesses (10 or fewer employees) in the Miami metropolitan area has increased more than 200 percent from 2000 through 2012, while the numbers of medium and small businesses increased only slightly — roughly the same rate as population growth in the metropolitan area during that time. The number of large businesses dropped by more than 20 percent from 2000 through 2012, which indicates that few small and medium businesses are growing to replace the large businesses that have been lost, according to Endeavor research based on Dun & Bradstreet data.

Endeavor is all about the scale-up. The nonprofit selects high-impact entrepreneurs to mentor and gives them the network and resources to help them grow fast, adding hundreds of jobs to the economy.

“There are a lot of initiatives for the startup community, and the Knight Foundation’s work is a critical piece ... but there’s no organization that coaches from startup to scale-up in a systematic fashion,” explained Danny Echavarria, director of Organización Corona and vice chair of Endeavor Miami. “Endeavor brings best of breed mentors and a global network for the scale-up process.”

MaydonTo be chosen as an Endeavor Entrepreneur, there are three ingredients, said Laura Maydón, Endeavor Miami’s managing director. The entrepreneur must be a leader and potential role model who wants to stay in Miami and give back to the community. The business model should be be high-growth and proven and the timing must be right — the company needs to be at an “inflection point” such as ready to grow internationally.

Before opening its doors in donated office space in Open English’s Coconut Grove headquarters, the organization assembled a local board who then hired the managing director. Endeavor Miami, backed by a combined $5 million commitment from The Knight Foundation and Endeavor’s board, literally launched last week.


“We spent a lot of time thinking about our founding board,” said Adriana Cisneros, CEO of the Cisneros Group of Companies and chair of Endeavor Miami. “The challenge is that Miami can be transient. We wanted board members who were committed to Endeavor and Miami for years and years to come.”

Endeavor Miami hopes to assemble a small group of South Florida’s highest-quality entrepreneurs to present at the Endeavor Global selection panel in Dubai in December. Next year there will be several opportunities to present more. In the past 15 years, Endeavor Global has selected more than 800 high-impact entrepreneurs. In 2012, these entrepreneurs generated $6 billion in revenue and had created 225,000 jobs, according to Endeavor. “We couldn’t be more thrilled to be at this moment,” Matt Haggman said about Endeavor Miami’s launch. The Miami program director for the Knight Foundation initiated the talks to bring Endeavor to Miami.

The goal for the first year, Maydón said, is to find Endeavor Miami’s first high-impact entrepreneurs. “I will focus on those entrepreneurs who are defining their strategies here in South Florida, and most importantly that they really want to stay here and give back. I hope that five years from now we will look back and we will have so many success stories,” said Maydón, who welcomes high-impact entrepreneurs from all industries. “We will find those great stories.”

Follow Nancy Dahlberg on Twitter @ndahlberg

Posted Sept. 30, 2013

September 29, 2013

Voices of the tech community: Share your opinion on building a tech hub

We asked a sampling of South Florida entrepreneurs, leaders of entrepreneurship organizations, educators, investors and service providers a few questions about developing a tech hub and entrepreneurial ecosystem. Some of the answers selected have been condensed.

Find more voices of the tech community on Tuesday and Wednesday on  the Starting Gate blog on MiamiHerald.com/business.

What do you think? Add your opinion to the comments section here or on the blog.     

What will it take to develop a strong and sustainable tech hub and entrepreneurial ecosystem in South Florida?

The first step in developing a strong and sustainable tech hub in Miami is to build awareness. We need to make sure the efforts and the success stories of Miami’s technology community are well known in order to generate more interest, garner confidence and attract investors. I am teaming up with organizations like Endeavor and Technology Foundation of the Americas along with investors, incubators, entrepreneurs and community leaders to help build the momentum Miami needs. … I can tell you from my experience, Miami has the potential to become an important technology hub and we’re all working hard to make sure it happens.

-- Andres Moreno, Open English founder


First, having a local talent pool of engineers and developers. Those are the folks that are the engine of any tech company. Most students that graduate from computer science and engineering programs from the local institutions leave to find work elsewhere, simply because since the dotcom bubble, there have been very few tech companies in South Florida. The second aspect is convincing the investment community here that tech is a viable option for their investments. Out of the $26.5 billion (3, 698 deals) in 2012, Florida only scored $203 million (34) or 0.8% of the total venture investment in the US. This needs to change. In contrast, Just last week, a New York investment trust bought two South Florida hotels for $31 million, in a single deal!

-- Miguel Alonso, School of Engineering, Miami Dade College


Four things need to coordinate together in one ecosystem: 1) A vibrant education system at both the nniversity and K-12 levels with a strong focus on the STEM disciplines (science, tech, engineering and math); 2) a community of startups generated by that education system and finally feeding this ecosystem with 3) a well-trained and engaged employment base and 4) a developed base of institutional funding.

-- Jaret L. Davis, Co-Managing Shareholder of the Miami Office of Greenberg Traurig


South Florida is blessed to have a strong core of academic institutions, entrepreneurs and investors that create a very rich and expanding innovation ecosystem that is spurring new technologies and business models across a number of industries. ...With that said, I think we still need to continue to find ways to foster stronger bonds among the key stakeholders in the region that will allow us to retain top talent and help fuel both the existing as well as the emerging start-up communities. Organizations and accelerators like ProjectLift and VentureHive are helping to drive these efforts and CareCloud is thrilled to have the opportunity to work with them.

-- Albert Santalo, CareCloud founder


We need far more angel capital tranched in smaller increments $50k/$200/$500k (we have far more good deals than capital capacity); We need less money spent on events and more money directly helping finance and advise startups. Over the longer term, we need far more corporations with offices in South Florida so entrepreneurs have a job safety net should their entrepreneurial aspirations fail... Our regional economic development groups need to sell us as a region and enlist some of us current and ex-corporate types to sell South Florida’s big advantages.

-- Rob Strandberg, Enterprise Development Corp. CEO


Although challenged by the divisive efforts of a handful of individual contributors, Miami is building tech startup hub cred thanks to the consolidation efforts of Knight, Technology Foundations of the Americas and the high impact entrepreneurial centers of our local colleges and universities. To make these efforts long term and sustainable, cities and counties will have to join and invest in infrastructure, marketing and support. The economic development net result for the metropolitan areas will be clear (see examples of entrepreneurial malls around the globe) and start-ups will evolve to growth, liquidity events and new investments.

-- Mike Tomas, Bioheart CEO, FIU Pino Global Entrepreneurship Center board chairman


South Florida must continue supporting the people in the trenches, the innovators that push the boundaries in the evolving tech hub. We also need to change how we think about ourselves, and how others think about us. The tech hub needs more than happy hour to evolve, and it’s why Our City Thoughts is putting a face to the names championing the cutting edge and a better living.

-- Binsen Gonzalez, Our City Thoughts founder


Time and Focus. From where I sit, it’s about healthcare tech and we have great energy focused on that part. But overall, creating a strong and sustainable tech hub in Miami will take a concerted effort from leaders in a variety of roles in our community. Everyone from industry leaders, to civic leaders, and media need to work in a coordinated fashion to not only educate everyone on what it means to be a tech hub, but to create brand awareness around the concept for Miami and South Florida at the center of such collaboration. We have all of the right pieces such as excellent academic institutions that graduate hundreds of talented students every year to feed the system, wealth that can be channeled to support the start-up ecosystem, and most importantly the people of South Florida who are entrepreneurial by nature and who are willing to lead.

-- Robert Chavez, ProjectLift co-founder


We need more talent and we need to create our own "Paypal mafia" effect. For the talent piece, we need a strong pipeline of design, UX, development, and business management talent at the entry, mid, and senior levels. For the "Paypal mafia" effect to happen, we need to have successful acquisitions and IPOs in the area in order to generate capital, attract more talent, and solidify the area’s credibility in order to spur future endeavors.

-- Leslie Bradshaw, Gui.de COO


We have many strong tech assets within the three county region but they are fragmented, siloed and spread out. We have to bring them together into a collaborative community if we are going to reach the critical mass necessary for sustainable success.

-- Lonnie Maier, South Florida Technology Alliance president


An organized long-term plan that shifts culture and perception. I think we’re in the early stages of executing this in Miami. In general, it starts with physical spaces, continues with attracting impactful capital, and really takes a big step forward when we start seeing successful exits of local companies.

-- Norberto “Tito” Gil, MapYourStartup.co founder


Home of the IBM PC revolution, the first smartphone, Terramark NAP … the question really is when did we forget we were a tech hub?

-- Steve Luis, School of Computing and Information Sciences, Florida International University


People like me are looking for any excuse to move to Miami. We need to inform and pull startups from both directions, North and South... Startups from the US, Canada, and Europe, as well as startups from Latin America. We can do it!

-- Brian Brackeen, Kairos founder


We need to come together as a community and make a concerted effort to identify and promote Miami’s Centers of Excellence and enhance those with the latest technology. We also need to provide access and acceleration to the eco-systems that are created around these Centers to early startup and emerging growth companies in order to insure their success. The public sector must follow Mayor Carlos Gimenez’s lead in promoting major initiatives that have the potential to position Miami as a true technology corridor on the global level. At the same time we need to expand the enterprise technology ecosystem enabling legacy and new entrants a prominent position in our community.

-- Xavier Gonzalez, Technology Foundation of the Americas


To expand and deepen its technology community, Miami and South Florida must focus on its natural advantage as the most diverse aggregation of Latin and Caribbean populations in the world. Technologies which enhance the ability of businesses to reach the emerging middle classes in the Latin American countries, across the existing political, cultural and language borders, will be increasingly valuable. With its incredibly diverse local demographic, Miami can be the living laboratory for developing and applying these technologies. An existing vertical where Miami can build on its strong technology base and its current global position is in the Latin media and entertainment market.

-- Jonathan Cole, partner-in-charge of Miami, West Palm Edwards Wildman offices; New World Angels


Getting all our cities and towns across the region educated on what the essential elements are to be a startup city and to have a successful entrepreneurial ecosystem. Set up a simple, uniform evaluation and let our cities and towns respond so they can see where their gaps are and then create a plan on how to close the gaps. This collective data can then inform South Florida’s development of a regional roadmap of tech strengths and build on those.

-- Irene Revales, Startup Delray founder


Our experience with Endeavor is that Miami will need 3-4 big wins or entrepreneurial success stories in the next 24-36 months – and they be could clear successes in the making, not exits. These wins will provide sustainability if they originate in the ecosystem cultivated currently by the Knight Foundation, The LAB Miami, Venture Hive, Endeavor Miami and others. Sustainability by definition requires many symbiotic connections (think mentors and capital) that produce success, not one-off companies having no connection to the emerging system.

-- Peter Kellner, Endeavor co-founder, Endeavor Miami board


I think some strong startup success stories are needed to catch the attention of VC money and make them see that setting up offices in Miami is not only beneficial, but will give them an edge on LatAm investments. The first VC office that actually does this will not only make a big difference to growing the startup hub here, but will have a big influence and shape how the community grows... I am very optimistic that we can start to make this a viable and competitive tech hub, but we need to stop using the terms, the next Silicon Valley or Silicon Beach. We are our own startup hub and we need to start showing everyone else our advantanges and strengths.

-- Pabla Ayala, pFunk Media founder


Company boosters (local government, universities, large companies, mentors), investors, success stories, talent and a collaborative environment. …A special thanks to The LAB, the Knight Foundation and the EDC for what they have already accomplished.

-- Tamara Brenes, DemoHire.founder


Time, money and most importantly the desire to make it happen in Miami. Creating a startup company or community takes patience, which is not a trait many of us entrepreneurs have. We have a lot of key elements in place including: community support (Knight Foundation), university support, strong entrepreneurs and capital….. Most importantly companies have to make it part of their vision. At Rokk3r Labs, growing the community and having a long term vision for Miami is core to our philosophy and drives our company.

-- Nabyl Charania, Rokk3r Labs co-founder


We are already developing a strong and sustainable tech hub in South Florida. With companies like Modernizing Medicine setting the example of how entrepreneurs can start great companies in the area and attract top talent to operate them, more tech leaders will follow suit. The geographical location is attractive for headquartering a business. The infrastructure is here with easy access. We haven’t had any trouble attracting star players. It’s more about changing a mindset so that the perception changes about hi-tech companies being tied to any one area.

-- Dan Cane, Modernizing Medicine founder


I think the community seriously lacks an investment group committed to making the $50-100k investment in companies that have emerged from the MVP/Incubation phase. They are too early to get groups like New World Angels to look at them so they tend to become walking zombies – not quite dead, not quite alive – but with the right cure (money) they could spring back to life. The gap between pre-seed and Series A is huge! Also, I think entrepreneurs are just way too focused on raising big money without having the proper validation, which is a direct result of the Silicon Valley PR Bubble machine in overdrive.

-- Franc Nemanic, CrunchFire Technologies president, New World Angels


We just need a handful of startups to really break free and make it. People involved in those enterprises naturally will develop deep knowledge and skills so they can ultimately create their own startups, enabling the cycle to continue.

-- Phillippe Houdard, Pipeline Brickell co-founder

Check back Tuesday and Wednesday on  Starting Gate for more community voices.

Follow Nancy Dahlberg on Twitter @ndahlberg 

What did the community say last year? Read it here.

Posted Sept. 29, 2013   

Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/2013/09/29/v-fullstory/3659456/voices-of-the-tech-community.html#storylink=cpy

Getting the word out: Telling the stories of the tech community


In the past few months, several new efforts got under way to tell the stories of Miami’s tech community.

•  Rokk3r TV is a project by the team at Rokk3r Labs, a technology portfolio company. Started in May, it is a YouTube channel packed with short, lively anchored videos including interviews with tech entrepreneurs and community leaders, called “Meet the Beat,” and wrap-up reports of startup news from South Florida and beyond, called “Start Up Weekly.” Rokk3r TV’s host is Yendi Valdes, pictured above. Valdes also takes her show on the road, and you’ll often find her interviewing at events. Find the reports at Rokk3rTV.co.

•  LAB Report, which launches Tuesday, is a radio show and free podcast showcasing the arts, education, entrepreneurship and technology communities in South Florida. Listeners will get the latest news and in-depth discussions with special guests on what’s happening around town. Led by pFunk Media’s Camila Souza and Pabla Ayala, the show aims to take innovation beyond The LAB Miami to a wider audience. Catch it live from The LAB on Tuesday and Thursday mornings at 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. or download the podcasts at http://klangbox.fm/category/shows/lab-report/

•  ImpactMIA is a bi-monthly publication produced by the Miami Innovation Center at the UM Life Science and Technology Park that covers the broader tech community with feature stories, profiles and Q&As. It will be distributed locally, nationally and internationally. The first 16-page issue came out this month; November issues will have an international theme and also include stories on creative education and the arts, said Richard Schuchts, a Miami Innovation Center co-founder. People can find issues of the publication at the center and at co-working spaces around town, or they can email cindy@miamiinnovationcenter.com, he said.

•  The South Florida Technology Alliance has pulled together a comprehensive package of resources for the tech and entrepreneurial community, including information on local investor groups, networking groups, university research, jobs, an events calendar and more. Find it at southfloridatech.org and click on Regional Info. Refresh Miami, South Florida’s largest tech-networking group, unveiled its revamped refreshmiami.com with more event and community news and a new job board.

Nancy Dahlberg

Posted Sept. 29, 2013 

September 28, 2013

Entrepreneurship Datebook

Techegg• STARTUPS ON STAGE: The TechCocktail Miami Mixer & Startup Showcase will be at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 1, at Miami Dade College. Vote for your favorite pitch. More info: refreshmiami.com

•  KNOW YOUR COPYRIGHTS: SCORE Miami-Dade presents “Copyrights — Every Business Has Them” covering copyright protection with in the U.S. and abroad, registration and other topics, 6 to 8 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 1, at Miami Innovation Center, 1951 NW 7th Ave., Miami. $30. Info: miamidade.score.org (click on Local Workshops).

• LST HUB NETWORKER: The tri-county life sciences and tech networking group hosts its monthly Miami gathering from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday, Oct 2, at Fado Irish Pub & Restaurant at Mary Brickell Village.

•  PATENT TALK: Broward SCORE presents “Intellectual Property, Patents and Trademarks,” 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 2, at Keiser University in Fort Lauderdale. $30. More info: browardscore.org (click on Local Workshops)

•  ALL ABOUT PR: Broward SCORE presents “PR Buzz on a Budget,” 5 to 8 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 3, at Ikea in Sunrise. More info: browardscore.org (click on Local Workshops)

•  OPEN COFFEE CLUB: The regular morning gathering, including one-on-one sessions with mentors, sponsored by FIU’s Pino Global Entrepreneurship Center and MapYourStartup.co will be from 7:30 to 9 a.m. Thursday, Oct. 3, at Venture Hive in downtown Miami. More info: entrepreneurship.fiu.edu

•  HAPPY HOUR:  Tech Swizzle holds its second happy hour event connecting the tech, arts and music communities on Friday, Oct. 4, at 6 p.m. at The LAB MiamiI. More info: http://techswizzle.com/


September 27, 2013

Who says South Florida doesn't have a vibrant tech community?

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By Bob Nagro

Nagro - Head Shot (1)An overflow crowd of 250 in the Citrix auditorium in Fort Lauderdale Thursday evening might have thought they were in Boston or Silicon Valley.  Despite a rainy night with terrible traffic, they had come from as far away as Kendall and Jupiter to hear a South Florida Technology Alliance panel of local technology leaders talk about Big Data.  Consider what they saw and heard.

The meeting was held at the glass tower headquarters of Citrix, the world-class company founded here 24 years ago, the company that brings you Go-to-Meeting.  The panel, all from Broward or Palm Beach Counties, was made up of three highly successful serial entrepreneurs and the head of data analysis for Office Depot, another world-class company headquartered in the area, that does $4 Billion per year of on line sales.  They were:

John Duffy, the CEO of 3C Interactive, recently named the “The Most Promising Company in America” by Forbes magazine.

John Ferber, who sold his first company Advertising.com to AOL for $496 Million and holds many of the key patents in e-commerce.

Zee Aganovic, the CEO of HiConversion, a leader in Web optimization, who sold his last company to Microsoft.  Zee also holds a Ph.D in optimization theory.

Brian Wood, the director of Business Intelligence at Office Depot. With over $12 Billion in revenue Office Depot also runs one of the worlds largest eCommerce sites depending on Business Intelligence and optimization.

They talked about the cutting-edge ways their local companies are helping their customers grow their sales through the use of “big data analysis” - not just add targeting but things like real time A:B tested website optimization and combining web and in-store results to understand the full impact of website advertising – work that is being done here in South Florida.

This was the sort of meeting everyone expects to be held in the leading tech centers.  But here in South Florida we are surprised because we don't talk about our local success enough.  Even people in South Florida don't know how much is going on around here, so we shouldn't expect investors, entrepreneurs and tech business executives from around the country to know.

We have to tell people how successful we really are.

Bob is a partner at Next Horizon Communications, a corporate communications strategy, PR and advertising firm in South Florida.  He has been involved in the tech community for many years as an entrepreneur and investment banker.

September 26, 2013

Cohealo raises $1.15 million in seed funding, deploys service in 40+ hospitals

Cohealo, a healthcare services and information technology company based in Boca Raton, has raised a $750,000 seed round led by Romulus Capital in Boston, with the participation of several angels in New York.  The company raised a $400,000 round last year, bringing total funding to $1.15 million.  Cohealo will use the funding for product development and nationwide customer expansion, said Mark Slaughter, Cohealo’s founder and CEO. 

Founded in early 2012, Cohealo enables hospitals to share underutilized equipment and instrumentation between locations through a software-as-a-service technology and logistics network. Capitalizing on the power of the "sharing economy," Cohealo’s platform connects medical devices not being used in a hospital system to doctors at sister-locations who need them.  It’s about getting the right technology, to the right place, at the right time, said Slaughter, enabling  health systems to leverage their collective strength across many hospital locations to deliver more cost effective and accessible care.

“Hospital leadership and doctors want real-time information and access to their life saving medical technology,” said Slaughter. “Our platform connects the moving parts and creates visibility in coordinating procedures across all of their locations and staff.”

Cohealo started its pilot program last year in four hospitals in Florida. Now out of beta and in growth mode, Cohealo has deployed its service in more than 40 hospitals in four states -- 25 of those in Florida. “Breaking into that world was challenging but our model was innovative and we got it done,” said Slaughter, who began developing Cohealo as an MBA student at University of Miami. Slaughter expects the number of hospitals to triple by early 2014.

Cohealo has 19 employees, 11 of them in Florida and the others spread around the country. It’s currently hiring Ruby on Rails engineers.

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At Maker Faire, art and technology merge to give us a glimpse at the future

By Ric Herrero

Headshot_RAH_MMMF copyThe fourth annual World Maker Faire was held in Queens, NY, this past weekend. For two days, over 70,000 people showed up to meet some 700 makers whose projects ranged from quadcopter drones and 3D printed toys, to solar powered robots and sensor-based gadgets that can wire your entire home and garden to the Internet. The Faire also featured a full outdoor bazaar with artisans selling hand-made clothing, jewelry and home goods, plus circus acrobats, musicians, a life-sized version of the Mouse Trap board game, a Coke and Mentos geyser show, and lots, I mean lots, of rockets.

Think Science Fair-meets-County Fair-meets-Burning Man-meets-Renegade, and you’re only halfway there. Maker Faire is a family-friendly celebration of DIY creativity, resourcefulness and invention, with the kind of “gee-whiz” energy you likely haven’t felt since you first visited Tomorrowland as a kid.

The World Maker Faire in New York is second in size only to the original Maker Faire, which was first held in San Mateo, CA and in 2013 celebrated its eighth annual show with some 900 makers and 120,000 people in attendance. Detroit, Kansas City, Newcastle (UK), Rome and Tokyo are the home of “featured” 2013 Maker Faires (200+ makers), and community-driven, independently organized Mini Maker Faires are now being produced around the United States and the world—including right here in Miami.

Though far from mainstream, the popularity of Maker Faires has surged in recent years for several reasons, not limited to the following:

  • * They're fun interactive events that make kids (and adults) excited about crafting, circuit electronics, and soldering. “I want to make a robot and take it home!” I overheard one little girl tell her dad in a voice that made you believe they weren’t going home that day without a new friend in tow.
  • * They explore cutting-edge trends in education, science, tech and design. At World Maker Faire, I saw panels discussing the re-emergence of hands-on STEM education at American schools, the rise of design labs and makerspaces, and how wearable computing, sensor-driven and big data, social networks, and location apps are ushering in a hyper-personalized future where we will be increasingly able to communicate with every physical object around us.
  • * They provide a wonderful opportunity to meet local tech and design talent at the ground floor. It’s no wonder that companies like Disney, Google, Intel, Ford, Toyota and Autodesk are sponsoring Faires around the world. Over the past 8 years, several cutting edge products have debuted at the Faires, including the Arduino and Raspberry Pi microcontrollers so popular in engineering classes these days, commercial 3D printers such as the Makerbot Replicator, and countless Etsy shops. 


The first Miami Mini Maker Faire (of which I’m proud to be a producer), will take place on November 16th in Wynwood and will feature both established and emerging regional makers specializing in DIY technology, arts and crafts, including hardware hacking, 3D printing, robotics, handmade goods, urban manufacturing and farming, alternative energy, apparel, artistic performances, craft food and drink, and educational workshops and installations.

Miami has a long tradition of DIY ingenuity and tinkering. Many who have arrived at our shores came with some technical or artisan skill, yet for decades found little opportunity to put their skills to professional use. Recently, as jobs have become scarcer, makers young and old have taken the entrepreneurial route and started their own businesses making things, or using technology to hack traditionally “non-tech” goods into something new, while others still practice their skills as a hobby. However, these talented individuals have yet to coalesce around a “maker movement” as many others have in major cities around the world.

The Miami Mini Maker Faire provides these makers with a unique opportunity to show what they have made and to share what they have learned with their community at large. It will to help foster a sustainable maker culture in our region, and will serve as a bellwether for how far we’ve come as a creative community, and how far we have yet to go.

I strongly encourage any makers who wish to exhibit their work or DIY projects at the Miami Mini Maker Faire to complete our online application by September 30th at www.makerfairemiami.com.

Ric Herrero is co-founder of MIAMade, a non-profit organization dedicated to fostering a sustainable maker culture in the Great Miami area, and producer of the Miami Mini Maker Faire.

The photo of Ric Herrero is by Catalina Ayubi.

September 25, 2013

Awesome Foundation to expand with grant from Knight

The Miami chapter of the Awesome Foundation, a global network that supports awesome community projects with $1,000 grants, will expand its local program with $20,000 from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

Since its launch in January 2013, Awesome Foundation Miami has supported compelling ideas from local entrepreneurs and creatives that need seed funding to proceed. With Knight support, the Awesome Foundation work to expand its impact by increasing the dollar amount and number of grants it makes. Additionally, the Awesome Foundation will develop a social marketing campaign to attract more applicants and hold events to connect grantees with each other and the community. In this way, the Awesome Foundation hopes to become a well-known source of small-scale funding for the best community ideas and create new ways to spotlight the work of grantees.

Natalia Martinez 12-12 F0025 copy “We have only just begun to tap into the ideas of Miami’s creative community, like funding surfing classes for kids and a community garden in Little Haiti” said Natalia Martinez, trustee and dean of the Awesome Foundation Miami. “With our increased capacity, we’re looking forward to discovering and supporting more of these uniquely Miami ideas, as well as targeting outreach to specific groups in our community.”

Grants are awarded monthly and applications can be submitted online by the 15th of every month. The application is available in English, Spanish and Creole to reflect the city’s composition. Funding is awarded with no strings attached.

Oct. 25, 2013 the Awesome Foundation Miami will host an event at the Wynwood Brewing Company. It will bring together grant winners, past and future applicants, and those interested in learning more about awesome projects that are happening in the Miami area. The event is free and available to the public.

The Awesome Foundation, founded in Boston in 2009, has since expanded to 80 chapters in 15 countries. Through these autonomous, self-funding chapters, $1,000 grants have been awarded to more than 650 projects that promote awesomeness in the universe, to total more than $660,000.

If any individuals would like to supplement the monthly grants the Awesome Foundation Miami accepts contributions through The Miami Foundation.

“Miami’s emergence as a center for arts, culture and tech is becoming clear, however we still need to find new and fun ways to support our local creative community,” said Matt Haggman, Knight Foundation program director in Miami. “The Awesome Foundation is doing just that by creating an approachable, viable source of small grants for innovative ideas.”

The 3rd conflict in every entrepreneurial company: Market opportunity vs. execution

By Robert Hacker

Robert hackerThis is the third post in a three part series on the natural conflicts in the objectives of every entrepreneurial company. The first post in the series discussed the conflict between revenue growth and cash flow. The second post in the series discussed the conflict between customer versus shareholders.

 Market Opportunity versus Execution

 In a previous post  on The Starting Gate I explained that to successfully scale a startup depends on two factors:

  1. 1. The size of the market opportunity
  2. 2. Execution

Execution determines the speed of revenue growth and the efficiency with which capital is used. The first goal of execution is to achieve product/market fit. Product/market fit is that wonderful moment when a company realizes that there are a meaningful number of real, paying customers in the target market. However, this realization frequently leads to a lack of consideration of possibly more customers in a different, larger target market, wherein lies the conflict between market opportunity and execution.

Execution has become a popular theme in the world of entrepreneurship, in part because it has been re-branded as “business model”. Every writer on business model stresses the importance of product/market fit and provides techniques to achieve it. The most important technique is to meet and talk to real customers about the new product or service. Another popular technique is to “use test” the product with real people and observe how they use the product and compare it with the original product concept. Both are very good techniques to achieve product/market fit, but each technique has an important assumption. The techniques are used with the assumed target market customers. If these techniques produce positive feedback there is a tendency to stop evaluating target market and perhaps miss a larger market opportunity.

To avoid the possibility of prematurely determining the target market and missing the larger market opportunity, some observations may be helpful:

  • * Beware of early adopters. Early adopters are the geeky technophiles who buy products and have the ability to work around any problems they find. A typical customer does not have a “work around” they can use and will not buy the product. Early adopters are great customers but only if the product is ready for the larger market of regular customers.
  • * Products have sales patterns. There is much information available on the web that shows the growth and growth rates of revenue for different types of products, such as successful social media sites, SAAS software and computing devices to name a few. While the order of magnitude of sales may be different because of, for example, different promotion budgets, the slope of the revenue growth curve should be the same. If the slope of the revenue growth curve is different from a large successful company with a similar product, perhaps you have not found the target customer for the big market opportunity.
  • * The 100% rule. I am sure a mathematician could explain this, but every successful company I have seen that has product/market fit in a market of large opportunity grows revenue at 100% or greater for a prolonged period. Perhaps the growth is week-on-week or month-on month or this quarter compared to last quarter or year-on year, but every startup that has found the large market opportunity has a period when growth is explosive and 100% or better. Perhaps if the company is not growing at 100% the company has not yet found the large market opportunity.

To avoid misunderstanding, I think execution and business model are critically important. However, entrepreneurship is really about building large companies, which requires a large market opportunity. Be careful about prematurely determining product/market fit at the expense of missing the large market opportunity.

Robert H. Hacker is the Managing Partner of GH Capital Partners, a Miami-based consultancy specializing in growth strategies, acquisitions and turnarounds for entrepreneurs since 2005. Also, he is an Adjunct Professor of Entrepreneurship and Social Entrepreneurship at Florida International University and previously taught at the MIT Sloan School of Management. He is the author of "Billion Dollar Company: An entrepreneur’s guide to business models for high growth companies" and has blogged for six years at Sophisticated Finance