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51 posts from March 2015

March 31, 2015

Deadline nears for applying to present at Florida Venture Forum's Early Stage Conference

 The Florida Venture Forum, a statewide support organization for venture capitalists and entrepreneurs, is inviting c private, early to mid-stage, Florida-based companies to present their pitches before an audience of potential investors at the its Eighth Annual Early Stage Conference. 

The half day Post-Investment Workshop component of the conference will take place at 1:30 p.m. on Wednesday, May 13, 2015. On Thursday, May 14, 2015, the Conference opens with the Statewide Collegiate Business Plan Competition and the Early Stage Conference. All events will be hosted at the Vinoy Renaissance Resort & Golf Club in St Petersburg,

In addition to providing a platform for Florida-based high-growth, high-promise companies to pitch investors, the conference will feature expert panel discussions, networking opportunities, and a workshop about post-investment governance, mentoring and exits.

“We are thrilled to help another dynamic group of emerging companies connect with capital sources from across the country,” said Kevin Burgoyne, president of the Florida Venture Forum. “The increased interest among national investors and number of early-stage companies that have already applied to present sends a clear message that Florida’s rapidly growing entrepreneurial ecosystem continues to gain momentum and national attention. We expect this year’s conference to be a record-breaking success.”

The conference will also coincide with the organization’s 5th Annual Statewide Collegiate Business Plan Competition, which invites Florida’s universities to bring their best candidates to compete before a panel of judges to win placement as a presenter in the Early Stage Conference. More details are available in the 2015 conference schedule.

In response to the state’s growing interest in post-investment best practices, the Florida Venture Fourm in partnership with the Kauffman Foundation and Angel Resource Institute will be hosting: Post-Investment: Mentoring, Governance & Exits. The Post-Investment Seminar, taking place May 13, invites presenters, entrepreneurs, students, and other professionals to learn the fundamentals of how to prepare for, set up and execute a solid post-investment plan. Presentations, panels and exercises will cover the following topics: mentoring entrepreneurs; management transition; board of directors; tax issues; follow-on funding; exits.

Presenting Company selection criteria, including requirements for the development stage, management, business planning and equity investment, can be found on the event website.

To present at the conference, applications must be submitted on or before the final cut off date of  April 6. There is no cost to apply to present. However there is a nominal registration charge for entrepreneurs to attend the Conference. Applications will be reviewed by a selection committee of angel investors and venture capitalists.


Miami Science Barge wins Knight Cities Challenge award




By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

Ahoy Miami, make room for the Science Barge.

The Miami Science Barge is envisioned as a marine innovation lab, a hybrid between a floating urban farm and environmental education center powered by renewable energy. The concept was one of 32 winners nationwide in the inaugural Knight Cities Challenge.

The goal of the winning proposal, submitted by Nathalie Manzano-Smith with the science nonprofit CappSci, is to create a public focal point for Miami’s climate issues. The project will receive $298,633, and the Knight funding will accelerate an ambitious timeline. Manzano-Smith said the CappSci team hopes to open the Science Barge in early 2016 in the downtown Miami area.

An initiative of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the inaugural Knight Cities Challenge attracted more than 7,000 ideas to make the 26 communities where Knight invests more vibrant places to live and work. It asked innovators of all kinds to answer the question: What’s your best idea to make cities more successful?

To win a portion of the $5 million grant funding, the 32 winners proposed ideas that included training for Detroit rehabbers who plan to combat blight by reactivating vacant buildings, creating low-cost modular housing and workspace units to test a new model for affordable housing in San Jose and installing musical swings designed to bring people together in multiple cities. Philadelphia had the most winners with six, followed by Detroit with five winners. A full list of winners can be found on KnightCities.org. The Science Barge is Miami’s sole winner.

“It shows you once again don’t ever get the notion that you know all the people with the good ideas or that you have all the good ideas, because people will prove you wrong. Challenges work so well to source ideas and new people, people who may never approach us for a grant,” said Carol Coletta, Knight Foundation vice president for community and national initiatives. “We had a lot of good ideas around bringing public life back to vacant spaces, and that was a dominant theme around the country, but I didn’t expect so many ideas on building the narrative or changing the story of a city.”

The Miami Science Barge is an example of that, she said. “There is this simplified story of Miami in the world of glitz and glamour … but as to its relationship to science, you haven’t been able to touch and feel it. Having the one-two punch of adding the Frost Museum in Museum Park and putting the science park in its proximity is a very interesting way to lift up our concerns about the physical world we live in and the ways we can take care of it.”

Manzano-Smith agrees and says Museum Park is the desired location for the 120-foot by 30-foot barge. The Science Barge team wants to create interactive programming for children and adults about marine life, sustainable technology, green living and urban farming through exhibits, workshops and demonstrations. Among the planned features is an interactive robotic camera that will allow kids to view marine life.

“We envision the science barge to be a symbol of building a sustainable Miami,” said Manzano-Smith. It will be solar powered and harvest all its water from the rain and sea. “Our goal is to provide a unique experience and let people access the bay that normally can’t.”

Next steps are purchasing the barge — the team is negotiating with a Fort Lauderdale owner now — and working through the permitting process. The team is working with the University of Miami Rosensthiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science and community partners such as Health in the Hood, Urban Greenworks and Frost Museum of Science. Northwestern Senior High’s welding program students will help construct the exhibits, said Manzano-Smith, who is director of innovation at CappSci.

The team was inspired by a barge in New York started by CappSci’s founder, Ted Caplow, a Miami-based engineer, social entrepreneur and philanthropist. The New York barge was focused on urban agriculture. Caplow is very involved with the Miami Science Barge team, Manzano-Smith said, and the team visited the barge in New York state last fall.

“There are not many opportunities to get students out on the water here in a low-cost way. Providing that connection to the bay is really important to us, because it creates that environmental stewardship,” she said.

The Knight Cities Challenge is a three-year, $15 million project, with $5 million available annually. The second challenge will reopen for submissions in fall 2015. Based on the year one response, “it feels very much like it will become a part of our standard program,” Coletta said.

Follow Nancy Dahlberg on Twitter @ndahlberg.


 The Science Barge in New York, a project of CappSci founder Ted Caplow,  inspired the Miami Science Barge project.


The Miami Science Barge team visiting the barge in New York state last fall: James Jiler (FIU Education Effection & Urban Greenworks), Josh Grubman (University of Miami, Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science), Marc Gauthier (Miami-Dade County Public Schools & Fruit of Life Organics), Alissa Farina (CappSci), Nathalie Manzano-Smith (CappSci, Science Barge), Ted Caplow (CappSci), Asha Loring (Health in the Hood)

March 30, 2015

Start-Up City event looks at urban startups, creative energy in Miami

Startup city

Chef Tom Colicchio talks about restaurants as startups with Richard Florida at Start-Up City: Miami.

By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

Think about this: About 80 percent of all seats on roads today are empty at all times.

"If we could find a way to fill them we would have the most efficient transportation system in the world," said Veronica Juarez, director of government relations of San Francisco-based Lyft, a popular ride-sharing service that launched in Miami last year.

Lyft's service -- still illegal in Miami as it fights regulatory hurdles -- is aimed at making living in cities more efficient. That was one of the themes explored Monday at the day-long Start-Up City: Miami conference at the New World Center in Miami Beach. The third annual conference, produced by The Atlantic, CityLab and the Knight Foundation, brought together entrepreneurs, consultants and investors, both local and from other cities, to discuss ways of making Miami a more vibrant hub of innovation.

Speaking at Monday's conference, Juarez explained Lyft's new San Francisco service, Lyft Line, in which a driver picks up multiple riders on a particular route -- in effect, personalized mass transit. Costs are 30 percent to 40 percent lower than the cost of a typical solo Lyft ride, and as the routes become more popular, costs will go down more, she said.

Already most of the Lyft traffic in San Francisco is via Lyft Line -- a service the company wants to bring to Miami.

Bastian Lehmann, CEO of Postmates, also underscored the benefits to local communities of his service, which uses drivers with time in their schedules to deliver just about anything.

His and other sharing-economy companies generate revenues that stay in the cities they serve, providing money to hundreds of contract drivers. Tech enables the efficiency, allowing a customer to know who and where his driver is at all points in time, and allowing drivers to know their customers, too. Postmates launched in Miami last year.

"We are seeing very interesting use cases -- the moms with children who can make money driving around while their kids are in school, seniors and people with disabilities who say this has fundamentally changed their lives," Juarez said.

For Lyft, Miami's organic creative energy was a lure. That same spirit has sparked a wave of collaborative co-working and maker spaces reflecting the way people work in cities now, according to a panel of Jason Saltzman of AlleyNYC, Pandwe Gibson of Miami's EcoTech, Bill Jacobson of Workbar in Boston and Tamara Wendt of the LAB Miami in Wynwood.

It’s a work mode that has reached corporations, which are making their work areas more collaborative and allowing employees to be more intra-preneurial, the panel said. In the latest progression, corporations are seeking to mix more with entrepreneurs. A number of large companies are members of the LAB Miami, for instance. "Corporations know they need to innovate. We are exploring how we can help with that process,"€ Wendt said.

In Boston, Workbar is experimenting with a program in which startup teams from Workbar are setting up desks in corporate offices.

Such creative energy is also sparking a slew of restaurant "startups" outside the traditional culinary hubs.

"You are seeing young talent moving out of New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and San Francisco," said Tom Colicchio, celebrity chef and owner of Crafted Hospitality. "It's expensive to start a restaurant and it is expensive to live there. Now there are great restaurants everywhere."

While cost factors are behind some of the restaurant renaissance in cities like Miami, South Florida and other locales offer attractive downtime options, he said. "Restaurants are hard work. You want to be able to enjoy the little bit of time off you have."

Colicchio is soon opening a restaurant in Miami Beach, Beachcraft. Success of craft foods like the beans produced by specialty roaster Panther Coffee convinced him the time was right. Miami's tourist economy is a bonus. "I don't care if you are staying here three days on a vacation or you come three days a week, we have one goal … to make people happy."

His advice: If you do something that makes you happy, everything else will follow.

"Every [restaurant] opening is exciting. There is an electricity in the air. Find moments like that every single day in your business -- that will keep you going."

Follow Nancy Dahlberg on Twitter @ndahlberg.

Q&A with Mary Spio: Down-to-earth advice from a rocket scientist

By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

SpioWhen Spio was 16, her parents spent everything they had to send her to the United States for a better life.

Her first job was at a McDonald’s, but after a while she found her way into the Air Force. “It was when I was in the Air Force that an engineer pulled me aside and told me I was really great at fixing electronics; and that I should look into becoming an engineer. I did and it was the best thing I’ve ever done.”

After six years with the Air Force, she went to Syracuse and the Georgia Tech for engineering degrees, and she was soon working at satellite communications firms, some while in college, where she designed and launched satellites into deep space on a NASA project, headed up a satellite communications team for Boeing, and pioneered digital cinema technology for LucasFilms that redefined the distribution method for major motion pictures.

With a continued interest in media, Spio turned to entrepreneurship about a decade ago and has never looked back — even though at one point she was voted out of her own company because her investor wanted a white male at the helm.

Now Spio heads her own company once again, Miami Beach-based Next Galaxy, a developer of innovative content and tools for virtual reality. Its flagship application is CEEK, a social VR hub for accessing entertainment, education and branded experiences. One of her newest products, CEEKARS 4-D headphones, is out this month and Spio is currently running an Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign for the product. In January, Spio brought the B.I.G. Summit to the New World Center on Miami Beach, and her conference explored ways to use virtual reality across a broad spectrum of industries.

She also has a new book out. In It’s Not Rocket Science: 7 Game-Changing Traits for Achieving Uncommon Success,sheoffers advice and insights by exploring the distinct actions and attributes that successful leaders across many fields share as they challenge old precepts and create worldwide impact.

The Miami Herald met with Spio recently in her Miami Beach office. Here are excerpts of that conversation:

Q. Why did you decide to write the book?

A. After working with the U.S. Department of State visiting and speaking at all these different countries like Pakistan, South Africa, Ukraine and Russia, I kept getting a lot of the same questions. I said I need to put something together that shares what I have learned along the way. To do that, I had to go back to my foundation. I had been studying game-changers for a long time and never realized it.

When I was young and living on my own in New York … I was working in McDonald’s, back then my idea of success was going from fries to cashier. But I started reading. My first book was Sumner Redstone’s A Passion to Win — I read it over and over and over and over, I could connect to something in there — overcoming challenges. I also read about Bill Gates. As I read about these people who I admired, I thought there was more that I could do. It gave me the courage to try new things.

As I traveled later on, I got to meet all these game-changers, more than 100 over time. As a scientist I said, how do I codify this?

A lot of times when I speak, some people say it is easy for you to say because you are a rocket scientist. But I was like those people, thinking technology is for those other people. Even when I went into the Air Force, I really didn’t know technology. The more I learned about it, it’s really not rocket science. For anyone who thinks technology is for those other people, this is the book for them and it has steps you can take to leverage tech for what you want to do. It’s a combination of my observations and discoveries; this is my personal playbook, these are the people I go to over and over again when I am having a hard time and it keeps me going.

Q. Is there one particular trait among all these game-changers?

A. I think it’s courage. Most of these people are almost crazy. When you do anything new, there is opposition and shaming that comes with it, and these people didn’t care about that. It’s not fearlessness; they have the fear but they act in spite of the fear. It’s also the scientific mindset. As an engineer, I know failure is not failure, it is just an experiment. In entrepreneurship too, I realize these founders have the scientific approach to success. It’s OK to fail. It’s not failure, it’s feedback.

Q. How did you fall into technology — and stay?

A. I was the kid that always tore the radio apart, I wanted to know how it worked, how, how, how, how — I drove my parents crazy. In the Air Force testing, I scored very high in electronics.

In the Air Force, I was usually the only woman, but it felt like home. I enjoyed what I was doing.

And when I was working on Gen2Media, my last company, I felt like I had died and gone to heaven. There is more to the movie industry than what happens on the big screen, there is so much excitement that happens behind the scenes.

A big part of why women and girls don’t go into technology is they don’t want to be in the lab all day. But there are so many opportunities, there are so many other options.

Q. Is that also why you also created the B.I.G. Summit?

A. Yes, I go to a lot of virtual reality conferences. Ninety-nine percent of everything I was seeing is games, shoot-’em-up games. I think enough is enough — what about healthcare and education and all these other things?

That was the idea of the B.I.G. Summit. We are looking at healthcare, we are looking at education.

Q. What were some of your biggest challenges along the way?

A. I felt like a kid in the candy store coming into tech because I was pulled in so many ways; it surprised me to see how much my perspective was needed. When everyone is the same, everyone thinks the same way and you miss a lot. But not all of what I have experienced was positive.

At one company, for example, I had a boss who was racist and sexist, the work environment was not ideal. … Fortunately I was recruited by Boeing where my experiences were all wonderful. Culture starts at the top. I worked at Aerospace Corp. under a woman CEO, and my experience there was phenomenal. While at Georgia Tech they let me work remotely from my dorm room. From Boeing on I never felt any type of discrimination [as an employee], I felt right at home.

But as an entrepreneur raising capital, I ran into challenges. When I launched Gen2Media, we were doing a million before beta. We had an investor come in to help us raise capital — and he said he was having a hard time because no one was writing checks to black women and he needed a white male at the helm. Then he got my other partners (they were all equal partners) on his side — I was forced out of my own company.

This was a company I built with every dime I had. … We had 26 employees. That was toughest thing I have gone through, and it happened not because of something I did but because of who I am. I am a black woman and that is not going to change.

I was pregnant at the time. I took some time off [about two years, 2010-2012], moved in with my family for awhile, started writing the book, did some consulting but mostly spent time with my son and family in London.

Q. And then?

A. When I was ready to go back to work, I put my resume out there, and heard from Amazon and NBCUniversal and others, but I decided I really wanted to build my own company again. I participated in a Google for Entrepreneurs program and we visited Facebook and I saw the Oculus [the virtual reality headset maker that Facebook later purchased]. I always loved 3D movies. I tried it on and I said “oh my god this is exactly what I want to do for ever and ever.” Everything was leading up to this point. It was religious for me. I said I would love to watch a movie this way, I would love to deliver education this way, healthcare this way. I said I gotta build something that I can enjoy this thing with.

Then I went to a Samsung conference, saw the Gear VR [headset] and said this is the way to change the market but content is going to drive it. We dove headfirst into developing content, not just as an entertainment means but as a way to do medical training. We partnered with Miami Children’s Hospital to develop these models for CPR and also anti-choking. As a mom I think this is super important. With the Google Cardboard [a very low cost VR headset], you can have a headset and you can experience it affordably. We are also working with the schools.

I want to make a different kind of impact. All these companies are spending billions to to teach kids to kill; no one wants to hear that but it is true. I think we can be more intentional about what we program for kids. Whether we are putting them on the moon, or they are flying through the sky, why can’t it be a learning voyage? It can be a lot more than just killing. That is the impact I am trying to make with Next Galaxy.

Q. Who are your heroes?

A. Oprah definitely. Bill Gates, Larry Page and Elon Musk because of their moonshots; they set out to do something extraordinary for humanity.

Also Mark Cuban, Mark Zuckerberg and Laurie Clark. Laurie was the first female mentor I ever had, she was one of the first SVP at Staples, she was also on the board of Suncoast Motion Pictures, GamePlay, etc. and not only gave me advice but walked me into decision makers there and at Sony. My very first mentor in business was Yoav Cohen; he was instrumental in the growth of JDATE, also co-founder of Genesis Media. He made a huge difference in my career with advice, opportunities and introductions, including to Laurie Clark. Also, Leslie Hielema, the first female president of the Orlando Chamber and a dear friend and mentor.

I believe mentorship is super, super important as it provides not just guidance but access. Once you get in the door, what you do is up to you.

Q. What is the best advice you have ever received?

A. Don’t clip your wings to fit in someone else’s box. It came with a story from my father. … Your value comes from your difference, not your similarity.

Q. When do you think we will see mainstream adaption of virtual reality technology?

A. I think mainstream adaption will come from mobile phones, and I think it will happen very quickly. I think we have about 15 months to go.

Mainstream adaption is going to be based on content outside of gaming. Everybody currently is looking at gaming because that is what they know, but movies, concerts, sports healthcare, medical training, all of that is going to eclipse gaming and it is going to be from smartphones. Last year there were over a billion smartphones that were shipped out, everyone has a smartphone in their hand whether they are in India, Ghana or Miami. They are looking for what to do with their phones, they want a different kind of experience ... Imagine I can deliver Intersteller to you and you can be in the experience and all you have to do is flip your phone, download CEEK and watch it that way. … Our goal is to make VR as simple as turning on the TV. That’s when mainstream adoption will happen.

Thanks to the Samsung Gear VR, I think we will get there much faster than anyone predicted. I am curious about what Apple has, you have Microsoft with Hololens. It is going to happen on the mobile phone, not on the Oculus Rift.

Q. You moved here last year. How are you finding South Florida?

A. I love it! I came here for the beaches, but the community is why i am staying. The support is here. There are so many people who are very serious about turning South Florida into a tech hub. There is a big opportunity with the third wave of the Internet for us to do exactly that.

Opportunities abound here, and it is fantastic to be a part of building this ecosystem. There are great people here: Manny Medina, Rokk3r Labs, and Felecia Hatcher and Michael Hall of Digital Grass. It is a great time to be here, like the early days of the Internet. The one thing missing is seed capital. That needs to change. Here you have lot of opportunities but the money is not here. We raised our money in New York, and had to fight tooth and nail to be here.

Q. What is the biggest takeaway you’d like readers to take from your book?

A. Their voices are needed today, not tomorrow. We are all techies and you can make an impact leveraging technology and you don’t have to a rocket scientist to do that. The book offers practical advice on ways to get started, testing your model and making your mark on our world.

This is all stuff I have been through and I have used whether it was going from McDonald’s to Boeing, or when I lost everything and had to come back again. A lot of my mistakes are what I draw from — this is my playbook and I am opening it up and sharing it with others.

Q. What advice do you have for students interested in tech?

A. I think it is a great time to be in tech, stay up to date with the industry. It'a not just what you learn in the classroom, read the trades, the daily newspaper, you need to know the industry.

Also, find someone in your industry you admire and try to connect with them — with all the social networks around this is very possible today. You might have go reach out to hundreds, before you find one person, remember they get thousands of emails so don't give up or get discouraged just because you contact one person and don't hear back. Keep searching.


Mary Spio

Current position: CEO of Next Galaxy Media

Career highlights: Patent-holding deep-space scientist at Boeing and other companies. Serial entrepreneur and consultant. She has worked with and/or provided content development, marketing and technical expertise to over 200 leading retailers, corporations and entertainers including Microsoft xBox, Tribune News Company, Coca Cola, Toyota, Mary J. Blige and Lebron James. Spio is on the USA Today panel of CEOs, presidents, founders and chairmen where she advises on leadership trends annually and is a speaker for the U.S. State Department on innovation and entrepreneurship.

New book: “It’s Not Rocket Science: 7 Game-Changing Traits for Uncommon Success.”

Age: 42

Lives in: Miami Beach

Education: Majored in engineering at Syracuse University and earned her graduate degree in electrical engineering and computer science, with an emphasis on deep-space communications, from Georgia Tech.

Favorite movies: “Avatar,” “Unforgiven” and “The Butler.”


Follow Nancy Dahlberg on Twitter @ndahlberg.

March 29, 2015

Israel's tech-startup success: What can we learn?


MIAMI DELEGATION IN JERUSALEM: From left: Leandro Finol, Brian Siegal, Benoit Wirz, Felecia Hatcher, Nico Berardi, Laura Maydon, Matt Haggman, Susan Amat, Stonly Baptiste, Jaret Davis. Photo courtesy of AJC's Project Interchange.

By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

The ecosystem supporting Israel’s globally recognized tech and innovation sector, dubbed “Startup Nation,” helps fuel and sustain rapid economic growth in the country. Are there takeaways for Miami as it tries to build an ecosystem? If so, 2015 is shaping up to be the year to learn.

A delegation of leaders in the Miami tech-startup community spent the past week in Israel with Project Interchange, an educational institute of the American Jewish Committee, to learn from the country’s thriving tech and innovation sector while sharing best practices and making connections. The knowledge exchange was supported by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

The group was based in Tel Aviv, the hub of Israel’s tech corridor, but the delegation also visited technology and innovation centers throughout Israel, including Haifa, Jerusalem and Beersheba. Delegates visited the world-famous Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, as well as incubators and community programs, and met with entrepreneurs, academics and investors to learn about policies that foster and encourage innovation and practices that can be replicated in Miami. Although Project Interchange has led delegations for 30 years, this is the first focused on entrepreneurship.

“Israeli’s world-class research and innovation, its unique academia-to-technology transfer programs, and its emphasis on integrating immigrants into the country’s society, are key areas for collaboration and sharing of best practices that can truly benefit the greater Miami community and beyond,” said Robin Levenston, Project Interchange’s executive director.

But that’s not all: The Israeli Consulate and eMerge Americas have been working together to showcase Israeli innovation and bring about 10 Israeli startups to Miami to participate in the homegrown tech conference in May. A speaker series featuring Israeli entrepreneurs is also in the plans, and other projects are in the works to promote collaboration between the regions.

There is certainly a lot to learn from Israel.

Today you will find almost every big-name tech company in Israel — including Google, Apple, H-P and Intel (one of the largest tech employers in Israel) — as well as a number of world-ranked research institutions, hundreds of promising startups and a thriving ecosystem to support them. The technology industry is one of Israel’s biggest economic drivers; more than half of Israel’s exports are high tech.

Although it seems like overnight, Israel’s high-tech ecosystem has been building over the past several decades.

“If you ask anyone where the high-tech sector in Israel started, everyone would say ’69 in the Technion,” said Peretz Lavie, president of the Technion. “This is where they started to teach microelectronics, this is where semiconductors were produced, this is where it all started. … In ’69, the Technion also decided to open a faculty of medicine. It was again prophetic -- the decision was made because in the future medicine and technology would work hand in hand. This is why Israel now is an empire of medical devices.”

So what are the ingredients of success in the Startup Nation? “Everyone wants to know what is the secret,” Lavie said in an interview with the Miami Herald when he was in town for an American Technion Society board meeting. (See Q&A with Peretz Lavie here.)

Lavie said two of the major ingredients are characteristics of Israelis. First, it’s their risk-taking behavior — “the Army service teaches you how to take risks,” he said. And second, acceptance of failure: “There are many countries where failure is not an option. Here, failure is part of the learning curve.”

Another key ingredient, Lavie said, is the emphasis on education, a Jewish tradition. “We don’t teach the materials, we teach them how to learn; it is a lifelong experience. I hear this a lot from our alumni, ‘we are taught how to learn … There is not a situation where we cannot cope.’<TH>”

Lastly he said, the government in the 1960s had the right policy when it started to support research in companies: “These ingredients are what created the ecosystem.”

Lavie recently completed a study of companies established in the last 20 years by Technion graduates.  In the past 20 years, alumni and professors have founded 2,000 companies; all but 169 of them are in Israel. “The number of jobs was 100,000, merger and acquisitions [activity generated] was $28 billion, the total money raised was $6 billion,” he said. “And if you ask them why they are doing it, they want to change the world; it’s not the money.”

Universities need great students and faculty, but they also need a mission, Lavie said. “We serve the country, we serve mankind,” he said of Technion, which is partnering with Cornell University to bring a tech-focused campus to New York City. That mission-driven approach was not lost on the Project Interchange startup delegation during its visit to Technion. “One participant said that even more amazing than the technological innovation at the Technion is the support for entrepreneurs and the efficiency with which they have partnered with the commercial world to get products to the market,” said Brian Siegal, AJC Miami director, who accompanied participants on the trip and blogged about the experiences daily.

Members of the startup delegation included Matt Haggman, Miami program director of Knight Foundation; Susan Amat, founder of Venture Hive; Laura Maydón, managing director of Endeavor Miami; Jaret Davis, co-managing shareholder of Greenberg Traurig; Stonly Baptiste, co-founder of Urban.Us; Nico Berardi, managing director of the AGP angel network; Benoit Wirz, director of venture investments for Knight Foundation; Leandro Finol, executive director of Miami Dade College’s Idea Center; and Felecia Hatcher, co-founder of Code Fever.

Amat said learning in the field — quite literally — plays a big role in Israel’s rapid pace of development. The role of the military and military service is at the core, she said. Israeli technologists learn to test and iterate on innovations on the ground for a couple of intense years before going to college, giving them a confidence and “learning by doing” not seen elsewhere.

“It’s now a country full of trained leaders with crisis management skills who know how to problem-solve and work on a team. This experience has made me even more focused on immersive experiences for middle and high school students — everything hands-on and empowering them to lead, work in teams, and focus on excellence,” said Amat, whose nonprofit Venture Hive runs tech-entrepreneurship programs for K-12 students as well as adults.

Haggman shared this: “For me, the biggest takeaway is the belief and sense of possibility that we've come across. In conversation after conversation with entrepreneurs, there is such a focus on solving problems and thinking ahead to what’s next.… ‘We're a startup nation,’ said Enon Landenberg, an entrepreneur behind an incubator called Small Factory Big Ideas outside Tel Aviv, when I asked him what drives the startup community here. ‘From the beginning we've been focused on solving problems. ... That's what drives things.’

Haggman said that another takeaway is the huge focus on the entrepreneurial ecosystem. Maydón, who is building the Miami Endeavor network for high-impact entrepreneurs, agrees. “As one speaker said, ‘you need an ecosystem that continuously answers questions for entrepreneurs’ and it’s just not based on bursts,” she said. “I believe that’s what we’re all trying to accomplish in Miami.”

The collaborations will no doubt continue. At eMerge Americas, Israel will have a large booth showcasing Israeli innovation. Israel is aiming to to include about 10 companies in a variety of areas such as communications, technology and biomed, said Revital Malca, deputy consul general of Israel. Among the companies: “We are working very hard to bring Mobileye.”

Tel Aviv’s deputy mayor will participate in the eGov summit with other world dignitaries as part of eMerge America. Malca also said the consulate has been working with the Office of Enterprise Florida in Tel Aviv to recruit companies.

Meital Stavinsky, an attorney and shareholder with Greenberg Traurig, co-chairs the region’s Tel Aviv University alumni chapter; the firm also has a Tel Aviv office. In a recent study, Tel Aviv University ranked ninth in the world for VC-backed entrepreneurship, she said. “What we are looking to launch as part of eMerge Americas week is a series named Entrepreneurship On Tap, an informal networking opportunity that will be social, fun and in a cool venue, where successful entrepreneurs from Israel will come to speak and share their journeys.”

It’s a program that has been done in Israel for a number of years successfully and then spread to other cities; the alumni chapter wants to host at least three a year. “It’s a great way to showcase Israeli innovation and spirit,” said Stavinsky, who as a focus of her practice, advises innovative Israeli technology companies, particularly in cleantech and agtech, on government law and policy matters.

Other efforts are underway to continue to build connections with Israel’s ecosystem. Israeli innovation will be represented at Baptiste's Smart City Startups conference in Miami next month. Before the end of the year, Amat plans to host a group of Israeli entrepreneurs at Venture Hive, an entrepreneurship education company that includes an accelerator and incubator.

Follow Nancy Dahlberg on Twitter @ndahlberg.


 Miami startup delegation visiting Israel meets with the mayor of Bedouin Town of Hura, creating change and empowerment through education and technology. Photo courtesy AJC's Project Interchange. 

Q&A: Technion's role in Israel's Startup Nation immense

By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

TPeretz Laviehe Technion developed into a world-class research university out of necessity.

As President Peretz Lavie explains it, although the Israeli university’s roots date back to 1912 as an engineering school, it wasn’t until 1948 that Technion began its transformation into a leading research institution. Simply put, then-Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion believed the new state of Israel needed aeronautical expertise to power its Air force to defend the country; now aeronautics is one of the largest industrial complexes in Israel, he said.

 And that was just the beginning, Prof. Lavie said. “We have become a world class university, with 3 ½ Nobel laureates and a global presence, and we are the cornerstone of Startup Nation.”

The Technion – Israel Institute of Technology is a public research university in Haifa, Israel that offers  degrees in science and engineering, architecture, medicine, industrial management and education. With 18 academic departments and some 50 research centers, it is often grouped with  Stanford and MIT, universities that have played outsized roles in building their entrepreneurial ecosystems. Israel's movement, powered by Technion, is dubbed Startup Nation. The USB flash drive, drip irrigation, a Parkinson’s drug, the Iron Dome air defense system, the data compression algorithm used in pdfs, and instant messaging are some of the inventions developed at Technion or by alumni.

Prof. Lavie, who grew up in Israel but earned his PhD in physio-psychology (a precursor to neuroscience) at the University of Florida, joined Technion in 1975 to set up a sleep research lab. He worked his way up and became president in 2009. He’s also started two medical device companies and two medical service providers.

In 2011, a bid by a consortium of Cornell University and Technion won a competition to establish a new high-tier applied science and engineering institution in New York City. A state-of-the-art tech campus, the Jacobs Technion-Cornell Institute at Cornell Tech, is being built on Roosevelt Island, while the campus is currently housed in Google’s mammoth New York offices.

Technion is also establishing a technological institute in Guangdong Province, China. As part of the agreement, the Li Ka Shing Foundation will donate $130 million to Technion – the largest donation in the university’s history.

Lavie talked with the Miami Herald when he was in town earlier this month for an American Technion Society board meeting. Here are excerpts of the conversation.

Q. How did Technion become a powerhouse for high-tech?

A. In 1969, the Technion established a micro-electronics institute, when no one had heard of it. After the ‘67 war, we needed night vision devices and infrared sensors, there was no knowledge in Israel but Technion established the institute to produce the first semiconductors.  ... If you ask anyone where the high-tech sector in Israel started, everyone would say ’69 in the Technion. This is where they started to teach microelectronics, this is where semiconductors were produced, this is where it all started. …

The same year the faculty split into electrical engineering and computer science, these two are the backbone of the Israeli high tech sector.in 69 The Technion also decided to open a faculty of medicine. It was again prophetic -- the decision was made because in the future, medicine and technology would work hand in hand. This is why Israel now is an empire of medical devices.

Today, a 10 minutes’ drive from the Technion you will find Yahoo and Google and Intel and H-P and Philips and GE and now Apple, relying on Technion students and Technion graduates.

I just completed a study on companies established in the last 20 years by Technion graduates.  Of the 2,000 companies, ... 169 were established outside Israel, mostly in the U.S., the rest, more than 1,800 were in Israel. The number of jobs was 100,000, the mergers and acquisitions [activity] was $28 billion, the total money raised was $6 billion. ... And if you ask them why they are doing it, they want to change the world; it’s not the money.

Q. Sounds like you don’t have a problem with brain drain.

A. Brain drain is not an issue and I’ll tell you why. Intel is largest tech employer with 8,000 or 9,000 jobs. Intel in Israel was started by a Technion [graduate who moved back from the U.S.]. Same with Applied Materials, same with Apple, and others.

When we established a branch in New York together with Cornell, everyone said ‘oh, you will cause brain drain of Israelis to New York.’ I said ‘no, what we will do is attract second generation Israelis in the U.S., including as faculty members.

I don’t think all immigrant groups have a deep sense of responsibility. A large number of Israelis feel a lot of responsibility for Israel. Israel is a startup experience on its own; there is a shared sense of responsibility.

Q. What has Technion’s role been in the tech boom of Israel?

A. MIT did a study on universities that turned their areas into ecosystems of innovation and entrepreneurship. … MIT and Stanford were No.1 and 2, and Technion was no. 6 -- it changed the ecosystem of its country. When they asked the experts to rerate only the ones in challenging environments, Technion was no. 1.

Great universities need to attract top students, to attract top faculty, and the third is a mission. A university must have a mission. The mission is part of the Technion DNA -- To serve the country, to serve mankind. During the Russian immigration wave of the ‘90s, a wave of a million people within a span of five years, Technion stood up to the challenge. We increased the number of students by almost 30 percent in one year. We have a pre-academic center for minorities, every year we have 700 of them, and students are accepted without affirmative action; 67 percent are making it [into Technion].

Arab Israelis 10 years ago were 7 percent of the Technion students. The dropout rate was 40 percent. We started bringing the top kids from all the villages into the program, appointed them a big brother or sister, and held regular discussion groups. Fast forward 10 years, 20 percent of our students are Arab and the dropout rate is 13 percent, about the same as the Israel population. 48 percent of those students are Arab women in all the faculties.’

Q. What about overall?

A. 37 percent women. But electrical engineering is still 15-20 percent. We are trying to move that. We started programs in the high schools, k-12, and to attract girls into science, math, physics.

Q. What other factors led to Startup Nation?

A. Two major characteristics I found are characteristics of Israelis. First, risk-taking behavior. ... The army service teaches you how to take risks. ... The second one is acceptance of failure. There are many countries where failure is not an option. In Israel, failure is part of the learning curve.

Then there is the emphasis on education, a Jewish tradition. But we don’t teach the materials, we are taught how to learn; it is a lifelong experience. I hear this  from our alumni, ‘we are taught how to learn … There is not a situation where we cannot cope.’

The fourth is the government during the ‘60s had the right policy when they started to support research, in companies.

Q. How is your global expansion progressing?

A. Mayor Bloomberg, I admire him for his vision. When I met with him, I said why Technion? He said I am envious of Silicon Valley and Route 128 [in Boston] and I want New York to be the capital of technology.

We are now temporarily at Google headquarters in Chelsea, I asked Eric Schmidt why, and he said we want to be close to you. You need the nucleus of academic excellence that will attract faculty, students and customers. This is a unique to have a degree in applied science and engineering. No excuses. Its tailor made for the industries of New York. We started with The Connective Media, including a major publication. Next year we have are going to open The Healthier Life. The third one is The Built Environment, to open in 2017.

We would like to be close to you. This is the key.

.... [In China,] hopefully we will get the greenlight and start in 2017; we have appointed a leader already. Cornell and China were our first expansions, and we won’t do anymore. With 14,000 students and 600 faculty, we can’t spread ourselves too thin. But I must say we became the most courted boy on the block. We have strategic agreements with the University of Michigan, Toronto, MIT, Cornell and several leading European universities. It’s exciting."

Q. What brought you to  Miami this month?

A. I was here for a board meeting of the American Technion Society. The backbone of our support has come from the American Technion society established in 1940. Without their support we would just be another college in the Middle East. We don’t get research and development funding form the Israeli government … I travel here and crisscross the country twice a year to meet our supporters. This is amazing, the dedication, the love for our institute -- now we have third and fourth generation families that support Technion.

Follow Nancy Dahlberg on Twitter @ndahlberg. 

See related story on Miami startup delegation's knowledge exchange in Israel as part of AJC's Project Interchange.

March 28, 2015

Entrepreneurship Datebook

TecheggSTART-UP CITY: MIAMI: The Atlantic magazine’s event returns Monday with speakers such as Jim McKelvey, co-founder of Square and LaunchCode, and Vikram Dendi of Skype Translator. and those at the helm of Slack, Lyft, Postmates, Coursera and more, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at New World Center in Miami Beach. Tickets: www.theatlantic.com/live.

MIC EVENT ON SKYPE TRANSLATOR: The Microsoft Innovation Center  presents a live demo of Microsoft Translator by Microsoft's Vikram Dendi at 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. Monday, March 30, at Venture Hive, 1010 NE 2nd Ave., Miami. Register here.

VENTURE LAW PROJECT: Learn how to protect your business in a workshop, “Key Documents Every Entrepreneur Needs,” 6-9 p.m. Tuesday, March 31, at The LAB Miami. www.dadelegalaid.org/venture-law-project/ and register here.

MICRO VC CLUB: Two entrepreneurs will pitch their startups and receive feedback from other entrepreneurs and investors, 8-10 p.m. Tuesday, March 31, 1951 NW Seventh Ave., Miami.  http:// www.meetup.com/microvc/events/220632614/

SALES BLAZER: Want to learn how to effortlessly transform cold contacts into new business relationships? This sales speaker series features Carecloud, 6-8 p.m. Thursday, April 2, at The LAB Miami, thelabmiami.com


Keep up to date with startup news -- including recaps of 500 Startups' PreMoney Miami and the MIA Music Summit, speaker news from eMerge Americas and funding success by OrthoSensor -- and read community views and find tools and resources for entrepreneurship on the Starting Gate blog on MiamiHerald.com/business.


With a record 248 entries in the Miami Herald Business Plan Challenge, judges are still at work. But we will announce the finalists  next Monday. Stay tuned!

Student view from SXSW: Miami’s Moment Is Now

By David Capelli

Photo 3For decades, March in Miami has been known as the best vacation hotspot on earth. This March tells a different story for many Miamians during Spring Break. On a warm 87-degree night, American Airlines’ newly announced nonstop flight to Austin, Texas departed into the sunset with entrepreneurship hopefuls and heroes.

SXSW Interactive, a four-day series during the first portion of the world famous music and film gathering, welcomed guests from around the world in technology, entrepreneurship, and creative industries. Miami made a splash, to say the least. Here are five takeaways from the SXSW gathering from a student entrepreneur in Miami’s tech scene:

 Miami’s time to become a global entrepreneurship hub is now.

If there was a moment where I realized when Miami needed to take an even more aggressive plunge in building a start-up hub, it was the General Assembly and Kauffman Foundation event at SXSW. Political, institutional, and student leaders in the entrepreneurship community need to come together and make Miami the city it is destined to be. People are waiting for Miami’s boom in entrepreneurship. They see Miami as a true opportunity to be the next best entrepreneurial ecosystem. Now is Miami’s moment.

Miami needs to own its identity: we are a global community unlike anywhere else in the United States.

I noticed how Austin lacked a strong international business community and relationship-based culture, yet embraced their “Weird” techie brand. It’s working. Miami needs to brand itself as the most diverse and vibrant entrepreneurship hub in the world. This helps other strong local industries in real estate, tourism, and trade. We have an entrepreneurial bug. One can feel it walking anywhere downtown or driving past cargo stations in Doral. We aren’t like any place else, and that’s fine.

Students need to get more involved in the entrepreneurial community.

I met a group of Michigan State students who came together and crowd-funded a bus/hotel package and came to SXSW for free. I connected with Texas-Tech students who were sponsored by their school. Local universities need to expose students and provide more financial opportunities for students to engage in the entrepreneurial community. Most importantly students need to empower each other – entrepreneurship is a team sport; building a culture starts with us, regardless of our school affiliation.

People want to move to Miami but don’t know where to begin.

If I received a dollar for every time I heard “I love Miami and would move there, but I don’t know where to begin,” I could be making six-figures. Simply put, Miami is overwhelmingly awesome and needs a welcoming, streamlined pipeline for people to come and stay in Miami.  

Like Austin, Miami is still a new city with a world of opportunity.

Transportation is a major issue that needs to be taken more seriously by all community members. Politicians can’t do it alone. Austin has a sprawl issue: it is the fastest growing city in the United States. Miami has a different issue: the city exists but is changing rapidly. A deeper understanding of why Miami traffic is so terrible is proximity of resources. Currently, there is not one walk-able urban district with safe, tech-friendly public transit, affordable housing, and centralized start-up resources for the emerging entrepreneurial community. Until this happens, young talent will continue to leave, and traffic will continue to plague the city. Projects like All-Aboard Florida are sparking the trend for building better transit in Miami. The transportation panel at SXSW left a solid reminder for I want to emphasize: Sustainable, privatized innovation and technology in transportation improves lives of all citizens, regardless of political views.

SXSW was an invaluable experience. Meeting Matt Haggman and seeing so many people enthusiastic about Miami made me as a student excited to graduate and continue to lead the student entrepreneurial movement in Miami. Miami will forever be a top vacation destination in the world, but as the months go by, a new story is being told on Magic City’s horizon.  

 David Capelli is founder of TECH Miami student non-profit and a former Operations Intern at Miami- Dade Aviation/MIA.


March 27, 2015

MIA Music Summit celebrates digital innovation, social media success

MIA Music Summit 1

Indy music personality Raquel Sofia performs at the MIA Music Summit — a one-day conference bringing together startups and leaders in the creative industries on Thursday, March 26, 2015 at the Colony Theater on Miami Beach. PATRICK FARRELL MIAMI HERALD STAFF

By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

Nicky Jam credits his comeback to Instagram.

“Instagram changed my life,” said the popular Latin singer-songwriter, who explained his career had taken a dive. He now has 2.8 million Instagram fans. “You can call me an Instagram celebrity. … Even my dogs are famous, even though they are ugly, they are Chihuahuas — people love them.”

And while many artists say digital revenues don’t pay the bills, Nicky Jam disagrees. “On YouTube, I have people sponsoring them, I pay all my bills just with YouTube,” he said, speaking by Skype from Colombia. “The success I have been having is 70 percent because of the Net.”

Nicky Jam was one of the speakers at MIA Music Summit, the second annual tech-entrepreneurship conference for the fast-changing music industry that took place Thursday at the Colony Theater in Miami Beach. The summit gathered entrepreneurs, studio executives, investors and musicians to explore the intersection of technology and music, and it was planned to coincide with Miami Beach’s Centennial, the Winter Music Conference and Ultra.

Demian Bellumio, chief operating officer of music-technology companySenzari and the organizer of the summit, said Miami can become an ideal location for creating and growing digital music startups. “As a city, we have a rich music history … and today it is home to top record labels, music executives, artists, festivals, media companies and even some globally recognized digital music startups,” he said.

At the summit, there were conversations about mining Big Data and music recommendation services such as Pandora (you are much more likely to get out of your comfort zone and experiment with your music in the evening, a Pandora data expert said) and attracting investment. Speakers also included leaders from Fon, 8tracksHavas Sports & EntertainmentAtom Factory, Splice and Jukely, among many others.

A half-dozen startup founders demonstrated their emerging technologies, including Pablo Osinaga of Bandhub, a collaboration music platform for recreational musicians around the world. Dubset is solving the complexities behind proper rights-holder identification, licensing and distribution. South Florida media entrepreneur Derrick Ashong, master of ceremonies for the summit, gave a sneak peek of his new startup Amp.It, which is running a global Take Back the Mic: The World Cup of HipHop competition, with winner to be revealed at eMerge Americas in May. Muzik, based in Miami Beach and a maker of smart headphones and, soon, as seen at this year’s CES, smart drum sticks, also presented.


MIA Music Summit 2 c epf

Bandhub co-founder Pablo Osinaga demonstrates his product at the MIA Music Summit — a one-day conference bringing together startups and leaders in the creative industries on Thursday, March 26, 2015 at the Colony Theater on Miami Beach. PATRICK FARRELL MIAMI HERALD STAFF

Partnerships between brands and artists are trending in popularity, and companies are starting to partner with emerging artists and growing with them rather than just the superstars, panelists said. These social media partnerships are significant new revenue streams, but you need to make the content so relevant it doesn’t feel like advertising, they said.

As Ultra gets underway, one of EDM DJ David Guetta’s managers, Jean Charles-Carre, shared some secrets of Guetta’s success: “We never sleep.”

Guetta, who will be performing at Ultra’s closing Sunday night, has sold more than 9 million albums. Guetta’s preferred social platform, said Charles-Carre: “He used to do Twitter, but now it’s Instagram. Facebook, not much.”

MIA Music Summit d 3Instagram is in fact the fastest growing platform for artists, said Liv Buli of Next Big Sound. But don’t count Facebook out: millennials still are the strongest demographic group following artists on Facebook — nearly half of the total music followers, she said.

Local indie artist Raquel Sofia is one of the first artists Sony signed for its new digital label. Instead of doing the traditional route, cutting an album, doing tours, etc., all the music is available digitally.

“People ask me, ‘Why doesn’t Sony give you a real record deal?’ It is a record deal but a new approach,” said Sofia, who has 6 million streams on Spotify. “We’re measuring in streams, we are measuring in views, we are measuring in all these social media platforms. That is the new way of making it.”

Sofia, without releasing an album, has already written and performed with some of the most popular and influential artists in the Latin market, including Shakira and Juanes.

“There are a lot more tools, it’s easier, it’s more accessible,” she said. “You can have a home studio and put the music out yourself. It’s cool that everyone can be a musician, everyone be an artist.”

Follow Nancy Dahlberg on Twitter @ndahlberg.


March 26, 2015

HUD Secretary Julian Castro to keynote at eMerge Americas

Julián_Castro's_Official_HUD_PortraitJulian Castro, the U.S. secretary of Housing and Urban Development, will be a keynote speaker at eMerge Americas, the South Florida technology conference taking place May 1-5. Castro will deliver his address during the main conference May 4 at the Miami Beach Convention Center.

Castro, who joined President Barack Obama’s Cabinet last summer, gained national attention in 2012 when he was the first Hispanic to deliver the keynote address at a Democratic National Convention. The 40-year-old former mayor of San Antonio — who was in his third term when he got the Cabinet post — has been mentioned as a potential running mate for Democrat Hillary Clinton, who has not yet announced her presidential candidacy.

Castro’s “vision and success in positioning San Antonio as a leader in the new energy economy and now as the U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development makes him an ideal speaker for our eMerge Americas attendees,” said Manuel D. Medina, managing partner of Medina Capital and founder of eMerge Americas.

Now in its second year, eMerge Americas’ goal is to attract 10,000 attendees. Other keynote speakers include author Deepak Chopra; Jim McKelvey, co-founder of Square and LaunchCode; and entertainer Armando Christian Perez, also known as Pitbull.

In addition, eMerge will include eGov Government Innovation Summit, a two-day private event for dignitaries from around the Americas and Europe, and a Startup Showcase involving about 100 early-stage companies, which includes a one-day bootcamp and a pitch contest with a prize pool of $150,000. There will also be country pavilions and a Women, Innovation & Technology summit, as well as a fashion show, a STEM tech showcase, a hackathon and networking.

Last week, NBCUniversal announced a group of programs that will be filmed at eMerge Americas.

Medina said eMerge also needs to be fun, so a number of parties and other surprises are planned. Music-tech entrepreneur Derrick Ashong, also known as DNA, said that his startup Amp will be announcing the winner of its Take Back the Mic: the World Cup of HipHop, a contest to find the next hip-hop star, at eMerge Americas.

Follow Nancy Dahlberg on Twitter @ndahlberg.