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47 posts from April 2015

April 30, 2015

All eyes on Miami as the next global tech frontier

By Javier Avino

Javier AvinoAll eyes will be on Miami as more than 10,000 entrepreneurs descend on our city to take part in the global tech conference, eMerge Americas, beginning this weekend.  Now in its second year, it is a stark reminder of Miami’s continued maturation as a global city – one that is no longer simply a place where the affluent come to play – but rather a true urban metropolis where real money is being put to work in the form of new business ventures, new development and new ideas.

Rather than look to compete with more established cities like New York and San Francisco, Miami is leveraging its proximity to Latin America, relatively low barrier to entry, influx of young millennials and thriving urban core to set itself apart for startups looking to break into global markets.  

Miami's diverse culture and close proximity to Latin American has always been a major draw for Latin American entrepreneurs.  With a market that is still virtually untapped, Miami is positioned to be the hub of Latin America.   Creating the ecosystem for Miami as a major tech hub requires not only the entrepreneurs, but also a place for them to connect and foster relationships.  For those entrepreneurs to stay and grow their businesses we need to have accelerators and incubators in place.  And we also need links to a vigorous network of available capital funds. 

In the last 18 months, Miami has established and cemented many of the key components critical to creating a healthy tech ecosystem.  These include the formation of collaborative workspaces such as Pipeline; entrepreneurship incubators such as Endeavor Miami and Venture Hive; and venture capital firms such as Richmond Global, XP Securities and Scout Ventures that have relocated and expanded into Miami to tap into our growing technology sector.

These venture capital firms and hedge funds see Miami for its potential as much as for its existing opportunities.  While Miami's tech scene continues to warm up, it benefits from being far less competitive than Silicon Valley and other major tech hubs.  This lower barrier of entry is a major draw for those firms looking to expand to the next major market.  In addition, Miami has many high-net-worth individuals who want to invest and diversify their investments.  Up until now, many of these individuals have not had the opportunity to invest locally in these funds but with new ideas have come new opportunities. In fact, according to VentureSource, venture capital investment in Miami companies jumped more than 260% from 2010 to 2013.

With the right ecosystem in place, the sky is really the limit for what Miami as a promising tech hub.  We have only seen a small glimpse of what is in store and can expect the next few years to be marked by sustained progression as the public and private sectors continue placing high priority on expanding and diversifying Miami’s economy in this regard.  While Miami will likely always be known for its surf, sand and sun, it will also grow in relevance as a global hub for technology, innovation and investment.

Javier Avino is a partner at Miami-based Bilzin Sumberg.


Upcoming Miami Finance Forum event to feature private equity discussion

The Miami Finance Forum is hosting its annual event focusing on private equity entitled, "Power Equity Investing: Deal Sourcing, the Abundance of Capital and the Right Exit Strategy in a Fluid Economy," from 7:30 to 10:00 a.m. Friday, May 8, 2015 at the Riverside Hotel, 620 E. Las Olas Blvd.

    Part of its CEO Power Breakfast series, the event features a panel of private equity experts including Ari M. Zur, Partner at Brockway Moran & Partners; Eduardo Arguello, Direct Investments Vice President at Amzak Capital Management; Dan Lee, Managing Director at Convest Partners; Lee Monahan, Partner at Harren Equity; and Charles Fultz, managing director at Farlie Turner & Co. Jonathan Cole, an attorney at Locke Lord LLP, will moderate the discussion. 100 people are expected to attend.

    Admission is $65 for non-members and $25 for members. For more information or to register, visit http://www.miamifinanceforum.com 


April 29, 2015

Florida Venture Forum selects presenting companies for Early Stage Capital Conference

 The Florida Venture Forum has selected 19 Florida-based companies to present and two companies to exhibit at its Early Stage Capital Conference. The event will take place Thursday, May 14, at the Vinoy Renaissance St. Petersburg Resort & Golf Club.

The presenting companies, some of Florida’s best prospects for attracting equity financing, were selected from the largest-ever pool of applicants for this conference by a committee of active Florida early stage investors. Each company will make a six-minute presentation to an audience of more than 250 investors, professional services providers and entrepreneurs.

Presenting companies from South Florida are:

Blackdove, (www.blackdove.com), Miami, is a global motion art marketplace and distribution platform enabling internet connected television and display screens to receive curated, customizable content streams of digital motion art.

ClassWallet, (www.classwallet.com), Miami, is a first-to-market, end-to-end solution to manage the

distribution and spending of money within a closed platform.

Dioxide Materials, (www.dioxidematerials.com), Boca Raton, is recycling CO2 and creating useful products.  They have proprietary catalysts that enable CO2 conversion to occur at record selectivity and energy efficiency.

Integene International, (www.integene-int.com), Miami, is developing a platform gene therapy technology capable of treating a broad base of vascular diseases, including peripheral arterial disease, critical limb ischemia, coronary artery disease, chronic wounds and other vascular disorders.

Raw Shorts, (www.rawshorts.com), Miami, is an easy-to-use, template-driven cloud-based explainer video builder. The ease of use that Raw Shorts provides allows businesses to think about video beyond the “30 second promo spot”.

Referrizer LLC, (www.referrizer.com), Miami, is a referral system for both in-store and on the go businesses. Customers are able to utilize the platform (phone application, email, and QR coded business size cards) to invite their friends (warm market) to experience the businesses of their choice for instant referrals.

Room2Care.com,(www.room2care.com), Miami Beach, is developing an end to end marketplace for Shared Senior Living. By leveraging the power of the sharing economy, Room2Care creates affordable low cost senior care. Room2Care connects people with extra space in their homes and the ability to provide basic care with appropriate seniors that need that level of care.

SpringBIG, Inc, (www.SpringBIG.com), Boca Raton, is one of the few innovative leaders driving the creation of a new industry: loyalty marketing for small businesses. Founded in 2013 by a veteran innovator in the customer loyalty industry and B2B sales growth expert, SpringBIG has focused sales and marketing efforts on the 7.43m local retail “independent” merchants in the U.S.

Tudor Ice Company, Miami, seeks to pioneer the untapped market of purified ice in single serving, tamper-proof packaging. The Miami-based company will locally source and purify water subsequently storing it in sealed vessels. When frozen, the ice may be removed from the packaging allowing consumers to not only cool their drinks more efficiently but also have access to clean ice in places where they may not trust local sources.

YouRoam, (www.youroam.com), Miami Beach, enables you to make and receive calls with your own phone number anywhere in the world without paying roaming and long distance fees. Users can receive calls on their US phone number while anywhere in the world for 1 cent/minute and call back to the US displaying their regular caller ID for 1 cent/minute.

- Information submitted by Florida Venture Forum


April 28, 2015

New CareCloud CEO: 'Right space at the right time'

CareCloud has a new CEO with a 25-year history as “a Silicon Valley tech guy” who says the company will be staying put.

“I’m a California guy but I am moving to Miami. I am excited to be coming in here to work with some very talented people in a space that is white hot,” Ken Comée said in an interview Tuesday. He is moving in the next couple of weeks. As for CareCloud, “we aren’t going anywhere.”

The home-grown, fast-growing Miami healthcare technology company last week announced that Comée would replace Albert Santalo as CEO, but that Santalo would stay with the company as chairman and chief strategy officer. The company also announced its existing investors injected another $15 million in funding into the venture-backed company.

CareCloud was founded by Santalo, a tech serial entrepreneur, in 2009 and now has 240 employees and offices in Miami and Boston. The company provides cloud-based practice management, electronic health record and medical billing software and services for medical groups. CareCloud said last week it signed seven of its largest deals to date in the first quarter of 2015, and average contract value tripled over the prior year.

Comée said he brings a diverse background in software, hardware, healthcare, business analytics, big data and other areas. In the last 15 years, he has been running software companies for a handful of investors in Silicon Valley, including Norwest Venture Partners, CareCloud’s largest investor.

About three years ago, Norwest asked him to join the CareCloud board. Since then, he has advised the company on product-market fit, building pipeline, hiring and other aspects of sales and operations, he said.

"During this time, I’ve had a terrific working relationship with Albert and his team, as we’ve built this from an early, early stage company with early product into a company today doing quite well in revenue and customer capture," said Comée. "Now it’s about the scalability. Albert and his team have done a terrific job getting to that first plateau of growth. This is a move focused specifically on accelerating that growth."

Previously, Comée was CEO at Cast Iron Systems, a cloud integration company acquired by IBM. He was also CEO of PowerReviews, a leader in product ratings and reviews, which was also acquired by a bigger player. Most recently, he was CEO of Badgeville, a gamification startup and “a Norwest company I came into on an interim basis; that was a little of a turnaround there.” He said CareCloud is not an interim appointment.

“CareCloud is in the right space at the right time,” he said. “The mission of the company is to make software that is easy to use and elegant in design ... meeting the needs of small and large medical practices. What I am looking to do is operationally make this company excellent.”

Comée said that means “digging into the operational issues that are critical if you are going from say a $30 million company to a $100 million company.”

Since its founding in 2009, CareCloud has raised $71.4 million in equity financing and $25.5 million in venture debt. Investors include Norwest, Tenya Capital, Adams Street Partners and Intel Capital.

Comée said he is not now raising another round: “The financing we just closed gives me a good runway through the end of 2016.”

Follow Nancy Dahlberg on Twitter @ndahlberg.

Cane named South Florida Tech Entrepreneur of the Year

South Florida’s strength as a business incubator goes far beyond favorable tax rates and good weather, according to Modernizing Medicine CEO Daniel Cane. “What makes South Florida such a great place to build and scale a business is its educational institutions," he told several hundred attendees at Tuesday’s Technology Leaders of the Year Awards sponsored by the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce.

The challenge: retaining that top talent trained here, he said. “The only thing working against South Florida is its reputation — the perception that South Florida is not a place suited to build and scale companies. It isn’t true.”

Cane won the chamber’s Technology Entrepreneur of the Year honor. Cane is co-founder of the Boca Raton-based electronic medical records and data company for that employs 270  and has raised $49 million in financing since the company's founding in 2010.

Other awardees were University of Miami student Herwig Konings of Accredify for Best University Technology Start-Up, Entic for Most Innovative Technology, Baptist Health CIO Mimi Taylor as Most Influential Female Leader in Technology and Ryder System for Best Use of Technology.

- Jane Wooldridge

AT&T Mobile App Hackathon results in 7 apps

Nearly 100 developers, students and entrepreneurs participated in the AT&T Mobile App Hackathon recently held at Nova Southeastern University, which  focused on building apps or websites that integrated the AT&T Enhanced WebRTC API.

The result of the hackathon was the creation of some great apps and websites.

Winners of the South Florida AT&T Mobile App Hackathon include:

● Best App Overall – WhiteBored

● Best Use of AT&T WebRTC (Tied) – Smart Class

● Best Use of AT&T WebRTC (Tied) – [Video] Call App

● Community Choice Award – TBD

● Most Useful Feedback for AT&T Enhanced WebRTC (Beta) – TBD

Below are the seven apps that resulted from the hackathon:

Agnostic - “We're giving AT&T and registered users the ability to make phone calls from their PC. Relaying Google Voice features to AT&T and registered users.”

[Video] Phone Call App - “Consumers have forgotten how to read. In fact, they are annoyed by businesses that lack a short explainer video. The problem is that these videos when shared across the web, lose contextual information normally present on the business website such as contact information. Our application embeds the call to action information directly into the explainer video itself, so a consumer can call the business directly from the video.”

Life: At a Glance - “Multi-platform application that integrates daily needs for a student who wants to keep in touch with their family, stay on top of their education, and altogether manage time in order to balance chaos in their lives.”

Tell Me, Doctor - “Facilitating private medical consults at any time and in any language.”

WhiteBored - “Collaborative white board that you can control with your my.”

Smart Class - “Smart Class is a web application that we developed for teachers and students to have easy access to one another without having to disclose personal information like phone numbers.”

PPPicturePhone - “Connect with people in your community who share your interests. Create a deeper connection to the people, places, and happenings that match your passions, purposes, and plans.”

  South_Florida_ATT_hackathon NEW

Team Smart Class


April 27, 2015

Meet the winners of the Business Plan Challenge

We are pleased to introduce you to the winners of the 17th annual Miami Herald Business Plan Challenge.

The winners’ circle contains concepts in healthcare, antiques, food, tech and social entrepreneurship. To rise to the top, winners had to make a strong case for how they planned to execute their business plan.

South Florida is often recognized as one of the nation’s most entrepreneurial communities, and the 2015 winners and contestants represent the passion and diversity of the region’s emerging businesses. This year, the contest attracted a record 248 entries in our three tracks of the Miami Herald Challenge, sponsored by Florida International University’s Eugenio Pino and Family Global Entrepreneurship Center, and many attended our Business Plan Bootcamp in February. The three-page plans were judged by experts from our community — successful entrepreneurs, investors, executives and academics — as well as by the public via our popular People’s Pick video competition.

For the FIU track, the judging included a live pitch session for the six finalists, which helped determine the final winners. Each team received up to five minutes to present their companies, followed by time for Q&A and feedback.

The HighBoy, an online marketplace for high-end antiques and fine art, took first place in the Community Track. Room2care, a home health service powered by the sharing economy, took first place in the FIU Track, and was also named Challenge Champion, based on judge scores and People’s Pick voting. And the winner in the High School Track — a popular contest this year with 109 entries — was Teenography, a photography service that employs teen shutterbugs.

Stow Simple, an on-demand storage service, and Juana la Iguana, a learning platform in Spanish for toddlers, took second and third, respectively, in the Community Track.

Wuelto, an online mall for Latin America, and Senzu Foods, a food product line for foods made with insects, took second and third in the FIU Track.

USAVT, a transportation system powered by veterans, and MyScholarship, a scholarship-finding service, won second and third in the High School Track, which is co-sponsored by the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship South Florida.

In the People’s Pick, which attracted a total 13,002 votes, Juana la Iguana kept the lead most of the week and won in the Community Track, with 1,804 votes, with Coastal Risk Consulting, an online analysis for flood risk, and Stow Simple taking second and third place. On the FIU Track, Court Buddy, a platform for affordable legal help, came from behind the final weekend to win, with 2,168 votes, with Room2Care in second place and Wuelto in third.

What separated today’s featured winners from the pack? The written business plans scored well in more key areas, such as marketing strategies, financials, management teams, market opportunity and growth plans. With many of the plans that were entered, judges liked the ideas, but the plans themselves were not developed enough to win.

Some of the winners and finalists are first-timers; others are serial entrepreneurs with decades of industry experience. But all are in the early stages of their businesses — we’ll be watching how they do!

Read the accompanying profiles to learn more about the winners.

Meet the 2015 Business Plan Challenge judges


Business Plan Challenge finalists represent South Florida’s trending industries

View the videos from 2015 Business Plan Challenge Finalists



High School Track winners:

Duo’s app would simplify college-application process

Teenography: Weston teen’s business lets other students learn, profit

Trucking company plan salutes veterans

FIU Track:

Room2Care: Cost-sharing program gives seniors an alternative to assisted living

Out to change how Latin Americans shop

Senzu Foods team sees big appetite for insect-based foods

Service brings access to legal system to the people


Community Track

Lovable Juana la Iguana stars in apps for kids

To see the opportunity for Stow Simple, look up

The HighBoy: Online antiques marketplace reflects results

April 26, 2015

Entrepreneurship Datebook: Fashion, sustainability, hackathon, eMerge

Tech eggOPEN SOURCE FASHION'S FREESTYLE CONFERENCE:  Full-day program by a NYC-based fashion-tech networking organization on Wednesday, April 29, at Venture Hive. Use code StartingGate for $20 off. Tickets: https://ffcmiami.eventbrite.com. Read more about it here.

FASHINVEST: Second annual FashInvest Miami Capital Conference focused on how emerging fashion tech companies can make their brands attractive to investors, with presenting companies, Thursday,  April 30, at Venture Hive. Tickets:  http://www.fashinvest.com/event. Read more about it here.

#LOCALIS: A full-day digital conference with both virtual and live events on technology, entrepreneurship, sustainability and civic engagement on  Thursday, April 30, and produced by EcoTech Visions. Register:  mialocalis.com. Read more about it here.

EMERGE AMERICAS HACKATHON: To kick off eMerge Americas, the free 24-hour eMerge Americas Hackathon, in partnership with IronHack and Facebook, is focusing on developing innovative applications using some of Facebook’s newest technologies, on May 2-3 at Miami Dade College's Idea Center. Come with a team or  join one -- did we say there are $50K in prizes up for grabs? To  register, click here. Read more about it here.

EMERGE AMERICAS: Main conference is May 4-5 with keynote speakers including Deepak Chopra, Jim McKelvey, Julian Castro and Pitbull, three tracks of Summit talks, a Startup Showcase with $150K in investment as prizes, emerging tech on display, country pavilions, hiring fair, WIT Summit, several parties and more. More info and tickets: emergeamericas.org

ENTREPRENEURS ON TAP: Meet the Israeli innovators taking part in eMerge Americas at the first of a series of events by the Friends of Tel Aviv University, May 5, 6 p.m.-8 p.m., at the Miami Beach Edition Hotel. Free but space is limited and registration is required: Register here.


#Localis: Digital event on building a greener Miami & launch of 18 EcoTech ventures


From EcoTech Visions:

 #Localis is a day-long social-media based conference and has both virtual and live components all happening on April 30. The goal of the #Localis Digital Conference is to create awareness for the 18 EcoTech Ventures launching on April 30 and to stimulate discussions on technology, entrepreneurship, sustainability and civic engagement.  In addition to the launch of 18 EcoTech Ventures on April 30, these events are bringing together “#Localis Leaders,” politicians, popular culture trendsetters, investors, "eco-preneurs," and millennials to have important discussions around topics that affect our businesses, communities, and planet.

During the virtual and onsite #Localis events, there are over 40 “#Localis Leaders” who will be sharing tips, best practices and research on eco-preneurship and sustainable practices to build better, greener business models. All of the digital discussions can be followed and joined using the hashtags, #Localis and #EcoTechVisions1. The #Localis Digital Conference is free for participants, see the schedule of topics here.

A cadre of eco-preneurs, investors, political leaders and venture capitalists spanning the globe will lead the digital discussions and sessions, including the following:

  • * Brian Brackeen – Founder of facial recognition software, Kairos, with $5 million secured in funding and recognized as one of the Wall Street Journal’s top startup of 2013
  • * Dr. Pandwe Gibson – Founder, EcoTech Visions, a Miami-based incubator supporting green businesses
  • * Patty Soffer- founder of the Soffer collective.
  • * Shevrin Jones- Florida State Representative
  • * Oscar Braynon- Florida State Senator
  • * Myrna Sonora and Ismael Cifuentes  of the Hispanic Business Initiative Fund
  • * David "Chi Chi" Truong - Chair of the Miami Branch of the USGBC South Florida Chapter
  • * Marlin Hill- Business attorney partner at Hamilton and Miller

Additional details about #Localis and EcoTech Visions, including the schedule of events, confirmed speakers and participants, and registration information can be found at mialocalis.com.

EcoTech Visions (ecotechvisions.org) is rapidly developing as the steward of Miami’s green scene that creates and offers innovative programs and services that simultaneously impact systemic poverty and climate change. By facilitating the development of light industrial and manufacturing companies founded on green business principles.

In collaboration with Commissioner Monestime and his green corridors plan, EcoTech Visions is a growing collective of EcoPrenuers from across South Florida and the country.  They have joined forces to locate in the center of Miami.  The accelerator is located at 667 NW 90th street in Liberty City, Miami Dade County, and is hatching green manufacturing businesses with a mission of creating jobs that make both business and environmental sense.  This accelerator is the first of its kind in Florida.  It is comprised of meeting space, coworking space and offices like the others; however, it also has a Kitchen Lab for the development of topical products-- currently utilized by two companies’ RAW and Precisions Barber Club Products ; A Plastic Molding lab for Earthware  biodegradable cutlery cups and containers; A hydroponics lab and garden; and a mechanics lab currently occupied by Aeolus.

In addition to the #Localis  Digital Conference, the general public is invited to join in a live scavenger hunt, vegetarian organic lunch, networking event, and movie screening happening onsite at EcoTech Visions on Thursday, April 30. Here is more info for the onsite events:

Lunch Event: Physical and Digital Scavenger Hunt and Luncheon

Where: EcoTech Visions: 667 NW 90th Street, Miami, FL 33150

When: Thursday, 4/30, 12pm - 2:30pm

(bus departs for Scavenger Hunt at 12pm sharp, luncheon hosted at EcoTech Visions after Scavenger Hunt)

Evening Event: Networking and Film Screening of “Regeneration City”

Where: EcoTech Visions: 667 NW 90th Street, Miami, FL 33150

When: Thursday, 4/30, 6pm - 8:30pm

On Thursday April 30, take an active role in the discussions and solutions for building greener businesses, healthier communities and ending systemic poverty in Miami and our world! Register to be a part of #Localis!

April 24, 2015

CareCloud announces new CEO, $15M in funding

Ken-Comee-CareCloud-CEOCareCloud, the Miami-based provider of cloud-based practice management, electronic health record and medical billing software and services, announced that it has appointed a new CEO.

Carecloud announced that Ken Comée, with a background leading enterprise cloud technology businesses, will take the helm, replacing CareCloud’s founder, Albert Santalo, who will remain as chairman and chief strategy officer.

The company also announced $15 million in additional funding from its investors, which it said will be used to further advance product innovation and customer success.

During the past three years as a Carecloud board member and operational advisor, Comée has helped steer CareCloud’s fast growth. As CEO of Cast Iron Systems, Comée grew the company into the No. 1 brand in cloud integration, leading to its strategic acquisition by IBM, the company said. Most recently, he was CEO of PowerReviews, a leader in product ratings and reviews, and oversaw the scaling of its operations and fast growth in the market.

“The health information technology landscape has changed dramatically in the past year,” said Comée, in a news release. “Regulatory considerations once drove many purchasing decisions. Today, large ambulatory medical groups demand a true platform of choice that offers superior ease of use and better business results in support of patient care. As the first quarter of 2015 demonstrated, no company is better positioned than CareCloud to lead the charge in replacing legacy systems. I look forward to leading this team in support of that mission.”

SantaloThe company’s investments follow the achievement of record contract values in the first quarter of 2015: CareCloud signed seven of its largest deals to date in Q1, as average contract value tripled over the prior year. Among the nearly 50 new clients to select the CareCloudplatform in Q1 was a large, multispecialty urgent care group practice with locations across the Southwest.

“Since its inception, CareCloud has achieved incredible success and growth by delivering an unparalleled platform to help healthcare organizations run better than they ever have before through connected technologies. Ken has been a supporter, friend and confidant for a number of years now and I’m confident that the team, under his leadership, will reach new heights and continue to drive CareCloud’s mission,” said Santalo, in a news release.

Prior to the new funding, CareCloud, founded in 2009, raised more than $55 million in venture funding from firms such as Intel Capital, Norwest Venture Partners, Tenaya Capital and Adams Street Partners and received a $25.5 million debt financing commitment from Hercules Technology Growth Capital last summer. The company has 240 employees.

Follow Nancy Dahlberg on Twitter @ndahlberg