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43 posts from June 2015

June 30, 2015

Beepi, a peer-to-peer marketplace for cars, launches in South Florida

Beepi, a peer-to-peer marketplace to buy and sell pre-owned cars online, continues its eastward expansion by launching in South Florida.

Starting Tuesday, consumers in Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties can conveniently sell their vehicles as well as have Beepi cars delivered to their driveways. Beepi operates in eight major metropolitan areas in four states. The Silicon Valley-based startup, launched in 2014, has raised $79 million in funding from Redpoint Ventures, Sherpa Ventures, Foundation Capital and others.

“Our success in California, Arizona and Texas has enabled us to continue growing in line with the demand for a safe and easy car buying experience that meets the needs of today’s consumer,” said Beepi CEO and co-founder Ale Resnik.

The process of connecting buyers and sellers, according to Beepi, goes like this: When selling on www.Beepi.com, sellers schedule an appointment to have a local Beepi Inspector come to their home or office to conduct a comprehensive 185-point inspection. If the car is approved, they get free professional car photos taken and receive a guranteed sale price. If the car doesn’t sell in 30 days, Beepi will buy it. The price paid would be more than what a dealer would pay for the car.

Buyers purchasing cars through Beepi.com will get free delivery of a certified, fully detailed car wrapped in a bow. All cars come with a three-month, 3,000-mile bumper-to-bumper warranty. The prices would be less than what a dealer would sell the model for, according to the company. No test drives, but Beepi provides a 10-day money-back guarantee for any reason. So far, however, fewer than 1 percent of customers have returned their cars, the company said.

Beepi, part of a wave of companies leveraging the online marketplace and the “on-demand economy” in traditional industries, says the company is able to narrow the spread because it doesn’t have overhead such as inventory, parking lots and dealerships.

Beepi is on track to book about $100 million in revenue over the next year and has plans to expand to seven more regions by the end of 2015, according to a recent New York Times article


Beepi founders Ale Resnik and Owen Savir. 

June 29, 2015

FIU College of Architecture + the Arts creating MakerBot Innovation Lab for students, community

Florida International University will create a MakerBot Innovation Lab, a 3,000-square-foot maker space for students and other innovators to be housed at its Miami Beach Urban Studios.

MakerbotThe MakerBot Innovation Lab, supported by a $185,000 grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, will include 30 state-of-the-art 3D printers and four 3D scanners where public programs and educational opportunities will be offered. The lab will support workshops for elementary and middle school students, dual enrollment programs for high school students, for-credit classes for FIU students and startup programs for recent graduates. Community members can also use the space to develop new product ideas and conduct research.

FIU’s College of Architecture + the Arts will be the only arts/design college in the nation to house a MakerBot Innovation Lab, said John Stuart, AIA, associate dean for cultural and community engagement and the executive director of Miami Beach Urban Studios. He said the lab idea first came about because students were asking to get more involved in the maker movement. “This is an opportunity to explore and get this maker experience into the DNA of our students and our culture and our ecosystem, and I’m hoping students and community members will be inspired and will make things we can’t even imagine,” he said.

FIU Urban Studios will also work with FIU colleagues and students in hospitality, medicine and other disciplines in order to come up with innovation projects that fill a community need, for instance making a home safer and easier for the disabled, Stuart said. It will also collaborate with Miami Beach-based Rokk3r Labs, a company co-builder. to initiate workshops, seminars and other programming within the MakerBot Innovation Lab.

The Lab will be open by the fall, if not sooner, and can serve up to 60 students at one time with a 3D printer between each two workstations, Stuart said.

“Miami’s entrepreneurial ecosystem has seen enormous growth over the last few years – adding co-working spaces, mentor and funder networks, educational offerings and a host of events. But there are few established makerspaces where entrepreneurs can experiment and build. The MakerBot Innovaation Lab will help fill this gap,” said Matt Haggman, Knight Foundation’s Miami program director, in a news release.

Co-working networks @ work in South Florida

22 BM cover cowork Buro MiM

Jonathan Strauss and Steven Quayle work at Buro MiMo, a new co-working space opening up in northeast Miami. Quayle of 3Floorsup is helping Strauss, who owns Skateboard Supercross, with some work on his digital platform. Buro MiMo has a retro-chic design to reflect its historic MiMo neighborhood of ‘50s architecture. Photo by Al Diaz/Miami Herald. FIND A PHOTO GALLERY OF SOUTH FLORIDA CO-WORKING SPACES HERE.  

By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

Step into the retro-chic lounge, choose your seat on furnishings inspired by the ’50s and ’60s, and open up your laptop. Or if a desk or office is more your style, that’s available, too, at Büro Group’s new co-working center in northeast Miami’s MiMo district.

Travel north about 10 blocks, and MADE at the Citadel has an artsy vibe, with works by local artists all over the place. And as you roam the Little Haiti space, you’re likely to peek into a painter’s studio or see a set designer in action.

If you live in Fort Lauderdale, you might prefer the more intimate General Provision, with unique work spaces, some tucked away in a loft upstairs, a funky wooden bar in front, phone booths for Skyping and a generous conference room in the back.

And in Miami Beach, the ocean itself will be celebrated at the new WeWork, the largest co-working space yet in the region, which is set to open this week on Lincoln Road. Need a break? Cabanas will be available to members so they can change and head straight to the beach.

WeWork, with 42 locations open or ready to open around the world, is opening a 40,000-square-foot,
four-floor facility to accommodate up to 750 members — the first of at least five WeWorks planned for the Miami area. Said co-founder Miguel McKelvey (pictured here): “We want to be wherever entrepreneurs are.”

Miguel mckelvey of WeWork

Indeed, entrepreneurs are all over South Florida these days — in new collaborative co-working spaces such as these and dozens of other spaces already in operation. The Brickell-downtown Miami area alone is home to 20 including CityDesk, KeyWorking and Quest, according to a listing by the Miami Downtown Development Authority. The newest players also include 360SpacesBuildingMindwarehouse and Delray Tech Space. Opening in the next few months: Pipeline Coral Gables, Büro Coconut Grove, StartHub in downtown Miami and a handful of smaller specialized spaces. Some existing places are expanding, includingAxis Space in Fort Lauderdale and the Center for Social Change in Miami.

Continue reading "Co-working networks @ work in South Florida" »

AT&T to launch 1-gigabit service in parts of Miami-Dade, Broward

Ultra-fast Internet access is now available in sections of Miami-Dade and Broward counties, AT&T announced on Monday.

U-verse with AT&T GigaPower – with speeds up to 1 gigabit per second – is available to residents and small businesses in parts of Fort Lauderdale, Hialeah, Hollywood, Miami and surrounding communities starting at $120 a month, and the territory will continue to expand, said Carlos Blanco-Sposito, AT&T Florida vice president and general manager.

Although this is the first metro region in Florida to receive the service, AT&T has rolled it out in other states and the service particularly appeals to consumers or businesses using the network for online gaming, videoconferencing or streaming. The service is symmetrical so upload speeds are the same as downloads. “It’s going to be the way of the future for consuming data,” Blanco-Sposito said.

How fast is 1-gigabit? Customers can download 25 songs in less than a second, their favorite TV show in about 3 seconds or an HD movie in less than 36 seconds.

“Homes today have a lot of devices and people need more speed to have a better user experience,” Blanco-Sposito said, adding that U-verse GigaPower also offers enhanced TV services. Family members can watch and record up to five HD programs at the same time – “no more fights,” he said.

Consumers in eligible areas can choose from a variety of plans beginning at $120 a month for speeds up to 1 gigabit per second service; starting at $150 a month for the service bundled with U-verse TV service; or $180 a month bundled with TV and voice. Installation and equipment are included.

AT&T also offers plans with speeds of 100 megabits per second for $30 less. That is fast enough to download 10 songs in less than five seconds or download an HD movie in six minutes, AT&T said.

AT&T GigaPower was first rolled out in Austin, Texas, in late 2013. That was well-received, and the company announced plans last year for a national rollout of its fiber network to 21 metropolitan areas. Its Florida rollout starts in South Florida and then will move to other areas of the state, said Blanco-Sposito.

Additionally, AT&T said that upon approval of its proposed acquisition of DIRECTV, the company will expand the AT&T GigaPower network to an additional 2 million customer locations.

The ultra-fast service has been on a roll. Comcast announced in April it would be bringing 2-gigabit per second service to most of its customers in Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach this summer but has not announced prices yet; Comcast expects to start marketing it in Florida very soon, said spokeswoman Mindy Kramer. Atlantic Broadband began offering 1-gigabit service to its Indian Creek customers last summer, and is expanding throughout its Miami Beach service area. And while South Florida is not yet on Google Fiber’s expansion map, the company has been rolling out its 1-gigabit service in selected cities across the country, and announced earlier this year that four cities in the Southeast are in the plans.

Follow Nancy Dahlberg on Twitter.

June 28, 2015

Entrepreneurship Datebook: Upcoming events and a look back

Tech eggCODE FOR MIAMI: Join developers, designers, entrepreneurs and other creative thinkers and participate in ongoing civic hacking projects or start your own, 7 p.m. Monday, The LAB Miami, 400 NW 26th St., Miami. More info: thelabmiami.com

DIGITAL MARKETING: Venture Hive will offer a weekly series of free digital marketing workshops, in partnership with Web Academy. The first one is at 5 p.m. Tuesday, 1010 NE 2nd Ave., Miami. More info: welcu.com/wacademy/free-summer-class-by-webcongres

OPENHACK NIGHT: Join Code for Fort Lauderdale for a night of civic hacking, 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Nova Southeastern University Graduate School of Computer and Information Sciences, Davie. More info: codeforftl.org


Startups and early-stage tech companies have been raising funds: MDLIVE, a telehealth provider in Sunrise, closed on a $15 million private equity round of funding, following news of Miami-based TissueTech, a biotech focusing on regenerative medicine, raising $15 million. Also in the news: Instacart doubled its delivery area in South Florida, and Waleteros launched its app for the underbanked in the U.S.

Find more startup news, community views and events on the Starting Gate blog on MiamiHerald.com/business. Follow Nancy Dahlberg @ndahlberg

June 27, 2015

Refresh Miami's startup series kicks off with design thinking deep dive



Refresh Miami’s summer startup series kicked off with a partnership with Design Thinking Miami, a nonprofit that offers educational and community-building events centered around the creative problem-solving methodology. The Refresh event was just one of three parts to the design thinking theme — there was also a happy hour networker on Friday and a full day boot camp on Saturday. Refresh Miami’s startup series will follow with events on funding and launching and end with a demo day in September, said Peter Martinez, co-director of Refresh.

Startups and students — I was sitting with a row of interns from AdMobilize — packed the Miami Science Museum to hear Andy Hagerman, co-founder of The Design Gym, a New York City-based creative education company launched about three years ago “to empower people and organizations to create change.” He said what he has found is that a lot of organizations say they are innovative companies but they don’t really know what that means on a daily basis.

Through his talk and exercises with the audience, he briefly explained the stages of design thinking — examine, understand, ideate, experiment and distill — and how the methodology can be especially helpful to startups that need to get to market very quickly.

First off, understand you are not the smartest person in the room; design thinking is about learning about your customers’ wants and needs first-hand. Exercises in brainstorming and interviewing techniques asking open-ended question helped the audience understand some of the principles. Just the use of “yes, and” instead of “yes, but” can help get the ideas flowing, he said. There are places in the design thinking process for the “yes, but” people, but that comes much later in the process – in the close. “It’s about putting structure into the process… When the team says now it is time to close, that’s when you start bringing it in,” he said.

The design thinking process can last hours, months or even years; the important thing is to put the process in a time box, whatever the time line might be.

One of The Design Gym’s initiatives: Design Taco, a pop-up taco shop. Turns out the tacos and beer were just the bait to get different groups mixing it up.

Design Thinking Miami, founded by Jessica Do and Mariana Rego, holds regular meetups and workshops. Find out more at Design Thinking Miami.


June 26, 2015

Waleteros launches app for the underbanked in U.S.

P2P_framedWaleteros, which created a mobile banking solution for the underbanked, launched its app on Google Play this week and an iOS version is close behind. The Miami-based startup offers a way for the millions of people in the U.S. who don't use or have a bank account - of which Hispanics represent a disproportional percentage - to use their smartphones as their banking solution.

To cash checks, pay bills and send money to their families in their home countries, underbanked consumers typically go to check cashing stores and pay hefty fees. The company saw an opportunity to cut out the middleman and offer these services digitally, understanding that Hispanic consumers are adopting smartphones at a higher rate than any other demographic group.

CEO Etienne Gillard explained that after completing a short registration via the app, users receive a Prepaid Debit MasterCard with no monthly maintenance, minimum balance or overdraft fees. The card can be used to make purchases in stores domestically and internationally, online, and to withdraw money from a network of thousands of surcharge free ATMs. Through the app, users can track transactions and send money instantly to other users for a small fee. 

"We are Latinos living in the U.S. and we wanted to find a way to send money for less than $10. And guess what... we did much better than that. Thanks to Waleteros, now anyone, regardless of whether you have a bank account or not, can send money anytime anywhere for only 75 cents," said Gillard.

Waleteros, now a team of six,  participated in the 2014 Venture Hive accelerator class and closed a $600,000 seed round in March. The company plans to roll out an iOS version of its application next month.


June 25, 2015

Discussion on 'Miami's tech footprint' attracts a crowd

Techfootprint (2)

When real estate and tech leaders come together to talk about “Miami’s tech footprint,” don’t expect everyone to be in lock-step. But perhaps they all can agree on this: With so much development slated for the Park West section of downtown Miami — including Miami Worldcenter, All Aboard Florida and the Miami Innovation District — tech needs to be in the conversation. And it was.

An audience of mostly business leaders and real estate professionals packed Venture Hive for a lunch-and-learn event on Thursday hosted by Commercial Industrial Association of South Florida.

They heard pitches from two local South Florida companies incubating at the Hive — Referrizer and Snow Lizard — and a keynote speech by Michael Rodriguez, CEO of eMerge Americas. “We are in the middle of the biggest change we have ever seen in our lives,” said Rodriguez, adding while other cities are constrained in their growth, “Miami is expanding at a time when technology is expanding — it’s a perfect fit.”

Ken Krasnow of CBRE in South Florida tried to put it in perspective for the audience. The 20 top tech-oriented office markets in the country created jobs five times faster than the national average between 2009 and 2013, CBRE found in its study. In South Florida last year, 370,000 square feet of new leases and expansions were in the tech sector, more than twice what it was in 2013, while the total in all industries was essentially flat, he said.

“Tech is touching every company now,” said Todd Oretsky, co-founder of Pipeline Workspaces. Locally, Watsco Ventures is doing a great job of investing in and bringing tech into a traditional industry, he said. How do you build a culture to create the big wins? You need a cluster and it takes a little time, he said.

There is incredible talent here, but our challenge is to create long-term businesses that have a heavy IP component to them, said Susan Amat, founder of Venture Hive, which is in talks with 12 cities about being a soft landing place for their startups. She also said Venture Hive is starting young, teaching kids business, design thinking, coding and software, including at camps at five city of Miami parks for lower-income students. “This is part of the long-term strategy to create innovation in South Florida. It’s not a physical place, it is a state of mind,” Amat said. “How do we stop the fluff and build great companies?”

Michael Simkins, developer of the proposed Miami Innovation District, said there are a lot of components to a tech ecosystem, and all are needed, but retaining and attracting the medium to large tech companies is the most important for Miami now because that provides the most jobs. He also said affordable micro-apartments, 250-350 square feet, are a key component: “I see it all coming together,” he said at the event Thursday. Though on the same day, the Miami City Commission dealt the project a blow in the first of two planned votes.


Conference seeks to bridge technology gap between Caribbean, Miami

By Molly Duffy

Entrepreneurs and businesspeople from Caribbean and African nations encouraged each other to drive the technological change their countries need at Miami Caribbean Code’s first Regional Tech Summit on Thursday in the Design District.

“Technology is just a thing that should be there to help us solve social problems, solve market problems, solve market demand needs,” said Natalie Cofield, president and CEO of the Greater Austin Black Chamber of Commerce, during her keynote speech. She urged attendees to invest in their home countries and then “go home and do business.”

“If we don’t believe in our community enough to go back in and create a solution for them,” she said, “we’ll be upset that somebody else came and did.”

Billions of dollars travel from the U.S. to the Caribbean and Africa, Cofield said. “So why can’t it flow on distribution channels that are created by the very people who are putting billions into the system?”

The conference was designed to highlight the need for technology advances in the Caribbean, said Eveline Pierre, co-founder of Miami Caribbean Code, dedicated to bridging the technological gap between the Caribbean and Miami. About 75 attended.

Technology can address a myriad of problems — including government accountability, access to education, energy security and public health access — facing both South Florida and the Caribbean, said Brian Fonseca, director of operations for the Applied Research Center at Florida International University.

“The Caribbean has suffered for a long time from constant brain drain. Intellectuals leave the Caribbean and move into markets that have better quality of life. And that’s just sad because we lose this intellectual power that we should be sustaining in our own communities,” Fonseca said.

Panelists throughout the day discussed technology’s influence on education, social impact, connectivity and economies. Addressing the problems in these areas begins with more access to technologies, panelists said.

“We have not spoken about new technology that does not exist in the world,” said Nehama Bikovsky, president of Maritime Consulting Enterprise. “However, when we go to the Caribbean, oftentimes we see that this not-amazing-anymore technology is still not there.”

As some technology reaches Cuba, Jason Ibarra, chapter director of Startup Grind Miami, cautioned attendees to “be a little cynical” about the rate of progress there. Despite growing Internet access, costs are still relatively astronomical, he said.

“I spend personally about 1 percent of my income on broadband Internet,” Ibarra said. “If [Cuban citizens] spent 1 percent on broadband Internet, they would have 10 minutes a month.”

Jack Dorsey joins SBA talk about payment technology

Dorsey and contreras-sweet

Payment technology may not be a topic that would draw a small-business crowd -- except when the speaker is Square CEO (and interim Twitter CEO) Jack Dorsey.

Dorsey, co-founder of one of the world's leading payment technology companies,  joined U.S. SBA Administrator Maria Contreras-Sweet in a free public event Thursday morning held at the  FIU College of Architecture + The Arts Miami Beach Urban Studios and sponsored by Rokk3r Labs. The objective: to get out the word about major changes in payment security coming Oct. 1 and how small businesses can prepare. 

"Sixty-eight percent of small business have been hacked, they have been victims of cyber security fraud," said Contreras-Sweet. "Effective Oct. 1, the credit card companies say you need the chip reader because they are changing the security. We want to get the word out."

Dorsey demonstrated the present technology and why hacks have been relatively easy and explained what is involved in making the switch.

The bottom line, he told small businesses: Now, if you run a fraudulent card, banks absorb the costs. Starting in October, if someone pays with a fraudulent chip card, and you’re not set up with the new authenticated payment devices (whether it is Square's or one of its competitors) after Oct. 1, "you will be on the hook for fraudulent transactions. The banks won't have your back."

"Technology doesn't have to be complicated, it doesn't have to be inaccessible, it should be something that just works" he continued. "Our industry hasn't moved fast enough in pushing this so we are working with the SBA to make sure first and foremost sellers know this is coming and there are a string of solutions to address this, Square is just one. ...  The important thing is bringing more security, more safety to transactions." 

Dorsey grew up in St. Louis, Missouri, and co-founded Square with Jim McKelvey, now a Miami resident and founder of the LaunchCode apprenticeship program. Dorsey also shared some stories about growing up with entrepreneurship -- his father started a pizza restaurant and his mother later ran a coffee store.

What he's learned: "Entrepreneurs are not necessarily born with these skills, they have a do whatever it takes attitude to learn what they need to get to the next step and then there is a new challenge. I never had dreams of being a CEO, I had dreams of getting the world communicating in a very free and empowering way."

As for founding Square in 2009 in San Francisco, Dorsey said he hated the cumbersome credit card system and said he saw how it could destroy families. You have to ask the questions, why is it this way and then go after the answers, he said. "Our purpose at Square is to make commerce easy."

The co-founder of two of the most well-known tech companies in the world also told the mostly small-business audience: “The choice to stay small is just as admirable as the choice to go global.”

Dorsey said he is particularly proud of a couple of stats about Square and the companies Square serves: Fifty-six 56 percent of the small businesses who use Square are owned and run by women, and 75 percent of Square’s employees report to three women in the executive ranks.

Contreras-Sweet, a former banker, shared some information about SBA programs and products,  including the new LINC on sba.gov that eliminates the need to fill out dozens of loan applications. When you enter answers to 20 questions online, banks will get back to you within 48 hours with what they can offer, she said.  

Near the end of the program, Contreras-Sweet and Dorsey brought up four local small businesses to briefly share their stories: Panther Coffee, LuLu's Ice Cream, Sugar Yummy Mama and Wynwood Warehouse Project.



Sorry, no talk about retaking the reins at Twitter or if/when Square may go public.

 Follow Nancy Dahlberg on Twitter @ndahlberg