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27 posts from February 2016

February 29, 2016

The South Florida Accelerator launches in Fort Lauderdale

By Marcia Heroux Pounds / Sun Sentinel

A new type of business accelerator in South Florida will aim to develop innovative products with less risk for entrepreneurs and investors. The accelerator on Monday announced its new headquarters at General Provision, a co-working space in the FAT Village district in Fort Lauderdale. Eventually the accelerator will have multiple locations in South Florida, the co-founders said.

The South Florida Accelerator will be a so-called "off-ramp" model in which startups will produce software or other intellectual property to the specifications of venture partners, who will be first in line to acquire it. The method "is a faster time to market," said Thomas Buchar, co-founder and managing partner of the new venture, along with Christopher Malter. Buchar said The South Florida Accelerator will both "incubate" new technology or business ideas and accelerate them by forming a company and building a management team. The  accelerator will focus on investments in life science, big data and technologies that help companies manage their workforce and make financial services more efficient.

Read the full story here.

Miami Tech prepares to Hack for Good this weekend to solve some of city’s toughest challenges (and you’re invited!)

Submitted By Refresh Miami

HackforgoodThree of Miami’s most prominent tech organizations are setting out to make an impact on their community. Tech and entrepreneurship organization Refresh Miami, Florida’s top code school Wyncode Academy, and Code for America brigade Code for Miami have joined forces to organize the first annual Hack-For-Good hackathon, taking place March 4th to 6th at The LAB Miami in Wynwood. The purpose of the event is to pair local nonprofits and charities with the city’s top “hackers” (programmers, designers, creators and business leaders) to build solutions to their toughest challenges through the use of technology.

Over forty Miami charities submitted applications, which were narrowed down to just five finalists.

The selected nonprofits include:

  • Make the Homeless Smile Miami, which aims to heal disenfranchised communities by treating them with dignity, empowering them with knowledge and providing them with access.
  • Apretaste, whose mission is to connect underdeveloped countries to the web free of charge and open them up to a whole world of opportunities.
  • Miami Dade Animal Services, which saves the lives of abandoned animals and helps reunite lost pets with their owners.
  • Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden, a group dedicated to tropical plant diversity and inspiring a greater knowledge and love for plants and gardening.
  • Switchboard, an organization that counsels, connects and empowers people in need through their more than 15 specialty phone lines, which include free and confidential telephone counseling, crisis intervention, suicide intervention, and more.

The hackathon offers exciting cash and prizes for the top three projects created over the weekend that best solve the issues presented by the charities. The event’s headline sponsor is the Knight Foundation with space donated by The LAB Miami. Local companies LiveNinja, OpenEnglish, MadChiller, Lemon City Tea and Concrete Beach will also be onsite providing hackers with some much need fuel and support to keep them going throughout the three-day event.

With Miami’s 2011 distinction as the least civically engaged city in the country by The National Conference on Citizenship still fresh in their minds, the organizers hope this initiative will remove some of this stigma associated with the Magic City. “This event is all about building real tools that help local nonprofits make an even bigger impact on the lives of Miami residents”, said Maria Derchi Russo, Director of Operations for Refresh Miami. “We also hope it will inspire residents to get more actively involved in their community and help make a difference”.

“For Wyncode Academy, we couldn't be more excited about helping Miami’s charities solve their problems using technology and are expecting a huge number of our students, alumni and hiring partners to take part” Juha Mikkola, Wyncode’s co-founder, said. “Miami has incredible developers who can build the tools that will make a real impact to these organizations right away, and we hope that this hackathon will also promote more people to take the leap and learn to code when they see what’s possible”.

Danielle Ungermann, community and events coordinator for Code for Miami, adds “We’re pleased to see how far South Florida has come in pushing forward and supporting civic initiatives like the Miami-Dade open data portal, which launched during last year’s CodeAcross event. We only hope that this weekend’s community-wide collaboration will continue to grow and extend outside of this event to show just how much can be achieved through the cross pollination of different communities and industries.”

Participation in the event is free and those interested can register here.

Wyncode Academy is Florida’s top code school, with campuses in Wynwood, FATvillage in Ft. Lauderdale and Miami Beach, teaching coding in a full time and intensive boot camp environment. With 186 graduates, 65 companies that have hired a Wyncoder and a 90% placement rate within 3 months of graduation, Wyncode believes they can teach anyone to code, provided they have the desire to do so.

Refresh Miami is Florida’s largest technology and entrepreneurship organization with over 9,000 members. Their mission is to foster innovation and growth of the tech community through a steady stream of educational content and networking opportunities. Their monthly events draw between 300-400 attendees and cover various topics on emerging trends and how to successfully run and grow a startup.

Code For Miami, a Code for America Brigade, is a group of civic hackers (designers, developers, data scientists, urbanists and community organizers) who contribute their talents toward improving the way the community interacts with local government by advocating for open data and using it to create apps and shared resources. In support of Open Data Day, a gathering of citizens in cities around the world to write applications, liberate data, create visualizations and publish analyses using open public data to show support for the adoption of open data policies by the world's local governments, this event is a Code for America CodeAcross event.


February 28, 2016

Entrepreneurship Datebook: Events, workshops in South Florida Feb. 29-March 6

Tech eggBrainfood: Speaker series features Seth Schachner, managing director of Strat Americas, discussing the intersection of tech and music, 6:30to 8:30 p.m. Tuesday, The LAB Miami, 400 NW 26th St., Wynwood. More info here.

Tomorrow Tour: Join Technical.ly and Comcast NBCUniversal for a multi-city event and reporting series to inspire discussions about what’s possible when technology and innovation converge to create stronger cities, 5 to 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Newman Alumni Center, University of Miami, 6200 San Amaro Dr., Coral Gables. More info: http://tomorrow-Tour.ticketleap.com/miami.

The Startup Dating Game: Northside Innovation Meetup will feature a pitch contest of South Florida startups, 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. Wednesday, WeWork, 350 Lincoln Rd., Miami Beach. Register on Eventbrite here.

Small Business Expo: Trade show and conference, with networking, workshops and exhibits. Shark Tank’s casting team will be there too, 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Thursday, Miami Beach Convention Center. Free. More info: www.thesmallbusinessexpo.com.

Hack-for-Good: Refresh Miami, Wyncode and Code for Miami host Hack-For-Good, a hackathon that pairs local nonprofits with top tech talent to come up with tech solutions to their biggest challenges, Friday through Sunday, The LAB Miami, 400 NW 26th St., Wynwood. More info and to sign up: refreshmiami.com.

NEXT WEEK: Sign up now for our free Business Plan Bootcamp on Monday, March 7, with investors and entrepreneurs sharing knowledge and insights about launching and growing a business. Sign up here: http://businessplanbootcamp.bpt.me/

Starting Gate

Keep up with startup news and community views and find resources and events on the Starting Gate blog on MiamiHerald.com/challenge. Have news? Email ndahlberg@miamiherald.com.

Nancy Dahlberg @ndahlberg

February 26, 2016

FIU selected as Ashoka U Changemaker campus

Fiu (1)

By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

Miami became the first city to be home to two Ashoka U Changemaker campuses of higher learning on Thursday. Ashoka is the world’s largest network of social entrepreneurs, and changemaker campuses are recognized as leaders in fostering social entrepreneurial opportunities for its students and community.

Florida International joined the prestigious Ashoka University Changemaker Campus consortium at an Ashoka conference this week in New Orleans. Miami Dade College was selected last August. Other universities and colleges in the 35-member consortium include Arizona State University, Boston College, Brown, Duke, Johns Hopkins and the University of Maryland

“We’ve long seen our FIU as a solutions center for our community and the world,” said FIU President Mark B. Rosenberg. “We are excited to be in such great company, contributing to an environment where our students can collaborate with the brightest minds to address the most pressing issues of our time.”

Both South Florida universities went through a rigorous multi-year review process before being designated Changemaker campuses. FIU was lauded for its graduate school requirement that students engage the community while conducting research projects, its student-focused Center for Leadership and Service, and its commitment to innovation and entrepreneurship exemplified by its Small Business Development Center and plans for a new incubator, FIU said.

Being a Changemaker campus will bring students and their schools additional resources and global connections for furthering mission-driven projects and ventures.

Coming up: Small Business Expo, with Shark Tank casting call

Who: Small business owners and executives

What: Small Business Expo         

Where:  Miami Beach Convention Center

When: March 3, 2016 9:30 am5 pm


The day-long conference and trade show brings together industry thought leaders and experts in a hands-on environment that features more than 20+ FREE business critical workshops and programs along with 100+ interactive booths, demos and brand exhibits. Headlining the event is Bill Walsh, Founder and CEO of Powerteam International with his presentation “The 7 Keys to Build a Mega-Successful Business” on the Inspiration 2020 Showcase Theater stage.  Additionally, AT&T Business Circle SMB expert James Hilliard will be hosting a workshop “Video 101: Tips for Small Business.” Video is becoming the preferred medium for customers to connect with companies. How can a small business leverage video to capitalize on its popularity? Video host and producer James Hilliard will share insights and tips that will help you start creating your video content library, without breaking the bank.  In 2002, James began producing and hosting online videos for CNET Networks. From that experience, Hilly Productions was born, and since then, companies of all sizes, from all industries, have come to rely on James to deliver compelling videos that their audiences deserve.

Start-ups and business owners can take advantage of free admission and educational workshops covering online/social media marketing, employee benefit plans, credit and financing, strategies for increasing revenue and team productivity, mentoring, cloud technologies, retirement plans, and more. Shark Tank's casting team will be on hand to hear potential pitches for the show.


February 25, 2016

Christian Seale @ Startup Grind: His views on startup growth from both sides of table

Christian seale startup grind (1)

By Peter Kovach

Christian Seale is the founder and managing director of Startupbootcamp Digital Health Miami, the first digital health accelerator and seed fund focused on diverse and underserved communities. He has been on both sides of the table as an entrepreneur and early stage investor and loves supporting ambitious and extraordinary founders navigate the high and lows of their startup journey. Before building SBC Miami, he was a founding member of Equitable Origin, the world’s first certification for responsible energy production. He is also a member of NextGen Angels and worked for consumer-only VC firm Maveron. This month at  Venture Hive, Christian sat down with Startup Grind’s Jason Ibarra to discuss his experiences and how they can help startups grow.

* Understand your Barriers of Entry - While at Brown University, Christian set out to create the ideal oil company in Colombia, a company that is environmentally friendly and respectful to the community stakeholders. Unfortunately, the barriers of entry were too high as many of the oil companies in Colombia were far more established and it was too costly to enter into the market. However, Christian and his partners were able to leverage previously established relationships with stakeholders and other oil companies to create a certification for responsible oil production. It's important to know the cost of entry and other barriers you may face before you make a big investment. You may intend to pursue an idea, but discover it’s not feasible. If you are observant of the industry, you can always find ways to make an impact regardless of the obstacles.

*The Business Plan - One of the most overrated aspects of business for startups is the business plan. Many businesses get caught up on having a long drawn out plan that will explain every single way in which they will make money for the next five years. The business plan for startups does not need to be 50 pages long, especially because things can change so quickly. Instead, don’t get caught up in length and focus on quality. The business plan should be a road map of where you want your company to be in the next few months with an overview of how you’ll address the next five years. It can be a simple 5-page document that identifies your target customer, the market, any competition, plans for growth and key goals you want to achieve in the the near future.

* To V.C. or not V.C. - In today’s startup ecosystem, we are all focused on who gets how much money and from whom. This can be a major distraction, and quite honestly getting funding from investors may not be the best option for everyone. In fact, growing a business organically may be the better option for a lot of companies. Of course, there is not the same sex appeal and your growth may take longer, but you don’t have to worry about keeping investors happy and reaching absurd revenue expectations. Instead, you can focus on what is most important, growing your business the right way, and when the time is right the money will follow. Remember, once you take someone else’s money, their goals become your goals.

* Approaching Investors - Christian has had his fare share on NOs in life, maybe more than 1,000. If it taught him anything, it's that you should never be afraid to ask. If you decide to look for venture money, it is necessary to do your research. Make a list of the investors you are interested in, understand what they like to invest in, and how involved they are with their companies. Remember, bringing on a VC is a marriage, and you will be stuck with them for the foreseeable future, so it is essential to understand who is investing in your startup. Christian mentioned, once you have a list, prioritize it from best possible investor to the “hey I just want your money” investor. Then approach the investors starting from the bottom of the list. This will give you plenty of practice, to refine your pitch and handle difficult questions, so when you finally meet with your ideal investors you are more than prepared.

* Accelerator or Incubator - Accelerators and incubators are essential for Startup ecosystems to grow. They build a community of like-minded companies and offer them assistance in reaching their full potential. If you are contemplating putting your company in an accelerator or incubator, Christian emphasizes the importance of understanding their differences. An incubator, he said, is like coddling a newborn baby, where an accelerator is essentially putting your business in a rocket ship and having it blast off. Incubators typically work with companies that are fresh off the idea phase and help them formulate their business. On the other hand, accelerators typically deal with more established companies and help them target and achieve specific goals within a few months. Understand what phase your company is in, so you can properly identify if you are more geared toward an incubator or accelerator.

Peter Kovach is a recent graduate from Loyola University of New Orleans. He moved to Miami to be a part of the rising tech scene and is currently an associate at building.co.

NEXT UP: Xavier Gonzalez, CEO of eMerge Americas, will be joining Startup Grind for a Fireside Chat on March 8th at the Venture Hive. Tickets are now available here.

February 22, 2016

Atlantico: A premium rum company grabs its ‘moment’


By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

What does a feisty young Miami spirits company do to get the attention of a huge celebrity?

If you are Atlantico Rum, well, you send rum. But not just to any celeb: You send it to one you know really likes fine rum.

Atlantico2That would be Enrique Iglesias, the recording artist and record producer — the Gulliver Prep grad who became the King of Latin Pop. He now includes the rum in nearly all his performances.

Atlantico co-founder Aleco Azqueta reached out to the star after finding out, from a mutual friend, that Iglesias is a rum aficionado. Atlantico didn’t hear from Iglesias right away. But on YouTube a short while later, the team was surprised to see the star hoisting an Atlantico Private Cask bottle as he toasted an audience member he invited on stage to sing with him during a Madison Square Garden concert. That was four years ago.

“It was a surprise to us,” Azqueta said. “We were hoping he would have it backstage; we had no idea he would use it on stage. It was a very organic moment, very natural.”

Within a few months, Azqueta and his co-founder Brandon Lieb met with the performer and asked him if he would like to be involved with Atlantico. Iglesias told them he doesn’t do many brand sponsorships but he likes the brand a lot, it fits with his lifestyle and he wanted to be involved on an owner level, Azqueta said.

Since then, Iglesias has continually used the onstage toast — and the Atlantico brand — in his shows. And these “Atlantico Moments,” as they’re now called, have gone viral on social media.

That kind of authentic product placement is priceless.

Iglesias is an investor and full partner in the company. The star has certainly helped get more people to learn about the brand. “His follower base is slightly larger than ours,” Azqueta quipped during an interview at Sweet Liberty, a craft spirits bar in Miami Beach. “He is the No.1 Latin artist of all time, he has sold over 100 million albums, he has over 50 million Facebook fans.”

Indeed, Atlantico saw growth of about 40 percent in the year after the Atlantico Moments began, Azqueta said, and it has been a gift that keeps on giving. Iglesias has taken to wearing Atlantico caps everywhere — in his concerts, in interviews for Extra, in his videos. He also placed Atlantico in a lot of his music videos, including Bailando, which has garnered more than 1.3 billion hits on YouTube.

The brand also was beginning to expand internationally at that time, but the ride wasn’t always so smooth. Azqueta and Lieb launched Atlantico in 2009, during the recession. Both friends had attended Georgetown University together [Azqueta also earned an MBA from the University of Miami] and worked at Bacardi in marketing and brand management positions before taking the entrepreneurial plunge. Lieb now is based in Los Angeles; Azqueta, in Miami.

Starting a spirits business during a recession may not seem wise — let’s face it, rum is not really a necessity. “Everyone always says alcohol is recession-proof,” Azqueta (pictured below) said. “While that might be true, they don’t always drink the best quality stuff.” Still, he said, it wasn’t a bad time to launch as competitors were scaling back on marketing and expansion at that time.


More important, the co-founders saw the craft beer boom gaining steam, and they believed craft spirits would not be far behind. Indeed, craft spirits bars, where bartenders focus on the craft of fine cocktail-making, were beginning to pop up in San Francisco, New York and elsewhere.

“We felt like there was an opportunity to develop a craft rum and participate in this craft cocktail movement,” Azqueta said. “The premium-ization of rum hasn’t caught up with the other categories.”

They looked at distilleries throughout the Caribbean and Venezuela and ended up in Dominican Republic. There they created Atlantico Private Cask with a third-generation Cuban master blender and started entering the premium sipping rum in spirits competitions. In the first two years, Atlantico won best-in-show at the London Rum Festival, the world’s largest rum competition. It also picked up best-of-show at the Berlin Rum Festival, and “Best Overall Brown Spirit” at the Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of America show. Azqueta and Lieb knew they had a good product but had to figure out how such as small company could break through.

From the start, Atlantico was never going to compete with the volume players like Bacardi but rather as a boutique brand; its batches are small and its bottles are hand numbered. Once Atlantico began producing commercially — it now has three styles, Private Cask, which retails for about $32, Reserva (about $27) and Platino (about $22) — it focused its distribution regionally, beginning with Miami, Los Angeles and New York.

Atlantico began hiring brand ambassadors in these markets, often bartenders in the cities’ craft spirits bars, to tell the story of the brand and bring awareness, teach cocktail-making, work at events, and work with its distributor, Miami-based Southern Wine & Spirits. Atlantico focuses its marketing by featuring it at community events, tastings and on menus. The company will be at the South Beach Wine & Food Festival that starts this week.

The past few years, Atlantico has been in an expansion mode. Atlantico is now in 16 countries, including Germany, Spain, the United Kingdom, Italy, Mexico and Australia. It has been picked up by some national accounts, such as the W, Seasons 52, Cosmopolitan Hotel, NOBU, MGM Properties, Caesars Entertainment Group and Norwegian Cruise Line.

But the independent “influencer” craft spirits bars — such as Broken Shaker, Sweet Liberty and Finka in the Miami area, Employees Only in New York, and Trick Dog in Los Angeles — are still a mainstay of Atlantico’s strategy. “Our strategy has not changed. It is to continue to focus on the influencers in the spirits community,” Azqueta said.

Broken Shaker in Miami Beach was one of Atlantico’s first accounts. Gabriel Orta, Broken Shaker’s co-founder, has been featuring Atlantico since the bar opened, for more than five years.

“I like that it is a boutique company, a hand-crafted company. I like the whole process how they make the rum, the master distiller used to work with Havana Club — they took the extra steps, and we love the packaging,” Orta said. “It’s a great rum and we love supporting it.”

Atlantico’s Caribbean-style rums “are sweet and approachable, and something that the locals favor,” said Alex Portela, beverage manager of Finka Table & Tap in West Kendall. Hand-shaken daiquiris or classic mojitos with Atlantico are fan favorites. So is the Old Cuban, similar to a mojito but topped with champagne, he said.

This craft spirits resurgence comes as the rum market as a whole has been flat. According to 2015 Nielsen research, the rum category was down nearly 1 percent; however, the ultra premium category where Atlantico competes was up 6.4 percent. Atlantico’s growth has been faster. The company said sales volume has grown by 50 percent over the past three years as Atlantico increased its distribution from being an East Coast brand to national and international distribution. It has grown to more than 2,500 accounts, its co-founders said, but they wouldn’t disclose revenues.

As Curt Carrillo, a bartender at Sweet Liberty on South Beach and an Atlantico brand ambassador, prepared a classic daiquiri, Aleco explains that he and other premium rum makers are trying to change the perception that rum, the second-largest spirits category behind vodka, is all about spring breaks and rum-and-cokes. Two of Atlantico’s brands — Reserva and Platina — are favored by cocktail makers. Some are using fine aged rum in place of whiskey in traditional whiskey classics such as the old-fashioned. “Rum is still a great value proposition compared to Scotch and whiskeys and tequilas,” Azqueta said.

Florida International University students have tried their hand at their own crafted creations using Atlantico rum, with a unique twist. Azqueta had lectured on rum production and came armed with samples, but Professor Barry Gump had another idea for those samples. In the beer making lab, the students created a blond beer with Atlantico Platino and a sweet stout with Atlantico Reserva. “They were marvelous, everyone enjoyed it,” Gump said, and he had some of it bottled.

“What our brand is trying to do is teach people how to drink better rum and lead the education that rum is a very complex spirit and just as high quality as a bourbon or scotch or cognac,” Azqueta said. “We are starting to see a renaissance of rum.”

Nancy Dahlberg; 305-376-3595; @ndahlberg.


Entrepreneurship Datebook: Events, workshops in South Florida Feb. 22-28


TecheggCode For Miami: Get together with fellow civic hackers, entrepreneurs and community leaders, join a project and code for good, 7 to 9 p.m. Monday, The LAB Miami, 400 NW 26th St., Wynwood. More info: RefreshMiami.com (click on events)

Accelerate Your Business: Entrepreneur magazine holds a one-day conference for small-business owners and startups. Speakers include Alexis Ohanian, co-founder of reddit, and Jon Levy, a human behavior expert. Even is 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday, Ritz-Carlton in Coconut Grove. Free but registration required: www.entrepreneur.com/events/accelerateyourbusiness-miami

Waffle Wednesday: Every week, members of Miami’s creative and tech communities come together to hear pitches and announcements from local startups and enjoy breakfast, 9  to 10:30 a.m. Wednesday, LiveNinja office, 120 NW 25th St., Loft No. 301, Miami. More info: RefreshMiami.com (click on Events).

Turn Your Ideas Into Reality: Microsoft presents a free event featuring local entrepreneurs sharing their insights and taking questions, 8  to 11 a.m. Thursday, Dadeland Mall Microsoft store.


Read about last week’s Miami Mini Maker Faire, Black Tech Week, Sup-X and a hackathon aimed at finding solutions for the obesity crisis on the Starting Gate blog on MiamiHerald.com/business, where you can also keep up-to-date on startup news, and find information on events and resources. Have news to share? Email ndahlberg@miamiherald.com.

Nancy Dahlberg @ndahlberg


Ultimate Software VP shares advice at Sup-X: ‘We were a startup, too’



By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

Advice was coming from all sides last week, with a packed calendar of entrepreneurship conferences and events that brought in more than 100 speakers, many from Silicon Valley, New York and other parts of the U.S. and world. But sometimes the best advice comes from our own backyard.

Ultimate2Jim Jensen, Ultimate Software’s vice president for strategic alliances, reminded the audience at Sup-X: The Startup Expo last week that the company, which now has 3,000+ employees and brings in more than $600 million in revenue, was once a startup too — beginning in four cubicles off Stirling Road 25 years ago. Those were the days when portable computers meant screwing door handles on the tops of the desktop computers so they could be lugged home, he said.

But those 120-hour workweeks that included sleeping under desks in the early days have paid off. Today, Weston-based Ultimate Software, with 25 million users at 3,200 companies, has been largely credited with pioneering human capital management in the cloud — HR benefits, payroll, onboarding talent and the like. This year Fortune named it the No. 1 technology company to work for in America.

Jensen was employee No. 33 when he joined Ultimate Software 21 years ago, hired to run the development team creating the next products companies would use to run their companies. “It’s been an incredible ride,” he told the Sup-X audience Wednesday in a Broward County Convention Center ballroom, where he was a keynote speaker. He credits the success in part to the company culture so important to founder and CEO Scott Scherr.

Here is some of the advice he shared.

It’s all about the team and teamwork. You can’t miss the basketball court and “championship banners” for key milestones in the atrium of its Weston headquarters.

“Scott’s model is built on trust. Ultimate takes care of all of its employees,” Jensen said. Every employee gets full healthcare, matching 401k and stock, and the company has never had a layoff, even during the worst of times. “Scott’s model was, ‘if I take care of my employees, and they are crazy happy about working at Ultimate, then that is going to drive satisfaction with the customer. … We have 3,000 employees; Scott looks at it like we have 3,000 families.”

He also said Scherr was able to build a great team because he wasn’t afraid to hire people smarter than him to add to the talent base and encourages people to think entrepreneurially. After each major product release, usually two or three times a year, Ultimate holds a competition and gives every team a chunk of time to come up with anything they want. Some of these innovations have led to new product features.

Do one thing exceptionally well. Most of Ultimate’s competitors offer a broader array of solutions, and human capital management is just one component of what they do.

“All we do is HCM — we are never going to change,” Jensen said. “The idea is to have a crazy focus on what you are doing. If you don’t have it, you’re like a ship without a rudder — you are blowing all over the place.”

Be able to convey your vision and mission simply. Most companies can explain what they do and how they do it, but they have a harder time explaining why they do it, Jensen said.

“When I look at your booth, I want to know what you do right away,” he told the entrepreneurs in the room, many of whom had exhibitor booths at the conference. “Come up with a one- to three-word tag line of what you do. When you think of Apple, it’s ‘Think Different.’ Ours is ‘People First.’ Everything we do is all about People First.”

Giving an example: No sales talk is allowed at its annual user conference for its customers. “The purpose is to love on, educate and collaborate with our customers and make sure they understand we are in this together … Our customer retention rate (97 percent) is the highest in the industry … We live and die by that number.”

Thunderbolts are inevitable; it’s about how you handle them. Ultimate went public in 1998 and, like most tech companies, got hit hard in the dot-bomb of the early 2000s. It had an on-premise solution a company would license and install, but with losses mounting to $4 million a quarter, it pivoted in 2002 to a Software as a Service model, with a monthly fee rather than buying expensive software upfront. “We are the only public SaaS company right now that is profitable. We’ve been profitable since 2004.”

During the recession of 2008, the stock was slammed again, falling to $13 and change, but now it is trading at about $160.

Control your own destiny. Be careful with partnerships because they are a reflection of you.

Jensen’s recommended reading: RReadelentless, by Tim Grover (every new employee at Ultimate gets this book); The Winner Within, by Pat Riley; Start with Why, by Simon Sinek; Good to Great, by Jim Collins; Zero to One, by Peter Thiel; and Drive, by Daniel Pink.

Celebrate your championships: The aforementioned banners are real, but as soon as Ultimate hits one, it is on to the next goal. The most recent banner was for 2015, hitting $600 million in revenue.

What’s the championship goal for 2018? $1 billion in revenue. Not bad for a company that started out in four cubicles.

Nancy Dahlberg; 305-376-3595; @ndahlberg

Read more: Sup-X brings together startups, investors

February 20, 2016

Miami Mini Maker Faire: Where all ages come out to learn, play


Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/news/business/article61534607.html#storylink=cpy


Gabriel Streeter, Shekeyna Walker, Amauri Stratford, Kenya Burnes, Kaniya Smith, Jennifer Jean-Jacques have been working with aquaponics in their school and participated in a booth at the Miami Mini Maker Faire. Photo by Steve Viti

After a fashion show by DesignLab Miami students, instructor Jazmyn Leininger with Rowan Windham Burke, Zoe Goldemberg, Maria Mercenari, Isa Burguera and Naomi Gomez. Photo by Steve Viti

Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/news/business/article61534607.html#storylink=cpy


By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

Under a big white canopy at the center of the Miami Mini Maker Faire, kids drew animations frame by frame, which could be turned into their own movie. Another group of youngsters was learning about growing lettuce with aquaponics. At another set of tables, some were trying their hand at sewing, while others were contributing “wishes” for an art piece.

This Patricia and Phillip Frost Museum of Science display was just one of many such canopies, each becoming magnets for makers of all ages at the Maker Faire, which opened Saturday and continues through Sunday. More than 3,000 tickets have been sold to the fair, which turned the YoungArts campus in Miami into a festival-like celebration of the “maker movement,” or the do-it-yourselfers among us in technology, industrial arts, science, arts and crafts, music and more.

“You’d be surprised how excited kids get about aquaponics — sometimes a little too excited, like trying to skip class to work on their projects,” said Marc Gauthier, a math-science coach at Holmes Elementary who also owns Fruit of Life Organics. He was demonstrating to a family how students at Holmes grow large healthy heads of lettuce in just 3 1/2 weeks, with fish and their environment providing the nutrients and water to grow the vegetables.

The nearby StarBot display was also a huge draw, with kids surrounding a pen and directing their robots within it. Nola Garcia, president of StarBot, said her organization works with 120 youngsters from 47 different schools and offers a 34-week introduction to engineering series of interactive projects. For finishing the series, the reward is a sleepover under a Saturn 5 Rocket at Cape Canaveral.

“These kids are amazing, they are so fertile when you put them in the right environment where anything is possible,” said Garcia, whose organization partners with Frost Science, Breakthrough Miami and the Children’s Trust. “I tell them the most important question to ask is ‘what if?’<TH>”

Saturday afternoon about 40 students, ages 6 to 15, of DesignLab Miami turned a stage into a fashion runway. But the fashions they were wearing were their own creations, from concept to the final stitches.

The theme of the fashion show was cartoon animation, and like all the Design Lab students, friends Isa Burguera, 12, and Rowan Windham Burke, 13, drew their own characters on their fashions. “I’m a fan of Project Runway and I’m a dancer. I am working on a [fashion] line for dancers,” said Rowan, after the show.

That mix of passion and innovation was on display at booth after booth — there was even an ice cream maker powered by a “human hamster wheel” — and there was plenty for adults to enjoy, including 3D printing demonstrations and mini-talks on topics from “design thinking” to drones. Craig A. Hamilton was representing Waking Hearts, a group of artists in Wynwood that “create art that soothes the soul,” he said. His group’s pop-up shop at the Faire was a way to bring art to the community.

Ric Herrero is the founder of MIAMade, the organization producing the fair with partners including the Knight Foundation. He said the show — just like the maker community — has grown so much since the first event in 2013, then held in the LAB Miami in Wynwood, that next year the Miami Mini Maker Faire might finally lose the word “Mini.” Now it’s a two-day festival with live music, maker talks and food trucks. For the first time the organization flew in 11 makers from Cuba for the event; the artists are members of Fabrica de Arte Cubano, an acclaimed mixed-use creative space in Havana. Fabrica de Arte Cubano co-founder X Alonso, a pioneer of Cuba’s hip-hop and afro-rock scene, was scheduled to perform at the fair Saturday evening.

Indeed, this year four local makerspaces participated as well as a number of startups, nonprofits, artist groups and companies such as Microsoft, Herrero said. No one could miss the Moonlighter Makerspace’s area with an artful room made from PVC piping beckoning folks to come inside. Nearby, several startups and nonprofits affiliated with the Moonlighter space displayed their creations, some of which were for sale.

Technologist Mario Cruz was checking out the Maker Faire on Saturday, sans kids. “Last time my kids had a great time but I didn’t get to see what I wanted to see. So this year I decided to see it first today, and bring them tomorrow.”

Nancy Dahlberg; 305-376-3595; @ndahlberg

See related story about Fabrica de Arte Cubano here.


The event continues from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday at the National YoungArts Foundation Campus, 2100 Biscayne Blvd., Miami. Fair admission is $12 at makerfairemiami.com and at the door; kids under 5 are free.

Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/news/business/article61534607.html#storylink=cpy


0506 Miami Mini Maker Faire

Emilee McDonald, 9, walks inside the "Be the Hamster" wheel as she makes a flavored frozen ice cone during the Miami Mini Maker Faire at YoungArts Plaza on Saturday, February 20, 2016. AL DIAZ adiaz@miamiherald.com

0511 Miami Mini Maker Faire

Abby Rose, 6, jumps next to a tall blue robot on display during the Miami Mini Maker Faire at YoungArts Plaza on Saturday, February 20, 2016. AL DIAZ adiaz@miamiherald.com

Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/news/business/article61534607.html#storylink=cpy

Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/news/business/article61534607.html#storylink=cpy