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23 posts from December 2016

December 30, 2016

SBA's 3rd InnovateHER competition launches: Will a South Florida company win again?

Will South Florida produce another winner in the national InnovateHER competition?

The U.S. Small Business Administration today announced the launch of the 2017 InnovateHER: Innovating for Women Business Challenge, a nationwide business competition to drive attention and resources to innovative products and services that make our lives easier and longer.  Competitors vie for $70,000 in prize money provided to SBA for the InnovateHER competition through a gift from the Sara Blakely Foundation.

“The return of SBA’s InnovateHER Business Challenge presents an exciting opportunity for some of our nation’s foremost entrepreneurs and innovators,” said SBA Administrator Maria Contreras-Sweet.  “Women represent half of the U.S. workforce and control 80 percent of the nation’s purchasing power, but still make up less than five percent of venture capitalists. I decided to launch this annual competition two years ago so that we could begin to address that opportunity gap, because when women have an equal role in the marketplace and are able to chart their own paths, our nation as a whole is stronger and more globally competitive.”

The South Florida District is home to the 2nd place winners of the agency’s 2015 and 2016 InnovateHER Business Challenges.

“In 2016, Miami Beach-based “Flat out of Heels” owner Dawn Dickson took a need to provide a comfortable, yet fashionable alternative for women who wear high heels on a daily basis, and produced rollable ballet flats as a stylish alternative,” said SBA South Florida District Director Francisco “Pancho” Marrero. “Lisa Crites, inventor of the only water-resistant mastectomy garment on the U.S. market and owner of the Shower Shirt Company in Cocoa Beach was 2nd place winner in 2015.  Women and families across the country will benefit from these inventions."

The number of women venture capital partners has dropped from 10 percent in 1999 to just six percent in 2014, a trend directly correlated to women’s access to capital; only about seven percent of venture capital funding in the United States currently goes to women-owned ventures. Gender bias is well documented in this area: a Harvard Business School study asked potential investors to rate a series of pitches, some of which were narrated by women and some by men. Even when the scripts were exactly the same, only 32 percent of people said they would fund the woman, compared to 68 percent who said they would fund the man.

InnovateHER: Innovating for Women Business Challenge officially kicks off in winter of 2017 with local competitions to be hosted by universities, accelerators, clusters, scale-up communities, SBA resource partners, and other economic development organizations.  Through the competition, SBA is seeking to amplify products or services that fill a need in the marketplace and have the potential for commercialization.  SBA continues in its efforts to expand the InnovateHER Challenge, focusing on empowering more women in the investment and innovation space.  Additional details on the InnovateHER can be found on the online competition platform www.challenge.gov

Entrepreneurs selected as winners in local competitions will advance to the semi-final round.  From the pool of semi-finalists, SBA will select up to 10 finalists who will be invited to the National InnovateHER: Innovating for Women Business Challenge to be held in mid-2017.  The finalists will pitch their products and ideas to a panel of expert judges and compete for the top three awards along with $70,000 in prizes.

Over the past two decades, women entrepreneurs have been critical to growing businesses and creating jobs in cutting-edge fields such as precision medicine or cybersecurity, as well as through advances in agriculture and manufacturing.  Women across the nation will benefit from investing in research and inventions that impact their experiences.  A lack of inclusion in the innovation space leads to missed opportunities, especially when women make the majority of the buying decisions.  The SBA is encouraging organizations across the country to participate in this important business challenge.

For more information including competition rules, go to www.sba.gov/innovateHER

- Submitted by the SBA

Why mobile payment tech is leap-frogging in Latin America

YELLOW PEPPER SPOTLIGHT b e

YellowPepper, a Miami-based tech company, is undergoing a growth spurt, recently deploying its mobile payments technology in Colombia, Ecuador and Mexico and looking to expand to other Latin American countries. To further power that growth, Volta Global, run by emerging markets specialist Marko Dimitrijević (pictured above at right), recently became an investor in YellowPepper, run by Serge Elkiner (pictured above, left).

 

BY NANCY DAHLBERG / ndahlberg@maimiherald.com

The world of mobile payments is one of the hottest segments of the financial technology industry. Based in Miami, YellowPepper has been a pioneer of mobile payment technology in Latin America, where an immense market need and a millennial-rich population of early adopters converge.

YellowPepper has done this before. Years ago, the YellowPepper team targeted the untapped Latin American mobile banking market and developed a state-of-the-art platform to enhance the overall consumer experience. While continuing to grow the mobile banking side of the business, YellowPepper is now focused on another untapped opportunity: mobile payment solutions for consumers in the region. The company, founded in 2004 in Boston, provides financial institutions with the latest technology that alters the way in which consumers and retailers transact.

YellowPepper is undergoing a growth spurt, recently deploying its mobile payments technology in Colombia, Ecuador and Mexico and looking to expand to other Latin American countries. To further power that growth, Volta Global, run by emerging markets specialist Marko Dimitrijević, recently became an investor in YellowPepper. The terms of the investment weren’t disclosed, but Miami-based YellowPepper has raised more than $40 million in venture capital to date, making it one of the highest funded early-stage fintech companies in Miami.

With such a large market opportunity, mobile payments continues to attract attention in the venture capital community. The global mobile wallet market is expected to reach $635 billion by 2020 from $113.5 billion in 2015, increasing 41 percent annually between 2015 and 2020, according to Research and Markets. The turning point, many experts cite, is the growing availability and use of mobile phones. With the mobile and financial expertise of CEO and co-founder Serge Elkiner coupled with the emerging markets and investment experience of Volta, YellowPepper is poised to exceed its expansion goals in the coming months, the company said.

On the heels of YellowPepper’s success in the Latin American mobile banking space, the Belgian-born Elkiner moved the headquarters to Miami, where offices of U.S. and Latin American financial institutions are based and a growing number of fintech companies have set up operations. YellowPepper, now with a team of 68, currently partners with top financial groups and institutions, including FIS and MasterCard, in the region and is poised to launch in Peru and the Dominican Republic shortly. After years of heavily investing in research and development, YellowPepper turned profitable last year.

The tech company is hiring, too. It is looking to add up to a dozen engineers to its Miami headquarters, located in art-adorned offices in Wynwood. YellowPepper now has about 16 employees in Miami.

Dimitrijević, who has been investing in emerging markets for more than 25 years, has recently focused on frontier markets, or smaller emerging markets beginning to take off, and recently authored a book, “FRONTIER INVESTOR: How to Prosper in the Next Emerging Markets.” Prior to founding Volta, the Stanford MBA graduate ran hedge fund company Everest Capital, which managed more than $3 billion in assets at its height, but a single bad bet in January 2015 wiped out one of its funds after the Swiss National Bank unexpectedly removed the franc’s exchange-rate cap against the euro, sending the currency surging, media reports said. He returned investors’ capital, later started Volta and now invests with his own funds, making strategic investments. I set up Volta Global as a private investment group and we do both public and private investments, and that’s how we got to meet YellowPepper,” Dimitrijević said.

To get the view from both sides of the table, the Miami Herald met with Elkiner and Dimitrijević before the holidays and asked about YellowPepper’s growth, recent developments and the future, as well as about frontier investing and why YellowPepper falls into Dimitrijević’s investment wheelhouse. Here are excerpts from that conversation.

Q. I know you are actively hiring in Miami. How will you use the new funding, Serge?

A. To support our growth. We’ve been able to grow internally in markets where we were growing very fast, Colombia, Ecuador and Mexico, and we are launching our mobile payments in the Dominican Republic and Peru. We already had a strong presence in Peru in mobile banking for the past 10 years. We are also in Bolivia with mobile banking.

Yepex is our mobile payments platform and we develop separate white label products with financial institutions from the platform.

For our mobile payments solution, we have more than 100,000 users in Colombia and it is growing every day, Today it is our biggest market.

In Colombia, Ecuador and Mexico, 220,000 merchants are currently enabled with our mobile payments technology. In the next four to six months, there will be 365,000 merchants coming on board.

Q. Marko, you have a new book on investing in frontier markets and mobile payments is one of the themes of investments that is growing in Latin America. Why do you believe in mobile payments?

A. We’ve seen the story before. We have been early investors before in several frontier markets and we saw a leap-frogging in some of those countries. For example, in some countries only a fortunate few had a fixed-line phone and basically [the countries] skipped directly to mobile and everyone has a mobile five years later. We see that in payments in countries like Kenya, where very few people had a bank account but went directly to apps and mobile and we think the same story is happening in Latin America, particularly in Ecuador and Colombia, which are frontier countries. And we believe YellowPepper is really at the forefront in Central and Latin America and that is really exciting.

Q. What is a frontier market?

A. Frontier markets are smaller emerging markets. Think emerging markets of the future. Twenty years ago few people focused on India, few people focused on Russia and even fewer focused on China — they were all novelties. Few people today focus on Ecuador or Colombia or the DR or Vietnam or Bangladesh, but those will be the markets of the future. You catch them at their inflection points, right before the hockey stick starts to turn up. That is what is so exciting about those markets.

In Latin America, that is everything but Brazil, Mexico and Chile — it’s a very, very large market.

The frontier markets — that’s where the growth is in the world. In the large emerging markets, Russia, Brazil, China, all are slowing or have slowed over the past five to 10 years. If you look at the top 75 fastest-growing economies in the world, 71 are in the frontier markets. They are starting at a much lower base and are going to be growing much faster over the next 10 to 20 years.

Q. Marko, what attracted you to YellowPepper?

A. The people, and obviously they have been at it for a number of years. They have built a cohesive and attractive team and created something we think is a very powerful mousetrap and building it in our backyard. It’s exciting for Miami to have a company of this caliber here.

The potential growth for YellowPepper is much higher than a company doing a similar thing in the U.S. or a more developed emerging market.

Most people don’t realize how attractive the frontier markets are because they are all individually small. But when you take them all together as a group they are larger than the U.S. or China. That’s why it is remarkable when companies like YellowPepper get on our radar screen because they have taken advantage of this very powerful force and the fact that the demographics go in favor of those markets. YellowPepper focuses on the most attractive segment, 15- to 34-year-olds, the early adopters, and those are massively located in frontier markets.

Q. What’s next for YellowPepper, Serge?

A. One thing is consolidating the markets where we are right now. By the end of the second quarter [2017] in Colombia you will be able to make mobile payments in 100 percent of the shops that take credit card or debit cards. That’s 250,000 merchants, and 100 percent of that is based on our technology.

And expansion. In the last 18 months, we have built the second generation of our platform. It’s an inhouse platform that connects to international platforms, like Mastercard, Visa, American Express and other institutions in those countries. We are also integrating with Facebook messenger for our clients. Given that we are connected to these global platforms, the technology we built is fully deployable globally. This changes the story for us.

Right now we can pitch a bank in Vietnam, for instance. … What we learned and have done in Latin America is totally applicable to other markets that are similar, such as Southeast Asia. We could in the future do a distribution deal to push our technology outside of Latin America and this was not possible 18 months ago. Now it’s completely viable.

And we are one of the very few players in emerging markets with a very deep understanding of emerging market dynamics.

The potential is huge. But Latin America is still virgin territory for us. … We’ve built the highway and any cars that want to use it are welcome to come and pay the toll and use it. It cost us a fortune to build it, but now the value is there.

Q. And what is your biggest challenge?

A. People still don’t understand that it is more secure to do things with your mobile phones. There is a lot of work still ahead of us in the markets we have been strong.

Tokenization of the transaction means the credit card or account number of the debit card is no longer part of the transaction. What goes through is a one-time generated number used for that transaction. If someone steals your token, they can’t do anything with it. There is a lot of security around that and so far we have had no problems.  

Q. Who are your users?

A. In Colombia, I can tell you there are almost twice as many millennials using our product … than the traditional credit card and debit card. … We have 63 percent in the 18-35 segment. Another statistic that is very interesting: 65 percent of our users have used [our product] twice already meaning they are becoming repeat users. The challenge is breaking that barrier with the consumer so they use it the first time, but the first time they use it, they are likely repeat users.

SERGE ELKINER

Title: CEO and co-founder of YellowPepper, a Miami-based company that provides mobile banking and payment solutions across Latin America.

Previous: Vice president of business development at HelloTech Technologies, an Israeli firm providing remote monitoring and mobile payment solutions for vending machines.

Education: Bachelor of science in accounting from Boston University.

MARKO DIMITRIJEVIĆ

Title: Founder and chairman of Volta Global, a private investment group. Author of “FRONTIER INVESTOR: How to Prosper in the Next Emerging Markets” (Columbia University Press, 2016).

Previous: Investor for more than three decades, mostly in emerging markets, and ran hedge funds.

Education: MBA, Stanford University; bachelor’s in economics, finance and management science, University of Lausanne.

 

Nancy Dahlberg: @ndahlberg

 

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December 28, 2016

Magic Leap commits to creating 725 high-paying jobs in Broward

06magicleap_CPJ

By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

Magic Leap officially announced on Wednesday that is will expand its operations in Broward County, creating 725 high-wage positions and making a capital investment of $150 million.

The South Florida technology company said it selected Broward County for its R&D Center of Excellence over locations in Texas and California. Magic Leap received $9 million in government incentives, in an effort by the state of Florida, the city of Plantation, the Greater Fort Lauderdale Alliance and Broward County. “Greater Fort Lauderdale/Broward County is proud to be the home of Magic Leap and its transformational technology,” said Bob Swindell, president and CEO of the Greater Fort Lauderdale Alliance.

With locations in Plantation and Dania Beach as well as offices around the world, Magic Leap is developing a mixed-reality platform to enable people to seamlessly experience the real and virtual environments together. The company’s virtual retinal display technology superimposes 3D computer-generated imagery over real world objects. Magic Leap was founded by Rony Abovitz, who also co-founded Mako Surgical in Davie and is a University of Miami alumnus.

The incentives package has been in the works for about a year, and the $150 million capital investment will be for its Plantation facility. Magic Leap broke ground on its 260,000-square-foot campus in Plantation last fall and has begun moving in. The new headquarters and manufacturing facility is in the former Motorola campus. Magic Leap employs about 800 globally and between 200 and 300 in South Florida. The company currently lists about 175 openings in Plantation and Dania Beach.

“Our new location in Plantation will create many new jobs in the area, and we hope to continue to grow and expand our efforts over the coming years. We see Florida as an emerging hub for both technology and creativity, and we at Magic Leap are inspired by events such as the first launch to the moon, which happened right here in Florida just a few decades ago. Florida is a place where people can dream, and where amazing things can happen,” said Abovitz, in a statement on Wednesday.

To fund its innovation, Magic Leap raised $1.4 billion from investors including Google, Alibaba and others, a record in Florida. “Now it’s heads-down for us and we will be accelerating everything. We are super-focused on our getting first product out and getting it right, and letting it speak for the company. We know we have to deliver against high expectations,” Abovitz said earlier this year.

The secretive company, which hasn’t released timelines or launch dates on its product development, hit media turbulence earlier this month: Tech publication The Information reported that some former employees say its development is behind schedule and that some technology the company invented couldn’t be applied to its consumer product, thought to be spectacles. Management changes followed. New Chief Marketing Officer Brenda Freeman, formerly of National Geographic, recently responded in Recode that Magic Leap “is absolutely on track” and “racing toward launch.”

To be sure, Magic Leap’s commitment to creating 725 jobs in Broward paying an average of $92,066 — twice Broward County’s average annual wage — over a five-year period would make a large bump in South Florida tech employment. Florida is home to more than 26,000 IT companies employing nearly 250,000 professionals; nearly 80,000 people work in information and communications technologies in South Florida. Still, in a Bloomberg study released last week, Florida ranked 34th out of 50 for innovation measures including R&D, patent activity and science and engineering degree holders. 

Nancy Dahlberg: @ndahlberg

December 27, 2016

SBA expands microloan program in Florida

Money

By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

The South Florida District Office of the U.S. Small Business Administration announced that the agency’s Microloan Program is now available to qualifying small businesses throughout the state.

The expansion comes because the lending territory of a previously approved firm, Black Business Investment Fund of Central Florida (BBIF), was increased. Prior to obtaining statewide micro lending status, BBIF previously provided microloans mainly through the North Florida District.

SBA’s Microloan Program, which is focused on startups, minority and other underserved markets, provides loans up to $50,000 to help small businesses and certain not-for-profit childcare centers start up and expand. Microloans play an important role in distressed communities where access to conventional lending remains a challenge. The average microloan size is approximately $13,000. More information about the microloan program can be found at http://www.sba.gov/microloans/.

“Due to successful performances in BBIF’s portfolio, the SBA has granted their firm the ability to lend through the entire state of Florida, which is a win-win for businesses and consumers alike,” said SBA South Florida District Director Francisco “Pancho” Marrero. “This access opens the doors to business ownership by making loans accessible to a broader segment of our population who might not traditionally qualify for a bank loan. We look forward to working with them in their expanded capacity to assist Florida’s small businesses.” 

Headquartered in Orlando, BBIF is Florida’s largest statewide small business lender that specializes in providing capital for African-American and minority businesses.

The Sunshine State has a stormy showing in Bloomberg Innovation Index


Vision-strategy-innovation-signpost-24720693-001By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

By at least one measure, Florida has a lot of work to do if it wants to join the ranks of innovation powerhouse states. The Sunshine State ranked 34th out of 50 in The Bloomberg U.S. Innovation Index.

The 2016 index, released last week, scored each of the 50 states on a 0-100 scale across six equally weighted metrics: R&D intensity; productivity; high-tech density; concentration of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) employment; science and engineering degree holders; and patent activity.

No. 1 on the ranking was Massachusetts, which enjoyed a faster recovery from the last recession than most states and boasts a 2.9 percent unemployment rate. The state’s innovation is a potent mix of tax incentives to draw in companies, research partnerships between its big-name universities and local businesses, and the transfer of much of that research into patent-able products, said Greg Sullivan, research director at Boston-based Pioneer Institute, in a Bloomberg report.

California, Washington, New Jersey and Maryland rounded out the top five most innovative states. Arkansas, West Virginia and Mississippi are the least innovative in the U.S., the data show.

Keeping Florida from the bottom was its relatively high ranking – 11th – in tech company density, defined in this study as the the number of highly technical publicly traded companies, such as in aerospace and defense, biotechnology, pharmaceuticals, software, energy etc compared to all public companies in the state. But all the other indicators were very low; Florida ranked 35th for R&D intensity, 44th for productivity, 40th for STEM concentration, 33rd for science and engineering degree holders; and 32nd for patent activity.

Florida ranked 35th overall in 2015.

The year in business: my top picks among many for best local stories in 2016

South Florida was spared Hurricane Matthew’s wrath, but Zika season never seemed to end. Meanwhile, another year in South Florida business brought other sea changes, including international cooperation (Cuba) and corruption (Panama Papers), booms, busts and a few surprises.

The Miami Herald business staff rounded up our picks for the best business stories of 2016 in real estate, tourism, international business, media and tech for this week’s Business Monday. Rather than stories that dominated the headlines of the day, we looked for stories that told the bigger picture of trends that could continue into 2017.

Here are my top picks from the tech/entreprneurship/startup beat.

Uber and Lyft are legally yours: Miami-Dade commissioners finally made ride-hailing companies Uber and Lyft legal in May, after a nearly three-year fight that pitted the tech-enabled services against the county’s taxi drivers. Uber and Lyft followed an approach that brought it success in other markets: launch in defiance of local regulations, then build a following of drivers and passengers so large that political pressure builds on elected officials to sanction the operation. It worked. Broward and Palm Beach counties have approved the services, too. Both Uber and Lyft have introduced carpool-like services this year for multiple riders going the same way. And while ride-sharing was speeding along, an on-demand war heated up for restaurant delivery. Once UberEATS and Amazon Restaurants entered the fray, bye-bye services Caviar and Favor.

Manny Medina’s (nearly) instant tech company: South Florida leaders have been trying to develop a tech hub here, but one of the missing elements has been a critical mass of large tech employers. What will likely help the cause: Tech pioneer Manny Medina will lead a new multinational data center and cybersecurity company based in Miami. Medina Capital, his Miami-based private equity firm, and global private equity firm BC Partners formed the new venture in a $2.8 billion transaction announced in November. The new company, not yet named, will combine a worldwide network of 57 CenturyLink data centers with cybersecurity and data analytics companies, including Doral-based Easy Solutions, a cyber-fraud fighting company. Calling it “Terremark on steroids,” Medina said the new company will have more than 1,000 employees. While it hasn’t been determind" determined how many of them will be in South Florida, it will be a strong presence, said Medina, who founded and led Terremark until its $2 billion sale to Verizon in 2011 and more recently founded eMerge Americas, a homegrown technology conference that returns June 12-13. As for his new venture, “I’m back and I can’t wait,” said" Medina said. “I feel like I have been rehearsing for this my entire life.”

A Magic Leap for venture capital — and negative press: Venture capital in Florida is on track for its best year since the frothy days of 2000, but don’t break out the champagne. While Florida companies have pulled in more than $1 billion so far, without Q4 tallied, the mysterious Magic Leap alone pulled in nearly $800,000 from Alibaba and other investors in Q1, bringing its total funding to $1.4 billion. Pull out that one mega-round, and the total would likely trail most of the years since 2001, according to PwC’s Moneytree Report. Still, one big success story can lift a region, drawing more investors and startups, as well as creating jobs. Will it be Magic Leap, said to be developing a “mixed-reality” technology that brings the virtual and real world together? Magic Leap, now in its new 260,000-square-foot campus in Plantation, hasn’t released product details or timelines but hit major media turbulence this month when tech publication The Information reported that some former employees say its development is behind schedule and that some technology the company invented couldn’t be applied to a consumer product, apparently spectacles. The exclusive article also said that a demo of an earlier prototype (it was hands-off for the current prototype) was less than awesome and that at least one of its promotional videos was created by a studio but presented as real. “Magic Leap may have oversold what it can do,” wrote Information reporter Reed Albergotti. Tech publications piled on with negative press. Management changes swiftly followed, and new CMO Brenda Freeman recently responded in Recode that Magic Leap “is absolutely on track” and “racing toward launch,” without giving specifics. Still, we really don’t know much more than a year ago. Founder and CEO Rony Abovitz has said that Magic Leap’s technology will be worth the wait. Stay tuned.

And here are two stories to watch from my entrepreneurship/tech/startups beat:

Innovation districts: If you build them …: Art Week brought to light the vision for an innovation district called Magic City. Developer Tony Cho and investor Bob Zangrillo, who have amassed 15 acres in Little Haiti, want the district to include an innovation center, music and events spaces (already opened), an amphitheatre, sculpture garden and green space, much of it renovated from industrial buildings and spaces already there, as well as micro-unit housing and a much larger innovation center in later phases. This follows announced plans by Moishe Mana for a 25-acre development in Wynwood catering to tech companies, creatives and millennials, and a Miami Innovation District on 10 acres in downtown Miami, announced by Michael Simkins. Will these visions begin taking shape in 2017 as they work through the planning and development phases?

The proliferation of pot-preneurs: Amendment 2’s passage on Nov. 8  means that the state’s medical marijuana law will become effective Jan. 3, and health regulators have six months from that date to put regulations into effect. The law requires that the state begin licensing dispensaries and issuing IDs by early October. There are still a lot of unknowns, although lawyers have seen increased interest from real-estate investors seeking plots of industrial land suitable for growing or storefronts for dispensaries. And while all that rule-making goes on, South Florida startups have already been ramping up for the new industry.

Read the full story, including top stories from the real estate, travel/tourism, international biz and media beats,  here.

December 25, 2016

Startup Spotlight: Condition Culture goes all-in on hair — and fur

Condition

Company: Condition Culture

Headquarters: Miami

Concept: Five beauty brands for people and their pets — as the company’s tagline says, “beauty for your best friend.” Condition Culture creates products that aim to enhance confidence and freedom of expression.

Story: Founded by twin sisters Alex and Donya Litowitz, Condition Culture launched its first product, Featherlocks (feather decorations for the hair), in April 2010, appearing in top fashion magazines and television shows. Condition Culture continues to sell the original hair feather extensions and has since developed several other products, including Puppylocks, feather accessories for dogs.

After graduating from the Kellogg School of Management in December, Donya decided to purchase the company and move it further into professional haircare products. Alex, a hair stylist who would put artistic feathers in her clients’ hair before they created the product, wanted to start a family and return to hair styling. “Since the purchase, I have focused on reorganizing the operations and product development to refocus the resources on the new direction,” said Donya, who had a background in real-estate finance.

Condition Culture’s latest brand, COLORSMASH color-kissed hairspray, a color hairspray with no iron oxides, launched in June at Cosmoprof in Vegas. It is also sold in Germany, the UK, South Africa, Australia, Italy, China, Korea, Israel Scandinavia and the Netherlands. The product (about $20 a can) results in professional-looking color without the commitment or mess like current options on the market, Donya said. It is now the company’s key product.

This year, international distribution has doubled for Condition Culture; the next growth focus is the Asian market. Donya has also increased the use of technology to increase efficiency and has reduced the team to eight core people in a flat organization where she interacts with all areas of the business as needed but allows each department to function independently. More deliverables are outsourced to keep the company lean and agile.

“We have created a very collaborative environment. It’s become a family; we spend a lot of time together, and working toward a common goal keeps us united and moving forward. Stella, the office dog, contributes just as much,” said Donya, a third generation Miamian. The company’s offices in Miami’s Little River area include a showroom, product design, business development and distribution. Stella is a key part of the staff, offering valuable feedback on the company’s pet products, as well as being a stress reliever and morale booster.

Plans include bringing more manufacturing back into the U.S., and new product development with a focus on COLORSMASH and Puppylocks. The next big product launch is in July. The company won’t dislose what’s coming but said it is aimed at significantly widening Condition Culture’s market. Condition Culture’s products are sold online at Conditionculture.com, as well as by retail partners. Its popular pet products are also sold at PetsMart.

“You have to make mistakes to learn anything,” Donya said. “Don’t compromise on what you really want.”

Founded: 2010

Management team: Donya Litowitz, CEO; Chris Askew, Product Development; Linda Uribe, International Accounts; Megan Patton, Domestic Accounts; Jenny Hernandez, Inventory & office management; Nicholas Piniero, Marketing/Creative; Stella, the dog, Director of Office Morale

No. of employees: 8

Financing: Self-funded and not looking for investment. “We were profitable from the first year and have reinvested into the development and growth of new products,” Donya said.

Website: ConditionCulture.com

Recent milestones: The launch of COLORSMASH hairspray, which has already established international distribution in Germany, South Africa, England, Australia and the Netherlands in less than five months and won the 2016 PDC Haircare Award for innovation in formulation/packaging compatibility and design.

Biggest startup challenge: The large financial and emotional investment that goes into running a company, the sleepless nights, and the ups and downs, Donya said. “But at the end of the day, I wouldn’t have it any other way. The key is to believe in what you’re doing and to surround yourself with people that encourage you to be better every day. Having a solid team is key. Everyone in my family are entrepreneurs, so I guess you can say it’s in our blood.”

Copycats have also been a problem for the company, but since the COLORSMASH hair spray took four years to develop and has a patent pending, Donya believes it will not be easily copied.

Next step: Expanding the COLORSMASH brand by evaluating the consumer response from the initial launch and continuing to improve the assortment of colors.

Nancy Dahlberg: @ndahlberg

Condition2

 

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December 23, 2016

SFTA's 5th annual ITPalooza attracts 1,700 tech leaders and IT professionals

Itpalooza1

 

The South Florida Technology Alliance (SFTA) hosted its 5th annual ITPalooza (ITP) earlier this month at a new venue, the Signature Grand.

“What a great event,” said Connie Cabrera, ITPalooza planning committee chair and SFTA board member.  “People not only enjoyed the educational and networking opportunities, but also the fun and cool factors of the 3D and VR activities and seeing Tesla’s incredible electric cars up close.”

This year’s event filled all of the Signature Grand’s main and overflow parking lots to capacity with 1,700 registered attendees, 43 speakers, 112 sponsors and 30 tech groups.

“Perhaps this year’s most impressive attraction was the Charity Toy Wall, comprised of more than 1,200 toys valued at more than $36,000,” said ITPalooza committee and SFTA board member Steve Earle, who compiled the final stats for the event.

Since its inception, ITPalooza has raised more than $160,000 in cash and toys for various South Florida non-profits including Miami-Dade County Public Schools’ STEM Advisory Board, The Stockdale Foundation and U.S. Marine’s Toys for Tots.

“We’re already beginning the planning process for next year’s ITP,” said Cabrera.  “We want to promote the growth, success and awareness of the South Florida technology community across all industries. The impact of innovations in IT leaves no sector untouched; it is not restricted to tech companies any longer. We want to have South Florida’s HealthCare, Education, Energy, Travel and Retail sectors represented at our event, just to name a few.”

One of South Florida’s Largest Tech Conferences, ITP showcases Educational Speaker Tracks, a Hiring Fair, Hackathon, Agile Group, CIO Track, IT Expo, charity toy drive and After-Party. This year featured a dedicated Management Track in conjunction with the iCoast CIO Council with focus on the unique needs of CIOs and other top-level IT executives.

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- Submitted by ITPalooza

December 21, 2016

2nd in Inside the Investor's Head series on Jan. 24 will feature Tamiami Angels

Enterprise Development Corporation is hosting the second in a series of "Inside the Investor's Head" investor/startup events meant to provide entrepreneurs valuable funding insights.  The series combines one-on-one investor/startup introductions with an evening event for a broader audience of entrepreneurs.    The objective of these “capital Introductions” is to both help startups acquaint themselves with active Florida and non-Florida early stage investors and help investors identify South Florida’s best emerging investor-ready companies. 

The event on Tuesday, Jan. 24, will feature Tamiami Angel Funds and their president, Tim Cartwright.  Cartwright will meet in the afternoon with four selected companies from a growing company database of over 40 companies.   Each company will receive feedback on their presentation, an initial interest level and specific advice in applying for formal consideration by the Tamiami Angels. 

At the initial event, Recordgram was selected for a one-on-one by featured investor New World Angels.  According to the co-founder Erik Mendelson “Great news, since our initial meeting with New World Angels, we’ve had two other meetings and are now in their due diligence process. …Will keep you posted, but this would not be happening if it wasn’t for the EDC.”

In the public evening event, held at Mindwarehouse in downtown Miami from 5:30 – 8:00 p.m.,  Cartwright will share with the audience general funding guidance for entrepreneurs as well as specific insights into TAFI’s selection and funding process.  Register for the evening event at https://www.eventbrite.com/e/inside-the-investors-head-with-tamiami-angel-funds-tim-cartwright-tickets-30298266932

Future events in this series will be ongoing throughout 2017, with the February investor announced soon, so please check www.enterbusiness.org for updates.

For entrepreneurs wishing to be considered for the one-on-one, please submit an executive summary and investor slide deck to team@edc-tech.org by 1/2/17.

- Submitted by EDC / Miami DDA Investor Series

December 20, 2016

Young innovator to watch: Felipe Gomez del Campo of Weston

 

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Felipe Gomez del Campo one of four innovators nationally chosen for U.S. Department of Energy’s new entrepreneurship program

He’s been recognized as a rising energy innovator in Forbes “30 under 30” and honored at the White House as an emerging global entrepreneur by President Barack Obama.

Next up for Case Western Reserve University graduate student Felipe Gomez del Campo: He was selected as one of four innovators nationally to participate in a new two-year entrepreneurship program at the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory in Lemont, Illinois.

On Tuesday in Chicago, Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz joined U.S. Senator Richard Durbin and officials from DOE to announce Gomez del Campo and the three other participants in Chain Reaction Innovations (CRI), the Midwest’s first entrepreneurship program to embed innovators in a national laboratory.

All four were selected to embed at Argonne for two years to access the lab’s scientific expertise, world-class facilities and mentorship to develop their innovative technologies.

“For an entrepreneur/ technologist, this is huge because the future is never certain,” said Gomez del Campo, a native of Mexico City who is from Weston, Florida. “You never know when you’re going to run out of money, if you'll be able to find more, what technological problems you're going to run into, etc. Joining the first cohort of CRI means that I don't have to worry as much about fundraising, and I can fully commit to developing the technology and get it to market.” 

CRI is part of a new initiative to accelerate the development of sustainable and energy-efficient technologies and drive manufacturing growth by helping startups and innovators reduce development costs and risks. A panel of judges selected the inaugural cohort of five Chain Reactions innovators from more than 100 applications.

Applicants for CRI came from 22 states. About half were with startups; the rest were students, professors, postdocs or members of industry. The four recipients represent Colorado, Indiana, North Dakota and Ohio.

Gomez del Campo, a graduate student in aerospace engineering at Case Western Reserve, is founder and CEO of FGC Plasma Solutions LLC, a Cleveland-based company that is developing a novel fuel injector for jet engines and gas turbines. He earned a bachelor’s degree in mechanical and aerospace engineering from Case Western Reserve in 2016.  

The other three technologies in the first CRI cohort: a novel radioisotope battery made from nuclear waste; membrane-free electrochemical devices; and carbon material synthesis through sustainable bio-manufacturing methods.

Argonne National Laboratory, with a staff of 1,600 scientists and engineers, is the largest federally funded research and development facility in the Midwest. The CRI program provides the selected entrepreneurs dedicated laboratory and office space, support securing additional project funds, research and development assistance and access to a broad innovation ecosystem.  

Gomez del Campo was honored as an emerging global entrepreneur by Obama at the White House in 2015 and was selected by the State Department to represent the United States at the 2016 Global Entrepreneurship Summit.

He earned a spot on the Forbes “30 under 30” list for 2016 in the energy category, the “Who’s Who to Watch in Technology” by Crain’s Cleveland Business and as one of Mexico’s six extraordinary young people by GQ Mexico. He also has been named a member of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Aerospace, the American Society of Mechanical Engineers and the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers.

FGC Plasma Solutions is working on a fuel injector that incorporates plasma to better control combustion in jet engines and gas turbines. By reducing fuel consumptions during idling, fuel savings of between 1 percent and 5 percent per flight are possible. The technology will also enable benefits from lower emissions, increased fuel flexibility and improved reliability.

Gomez del Campo said he will likely start the CRI program in late January or early February. CRI is a one-year commitment that can be extended to two years. He is working on his master’s in aerospace engineering, swims on the Case Western Reserve swim and dive team and works part-time.

“Even though I will be at Argonne, I will still be working on my thesis — which is on my technology incidentally — and taking classes online to finish my master’s,” he said. “Although it means a lot of changes for me and I will miss CWRU a lot, it is a fantastic opportunity and I am very excited.” 

- Submtted by Case Western Reserve University