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20 posts from March 2017

March 31, 2017

University of Miami School of Business awards nearly $50K in Business Plan Competition. And the winners are...

Ventures producing a high-performance computer with a water cooling system and an online portal to help high school student athletes obtain college scholarships have taken top honors in the 2017 University of Miami Business Plan Competition, hosted by the University’s School of Business Administration. The competition winners, who took home a combined total of nearly $50,000 in first, second, third and other prizes, were announced March 30 following the final round of competition the same day.

Grand Prizes

1st

David Gantt, pictured above, an international finance and marketing major at the School of Business and Chester Montefering, an industrial engineering major, won the Grand Prize and $10,000 in the undergraduate student category for XIX Computing. Their venture aims to produce a computer system with a water cooling system to better address the high-performance computing needs of the computer gaming industry.

1st too

In the graduate student and alumni category, Kelly Pierce, pictured above, who graduated in 2012 as a community and social change major, took home the Grand Prize and $10,000 for her venture, Pierce Plan. It’s billed as the first SAAS LMS licensing and delivery model to automatically track academic requirements in real time to help high school student athletes more easily obtain scholarships to pay for college. Pierce also won the People’s Choice Award and $1,000.

Second Place

2nd twoo

Second Place in the undergraduate student category and $6,000 went to Dylan Cohen (pictured above), a biology major, for Frest, a hand-held device and mobile application that facilitates contact information exchange.

2nd

 

Second Place in the graduate student and alumni category and $6,000 went to Thomas R. Byrd Jr. and Jason S. Keasler (pictured above), both 2016 MBA graduates from the School of Business, along with Joe Rjeili, for VarDragons, a reality mobile game that turns airplanes into dragons through mobile devices.

Third Place

3rd 22

Third Place in the undergraduate student category and $4,000 went to Nelly Sudri, an advertising management major and Lauren Peaslee, a public relations major, for Sobe Media Group (pictured above). It’s a Miami-based social media marketing agency aimed at helping brands increase their social media reach.

3rd

Third Place in the graduate student and alumni category and $4,000 went to Josh Fu, who graduated from the School of Business in 2010 as an international finance and marketing major, for Haathi Cloth (pictured above). The venture aims to produce modern, comfortable and machine-washable kurtas, an outfit worn at Indian weddings and dance competitions.

Honorable Mentions

An honorable mention and $1,000 was presented in the undergraduate student category to Don Sirivat, an engineering major, and Kevin Fich, a computer science major, for Cleanswipe, a mobile payment platform for scheduling laundry appointments. The honorable mention in the graduate student and alumni category went to Marcella McCarthy, who graduated in 2005 as an English major, for Skillied, a web platform where schools and other institutions can list their local classes and people can book a seat.

The 2017 Business Plan Competition started last fall when 81 concept papers were submitted to the judging committee. From those submissions, 31 semifinalist teams prepared business plans and were then presented to the judges on March 29. Four winners in each of the two categories were then named to compete in the final round on March 30, with the winners named shortly afterward.

This year’s competition sponsors included Sean Goldstein, The Gomberg Family, The Heffner Family, JES Global Capital Partners, The Nunez Family, and Oscar Callejas. Now in its 15th year, the Business Plan Competition is open to all University of Miami students and alumni.

Past winners in the competition have gone on to build their ventures into businesses that have garnered national attention. They include such companies College Hunks Hauling Junk and My Therapy Journal.com, both of which have been featured on ABC Television's “Shark Tank.”

Other Awards

In addition to the three top prizes and honorable mentions in each category, the Paul K. Sugrue Entrepreneurial Spirit Award and $2,000 was presented to Benjamin Leis, who graduated in 2004 as a broadcast journalism major, for Comic Cure. The venture uses the unifying power of laughter to uplift and engage communities around important causes.

The Best Presentation Award in the undergraduate student category went to Dylan Cohen for Frest. The Best Presentation Award in the graduate student and alumni category went to Jennifer Pierre, who graduated from the School of Business as an entrepreneurship and marketing major, for Melanites. Her venture designs diverse toys, storybooks and games that celebrate brown boyhood. Each Best Presentation Award winner received $2,000.

Entrepreneurship Symposium

In the lead-up to the competition finals, UM alumni Omar Soliman, co-founder and CEO of College Hunks Hauling Junk, Jamie Rosenberg, founder and CEO of ClassWallet and Albert Santalo, founder and former CEO of CareCloud, offered their ideas, advice and insights to students at the half-day Entrepreneurship Symposium, which also included panel discussions on Miami’s entrepreneurial ecosystem and venture capital opportunities.

“Starting a business is like running a marathon,” said Rosenberg. “You have to take micro steps one at a time. But the most important thing is understanding what’s driving your heart.”

“It has never been easier to become an entrepreneur,” added Santalo. “There are many great platforms to help you launch a business with very little outside funding. If you are serious about your idea and willing to work hard every day, I encourage you to jump in. Otherwise, you’ll be watching from the sidelines.”

READ THE ENTREPRENEURSHIP SYMPOSIUM RECAP HERE.

- Submitted by University of Miami

March 30, 2017

View: My challenge to all Miamians

By Austin Rhoads

Austin Rhoads Headshot (1) (1)I moved to Miami sight unseen a few years ago.  I had never stepped foot in S. Florida, had no idea what I was getting myself into, and was an idealistic recent college grad who notoriously went to every single meet-up in town.

A lot has changed in the past 2.5 years but one thing hasn’t…  Miami has a perception problem.  We perceive our city, and more importantly, the caliber of our people as somehow inferior to other places.

I can’t tell you how many times per week I hear someone say they can’t find good talent in Miami.  Whether this involves the job search, volunteerism, or even the dating scene, the point remains the same.

We are caught in an endless cycle of downplaying our own resourcefulness and intelligence.  We have to stop it!  It’s like perpetually viewing our city as a glass half empty and doing nothing to make the situation better. 

Guess what?  The first step to solving our talent problem is to stop referring to it as a problem at all.

There are fascinating, talented human beings in this city.  There are jobs that will provide the challenge of a lifetime.  There are organizations catering to every last one of our obscure hobbies.  They just might be a little more difficult to find than in other cities.

I made a commitment to never again use the words “Miami lacks talent.”  I encourage all of you to do the same.

Here is my challenge to you:  Next time you’re on the verge of complaining about Miami, stop yourself, and make an introduction.  Introduce two people you know for no other reason than you care.

This is the easiest and fastest way to continue strengthening the network of our community.

I don’t want to hear that you don’t have time, don’t know enough people, aren’t capable of pressing the share contact button on your iPhone, etc.  I guarantee each of us knows at least one cool, talented person in town.  I’m sure our friends feel the same way.  So why not connect the dots?

Building a free Miami job referral network among my friends has been one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done in my life.  Until now, it required nothing more than a couple minutes per month and an email account.

You too can do the same.

Make one introduction per month, and you instantly propel us closer to creating the connected, engaged, and inspired community we all dream of.  Imagine if every Miamian made the same commitment?

I can’t wait to meet all of your new friends, work with your new colleagues, be at your weddings, and hear about your new hobbies.

Challenge accepted.

Austin Rhoads is the creator of the Miami Talent Pipeline and Managing Partner of Puente & Co, a global B2B sales and business expansion firm.  After graduating from Elon University, Austin moved down to Miami as a 2014 Venture For America Fellow.  @austinrhoads

READ MORE: My courtship with Miami

 

 

NewME accelerator program now in Miami gets Knight funding  

By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

AngelabentonThe NewME technology accelerator has already relocated its headquarters from Silicon Valley to Miami, and $191,000 in new funding from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation will help it expand programming.

NewME was founded in San Francisco in 2011, and was the first accelerator focused on helping entrepreneurs of color. It offered traditional 12-week full-time accelerator programs; Brian Brackeen of Kairos went through the program. Two years ago, while still in San Francisco, the accelerator began offering one-week bootcamps instead, because as NewME founder Anglela Benton (pictured here) said, “many minority entrepreneurs just aren’t able take 12 weeks out of life.”

Last year, NewME offered its more accessible boot camps in Miami and they were well received, Benton said, proving a Silicon Valley address wasn’t necessary to help entrepreneurs of color. She said Miami was a natural choice for NewME’s base given its diverse makeup.

“The old [accelerator] model works for a particular type of entrepreneur. Our model is more about the entrepreneur and what they want to accomplish,” she said, adding that many NewME startups bootstrap their businesses. “The times are changing.”

Over the years, NewME has accelerated hundreds of entrepreneurs through its online platform, residential boot camps and equity portfolio, helping its companies raise over $25 million in funding. By expanding its programming, NewME aims to improve the success of black-led startups through mentorship, coaching and weekly and monthly events.

As it already has been doing, the accelerator will host quarterly one-week residential boot camps in Miami, with the next one beginning June 5. Benton said cohorts are small and personal – about eight people – and four slots will be reserved for Miami-area entrepreneurs. At the boot camps, industry experts will work with the entrepreneurs to help accelerate their businesses. With the funding, NewME also will hire a Miami-based program manager.

“NewME will provide important opportunities for black entrepreneurs to grow and thrive in Miami,” said Matt Haggman, Miami program director for Knight Foundation, in a news release. “NewMe’s move to Miami highlights our city’s strength as a place for inclusive growth, entrepreneurship and innovation.”

In the past four years, Knight has made more than 200 investments totalling more than $25 million in entrepreneurship in South Florida.

 

March 29, 2017

New World Angels directs $1 million follow-on investment to Miami-based manufacturing innovator

New World Angels is investing an additional $1 million in Clarke Industrial Engineering to fund Clarke’s continued expansion of its patented Shutter Valve line. Clarke is headquartered in Miami with operations in Rhode Island.

Invented by Kyle Daniels, Clarke’s CEO and founder, the Shutter Valve is the first major innovation in 50 years in the $86 billion valve industry, the company said.  Industrial valves play a critical role in manufacturing, regulating the flow and control in piping systems in power plants, oil and gas applications and food and beverage processing facilities.

Daniels brought his business plan for his patented idea to New World Angels in 2014 and received funding that year, said NWA Treasurer  Bob Williamson, a member of Clarke's board.

Daniels  said the company is building out its infrastructure to produce an expanded product line. “We now have valves in several industries, including natural gas, water, power and paper.  Combined with our recently announced license arrangement with Curtiss-Wright to expand the Shutter Valve into the defense and nuclear industries, this investment enables us to seize the opportunities before us and continue on our growth path,” he said in a news release.

This is the Florida structured angel group's second follow-on investment this year. In January it invested $500,000 in Tao Connect of St. Petersburg. In the past three years, Boca Raton-based New World Angels has invested $10 million in Florida companies.

March 26, 2017

Q&A with JetSmarter's Sergey Petrossov: What it's like to run a billion-dollar startup -- at age 28

Sergey

By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

Sergey Petrossov, the 28-year-old founder of JetSmarter, says when you go all-in as an entrepreneur, you don’t look back.

That may be, but 2016 must have provided quite a tailwind.

In December, the Fort Lauderdale-based private jet marketplace announced that it raised $105 million from new and existing investors, including the Saudi royal family and celebrity rapper Shawn “Jay Z” Carter. Investors value JetSmarter at $1.5 billion, which in venture-capital speak makes it a “unicorn,” a private company valued over $1 billion.

[READ MORE: JetSmarter attracts $105 million to bring jet-set lifestyle to the merely wealthy]

“In 2015 we had no more than 50 employees. The majority of all our cities were launched in 2016,” Petrossov said. “We have done massive hiring spread all over.”

Today the company has more than 260 employees, Petrossov said. JetSmarter already flies into cities in the United States, Europe and the Middle East, and plans to soon expand into India, China and South America. In addition to its corporate headquarters in Fort Lauderdale, it has offices in London, Dubai, Zurich, Moscow and Saudi Arabia.

JetSmarter offers a mobile app that lets its members charter an entire jet, travel on a private jet shuttle or create their own shared charter. It doesn’t own jets but works with a network of charter companies. Annual membership fees are $14,000. JetSmarter reportedly has about 8,000 members.

The company offers four flight services, both scheduled routes and on-demand, where members create their own flights on their own schedule. Most innovative is its shared services for both customized, on-demand flights and its scheduled JetShuttle services on more than 50 routes on three continents. The company also offers JetDeals, last-minute flash sales that pop up on “empty legs.”

“We’ve been able to surround the globe. Last year we had close to 45,000 unique passengers,” Petrossov said.

But that’s just one pillar of the brand, Petrossov said. It’s also a social community between members and a service that extends to on-the-ground services that a customer will not even have to ask for. “Our vision is to create this travel and lifestyle community and to deliver an end-to-end experience for how you get there, who you meet and where you go,” Petrossov said.

The Miami Herald sat down with Petrossov in his office in Fort Lauderdale earlier this year to talk about his vision, what’s ahead and the entrepreneurial ride so far. Over the past few weeks, however, that ride has been rocky.

Since the Miami Herald’s interview, JetSmarter has run into turbulence in its executive ranks: One of JetSmarter’s former executives, Edward Gennady Barsky, was arrested on grand theft charges in a California case unrelated to JetSmarter and has resigned. Barsky was JetSmarter’s president, vice chairman and one of its first investors. JetSmarter’s statement: “Gennady Barsky has resigned from JetSmarter for personal reasons. The charges he faces are wholly unrelated to JetSmarter, and pre-date the founding of JetSmarter,” said spokesperson Ronn Torossian. There’s been public relations turbulence too, with tech media site The Verge reporting that JetSmarter required a positive article if it let a reporter take a free roundtrip flight to try out the service.

Here are excerpts of the Miami Herald’s earlier conversation with Petrossov.

Q. How did you end up in South Florida?

A. I was born in Moscow, I moved to the U.S. when I was 4, and I’ve lived between California and Colorado and South Florida. I moved to South Florida when I was 11 or 12.

Q. How did you get involved in technology?

A. I went to the University of Florida [studied finance], and I always had a math and analytical bent. When I was 18, I wasn’t really into college that much — I was more interested in getting out of college — and I got involved with my first startup. It supported chat for audio and video for website customer service. I wasn’t the founder but since I got involved early they called me a co-founder. That was my first experience working with engineers and I learned with technology how much value you can bring in a short amount of time. I knew then that I wanted to start companies and tech was the field I wanted to be involved in.

Q. What was the first company you founded?

A. In ’09, I graduated and I went off to co-found my own company, in education technology. We built a team of engineers in South Florida and we were building cloud-based software for schools and universities that wanted to teach people online and remotely. We targeted Russia and Eastern Europe, meaning the universities and schools that didn’t have big budgets that needed a cheap software solution. The name of the company is the Federal System of Distance Education and it is still operating today.

Q. How did you make the leap from ed-tech to private jet aviation?

A. In ’09 an acquaintance had introduced me to a private jet company (in South Florida) and the operator invited me to take a flight. The topic of that was how they needed some help potentially expanding into Eastern Europe and Russia, but to me it was like, what do I know about private jets?

I was just having fun with it. I didn’t think I could be helpful to them and I was just going for the experience. But in going through this I quickly found out the only way to reserve this on your own was to call and talk to somebody and a couple hours later they would send you an invoice. The bottom of the invoice said sign it, scan it or fax it back ... and I was thinking what the heck is going on here, this is ’09 and this is like the ’80s. The airline and hotel industry had been revamped with the concept of dynamic pricing yield management and a digital interface. Nothing like that existed if you looked on the back end of this company. It was a mom-and-pop operation and everyone was operating like this, like one big mom-and-pop industry.

I then found out there are 21,000 private flights a day in the U.S.; there are only 23,000 commercial. There are 17,000 private jets around the world; 12 to 13,000 are in the U.S. The average airplane is only flying 200 hours a year, and optimally they could be flying 1,500 hours. And out of those 200 hours they were flying, one-third were empty. They were repositioning. Out of the ones that were occupied, the percentage of seats filled was only 25 to 30 percent. This was like a plague of inefficiency.

I was intrigued. I started doing some consulting work with them, thinking some day I might want to get back in it, while continuing to work with the ed-tech startup.

Then in 2012, I started a side project. I had the relationships; I had already learned a lot about how data interacts in this space and I wanted to build a real-time pricing engine. From January through August of 2012, I built a little team. We built a beta, a prototype, and we gave it out to friends and family and people I knew that flew now and then. Literally in 30 seconds, real-time prices and you could see this was something that could really get traction. People wanted me to drop everything and I had some initial investors. By March 2013, we went all-in and launched the company.

Since then it has been one long hectic ride.

Q. You say JetSmarter is more than a private jet service. Can you explain your vision?

A. What we realized is that in this process of sharing in the sharing community, what we are building is a community. The people who are sharing rides together are like-minded and are similar, and the value as the community has a lot to do with that social effect. People will join just to meet other people in the community, not for the flying.

That transcends this concept of commodity and price. Today people are thinking about travel by how much it costs — do you think of your health like that, do you think of the food you eat like that? It is not a price discussion, and when you add a community effect to it, there’s relevance to you and your life and who you are sharing it with.

I believe the future of travel is going to transcend the language of commodity. It is going to have association, it is going to have a community effect. So what JetSmarter really stands to be is what we call the world’s greatest travel and lifestyle community. It’s built on three pillars. It’s built on air travel; we deliver air travel on private jets so we’ve solved the first problem of how to get there and we’ve made flying fun again. In the process you are meeting great people, and when you land, we want to navigate where you go.

Q. How will you solve that last piece?

A. That’s built on something we call predictive hospitality. We have enough data on our consumers that we understand the behavioral patterns so much we can help them have a unique experience when they land. That end-to-end experience of how you get there, who you meet and where you go is the JetSmarter experience. You can go to your same favorite locations and you might have a unique JetSmarter experience there and you will use us to transact there. It’s like coming into your house, that’s why we call it a house account." You’ll go to your favorite restaurant and say put it on my JetSmarter account and you won’t even have to ask for the bill, and it’s all based on GPS technology.

All of this is part of our vision to create this travel and lifestyle community and to deliver an end-to-end experience for how you get there, who you meet and where you go. This is what we are capable of delivering now and we are working on the technology and digital interfaces to help bring it to life in a digital software form. It’s more proactive than reactive. It’s not you asking, ‘can you get me something.’ It knows what you want when you go somewhere. That’s where the future of lifestyle is, it’s just going to be simpler, easy. When you go to a city or when you want something we generally know how to guide you. This is really what we are about: delivering the end to end experience."

Q. Can you give me some examples?

A. We are about to launch access for our members to 8,000 or so luxury residences through a company called ThirdHome. These residences you can’t just request, you have to be part of a club. Our members will have access to it. We’re creating a JetSmarter experience on top of it. This is one big relationship that is key and important to us.

We are also working with a few restaurant groups that will allow us to create a unique experience in 100 to 110 restaurants. We are going to start in four cities — New York, London, Los Angeles and the Miami area — and our members will have a unique experience there, unique menus custom-curated for them and they won’t have to ask for a bill when they leave, like a country club. That’s around the corner.

We are working with a few luxury hotel brands, big ones, for unique partnerships and benefits for members at those locations. We are working with a very large luxury retailer; we believe we can create a unique retail experience for our members when they go shopping. There will be a loyalty system built in to that; as our members transact business they earn flight credit they can use on JetSmarter — it’s a virtuous loop.

Q. What do you think most attributed to JetSmarter’s progress so far?

A. When we launched sharing deals — we call it JetDeals — in mid-2014, that is when we started aggregating supply, offering last-minute flash deals. We lowered prices significantly, and that is when we saw a new consumer set come into the market very fast. That is when we discovered this was really big and that people wanted to have another experience that wasn’t waiting in a commercial airport. That’s when we realized those products had a lot of power. Then we launched JetShuttles in early 2015. We had to raise capital to do that, and that allowed us to offer a unique product to consumers.

Q. What are your goals for this year?

A. From a brand perspective, we want to be seen as an overarching brand and lifestyle community so we want to make sure the other two pillars of our business are presented in the forefront as much as the aviation piece — the social network and the predictive hospitality piece.

Q. What has been most challenging in all of this?

A. Getting someone to try something that is completely new. It’s why our marketing is word of mouth, because you can trust your friend. But it is very hard to get someone to take that initial leap of faith.

Q. Your team is 260 people?

A. Yes, a little more. About 120 are here. We have every function of the business here and the executive team. We also have a sales and biz dev team in London, operations in Zurich, engineering in Moscow, sales and operations in Dubai and Riyadh. And for each of our cities [that JetSmarter flies to], we have employees that will meet and greet you when you land.

Q. How many do you have on your top management team?

A. Probably 12 to 15 people. We are fairly decoupled, we’re circular, people operating on independent teams. We’re not a traditional vertical corporate structure.

Q. Why did you base your business in South Florida?

A. I grew up in South Florida and I got exposed to aviation here. I had a lot of relationships for aviation here, and this is one of the capitals for private aviation. A lot of people take residency here and park their airplanes here for tax reasons.

The only bad part about South Florida is there are not that many high quality engineers here. We took that handicap on and we built an engineering team in Moscow, where we have 25 to 30 engineers today. We import some, and moved people here, and we have still hired people here but it is much harder.

Q. Where did you get your tech know-how?

A. I’m not an engineer by trade but I can understand complex problems, and that is a lot of what we do. We solve an optimization and yield management problem by building out predictive algorithms on demand and supply [that] you can dynamically price and make sure you operate at optimal efficiency — meaning you reduce the amount of dead-head flying, you increase the load factor on flights that are occupied. We pride ourselves on our flights between New York and South Florida — we fly as many as 30 times a week round trip, as many or more than many commercial carriers — and we have a load factor of 96 percent. It’s a very efficient operation.

Q. Do you think entrepreneurs are born or made?

A. There’s an age-old saying, managers are taught, entrepreneurs are born. I’ve always had a bent for it since I was 10 or 11, I always wanted to do something. When I was little, I’d have a lemonade stand and a car wash and I organized garage sales.

Nancy Dahlberg: @ndahlberg

 

March 20, 2017

MIT Enterprise Forum to present "Early Stage Capital for Entrepreneurs" event March 30

Most high growth start-ups are fueled by capital – product development, staffing, go-to market. There are many avenues for raising capital and an increasing number of unique investment models available for entrepreneurs to pursue.  Listen to a panel discussion featuring 4 professional investors in early stage businesses. Hear what models they use to invest in, support, and help grow the companies they work with. What financing models and structures are available to entrepreneurs? What criteria to does each investor look for in transaction? What are the best ways to engage with sources of outside capital?

Date of Event:

March 30, 2017 from 6pm to 9pm @ Venture Hive

Panelist Moderator

Andrew Heitner - Andrew Heitner is founder and director of Alcon Partners, a buy-side advisory firm that assists Private Equity firms and corporate M&A departments source and evaluate acquisition opportunities, with offices in Miami, Boston, and Vermont.

Panelists:

Germán Montoya is a Co-founder and Chief Strategy & Creative Officer at Rokk3r Labs, where he oversees global business development strategy and new venture creation.

Melissa Krinzman is the Managing Partner of Krillion Ventures, a $50 million early stage venture capital firm that actively invests in early stage technology companies solving problems in healthcare, financial services, and real estate.

Tigre wenrich recently joined The LAB Miami as CEO and is launching LAB. Ventures, a “venture builder” that aims to create game-changing new businesses in partnership with the region’s best entrepreneurial talent and leading corporations.

Jeff Toewe joined AthenianVenture Partners, an established venture capital firm that specializes in early stage Information Technology, Digital Health and Healthcare investing, in 2015 and serves on the firm’s investment team, focusing on Information Technology investments. 

Tickets and All information found here: http://www.mitforumfl.org/event/earlystage

 

- submitted by MIT Enterprise Forum

Crunch-time guide to entering the Business Plan Challenge -- deadline is midnight tonight

Procrastinators, take note: The deadline to enter the Community Track or FIU Track of the Miami Herald Business Plan Challenge is Monday night, March 20. Don’t worry, you are in good company — most of our entries come in on the last day. Here is your quick guide to entering your business or concept.

Who can enter: Entrepreneurs with businesses less than 2 years old or with business concepts in the works. There is a community track, FIU track and high school track.

What to enter: Up to a three-page business plan (one additional page for charts or photos is allowed).

Entry deadline: 11:59 p.m. March 20 for all tracks.

Email entries to: Challenge@MiamiHerald.com (for the community track), FIUchallenge@MiamiHerald.com or to highschoolchallenge@MiamiHerald.com. You should get a confirmation your entry was received. If you do not get a confirmation, please email ndahlberg@miamiherald.com so that we can ensure your entry makes it to us.

Contest rules, judges’ bios, other info: MiamiHerald.com/challenge

Questions: ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

March 16, 2017

$300,000 in Florida Institute funding closes $1.1 million round for Candidate.Guru

MONEY

By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

Candidate.Guru received a $300,000 investment from The Florida Institute for the Commercialization of Public Research, closing out its financing round at $1.1 million.

The Boca Raton-based startup developed its human resources software solution with technology developed at the Florida Institute for Human Machine and Cognition so it was eligible to apply for Florida Institute funding. The Florida Institute supports new company creation based on publicly-funded research, and bridges early funding gaps for companies spinning out of Florida-based universities and research institutions. To date, 65 Florida companies have been funded through the Institute, which makes matching investments up to $300,000; Candidate.Guru received the maximum.

Candidate.Guru developed a big-data software solution that can predict a culture fit between companies and prospective job candidates without the need for surveys and assessment tools. It was the winner of the Miami Herald Business Plan Challenge in 2016.

ADVERTISING

“Our customers can easily submit job candidates to Candidate.Guru via LinkedIn, job boards and human resource systems, and we then return them in rank order based on strength of the culture fit with a specific hiring manager, team or the company itself. This enables our customers to prioritize thousands of job candidates instantly and reach out to the best culture fits first,” Candidate.Guru CEO Chris Daniels said in the news release. Daniels, a former executive recruiter, founded the company in 2014.

“Candidate.Guru is improving the hiring process by enabling companies to hire the best candidates more efficiently, thereby increasing long-term employee productivity,” added Jackson Streeter, Florida Institute’s CEO.

The new funding extends Candidate.Guru’s previously reported round to $1.1 million, which also included funding by Florida angel groups The FAN Fund, Florida Funders and Miami Innovation Fund. Before that, Candidate.Guru raised about $475,000 from friends and family. The revenue-generating Candidate.Guru has more than 20 corporate customers.

The Florida Institute has also funded South Florida companies Vigilant BioscienesBiscayne PharmaceuticalsKairos, Heart Genomics and Genetic Networks, among others.

Follow @ndahlberg on Twitter.

READ MORE: Candidate.Guru’s big-data solution solves HR quandary: Will the new hire fit in?



Alta5 joins 500 Startups to bring automation to your online brokerage account

Alta5 team

Miami-based Alta5 team, from left: Jack Slocum, Rocco Savage, Adam Mishcon.

By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

Fintech startup Alta5 received a $150,000 investment from 500 Startups, and its co-founders are part of 500’s current accelerator class in San Francisco.

Alta5, which created an automation platform for individual investors, is the second Miami-based upstart that 500 Startups has invested in this year; Court Buddy, a legal-tech company, also received an investment and is part of the accelerator.

The team at Alta5 has been working behind the scenes to bring its innovative technology to the retail investing market. The platform gives investors the ability to build bots that trade automatically out of their online brokerage account, eliminating the risks in missing trading opportunities and managing their portfolio around unforeseen market events, said Rocco Savage, who co-founded the company with Jack Slocum and Adam Mishcon.

Slocum, CEO, and Mishcon, COO, co-founded Sequoia-backed Sencha.com, so they have an extensive background in building frameworks that are adopted by millions of people. Sencha is a developer framework used by 80 percent of the top financial institutions, most of the Fortune 100 and over 2 million developers worldwide, Savage said. Savage, who oversees business development, also worked at Sencha, as well as Nomi and Tony Robbins. In addition to the 500 Startups funding, Alta5 previously received an undisclosed seed investment and it is currently raising another small round of financing. 

Fintech is a growing specialty in South Florida, and it’s no secret the trends in finance are moving toward automation. Automated trading programs have even impacted Goldman Sachs, which recently laid off 600 traders to hire 200 engineers. “We think it’s important that everyone has a fighting chance, and what that means is creating technology for individual investors to succeed in today’s markets dominated by computerized trading,” Savage said. “Think of Alta5 as your personal automation platform for investing in the stock market.”

 Founded in 2014, Alta5 is putting its platform through final testing and will be opening it to consumers in the coming months, giving more than 6.5 million investors with a TD-Ameritrade account access to its automation features. Sign up to receive early access here.

The team is currently in Silicon Valley participating in the accelerator, which ends with a Demo Day in May. 

“The 500 Startups network is best in class and we feel privileged to be a part of their accelerator,” Savage said. “There’s an abundance of resources at our fingertips including mentorship, networking and investor opportunities, and we are excited to be a part of it.”

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Have a big idea to tackle climate change? Singularity U’s Global Impact Challenge wants you

Miami

Have an idea to tackle climate change in South Florida? Singularity University and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation announced the 2017 Global Impact Challenge in Miami on Thursday.

Singularity University is an education and innovation center based in Silicon Valley that uses exponential technologies to tackle the world’s biggest challenges. Its Miami Global Impact Challenge invites individuals from any technology or science discipline to enter.

Previously hosted in Miami in 2015, the Knight-supported Global Impact Challenge is open to all U.S. residents and citizens over the age of 21. Applications can be submitted through April 16. The winning team will receive a full sponsorship to attend Singularity’s Global Solutions Program held June 17-Aug. 17 and work with Singularity’s network of mentors and technology labs.

“This year, we are looking for applicants who have the skills and passion to develop big ideas to help solve climate-related challenges in South Florida, including ideas ripe for innovation, such as sea level rise, extreme flooding and other vulnerabilities to civic strategies of awareness, education and resiliency,” said Regina Njima, director of Singularity University Global Impact Challenges.

More information on the Singularity Global Impact Challenge: https://su.org/gic/2017/miami/