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12 posts from February 2018

February 24, 2018

More, more, more? $400 million investment may be in works for Magic Leap

  Magicleap

 This time, Magic Leap investment dollars may come from Saudi Arabia government wealth fund

By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlbergbiz@gmail.com

A half billion here, a half billion there, and another potentially huge leap for South Florida’s secretive startup.

The latest news: Magic Leap, the mixed-reality technology company based in Plantation, is in talks for a $400 million investment from Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, the Financial Times reported on Friday. That would bring Magic Leap’s funding to $2.3 billion, unprecedented for a company that hasn’t yet launched its first product.

According to the FT, the deal is expected to be announced in the coming weeks, said the report, which cited sources close to the deal.

While Magic Leap and the Saudi wealth fund would not confirm the news, if true it follows a pattern. In October, just a month after Bloomberg revealed a half billion mega-deal was in the works, Magic Leap announced it had raised $502 million in a funding round led by Singapore government-owned investment firm Temasek Holdings TEM.UL and began dropping more hints the technology will be revealed soon.

The new funding is an extension of the $502 million round and would be at the same $6 billion valuation, the FT said.  If completed, the FT said it would be the second high-profile U.S. tech investment for the $230 billion Saudi government fund. In 2016, the fund invested $3.5 billion into Uber.

The internationalization of Magic Leap's funding follows a pattern too. Earlier Magic Leap raised a similar amount from Alibaba in China. Its other funders include Google, Fidelity, various studios and other Silicon Valley funders.

Magic Leap’s “mixed reality” glasses feature its digital lightfield technology. In December, it unveiled some more details of its first product in development, Magic Leap One, which will be available first to selected developers and designers. Founder Rony Abovitz has said the spatial computing technology will provide a more natural computing experience that could replace the phone.

READ MORE ABOUT MAGIC LEAP ONE AND THE JOURNEY TO GET THERE HERE.

Two weeks ago, at a Recode conference, Magic Leap announced a partnership deal with the NBA.  Shaquille O’Neal starred in a promotional video too.

Follow @ndahlberg on Twitter. 

February 22, 2018

Home61 launches flat-fee service aimed at increasing efficiency, decreasing costs of home-selling

Home61_2

The traditional way isn’t the only way.

A Miami real estate-tech startup is offering owners a flat-fee service to sell their house or condo, rather than paying the traditional 3 percent.

Until now, Home61, which uses technology to streamline the residential home buying process, was primarily tackling the buying side of the market. But on Thursday, Home61 launched a flat-fee service that provides homeowners with dedicated agents who use  a data-driven platform to efficiently list, market, schedule viewings and close the sale of their properties.

“We are now entering the sell side with this flat fee structured home-selling service, aimed at offering a better service at an honest price to homeowners,” Olivier Grinda, CEO and co-founder of Home61, told Starting Gate. “Our ambition at Home61 has always been to become the real estate ecosystem for our clients. Adding the sell side offering was the natural next step.”

The fee, $6,100, would be lower than the traditional 3 percent real estate agent commissions for listing most homes . For any home selling for about $332,000 – the median existing-home sales price in South Florida – the service would save more than $4,000. On a $500,000 home or condo, the savings would be about $9,000. Home61 aims to sell over 200 homes through the service in 2018 and double that number in 2019.

“Our agents will maintain their commission split on deals with buyers, but for selling properties, the clients will work with a specialized team that has been trained on selling homes and work with the flat fee model,” said Grinda (pictured below), who was raised in France and moved to Miami from Brazil in late 2013. “We see both sides of the business as complementary, as managing listings brings new buyers to our traditional team and buy side clients will eventually sell.”

Home61

Home61 tested the service with a client in December. That client introduced Home61 to other clients and it ended up with seven properties under management. Two properties have already sold. “We did not anticipate such a ramp-up and had to hire more people faster,” Grinda said.

Home61 has about 65 real estate agents and expects to reach 100 agents by June on the buy side. In 2017, it generated more than $100 million and sales and completed its 1,000th closing of homes and rentals. Home61 expects to do 800 closings this year. [Read about its startup story here.]

Last fall, Home61 raised a $4 million round of financing from FF Angel, Founders Fund’s early stage investment vehicle, global marketplace investment firm FJ Labs, co-founded by brother Fabrice Grinda, and Miami Angels, South Florida's largest angel network formerly called AGP Miami, to help fund its national expansion.

“This new service is a continuation of our aim to bring honesty and transparency to the real estate industry,” said Grinda. “Innovation is sorely lacking in the space, and consumers end up paying the price for it – they pay overinflated commissions for sub-par service. Adding on this service allowed us to take a more holistic approach in addressing this problem by serving both sides of the market, buying and selling.”

February 20, 2018

New name, new leader for South Florida angel network

AGP Miami has a new name -- Miami Angels -- and new leadership.
 
South Florida’s largest angel network has about 100 active members and about 24 startups in its portfolio.
 
"While AGP Miami served us well, we felt that we needed a brand that better represented who, what, and where we are," said outgoing Managing Director Raul Moas. 
Miamiangels logo
 
RebeccadantaAs Moas takes the reins as Miami Program Director of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation's Miami Program, Venture Associate Rebecca Danta will become managing director, effective March. 1. 
 
"Rebecca has been an integral part of our team over the last year. We are incredibly excited to see her step into this new role and take our investment group to new heights," Moas said in a note to supporters.
 
Before coming aboard last year, Danta was an Operations Lead for  General Assembly in New York City. She graduated from the University of Florida in public relations. 
 
With a primary focus on South Florida, Miami Angels has recently began expanding its investment focus to include in other areas of the state, including Gainesville where it has made several investments, and in Latin America.
 
Miami Angels' most recent investment was in Caribu, an education platform that helps parents and extended families read and draw with kids when they're apart.
 
Other recent fundings include AnimusoftHome61Nearpod, Gramercy, Birch Finance and Eventplicity. AGP also recently added Melissa Krinzman, managing partner of Krillion Ventures, Mark Kingdon, founder of Quixotic Ventures, and Tigre Wenrich, CEO of the LAB Miami who heads up LABVentures, to its board of directors. Find out more about Miami Angels here: www.miamiangels.vc.
 
"Miami Angels has been a catalyst for Miami’s early-stage investing landscape, having invested $8 million across 24 companies since our launch in 2014," Danta said. "We'll continue to bring together exceptional entrepreneurs and investors as we look to expand our reach throughout the state and Latin America."
 
 
 
 
 

February 17, 2018

How LaunchCode is tackling the tech talent gap in Miami with the help of community partnerships

CS50xMiami-GroupCoding_lg

 

By Matt Mawhinney

Air Force veteran Judy Rincon was balancing her transition back into civilian life and being a single mother when she saw a newspaper article about LaunchCode, a nonprofit creating pathways for driven people seeking careers in technology. Although coding was something she never considered, Judy took the free class, honed her skills and started her journey on the path to become a developer.

“Being completely new to coding was frightening,” Judy admitted, “but the devoted LaunchCode staff made this new journey an effortless one for me.” This week, Judy was thrilled to find out she has been placed with MasterCard and will begin as an apprentice next month. “Working hard and staying focused throughout the program wasn’t easy, but well worth it in the end.”

Judy’s story is not uncommon to the staff at LaunchCode, which opened an office in South Florida in 2015 thanks to a grant from the Knight Foundation. LaunchCode provides free technology education to aspiring technologists like Judy looking to get their foot in the door without having to go into debt.

LaunchCode was founded as an innovative solution to the shortage of talent to fill tech jobs in America. Code.org estimates there will be 1 million more computing jobs than applicants who can fill them by 2020. By creating pathways for nontraditional students to enter the workforce, LaunchCode gives employers a low-risk way to add fresh, diverse talent to their teams and in turn, reduce this gap.

But the tech talent gap is an issue that no one individual or organization can solve alone. LaunchCode works closely with community partners in South Florida who are equally invested in creating career pathways in the region. The CodeCamp program, where Judy gained her skills, was funded by CareerSource South Florida and supported by Employ Miami-Dade and the Neighbors and Neighbors Association.

Judy’s apprenticeship marks the 120th career which began as a result of LaunchCode’s innovative training program in South Florida. In 2018, the mission to launch tech careers of even more Floridians continues. With the help of its partners, LaunchCode will continue to provide both technical and soft-skills training free of charge to make careers in technology as accessible as possible.

It takes a village to solve the shortage of tech talent in our region and when community partners come together, the success is shared by all.

Matt Mawhinney is the Candidate Engagement Manager - South Florida for LaunchCode. Find out more at:  https://www.launchcode.org.

 

February 15, 2018

Fort Lauderdale insure-tech startup ChronWell raises $4.5 million in funding

ChronWell, a Fort Lauderdale startup that is developing a technology-enabled platform company for the workers’ compensation insurance industry, raised $4.5 million in Series A funding, the company announced this week.

The investors were not disclosed.

ChronWell was launched in September 2017 by long-time veterans in the healthcare information technology and insurance industries. Dr. Joe Rubinsztain, ChronWell's CEO, and his brother Sam Rubinsztain, VP of Product Development, together founded Weston-based gMed in Weston in 1997, which was sold to Modernizing Medicine in 2015. ChronWell's president, Salomon Sredni, was formerly president and CEO of TradeStation, one of the largest online brokers in the U.S.

The company said that it aims to be the first line of care for injured workers, while getting them back to work faster and reducing costs.

 “Our mission is to use technology to bridge the gap between employee, employer and insurance company,” said Joe Rubinsztain. “In making the process more efficient, we will improve outcomes and help injured workers receive the care they deserve. Everyone agrees the workers’ compensation market is long overdue for disruption, and this is the right time to do it.”

The funding will support the first phase of the company’s innovative platform, which covers triage, on-site care, care coordination and personalized assistance service, the company said. When an employee is injured on the job, a ChronWell healthcare professional backed by Artificial Intelligence will determine the best course of action by recommending self-care, on-site care or a health care facility. The service provides follow-up with the worker and manages the claim.

“The current workers’ comp system is broken,” said Sredni. “We strongly believe in bringing compassion and empathy back into a system that is failing to serve those most in need.”

February 12, 2018

Future of Travel Summit: And the winners are ...

Futureoftravel

South Florida startups proved Miami is more than tourism and hospitality -- it's tourism-tech too.

Hundreds of entrepreneurs and professionals from the travel and hospitality industry gathered at The LAB Miami and the LightBox in Wynwood on Monday for the inaugural Future of Travel Summit produced by LAB Ventures, The LAB Miami's venture builder. Between panel discussions and keynote talks on everything from AR/VR to digital nomads to blockchain by executives from Ritz Carlton, Marriott, Visa, SeaTrade, JetBlue, Kayak, Spirit and others, 10 startups selected from around the world pitched for the opportunity to present at SeaTrade as well as other prizes.

Read about the 10 startups here.

And the winners were... both South Florida startups. Perhaps that shouldn't be a surprise given it is one the biggest industries here and a number of travel-tech companies have already blossomed in the Miami area, including Amadeus, Oasis, EveryMundo, Local Measure, Boatsetter and Nobox. 

Voyhoywinners

Voyhoy took the grand prize, selected by the judges. Voyhoy is an online booking platform that allows users to compare and buy plane, bus, ferry, and train tickets throughout Latin America. It offers simple and secure ways to acquire the best deal among thousands of travel tickets.

Read more about Voyhoy in the Miami Herald here. Also Platform.Miami recently named it a 2018 Startup to Watch: Read it here.

Daycation

Daycation was the People's Choice winner. Daycation allows users to book day-by-day access to various hotel amenities, such as the pool or spa, starting at $25 a day. It allows for membership as well as individual day pass purchases. (I haven't written about this startup yet, but I will).

Will Future of Travel be back next year? Absolutely, said Tigre Wenrich, CEO of LAB Ventures and The LAB Miami.

LAB Ventures has made a mission of bringing together startups and corporations. It's also running a Pitch to PERY (Perry Ellis International) fashion startup competition. There's still time to enter Pitch to PERY, but the deadline is Feb. 21. More info here: https://www.pitchtopery.com/

 

February 08, 2018

WeWork opens in Coral Gables, its fifth Miami area location

WeWork Ponce de Leon_1

Just two and a half years after signaling it is bullish about the Miami market, WeWork is opening its fifth location.

WeWork, the global co-working company, has opened the doors to WeWork Ponce de Leon in Coral Gables, at 2222 Ponce de Leon, which occupies more than 31,000 square feet across six floors and accommodates a community of about 550 members.

Coral Gables Mayor Raúl Valdés was on hand for the ribbon cutting celebration: “It takes innovation and entrepreneurship to make Coral Gables a younger city and that is what WeWork does, providing space for people to collaborate and be creative together,” said the mayor.

Like its other Miami-area properties, WeWork Ponce de Leon (pictured above) offers a collection of workspaces, including private offices, dedicated hot desks, conference rooms and quiet phone booths, in a design that fits the vibe of the location. The Coral Gables location also includes a large outdoor patio. WeWork will host a Grand Opening Launch Party for WeWork Ponce de Leon tonight (Feb. 8) from 6-9 PM. For more details and to RSVP, visit we.co/ponceopeningparty.

WeWork opened the doors of WeWork Security Building in December. That location (pictured below) occupies more than 100,000 square feet on 15 floors of the historic downtown Security Building at 117 NE 1st Ave., and will accommodate more than 1,250 members, making it the largest South Florida location so far. Originally designed by New York architect Robert Greenfield, the 1926 Security Building still contains a majority of its original façade and details like brick columns, concrete ceilings and terrazzo flooring, as well as a vault. Curated by WeWork to fit the downtown location, WeWork Security Building also exhibits custom wall murals, neon signs and collages by local artists.

 The two new WeWorks join the company’s first two locations in Miami Beach and the Miami Brickell City Centre location that opened a year ago. Co-founded by Adam Neumann and Miguel McKelvey in New York City in 2010, WeWork services more than 200,000 members at locations around the world.

 In an interview in 2015 during the opening of WeWork’s original location off Lincoln Road, McKelvey said WeWork was bullish on the Miami market and planned to open five to seven locations, even though Miami was already served by a growing number of work spaces.

Wework security

February 07, 2018

New World Angels kicks off 2018 with first investment

New World Angels jumped out of the gate with its first transaction of 2018. This follows a record year in 2017 when the Boca Raton-based structured angel group made seven investments in seven companies totaling $4.4 million.

The first investment of the year is a $1.3 million investment into Clarke Industrial Engineering’s $10MM Series B Preferred Stock offering.  Miami and Rhode Island based Clarke is the manufacturer of the Shuttervalve, which is innovating the $84 billion valve industry with new performance features at lower costs. With this fifth investment in Clarke, NWA has invested over $4.1 million in the company.  The Series B round was led by Saudi Aramco Energy Ventures and Chevron-Texaco Technology Ventures.

“We are very pleased that the venture capital arms of industry leaders Saudi Aramco and Chevron also recognize Clarke’s potential in this $84 billion market,” said Steve O’Hara, president of NWA, in a press release.  “We remain committed to helping Clarke achieve its lofty goals.”

In 2017, NWA added four new companies and invested in three existing portfolio companies.  In Q1, NWA invested a total of $1,487,500 in existing portfolio companies Tao Connect, a Tampa-based online counseling solution for universities and private payers, and Clarke’s A-3 round. In Q2, NWA invested a total of $1,985,000 in RecordGram, a Miami based innovative software solution provider allowing artists and musicians to collaborate on-line to provide greater opportunity to starting performers; Source Molecular, a Miami-based DNA-based water analysis company helping municipalities and utilities test and understand water pollution challenges; and Rewired Solutions, a Sarasota-based human resource solution provider for large employers seeking to identify potential new hires.  Also in Q2, NWA invested another $347,500 into its portfolio company Kairos, a Miami-based software as a service human analytics platform. In Q4, NWA funded Switchboard Live with $557,500, an Orlando-based company providing a live broadcast streaming alternative for publishers. 

[READ MORE: This Miami startup brings a recording studio to your phone]

O’Hara said nearly all of NWA’s 65 members participated in at least one due diligence team in 2017. “Our not so secret sauce is our diverse collection of members ranging from doctors to CEOs, lawyers to entrepreneurs, and technology to old school manufacturers, which provides us with a stable of talent we can offer our portfolio entrepreneurs to call on for advice and counsel.”

Since 2014, NWA has invested $14 million in companies that either are based in Florida or have a strong presence in the state. NWA has chapters on both in South Florida and on the state’s west coast.

February 06, 2018

Miami startup’s just-launched mystery box for crypto sells out - twice

 

Screen Shot 2018-02-06 at 11.56.48 AM

 

Three Miami coders were just messing around one Friday night and thought, "what if we could build a Birchbox for crypto?"

And they did.

Mario Aguayo, PK Banks and Auston Bunsen launched CBlocks, a mystery box of cryptocurrency, on Jan. 16. Their idea: To give anyone access to investment in cryptocurrencies without being a blockchain expert.

Despite January being a wild ride down for Bitcoin, the Miami startup still sold over 320 CB Wallets worth $17,000 in just two weeks, selling out twice.

“I have been interested in cryptocurrency for some years now in my personal life,” said Bunsen, in a press release. “But we’ve realized that the process of getting started was too difficult and fairly risky because you have to trust online exchanges with your private keys.”

How it works: Users choose how much to invest from the four CB Wallet tiers available ranging from $75 to $500. A proprietary algorithm loads your CB Wallet with a unique set of five alt-coins at random from the top 300 on CoinMarketCap. Your CB Wallet in the form of an encrypted USB arrives at your house by mail in a collectors case until you decide you want to open it. 

While Bitcoin’s rise and recent plunge has grabbed the headlines, CBlocks loads the mystery box with so-called alternative coins (alt-coins), a lesser-known but fast-growing segment that accounts for roughly $11 billion in daily transaction volume.

CBlocks takes $50 for processing, so a CB Wallet costing  $500 wallet would contain $450 worth of cryptocurrency. Because of demand, the startup has temporarily paused orders and hopes to start accepting orders again within the next three to five days.

“We think this is a no-brainer way to get started in crypto,” Aguayo said. More info: https://www.cblocks.io

Pumped up to save money in 2018? 'Priceline for gas' launches in South Florida


Getupside
From Uber drivers to I-95 commuters to soccer moms, Floridians spend an average of $2,900 annually on gas. What if there were a Priceline-like app to slash that cost burden?

Now there is. On Tuesday, GetUpside launched service in Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach County, where more than 400 gas stations are offering exclusive deals through the app.

How does it work? With the free GetUpside app, users see discounted prices from dozens of nearby gas stations – deals offering up to 25 cents cash back per gallon. Users can pick their station, pump and pay using a credit or debit card, and then upload a photo of their receipt to the GetUpside app. The cash back savings accumulate in users’ online accounts and can be cashed out at any time via check or PayPal.

The venture capital-backed startup was founded by a pair of former Googlers in 2016 in Washington, DC, where it already has 130,000 users who have saved more than $1 million dollars in cash back deals, the company said.  GetUpside incentivizes businesses to compete with one another on price in return for bringing more customers to their stores. In Washington, the app also offers deals on groceries and restaurants.

“With year-round tourism and status as a transportation hub, Florida was an obvious choice for GetUpside’s first market expansion. We are committed to helping consumers here save and businesses here grow,” said GetUpside co-founder/CEO Alex Kinnier in a press release.

By the end of 2018, more than 1,500 gas stations throughout Florida are expected on the GetUpside platform. More info: www.getupside.com