August 12, 2012

#Hacklatam: The beginning of hemispheric collaboration

My guest blogger is Wifredo Fernandez, co-founder of The LAB Miami, who brought together the international component of this weekend's hackathon. Here's how it all came together:

By Wifredo Fernandez

Wifredo Fernandez Headshot Over a month ago, LAB Miami received a twitter mention from SUMA Conectivo, a co-working space in Mar de Plata, Argentina, a bit outside of Buenos Aires. Carlos Maria Schauer, SUMA’s founder, had an idea for connecting co-working spaces through a simultaneous 12-hour Hack event. We immediately saw the potential and committed to this effort. Within the next week, we were able to get commitment from 2Work in Sao Paulo, Co-Work Chile in Santiago and a group called Hacks and Hackers in Bogota. The date was set for Aug. 11, which was fittingly positioned during the Olympic games.

Hackathon2About the same time, the AT&T Mobile App Hackathon plans were formed for that same weekend. Rather than have two Hackathon happenings in Miami, we decided to merge the efforts and create a more dynamic event.

On Aug. 1, we had the local Google team come teach a class at the LAB. That night, we connected with SUMA via Google+ Hangout to co-learn about Google’s social network. The Argentines appreciated the ability to interact with our space and the instructors. The LAB and SUMA had become international classrooms. This was the power of co-working.

 Next, the collaborative team behind CVOX, AVCC and LAB solicited a Spanish startup, Almira Labs, to offer up their voice-based services API to the international participants. This event had really gone global.

 After deciding on the hashtag #hacklatam, Maty Sanchez, a developer from SUMA, utilized the TokBox and Twitter API to create an interactive video conferencing app, which we used to communicate during the event.

 Throughout #hacklatam on Saturday, we exchanged ideas, experiences and learned from one another. Hackers were united across the hemisphere. No final products were finished with the Almira API, but plans are in motion to produce another #hacklatam with Almira. Colombia was represented by two different groups in Bogota: Hacks & Hackers, a global organization of journalists and technologists, and @HackBo, a hacker/tinker space. @HacksHackersBOG was organized locally by Ronnie Lovler, a Knight International Journalism Fellow. With this international event connection, The Knight Foundation has proven their ability to achieve local impact and have global reach. 

 As my collaborator Ray Ruga of CVOX said, this was Apollo 1, our minimum viable product. Time to learn, build and iterate.

 Twitter accelerated serendipity and helped us realize that Miami and Latin America have a great opportunity to innovate and create together. We must connect the talent and ideas across our borders, while finding ways to co-create solutions to our mutual challenges. We are excited to see what comes next.

 Here are photos from the hackathon in action in Argentina.


The Hackathon winners are ... and why South Florida wins, too

Paul Graham, take note. South Florida has plenty of nerds and a growing startup community.

In 2006, the Y Combinator co-founder wrote this in an essay about building startup communities: “I think you only need two kinds of people to create a technology hub: rich people and nerds. … Observation bears this out … Few startups happen in Miami, for example, because although it’s full of rich people, it has few nerds. It’s not the kind of place nerds like.”

If that were true then, it certainly isn’t now.

We have plenty of them, as evidenced by the turnout or 200 or so at this weekend’s AT&T Mobile App Hackathon. Just look at the picture in the previous post, Mr. Graham. In his 2006 essay, the famous Silicon Valley VC went on to talk about what most attracts the creative class to a city: Good universities and a vibrant downtown that offers personality and a sense of community — in short, all things that Miami and South Florida have made great strides in in the last couple of years.

But I digress. The spirit of Miami’s growing tech community was celebrated this weekend in the largest turnout ever for a hackathon, which also went international. It also became a visual reminder how far the tech community has come. You can read more about the event in the Miami Herald story by Kristofer Rios here. And see a new video of the action, provided by Geeky Beach, here.

 But with no further ado, here are the winners of the AT&T Mobile App Hackathon, held this weekend at the University of Miami Life Science & Technology Park:

Best Hackathon Overall App

1st Place: Social Ball Handling by Unboxed Labs: Alina Balean, Jason Clary, Raul F. Hernandez, Ricardo Vasquez, Leo Correa and Jesse Domack. Prizes: $500 in gift cards for the team; one year of the “Small” service from Github for each member; one year of co-working space at RightSpace2Meet.

2nd Place: Crystalize by Justin Kent, Alejandra Santamaria and Serdar Karatekin. Prizes: $300 in gift cards for the team; one year of the “Micro” service from Github for each team member; six months of co-working space at RightSpace2Meet.

3rd Place: by Stonly Baptiste and Ken Beauvais. Prizes: $200 in gift cards for the team; six months of “Micro” service from Github for each team member.

Best use of Sphero SDK: Game Developers Guild by Lazaro Herrera, Frank Hernandez and Rene Alfonso. Prize: $500 cash, plus $500 additional if the app is launched to iTunes or Android store.

Most Valuable App to ESENEM, presented by the AVCC and Tres Mares: Case Blurb by Josef Diago and David Small. Prizes: $1,000 cash and 3 months of co-working space at The LAB Miami.

Most Innovative App: Mobile Emergency Dispatch System (MEDS) by Ernie Hsiung, Richard Wagener, Alex Rocha and Mathew Herman. Prize: $1,000.

Congratulations to the winners!

The free AT&T Mobile App Hackathon was a collaborative effort brought together by AT&T, ESENEM, CVOX, GeekyBeach, Florida International University’s Americas Venture Capital Conference (AVCC), Wexford Science & Technology, The LAB Miami and The Knight Foundation. Read more about the hackathon in The Miami Herald article here, about  #HackLatam here and in other recent posts on this blog as well as on the Startropica blog here.

No rest for the weary. This Friday, Lean Startup Machine Miami rolls into town. So far, the company has trained entrepreneurs in 50 cities around the globe, said Jefrey Bulla of Silicon Valley, head organizer of the event. Unlike hackathons or startup weekends, there is no coding involved, explained Andrej Kostresevic, one of the local organzers. Instead, the 3-day workshop Aug. 17-19 is focused on validating business ideas using Lean Startup and Customer Development methodologies. Participants get out of the building to talk to potential customers about their concepts. Each workshop is limited to 50 people and tickets are $299. It is will be at The Launch Pad (downtown), 50 NE 9th St., Miami. More information can be found at

Follow Nancy on Twitter @ndahlberg

August 11, 2012

Hackathon challenge: 2 days to build & present app

HACK47BIZMONcovertech081012 hackathon ADD
Opening night of the AT&T Mobile App Hackathon held at the University of Miami Life Science & Technology Park. Photo is by Miami Herald staff photographer Al Diaz.

Ideas, teamwork, carbs, Red Bull

"No shortage of ideas or @redbull," tweets Allan Tito. That about sums it up as the ATT Mobile App Hackathon kicks off Friday night.

Too many to count, but at least 150-200 hackers pack into the main presentation room at the UM Life Science & Technology Park. They spill into adjoining lounge areas and another meeting room as well as the benches outside. One attendee who recently moved down from New York tells the crowd he was pleasantly surprised to see such an "awesome tech scene."

Some of the developers, programmers and entrepreneurs come with their teams; others pitched their ideas and hoped to attract programmers and designers to build them. One participant pitches his solution to the audience, one that came to him after checking in at the hackathon. Filling out a paper form to check in, really? There's got to be a better way.

Friday eventing, teams come together and some groups quickly get down to business. That is: Building an app that solves a problem in the market -- all in a weekend. And there are prizes.

How to win? Brian Breslin, who has judged half a dozen similar events, says it's all about the presentation. It's not enough to build a great app in a weekend, you also need to be able to present it well, so choose your best communicator and allow some time to work on that. He also advises to keep your product simple; instead of trying to build 15 features, focus on a few and test them out with peers.

Expect your idea to change along the way and be able to adapt quickly, says Andrej Kostresevic, who talked about using the Lean Startup method. He's organizing the Lean Startup Machine Miami event happening next weekend.

All day Saturday, teams from Argentina, Colombia and Chile  join the AT&T Hackathon virtually and will compete for a separate international prize. The hackathon will culminate Sunday afternoon/evening with 3-minute presentations and the awards. Until then, there will be plenty of innovation going on, along with challenges, changes and perhaps a little angst. But there will also be plenty of Red Bull.

 Good luck, everyone!

The free AT&T Mobile App Hackathon is a collaborative effort brought together by AT&T, ESENEM, CVOX, GeekyBeach, Florida International University's Americas Venture Capital Conference (AVCC), Wexford Science & Technology, The LAB Miami and The Knight Foundation. Follow along at #atthack and #backinhack and #hacklatam


Follow Nancy on Twitter @ndahlberg

August 10, 2012

Part 2 of Entrepreneurship Education Series coming Thursday

YPN Miami, a Miami-Dade Chamber of Commerce leadership group for entrepreneurs and professionals under 40, and Florida International University’s Pino Global Entrepreneurship Center are teaming to present Part 2 of the Entrepreneur Education Series where entrepreneurs, small business owners and aspiring entrepreneurs can learn best practices and get advice from successful entrepreneurs.

Part 1 covered basic topics on starting a business. Part 2 will offer a more advanced discussion for those who have already launched businesses.

Topics for Part 2 include: Developing the Marketing Plan; Strategic Plan vs. Business Plan; and Launched the Business, Now What? The panelists will be: Felecia Hatcher, founder of Feverish Ice Cream;  Cheretha Ferguson, director of marketing, The J3 Agency; Olga Ramudo, president of Express Travel;  Erika Twani, CEO of  Learning One to One Foundation;  Andrew Yap, president of LEASA; and Mike Tomas, CEO of BioHeart and president of the ASTRI Group.

The event wiil be held Thursday, Aug.16, from 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at Bilzin Sumberg, 1450 Brickell Ave., 23rd Floor, Miami. The event is free to YPN members and FIU students, alumni, faculty & staff; $10 for non-members. For more information and to sign up, go to or

Here is a link to a recap on Part 1. 


August 08, 2012

250 sign up for AT&T Mobile App Hackathon, and it's going international

So far, more than 250 South Florida computer programmers, graphic designers, and entrepreneurs have signed up for this weekend’s free AT&T Mobile App Hackathon taking place at the University of Miami Life Science & Technology Park in Miami. Several groups will be joining the event from Latin America, too. At least $5,000 in prizes will be offered, organizers say.

A hackathon brings together computer programmers, graphic designers, and business developers for a day or a weekend to create software and apps. Starting at 6 p.m. Friday, Aug. 10, and running through Sunday evening, the participants will break into teams and collaborate to create mobile applications that could form the foundations of future tech startups.

More than a dozen speakers and mentors from Refresh Miami, Lean Startup Circle, CareCloud and other local organizations and companies will assist the teams. Sponsors will provide access to APIs, or specifications for building software applications, from AT&T, Amazon, Github and Almira Labs.

 On Sunday, the teams will pitch their products for a chance to win cash prizes and services in various categories.

“Hacking is a problem-solving skill set that is of extreme value in our technology-driven world today and is at the forefront of innovation,” said Milana Kuznetsova, CEO of ESENEM and one of the organizers of the event. “The message of this Hackathon is geared to promoting entrepreneurship.”

This weekend’s hackathon has gone international. On Saturday, at least 150 additional developers are expected to join the competition remotely from co-working spaces in Argentina, Brazil, Chile and Colombia, said Wifredo Fernandez, who is co-founder of the co-working space The LAB Miami  in Wynwood and is coordinating the international teams.

“We will be connecting to these spaces via Google+ throughout the day, allowing participants from each country to interact. The idea is we are connecting hackathons across the Americas,” Fernandez said, adding that a $1,000 prize will be offered in the international challenge.

About 60 hackers will be participating at SUMA Conectivo in Mar del Plata, Argentina, said Carlos María Schauer, who opened his space about three months ago. “My co-working space will be full, full, full.”

In South Florida, the AT&T Mobile App Hackathon will be at the UM Life Science Park at 1951 NW 7th Ave., Miami. The event is a collaborative effort brought together by AT&T, ESENEM, CVOX, GeekyBeach, Florida International University's Americas Venture Capital Conference (AVCC), Wexford Science & Technology, The LAB Miami and The Knight Foundation. “This hackathon represents Miami’s continued emergence as a vibrant and dynamic technology and entrepreneurship hub,” said Faquiry Diaz, co-chair of the AVCC.

Registration is still open, organizers say. For more information and to register, go to . On Twitter: #backinhack

Follow me on Twitter @ndahlberg


Best Buy contest a $$ opportunity for college entrepreneurs

 Best Buy has launched the College Innovator Fund, a national search to find and advance big ideas in the areas of technology, sustainability, education or a related field. Best Buy would like to spread the word to college students in South Florida so they may apply for a chance to win cash prizes and bring their idea to life There are just 6 days left for students to submit their entries.

Now through Aug. 14, participants can submit a two-minute video on the Best Buy Facebook page describing their innovation for a chance to win one of four cash prizes totaling $100,000 to bring their idea to life. 

 For more information on the College Innovator Fund and to read the Official Rules, please visit



August 07, 2012

Counter-view: Juan Pablo, the engine is already running

Over the weekend, The Starting Gate published a viewpoint about accelerating Miami's tech community. Here is a counter-view by entrepreneur and programmer Auston Bunsen, who also puts on SuperConf. Viewpoints and guest posts are welcome on The Starting Gate. What's your view?

AustonBy Auston Bunsen 

This post is in response to the thought provoking piece written by Juan Pablo Cappello and published in The Miami Herald.

Mr. Cappello, I'm pleased to hear about your interest in the Miami Tech Scene. Before I get started, I'd like to commend you on your accomplishments; was once described to me as the e*Trade of South America, you're a practicing lawyer, and if I recall correctly, an angel investor. I hold your accomplishments in high esteem.

However, I feel as though you may be harboring several misconceptions. Let me start with what I believe is a fundamental flaw in your thinking -- no one here is complacent." South Florida is teeming with hustling entrepreneurs -- I can literally name dozens of them (Will Weinraub, Demian Bellumio, Stonly Baptiste, Davide di Cillo, Sasha Nabutovsky, Manuel Kreutz, Igor Guerrero, Dev Jones, Chris Brisson, Matthew Wensing, Juan Diego Calle, Jose Raasco, Mary Foden, Richard Grundy, Chris Davies, Rosston Meyer, Eduardo Garcia, Adam Laufer, Ulises Orozco, etc. -- here are a dozen more examples). These are people who may have persevered through the dot-com bust and have had no problems hustling right through a deep recession.

Additionally, the idea that South America is some sort of panacea for our community is in my opinion, a narrow view of the community and a huge discount to the absolute ability of the talent already existent within it. South America has most definitely experienced an economic renaissance in recent years -- but that growth is slowing and (again, in my opinion) it is not necessarily an opportune investment for us to attempt to attract that pool of talent & business as a community.

When you use words like "...getting Miami’s technology community back on track will be a long-term project..." I feel two very strong emotions: failure and disappointment. Failure because seeing
those words means that I have failed at my part in making sure the people here know we have a thriving community. Disappointment because I feel written off! Miami's technology community is on track -- the strides are small, but compounding; people like Brian Breslin and Alex de Carvalho have been pouring their hearts into this community since 2007. More recently, I have to commend the work of people like Ed Toro (for updating every single event on, Andrej Kostresevic, Marc Billings, Michael Greenberg, Diego Lapudiz, Mark Laymon, Seth Elliott, Peter Martinez, Susan Amat, Bryce Kerley, Dave Noderer, the people at LAB Miami and BURO and the countless others organizing free events for all of the people in South Florida -- in my mind, they're the thought leaders who have been pushing us forward. This is all without even mentioning the 940+ members of Refresh Miami or the 1,100+ Social Media Club members or the fact that there are back-to-back events for web developers and entrepreneurs the next two weekends.

Now, I'd like to take some time to address your plan for "restarting" our engines:

1. Leadership: You fan the flame here by suggesting we need new leadership that consist of University heads (Susan Amat and The Launch Pad are already HUGE contributors to the community), C-level executives and municipal government. While I (and literally every single person I've mentioned) welcome open collaboration with every single role you name, I (just me here) don't necessarily believe that bringing people in who have not been part of the community to lead it is the best course of action for accelerating said community.

2. Coordination: I agree that we need coordination -- had we put some in place, you may have been able to uncover some of what I have been ranting about before publishing your piece with the Herald. However, a management office really shuts out the community -- we need a better place for
open, focused discussion on topics, events & information.

3. Funding: Could the entrepreneurs down here use funding? Sure! It's important to note however, that funding is a non-essential aspect of business. Do I encourage funding? 1100%! In short, I think not having funding will lead to a much stronger entrepreneurial backbone than if we just start
throwing money at people (although, I must admit that it works -- 20% of the time).

4. Positioning: I don't know that money can fix this, but you have my co-sign here. We have serious brain-drain, I've seen some REALLY talented people leave South Florida, including the guys from OnSwipe, ScienceExchange, Marquee & many more SERIOUSLY talented individuals (Brian Benitez, Josh Guffey, Chris Jennings, Joshua Sortino, Brian Beavers and Willie Morris).

5. Marketing: I understand how this plays into your plan for a Latin American hub, but I don't know that it will be of very much help to many of the startups down here.

While I'm in partial agreement of your plan, I'd like to know what sort of action you have been or are going to be taking. I'd love to be able to have lunch with you to discuss your ideas with a few of the people doing amazing things down here -- I think you will leave impressed. I'll leave you with my thoughts on the situation, which utilize a much more organic view of the matter:

 Auston Bunsen is a programmer and entrepreneur who runs SuperConf and the newly minted startup:


August 06, 2012

4 social-media lessons from the Olympics

By Tasha Cunningham

TashaIf you’re like many Americans, you’ve been engrossed in coverage of the 2012 Olympic Games happening in London. While the games provide an entertaining opportunity to cheer for your favorite athletes, they also offer lessons for small-business owners about the right and wrong way to use social

Since the games began, social media has taken center stage and sometimes, not for the right reasons. Athletes have been kicked off teams for posting offensive tweets. Twitter wars have broken out between athletes and attendees have started online riots over unused VIP seats that weren’t filled.

So what can you learn from these Olympic social-media debacles? BizBytes has compiled a list of four of them below:

1. Think before you tweet.

The incident: A triple jumper from Greece and a soccer player from Switzerland were booted from their respective teams for sending offensive tweets.

The lesson: “The lesson here is to think before you tweet,” said Dick Raman, CEO of BrandReact, a Miami-based firm that counsels corporations about their use of social media. “Because social media is instant, people sometimes don’t realize that things written in the heat of the moment have a
lasting effect even in the Twitterverse.”

Raman recommends carefully planning your social-media updates and to run them by several people in your company prior to posting.

 “Remember that your tweets are a reflection of your brand,” Raman said. “And whether it’s you or your employees who are maintaining your corporate social-media accounts, it’s important that everyone think twice and then think again prior to posting.”

2. When customers vent, listen fast and address the problem even faster.

The incident: People who weren’t able to get tickets to the Olympics were upset when a large number of seats at major events went unused. They took to Twitter to voice their frustration, forcing Olympic organizers to address the issue publicly.

The lesson: “Whether you are a large or small business, if you are in the social-media space, you will have to address issues from customers,” said Jeff Zelaya, an executive at Vocus Media and public speaker who trains companies on the proper use of social media. “Businesses need to remember that
social media is all about transparency, so you can’t really hide anything. If you find yourself facing an angry mob of tweeps who are upset over something your brand did, the first thing you need to do is publicly address it and let them know that you are addressing the problem.”

Olympic organizers publicly addressed the empty-seat issue by distributing tickets to students and the military.

“Olympic organizers did a great job in solving this problem,” Zelaya said. “They responded directly on Twitter to the people who were upset and distributed tickets to people who could not get them previously.”

3. Don’t trash your colleagues or competitors.

The incident: U.S.. women’s soccer goalie Hope Solo launched a Twitter war trashing Olympic commentator and former U.S. soccer player Brandi Chastain, criticizing her for several comments she made during a match.

The lesson: “Brandi Chastain is a former Olympian and colleague of Hope Solo,” Raman said. “Taking to Twitter to trash her wasn’t appropriate.

The same thing applies for small businesses. Instead of trashing your colleagues and competitors, use that opportunity to talk about the strengths of your company and what makes you different.”

4. You control your use of social media to promote your brand.

The incident: Australian swimmer Emily Seebohm failed to win a gold medal and blamed the loss on social media, citing that she didn’t perform as well as she should have because she believed the hype on social media that had her pegged to win gold.

The lesson: “Brands have to remember that they control their presence on social media,” Zelaya said. “When something goes wrong, don’t blame it on social media. Instead, use it to talk about the problem in a transparent way and let others know how you intend to address it.”

For more social-media lessons from the Olympics, visit


August 04, 2012

View: Let's restart our engines and accelerate Miami's tech-hub potential

Today's guest post is by an entrepreneur, investor and attorney with deep experience with startups and technology in Latin American, Silicon Valley and Miami. Here is his view on what it will take to develop a world-class tech hub in South Florida. What do you think?  

By Juan Pablo Cappello

JPC with some of his investmentsFew places on Earth invoke the kind of economic envy that Northern California’s Silicon Valley does. So much so, that hopes of being the “next Silicon Valley” have spawned scores of wannabes worldwide such as Silicon Oasis (Dubai), Silicon Cape (Cape Town) and Silicon Sloboda (Moscow). In the U.S., “Silicon Beach” is coveted by five cities, among them Miami.

Obviously, all these places share the same ambition: to attain the lucrative concentration of fresh talent, disruptive ideas and venture capital that has driven Silicon Valley’s technological innovation and financial success over the past 50 years. The problem is that there’s only one, and will always will be only one, Silicon Valley.

Should places like South Florida, with the means to foster technological innovation locally, abandon their ambitions? In a word, no. Some, like Israel’s Silicon Wadi, have gone beyond pretension: The Economist ranked it second in the world to Silicon Valley in the concentration of home-grown, high-tech companies, with U.S.-based global firms such as IBM, Microsoft, Hewlett-Packard, Google, Cisco and others having research facilities there. 

Did Silicon Wadi happen overnight? No, it took about 40 years, with roots established even earlier than that. Did the Israeli government help? Yes, with low-interest loans and substantial grants, many notably from Israel’s military. Was academia involved? Indeed, Israel’s Technion – Israel Institute of Technology – and its Weizmann Institute of Science are ranked among the world’s top 20 academic institutions in computer science. Venture capital? Yes, that helped accelerate the region’s success, too.

 In the late ‘90s, Latin American entrepreneurs flocked to Miami, considered the Americas’ crossroads. The Lincoln Road promenade teemed with Latin notables, such as StarMedia Network,,, DeRemate,, and El Sitio, while others, like Zona Financiera and Telefonica de Espana’s Terra Networks were nearby. Although South Florida wasn’t a tech hotbed then any more than now, IBM’s Boca Raton campus was where the PC was born and still employed more than 10,000 people. Fort Lauderdale’s Citrix Systems went public in 1995 and ended the decade with more than 1,000 employees. In 2001, the Terremark NAP (Network Access Point), which carries nearly all of Latin America’s Internet traffic to and from 148 countries, opened in downtown Miami. 

So what happened to Miami’s Silicon Beach community when it seemed to be percolating so nicely as we entered the 21st century?

We became complacent. We took the sprouts of innovation for granted rather than cultivating them. Then came the great bust of 2000, which tightened the reins on venture capital for years. The Great Recession of 2008-2011, needless to say, was the near knock-out blow.

In my conversations with Latin-based startups over the past several years, I’ve found that, sadly, almost none have expressed interest in a regional headquarters in Miami. Today’s successful Latin American technology companies look to Sao Paulo, Brazil, as the launching point for a regional expansion strategy. And they’re much more likely to open an office in Palo Alto than in Miami as a next step.

 Let’s restart our engines.

We have to accept that getting Miami’s technology community back on track will be a long-term project, but we can accelerate it. Five key requisites are needed that can help spur the realization of Silicon Beach’s potential more quickly:

1. Leadership. Regional leaders need to agree on a vision of Miami as a thriving, world-class technology hub, and then establish specific goals, objectives and milestones to get us there.

Leaders must include: representatives of municipal governments across South Florida; members of local universities and colleges, especially those involved in The Launch Pad at the University of Miami and the Americas Venture Capital Conference at Florida International University; C-level executives from existing regional technology firms and other companies that would benefit from a technology metropolis; representatives from private sector technology accelerators, such as Incubate Miami and the Enterprise Development Corporation in Boca Raton; local foundations that have innovation as part of their mandate such as Endeavor and the Knight Foundation; and members of the South Florida financial community, including venture capitalists focused on funding Latin American innovations, such as members of the Latin American Venture Capital Association.

2. Coordination. Organizing these leaders and distilling their combined know-how, creativity and discipline requires a dynamic, well-qualified individual or group of individuals in the pilothouse. A management office must be established, and an actionable agenda executed with appropriate follow-up.

3. Funding. The effort needs a capital foundation from both the public and private sectors to provide seed capital for startups and operational funds for coordinating and executing the plan. With the cost of the new Marlins stadium exceeding $600 million, surely we can raise at least that much to support the creation of an economic development effort for the new millennium.

4. Positioning. Funding will also support development of the proper positioning of Miami and South Florida as a place where new ventures are welcome — to succeed and, occasionally, to fail. Miami’s role as the Americas’ crossroads should be re-emphasized.

5. Marketing. With 70 percent of its population Hispanic, Miami should encourage startups to redouble marketing efforts aimed at the 53 million Hispanics in the U.S., a demographic estimated to have $1 trillion in buying power in 2010.

Worrying about being the “next Silicon Valley” — much less yet another “Silicon Beach” — is pointless and will not help Miami realize its potential as a bastion of technological innovation. Rather, a larger regional economic development plan is needed, one that recognizes innovation and collaboration as core engines of growth and job creation. The benefits will be many, not least the diversification of our economy, with technology supplementing the often cyclical service and construction sectors to create a more balanced, dependable economy.

 Juan Pablo Cappello, partner in, co-founder of and Sauber Energy, and  practicing attorney, was named a 2012 “Top 50 Entrepreneur” by Business Leader magazine.

(Photo above shows Juan Pablo Cappello with some of his investments.)



August 03, 2012

Venture Capital: Who got what in the second quarter?

Florida ranked ninth in the country for venture capital investment in the second quarter, according to the MoneyTree Report, published by PricewaterhouseCoopers and the National Venture Capital Association.

For the fourth-largest state in the country, is that something to crow about? Florida’s CFO Jeff Atwater thought so, headlining  his newsletter yesterday with the news.  The $94.8 million invested in 11 ventures was an increase of 168 percent from the first quarter, he pointed out.

But even Atwater admitted the state has “a long road ahead” and "we have to do better." The second quarter investment only accounts for 1.4 percent of the total venture capital investment made nationally. To put it another way, Pinterest alone raised more than the entire state.

Nevertheless, South Florida had a very strong showing, netting nearly half of the state’s total. The details:

Open English of Miami: $28 million. Funders: Insight Venture Partners, Kaszek Ventures, Redpoint Ventures, undisclosed investor.

 As reported in this blog last week, Open English announced it recently secured $43 million in venture funding, which includes the $28 million from the second quarter. Altogether, Open English has raised more than $55 million, co-founder and CEO Andres Moreno told me last week. 

 Already with 1,000 employees, Open English is an online English language school that has been expanding quickly in Latin America. Moreno said he will be using the investment for further expansion, particularly in Brazil, where it launched in November.

 OrthoSensor of Sunrise, $15 million. Funders led by: Zeigler Meditech.

OrthoSensor, led by CEO Jay Pierce, focuses on the development and commercialization of intelligent devices to treat muscular-skeletal disease.

  Jay Pierce headshot photo“There is so much happening in the convergence of medical devices, technology and the Internet. We sit in the middle of this and are applying it to muscular-skeletal health — hip and knee replacement, osteoporosis, trauma, all that stuff,” said Pierce, the CEO. “We’re real excited about this. It is basically iPhone converging with orthopedics.”

The Series B funding will be used for the commercial launch of the OrthoSensor Knee Balancer, sales and marketing, and R&D in several areas including intelligent implants, Pierce said. In total, the company has raised $33 million in Series B, he said. (Photo is of Jay Pierce.)

Depositphotos of Fort Lauderdale, $2 million. Funders: TMT Investments PLC.

 Depositphotos, led by CEO and founder Dmitry Sergeev and launched in 2009, is a platform to
buy and sell royalty-free files, such as photographs, vector images, videos, etc.

VirtualWorks of Boca Raton, $560,000. Funders: New World Angels.

VirtualWorks, led by CEo Edward Iacobucci, who co-founded Citrix Systems,
is pioneering a new software category called content virtualization. It has reportedly already raised more than $8 million in previous funding rounds led by New World Angels.

We can expect another another strong showing this quarter, with Open English’s additional funding. Also, Miami-based Flomio, maker of a platform for building NFC and RFID enabled applications, closed a seed round of $525,000, led by RMR Capital, and included participation from TechStars, the Cloud Power Fund, Matthew Lally (Augme, Pickflair), and Clint Watson (FASO), TechCrunch reported on Friday. Flomio, founded by Richard Grundy,  was recently accepted into TechStars Cloud, the cloud computing-focused incubator.

Nationwide, venture-capital investments totaled $7 billion during the second quarter, down 6.7 percent from the same quarter last year but up 17 percent from this year's first quarter, according to the MoneyTree survey. Deals involving early-stage companies totaled 410, worth $2.1 billion. It was the largest number of early-stage deals since early 2001, according to the report. The quarterly MoneyTree survey is based on data compiled by Thomson Reuters.