Deadline extended until May 2: Enter American Entrepreneurship Award contest now

The American Entrepreneurship Award business plan competition offers aspiring and early stage entrepreneurs the opportunity to win a share of $125,000 as well as free mentorship and business support services. The competition is available to entrepreneurs currently living in, currently operating in, or who plan to open or expand their businesses to the areas of The Bronx, New York and Miami-Dade County, Florida.

To enter this competition, please visit: http://www.AmericanAward.com/ and click the “Register Here” on the page. Follow the instructions to create a profile and you will be taken to the online application. Once you complete the online application, you will be entered into the contest.

The deadline to complete your application is  now 11:59 p.m. May 2 so start your application today!

For any questions about the application or the award please contact: info@americanaward.com

April 28, 2017

More contest news: FAU Wave Competitions announces winners

Florida Atlantic University’s Division of Research has announced the winners of the 2017 FAU Wave Competition, an undergraduate and entrepreneurial research contest. Participants received $500 this past fall to develop new ideas to address societal problems, and worked throughout two semesters to develop their proposed projects.

Vithulan Suthakaran, a FAU High School student who is dual-enrolled in FAU’s College of Engineering and Computer Science, took home $1500 in prize money for his SEA Skimmer project, which won first place. Suthakaran developed an inexpensive autonomous oil skimmer to decontaminate oil from large bodies of water to protect aquatic species. The SEA Skimmer is cost effective, efficient, sustainable and collects oil nearly three times faster than current devices on the market.

“I’ve always had a passion for marine life and love to visit marine life centers,” he said. “I started noticing more marine mammals showing up at these centers because of oil pollution and I wanted to find a way to help out.”

Alexis Base, a FAU High student studying ocean engineering at FAU, tied for second place with electrical engineering undergraduate Ben Coleman, earning them $1000 for their projects. Base developed an autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) with an onboard camera image recognition system to locate lionfish, an invasive fish species in the Atlantic Ocean. Coleman’s Transient-Image Density Evaluation System (TIDES) improves smartphone sensing technology by deleting additive noise and reducing the effect of multiplicative noise.

“The FAU Wave competition teaches students how to get published in journals, launch a start-up, file for a patent and connect with other experts in their fields,” said Dan Flynn, Ph.D., vice president for research. “It primes them for future opportunities in entrepreneurship and technology start-ups, like FAU Tech Runway or a Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship.”

FAU High student Hannah Herbst, also studying biology at FAU, tied for third place with Pedro Flores, an undergraduate majoring in physics. Herbst developed an inexpensive device that quickly identifies the presence of airborne chemicals and issues a warning or evacuation notice. Flores created an artificial intelligence project that uses math algorithms to create music.

Other projects included a drone that can detect air pollution, filters that reverse the effect of sea coral diseases, an African-inspired clothing company and a portrait project focused on better understanding the LGBTQ population.

            For more information on the FAU Wave competition, visit www.fau.edu/research/fau-wave/fau-wave-competition.php.

- Submitted by FAU 

April 27, 2017

FAU Business Plan Competition: And the winners are ...

FAUbusiness-plan-competition-newsdesk

Pictured left to right are: FAU College of Business Dean Daniel Gropper, Barbara Ruiz, Rodrigo Gayoso, Christopher Waddington, Regynald Augustin, Kendrick Dubuisson, Kristopher Stewart, William Hahn, Brandon Jadotte, Kurtis Rodriques, Quintin Warren.

 

A team of four engineering students took home the top prize at this year’s Florida Atlantic University Business Plan Competition with a system that helps prevent the theft of printed classified or proprietary documents. 

Their company is Protection Against Physical Element Removal or PAPER for short. Founding members Alyssa Harris, Kris Stewart, Quintin Warren, and Wesley Klemas formed PAPER earlier this year in their senior engineering design class. 

The idea started when Harris, who previously worked as an intern in the defense industry, read news articles detailing one of the issues the defense community grapples with – how to prevent people walking out with pages containing proprietary or classified information. 

“She came up with the initial idea of trying to track the pages, and from there all of us together developed the idea of printing RFIDs onto the page,” Warren explained. 

RFID stands for radio-frequency identification, which uses electromagnetic fields to automatically identify and track tags containing electronically stored information, which are attached to objects. PAPER utilizes conductive nanoparticle ink to tag classified documents, allowing its system to detect if documents are being removed from the premises. 

Andrew Duffell, president and CEO of the Research Park at FAU and one of the judges for the competition, said the fact that government would be a good customer for PAPER’s services and the company could get funding through various grant mechanisms gives them a good opportunity to ramp up their business to become revenue-positive. 

“They showed us a huge market that really has never been addressed in a comprehensive way,” he said. “Their technology and their solution and the way prepared their plan and they pulled out the answers very carefully was impressive. It was just a very interesting concept, well thought out and well presented.”

While classified information is well-secured and encrypted in a cyber environment, government and large enterprise businesses haven’t had a successful solution to securing their printed classified documents. This has led to these sensitive materials being leaked online. The PAPER team said this can be remedied using their system, which allows organizations to know when printed, classified material is removed before it even leaves the premises, ensuring it doesn’t get leaked.

The PAPER team won $10,000 for taking first place in the competition, along with an additional $1,000 for being named Best Interdisciplinary Team.

Ripple, a creative micro-influencer and marketing agency that empowers local celebrities by offering them the ability to rent their social media real estate, was awarded $5,000 for second place.

Idle Automation, which uses a mobile app to provide self-driving shuttles for university campuses, retirement communities and resorts where short-distance travel is cumbersome or inaccessible, took third place and $2,500.

Fit Families of South Florida won the People's Choice award and $1,000.

The students on the PAPER team said they received support from faculty in the College of Engineering & Computer Science, as well as the College of Business, which hosted the competition in conjunction with the Adams Center for Entrepreneurship. The competition took them out of their comfort zone as engineers, but they got the result they wanted.

“Coming up with the actual business plan was probably the most difficult part of the competition because it was out of our discipline,” Stewart said. “The part I enjoyed the most was competing and getting to talk about the business aspect of it versus the technical side of the project.”

 - Submitted by Florida Atlantic University

April 25, 2017

CarHopper raises $1.5 million, plans expansion

Bora Hamamcioglu  Founder of CarHopper

By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

CarHopper, an app-enabled booking platform for luxury car rentals, announced Tuesday its plans to expand operations to Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Orlando and Fort Lauderdale.

The South Florida startup also announced it has raised $1.5 million in seed funding, raised from a syndicate of angel investors, which will help the company expand product development and sales and marketing efforts.

CarHopper recently honed its focus to a more curated inventory, sourced from boutique luxury car rental purveyors. “Latest trends demonstrate that people prefer buying experiences rather than assets,” said founder and CEO Bora Hamamcioglu, a Turkish entrepreneur who founded the company in Miami in 2016 (pictured above). In addition to private jet services and luxury homes with other services, sophisticated shoppers now have easy and streamlined access to luxury cars with CarHopper, he said.

 

April 20, 2017

Miami real estate-tech startup Gridics raises $1.1 million from developer Avra Jain and others

Gridex

By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

Efficient isn't a word most people would use to describe a planning and zoning process, but a Miami-based real estate technology startup wants to change that.

Gridics announced Thursday that it has raised a $1.1 million round of seed funding. The round was led by Dune Road Capital and included John Dyett, managing director of Salem Partners, Robert Kall, CEO and co-founder of Cien.ai, and Miami real estate developer Avra Jain. 

Gridics, short for Grid Analytics, is a real estate dataa and software development company founded in 2015. From applications on its platform,  users can visualize real estate data in order to make smarter investment and development decisions while streamlining inefficient processes in the real estate world, the company said.  For example, the Zonar.City application helps bridge the gap between the private sector development community of architects, developers and attorneys by automating development feasibility analysis and streamlining the development plan approval process. 

"By creating a solution that can digitize and automate any zoning code, the Gridics team has created a way to streamline an antiqued process," said Peter Richards, managing partner of Dune Road Capital.

The company, which has raised over $2 million  to date, is focused on further strengthening its product and driving adoption of its Zonar.City application. 

"Our new automated compliance module allows cities and developers to quickly check development plans against site-specific zoning requirements.  Cities that integrate their code with Zonar.city will streamline their zoning approval processes resulting in faster approvals, improved transparency and significant reductions to backlogs," said Gridics CEO Jason Doyle, in announcing the funding.

Gridics is also developing a Market Intelligence application, which allows real estate professionals to conduct hyper-local market analysis.  More than 1,000 members of the Miami Association of Realtors have joined Gridics since February, the company said.

 

Gridics2

 

Latest national data on female-led teams show little progress, but there's hope for South Florida's future

  Womeninvestimage

By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

17 percent: The percentage of tech startups that have at least one female founder. That number hasn’t budged much since 2012, Crunchbase’s updated study found.

Crunchbase’s inaugural study on female founder representation of U.S.-based companies was published in May 2015; this week it published an update.

Other findings from Crunchbase, an open-source database spun out from TechCrunch that tracks startups and funders:

For companies with an initial raise in 2016, female-founded companies are weighted toward education (32 percent), e-commerce (31 percent), healthcare (21 percent) and media and entertainment (21 percent) startups.

Female-led companies are raising less as they go up the venture food chain, Crunchbase found. In 2016, companies with at least one female founder raised 19 percent of all seed rounds, 14 percent of early-stage venture and 8 percent of late-stage venture rounds. They companies raised 17 percent of seed dollars, 13 percent of early-stage dollars and 7 percent of late-stage dollars.

Let’s put that in dollars and sense: Across all funding stages in 2016, $10 billion went to companies with at least one female founder contrasted with $94 billion invested in male-only founder teams, Crunchbase found.

Read about the study here.

Anecdotal evidence in South Florida suggests the numbers may be similar in South Florida but higher in the future. From my own observations, the number of women at tech events and conferences has been growing, albeit very slowly. I would be interested to know how much Refresh Miami’s female membership has grown percentage-wise, for instance.

But there seems to be more women-led companies developing in the very early stages. South Florida now has an accelerator for female entrepreneurs – Babson WIN Lab – and organizations aimed at growing more female angel investors such as Aminta Ventures are developing here. StartUP FIU’s second cohort of its Empower accelerator, open to all, is about 40 percent women. In the Miami Herald Business Plan Challenge this year, which attracts pre-venture companies from all industries at the earliest stages, 48 percent of the entrants this year had female-led teams (either the CEO was female or the majority of the co-founding team was female), up from 12 percent in 2009. All this suggests more women-led businesses may be growing in our midst.

Stay tuned.

April 18, 2017

PetSmart to buy Chewy.com, and the price fetched may be eye-popping

Chewy1%20ceo%20biz%20cmg

By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

The biggest e-commerce acquisition deal in history could be going to the dogs.

PetSmart, the nation’s largest pet-supplies retailer, has agreed to acquire Dania Beach-based Chewy.com, the market’s No. 1 online retailer.

The combination of Phoenix-based PetSmart, with 1,500 stores nationwide, and Chewy will enhance both companies’ reach, the companies said Tuesday. The acquisition, which is subject to customary regulatory approvals, is expected to close by the end of PetSmart’s second fiscal quarter.

Terms of the transaction were not disclosed. However, tech media site Recode is reporting that the deal in place is valued at $3.35 billion, according to its sources. That would make the sale of Chewy the biggest e-commerce acquisition to date, even larger than Wal-Mart’s $3.3 billion deal for jet.com last year.

“We are focused on improving our customers’ experience in-store and online as we continue to execute against our long-term strategic initiatives. Chewy’s high-touch customer e-commerce service model and culture centered around a love of pets is the ideal complement to PetSmart’s store footprint and diverse offerings,” said Michael Massey, PetSmart president and chief executive officer, in the announcement.

Chewy, which had been rumored to be a candidate for going public, has seen explosive growth since it was founded by Ryan Cohen (pictured above) and Michael “Blake” Day in 2011. The privately held company registered $26 million in sales during its first full year in business and logged more than $900 million in sales in 2016, the company said.

Although it was not yet profitable, Cohen said in February Chewy was projected to increase revenues to nearly $2 billion this year — nearly a 7,600 percent growth spurt in just six years. Today it has about 5,000 employees nationwide.

[READ MORE: Chewy has seen fantastic growth, but can it keep up the pace?]

The company built its following — more than 2 million customers nationwide — on customer service. Among its many campaigns, it sends hand-painted pet portraits as thank you gifts to 700 randomly selected customers every week.

“Since we started Chewy, we have been dedicated to understanding and satisfying the evolving needs of our customers to deliver the highest quality pet products and customer service,” said Cohen, Chewy’s CEO. “Combining our strong e-commerce expertise with PetSmart’s best-in-class infrastructure, footprint and breadth of offerings including services will help us wow our customers even more.”

Chewy will operate as an independent subsidiary of PetSmart run by Cohen and will remain focused on its current business strategy, while PetSmart will continue to execute its strategic initiatives across the combined company, PetSmart said.

Chewy tried to reassured customers on social media Tuesday that Chewy wasn’t going anywhere and the level of service would not change after the acquisition.

According to 1010Data, Chewy.com holds 51 percent of the online pet food market, including 40.5 percent in direct sales and 10.2 percent in subscription sales. But Chewy always had bigger aspirations.

“If you look at where we are today in the business, we’re still scratching the surface in terms of the total addressable market. We want to be No. 1. We’re No. 1 online. We want to be the largest pet retailer in the world,” Cohen said in a Miami Herald cover story in February.

Chewy had raised several rounds of capital — about $236 million in total — to support its growth. On Feb. 1, Wells Fargo Capital Finance had become the latest investor, announcing an agreement to lend $90 million over the next five years to Chewy.

Nancy Dahlberg: @ndahlberg

Chewy2%20reception%20biz%20cmg

 

Miami fintech company DadeSystems receives $2 million in funding

DadeSystems, a Miami-based provider of account receivable automation solutions, raised $2 million in funding to accelerate its growth from Miami early-stage venture firm Ocean Azul Partners.

The funding  will be used to  accelerate engineering and product enhancement efforts as well as expand the sales team, digital marketing and client services, according to the announcement.

"We're pleased with the progress of DadeSystems and excited about the product suite, relationships and potential for growth," said Bill Pruitt, managing director of Ocean Azul Partners, in a statement. "We look for capital efficient companies developing new markets using differentiation and providing value to create a defendable market position and grow rapidly. DadeSystems is aligned with our investment strategy."

DadePay AR Automation, part of the SaaS suite of fully integrated products, automatically captures all incoming payments, including cash, checks, ACH, EFT, and credit cards.  Using patented technologies, payments are automatically matched to open invoices and update the companies' ERP systems.  All checks received are electronically transmitted to the bank for immediate deposit, the company said. DadeSystems serves multiple industries including distribution, food and beverage, manufacturing, financial, transportation, wholesale, property management, healthcare, retail, travel and agriculture. 

"Last year was another strong year as we exceeded our revenue and customer acquisition targets. Securing this additional funding allows us to expand our product suite and services and grow our presence as the preferred payment solution in the marketplace," said DadeSystems CEO Bill Zayas.

 

 

 

 

WIN Lab accepting applications for Cohort 2

WINLAB

Cohort 1 of WIN Lab Miami.

WIN Lab Miami is looking for female entrepreneurs ready to think big and scale their businesses.

Created by the Center for Women’s Entrepreneurial Leadership at Babson College, Women Innovating Now (WIN) Lab provides women entrepreneurs with an inspiring community and a rigorous, experiential eight-month program that aims to catalyze innovative thinking and enable them to successfully launch or transform businesses.

For information on eligibility, program requirements and the application process. visit www.thewinlab.org/apply

Deadlines

  • Application Due May 12 at 5PM EST
  • Semi-finalist Interviews, May 12 to June 9h
  • Pitch Days, June 29–30
  • WINners Announced July 15

Fees

  • $0 until April 4 at midnight (extended from April 1st)
  • $25 from April 5 until April 15 at midnight
  • $50 from April 16 until May 12 at 5PM EST

 

Admissions Criteria

Power as SheO

The WIN Lab is dedicated to catalyzing women founders who are passionate, committed, and want to build scalable ventures! These women will form part of a diverse cohort that will build their business as they accelerate their entrepreneurial journey as peers. Their potential and drive may speak louder than their business concept. We look at the entrepreneur and their potential, not only their traction to date.

Think Big Ventures
WIN is industry agnostic and curates cohorts that include products and services from all sectors. The accelerator is looking for high-growth, well-vetted, BIG ideas, with a clear secret sauce and strong positioning in the market.

Timing is Everything
WIN seeks businesses that are in beta stage with a functioning prototype, a strong go-to-market strategy, and are positioned to scale. This will enable them to best leverage Lab resources. We are open to candidates that are slightly earlier or later stage if they have a clear idea on how they will leverage the WIN experience (i.e. idea stage or growth stage that are franchising or launching a new product or service).

Community Fit
Applicants should be ready to join and contribute to an entrepreneurial community. We are looking for founders that are willing to fully engage by committing time and energy to the program and their peers. WIN Lab provides its entrepreneurs with an immense amount of expertise, coaching, and resources, and we ask for commitment and contribution in return. Participants (WINners) are required to show up to weekly sessions, meet monthly milestones, provide feedback to their fellow founders, and operate with openness and transparency during the program. 

Team
Research shows that start-ups with co-founders are more likely to achieve early success and scalability. We seek founders that are part of strong, women-led, teams with co-founders and/or employees that are committed to venture growth (founder agreements must be submitted before entering the Lab). Solo founders that are actively seeking team members or have a strong organizational plan in place are encouraged to apply. 

- Submitted by WIN Lab Miami 

April 17, 2017

You be the judge: Vote in the Business Plan Challenge People's Pick

Challenge illustration

By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

A way to combat restaurant food waste, an online platform for dental prosthetics, or a line of toys for boys of color? Or maybe it’s the sharing economy for trucking, the sharing economy for home-care services, or a grow-light for cannabis?

Or how about or a tool to negotiate consumer debt, a guest management platform for the hospitality industry, or a new clinic for mental health therapy? In the education space, an app that helps kids on the autism spectrum communicate with their parents, a solution for schools to combat bullying and a tool to bring families together at storytime complete the offerings.

Who is building the best new business? You tell us!

Today, we unveil the top six finishers in the Community and FIU Tracks of the 19th annual Miami Herald Business Plan Challenge, and we are asking you to support your favorite competitors. The People’s Pick is open for voting.

With just a couple of days’ notice, the contenders, all with emerging South Florida companies, presented elevator pitches under the hot lights of the Miami Herald and FIU studios.

To vote for your favorite startups, here’s what to do:

Find the voting page here or at hrld.us/BizPlan2017. View the short videos of the finalists’ elevator pitches. The six selections in the FIU Track follow the Community Track. Then scroll to the bottom of the voting page to cast your ballot, voting for one video in each track. You may vote once per day.

Lastly, get out the vote! Give your favorite entrepreneurial team more support by asking your social networks to vote. . Use hashtag #2017BizPlanMiami to follow along.

Voting closes at 11:59 p.m. April 24. The top voted team from each track track will be awarded the People’s Pick and honored in the May 8 Business Monday section along with the judges’ selections.

The contenders are:

COMMUNITY TRACK

Apollonix, pitched by Jessica Shin and Terri-Ann Brown, is the first online marketplace for ordering oral prosthetics and provides a win-win solution for both dentists and labs in this $10.9 billion industry.

Cargo42, pitched by Murilo Amaral and Alfredo Keri, is a B2B marketplace for local trucking. It helps shippers find lower rates, access quality service and have their goods delivered on time by matching them with pre-verified trucks with empty space in them.

Caribu, pitched by Maxeme Tuchman, marries video-calling and e-books to provide an interactive experience when family members are far apart. You simply make a call, choose a book together, and read or draw in real time as if you were in the same room.

Melanites, pitched by Jennifer Pierre, designs and creates diverse toys, storybooks and games that celebrate brown boyhood. Its mission is to inspire children of color to dream big, stand tall and live out their childhood.

Modulux Lighting, pitched by Bill Cummings, has created an LED-based grow-light product called GroMax focused on the massive cannabis market. GroMax lights are modular, programmable and scalable and can be assembled like Lego Blocks to create an efficient lighting solution for any size grower.

School Climate Solutions, pitched by Maribel Gonzalez, delivers customized on-demand content for educators, parents and students that helps improve school environments and creates pathways that lead to academic and social success.

FIU TRACK

DoUCare, pitched by Maurice Pinto, is a cloud-based platform that connects freelance caregivers to families seeking nonmedical home-care services for elderly loved ones. Careseekers get immediate or future-scheduled care services through a phone or web app. Caregivers get access to an online marketplace that gets them hired at the rate of their choice.

Ketamine Health Centers, pitched by Dennis Diaz and May Nunez, will own, develop and operate multiple outpatient clinics to provide ketamine infusions, a new treatment modality for patients suffering from mental-health disorders. The clinic provides an innovative use of the FDA-approved anesthetic ketamine, gaining recognition in the medical community.

MunchSquad, pitched by Tara Demren and Eliana Alba, is a mobile app providing a real-time marketplace that allows restaurants, bakeries and supermarkets to reduce surplus food being thrown out at the end of the day by having it sold at a discount to students. MunchSquad also facilitates partnerships with homeless shelters for the distribution of remaining food.

Nuvola, pitched by Juan Carlos Abello, provides guest management software that helps hotels monitor and respond to hotel and guest needs and activities. Nuvola, staffed entirely by professionals with hospitality industry experience, has created a customer-service platform with mobile applications designed to be used by the hotel staff and by hotel guests.

SettleiTsoft, pitched by Rich Rudner, provides a web-based and mobile accessible platform that offers 24/7 assistance to debtors and creditors as a bridge to facilitate and streamline the debt-negotiation process. It is designed to replace the traditional methods of debt resolution with an intuitive, interactive, transparent and secure online debt settlement process.

Use Your Words, pitched by Yanesa Montenegro, will develop an app used by parents to teach language and communication to their pre-verbal and nonverbal children on the autism spectrum. At its core, the app will be an interface of buttons with symbols representing words the child will press to communicate with parents, and will offer video tutorials and a progress recording feature.

Follow @ndahlberg on Twitter.

READ MORE: Find the complete list of semifinalists, including the High School Track, here.

April 16, 2017

What would a venture capitalist say about that? Startups get chance to find out

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By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

Access to capital is lacking — that’s a common refrain among Miami area entrepreneurs, and particularly in minority communities. So Derick Pearson and Felecia Hatcher, founders of Code Fever and Blacktech Week, thought let’s bring the venture capitalists here. 

At a recent conference Pearson talked Marlon Nichols, co-founder and managing partner at Cross Culture Ventures and former investment director at Intel Capital, into agreeing to be Code Fever and Blacktech Week’s first VC in Residence. As part of the program, thought to be one of the first of its kind, top venture capitalists will spend a month in Miami advising and guiding black, Latinx and Caribbean entrepreneurs. Nichols, who generally splits his time between offices in L.A. and Silicon Valley, took up residence at WeWork earlier this month and has been holding office hours, fireside chats and lunch and learns that will continue throughout the month to help sharp founders think through the businesses that they are building. 

It wasn’t a hard sell and the arrangement is benefiting both sides of the table. 

“You can’t beat coming to Miami in April, but more importantly, Miami is rich in culture and our investment thesis is about understanding global culture to try to predict where consumers are going to spend their dollars,” said the Jamaican-born Nichols, who leads one of the relative few black-led venture capital funds in the U.S. “Black and Latinx cultures have been known for early adopters, so for understanding what is going on in those communities as well as the Caribbean community, Miami is a melting pot. For me it is a lot of learning.”

The new VC in Residence program is one of a number of Code Fever initiatives, which include producing Blacktech Week and Weekend, and it recently received $1.2 million in Knight funding. Entrepreneur-in-residence programs are commonly hosted at universities and accelerators to support entrepreneurs, solve problems and help innovate. Code Fever believes that borrowing from this model and inviting VCs to spend a month in residence in communities where there’s little access to funding can help reshape the way black communities are valued in the innovation sector. 

It’s a big challenge. Only about 1 percent venture capital funding goes to black founders, and only 13 black women founders in the entire nation have raised a million dollars or more in venture capital. 

In the half-hour office hour visits so far, Nichols has met with tech startups developing products or services for student debt, media content, cloud-based secure storage, educating inmates, dentistry and others. Most of the entrepreneurs are not yet at the stage for venture capital or do not have appropriate businesses for that kind of funding, but the door is still open. 

Some were interested in advice for preparing themselves for investment, others wanted mentorship on starting up or just wanted to talk strategy. And it hasn’t been all tech — Nichols met with a cupcake entrepreneur who wanted to talk about the best way to grow her business. 

And when companies are ready for investment, he wants to know about them. “I think gone are the days when all investments happen in Silicon Valley. ... Amazing companies can be created any where in the world and I want to keep my finger on the pulse of that. ... The biggest thing I will get out of this is developing a network here – with entrepreneurs I will keep in touch with, with angels here and organizations. They will help be eyes and ears for great investment opportunities here.”

Nichols is also holding frequent fireside chats, bringing in entrepreneurs who have experience starting and growing companies. “The best resource for new entrepreneurs is successful entrepreneurs as well as unsuccessful entrepreneurs,” he said. “There is just a wealth of knowledge that can be learned from both.” 

Last week, Nichols hosted entrepreneurs Brian Brackeen of Miami-based Kairos and Chris Bennett of Wonderschool and Soldsie.com for a fireside chat, dinner and networking. Bennett grew up in Miami but moved to San Francisco in 2009. While both entrepreneurs have raised millions in venture capital and angel funding and gave advice on that, they also dished on the realities of startup life — including 180-degree pivots, botched pitches with important VCs, building and overbuilding without reaching product-market fit and somehow keeping a team focused through the toughest months. We also learned that Brackeen wakes himself up at 3 a.m. because he does his best work then, but don’t bother him at 3 p.m. — that’s nap time.

Bennett is a big proponent of accelerators – he participated in NewME and 500 Startups — and he said he would do another one today. He also said the benefit to Silicon Valley is there are so many entrepreneurs, engineers and investors to learn from. “Talk to as many VCs as you can, because you learn what they care about. ... The best way to get ready for talking to VCs is to join an accelerator. The next best way is to surround yourself with entrepreneurs who have been successful and learn from them,” he said. 

Brackeen is bullish on the 305, including on the number of angels in South Florida and the growing infrastructure such as co-working spaces and accelerators — and maybe soon, innovation districts. “You can have the same success as a San Francisco company if you find the right people, find the right lawyer, find the right investors. There is not one model for the result,” he said. 

Coming up on Tuesday is a lunch and learn with Silicon Valley startup attorney Brian Patterson and a fireside chat with Diishan Imira, CEO and co-founder of Mayvenn. Pearson and Hatcher plan to bring more VCs down. Find more information about the VC in Residence program at blacktechweek.com/funding.

For his part, Nichols said he has been impressed so far with the potential of Miami.

“Successful ecosystems have universities spinning out technologies and talent, investors and angel groups, accelerators and co-working spaces — and challenges unique to those communities, that is the biggest thing. I don’t want to invest in the next Uber or the next Lyft. I want new market creators. What are big pain points for people in Miami that haven’t been met? Let’s figure out what those are and go solve them.”

Nancy Dahlberg; @ndahlberg 

READ MORE: Blacktech Week receives $1.2 million in Knight funding to expand entrepreneur programs

Btw

Marlon Nichols, co-founder of Cross Culture Ventures, Chris Bennett, founder of Soldsie.com and Wonderschool, and Brian Brackeen, founder of Miami-based startup Kairos, talk about startup life at a VC in Residence fireside chat at WeWork in this photo and above.

Photos by Blacktech Week.