July 01, 2015

VSN Mobile agrees to sell 360-degree image technology

VSN Mobil, a Fort Lauderdale tech startup that developed 360-degree image technology, has signed a letter of intent to sell that technology to 360fly of Pittsburgh.

360fly will buy the assets and intellectual property rights to VSN's 360-degree technology, not its other products, the companies said in a news release. A definitive agreement has not been reached, and terms of the deal were not disclosed.

“We're very pleased to be pursuing this direction with VSN. There are a lot of synergies between our two companies, and the work we’re doing around 360-degree video, virtual reality, and even more advanced applications of our technology,” said Peter Adderton, CEO of 360fly Inc.

VSN Mobile was founded in 2013 by former product designers from Motorola, Foxconn, Samsung and General Dynamics. VSN Mobil president Peter Aloumanis said in the Sun-Sentinel that the agreement positions the companies to advance more innovations at a quicker pace.

VSN Mobile developed a technology for seamless 360-degree high-definition images. During its pitch during the finalist round of the eMerge Americas Startup Showcase this year, VSN Mobile demonstrated its V.360 -- think a 360-degree version of a GoPro camera, with applications for outdoor sports, security, video conferences and drone overviews. VSN mobile won the competition, which included $100,000 in investment from the panel of judges, including the Miami Heat’s Chris Bosh.

VSN Mobil will continue to independently operate its other business units, including one for its V Alert personal alert device. Two dozen engineers who developed VSN Mobil's 360-degree technology may join the Pittsburgh company, according to the news release.


Shyp’s on-demand workforce now 100% employees

Bucking a trend in the sharing economy, Shyp, the app-enabled shipping service, said today it is re-classifying its couriers from 1099 contractors to W2 employees, making it the first on-demand company with a workforce made up entirely of employees. 

“This move is an investment in a longer-term relationship with our couriers, which we believe will ultimately create the best experience for our customers,” said CEO Kevin Gibbon in a blog post. “This is an operational decision based on our interest in owning the entire, end-to-end Shyp experience; it is not in response to recent lawsuits against other technology companies.”

Newly classified W2 couriers will now get workers’ compensation, and Shyp will pay for their vehicle expenses, in addition to unemployment, Social Security, and Medicare taxes. Depending upon the number of hours worked, Shyp provide additional benefits such as healthcare. Added Gibbon: "This is a huge step forward for Shyp."

Shyp launched in Miami just before Art Basel last year, its third city after San Francisco and New York. It's now also in Los Angeles and headed to Chicago, and it has continued to grow. In an interview earlier this year, Gibbon said the Miami market skews particularly high for international shipments, including art.  Shyp now has a team of about 25 in Miami, including couriers, drivers and warehouse technicians, said Johnny Brackett, who heads communications.

Read previous coverage of Shyp in Miami here.

Moving in: Kogi Mobile, app development

Kogi Mobile announced the company has moved its app development operations to Miami.

Founded by Nick Aldridge, who previously co-founded and exited Mobile Interactive Group, Kogi has developed nearly 200 apps and hundreds of mobile and responsive websites for its international client base, including Hitch Radio in LA, the company said. Kogi offers startups specific development services as well as project lifecycle management solutions, often working with clients from concept to series A financing and beyond. The company manages development in-house and sometimes invests in the startups; it says it has launched over 10 startups since 2014.

Kogi’s main commercial headquarters is now Miami, where its operations and creative team is based. Medellin, Colombia, is its back office where it was founded and does its development work. Kogi also has a offices in New York and Bogota, Aldridge said. Kogi currently is based at The LAB Miami.

“Kogi Mobile works on everything from MVPs to full working interfaces for iOS, Android, and Web, as well as full backend stacks,” says Aldridge, Kogi Mobile's CEO. “We have many customers across the U.S. ... who have $50-100k but this is not enough to get their initial product into the marketplace with the local agencies who simply cannot afford to offer their world-class solutions for this cost. Kogi is enabling U.S. companies to do this on these budgets and now with our presence in Miami we want to be able to offer our personalized, localized service to budding entrepreneurs in South Florida.”


Former Vevo CEO joins Magic Leap's executive team

More high-level talent is flying to Magic Leap.

Magic Leap said  today that it has named Rio Caraeff its chief content officer. Caraeff formerly was president and CEO of Vevo, a leading all-premium music video and entertainment platform with over 10 billion monthly video views globally. Prior to co-founding Vevo in 2009, Caraeff spent more than 20 years in technology, strategy and new business across all areas of entertainment for such companies as Universal Music Group, Sony Pictures Entertainment, Sony Digital Media Ventures, Sony Music Entertainment and Capitol Records Group.

“My head exploded when I first experienced what the Magic Leap team was working on,” said Caraeff. “It is certainly the most exciting development in media and technology that I’ve ever seen, which is why I had to do whatever it takes to join the talented team that Rony has assembled."

Caraeff will be responsible for the development, operations and business management of Magic Leap’s cloud-based ecosystem and media network.   The secretive and heavily funded Magic Leap says it is developing a new "mixed reality" computing platform that will enable people to interact with the world in ways never before possible. Magic Leap, with hundreds of employees and many of them working in its base at  DCOTA  in Dania Beach, also has offices in  Santa Cruz, Los Angeles, Mountain View, Seattle, Austin, the UK and New Zealand.

“I am excited to welcome Rio to the Magic Leap family. Rio grew up around musicians and computing, and he and I both share a love of creativity, art and technology,” said CEO Rony Abovitz, in a press release. “This mutual passion for building new mediums and experiences with artists and creatives is the heart and soul of Magic Leap.”

In April, Magic Leap brought Yannick Pellet aboard as  senior vice president of software engineering reporting to Abovitz. He had  served as a VP at Samsung Research America, where he built software platforms for a multitude of mobile phones and tablets. In December, Magic Leap announced that sci-fi author and futurist Neal Stephenson would be the company’s chief futurist, and Scott Henry, an executive at  Beats Music and Beats by Dr. Dre, would be its CFO.

More recent coverage of Magic Leap here and here.


June 30, 2015

Beepi, a peer-to-peer marketplace for cars, launches in South Florida

Beepi, a peer-to-peer marketplace to buy and sell pre-owned cars online, continues its eastward expansion by launching in South Florida.

Starting Tuesday, consumers in Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties can conveniently sell their vehicles as well as have Beepi cars delivered to their driveways. Beepi operates in eight major metropolitan areas in four states. The Silicon Valley-based startup, launched in 2014, has raised $79 million in funding from Redpoint Ventures, Sherpa Ventures, Foundation Capital and others.

“Our success in California, Arizona and Texas has enabled us to continue growing in line with the demand for a safe and easy car buying experience that meets the needs of today’s consumer,” said Beepi CEO and co-founder Ale Resnik.

The process of connecting buyers and sellers, according to Beepi, goes like this: When selling on www.Beepi.com, sellers schedule an appointment to have a local Beepi Inspector come to their home or office to conduct a comprehensive 185-point inspection. If the car is approved, they get free professional car photos taken and receive a guranteed sale price. If the car doesn’t sell in 30 days, Beepi will buy it. The price paid would be more than what a dealer would pay for the car.

Buyers purchasing cars through Beepi.com will get free delivery of a certified, fully detailed car wrapped in a bow. All cars come with a three-month, 3,000-mile bumper-to-bumper warranty. The prices would be less than what a dealer would sell the model for, according to the company. No test drives, but Beepi provides a 10-day money-back guarantee for any reason. So far, however, fewer than 1 percent of customers have returned their cars, the company said.

Beepi, part of a wave of companies leveraging the online marketplace and the “on-demand economy” in traditional industries, says the company is able to narrow the spread because it doesn’t have overhead such as inventory, parking lots and dealerships.

Beepi is on track to book about $100 million in revenue over the next year and has plans to expand to seven more regions by the end of 2015, according to a recent New York Times article


Beepi founders Ale Resnik and Owen Savir. 

June 29, 2015

FIU College of Architecture + the Arts creating MakerBot Innovation Lab for students, community

Florida International University will create a MakerBot Innovation Lab, a 3,000-square-foot maker space for students and other innovators to be housed at its Miami Beach Urban Studios.

MakerbotThe MakerBot Innovation Lab, supported by a $185,000 grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, will include 30 state-of-the-art 3D printers and four 3D scanners where public programs and educational opportunities will be offered. The lab will support workshops for elementary and middle school students, dual enrollment programs for high school students, for-credit classes for FIU students and startup programs for recent graduates. Community members can also use the space to develop new product ideas and conduct research.

FIU’s College of Architecture + the Arts will be the only arts/design college in the nation to house a MakerBot Innovation Lab, said John Stuart, AIA, associate dean for cultural and community engagement and the executive director of Miami Beach Urban Studios. He said the lab idea first came about because students were asking to get more involved in the maker movement. “This is an opportunity to explore and get this maker experience into the DNA of our students and our culture and our ecosystem, and I’m hoping students and community members will be inspired and will make things we can’t even imagine,” he said.

FIU Urban Studios will also work with FIU colleagues and students in hospitality, medicine and other disciplines in order to come up with innovation projects that fill a community need, for instance making a home safer and easier for the disabled, Stuart said. It will also collaborate with Miami Beach-based Rokk3r Labs, a company co-builder. to initiate workshops, seminars and other programming within the MakerBot Innovation Lab.

The Lab will be open by the fall, if not sooner, and can serve up to 60 students at one time with a 3D printer between each two workstations, Stuart said.

“Miami’s entrepreneurial ecosystem has seen enormous growth over the last few years – adding co-working spaces, mentor and funder networks, educational offerings and a host of events. But there are few established makerspaces where entrepreneurs can experiment and build. The MakerBot Innovaation Lab will help fill this gap,” said Matt Haggman, Knight Foundation’s Miami program director, in a news release.

AT&T to launch 1-gigabit service in parts of Miami-Dade, Broward

Ultra-fast Internet access is now available in sections of Miami-Dade and Broward counties, AT&T announced on Monday.

U-verse with AT&T GigaPower – with speeds up to 1 gigabit per second – is available to residents and small businesses in parts of Fort Lauderdale, Hialeah, Hollywood, Miami and surrounding communities starting at $120 a month, and the territory will continue to expand, said Carlos Blanco-Sposito, AT&T Florida vice president and general manager.

Although this is the first metro region in Florida to receive the service, AT&T has rolled it out in other states and the service particularly appeals to consumers or businesses using the network for online gaming, videoconferencing or streaming. The service is symmetrical so upload speeds are the same as downloads. “It’s going to be the way of the future for consuming data,” Blanco-Sposito said.

How fast is 1-gigabit? Customers can download 25 songs in less than a second, their favorite TV show in about 3 seconds or an HD movie in less than 36 seconds.

“Homes today have a lot of devices and people need more speed to have a better user experience,” Blanco-Sposito said, adding that U-verse GigaPower also offers enhanced TV services. Family members can watch and record up to five HD programs at the same time – “no more fights,” he said.

Consumers in eligible areas can choose from a variety of plans beginning at $120 a month for speeds up to 1 gigabit per second service; starting at $150 a month for the service bundled with U-verse TV service; or $180 a month bundled with TV and voice. Installation and equipment are included.

AT&T also offers plans with speeds of 100 megabits per second for $30 less. That is fast enough to download 10 songs in less than five seconds or download an HD movie in six minutes, AT&T said.

AT&T GigaPower was first rolled out in Austin, Texas, in late 2013. That was well-received, and the company announced plans last year for a national rollout of its fiber network to 21 metropolitan areas. Its Florida rollout starts in South Florida and then will move to other areas of the state, said Blanco-Sposito.

Additionally, AT&T said that upon approval of its proposed acquisition of DIRECTV, the company will expand the AT&T GigaPower network to an additional 2 million customer locations.

The ultra-fast service has been on a roll. Comcast announced in April it would be bringing 2-gigabit per second service to most of its customers in Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach this summer but has not announced prices yet; Comcast expects to start marketing it in Florida very soon, said spokeswoman Mindy Kramer. Atlantic Broadband began offering 1-gigabit service to its Indian Creek customers last summer, and is expanding throughout its Miami Beach service area. And while South Florida is not yet on Google Fiber’s expansion map, the company has been rolling out its 1-gigabit service in selected cities across the country, and announced earlier this year that four cities in the Southeast are in the plans.

Follow Nancy Dahlberg on Twitter.

June 28, 2015

Entrepreneurship Datebook: Upcoming events and a look back

Tech eggCODE FOR MIAMI: Join developers, designers, entrepreneurs and other creative thinkers and participate in ongoing civic hacking projects or start your own, 7 p.m. Monday, The LAB Miami, 400 NW 26th St., Miami. More info: thelabmiami.com

DIGITAL MARKETING: Venture Hive will offer a weekly series of free digital marketing workshops, in partnership with Web Academy. The first one is at 5 p.m. Tuesday, 1010 NE 2nd Ave., Miami. More info: welcu.com/wacademy/free-summer-class-by-webcongres

OPENHACK NIGHT: Join Code for Fort Lauderdale for a night of civic hacking, 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Nova Southeastern University Graduate School of Computer and Information Sciences, Davie. More info: codeforftl.org


Startups and early-stage tech companies have been raising funds: MDLIVE, a telehealth provider in Sunrise, closed on a $15 million private equity round of funding, following news of Miami-based TissueTech, a biotech focusing on regenerative medicine, raising $15 million. Also in the news: Instacart doubled its delivery area in South Florida, and Waleteros launched its app for the underbanked in the U.S.

Find more startup news, community views and events on the Starting Gate blog on MiamiHerald.com/business. Follow Nancy Dahlberg @ndahlberg

June 26, 2015

Waleteros launches app for the underbanked in U.S.

P2P_framedWaleteros, which created a mobile banking solution for the underbanked, launched its app on Google Play this week and an iOS version is close behind. The Miami-based startup offers a way for the millions of people in the U.S. who don't use or have a bank account - of which Hispanics represent a disproportional percentage - to use their smartphones as their banking solution.

To cash checks, pay bills and send money to their families in their home countries, underbanked consumers typically go to check cashing stores and pay hefty fees. The company saw an opportunity to cut out the middleman and offer these services digitally, understanding that Hispanic consumers are adopting smartphones at a higher rate than any other demographic group.

CEO Etienne Gillard explained that after completing a short registration via the app, users receive a Prepaid Debit MasterCard with no monthly maintenance, minimum balance or overdraft fees. The card can be used to make purchases in stores domestically and internationally, online, and to withdraw money from a network of thousands of surcharge free ATMs. Through the app, users can track transactions and send money instantly to other users for a small fee. 

"We are Latinos living in the U.S. and we wanted to find a way to send money for less than $10. And guess what... we did much better than that. Thanks to Waleteros, now anyone, regardless of whether you have a bank account or not, can send money anytime anywhere for only 75 cents," said Gillard.

Waleteros, now a team of six,  participated in the 2014 Venture Hive accelerator class and closed a $600,000 seed round in March. The company plans to roll out an iOS version of its application next month.


June 25, 2015

Discussion on 'Miami's tech footprint' attracts a crowd

Techfootprint (2)

When real estate and tech leaders come together to talk about “Miami’s tech footprint,” don’t expect everyone to be in lock-step. But perhaps they all can agree on this: With so much development slated for the Park West section of downtown Miami — including Miami Worldcenter, All Aboard Florida and the Miami Innovation District — tech needs to be in the conversation. And it was.

An audience of mostly business leaders and real estate professionals packed Venture Hive for a lunch-and-learn event on Thursday hosted by Commercial Industrial Association of South Florida.

They heard pitches from two local South Florida companies incubating at the Hive — Referrizer and Snow Lizard — and a keynote speech by Michael Rodriguez, CEO of eMerge Americas. “We are in the middle of the biggest change we have ever seen in our lives,” said Rodriguez, adding while other cities are constrained in their growth, “Miami is expanding at a time when technology is expanding — it’s a perfect fit.”

Ken Krasnow of CBRE in South Florida tried to put it in perspective for the audience. The 20 top tech-oriented office markets in the country created jobs five times faster than the national average between 2009 and 2013, CBRE found in its study. In South Florida last year, 370,000 square feet of new leases and expansions were in the tech sector, more than twice what it was in 2013, while the total in all industries was essentially flat, he said.

“Tech is touching every company now,” said Todd Oretsky, co-founder of Pipeline Workspaces. Locally, Watsco Ventures is doing a great job of investing in and bringing tech into a traditional industry, he said. How do you build a culture to create the big wins? You need a cluster and it takes a little time, he said.

There is incredible talent here, but our challenge is to create long-term businesses that have a heavy IP component to them, said Susan Amat, founder of Venture Hive, which is in talks with 12 cities about being a soft landing place for their startups. She also said Venture Hive is starting young, teaching kids business, design thinking, coding and software, including at camps at five city of Miami parks for lower-income students. “This is part of the long-term strategy to create innovation in South Florida. It’s not a physical place, it is a state of mind,” Amat said. “How do we stop the fluff and build great companies?”

Michael Simkins, developer of the proposed Miami Innovation District, said there are a lot of components to a tech ecosystem, and all are needed, but retaining and attracting the medium to large tech companies is the most important for Miami now because that provides the most jobs. He also said affordable micro-apartments, 250-350 square feet, are a key component: “I see it all coming together,” he said at the event Thursday. Though on the same day, the Miami City Commission dealt the project a blow in the first of two planned votes.