Want to know about Miami startups? A user's guide to this blog

Dear reader, Starting Gate has been providing and archiving South Florida startup and tech community news, views and resources since 2012. New to the Miami area? Thinking about relocating here? Just want to keep up with news, events and opportunities? We're there for you.

How to use Starting Gate: Besides scrolling the blog for the latest entries, you can access news and views by category. The "Funding" category will capture venture capital and angel funding news of individual startups as well as stories about funders. The startup categories chronicle news and my regular "Spotlights," and in Q&As you'll find interviews with CEOs and leaders in the entrepreneurship ecosystem. There are also categories for guest posts, views, accelerators/incubators, resources, events and more.

Have news? Have an idea for a guest post? Send it to me at ndahlbergbiz@gmail.com. (See my Facebook announcement here)

Thank you for your support through the years and please come back often. Follow me on Twitter @ndahlberg. - Sincerely, Nancy Dahlberg

March 21, 2018

Can South Florida lead the future of work?

Employees need — and companies should be providing — avenues to gain new skills in things like artificial intelligence, blockchain, design thinking and analytics. Skills can't be siloed, and we have to think about more than technology. The ideas that are shaping the next wave of businesses are born out of curiosity.

- David Clarke, PwC  

Since technology skill sets are in such high demand everywhere, it’s not sustainable to expect that we can poach from other markets. We need to invest and commit to training, developing and hiring talent locally.

- Johanna Mikkola, Wyncode Academy


I believe we won’t work from an office anymore. We won’t work for just one company. We will work per project, we will be more entrepreneurial, we will feel we will own our careers and our dreams again. I think the future will be fascinating.

- Laura Gonzalez-Estefani, TheVentureCity


By Romina Ruiz-Goiriena

Miami is booming with startup activity. Over the past decade, South Florida tech companies are booking tens of millions in revenue and employing hundreds of employees. It’s happening across other industries too. But, cultivating a robust entrepreneurial ecosystem is a process--one that can’t be done without digital transformation.

In business, digital transformation has become the buzzword of the hour. So much so that companies are now not only tasked with advancing their technological innovations, but also the personnel to support those innovations. So how can companies develop the digitally savvy workforce needed to make Miami a hub for the future of business?

This month, business festival NewCo Miami (March 25-26), showcases the companies that are shaping the future of business, and among them a few addressing the digital workforce transformation head on. We asked NewCo Miami presenters David Clarke, Global Chief Experience Officer of PwC, Johanna Mikkola, Co-Founder of Wyncode Academy, and Laura Gonzalez-Estefani, CEO of TheVentureCity, about the realities of digital transformation and how South Florida companies must prepare.

Let’s start with the biggest misconception of all: Many organizations define digital transformation as synonymous with IT. What does digital transformation mean?

David Clarke, Global Chief Experience Officer, PwC [DC]: Digital transformation is NOT migrating your enterprise systems or managing systems integration — that’s an IT function.

Digital transformation is making your organization fit for the digital age. An age of disruption, innovation, and heightened competition. Successful digital transformations change businesses inside and out while harnessing the power of technology to create new experiences. Digital transformations reimagine business models and products with a digital-first mindset while also improving experiences for the people in the business, including employees, suppliers and partners. To succeed, we must change the way we work, that includes the technology we use, and the behaviors we engage in.

Johanna Mikkola, Co-Founder Wyncode Academy [JM]: Digital transformation is usually synonymous with technology because every industry is a technology industry. There is literally no company that can build, design, and market products without the use of technology.  

Laura Gonzalez-Estefani, CEO, TheVentureCity [LGE]: What is digital transformation for me? It’s a mindset, a leadership type of thinking. It’s being able to take decisions based on data and not based in intuition and being able to operate fully through technology. To do that, you have to prepare your business to give you its "vital signs" in real time in a way that allows you to predict challenges and opportunities. Deep diving into all things business — team, processes, financials, expansion plans, legal, customer support — and being able to apply the required tech so that your business runs faster, smarter and more efficiently. It’s not just about transforming the way your IT (tech infrastructure), marketing or customer relationship processes are built. It’s about a new way of thinking and executing as leaders with technology at your core.

How does digital transformation and readiness directly correlate to the future of the workforce?

[DC] People are integral in shaping, deploying and powering digital transformations. We can invest in emerging technology, but without skilled workers to guide it, it will have little to no success. I believe that the power is in the people — not the technology. And right now, to successfully complete digital transformations that grow business, we need to dramatically change how we’re approaching development for our workforce. Employees need — and companies should be providing — avenues to gain new skills in things like artificial intelligence, blockchain, design thinking and analytics. Skills can't be siloed, and we have to think about more than technology. The ideas that are shaping the next wave of businesses are born out of curiosity. The problems and improvements that we can make for our customers and talent have to come from everywhere, not just a special incubator within the business. With those needs in mind, PwC's Digital Workforce Transformation helps businesses achieve successful digital transformation, starting with the workforce. Our workforce upskilling solution is powered through a mobile application called the Digital Fitness App, which provides personalized corporate training that’s currently being used by thousands of PwC employees, and we're developing customized versions for other companies too.

[JM]: Workforce preparation comes down to quality training and education. Ensuring high quality and access to this type of training is what will help build a solid ecosystem in South Florida. Since technology skill sets are in such high demand everywhere, it’s not sustainable to expect that we can poach from other markets. We need to invest and commit to training, developing and hiring talent locally. We have seen first hand through 500+ developer graduates working at over 230 companies that this is not only possible but already happening.

[LGE]: The sooner you learn and embrace the opportunity it brings to your business, the sooner your business is going to run smarter. There are so many different things your business is doing already relying on tech. Rather than adapting one piece at a time, think it through once, roadmap and start to execute. Artificial intelligence will make certain jobs disappear and others be created. Education needs to change so that new generations get ready for what’s coming. It’s impossible to compete with AI when we still study like we did 50 years ago. There is a huge gap there that we need to solve or the workforce won’t be ready. I believe we won’t work from an office anymore. We won’t work for just one company. We will work per project, we will be more entrepreneurial, we will feel we will own our careers and our dreams again. I think the future will be fascinating.

How does a company continue to work toward integrating what we now consider foundational technology (i.e. cloud, analytics, mobile, UX) while also keeping up with new technologies (i.e. IoT, AI, robotics)?

[DC]: Companies should invest in technologies that align with their overarching business strategy and goals  not just adopt the latest technology for the sake of being ‘cutting edge.’ Businesses need to be laser focused on customer needs and only implement technologies that smooth processes. Human experience is the strategy, and technology enables it. I’ve never seen a company solve its problem through a technology strategy.

[JM]: Companies need to invest in technologies that improve the customer experience. Foundational technology is now expected, and companies need to be at the forefront of that field. Those who are can focus on testing new technologies and how they apply best to their industry.

[LGE]: You need to execute the upcoming opportunities in a smart way, thinking long-term and ambitiously. Transforming a business in terms of tech means exponential growth if done well. You need to transform and educate your talent first, insert that mindset and operate towards it.

What are the biggest challenges the entrepreneurial ecosystem faces when it comes to tackling digital transformation?

[DC]: I think the toughest challenge is preserving some of the "start up" mentality after a company has matured. Growing while being able to stay nimble, continuously improve and build new things is the biggest challenge, and entrepreneurs, like CEOs of legacy companies are under tremendous pressure to stay competitive. This factor, and the challenge of preserving talent and keeping them motivated are the two biggest challenges I see.

Every year we take the pulse on the Digital IQ of business and IT executives around the world. In our 2017 Digital IQ Survey, we found that just 52% of companies rate their Digital IQ as strong. The most common obstacles companies face when tackling digital transformation include lack of properly skilled teams, outdated technologies, lack of integration of new and existing data and tech, and inflexible or slow processes.  Often, executives don’t even have the skills needed to guide an organization’s digital strategy. People have to be at the center of transformation projects, which often up-end years of processes, habits and cultural baggage.

[JM]: The biggest challenge is getting over the thinking that technology is only for developers. Understanding the language of technology (coding) is already as important as executing on things like marketing, finances and hiring. In the same manner in which we all learned to read and write but didn’t necessarily go on to be published authors, having a baseline understanding of coding will empower you to be a better entrepreneur.

[LGE]: I don’t think it’s that different from other places around the world. Maybe, this city is even in a better position because we are used to facing challenges constantly. It’s in our DNA. We are always ready to fight whatever comes our way. So, this is more of a call to action to start thinking about the opportunity we have to become the fastest digitized state of the U.S.

What are the biggest opportunities for businesses?

[DC]:  The biggest opportunity for businesses is creating a great culture, one that’s centered on experience for both customers and employees and powering growth. Among all this new technology, the focus needs be on real people — and a lot of times this is a huge missed opportunities. Businesses that create a strong culture, maintain a good employee experience, and move quickly are the ones that are set up for success.

[JM]: Diversity. Unlike established technology ecosystems that have a deeply rooted diversity problem, Miami has an opportunity to show that a diverse ecosystem is not only possible but will produce the best talent and the best products. For example, given that women make up 47% of the workforce and account for 85% of household buying decisions it makes sense that a product’s creators and builders be more reflective of their end user, meaning attracting more women makes business sense. In turn, it leads to stronger products and services and thus better businesses.

[LGE]: Let’s keep our talent home. Let’s create meaningful jobs here for the brains of the future that normally leave. Let’s be more open and inclusive to the crazy ideas the younger generations have and they want to test; from drone-based shipping to self-driven car circuits. Let’s have South Florida running on clean energy and transform the educational system completely, teaching kids coding and entrepreneurship from the very beginning of their school years.

Register for NewCo Miami here.

Romina Ruiz-Goiriena is a seasoned journalist and digital media entrepreneur who has worked in Paris, Cuba, and Israel for France24, El Mundo, and Haaretz. Most recently, she co-founded Prowell Media in 2016, a digital media news company that produces content for 14 million people across Mexico and the U.S. Previously to returning to Miami in 2015, she worked for CNN out of Guatemala and The Associated Press, where she reported on key regional issues such as migration and drug trafficking. She consults for media projects including Newco Miami, by M + D.  You can follow her on Twitter @RominaAdi.

500 Startups decides to 'double down' on Miami, opens office for Florida, Latin America

Miami skyline

By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlbergbiz@gmail.com

In a surprise to almost no one in Miami’s startup scene, 500 Startups is putting down deeper roots in the Magic City.

If you’ve been reading Starting Gate, you know that 500 Startups has been holding programs and events here, including a Series A accelerator and a PreMoney conference. The Silicon Valley company, which has invested in more than 2,000 startups in 60 countries, is an investor in a number of South Florida startups, including (at the risk of leaving some out) Home61, FIGS, Court Buddy, Alta5 and Senzari.

Now the venture fund and accelerator company is opening a large office in Miami, where it will host an expanded menu of programs and serve as its base for South Florida, Latin America and other markets in the eastern U.S., Managing Partner Bedy Yang told Bloomberg in its report Tuesday. 500 Startups has about $400 million under management in multiple funds, said Yang, who has been a speaker at several Miami area events.

 “Today, we believe the Miami entrepreneurial ecosystem is at an inflection point, with more high-potential founders launching locally than ever before. Further, we believe the city is uniquely poised to become a global hub for entrepreneurship and innovation that will hopefully connect South Florida with Silicon Valley, the East Coast, Latin America, Europe, Africa and beyond,” wrote Ana Paula Gonzalez, who has been on the ground for more than a year leading the efforts to establish a larger presence here, in a blog post announcing the news today.

CEO Christine Tsai said in a statement: “We believe Miami is a key market for us to double down on and continue to serve all three parts of that mission,” Tsai took over the reins of the company after Dave McClure resigned when his sexual misconduct toward women was brought to light.

Helping to fund the Miami endeavor is the Miami Downtown Development Authority, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and Visa.

500 Startup Miami’s offices will be in downtown Miami at Mindwarehouse, where it will have about 7,200 square feet. Programs will include founder bootcamps, accelerator programs, corporate innovation programs, demo days and more. Learn more about 500 Startups Miami here.

Welcome (officially) to Miami, 500 Startups.

Follow @ndahlberg on Twitter.

UPDATE: Read more in the Miami Herald's report here.

March 15, 2018

Co-founder Ryan Cohen stepping down as CEO of Chewy, a homegrown success story


Ryan Cohen, CEO of Chewy.com, and his poodle Tylee at the company’s photo studio in Dania Beach in 2016. Photo by C.M. GUERRERO. cmguerrero@elnuevoherald.com

By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlbergbiz@gmail.com

PetSmart announced today that Ryan Cohen, the co-founder and CEO of Chewy.com, is stepping down.

In six years, the 32-year-old Cohen grew Chewy to a homegrown success story, selling it to PetSmart for about $3.35 billion last year, the largest e-commerce acquisition in history.

Chewy, headquartered in Dania Beach, will be led by Sumit Singh, current chief operating officer of Chewy, who joined the company in August 2017 from his role as director of Amazon Fresh Worldwide, the company said.

It’s a familiar story in corporate acquisitions -- that is, the founding CEO steps down to pursue other passions or is replaced at the top -- and it gives Cohen the opportunity to start or fund something anew in South Florida, which is what ecosystems are all about.

Cohen has quite a story of his own. Growing Chewy.com from zero revenues to a multi-billion company was an incredible ride, Cohen said in a keynote appearance at the Florida Venture Capital Conference early this month (see a post here). The pet supplies retailer now has about 7,000 employees nationwide.

Cohen, who has always been entrepreneurial and has no college degree, said he started Chewy to replicate the same “amazing” customer experience of his neighborhood pet store (he is pet parent of a poodle, Tylee), but online. He used Zappos, the massive shoe e-tailer, as a model and inspiration. When he needed capital to grow, he approached more than 100 investors – and they all passed. “But I thought there’s a chance … we were on to something genius. I felt with scale we will prove them wrong,” Cohen told the audience of investors and entrepreneurs at the conference.

When the sale to PetSmart was announced, some longtime customers worried their beloved brand would change, and this news will not make them feel better. Still, the hyper-growth continued after the acquisition. In February, Chewy opened a 100,000-square-foot facility for its customer service team, which had outgrown its space in the Dania Beach headquarters. In total, Chewy employs 1,500 in South Florida, with 1,000 in Hollywood, out of its 7,000 worldwide. Chewy plans to hire 400 more customer service employees for Chewy Hollywood this year, Cohen said earlier this year.

For its part, PetSmart said in a news release announcing the CEO change that the company will continue to operate largely as an independent subsidiary of PetSmart, focusing on its current business strategy.

“Ryan is an amazing leader who has built a unique and powerful ecommerce business with a strong culture that is laser-focused on serving the needs of customers and their pets. I have full confidence that this will continue under the leadership of Sumit, a seasoned ecommerce leader who is well equipped to carry Chewy’s strategy forward and grow the company,” said Raymond Svider, a managing partner at BC Partners and executive chairman of PetSmart.  “We have enjoyed a great relationship with Ryan and respect his desire to step back from running the company after the relentless pace of the last seven years; he has our unwavering support and we wish him well.”

Said Singh: “We will remain focused on Chewy’s founding vision, core values, operating principles and goals. Our business momentum remains strong as we continue to scale while improving our customers’ experience and lowering our costs. We will stay focused, keep moving forward and continue with our vision of making Chewy the best pet retailer on the planet.”

Singh has served as the chief operating officer of Chewy.com since November 2017. Prior to Chewy, Singh served as the Director of Amazon Fresh, and before that he worked for Dell. He received his M.B.A. from the University of Chicago, Booth School of Business and an M.S. in Operations and Logistics from the University of Texas at Austin.

In a statement Thursday, Cohen said: “The past 7 years have been a tremendous journey and the learning experience of a lifetime. In a short time span, Chewy has gone from a concept to disrupting and redefining an entire industry. I feel the time is right for me to pass on the torch so I can pursue personal goals and spend time with my family. I’m confident in Sumit and believe he will continue to carry on the vision of making Chewy the best and biggest pet retailer on the planet.”

What’s next for Cohen? He’s not saying yet, but no doubt it will be entrepreneurial. He also has the means to support other startups, should he want to go the investor route. But to be sure, entrepreneurship is in his DNA, he told the audience at his most recent appearance in South Florida.

“I have never been a clear cut career path kind of person. I started my first business when I was 14 or 15 building websites… My father was a business owner so I saw what it was. It was very clear early on that I would be my own boss,” he said at the appearance in January.

In the recent talk, he discussed the challenges along the way and shared war stories about Chewy, including the difficulty finding funding. He said he moved forward and never changed his business strategy, even after a hundred investor doors were shut on him.

“I spoke to over 100 investors and they all passed for one reason or another. At one point I got so desperate … we took a trip to Sand Hill Road [in Silicon Valley]. I literally went door to door -- that didn’t work. But one of those 100 investors that passed made a visit later and I remember it like yesterday.  I was 25 at the time, and looked like 15 years old. He followed up with us, was impressed with all of our numbers and ultimately he invested.”

Cohen, who describes himself as obsessive, relentless and contrarian, said the biggest challenge was managing the hyper-growth. He  talked about the transformative decision to bring fulfillment in house in 2014, rather than relying on a third party. “It was three or four months of pain. Everything that could have gone wrong went wrong. We worked through those problems and … in order for us to scale a billion dollar company we needed to go through that.”

Cohen also had some advice to aspiring entrepreneurs.

“You need to make sure you are in a place in the world that you are ready for this. Scaling a business is going to test you physically and emotionally, it’s not for everyone. I have an 11 month old now, and scaling a startup from inception to reality is like taking a human being from infancy to adulthood in a very short period of time. It’s going to get sick in the middle of night and you are going to be up all night taking care of it. It’s going to make mistakes and you will learn from it. It is a huge act of selflessness and dedication and if you are ready for it, it is going to be a crazy, crazy, crazy roller-coaster and it will be the journey of a lifetime.”

Follow @ndahlberg on Twitter.

March 14, 2018

Wyncode to offer $1.4 million in scholarships to promote female involvement in tech


For women who want to learn tech skills – coding, UX/UI design or digital marketing -- and perhaps qualify for a scholarship, too, here’s an opportunity for you. Here’s the lowdown, from Wyncode:

Today, Wyncode Academy announced a $1.4 million scholarship commitment to promote increased female involvement in technology. The scholarships will allow females to build technical foundations in the areas of computer coding, user experience and user interface (UX/UI) design, and digital marketing, ultimately building long-term meaningful careers in technology.  The scholarship aims to balance the school’s female enrollments as Wyncode strives to create an equal gender parity environment in their classrooms and throughout the South Florida tech scene.

“There’s a shortage of women in technological roles and it is not because women lack skill, but because they lack equal opportunity in a traditionally male-dominated industry,” said Johanna Mikkola, CEO and co-founder of Wyncode Academy. “As a community of educators, technologists and entrepreneurs, we see limitless potential in all our students and alumni, and want to develop a support system through education to help them achieve their goals.”

Wyncode strives to offer up to 930 scholarships over the next four years to qualified female candidates interested in enrolling in the academy’s Full Stack and Front End Web Development courses, UX/UI Design Immersive and Digital Marketing course. Wyncode’s in-person courses are comprised of rigorous professionally curated curriculums taught by senior instructors, many of whom worked in tech hubs such as Silicon Valley and New York City before joining the academy in Miami, Florida.

“Miami’s thriving tech ecosystem is in need of skilled technologists, especially since the city is a serious contender for Amazon’s second headquarters,” said Adriana Cisneros, CEO of Cisneros and member of Wyncode’s Endeavor Advisory Board. “Through Wyncode’s commitment, the talent pool in South Florida will increase by nearly a thousand women with highly desirable tech skills that both established corporations and startups across the country need.”

Prospective female students can start their application or learn more by visiting:


March 13, 2018

RIP, Jugofresh, thanks for leading the way.

Matthew Sherman: Jugofresh. Gesi Schilling Jugofresh

By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlbergbiz@gmail.com 

RIP, Jugofresh.

Matthew Sherman, founder and CEO of the cold-pressed juice store company, announced to the Jugofresh community the locations are closing as of today and thanked his customers, employees and vendors.

“I love people and I love creating but running a business is different than creating. I started Jugofresh with the sole intention to create a community that carried the vibration of plants and approached healthy eating with open hearts and childlike mind. I believe we were able to achieve a lot of our goals. I thought that if you make a business and do good in the community, everything will work out. The truth is that a business must be run tightly and I made a lot of mistakes,” the former fitness trainer wrote in his emailed note.

Make no mistake, running a food business is hard. Running a chain of locations is really, really hard. Start with the fact that your product is perishable, and add in rising rents, high overhead, workforce issues, online competition and the fact that most investors shy away and it is no wonder that even the most popular, on-trend eateries fail, despite the best efforts of their passionate founders.

And Sherman was certainly that. He was lauded in the Miami Herald in 2015, named to the Food 50: As an entrepreneur, “he has helped Jugofresh morph from a juice company to a destination for healthy eaters with its raw, vegan food options, even offering specialty vegan pies during the holidays. Sherman is ... giving today’s consumers the kind of unprocessed, locally sourced food they want as part of their healthy, active lifestyles,” the Herald wrote.

Before rapidly growing to multiple locations, Jugofresh launched in 2012 with one store in Sunset Harbor, and called it magic. "I have learned that you cannot bottle magic … My lack of experience and the rapid expansion are what ultimately lead us to close,” Sherman wrote. He told New Times he lost a significant amount of money but said the endeavor was "a great experience." He urged people to patronize local businesses in Miami's culinary scene "or risk a world of national chains."

Some of the entrepreneurial lessons learned, he wrote:

* Employing people that are not making a thriving wage doesn’t feel good and is not functional for a consistent guest experience.

* When you sign a deal with a large company it is difficult to maintain a clear brand message.

* Culture is everything and it’s elusive.

* When expanding a business, it’s all about people and processes.

 “We were faced with 100,000 decisions over the years and we tried to make the right ones but at the end of the day, it just didn’t work,” he wrote to followers.

Jugofresh wasn’t riding a trend, it was leading it. Sherman helped start a healthier eating and wellness wave in South Florida, and leaves Miami with more mindful options than ever.



March 12, 2018

This cute home can be 3-D printed for $4,000 -- and be a solution for the developing world



By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlbergbiz@gmail.com

Building a home in a day for under $4,000? It can be done with 3-D printing technology and could be a sustainable solution for Haiti and the rest of the developing world.

New Story, the nonprofit startup that created hundreds of small concrete homes for Haitians after other nonprofits faltered, partnered with ICON, a construction technologies company, to unveil the first permitted, 3D-printed home created specifically for the developing world. The 350-square-foot home was unveiled Monday at South By Southwest in Austin, Texas.

In the past couple of years, New Story has funded and built hundreds of homes in Haiti and El Salvador. But even though its crowdfunding model is efficient and effective, the nonprofit can’t keep up with the demand building homes the traditional way. The 3D-printed home unveiled Monday serves as proof-of-concept for sustainable homebuilding that will allow for safer, more affordable homes for more families, faster than ever, said Brett Hagler, the CEO of Silicon Valley-based New Story.

 “We feel it’s our responsibility to challenge traditional methods and work toward ending homelessness,” said Hagler, who grew up in South Florida and co-founded the nonprofit with a friend, Mike Arrieta, who attended the same Broward high school, Coral Springs Christian Academy.

Other companies are working on 3-D homebuilding technology, but they are primarily targeting high-end consumers. “We thought, okay, what if the bottom billion weren’t the last ones to get this, but the first ones to get this? It made sense for us to try to leapfrog what’s happening domestically, because our homes are so simple,” Hagler told FastCompany, which broke the story.

The 3-D printer, called the Vulcan, is designed to work in places like Haiti and rural El Salvador where power, potable water and technical assistance can be sparse. It will be built to fit on a truck, so it can be easily transported from site to site. The printer will use a common mortar and the same concrete foundation the YCombinator-funded New Story has been using at its other houses, including in Leveque, Haiti, 40 minutes from Port-au-Prince.

“Conventional construction methods have many baked-in drawbacks and problems that we’ve taken for granted for so long that we forgot how to imagine any alternative,” said Jason Ballard, co-founder of ICON. “With 3D printing, you not only have a continuous thermal envelope, high thermal mass, and near zero-waste, but you also have speed, a much broader design palette, next-level resiliency, and the possibility of a quantum leap in affordability. This isn’t 10 percent better, it’s 10 times better.”

New Story’s goal: To print the first community of homes for poor families in El Salvador in the coming 18 months, and then through partnerships, scale up production in the developing world over the next few years.

New Story currently works in Mexico, Haiti, El Salvador and Bolivia and in three years has funded more than 1,400 homes for families in need. More than 850 of those $6,500 concrete homes have been built and families have moved in. The nonprofit says 100 percent of donations goes to build homes while organization overhead and R&D is covered by private donors.

And this little home, now sitting in an Austin backyard, could be the start of something big in social ventures. Hagler hopes New Story's upcoming project will serve as a catalyst for the industry.



Miami startup Neighborhood Fuel gets gassed up, too: $2 million in venture funding

Neighborhood Fuel_Photos

By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlbergbiz@gmail.com

Need more time back in your day? This Miami startup makes sure your car is fueled up so it’s one less thing to worry about.

Neighborhood Fuel, which provides an app-driven, on-demand service that fuels up your car while you are at work or at home in your condo, on Monday announced it received a fill-up too: a $2 million Series A round of financing.

Venture firm Softbank Capital NY led the investment round with participation from Lerer Hippeau, a New York-based fund focused on early-stage companies. The $2 million investment will help accelerate the company’s expansion plans to businesses, corporate campuses and residential complexes throughout South Florida -- and beyond.

“Our vision is simple, to give people time back in their day. Peace of mind is getting into your car and not worrying about whether you have enough gas or dealing with the time and traffic it takes to get to the pump,” said Neighborhood Fuel CEO and founder Jorge Camaraza. formerly CEO of Vertical Textiles and international marketer for Universal Music Group. “We view the process of filling your tank as a benefit businesses can offer employees and an amenity residential complexes can offer residents.”

Founded in 2014, Neighborhood Fuel partners with businesses and residential complexes to deliver gasoline directly to company fleets, employees and residents’ vehicles onsite, rather than direct to consumer. Its clients simply download the Neighborhood Fuel app, set up payment and then select the schedule that best works for them. Prices are the same as at the pump, the company said.

Neighborhood Fuel already services clients such as Royal Caribbean, Carnival Cruise Lines, Perry Ellis, Southern Wine and Spirits, University of Miami Health, Enterprise, Sixt and Alamo, the company said in a news release. It is currently expanding into Broward and Palm Beach Counties.

“They are truly applying technology, from logistics to the mobile app, to solving an issue most consumers encounter several times a week,” said Jordan Levy, partner at Softbank Capital NY, which manages $600 million across four funds. “Neighborhood Fuel’s offering is well-timed with the rapidly increasing need for on-demand solutions. We believe Neighborhood Fuel is a powerful solution for the industry and we are excited to collaborate with and support them as they work to build a great company in an exciting category.”

March 09, 2018

How to apply to pitch at - and attend - this women-led startup challenge


On April 18, MIT Enterprise Forum (MITEF) South Florida is teaming up with Aminta Ventures to present Geek Tank 5, a startup competition that will be fully funded by local South Florida female angel investors and will showcase the area’s most promising female-led, early-stage businesses. Four companies will be selected from all entrants to pitch their idea to an all-female panel of angel investors for the chance to win $15,000 in funding. The winner will be announced at the event on Wednesday, April 18.

All competing startups must have either a female founder or a C-level executive on their team and be looking to fund a new idea or fill their Seed round. The top four companies — based on innovativeness and viability of startup’s product or service — will be asked to pitch at MITEF’s Geek Tank 5: Presented by Aminta Ventures on April 18th at CIC Miami. At least one woman must be involved in delivering the pitch for each of the four finalist companies.

“Women make up less than 25% of angel investors“ says Alia Mahmoud of Aminta Ventures. “This is a problem because male investors, on average, favor male founders, even though businesses with female executive leadership outperform male-only led organizations. That is why Aminta Ventures is dedicated to creating an environment for female investors to thrive in South Florida and why we're thrilled to partner with MIT Enterprise Forum South Florida on this edition of Geek Tank to encourage more gender diversity in South Florida's investment community.”

The annual Geek Tank is open to the general public. In addition to learning about exciting new startups and gaining insights into how angel investors make funding decisions, this year’s audience -- for the first time in Geek Tank's history -- will get to vote for their favorite startup in the People’s Choice category. The event takes place Wednesday, April 18th, at 6:00pm at CIC Miami.

Register for the Event:

To Apply as a Startup: http://bit.ly/geektank2018 (Deadline March 25)

To Attend the Event: http://bit.ly/2FpccqL

- Submitted by Aminta Ventures

March 07, 2018

Adriana Cisneros joins Knight Foundation board of trustees

Adriana_CisnerosAdriana Cisneros, the Miami-based CEO of global media and real estate group Cisneros, will join the John S. and James L. Knight board of trustees. With the appointment, Knight gets an executive who has played a leading role in supporting Miami’s burgeoning startup ecosystem.

Adriana Cisneros is the third generation to head the family company, with offices throughout Latin America but much of its operations in Miami. Before taking the helm as CEO in 2013, she led the group’s digital strategy and created the company’s three divisions: Cisneros Media, Cisneros Interactive and Cisneros Real Estate.

Cisneros is also active in the Miami entrepreneurship community. She has been the founding co-chair since 2013 of Endeavor Miami, which supports high-impact entrepreneurship. She is also on the advisory board member of coding school Wyncode and accelerator and fund TheVentureCity.

 “Knight Foundation’s support for the arts and entrepreneurship in Miami has been transformative, and the foundation’s work on trust, media and democracy puts it at the center of one of the most important discussions of our time,” said Cisneros, in a statement. “I am honored to be able to contribute to the foundation’s work promoting informed and engaged communities.” 

Cisneros also is president of Fundación Cisneros, the family’s non-profit focused on improving education in Latin America. She is on the boards of the International Academy of Television Arts & Sciences, the Paley Center for Media, MoMA’s Latin American Acquisition Fund, which is dedicated to contemporary art, the University of Miami and Parrot Analytics.

“Adriana Cisneros’ leadership is characterized by innovation, the smart utilization of new technology and a commitment to the communities where her family’s company operates,” said Alberto Ibargüen, Knight Foundation president. “She reflects, in the 21stcentury, the values that guided the Knight brothers as they built a 20th century news company and created Knight Foundation.”

She holds a bachelor’s degree from Columbia University and a master’s degree in journalism from New York University. She is also a graduate of Harvard Business School’s Program for Leadership Development, and is an Aspen Institute Henry Crown Fellow.

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Yes, more, more, more: Magic Leap raises $461 million, primarily from Saudi investors

By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlbergbiz@gmail.com

Magic Leap, the Plantation-based mixed-reality startup, announced Wednesday that it has raised $461 million from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s investment arm, The Public Investment Fund. Magic Leap has raised more than $2.3 billion in funding to date.

 The Saudi Arabian fund contributed $400 million of the raise, which was forecast by Bloomberg.

The additional Series D funding is in addition to a previously reported $502 million funding round led by Singapore’s Temasek in October. The  Series D funding now stands at $963 million, the company says.

 “The Magic Leap team and I are happy to welcome The Public Investment Fund and the other new investors to the Magic Leap family. We look forward to having them join us on our journey to build an amazing future,” CEO Rony Abovitz said in a statement.

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. '

Magic Leap, founded in 2011 by Abovitz, is based in the former Motorola plant space in Plantation. Greater Fort Lauderdale Alliance president and CEO Bob Swindell told the Sun Sentinel that the company already is outgrowing the space and the economic development agency is working with Magic Leap on options.