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Rokk3r Labs Nabyl

Charania and Tech
Runways Kim Gramm



There was more than tourism going on this winter season in

South Florida. The Sup-X Startup Expo, a general meeting of
Athenian Venture Partners and the Tomorrow Tour produced
by Comcast NBCUniversal and were attracting
national participants and putting the spotlight on the regions
startup community, angel investors and venture capitalists.
The expo in Fort Lauderdale
had dozens of exhibiting startups
and advice for both investors and
entrepreneurs. Speaker Mark
Volchek, founding partner of Las
Olas Venture Capital, joined the
Mark Volchek
South Florida venture capital
community after co-founding
Higher One (NYSE: ONE). He
gave the following advice for entrepreneurs:
Its tough to go solo. Try to find a co-founder, which gives
you someone to bounce ideas off of and makes a stronger
team to raise money.
Lay out clear goals, such as how much money you need
and why.
People who say no initially can eventually be investors.
Make your company more attractive to investors by seeing
if you can convince someone of stature, like a corporate VP,
to join your team.
Make sure your pitch presentation is perfect no typos.
Have absolute integrity.
Troy Knauss, an experienced angel investor from North
Carolina, gave the following advice and insight for investors:

Dont put all your investments into one company. His

grandfather gave him $100,000, which he put into a wood
composite decking company that went out of business.
Putting $50,000 in a plastic toy company, which he passed
on at the same time, would have generated $5 million.
Diversify by joining an angel fund or network. He now has
45 companies in his personal portfolio.
Keep some of your investing powder dry for every dollar
he writes in the first funding round for a company, he keeps
$2 back for future rounds.
Dont shoot low on returns every company he invests in
needs to have at least a 10 times potential return.


BDEX (, founded by
David Finkelstein (left) and Michael
Aronov, uses more than 70 data
vendors and loads more than 20
billion data sets on U.S. consumers
monthly. This allows businesses to
target particular demographic groups
or find their own customers online.
GasNinjas (,
founded by Barret Hammond and
Brandon Timinsky, is an on-demand
fuel delivery service likened to an
Uber for gas. The app-based
service focuses on dense clusters of
users, such as condo buildings and
business parks, and promises prices
that are the same as at the pump.

UFs David Day and

the EDCs Robert


Athenian Venture Partners started out at Ohio University, but
it has opened an outpost in Fort Lauderdale. Its annual general
meeting came as founder and managing partner Karl Elderkin
was looking to raise a new $75 million fund.
Panel discussion moderator Jane Teague was executive
director of the Enterprise Development Corp., which helps
emerging companies, for 10 years before becoming COO of
the Florida Institute for Commercialization of Public Research
in 2012. The institute leverages a $2 billion statewide research
infrastructure to build spinout companies, including mentoring
and seed capital of up to $500,000 per company, Teague says. It
has funded 48 companies and more than $70 million in capital
has been raised.
Panelist David Day, assistant vice president for Technology
Transfer and the director of the University of Floridas Office
of Technology Licensing, says the university gets over 300
inventions a year out of the faculty and has two incubators. For
investors, theres low-hanging fruit to be found in the state. The
really smart people get here early, he says.
Robert Strandberg, CEO of the Enterprise Development
Corporation, which has offices in Boca Raton, Coral Springs and
Miami, says one advantage for South Florida is that it has great
universities, such as Florida International Universitys School of
Engineering and Computing. The whole U.S. is coming down

to grab these engineers, he says.

The region also has a retired base of experienced
executives who want to give back. Theres a lot more
funding than people realize here, Strandberg says,
noting Magic Leap has raised $1.38 billion and Open
English has raised over $100 million.
Nabyl Charania, CEO and co-founder of Rokk3r
Labs in Miami Beach, says his organization has
looked at over 6,500 ideas and co-built 32 companies
in the last four years. Eighteen have had a second
round of funding.
Florida has an advantage as a gateway for Europe
and Latin America. Moreover, You would be
surprised how many engineers and smart people
want to come from Harvard and the West Coast
when we say we have a condo on South Beach,
Charania says. One of the allures for programmers
to come to Rokk3r is: You dont work on a small
piece of code for Facebook, you get to work on a
real startup and get equity. One Rokk3r co-build,
HYP3R, won the future stadium competition held by
the NFL, the Stanford Graduate School of Business
and TechCrunch.
Kim Gramm, associate vice president for Florida
Atlantic Universitys Tech Runway, says companies
in FAUs program have raised more than $8 million
in funding and have hired an average of five to six
employees, 73 total. Interns get academic credit to
work with startups and mentors have provided 16,000
hours of help about 1,000 per company.
Gramm says a student, Logan Rae, gave her fiance bacon
dipped in chocolate and rolled into rosebuds. People started
raving about them. The concept turned into
and gained attention from USA Today for its gift-wrapped treats.
The Tomorrow
Tour by Comcast
NBCUniversal and
tech news site chose
Miami as one of
only six stops
nationally. We
knew Miami would
be one of those critical cities, says Derek Cooper, vice president
of government affairs and community investment at Comcast,
Florida region.
Keynote speaker Kelly Hoey of CNBC says every area
thats emphasizing startups thinks its more mature than it is.
Miamians may think they have hit the teenage part of the cycle,
but they havent yet. She says entrepreneurs need to do as much
work on studying investors as they do on their business. They
should know what type of companies they like to invest in and
how much is left in their fund. The percentage of companies
that obtain any funding is minuscule like 1 percent, she


Moderator Christopher Sopher and panelists

Jason Ibarra, Pandwe A. Gibson, Juan Pablo
Cappello, Felecia Hatcher

also tremendous opportunity in human

capital, she says. You have people who
are really hungry and tenacious to learn
new things. One of the roles of EcoTech
Visions is to provide training so bluecollar workers can transition into greencollar workers, Gibson says.
One example of the companies at
EcoTech Visions is EarthWare, which
develops utensils that are 95 percent
made out of potatoes and 5 percent soy.
Panelist Juan Pablo Cappello, cofounder of Lab Miami, a co-working
and collaborative workplace
in Wynwood, and Private
Advising Group, a Miami law
firm, says 40 percent of his
firms clients are technology
companies or funds or
businesses that operate in the
venture capital and private
equity/hedge fund arena.
Miami is already a big tech hub
because many Latin American
companies came here during
the tech boom, he says.
Cappello addressed two
critiques about South Florida:
The region has talent and
funding gaps. My view is a Kelly Hoey
lot people dont want to wake

up in the morning to Minneapolis-St.

Paul or Oklahoma City, which are trying
to position themselves as tech hubs, he
says. They would rather be here.
Instead of worrying about the dearth
of top 200 venture capital firms in the
region, startups should engage with the
150 companies that have their Latin
American headquarters here, he says.
We need to fill up the room with the
people who are here all the corporates
rather than bitching about the people who
arent here.

Photos by Mark Haworth Photography

warns. The reality for most people is

you are going to have to bootstrap your
company. You are going to have to use
your savings.
Panelist Jason Ibarra was the lead
organizer of the Miami chapter of Startup
Grind, which is designed to connect
and educate entrepreneurs. He recently
launched, which
combines clinical tools along with
interactive social and gaming technologies
to help members manage recovery from
Panelist Felecia Hatcher, co-founder
of Miamis Code Fever, which helps
underserved minority youth learn to
code and create technology enterprises,
also helped put on the Black Tech Week
conference. There are a lot of investors
looking for diverse opportunities,
including entrepreneurs of color, she
says. Black Tech Week was an easy sell
to get people to visit and the region is
starting to be perceived nationally as a
tech hub.
Panelist Pandwe A. Gibson, founder of
EcoTech Visions in North Miami, which
promotes green-oriented manufacturing,
says South Florida is ground zero for
climate change, which makes it a key
place for green innovation. Theres