The Beat Goes On: What’s Gone Down, What’s Coming Up In Tech, Entrepreneurship

By Nancy Dahlberg
The Miami Herald.

500 Startups wrapped up its inaugural Miami Distro Program on growth marketing with an Investor Night last week, but you’ll be seeing more of the Silicon Valley venture firm.
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“We are here not just to check things out, we are all in. Miami is an important hub for Latin America,” said Christine Tsai, co-founding partner of 500 Startups, who also spoke at Sime MIA last week.

“We have a small team here, it will be growing.”

500 Startups, with investments all over the world and a growing presence in Latin America, is known for its high-volume investing approach. It’s invested in about 1,500 startups, typically putting in $50,000 to $100,000 and doubling down with some of those in future rounds. After bringing its PreMoney conference here in the spring, 500 Startups conducted its Miami Distro program this fall at “Growth marketing is our secret weapon,” Tsai said.

500 Startups Partner Juan Lopez Salaberry explained that the Distro program is all about high-paced experimentation in customer acquisition. 500 Startups flew in mentors in growth marketing throughout the program. The eight selected companies that participated spent three months at this fall. Each received a 500 Startups investment of up to $250,000, which provided a healthy marketing budget to work with during the program. “Mentoring and funding — we think that’s a killing combination,” Salaberry said.

In the presentations during Investor Night, each team highlighted its customer acquisition progress. Most had grown by multiples. The program will be back next fall, said 500’s Distro Partner Susan Su.

These eight companies participated in the Miami Distro program:

–ClutchPrep: Remember the SATs? Or how about organic chem 201? ClutchPrep, based in Miami, is the 21st century Kaplan test-prep meets online distribution meets subscriptions.

–Kairos is a facial analysis technology that interprets human emotions to provide businesses with data and insights to help them better understand their customers and their marketing campaigns. Miami-based Kairos is also an Endeavor company.

–Cinepapaya enables mobile and online movie ticket purchases in 22 emerging markets. The company also offers a B2B suite for movie theatre partners that includes market intelligence and ticket validation.

–MXHero is a multisolution suite for enterprise and small and medium sized businesses that protects company email from hackers, plus makes it easier to find and track attachments. The company provides tools that combine an organization’s email with cloud storage.

–OFI is a B2B procurement platform based out of Bogota selling technology products and “back office” subscriptions to corporations and small and medium sized businesses across Latin America.

–Rocket: In Mexico, only 2 percent of credit card applications to major financial institutions are approved, but with Rocket, this jumps to 40 percent. Rocket helps users apply and be approved for credit cards.

–Shopeando, an e-commerce platform, brings high-quality, nonbranded goods from platforms like Alibaba to millions of customers across Latin America.

–Social Tools is a suite of solutions that enables Agencies and Marketer to run low-cost promotions and contests on Facebook.

Venture Hive, an entrepreneurial education company based in downtown Miami, is accepting applications for its 2016 Winter Accelerator Class.

This competitive accelerator program, sponsored by the Downtown Development Authority and Miami-Dade County, will host 10 selected high-growth businesses.

Each selected startup will receive a 12-week entrepreneurship education program, office space and a $25,000 non-equity grant. This will be Venture Hive’s fourth winter accelerator program. In 2014, Venture Hive received about 400 applicants from more than 40 countries, said Susan Amat, founder and CEO of Venture Hive.

To be selected, applicants must have an innovative web or mobile technology solution applied to the creative industries (art, design, music, photography, etc.), finance, healthcare, hospitality/tourism or trade/logistics solutions. Participating startups must also have initial customers and revenue streams; no more than $500,000 in external funding; and a team of two to four English-speaking founders with complementary backgrounds who will commit to spending the 12 weeks of the program full-time in Venture Hive’s accelerator space in downtown Miami.

Benefits of the program include a $25,000 non-equity grant, a curriculum of highly practical workshops and training sessions, free dedicated space in its collaborative offices in downtown Miami for six months, mentoring from a vetted network of local, national and international entrepreneurs and experts, exposure to qualified investors and a Demo Day. The Venture Hive Winter Accelerator class will run from Feb. 29 to May 20. Applications for the class will be accepted through Jan. 15. Selected companies will be announced on Jan. 28. Apply at

Where are spaces to co-work or incubate my startup? Where can I find a mentor? Where can I find funding? Where is a list of events? Where can I find tech talent?

These are questions that a new online guide aims to answer — and will help entrepreneurs both within the community and from other places around the world to navigate Miami’s emerging startup ecosystem.

The New Tropic is publishing the guide, with financial backing from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. The guide, at the website, is designed to help entrepreneurs, investors, job-seekers and others interested in the city’s startup growth.

The guide contains sections on community, funding, talent, training, spaces and people. It includes video interviews with startup leaders and an events section. Chris Sopher, CEO at The New Tropic. called “a starting place for Miamians to know what’s happening and who’s doing it, and we’re looking forward to growing and evolving it in the coming months with the help of the community.”

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