“You said you had paying customers, and that is a big deal, that’s a very important piece,” he told Grundy, noting that he has seen five other businesses in the same space this year. The important thing, he told Grundy, is to make the case on why I should invest in you over everyone else. “I think good innovation will always be funded,” Kislak said.
Tea with the Master
The event ended with “Tea with the Master” — Manny Medina, the Terremark Worldwide founder and tech investor who is bringing a major technology conference here in 2014. Every healthy tech ecosystem needs four elements: Education, strong incubators, a viable funding mechanism, and an institutional employment base, he said.
The day before, at Incubate Miami’s event, ways to nurture the ecosystem and bring entrepreneurs and investors together were also key themes. As he introduced the first company at DemoDay, Incubate Miami co-founder Marc Billings explained that the Miami accelerator is a 90-day boot camp for startups and is graduating its fourth class of passionate and driven entrepreneurs. “The entrepreneur bug, once it’s inside you it just won’t leave you,” Billings said.
The six tech companies represented a diverse cross-section of industries, including healthcare, crowdfunding, real estate and entertainment. Some, like RentJiffy and Kipu Systems, already have customers and are bringing in significant revenues. Most of the entrepreneurs — such as John Suarez, of iCare Intelligence, and David Cohn, of ExtendEvent — have significant experience in their industries and are doing beta testing. Two of the startups represent net gains for Miami: Founder Jonathan Addison is moving RentJiffy to Miami from Washington and CEO Gonzalo Funes is moving his company, Regalos y Amigos, from Argentina to Miami. They were all seeking seed funding — for instance, Adriana Vizcarrondo said PearFunds is seeking $350,000 “to finish development of the remaining 20 percent of our platform, set up the legal framework, and execute the pilot.”
After the presentations, there were lots of introductions made, cards exchanged, appointments booked. And for all the startups, as well as many entrepreneurs in the audience, this is just the start of their journeys and they will need continued support, said Kristen McLean, CEO of Bookigee, which has developed analytical tools to help bring the book-publishing industry into the digital age. McLean, who was in Incubate’s 2011 class and who has since closed an angel round of $450,000 of funding, issued a call to action to the audience: “I want everyone in this room to commit to supporting this scene as we grow. ... To the mentors in the room, I want you guys to continue to be generous. I want funders to really commit to funding an early stage team here.”
Gerard Roy, Incubate’s program director, moved from Silicon Valley five months ago and said he instantly liked the startup culture brewing here. “Honestly, it’s beginning to feel a little like San Francisco.”
Innovate MIA week, which involves seven events, continues Saturday with HackDay, with a $50,000 cash prize. Next week, there are events that shine a light on Miami’s connection to the Americas, including a Wayra DemoDay and culminating in Florida International University’s Americas Venture Capital Conference next Thursday and Friday.
For more entrepreneurship news, follow Nancy Dahlberg on Twitter @ndahlberg