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Dreams Fly High at Venture Hive: The Hidden Treasure of Miami’s Startup Scene

venturehiveLast Friday was demo day at Miami’s startup accelerator Venture Hive. This was the opportunity for the companies in the program to present to potential investors and other influential people in the South Florida business community. For me, Friday represented the culmination of three months of my first role as a mentor on a startup accelerator program. While watching the presentations and trying to revisit all the wonderful memories and experiences of the last few months, I couldn’t avoid but feeling very proud of having had the opportunity to contribute to such an important program to help build the startup community in South Florida.

12 weeks I was introduced to Dr. Susan Amat by my great friend David Walsh was crazy enough to propose me as a mentor for the Venture Hive program. I was very hesitant for the obvious reasons: I didn’t know if I have a lot to contribute in terms of experience to the new companies and I my time was very constrained running KidoZen and Tellago. However, after talking to Susan for a few minutes I was completely dazzled by her passion and big dreams to transform a city known mostly as a touristic spot into a startup hub for the South East of the US and Latin America. To this day, I would never forget David’s description of Susan “Jesus, you really need to meet this person” he said “because she is the only person I know who has more energy than you” J and he was completely right. After meeting Susan and her team, I didn’t know exactly how but I knew I wanted to help.

The rest is history, for 12 weeks I had the privilege of mentoring NightPro: a company that is disrupting the nightlife event management scene and which platform is being used by some of the most prestigious clubs in the world. The founders: Juan and Francisco are the core of a super talented team that never seems to stop working and have managed to capture a segment of the market which has escape to the powerhouses in the space like EventBrite or TicketFly. Week after week I worked with that team trying to help in the few areas I knew I could contribute such as technology readiness, raising capital, strategic alliances, etc. Even when I was traveling all over the world, we managed to have online meetings at 3am to make sure I stay on the loop on NightPro’s current activities.

During my time at Venture Hive, I witnessed the evolution of the different teams from small technical solutions or ideas to companies with an structured vision, execution plan and, in some cases, sophisticated technology solutions.

Living in a highly competitive environment, it’s gratifying to see how the different startups managed to compete and yet collaborate intensively in order to make everyone better. That’s the secret of Venture Hive: everyone pulling together to achieve a bigger dream. Obviously, a lot of the startups in the program are going to fail but as long as some of them succeed (and they will) Susan’s dream will continue on and Miami will be able to open its doors to those entrepreneurs from the South East of the US and Latin-America that are dreaming to change the world.

 
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Posted by on April 22, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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Passion Sells: How a Tour Guide Convinced Me To Go Hang Gliding in the Middle of a Thunder Storm

I was chatting with a good friend over dinner about the influence that passion can have on how people approach different situation. During the conversation, I used of a good story that I thought would be worth a blog post. The story takes place in Rio de Janeiro and involves a tour guide named Pedro.

Last year, I traveled to Brazil to speak at a Cloud Computing conference in Sao Paulo. I was really exhausted during the days prior to the conference and I decided to spend a weekend in Rio de Janeiro to try to rest and unwind a little bit. The trip to Rio was particularly enticing because, in addition to its many touristic attractions, it just happen to be a city on which I didn’t know anybody which makes it a perfect spot for an adventure ;)

Decided to have a memorable weekend, I booked a hang gliding flight the minute I walked into the hotel. However, the weather that morning turned out to be really stormy and I had to move the hang gliding flight to the afternoon. With an entire morning at my disposal, I decided I wanted to visit some of Rio’s most famous attractions. The concierge at the hotel recommended that I use a tour guide so that I could get a more detailed explanation of the different places in the city: that’s how I met Pedro.

Since the very beginning Pedro was determined to make my Rio tour experience a memorable one. He displayed not only an encyclopedic knowledge of Brazilian history but a contagious passion about Rio that made him really popular within touristic venues of the city. Everywhere we go, people seem to know Pedro. He threw my tour guide away and decided to show me the “real Rio”, the places where the locals hang out ;)

After a few hours, the weather hadn’t gotten any better but Pedro insisted I should do the hang gliding flight because it was one of the best experiences in Rio. At the end, he joked, “tropical weather changes every minute”, right ;). Moved by his passion, I decided to go for it and, before I knew it, I was jumping off a cliff with an instructor in the middle of really dark clouds and a small thunder storm ;) I cant say that the flight was the best but definitely the most memorable one ;)

In the next few days, I found myself using Pedro’s services more and more often to go to different places in the city. His passion about Rio and willingness to go the extra mile to provide an excellent service make every trip a remarkable experience.

I’ve traveled to many countries since that trip to Rio and I have used many tour guides but I’ve never seen anybody that displayed such a passion for a particular city like I saw in Pedro. Since then, I like to use Pedro as a great example of how passion can make the difference between a good experience and a great one.

As a startup founder, always remember to communicate your passion for your products, employees, problem you are trying to solve, customers and some of the key elements of your company. Passion never goes unnoticed and most times is really contagious and can inspire people to do great things.

 
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Posted by on August 2, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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Startup Moneyball: Talent, Passion, Experience, Perspective, Work Ethic

Hiring a great team is one of the most difficult aspects of a technology startup. However, attracting the right people is not nearly as difficult as building an environment on which their talents can blossom and contribute to the company. Despite the hundreds of books written about team building, I still think there is no magic formula for assembling a great team. Having said that, I think the quickest path to build a spectacular team is to simply hire great people.

When thinking about the mechanics of building a great team, I can’t avoid tracing the parallel to the moneyball science. In its 2004 book Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game, bestselling author Michael Lewis tell us the story of how the Oakland Athletics(OA) General Manager Billy Bean and a group of baseball enthusiasts applied an accounting method for assembling a baseball team. As a result, with a very small budget and using underrated players, the OA were able to win as many games as the top franchises and even make the playoffs.

While the moneyball science is based on factoring baseball elements such as home runs, stolen bases, hits, etc in a the software startup world we can apply a similar formula to build a great team. In my experience, a great team in a small software startup is a combination of factors such as talent, experience, passion, perspective and work ethic.

Even though is not an exact formula, you can use the following equation to relate to a great team.

Startup Team= %Talent + %Experience + % Perspective + %Passion + %Work Ethic

As a startup CEO, your job is not only to find the right combination of the aforementioned factors but to provide an environment on which they can nurture and applied to the productivity of the overall team. Let’s think about each factor individually.

Talent

In order to be successful, it is key for a startup to attract the right groups of talent. Whether you are referring to great programmers, analysts or business development people, having a uniquely talented staff will allow you to efficiently execute in your specific products or strategies.

How to nurture talent? : Skill is the natural complement of talent and the best way to nurture it. As a startup founder, make sure you are providing an environment and culture and that allows your team to acquire new skills to improve their talents. A classic example is facilitating your best programmers (talent) to learn and apply a new programming language (skill).

Experience

Regardless of how talented you are, there are things that manifest itself throug experience. Having experienced folks in staff helps the team to avoid common mistakes and to focus on the things that really matter.

How to nurture experience? : The best way to nurture experience is to surround your team with the right group of advisors that will help guide them through specific decisions. In that dynamic, the less experienced team members will quickly be exposed to a new pool of wisdom based on the experiences of the other folks.

Perspective

Talent and experience are not everything. When facing specific circumstances, there are people that have the ability of thinking outside the box and trace parallels to examples of different industries, different times in history or complete different subjects. I like to refer to that skill as perspective and, arguably, is the hardest talent to find and nurture in startup

How to nurture perspective? : Knowledge is the natural ingredient to broaden people’s perspective. Some people acquire knowledge by reading books, others prefer to constantly talk or interact with more experienced people, other prefers to travel, etc. Regardless of the method you use, providing the right channels to acquire more knowledge will broaden the different perspectives from which your team can assess a particular situation.

Passion

Passion fuels all the other aspects of a startup. Being passionate about a problem, a product or a specific goal will make people go to the extra mile to accomplish a specific objective. Differently from talent, experience and perspective; passion is highly contagious and it quickly changes people’s attitude towards a specific circumstances.

How to nurture passion? : Passion nurtures itself. As a startup founder, make sure you are giving your most passionate people the right space to leverage their talents and to influence the rest of the team. Also make sure you are getting rid of all obstacles that can affect your team’s passions.

Work Ethic

You can’t build a successful software business working 8 hrs a day, it just doesn’t happen. Having a strong work ethic, making the right sacrifices and being a team player are essential ingredients to succeed as a software startup.

How to nurture work ethic? : Lead by example! Make sure your most hardworking people have the opportunity to mentor and influence the rest of the team. From time to time, I find it useful to run a few sprints and fight a few fires that test and train the work ethics of the team.

 
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Posted by on June 19, 2012 in entrepreneurship, startups

 

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