By Nancy Dahlberg
1 Xendoo, Worthy Financial chosen by fintech peers for grants
Kicking off #MiamiTech news, South Florida female-led fintech startups Xendoo and Worthy Financial were chosen by their peers for grants during Finance Forward US 2019, a two-month fintech accelerator program. Both were deemed “most investment ready” by the cohort's 11 entrepreneurs, who hailed from all over North America.
Each startup will receive $75,000 in grant funding from MetLife Foundation to help them grow and scale their businesses. The accelerator was managed by Village Capital in collaboration with MetLife Foundation and PayPal as part of Finance Forward, a multi-year global coalition supporting early-stage tech entrepreneurs worldwide.
Xendoo, based in Fort Lauderdale and founded and led by Lil Roberts, is a flat-rate subscription service that takes the hassle out of bookkeeping and accounting for small businesses. Xendoo recently raised $3.5 million in venture capital and was also South Florida’s winner of Revolution’s Rise of the Rest pitch competition in 2019.
Worthy Financial is based in Boca Raton and founded and led by Sally Outlaw, a pioneer in the world of crowd-funding. Worthy is a platform for everyday people to lend to impact-driven small businesses, creating a "fairer, more human face of finance," Outlaw says. Worthy offers 5% fixed interest bonds that can be purchased for as little as $10.
“It was an honor to have not only been selected for the program, but then to have been voted by my peers as a top company. Village Capital believes it was the first time two women founders took the top honors - and of course what makes it even more special is that we are two women founders from South Florida," said Outlaw.
About the program, she added: "The program really helped me focus on the most important elements for scaling my company - whether that was determining the critical metrics to track, building the right team for scaling, and even positioning ourselves for an exit. As a founder running things on a day to day basis, it's often hard to stop and take the time you need to get that comprehensive, bird's eye view of your business so this program is terrific for doing that." Worthy ended 2019 with $35 million in sales and has 15 employees.
The companies were chosen for the accelerator because of their potential social impact as well as strong business fundamentals.
"Both Xendoo and Worthy Financial are democratizing access to financial services for small business owners and everyday consumers," said Allie Burns, CEO of Village Capital, in a statement. "Xendoo is making accounting services available for a new generation of business owners, and Worthy Financial is helping people grow a nest egg while supporting Main Street instead of Wall Street. Along with the rest of the cohort, these two companies are developing creative, outside-the-box solutions to improve financial health in the United States."
Adds Marcia Chong Rosado, who manages the Financial Innovation practice for Village Capital, in a tweet: "To have two Florida-based companies participate and be the peer-selected companies shows fintech leadership in the region."
Diversity is at the core of the Finance Forward initiative. 55% of the startups participating in the program had a female founder or co-founder. 55% had a Black and/or Latinx founder, and 73% are headquartered outside of New York, Boston, or San Francisco/Bay Area, where 75% of venture capital is deployed.
The accelerator was part of Finance Forward, a multi-year programs supporting entrepreneurs on four continents who are building tech-enabled solutions to challenges around financial health. Other cohort companies from the Southeast US included Bond.ai, an AI platform for banks with an “Empathy Engine;” EnrichHER, a platform that connects revenue-generating women led businesses and ventures with up to $250K in non-dilutive capital; and Qoins, a financial wellness app that helps consumers pay off their debt faster by combining financial education and automation.
2 WhereBy.Us’s crowdfunding campaign signals expanded focus
WhereBy.Us, the publisher of five-year-old The New Tropic in Miami and four other newsletter brands around the country, has launched an equity crowdfunding campaign to raise money for its expansion, allowing people – not only accredited investors -- to invest with as little as $100.
The crowdfunding campaign, launched on Republic, also signaled an expansion of WhereBy.Us’s business model.
“We’re pretty excited about expanding our offerings based on the past 5 years of learnings at WhereBy.Us. We would love you to join us on our next steps as an organization as we drive impact in our most needed area, activating communities around the world to become more engaged in their causes and cities,” tweeted Chris Adamo, Chief Business Office of Whereby.Us.
What that means is Whereby.Us is opening up to content creators beyond the sites it owns, which include Seattle’s The Evergrey, Orlando’s Pulptown. Portland’s Bridgeliner and The Incline in Pittsburgh, which was acquired last year. The platform it built for use by these sites can now be used by creators of organizations in a wide range of industries, companies and interest groups to build their own media brands. “We started hearing from people around the world who wanted to launch similar brands for their communities, whether those were cities, demographic groups, professional industries, or just a personal interest. That helped us see a bigger opportunity: using our technology and model to empower creators to build their own businesses,” WhereBy.Us said in its campaign.
Creators can use WhereBy.Us’s “business in a box” rather than multiple tools and services as they do now. “We give creators all the tools they need to build a media brand for their community, focused around an email newsletter, and pair those tools with a proven playbook and growing network of other creators and news publishers,” the company said.
WhereBy.Us, founded in 2014 by Chris Sopher, Rebekah Monson and Bruce Pinchbeck, has raised $2.3 million from investors, including Knight Foundation, Miami Angels and Krillion Ventures locally and Jason Calacanis in Silicon Valley. The company was also an early adopter of equity crowdfunding, having used a platform to raise money from the crowd in 2017, too.
Find out more about WhereBy.Us current crowdfunding campaign on Republic here.
3 Black Girl Ventures opens Miami hub
Black Girl Ventures, supported by the Kauffman Foundation, is establishing a chapter in South Florida. The organization aims to give black and brown female founders more access to capital, according to the South Florida Business Journal, which first reported the news.
Lisa Wilkinson, Benita Gordon, Stephanie Jones, Michelle McKoy and LaToya Stirrup will be leading the South Florida chapter, which will offer founders access to coaching, pitching opportunities, funding and connections. “With the launch of the Miami chapter, we are gearing up to make a tremendous impact in the local startup ecosystem,” Wilkinson, the BGV Miami Venture Board lead, told the Business Journal. The chapter will be headquartered at A Space Called Tribe.
4 Applications open for FAU Tech Runway’s Launch Competition
Applications are open for the FAU Tech Runway Launch Competition, dangling $100,000 in cash awards, a year of free co-working space and other perks.
FAU Tech Runway incubates and accelerates early-stage startup companies and winners are invited to join its Venture Program in Boca Rator. According to the organization, “winners frequently, though not exclusively, come from the following research areas: cyber-security, big data analytics, artificial intelligence, machine learning, educational technologies, drone technologies, neuroscience, marine science and ocean engineering, environmental science, healthy aging, and sensing and smart systems.” Past winners and Tech Runway participants include ShipMonk, a South Florida success story.
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