By Nancy Dahlberg
Xendoo wins Rise of the Rest $100K pitch competition and more highlights from the daylong visit.
Miami is “poised for takeoff” as a global startup city as long as everyone doubles down and continues making the entrepreneurial ecosystem a priority, said Revolution’s Steve Case on Thursday, as the bright red “Rise of the Rest” bus rolled through town on Thursday.
“The progress is impressive, the sense of momentum and possibility is encouraging, the stories of the entrepreneurs we’ve heard are inspiring -- it’s all the makings of South Florida continuing to rise as a global startup city, but it’s not going to happen overnight,” said Case, the founder of AOL who now runs Revolution, an investment company that seeks opportunities outside Silicon Valley. In an interview on the bus, he added: “It takes being patient and sticking with it and recognizing this is a moment – seize the moment. Can you accelerate a little bit more, can you collaborate a little bit more, can you invest a little bit more?”
Case and the Revolution team believe great entrepreneurs can be found anywhere. Revolution’s $150 million Rise of the Rest Seed Fund has invested in more than 115 startups; Miami ed-tech startup Caribu became a Revolution portfolio company last year. About a third of its investments are women- or minority-led companies, much better than the industry average but not good enough, Case said. The Rise of the Rest bus tours are one way to meet entrepreneurs where they are.
Miami was the fourth stop on Rise of the Rest’s Florida and Puerto Rico tour, following visits to Orlando, the Space Coast and the Tampa Bay area. In all, the Rise of the Rest bus has rolled through 42 U.S. cities since 2014, seeking to showcase the emerging entrepreneurial communities. The 12-hour Miami visit culminated in a $100K pitch competition at the Citadel in Little Haiti, with a huge crowd cheering the entrepreneurs on.
Drum roll, please
Xendoo co-founder Lil Roberts took home the big check on Thursday, receiving a $100,000 investment from Revolution. Fort Lauderdale-based Xendoo, also last year’s big winner at eMerge Americas, provides a cloud-based, flat-rate monthly subscription for providing bookkeeping and accounting to small businesses.
"Through our desktop portal and our mobile app, our customers have their monthly reports, their tax returns, and access to their accounting team all in the palm of their hand when they need it," she pitched.
With a seasoned team, early traction (20% month-over-month growth) and an addressable U.S marketplace of 28 million small businesses, Roberts is seeking to raise $2.5 million in investment to grow her company, she said.
In receiving the top award, Roberts thanked eMerge Americas for its support and mentorship as well as Rise of the Rest for shining the spotlight on the region.
Other finalists were:
- Caribshopper, a shopping platform for Caribbean consumers, pitched by CEO Kadion Preston;
- Deepblocks, providing an AI-driven solution for the real estate industry, pitched by CEO Olivia Ramos;
- DermaSensor, a medical device to detect risk of skin cancer, pitched by CEO Cody Simmons;
- Epica, a prediction as a service platform, pitched by CEO Hernan Rodriguez;
- Imalac, a device for improving the breast pumping experience, pitched by Rachel Kish, COO;
- Luxe Fête Social, which provides a dinner party in a box platform, pitched by CEO Nathalie Cadet-James;
- OBE Power, which provides an EV vehicle charging service, pitched by CEO Alejandro Burgana.
The day started with a community breakfast at the Freedom Tower at Miami Dade College that attracted a who’s of business and government leaders, including Mayor Francis Suarez, Miami Dade College President Eduardo Padron and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.
From there, the Rise of the Rest bus traveled to NAP of the Americas and Miami Dade College’s MAGIC center, where entrepreneurs from the Idea Center shared their stories and Rise of the Rest took some turns demoing Magic Leap’s product. At a lunch aboard a boat (hosted by Boatsetter) in honor of female founders and community leaders, Jean Case, CEO of the Case Foundation and author of Be Fearless, advised companies to be intentionally inclusive. Research has definitively shown that diverse teams outpermorm their counterparts, she said.
The tour resumed with a stop at the coding school Wyncode, where students shared emotional stories about how learning to code turned their lives around. Then the bus headed to Overtown’s A Space Called Tribe, a co-working space for entrepreneurs of color, where Danie Spikes, founder of the beauty startup Beloved, spoke of the difficulties of starting a business being female, black and living in Florida – “a trifecta,” she said.
For the 12-hour visit, not a moment was wasted. Entrepreneurs hopped on the bus between stops to share their stories (Oh, Hello, Chargello. Those were some yummy, healthy snacks, Elma Farms) with the Rise of the Rest team, including Rise of the Rest Seed Fund Partners Mary Grove and David Hall and investor Sheila Johnson, co-founder of Black Entertainment Television. Miami startup leaders on the bus included eMerge Americas CEO Felice Gorordo and President Melissa Medina, Knight Foundation’s Miami Program Director Raul Moas, Endeavor Managing Director Laura Maydon, Chewy co-founder Ryan Cohen; and Magic Leap SVP of People Carlos Penzini Granier, among others.
The success of Chewy and the momentum and visibility of Magic Leap has clearly helped lift Miami, said Case. “It leaves venture capitalists sitting in Silicon Valley saying what the heck is going on in South Florida?”
Still, he said, the data tells a different story. The Sunshine State won’t ever be the Startup State as long as it is only luring less than 2% of venture capital. Indeed, 75% of venture capital goes to California, New York and Massachusetts, and that is one of the key reasons Rise of the Rest was born.
Case praised Miami for being one of the U.S’s most inclusive startup cities and also highly collaborative. “I love the diversity of the entrepreneurs, with half coming from somewhere else, but it still needs more capital and story telling is so important. There is a lot of positive news, a lot positive trends but there’s still work to be done.”
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