South Florida Technology CEO Business Outlook

On June 20, 2013 the South Florida Technology Alliance (SFTA) had organized a networking event and panel discussion with four CEOs of regional technology businesses. The moderator asked various questions about the state of the economy, the challenges of starting and growing a new company, especially around financing. The regional aspects of PR and overcoming the notion that Florida is only suitable for retirees was highlighted. As a region we face the challenge of creating critical mass for the number of technology employers to attract talent to the region. Lastly, the challenges of overcoming the initial hurdle to attract customers and generate a revenue stream was emphasized. Once companies get over that initial hump, there seems to be no shortage of funds they can attract, in particular from private investors (FL ranks 3rd in the nation for states in angel investor money.)

Topics discussed during SFTA CEO Technology Business Outlook event Jun-20, 2013

Topics discussed during SFTA CEO Technology Business Outlook event Jun-20, 2013

Detailed Notes:

  • SFTA

    • CEO Business Outlook
      Date: 6/20/13; Location: Embassy Suites, Boca Raton, FL

      • Panel
        Rob Strandberg, Enterprise Development Corporation
        Daniel Cane, Modernizing Medicine
        Ron Antevy, eBuilder
        Dr. Zee Aganovic, HiConversion

        • Enterprise Development Corporation

        • Modernizing Medicine
 employees, build iPad apps for doctors, subscription $650 / month
          Doctors’ time is very valuable!
          In Boca
        • eBuilder
 Management Software for facility owner
          (Hospital, gov’t entity, school, etc.)
          Control and transparency for building / construction projects (lots of money to be saved)
          I Plantation, since 17 years, continued to grow
        • HiConversion
 companies to sell products online,
          Use machine learning to optimize profits
      • Questions
        • What keeps technology CEO awake at night?
        • Are companies investing in technology now?
          Cash flow is easing a bit, approval is not as tight anymore,
          But you still need to show string ROI and proven solutioneBuilder was growing through recession; mostly due to improved efficiencies (do more with less). Purse strings are opening up a little now.

          Selling is never easy; referrals are very important.

          EDC deals with startups; corporate US is reducing their budgets, but increased activity in M&A (-> exit strategy for startups)

        • What tips do you have to raise money?
          Obama administration passed the Jobs act, which included the “IPO on ramp”
          It allows companies below a certain size to go public without SOX which saves lots of time and money.If you’re good, execute well, have customer base, then investors will find you and you’ll get approached. There is a lot of money out there.

          “Once you are successful, the money goes after you.”

          Last few years, it was very hard and VC market dried up.

          Risk of next bubble due to too much money chasing few ideas & companies.

        • What major incentives do you have this year?
          Focus on many little things is important as well.
          “It’s all about execution!”Getting over the startup hump to create trailing revenue is very hard.
          But once you”re there, a lot of money is on the sidelines ready to come in.

          De-identifying data on iPad, moving into Big Data, giving it back to doctors who know best what to do with that data. (Daniel Cane)

          Angel investors are returning between 20-50% annual returns!
          AngelSoft or Gust (investment platforms)
          3rd largest state for Angel startups in US is FL.

        • What one decision was key for you?
          eBuilder: We stared to focus on one vertical (hospitals). Began high growth of the business due to domination of this narrow market.
          “We became students of our sales process.” That’s what allowed us to grow more rapidly.HiConversion: We focused on one marketplace with few, but powerful customers. That way we became a big fish in a small pond. Required discipline not to try to go after very large pond.

          Modernizing Medicine: “You always hire people smarter than yourself.” Realization that one can’t pull this off on your own.

          EDC: track down the smartest people you can find, especially for the management team.

        • Biggest challenge you have in 2013?
          EDC: FL has large pool of private investors. Challenge is to get them to understand the potential of startups.MM: We lose the reputation race in SoFla. People think of FL as a place for retirement. We can’t win this fight alone; instead a rising tide lifts all boats.
          We need to do more to raise the profile of FL at the national level.
          “FL is more than Mickey Mouse and oranges.”

          eBuilder: Hiring 25-30 people in 2013.

          HiConversion: People, people, people. Shortage of talent. US needs to open up H1B visa again. Otherwise technical talent falls short.

          Education needs to improve. We also need to defend the quality of our universities. Help universities.

        • One marketing tip to offer for companies?
          EDC: Often the first inflection point is to land that first customer. Invest in personal relationships. Get out the and work with your customers.MM: You have to sell yourself as much as your product. Turn your customer into an advocate. Make them work with you and want you to succeed. Have them share in your success.
          People like to be respected; reach out to your customers (such as calling them after a sale) and you’ll reap big rewards later.

          eB: we have done a mini road trip around the country to get together with companies about how to better do business with them. Don’t blast them with standard marketing material, but customize it for them and engage with them on a common journey you can both learn from.

          HiC: Try to reach a state where you earn referral business from very satisfied customers.

        • Is M&A a good way forward?
          Companies merge for three reasons:
          – install base / customers
          – IP portfolio
          – employeesYou need to have all three legs of that stool. If it’s not a good fit, M&A doesn’t make much sense.

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