SFTA – Big Data means Big Money

On Thursday, 9/26/13, the South Florida Technology Alliance (SFTA) hosted an event at the headquarter of Citrix Systems, Inc. titled “Big Data means Big Money“. The event was hosted by Chris Fleck, VP Technology at Citrix, well organized by the SFTA and very well attended. The generous facility at Citrix was 90% full with estimated attendance of about 250 people, far more than any previous SFTA event I had attended over the last two years. This alone sent a message of growth to every attendee. The event was a nice mix of networking over some food and drinks, followed by a moderated panel discussion with four invited panelists, all leaders involved in data-driven businesses. Below are the personal notes I took during the event, mostly the questions and most answers by the panelists. (This is not an official document, any omissions or misrepresentations are my fault.) Enjoy!


  • Panel
    Introduction by Lenni Chesal and moderated by Chris FleckRemembered several prior speakers and SFTA contributors, including:
    Ed Iacobucci
    Brad Feld (author “Startup Communities”)
    Scott Moody
    Dan Cane (Modernizing Medicine)
    John Sculley

    • Zee Aganovic (CEO HiConversion)
    • John Duffy (CEO 3CInteractive)
      “Mobile is the next wave of innovation and growth.”
    • John Ferber (Co-Founder Advertising.com)
      “Although we may not like it, advertising works, particularly retargeting (user has expressed interest before).”
    • Brian Wood (Director Business Intelligence, Office Depot)
      Web analytics, HR analytics, eCommerce analytics (how do we do recommendations?)
      Journey towards personalization capabilities
      Digital marketing helps understanding affiliate traffic, online vs. physical stores, omnichannel
  • Questions
    Suggestion to SFTA: Set up question board at Southfloridatech.org and post answers of the panel speakers for all to see.

    • What was your web epiphany?
      Duffy: working for MCI. Trying to understand what makes people buy. New technology of BBS helped business take off.
      Now mobility can do the same.Ferber: internet would help resolve the problem: “I know half of my ad dollars are wasted, I just don’t know which half.”Zee: don’t have epiphany, more of stepwise evolution. In 1993 felt something coming. Meeting with Ed and seeing application servers helped me start my own business.

      Brian: playing games on BBS when I was 20, that was awesome!
      Now focusing on OmniChannel (integrating all customer channels)

    • How are you using Big Data now?
      Duffy: passbook app on Apple iPhone. We want to manage data of customers in connection with Passbook. We have 130 million unique users.Ferber: Internet marketing is a typical user of big data. Because of never-ending quest to serve the perfect ad. We may not like ads, but it touches almost all of our lives!Zee: Not just how can we collect the data, but also include the time dimensions.
      Wayne Gretzky “Skate to where the puck is going to be”
      Customer behavior is changing all the time; need to predict how they will behave; todays analytics is like driving with looking in the rearview mirror.

      Wood: Can we justify the large spend on ads? How can we improve it further by determining the efficacy of marketing.
      Correlate online and offline behavior of customers!

    • When you need a new printer…
      Duffy: you need business process automation.
      Do you remember your business before the Internet?
      The business was about the same things, but it runs more efficiently with automated processes. Mobile can lead to the next wave of innovationFerber: short and mnemonic URLs help. Printer -> officesupplies.comZee: Buyer needs the right experience (“ambience”) to buy. Every nuance of the site can make a major difference. Human eye catches peripheral elements on the site and processes it subconsciously. If you systematically optimize that you can increase conversion rates drastically.

      Wood: A|B testing constantly; not yet dynamically changing the site. But measuring what works and what doesn’t.

    • When is next sophistication coming?
      When will you see ads for toner (instead of other printers)?Ferber: Retargeting has been shown to be 50x as effective as normal marketing. (Target customers again who have previously expressed interest.)Duffy: Remember the story about Target sending baby item ads to a pregnant high schooler and dad complained, later apologized (Target knew about the pregnancy based on her purchasing behavior before the dad did).
    • How much can be expected from Social Media towards more agility?
      Wood: <complicated longwinded question from audience> “Huh?” We know stock volumes to the minute, so driving towards real-time. Its an ongoing evolution.
    • What item of data is most important for conversions?
      Ferber: What the user has already expressed interest in.Zee: With big data the curtain is down. What works for one business may not work for others. Every customer solution is unique.Duff: Mobile phone number remains the same and may well become the single most important piece of data about a particular customer.
    • What areas can Big Data impact?
      Ferber: Healthcare is big; predicting forest fires, etc. Every industry is going to be impacted.Zee: What’s the new economy? Information about new products is more important than the product itself.
    • How can social circles be reengaged to increase business?
      Duffy: It’s a balancing act between relevancy and annoyance.
      Email was destroyed as a marketing mechanism due to spam.
      Other channels are very careful to avoid that same mistake.
    • What technology platforms do you use?
      Ferber: Redshift from Amazon; everything in the cloud. Much easier to get started.Wood: We have dabbled with a lot of technologies (Redshift, Netezza, Cloudera); we want to increase leverage of the cloud.Zee: Akamai on frontend, backend various technologies
    • Will there be a consolidation of big data providers?
      Ferber: Yes, its a crowded space and like all those spaces when they mature it will shake out.Zee: 2/10 rule of USPS, if people think its going to be great in 2 years, its probably going to get there in 10 years.

Gold Coast Venture Capital Association, Aug-2013 Meeting

On Wednesday, August 28, 2013 the Gold Coast Venture Capital Association (GCVCA) together with the Association for Corporate Growth (ACG), South Florida chapter had organized a meeting in Boca Raton to bring together investors, entrepreneurs and other professionals in their Tru-Life series. Three CEOs presented about their companies, two of them actively seeking funding:

  • Cydec – a next-generation email and ecommerce platform, CEO Brett Fogle
  • Bookt – a SaaS company for the global short-term housing rental market, CEO Rob Kall
  • Feathr – a maker of conference apps for smartphones empowering people, CEO Aidan Augustin

It was a good networking event with about 50 people in attendance. Interestingly, one of the pitches (Feathr) was about how to improve the networking among people at conferences or events just like this via the use of smartphone apps and data-driven recommendations of who you should meet. The cost was a bit high ($65 for non-members), the dinner was so-so, and a few logistical items could have gone better, but overall a useful event to network. Attached below are my notes taken during the presentations.

Meeting Minutes from GCVCA and ACP event Aug-2013 in Boca Raton

Meeting Minutes from GCVCA and ACP event Aug-2013 in Boca Raton

    Link:www.gcvca.org/Gold Coast Venture Capital (GCVCA) and Association for Corporate Growth (ACG) joint event with 3 founder pitches, 2 of them looking for funding.

    Robert Fitts, Trident Global LLC, Director

    Education, Association and Information on entrepreneurial opportunities

    Jim Craig, president of SF chapter of Association of Corporate Growth (ACG)
    Worldwide 15.000 members, mostly M&A transactions

    GCVCA meets the last Wed of every month, next month topic is crowdfunding

    • Agenda
      Event 8/28/13 at Embassy Suites, Boca Raton
      • Bookt
        Bookt is a B2B SaaS company addressing the $85 billion global short-term housing rental market. The firm is founded by a team of seasoned entrepreneurs with previous successful exits in real estate technology. With clients on six continents and exclusive partnerships with travel giants like TripAdvisor and HomeAway, Bookt is looking to increase its already rapid growth rate to become the leading software provider in this exciting industry.
        CEO, Rob Kall will present.

        • Product
          InstaManager = SaaS service for booking and travel industryGrowth of travel industry

          Vacation Rental market is booming, AirBnB

          Short-term rental is disrupting the hotel industry

          Integrated offering as a service

          Uses Big Data and Visualization

          Launched in 2011, now 200 clients around the world

          Acquisition cost $1k, lifetime value LTV $12.5k, annual value $4k

          Addressable market = 50.000 companies

          Mgmt team knows how to scale from prior companies and exits

          Focus on ease of integrating existing data

        • Business Model
          Transaction Based Subscription FeesPartner Rev-shares

          Setup Fees & Pro Services
          (Outsource at $20/h but bill at $100/h)

        • Q&A
          – LiveRez
          – HomeAway
          – Kigo.netSaaS businesses are sticky b/c of the switching pain away from your current solution
      • Cydec
        Cydec is a next-generation email and ecommerce platform that empowers website owners and marketers to make more money, work less, and have more time to work on their business vs. in their business. Cydec offers simple yet powerful tools for processing online sales, email marketing, managing affiliate partner sales, tracking advertising, and business automation. Cydec is a user friendly alternative to the complicated and confusing shopping carts and CRM’s in the marketplace today.
        Brett Fogle, Founder and CEO, will present.Facebook.com/cydecSoftware


        Wasn’t clear to me what technology differentiator and why it would be easier to use.

        • Motto
          Simple. Fast. Easy. Shopping cart solution90% of online businesses fail due to lack of proper tool support

          Costly packages, 9 of 10 users are unhappy with their current solution

          Cydec brings enterprise grade tools at small business prices

          Specialty: Charitable donations at the end of each transaction; goal is to raise $100m for various charities.
          Studies showed that people like to buy from companies who donate to charities.

        • Product
          Integrated CRM systemIncreases conversion rate and reduces abandonment rate

          Allows for automation of routine tasks

          Technology integrates Sales, Email Marketing, Reporting, Ad Tracking, Affiliate Mgmt

          Customized order forms etc.

          Integrating with other SaaS providers like email campaigns, payment providers, etc.

          Subscription based model, 3 tiers, $1000-$3000 per year

        • Q&A
          Who are your competitors?Fusionsoft, got $50m from Goldman, growth 50% YoY, but unpopular with users

          Current annual revenue ~100.000 per year

          Target market 1-25 employees, -$20m annual revenues.

          Goal is to exit by being sold to a larger company like MSFT, Salesforce, SurveyMonkey

      • Feathr
        Conferences are about people; Feathr makes conference apps that put people first. Feathr’s mobile solution helps attendees maximize their time at an event by intelligently suggesting which sessions, companies, and people are most relevant to them and making those connections happens. Our action-oriented user interface simplifies both first contact and post-event follow-up. Simply put, Feathr turns contacts into connections.
        Aidan Augustin, Co-Founder and CEO, will present.

        • Motto
          Dissatisfaction with existing networking by paper business cardsFeathr provides:
          – much easier networking
          – organizing events
          – follow up
          – opp for ads
          – who should I meet!
        • Product
          Feathr Smartphone apps & data analyticsTeam of nine full time

          Business opportunity 1.8m events $263B spend in US

          Key differentiators:
          – clean UI
          – focus on people and connections
          – HOLMES algo suggests who you should meet (machine learning)
          – create value for sponsors

          Revenue model:
          – simple event app $1k
          – multi-event app for $5k

          Path to success
          – measure traction and engagement metrics

          Launched in April-2013, breaking even on monthly run-rate.

          Expand to corporate events and local regional events (like Meetup)

          Increasingly powerful knowledge graph from HOLMES

        • Q&A
          What’s your penetration rate at typical events?
          – 45-50% , more at tech-savvy events – at today’s event we were <10%LinkedIn could be an exit target (to be bought by LI)

Neurons and Networking

On Wednesday, July 24, 2013 there was an evening event at the Max Planck Institute Florida (MPFI) titled “Neurons and Networking“. By now, there are three institutes with a focus on Neuroscience in Jupiter within just a few hundred yards of each other:

This event was co-organized by the above three and Dr. Michael Gregson from the LifeScience-Technology Hub (LST-Hub). There were more than 160 attendees, filling the main auditorium to maximum capacity and spilling over into an overflow room with live video feed. Three scientific talks were given, one from a scientist of each of the above institutions, as well as some context provided by Michael Gregson, Dr. David Fitzpatrick (CEO MPFI) and Rod Murphey. A common theme was the synergy between the labs and researchers of these institutions, literally bringing together a whole that is more than the sum of its parts.

In addition to the presented science, it was an excellent networking event for professionals in the Life Sciences and beyond. Attached below are my notes taken during the lectures.

Meeting Notes from Neuron and Networking Event

Meeting Notes from Neuron and Networking Event

Neurons & Networking
Event 2013/07/24 at MPFI, Scripps, FAU

Introduction by Michael Gregson about the “Trifecta” of Scripps, MPFI, and FAU

Introduction of Max Planck Society by Dr. David Fitzpatrick, CEO MPFI
“Insight precedes application”
-> today’s fundamental understanding leads to tomorrow’s cure of brain disorders
New technologies for imaging neural structure, function, and development

  • Linking Molecules and Memory
    Dr. Ryohei Yasuda

    • Goal
      Is to understand how memory works in the brain at a molecular level.
    • Hippocampus
      Small seahorse shaped structure in our brain vital for memoryFamous case of Henry Molaison (1926-2008) who had hippocampus removed at age 16;
      Could not form any new memories after that, but old memory was not affected.Zoom in to cross section of hippocampus down to neuron levelDendrite and Axons, Spines (connection points)
      – 10,000 spines / neuron,
      – 100,000,000,000 neurons / brain

      Glutamate release at synapse can move electric pulse from one dendrite to another axon
      More releases lead to increase in Glutamate receptors, hence strengthening the synapse.

      Molecular basis of signaling enzymes is very complex.

      Ryohei developed microscope to see inside the synapse formation at spines.

    • Alzheimer’s Disease
      Most common form of dementia,Symptoms include difficulty in remembering recent eventsAt present no cure or preventionIn affected brains there is a high concentration of Beta-Amyloid, which prevents formation of spines.

      Signaling molecule Centaurin is increased; when Centaurin is removed / inhibited, spine formation returns.

      Drugs to remove Centaurin will be tested in mice soon!

      Causes for Centaurin are poorly understood. Some factors for Centaurin increase may be genetically controlled.

  • The NeuroScience of Autism
    Damon Page, graduate at Cambridge, UK, postdoc at Harvard on autismIntroduced by Ron Davis, Director of Department of Neuroscience at Scripps
    “Memory is all you ever really own!”
    Mission is to unravel the mysteries of brain function, identify the causes of brain dysfunction, and train young scientists for research careers in brain health

    • Autism Spectrum Disorder
      ASD has broad impacts in social interaction, communication, repetitive motor sequences and restricted interests. Often linked to a lack of understanding how others are thinking / feeling.4:1 male to female ratio – for unknown reasonsIncreased rate of diagnosis. Partly die to better awareness, but only about half accounted for by that. The other half is part genetic, part environmental.
    • Genetic risk factors
      Autism is one of the most heritable neurological disorders
      The cause of autism is unknown in the majority of cases
      20% of cases are associated with a known genetic risk factorUsually multiple genetic changes come together in any particular ASD case.Study with mice (clean genetic background)Is there a common biological pathway that autism risk factors act in?

      Can we identify symptoms relevant to autism in animal models of risk factors?

    • Research
      What could be called Pharmacogenetics:
      Finding drugs that target genetically controlled disorders.

      • Brain Overgrowth
        Macrocephaly – head and brain enlargementsLinked to gene PTEN (influencing the mTOR pathway)Typically ~20% size increase of brain, w/o increase in body size.
        Number of neuron bodies increase, their size remains about the same.
      • Social Interaction Deficits
        Famous patient Donald T. Book: “Autism’s First Child” on this patientStudy with mice (on how they interact with other mice)Hypothesis: social behavioral deficits can be corrected by targeting one specific serotonin receptor; hyperactive in animals with disorder; if we suppress it, return to normal social behavior.
  • Jupiter Life Science Initiative
    Rod Murphey

    • Neuroscience in Jupiter
      Facilitates recruiting new faculty from FAU
      Energizes research collaborations with Jupiter partners”Connectome” of Jupiter Neuroscience community = Connections between various institutionsAcademic training in Neuroscience at Jupiter
  • From Genes to Drugs
    Ken Dawson-Scully

    • Fruit Fly Model
      The fruit fly as a model system for the discovery of molecules to rescue neural dysfunction and survival from stroke-like injuryInsects can tolerate enormous amounts of stress (high temperatures, low oxygen, oxidative)Fruit Fly is very well understood, entire genome is known, all genes can be expressed or suppressed.
      Can use genetic screens and/or pharmacological screens. (Inhibitors and activators)Fruit flies are quick and cheap to use; once targets are identified, researchers can move up to other organisms like mice.
    • Stress Analysis
      Understand how insects can tolerate prolonged intense stress which humans can’t and what controls the genetic targets of those mechanisms.
    • Translational Science
      Discovery of gene in flyUse of drug for modulating gene targetPatentsTranslate findings to mammals

      Translate treatments to humans

      • Startup Eco Neurologics Inc.
        Eco Neurologics Inc.1. Drug Discovery
        2. Patent Validation
        3. Novel indication Direct to Human Stroke/Reperfusion InjuryCandidate Drug Discovery:
        Reverse Approach via the deconstruction of Sildenafil (compound in Viagra)
        Building from library of natural molecules to improve on viagra for stroke prevention and EDGood example of LST-Hub synergy

SQL Saturday 2013

This saturday Jun-29 I attended the annual SQL Saturday event in South Florida this year on the campus of Nova University. It was a great way to freshen up some SQL and BI skills, network with regional industry professionals and some MVPs and learn about some new technology. It was a free event, with the corresponding array of sponsors present pitching their products and services, as well as a number of recruiters. My estimate is there were about 300-400 attendees. Of the five sessions I attended, I learned a lot in two, two others were ok and one was disappointing. Overall on a scale from 1 – 5, I’d rate the event a 4, somewhere in the middle of the usefulness spectrum. One can probably learn more about the technologies or products from webinars or other free resources on the web. But you can’t replace the networking aspect and directly talking with experts in their respective fields.

There were eleven parallel tracks making for a packed schedule. Below are my notes taken during the sessions I attended.

SQL Saturday Session Notes

SQL Saturday Session Notes

  • SQL Saturday
    1 day event 6/29/2013 at Nova University
  • Resources
    • Books
      • BI in MSFT SharePoint 2013
        iBook for iPad
  • Sessions
    • Keynote: Women in Technology
      Why are women so rare in tech? Myth or Reality.What are some of the stereotypes women face in technology and business?
      – speaking the lingo
      – hanging out with the guys for example after hours or on weekends
      – women second guess themselves more often
      – harassment is still fairly common in the workplace (especially in small companies)
    • Self-Service Visualization w PowerView
      Link:www.sqlant.comAnthony Sammartino, TekPartners BI Solutions

      • Self-service Tools
        IBM Cognos InsightMicrostrategy Visual InsightMicrosoft PowerViewTableau
      • PowerView
        For Server, long list of requirements. Incl. SilverLight 4 or 5 (HTML 5 rumored to be coming)
        For desktop, just Excel 2013
        Data Sources:
        – first just tabular models
        – just recently also multi-dimensional MDX models
      • Demo
        Link:mssalesdemos.comDemo around AdventureWorksFirst get to empty canvas with Sharepoint (see Anthony’s Blog for how to get there)Datasource .bism (BI Semantic Model)Dashboard of sales data with revenues and profits etcKPI measures, hierarchies, drill up & down, hyperlinks,

        Web with geo-coded display (Postal codes) via Bing map – very nice integration

        Scatter-Plot with moving bubbles (run-axis) – here running over time to see bubbles evolve.
        This was like the classic works of Asymco or Hans Rosling

        You can export to PowerPoint and send out .pptx; when played and connected to SharePoint, then interactive visuals!

        Can you export from PowerView to Excel? Not directly, but with a Connect tool from MSFT.

        Import from other datasources (Oracle or others) via SQL Server Analysis Services

    • PowerShell Working with XML and SMO
      Link:www.maxtblog.comMaximo Trinidad, MVP PowerShellNot very aware of surroundings; projector was not adjusted well and cut off left side of screen. Did not adjust to that. Did not use keyboard shortcuts, moved windows around incessantly etc.
      Couldn’t answer some questions; or at least not convincingly (Why use PS instead of .NET?)
      Got lost in error messages of his own examples;

      • Demo
        Importing sample XML file
        Accessing elements in the fileDiscovering members (Get-Member)
        Full access to .NET
      • Tools
        PowerShell Studio 2012 (Sapien)
        (Not very convincing demo, constant moving around of console windows etc.
        Would have been easier to just run things within one console window)
        Apps for iPad as lookup reference for cmdlets and for remote access.
      • Tips
        Use singlequote char ‘ to ignore special chars like $ (which is for variables)
        $xml | get-member | Out-Gridview -> moves results into a gridview window
        Use backquote char ` to continue cmd to the next lineUse Invoke-Sqlcmd method of $SQLQuery cmdlet?Use SMO (SQL Managed Objects) to access data from SQL Server in an object oriented style
        – this can auto-create .xml files and their corresponding .xsd definitions
    • SANless clustering
      Link:sios.comFusion IO and SIOS company

      • Technology
        Link:www.fusionio.com/Enterprise Flash cards up to N TB and very fast links to other servers with that card
        Gives you the power of LAN/SANs without the overhead.
        Customers like Apple (iTunes) and FaceBook run this technology
        Anytime you need fast performance, in particular with SQL dataCards work like an extra harddrive; you can format as RAID.IO turbine = read cache for regular IO from regular SAN or other sources.

        In case of a SQL cluster you would put a card in each physical server ($3900 / host)
        There is also a virtualized product if you are using VMs

        SIOS is the 2nd largest consumer of Flash RAM (after Apple for its mobile devices)

      • Problems
        Often server CPU is idle since data access is the bottleneckServer idleness is the enemy -> use Fusion IO to make data available much faster
        Get data to CPUs – Application Acceleration
        Server consolidation – more workload per server
    • Data Mining with SQL Server 2012
      Link:marktab.net/Mark Tabladillo

      • Resources
        Link:microsoft.com/sqlserverlabsPresentation Pro tool for highlighting mouse pointer
      • Teams
        3 teams who brainstormed an innovation and then pitched it in 3 minutes
        Which innovation, what technology used to build it
        Taught some techniques, such as voting for relative preferences
    • Agile BI with SQL 2012 and TFS 2012
      Mohamed Kabiruddin

      • Agile Manifesto
        People, process, otherMany small iterations ; frequent deliveriesKimball & Agile BI (Margy Ross, President Kimball Group)
      • Approach
        Traditional BI project approach:
        – 6 month cycle, very detailed with lots of data cleansing and ETL etc.Agile approach:
        – obtain set of features
        – put them on your backlog and prioritize them
        – build the first k features in an iteration
        – inspect and repeatSSIS Templates, handy transformations (Pivot, Unpivot, Script Component), avoid async transformations, use balanced data distributor, take advantage of deployment packages
      • Data Vis in SQL 2012
        PowerPivot for Excel. (Personal)
        PowerPivot for SharePoint (Team)
        Analysis Services Tabular
        Analysis Services Multidimensional (Corporate)
      • Demo with TFS 2012
        TFS also comes in a cloud version (less powerful, but free up to 5 users)
        Agile workflow with features, user stories and tasksBoards for both tasks and featuresPower Tools for custom workflow or work-item typesQuestion on modified boards -> answer not knownTFS 2013 new features:
        – Rooms (chat collaboratively with parts of the team)
        – Request feedback from users; sends email with link, feedback session, (didn’t work due to link security permissions not set correctly)

        • Agile Iterations
        • Branch & Merge
          Define splits from main branchView hierarchy of branchesTwo types of merges:
          – normal merge back to main branch
          – baseless merge (both branches do not have main as ancestor)
      • Demo of SSAS & Excel
        Created .bim file in SSASHere use dataset from data.gov about trade between countries
        Geoflow plug-in features of Excel 2013 (overlay data to 3D globe model)Use many-to-1 relationships between country and trade data
      • Balanced Data Distributor
        This component allows you to for example split a data flow of large file up across multiple nodes (say 1/3 of data for each of 3 nodes)
        Short demo of how to set this up

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
          Link:www.modmed.com/130 employees, build iPad apps for doctors, subscription $650 / month
          Doctors’ time is very valuable!
          In Boca
        • eBuilder
          Link:www.e-builder.net/Construction 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
          Link:www.hiconversion.com/Serve 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.

South Florida Emerging Technologies Business Showcase Nov-2012

On 30-Nov-12 the Enterprise Development Company (EDC) had organized an event titled “Emergent Technologies Business Showcase“. It was a full-day event held at the Doubletree Hilton Hotel in Deerfield Beach. The purpose was to bring together entrepreneurs, investors, researchers and technologists for presentations and pitches by 18 regional startup companies and for general networking. This post is a personal recap and includes my notes on each company (Problem, Solution, Demo, Customers, Questions) and the lunch panel discussion.

Disclaimer: The content is not an official or complete listing; all opinions, omissions and mistakes are mine.

Emerging Technology Business Showcase (Mind Map created with iThoughtsHD on iPad)

Emerging Technology Business Showcase (Mind Map created with iThoughtsHD on iPad)


The 18 presentations showed the vibrant technology entrepreneurship in South Florida across industries including Healthcare, Commerce, Media & Advertising, and IT Services. Most businesses leverage the Internet, 
almost all target mobile devices (phones, tablets),
 many with social network integration (Facebook, LinkedIn) and some with location-based elements (GPS). 

Interesting use of technologies such as Microsoft Kinect (mLabs) or use of medical imaging with robotic surgery (Neocis). Some companies build on proprietary technology accumulated over many years, such as Natural Language Processing (LinguaSys), matching rules (University Research and Review) or cyber security rules (SafeMedia). The companies ranged from pre-seed stage startups to more established businesses built on decades of IP and research. The presentation format (12min pitch, 3min Q&A) worked well for this mixed audience (about 100-150 in attendance).

Although I have no experience at this, I pretended to be a VC and listened with the intent to come up with the Top 5 companies I would take a closer look at for potential investments. Most pitches of companies who wanted to raise money included financial projection spreadsheets 3-5 years out. 
I found these projections nearly totally useless, as they are basically wishful thinking souped up with some math. It reminded me of the saying: “It’s better to be approximately right than precisely wrong.” Nobody can accurately predict 3-5 years out in this market, even the size of the market opportunity itself depends on so many assumptions, not to mention the potential for successful innovations and disruptions (like the iPad). I doubt that any early stage investor will pay much attention to these numbers.
Most pitch decks also included a competitor slide with their own product being the only one with all feature checkmarks in its column. While more useful than the financials, it gives an idea as to how seriously the company is following its competitors and how it tries to differentiate itself.

In the B2C space, especially using mobile apps to provide their service, most businesses assume an exponential growth of their customer base. Everyone hopes to become the “next big thing”. Yet we know that human consumer attention is finite and only very few brands are getting some of it. As a result, attention inequality on the Internet is extremely large; a few businesses get nearly all of it and almost everyone else gets hardly any of it. 
My hunch is that, sadly, most of these approaches will never take off. The panelists stated they would consider a 10% success rate of early stage investments a respectable outcome. So which 2 of the 18 pitched here will go on to become wildly successful?

Lunch Panel: How to raise money in this economic climate?

John Duffy, CEO 3Cinteractive
Raj Kulkarni, Investor
  • Richard Licursi, venVelo
Casey Swercheck, Florida Growth Fund, Hamilton Lane


What are you looking for in a startup to fund?
– team with more than an idea, already has done some tangible results
– not so much the “has been there, can do it again”, as often lots of luck involved (right time, right product)
– Angels are typically investing locally; early state investors will be interested more regionally.
– South Florida is big on life sciences
– As entrepreneur you have to expect to fail and set expectations appropriately
– 10% hit rate would be considered successful for Angel Investor!
– Entrepreneur has to be able to deal with uncertainty, to make changes and move on.

How should I think about next round after Angel to Institutional Investors?
– It’s a long dance. Especially in the Life Sciences due to long period until return.
– As entrepreneur you quickly learn to pay attention to failures and to where the money is coming in.

How do you know when it’s not getting done (i.e. time to place leadership)?
– often self-evident, but sometimes pattern of getting turned down for same reasons.
– get a good board which holds the CEO’s feet to the fire; get used to hi level of discipline.

How to arrive at the right level of valuation?
– reason #1 for investors to walk away: Valuation too high.
– can be avoided using convertible notes

What do you see in the next 12 months as growth markets in South Florida?
+ Healthcare (40%, half IT, half services)
+ IT, SaaS businesses (20%)
+ Analytics, Big Data
— less attractive Clean Tech, BioTech, LifeSciences due to FDA approval cycles.
— Institutional investors are making later stage deals, which makes angel investors more important.
– investors tend to stick to what they know, since otherwise they can’t do the due diligence.

What are usual terms for CEO?
– convertible notes could be a good way to go.
– don’t make it too complicated legally; use a template like from Y-combinator

How do you avoid dilution?
– should not be a major concern; better to own 5% of sthg very valuable than 50% of sthg worthless

Long-term implications of crowd-funding?
– good for entrepreneur, perhaps not able to raise large amounts of money.

What is a good management team?
– Have people doing what they are really good at.
– People need to be very passionate about their business and focused on execution.
– Good people management skills.
– Realistic about not having all the answers.
– CEO should know his/her own limitations.

How important is the team of co-founders? (More than one)
– very important to avoid blind spots, complement each other, have constructive discussions
– reduce risk if one founder walks away


  • “If you don’t have more than one person willing to invest, you are probably not ready.”
  • “If you are likely to fail, you might as well have fun doing it.”

”The most important things in a startup are: Management, Management, Management, Market.”
  • “It’s going to take twice as much money and 2-3 times as much time to succeed than you think.”

”Getting their (investors) money is good. Getting their feedback is often even better!”

Detailed Notes (structured for every business in Problem, Solution, Demo, Customers, Questions)

  • Healthcare Industry
    • Neocis
      Industry: Medical Device Manufacturing (Robotic Surgery)
      Robotic guidance for dental implants
      Very high tech approach!

      • Problem
        Surgeons often “fly blind” when drilling for dental implants, resulting in bad fit or failures
      • Solution
        Use CT scan pre-operative,
        Same day hook up tracking arm, robotic arm creates a boundary for surgeon to work inNo manufacturing from model = no delay
        Saves time and $$$
        Relatively cheap HW install, plus implant fee ($350) and annual license fee ($10.000)
      • Demo
        Screen shots and video of system in use
      • Customers
        Big growth potential, annual $4.5b market of dental implants.
        ~1m surgeries per year.
        CT scans as enabling technology are now widely available.
        Good sales & marketing plans, reusing existing channels.
      • Q
        How large is the guide market? Only 5-10% of cases are complicated enough to need guidance.
        Why is timeframe so far out? Relatively quick for a medical device.
    • Kipu Systems
      Cloud-based electronic medical records system developed specifically for addiction treatment centers.

      • Problem
        Existing records keeping systems are often paper-based, hard to manage or search.
        Addiction treatment centers are growing in number and size; FL is a center for them.
        Rather low adoption of EMR (18% in hospitals, 38% in practices)
        Behavioral treatment incompatible with EMR workflow
        Owners a not medical doctors
      • Solution
        Intuitive interface
        Integrates medical and administrative functions
        No need for dedicated IT staff
        Always available (cloud-based)
      • Demo
        Interactive iPad interface.
      • Customers
        Treatment centers in the “neglected industries”
        Detox, substance abuse, behavioral treatment, homeless shelters, etc.
      • Q
        How does this system help with compliance (of patients)?
        – mostly helps facilities and staff, not patients directly.Isn’t a $10k setup fee too much for some small treatment centers?
        – we are willing to work with any client…
        – possibility to move towards subscription-based plansHIPPA compliant?
        – yes in practices, but not certified yet.
  • Technology
    • LinguaSys
      Brian Garr, CEO
      Natural language processing NLP

      • Problem
        Big Data (mostly text) – explosive growth
        Sentiment analysis (Twitter), often in non-English languages
      • Solution
        UnderstandAny to any language possible
        Core asset = ontology built over decades
      • Demo
        Search twitter for “murder ice agent mexico”
        Semantic resolution of ambiguous words (based on ontology) + translation of Spanish tweets
        Ontology is core asset, allows to create rich models faster.
      • Customers
        Fidelity translates stock documents
        Salesforce.com uses it for marketing cloud
        Sweden – forensic company for governments
      • Q
        How protect IP?How comparing to statistical approaches?
    • StadsonTech

      • Problem
        Gap between users & Emergency Services
        Response data for police often missing
        Crime rate is increasing
      • Solution
        HELPN App – creates instant. Link between users and emergency services
        Ack GPS of app user
        Feed audio stream to operator
        Detailed user profile
      • Demo
        Screenshots of emergency services
        From 6-9 min down to 2-4 min
      • Customers
        Mostly college campus (FAU, UM Miami, etc.)
        $3.95 / month subscription per user
      • Q
        How to protect from accidental use?
        On Apple do you require jailbreaking system?
        How long for integration with campus IT? (Integrating with Azure)
        Actual customers right now? (Talking to CTO of FAU right now)
    • mLabs
      • Problem
        Interactive and gesture-based displays for shopping or general information
      • Solution
        Using Kinect controller and virtual touch screen interface
      • Demo
        Awesome Kinect video of touch-less interaction
        Interactive kiosk for real-estate agency property displays controlled by gestures based on Kinect controller.
        V Motion YouTube video showing some sort of virtual DJ rock performance playing virtual drums based on light and gesture control.
      • Customers
        Pre-seed stage. Moving into incubator next week.
        6-8 weeks away from usable products.
      • Q
        What’s main motivator for this technology?
        – it’s to increase interaction and engagement of prospects.
  • Education
    • DormDuels
      • Problem
        Do online contests and have community vote on the candidates
        Banner ads are very unlikely to be clicked.
      • Solution
        Create a platform that monetizes user generated content with branded contests that combine clear brand message with a strong call to action
      • Q
        How do you protect from inappropriate content?
    • University Research and Review
      New “anti-ranking” enrollment lead service for 8000 unranked colleges, generating leads by providing individualized service to enrollees.Founder Joe Schmoke, refreshing perspective on entrepreneurs and investors.

      • Problem
        Many students change majors and/or colleges because they are not sure what they really want to major in.
        College rankings are just lists which are not personalized for the individual student.
      • Solution
        Match-making (Personal College Advisor) based on in-depth interview, college database and matching criteria.
        Suggest 3-5 schools which appear to be the best fit for potential enrollees.
      • Demo
        Target: Build an enterprise value of $100m in 5 years.
        No demo.
      • Customers
        Challenge to generate revenue.
        Licenses (like J.D.Power -> $300m/year)
        Lead Generation (like QuinStreet -> $400m/year)
        More than 15m people think about enrolling each year;
        8000 unranked colleges.
      • Q
  • Media / Advertising
    • Mediamplify
      “The media delivery platform that doesn’t need the satellite”

      • Problem
        How to deliver hidef media content without satellite spaceFor example, if you want to download a YouTube video and stream it into your organization?
      • Solution
        Use cloud-based approach;
        Mediamplify is the hub between content creator and consumer (cable companies, web, mobile)
      • Demo
      • Customers
        DMX Music -> DMX2GO
      • Q
        How to differentiate from Akamai? (Newer technology, Akamai based on obsolete technology? Bridge world between web and cable world.)
    • SafeMedia
      Cyber Security firm, based upon very mature and established technology.

      • Problem
        How to make network and cloud secure?
        Unwanted traffic coming in from or going out to Internet.
      • Solution
        Fully integrated appliance.
        (Didn’t really describe the technology or IP much)
        Detection technologies with protocol and behavior analysis plus AI tables
        Intelligent libraries with over 48.000 rules in place, 30 years of building and IP.
        Fast analysis, attractive GUI (I have not seen it)
        Very high detection rate
      • Demo
        No demo.
        Competitors: HP tipping point, Sourcefire, McAfee
      • Customers
        LexisNexis, various universities, Emerson Electric CompanyEducation is by far the biggest market segment (73%)
      • Q
        What happens with false positives? This solution does not depend on signatures, but on behavior; this leads to lowest rate of false positives.
    • LAZO
      LAZO “Lassos” Customers

      • Problem
        When you drive by outdoor billboards, you need to remember the number and may forget before getting to call them.
        Businesses spend $4000/mo on billboard and may lose actionable prospect
      • Solution
        Use location service of smartphone to find out whee customer is and what billboard they see
        Open app on phone, it displays list of icons, when you tap on them you get details of that ad offer.
        Dynamic updates of ads are possible.Added Content Mgmt System for advertisers.
      • Demo
        Screenshots of phone app, but no demo.
      • Customers
        Companies want ads to be more social and more interactive.
        McDonalds, Verizon, Pepsi, AT&T
        ~1m billboards in the US, ~4m worldwide
      • Q
        Where is this system used and how to scale nationwide?
        – Showcase in SoFla, using ~200 billboards; launching with Staten Island ferry
        (I didn’t catch the scaling answer)
  • Business, IT Services
    • SyncPad

      • Problem
        Realtime collaborative platform for mobile and webHow do you explain a visual concept over a phone?
      • Solution
        App allows WiFi based collaboration
        Using fingers to annotate drawings or slides
        “A picture says more than a thousand words”Whiteboard capacity
        Very efficient Custom server infrastructure built in Erlang
      • Demo
        Presenter highlighted slide content of the presenting laptop from his iPadOriginally paid app, now Freemium model
      • Customers
        First remote whiteboard to market on iPad.IBM, UBS, American Airlines, TriNet, Credit Suisse, etc.
        16000 downloads, 7700 paid downloads
      • Q
        What are the differentiators?
        + server-license allows for use behind firewalls
    • Kairos
      Integrator of facial recognition API technology with time-keeping software

      • Problem
        Lots of inaccuracies in payroll and attendance solutions
      • Solution
        Use of face recognition APIs as biometrics for accurate time keeping systems
        Achieving 99.4% accuracy
      • Demo
      • Customers
        Market is big, airports, government, supermarkets, etc.Partners: ingenico (POS solutions), improvizations, ShiftPlanningCompetitors: Kronos, ADP, Oracle, OmniPerception
      • Q
        Can you integrate with other biometrics?
        – Yes. Secondary level of fingerprinting is available (partner integration)
        What about ROI?
        – big if no other biometric system in place yet (?)
        Any thoughts about extending to mobile payments?
        – PayPal is interested
    • Bimotics
      “Because it’s good to know whats going on in your business”

      • Problem
        No affordable solution exists for small businesses for BI
        Information is located in silos, which makes it difficult to connect the dots.
      • Solution
        Enviro+ is a portal that integrates data from backends such as Salesforce.com
      • Demo
        Sreenshots of solutionLarge SaaS BI market ($3.7b/y in US, part of $12b BI market)Focus on Manufacturing and Wholesale Trade (with high CAGR for BI solutions)
      • Customers
        Subscriptions, support services, affiliate sales, platform offerings
      • Q
    • HulaDrive
      Affordable Cloud Storage at $20 / year for 20GB

      • Problem
      • Solution
      • Demo
        Video with sales pitch, very basic script though, low quality audio.
      • Customers
      • Q
    • LiveNinja

      • Problem
        Untapped niche video-chat (so far used only in erotic sevices) is being discovered for services like
        – yoga
        – singing or musical instrument lessons
        – eLearning
        Today lots of issues around convenience, trust, payments, discoverability, etc.
      • Solution
        Live video-chat monetization platform and marketplaceIntegrated with LinkedIn to obtain qualifications!
      • Demo
        Video with screenshotsBackground photos customized for vertical (such as courtroom for legal advice)
      • Customers
      • Q
        Can you import professional profile from social networks?
        – Yes, in particular LinkedIn and FaceBook.
        Possible to get multiple consultants per account?
        – highly requested feature, in the works.
        Can sessions be recorded?
        – not on provider side (sensitive content)
  • Commerce
    • Indira

      • Problem
        Wedding decor $10-20b annual market often delivers bad products for lots of moneyStuck between old garment world and new Internet eCommerce world
      • Solution
        Deliver couture quality product to brides – brand and options and online
        Not gowns, but accessories. (Eliminates fitting issues)
        Social shopping online
        Lean manufacturing (Toyota system) in India?
      • Demo
        Personal atelier allows color picking and personalization
      • Customers
        $700k raising at present ($430k closed)
      • Q
    • SpendLO
      “Spend low. Spend local.”

      • Problem
        What if you are looking for a service (like a moving company)?
        – Google -> lots of hits, how to tell one from another?
        – AngiesList -> how to trust reviews when both good and bad ones are online?
        All need same info, very frustrating. Should have one description for all contractors who are bidding.Similar to Priceline for airline tickets and hotels?
      • Solution
        Prescreened service professional
        Local help available
        A modified reverse auction (name your price, every bid under that will be considered)
      • Demo
      • Customers
        “In excess of 300 transactions”Seeking $200k for expansion
      • Q
        How do you scale prescreening of contractor (unlike community approach on AngiesList)?
        – best source would be reviews from within my own social network.
    • Bizhappy
      “Where Mobile meets MainStreet”

      • Problem
        Typical customer has ~18 apps for their favorite businesses (hairdresser, dog groomer, liquor store, pizza parlor, dry cleaner, etc.) on their phone.
      • Solution
        Bizhappy is a mobile app that integrates all favorite businesses into one appFor small businesses it creates a platform with fixed fee $599/year to push out notifications to customerrs.
      • Demo
        Screenshots of app with typical info requested by customers such as store hours, gallery, directions, etc.
      • Customers
        Help 27.5m small businesses
        in 2015 1b smart phonesLarge member networks: BNI, Chambers, Groups (like Toastmasters) which make bizhappy scalable
        Resellers: Vistaprint, FedEx, UPS Store, etc.Seeking $2m investment!
      • Q
        How will you get to the brand recognition you need?
        – $1m marketing budget and hope for viral marketingHow different from Groupon (local deals)?
        – main benefit is immediate gratification for small business


Over the last couple of weeks I finished writing the book about my adventure of a lifetime: Panamerican Peaks, cycling from Alaska to Patagonia and climbing the highest mountain of every country along the way. By now I have successfully self-published the book to the Apple bookstore. This post gives a recap of the steps involved in that process, with a focus on the tools, logistics and finally some numbers and sales stats.

Disclaimer: In my personal life I am an avid Apple fan, and this post is heavily biased towards Apple products. In particular, the eBook is only available for the iPad. So the tools and publishing route described below may not be for everybody, but the process and lessons learnt may still be of interest.

Creating Content

The first step is obviously to create, select and edit the content of the book. During the actual trip I…

View original post 1,823 more words

Profitability Analysis

A short 4m30s animation about how to visualize customer and product profitability. Introduces the whale curve concept, how it is created, what it tells us and how it changes as a result of gap analysis to determine the profit potential.

Visualign created PinBoard on PInterest

PInterest is a new and very rapidly growing social media style web service to share images. At this time it’s invite only; you can request an invite at the PInterest website.

Visualign Consulting created a new PinBoard featuring Visualign related Data Visualizations. This makes it easier to get an overview of some of the images and share them with others. For a sample see the Visualign PinBoard below.

Visualign PinBoard of Data Visualizations

Wolfram accepts demonstrations “Design by Visualign”

To promote its new Computable Document Format (CDF), Wolfram Research, the company behind the powerful computing platform Mathematica, has created an online Demonstrations project. Mathematica allows to create dynamic, interactive visualizations. Those models can be packaged as ‘demonstrations’ and embedded in websites. Users can thus interact with the underlying model – leveraging the computational power of Mathematica – through a CDF player, which can be downloaded for free and need to be installed once. (This is similar to Adobe Flash, Microsoft Silverlight or other Plug-In architectures.)

On the official website of the Demonstrations project Wolfram Research invites submissions and provides feedback before deciding whether to publish the submitted demonstration. As of this writing there are some 7600+ demonstrations live, many of them with stunning visualizations in such diverse topics as Systems, Models, Business & Social Systems, Life Sciences, Physical Sciences, and others. For the developer community this is very useful as the source code to all demonstrations is available for download. For the business and scientific community this is useful to get a feel for the kinds of possible models.

We have contributed several visualizations which have been published here. When it comes to the power of interactive, dynamic visualizations, one has to experience them to truly appreciate their impact. It is said that “seeing is believing”. One could go a step further and say “interacting is understanding”. See also our Blog for more on CDF technology.