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Fundraising startup businesses in Miami

Guanchez, Elias. Miami, FL. Refresh Miami. 2014.

Guanchez, Elias. Miami, FL. Refresh Miami. 2014.

By Rebekkah Mar

When people think of startup businesses that have a focus and foundation in technology, they rarely mention the city of Miami. Silicon Valley, the technology hub in California, inevitably and historically receives the main focus. However, that is no longer true.  With the leadership of Brian Breslin and Peter Martinez, co-founders of the startup organization “Refresh Miami,” they have made it their goal to bring to Miami the attention that it deserves. The startup organization hosted the first of their summer series events titled “Startup Fundraising in Miami” on Thursday, May 29th at the Miami Science Museum. Sponsored by Wyncode and moderated by Carlos Garcia, CEO and Founder of Nobox, the event featured a panel discussion with successful business leaders imparting their success stories and advice to eager upcoming entrepreneurs in the audience. The panel included Juan Pablo Cappello, founder of the Private Advising Group P.A as well as an investor in over twenty five startups, Richard Lent, General Partner, Founder of TEN and involved in Thesis Ventures, Will Weinraub, Founder and CEO of Live Ninja which has successfully raised over $1 million, Rodolfo Saccoman, Founder and CEO of AdMobilize and has also raised $2 Million, and Jose Vargas, Founder of and People Fund.

The audience ranged from college students to people just starting businesses to already experienced business leaders willing to learn more to improve their company. Josh Donath, a college student studying finance at Pace University stated, “I’m here to learn as much as I can, to see what advice I can get, and to network with people. ” His motives were quite similar to Sanjeet Koppikar, a University of Miami employee for the IT department. “My goal is to find out how I can get my initial funding to scale my business, my business idea.”

As the panel discussion answered many questions regarding the complexity of starting a business, they focused on the biggest concern, how to raise money in Miami. Since nine out of ten startups fail, the speakers stressed three main attributes: passion, time, and thick skin. They also addressed the question whether one needs to travel for capital. Lent stated, “[Miami] probably has the highest concentration of financial angels who are sitting on the sidelines. The challenge for everyone in the room is how can you get the capital, a slice of the capital, on the playing field.  If we are going to be successful as an ecosystem in the next two or three years, we have to get some of the money off of the sidelines.” They discussed how investing is a different process for everyone. There are no rules and no manual, but it is definitely possible to raise capital. To succeed, “You need guts. It’s difficult. You have to sell 24/7 and it gets very exhausting, but have to keep pushing,” said Saccoman. “You have to trick your mind and soul and not hear the naysayers…Be true to yourself and vision, don’t sell out.” Each speaker also mentioned the importance of picking the right investor for the company. “Best investors are entrepreneurs. I want someone who knows what I’m going through. Also someone that you can get a beer with,” stated Weinraub. With that advice, the men added how a good lawyer is imperative and stressed the importance of reading.

The success and stories of the night emphasized the fact that businesses in Miami can still thrive and succeed as much as startups in California. “The goal of Refresh Miami is to inspire and teach the community here how to make their startups real. It’s doable and possible in Miami. These guys have done it!” claimed Co-Founder Brian Breslin. “You can start a successful company anywhere,” said Weinraub as the discussion was wrapping up. “It’s an interesting time to raise money. There’s a lot of opportunity that never existed before because investors don’t necessarily say that is has to be in New York or San Francisco.”  Prior to commencing the panel discussion, Breslin stated, “We’ll never be Silicon Valley because they have a forty year head start, but we don’t need to be Silicon Valley. We just need to be the best Miami.”


About Rebekkah Mar

A graduate from Westminster Christian School located in Dade County. Was the student writer for WCS online newsletter, “The Beat,” and assistant editor of the school’s yearbook, “The Beacon". Founder, editor-in-chief, and editorial writer for the newspaper, “The Warrior”. She has done internships at 90.9 Life FM Radio and Media Relations Group (MRG). Writes for St. Thomas Lutheran Church’s newsletter under the column, “Youth Perspective”. This year, she was the the recipient of The Burger King Scholarship, Westminster's Outstanding Senior Award, Westminster's Warrior Award for Leadership, and the De la Rua Family Endowment for Courage. She is also the nominee of the Emma Bowen Journalism Work study. Rebekkah is now studying Telecommunications within the College of Journalism at the University of Florida and is a staff member of UF's "Sparks Magazine."