3 Reasons Miami will be “Silicon Beach”

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I think Miami is destined to be the next “Silicon Beach”.  Yes, that’s right the next Silicon Valley is right here in the warm and beautiful Miami, FL.  South Florida’s multicultural offering and proximity to the Caribbean and Latin America creates a unique position for the city to be a domestic and international tech hub.

Last week, my company CONCIERGEpad had the privilege to participate in the emerge Americas conference as a showcase startup (see picture of our booth).  It was a great experience indeed but what really impressed me was the tech movement and community right here in Miami.  In fact, a new study shows that South Florida is No. 1  in U.S. in startup activity.  You can read the article that was written in the Miami Herald here: http://www.miamiherald.com/news/business/article151189417.html  It’s incredible that I have been in the tech business now for 14 years and I was not privy to all the resources and tech talent in my own backyard.  Below are 3 reasons why there has been such a trans-formative movement in what I will call the: “The Miami Tech Scene”.

1) Venture HIVE (http://venturehive.com)

Man! This place is really cool and oozes entrepreneurship.  When you enter the venue you can appreciate the great working environment and culture that exists (See pics below).  The layout of the place includes spacious working areas and conference rooms throughout.  The venue also has a Microsoft Innovation Center, which is really inspiring and to learn that Microsoft has their brand attached to this place is impressive.  The founder of Venture HIVE has a passion for entrepreneurship and it really permeates through the entire building.

A couple of weeks ago, I had the opportunity to attend a special bootcamp they administered and it was again a great experience.  What I am really proud about was the amount of entrepreneurs I met that are doing really good things in Miami.  There is a lot of talent within the city and it’s awesome to see how many good companies are flourishing and executing on well thought out business models, etc.

 

2) emerge Americas Conference (http://emergeamericas.com)

This is a really nice conference that bridges the gap between domestic and international business.  Although the conference is only once a year, it’s a conference that everyone who is in “tech” and lives in Miami should attend.  The keynote lineup this year was top notch and some of the speakers included: Steve Wozniak, Pitbull, Suze Orman and Alex Rodriguez.  All great entrepreneurs and some of them again right out of South Florida.

3) Refresh Miami (http://refreshmiami.com)

I believe Refresh Miami is the longest on-going tech meetup in Miami.  This is a community that meets a couple times a month and the organizers always do a good job with choosing tech topics to talk about and incorporating speakers who are experts in their domain.  I have been to a couple of meetups and I highly recommend it. What I really enjoy is when the speakers share their personal experiences about their trials and tribulations in business.  I find this to be very helpful and the networking aspect of attending an event like this is always fun.

Co-working Space trend is a “good signal”

Something that I think is very telling about the future of the Miami tech scene is that a lot of co-working spaces are opening all around the city.  Co-working companies like WeWork, Buro, Building.co, TamboWorks and some others seem like they have presence now in different parts of town, which is fueling tech innovation and progress.  Also, company giants like Apple, Facebook, Google and Twitter all have offices down here not only to take advantage of the local talent but also again because of  the proximity to the Caribbean and Latin American markets.

Final thoughts

These 3 resources I wrote about above are really making a difference in the Miami community and everyone who is in the tech space should really take advantage and foster these groups to help propel the tech movement further.  If anyone has any other resources, venues, conferences or groups that are here in Miami that I did not mention please let me know.  I look forward to continuing my journey as an entrepreneur and being a part of the Silicon Beach community!

 

The ONE tool that has transformed my fitness!

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In July of 2016, I started to experience severe back pain.   Today, I still have chronic back pain and it’s slowly (and I mean slowly) getting better due to the fact that I started to exercise again.  Having said this, there is one important tool that I have been using that has really transformed my fitness experience.  This tool is the fitbit charge 2.  I love all things tech and I can’t believe it took me this long to discover this fitness watch.  It’s a game changer for me and it has really changed the way I look at my fitness and overall health on a day-to-day basis.  Below are the 6 features I love about the watch:

  1. It’s cheaper than the Apple Watch – For only $129.95 (plus tax) you can get yourself one and it has a lot of the same functionality.  The mobile app is specifically designed for fitness and I like that the fitbit just tries to perfect this one particular area.
  2. It tracks your steps, floors, miles and active minutes – This simple concept is a great motivator for me.  You can set your step goal (mine is 10,000 per day) and it’s really interesting to monitor how your doing throughout the day.  Also, the watch tracks how many floors you’ve climbed, miles you’ve traveled, calories you’ve burned and total active minutes. (See screenshot 1)
  3. It records your sleep – I really love this feature.  Sleep is really important to me and with 3 kids I need all the quality sleep I can get.  I am really impressed with how the watch knows when you’ve had restless sleep and/or quality sleep. (See screenshot 2)
  4. It displays your exercise goals for the week – You can set how many times you would like to workout for a given week.  When you exercise on a specific day you can drill down on a specific exercise routine performed and determine how many minutes, calories, average beats per minutes and fat burn you’ve recorded. (See screenshot 3)
  5. It monitors your heart rate – You can analyze your heart rate at any time of the day and you can also learn what your resting heart rate is as it compares to the general population.  If you are very competitive this is a great feature to see where your at compared to the likes of marathon runners, etc.
  6. It can remind you to be active every hour – This is another gem for me because I work in front of a computer all day.  Therefore, the watch can remind you to get up and move around every hour to ensure you meet your daily step goal.

To be honest, there are many other features that the fitbit is equipped with.  The 6 features above are the ones I use and pay attention to on a daily basis.  As a tech enthusiast what I am most impressed with is how it collects all my data and organizes it in a very user friendly-easy to understand manner.  This is data intelligence for your fitness.  Understanding this data is very useful in my opinion and this watch is very addicting.  I highly recommend the fitbit charge 2, as it has really helped me understand and appreciate my fitness and health in an easy and practical way.

My journey through ABC’s Shark Tank

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This article is about my journey through the ABC show Shark Tank selection process and how I almost made it onto the show.  The product I was pitching was CONCIERGEpad and it was cool to have the idea validated by the show.  I was one round away from taking the trip to California and it was a great experience to say the least.

 

The initial telephone interview

I submitted my information via email back in March 2015 and thought nothing of it.  I really thought I would never get a call back. 2 months went by and one day in May 2015 I received an email from ABC casting that I was being considered for the show.  Oh my gosh how cool I thought.  I watch the show religiously and I’ve always had an urge to be on the show.  Anyways, I immediately replied back to the email and setup my first telephone interview with casting with hopes of moving on to the next round.  The following day I had my telephone interview and the woman conducting the call had a lot of questions for me.  To be honest the company was in its infancy stages so I felt like I could not answer all the questions adequately.  Especially questions around financials.  We spoke for about 30 minutes and she liked the product so she officially moved me onto the next round.  Right there on the spot!  This was a very interesting time for me as well because I think it again validated that the idea behind the product was a good one and that I should pursue it as a business regardless of what happened.

 

2nd Round: filming and getting to know business

This was a great experience.  It was very intriguing to talk about the product and all the functionality that was part of the product or yet to come.  To the left is a picture osharktank_filmingf the filming I did on a Saturday at one of our clients facility.  The opportunity to work with a videographer was great and a lot of fun but the real opportunity was understanding the young business at a deeper level.  The reason I say this is because Shark Tank has a detail (and almost exhaustive) application form; sprinkled with granular questions about the business.  While reviewing and answering the questions on the application I was able to really think through about what it is I wanted from this business and how it can penetrate into different verticals.  It really helped me analyze the business from a strategic standpoint and identify product market fit.  I was honestly very pleased with the amount of reflection I had to go through to be able to answer each and every question appropriately.

 

3rd Round: No call back

Yes, that’s right.  I never received a call back after filming my short video and submitting my application.  I really think the business was not there yet too, so to not get a call back was not a total shock.  There were questions that I could not speak to because the business was an early startup.  The one positive again about this experience is what I gained from taking the time to think through what I wanted from this business and what journey we could now embark on…because thanks to ABC Shark Tank the idea was validated and it reinforced the product was ready for sale!

Trying to be more authentic in 3 ways

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Only the truth of who you are, if realized, will set you free. – Eckhart Tolle

Being authentic is an important trait that I admire in people who demonstrate this quality on a continuous basis.  When you are truly being yourself (quirkiness and all) is when your true brand shines.  I recently listened to the book Crush It! by Gary Vaynerchuk on Audible and this was an important topic he discussed in great detail.  Vaynerchuk emphasized how important being your true self is even if it means people not liking you.  He goes on to mention that there will be people who do like you for who you are and those are the people you want to be connected to.  It is better to have this black and white division of people who do and don’t like you as opposed to trying to be everything to everyone.

This notion of being authentic or free is something that I have been trying to work on both personally and professionally.  I can’t tell you how many times I consider NOT doing something because of how someone may react or what someone may think.  I am not being real to myself in these scenarios.  The trick here is to look deep within yourself and commit to being genuine with respect to your thoughts and beliefs.

Below are 3 things I’ve been trying to work on to seek more freedom and happiness in my own life.

 

  1. Not holding on to grudges – This is the most important area for me.  Letting go of all grudges regardless of the circumstances relinquishes any anger or resentment towards that individual.  Also, trying not to place judgement on people and respecting them for who they are is critical as well.  By letting go of that emotional baggage I think I will encounter more inner peace.
  2. Being honest with myself – Being really honest with myself and others is important as well.  This is especially important when you make a mistake.  Owning up to your mistake and being honest about it is a surefire way to freedom.  We all make mistakes and it is better to face up and talk through them.  Also, it is really important for me to be honest with others as well.  This does not have to be in an abrasive manner but it is good to speak your mind if there is a misalignment with another person’s point of view.
  3. Do what you say or preach – Part of being honest with yourself is to hold yourself accountable for things in your life.  Therefore, if you say you are going to do something then hold yourself accountable and do it.  If you commit to something (even if you don’t like or enjoy it) then finish or complete it.  The key here is to act in a responsible manner and holding your self to a certain standard.  I believe that people want to be associated and do business with someone who is reliable and can be counted on when they need you.

I am not trying to be a Yogi here but I do feel I need to work on again being more authentic.  I need to be more authentic with myself, my wife, my friends and more importantly with my kids.  I want to set a good example for them and I need to demonstrate this trait on a continuous basis.

Working towards a flywheel business (with enthusiasm too)

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My conceptual idea of a flywheel business is one that continues to capture market growth in an automated way.  With each proverbial flywheel rotation the business creates new growth  and selling opportunities that will help it prevail long-term.

With our 2 latest products the goal in mind has been to automate and streamline processes as much as possible.  For example, with CONCIERGEpad we have tried to make the on-boarding process automatic for a new user.  A new user who wants to use or test drive the service can signup with their own username and password and log into the software in minutes.  Also, the user has the ability to customize the product with their own business colors and logos.  The entire process is standardized, universal and again automatic.  There are other internal systems that we are trying to incorporate to leverage as much automation as possible.  The idea here is not to be a robotic company but rather to position ourselves in the best way possible to sell and scale.  My personal belief is that you don’t want to spend all your time engineering when starting up.  It is easy to fall into this trap.  Of course, a software business has to maintain the software but minor tweaks and updates is what’s necessary.

If you are not deeply invested into engineering and you have software that can function on its own this presents a unique and special scenario enabling the company to function like a flywheel business.  You can now really focus on selling the software and putting it in front of as many eye balls as possible.  Now it’s just Iterate, rinse and repeat.  Around and around that flywheel goes…

A note on enthusiasm.  I also think that enthusiasm needs to be part of this flywheel model as well.  Enthusiasm or interest should serve as the lubrication or maintenance in this process.  Often times a new software product will be interesting and new but with time not so much.  When the enthusiasm is decreased the desire to innovate and keep the rotations going are impacted.  The “oomph” always needs to be there.  This is why a key component to this model in my opinion is the passion or desire to make the product work and be successful.  This is what initiates movement and keeps it going.

5 most important principles of business success

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I write and think a lot about the software business. I am passionate about this industry segment and find it very interesting and self-fulfilling.  Over the last 12 years I have learned a lot about the business and I have experienced many successes and failures.  I measure success in business in 2 ways: profit and growth.  Below are the top 5 characteristics I’ve seen in software businesses that bolster increasing profits and growth.  I try to employ these characteristics or principles in my business everyday and I am sure I still need more practice on some (or all) of these.

  1. Continuous Commitment– This to me is by far the most important principle.  The most difficult thing to do is to work and move ahead when times are difficult.  It is easy to get things done (or write a blog post) when everything is going well.  The real challenge for businesses or entrepreneurs are when times are not ideal.  For example, I sometimes find it difficult to start my day because I did not sleep well. I have 2 kids and I can tell you that while they are my world they can be exhausting.  In the theatrical world there is a saying that goes: “the show must go on”, which means that actors must perform at a high level on stage regardless of how they feel emotionally.  In my opinion, it’s the same in business.  There is a commitment to perform at a high level with your clients or customers on a daily basis.   If you demonstrate this continuous commitment to excellence I guarantee it will propel company profits and growth.
  2. Passion for work– This characteristic is the most evident or obvious to people when a working relationship is initiated.  Clients can tell if you love what you do.  When there is passion for work it permeates and flourishes in every facet of the company.  Moreover, people want to be around a business that has a passion for the work they create.  Think about it, when you work with people who are passionate about their work, they genuinely care about you and your needs.  This type of scenario for a business leads to customer satisfaction, which inevitably creates more profit and growth.
  3. Monetary Awareness– This is a principle to be mindful of in both business and personal life.  To me monetary awareness is the practice of intentionally thinking through purchases or spending habits.  This type of awareness may not lead to profits directly but can serve as a guard rail to ensure financial stability.  If the business is spending money irresponsibly then the company will fail due to cash flow, etc.  Ultimately, this has a direct impact on the bottom line and future of the company.
  4. Eagerness for Learning– I wrote an article about the importance of “Tinkering” a couple of weeks ago.  It is imperative that we never stop learning or “playing around” with new concepts in our respective industry.  When we are constantly seeking out knowledge we become more creative and formulate new and interesting ideas.  Simply stated, knowledge is power. We’ve heard that saying a thousand times.  The more you acquire the more it can influence your products and other vertical opportunities.
  5. Take Action– Plain and simple some people never take action.  There are a lot of people that over analyze next steps and get caught in a “paralysis by analysis” scenario.  Having said this, there is a difference between taking action and being in motion.  A person in motion is someone who is always busy but never produces results.  Motion in this case is not calculated action and is doing something just to stay busy.  In other words, nonsense work.  Taking action is thoughtful and calculated.  It is well thought out and time limited.  Once you are content with a decision and your gut is in accordance the action is taken.  In my opinion, it is better to make a decision and fail then to not initiate an action at all or be in a motion loop.

In summary, these 5 characteristics are critical to business success in my opinion.  There are clearly more principles, traits, concepts, etc that go into what makes a business click but I personally feel that these have been the most important in my experience.  I hope that this has helped someone who is trying to incorporate a better culture or business experience for their clients or employees. 🙂

 

The importance of “tinkering”

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For lack of a better term, “tinkering” to me is the practice of  working or “playing around” with new ideas or technologies in business.  The concept of “tinkering” is a very important aspect of how I look at technology and the software business.

There are always many things to do and projects to complete in any given week.  The work is always going to be there.  For sure.  However, it is important that every week I spend a little time researching new concepts or ideas that are out there.  For example, for one of my products I am “tinkering” with facial recognition technology.  I have tried many times to add this technology to one of my products but I have not been successful in doing so.  There is one particular facial recognition solution (or API): Kairos that I have been “tinkering” with for weeks.  I continuously try to find ways to make this technology more accurate so I can use it in my own products.  The point is that every week I search for a new way (or new angle) to enhance every piece of software I am working on.  The process of “tinkering” ignites creative thought and keeps the business innovative and fresh.  I had a friend tell me in college that “if your not working to get better, you are getting worse.”  This quote I believe sums up the concept of “tinkering”.

In summary, in business and in life I think this concept is very important.  If you are not constantly trying to push the envelope or staying in front of your industry, you will be like everyone else.  Don’t you agree?

 

 

Don’t be a gatekeeper

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I think it’s essential to understand every aspect of one’s business.  To know every area and how all departments work harmoniously is important.  In the software business, to understand how the technology works at a granular or line-of-code level is important to me and I have always placed a lot of emphasis on learning the mechanics of how things work.  This has a lot of benefits for sure but surprisingly it has some challenges if you’re not open to taking the time to explain the mechanics to key people in your business when you start to grow.

I take for granted a lot of the things I know about coding and again the mechanics of how things work.  Additionally, I sometimes get frustrated when a key person starts to probe about how something works and why a product is delayed in terms of rollout timeframe.  The lesson I learned this week is that some people really want (and have to) learn your product to be able to sell and understand deliverables.  It is just as important for people in your organization to know and feel confident about what they are selling as it is for you to know every little detail about the business.  My business will never scale and grow appropriately if I am a gatekeeper and I store the keys in my head.  It is imperative to share all my knowledge and to appreciate and respect the thoughts of others.

In conclusion, after much reflection about this topic I am going to try to foster all questions (probing or not) about the business.  In fact, I am setting aside some time once a week to educate personnel on products if necessary.  I learned a lot this week about this issue and it is important to place yourself in other people’s shoes, as they are not privy to the technical and inner workings of my products and company.

My 2 struggles when trying to sell

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Today I had a software demo with a major client in Miami Dade.  As I reflect on how things went I think I could have performed much better.  My 2 biggest struggles during the presentation were:

  1. Not communicating effectively – I sometimes sound confusing when delivering an answer on items I either can’t speak to or about.  For example, someone asked me how much the software cost for one unit?  This should be a straight answer but if you are selling a number of units on a massive scale the cost can vary considerably.  I can try to verbalize that (and I did) but it comes across as dodging the question.  Instead of moving past my answer, I try to answer his or her question in a different way or from a different angle.  This creates more confusion and anxiety for my potential client and I.
  2. Not trying to establish a good relationship – I am currently reading the book (actually listening to it) SPIN Selling by Neil Rackham.  Mr. Rackham does a good job breaking out the sales cycle and touches upon how to increase the perceived value of your offering in big sales.  He goes on to state that as a product’s price increases the buyer’s emotion on making a decision increases as well.  For example, if you need an overhead projector that cost $100, the emotional decision to buy this item is almost irrelevant.  The overhead projector fits the bill, is a low cost item and no one will judge you for it.  However, if you are buying computers for the whole company the decision to make this purchase is more complex.  If the buyer in this example makes the wrong choice with respect to the computer purchase he or she will be exposed, judged or even fired.  Therefore, there is a lot more to think about (or feel about it) when there are consequences at stake.  This is why a good sales person will try to build a relationship early on to make this person feel comfortable when making a big purchase like the example above.

Today’s post is a short one but I think this is an important topic to think about.  At the very least, being aware of these issues in a selling scenario is a good starting point and can help you sell more in your environment.  At the end of the day, I really like the idea of building a relationship with a buyer or client regardless of the price tag.  Coming across as a sales person just trying to close the deal in my opinion is counter productive.  I need to work on establishing these good relationships early on and I will work on that moving forward.  🙂

 

 

 

To build SaaS or custom software?

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Having been in the software business now for about 12 years I have learned a thing or two about the industry.  Today, I would like to touch upon the difference between 2 models of running a software business, which are: 1) building customized software for clients or 2) operating a Sell as a Service (SaaS) software company.  A customized software model is pretty straightforward; it means building software for a client where the application is unique and specific to the business.  Conversely, a SaaS model is basically building a product that your company sells to a particular market and this same audience pays a monthly fee to use the product.  Both models have their distinct advantages and disadvantages.  I have spent years deciding on what is a better business model and what scales a company better.  Below I will break down the advantages and disadvantages of both and I will recommend the better option.

CUSTOMIZED SOFTWARE MODEL

Building customized software solutions can be very attractive.  There are a couple of advantages, which are:

  1. Revenue – Generally, when you enter into a contract with a client who wants to build something exclusively for the company there is a big price tag associated with the project.  We have done work for a large printing company in Miami, FL and the cost of the software and added functionality they want is costly at times because of the complexity and unique nature of their business.  Basically, the software is tailored heavily on how they do business and the specific business rules/workflow of that company.
  2. Credibility – If you’ve built a complex enterprise application for a business this may provide a sense of comfort for future potential customers.  This can serve as marketing reference too, which can propel your brand and credibility in the industry — if you do a good job of course.

The two advantages listed above are indeed attractive components of running a customized shop but there are more disadvantages with this model in my opinion.  These are listed below:

  1. No reusable value – What I mean by this is that you cannot use the solution for another client.  The software is so unique and specific to your client that there is no market for it.  Therefore, the code base or application has no re-sale value.
  2. More customization – My experience has been that once you build a version 1.0 for a client there will always be more functionality expected.  More functionality means even more customization and further down the “customization” rabbit-hole you go.
  3. Difficult to price – I don’t care how long you have been in this industry every new custom project has its own unique functionality that you’ve never addressed before.  This may require R & D and some roadblocks before finding a solution.  Moreover, determining how much time it will take and how to price that out correctly is very difficult.  Trust me, it is!
  4. Risk of termination – This one is big for me.  If you are a software firm that builds customized software for a couple of clients then your risk of financial cash-flow may be threatened.  For example, if you are a smaller software shop and have 5 big clients and one goes out of business, 20% of your business is now lost.  What’s worse is that you now have software that is worthless.
  5. Difficult to grow – Chances are that if you are a software boutique building custom solutions you don’t have that many customers.  By “that many” I mean over 10 or so.  I mean even at 10 customers with large applications you are a pretty big firm already.  Because every new client brings its own challenges and scenarios it’s difficult to grow accordingly.  I will say that sometimes the price points are attractive so it may not be such an issue.  Still, a SaaS type business can scale and grow a lot faster.

SaaS SOFTWARE MODEL

Building a SaaS business is difficult but has incredible upside if it is received well by your audience or target market.  A couple of my recent SaaS favorites are: Intercom and  Freshbooks.  Some of the main advantages of such a model are:

  1. (Test) Iterate, rinse and repeat– Ah…my favorite of all advantages!  Once your product has been properly tested and is ready for live market then it’s a matter of signing up users to use the service.  That’s it.  You do this over and over again without having to change the code base or application each and every time. In addition, if the system is built correctly, the onboarding process will be automatic and a new user can start using the software immediately.
  2. Sales positioning – Because everyone is on the same platform, this provides the business with great sales positioning.  What I mean by this is that you can focus more on selling and not be overwhelmed with new tailor-made request or problem logs from 10 different customers.  Instead, you can focus on one product and all development updates are published to the same environment.  Again, just to reiterate, this allows the company to be more lean and to shift focus on selling the product over and over again — iterate, rinse and repeat.
  3. Decreased financial risk – With a SaaS model you generally want to sell your product to many users.  So take for example that 1,000 users begin to use your product the first month.  If there is a %2 churn (attrition) rate or 20 people drop the service at the end of that month you have only lost 2% of your business.  There is less financial risk because the collective size of your user community.

Like any business model there are also disadvantages to note:

  1. No usage risk – Because you are building the software for your company there is a risk of your audience not receiving or using the software.  Perhaps, the software is missing features or does not work as expected.  There is always a risk that the software is problematic and users don’t appreciate the service.  This is different than building software for a client because you know you will be paid a certain amount for the project.

CONCLUSION

There are definitely more granular advantages and disadvantages of each model but this serves as a simple analysis based on my experience.  I would certainly recommend a SaaS type software model any day.  The upfront labor can be exhaustive and tedious but it’s worth the effort.  In my opinion, the better positioned a company is to sell and support an application the better.  Then you can really scale and grow the business at a rapid rate. 🙂