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Investing In Florida Technology

Investing in Florida Technology explores the exciting landscape of Florida's tech startup market. Hosted by the Managing Director of Florida Funders; Tom Wallace, each episode features a leader in technology, their start up journey and best investment practices. See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information.

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Elias Torres: Elevating Minority Founders

When you paint a picture in your head of the American Dream, what do you see? For many of us, it involves the vision of being ‘self-made’ and designing our own destiny, no matter where we came from. For Elias Torres, the choice his mother made when she immigrated from Nicaragua to Tampa would prove to be a fortuitous one in helping him realize that dream. After his early start at IBM, Torres became committed to the vision of entrepreneurship. With Drift, his current company, he has proven time and again that Latino founders deserve a place amongst the world’s biggest capital projects. Torres is the founder and CTO of Drift, the world's leading conversational marketing and sales platform. Drift helps businesses connect with customers who are ready to buy. After just three years in the market, Drift has become one of the fastest growing SaaS companies of all-time and was named to the Forbes Cloud 100, LinkedIn Top 50 Startups, Entrepreneur's Top Company Cultures, Boston Business Journal's Best Places to Work, and SaaS Company of the Year by the NEVCA. Listen to today’s episode of Investing in Florida Technology and hear how Elias made the incredible leap from struggling to take orders in English at his fast food job as a teen to becoming Chief Technology Officer of his own company. He also discusses dealing with imposter syndrome, starting with a new company just weeks before the 2008 crash, and the major expansion plans he has for Drift.Listen on SpotifyListen on Apple PodcastsListen on Google PodcastsSome Questions Asked: You came here at a young age from another country, can you tell us about that? (01:37)What was your first entrepreneurial venture? (12:32)Can you tell us about Drift, your current company? (17:30)Can you explain to the listeners the difference between venture capital and private equity? (31:29)Would you ever consider moving Drift’s headquarters to Florida? (39:59)In this episode, you will learn:How and when Torres became interested in tech (03:48)Torres’s early start with IBM (06:42)What the original vision was for Drift (21:43)Why venture capitalists love first generation immigrants (25:49)Connect with Elias:LinkedInWebsiteDrift See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information.


14 Dec 2021

Rank #1

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David Blumberg: From the Bay to the Magic City

It's been more than 18 months since the COVID-19 pandemic started and we experienced weeks of lockdowns, quarantines, and a total reconfiguration of the way we work.For venture capitalist David Blumberg, the pandemic took him from his ancestral home of California across the country to Florida. Realizing that he was no longer chained to his fixed, physical office in San Francisco, he took the plunge and moved over 3,000 miles in order to take advantage of the up-and-coming vibe of Miami, as well as the state’s business-friendly regulations and taxes. David learned how to take advantage of the pandemic and was able to recognize it as -- as he puts it -- a catalyst of virtualization, innovation, and decentralization.Blumberg is the founder and managing partner of Blumberg Capital, a  private Venture Capital firm investing in early-stage IT, digital media, social media, mobility, Internet, e-commerce, payments, SaaS, and tech-enabled services. He also serves as a board member of Credorax, Trulioo, IntSights, and Slync.io. David holds an undergraduate degree from Harvard University and an MBA from Stanford University Graduate School of Business.  Listen to today’s episode of Investing in Florida Technology and find out how David made the leap from studying government to becoming a venture capitalist, how he embraces virtualization, and why he believes that the 21st century will be one of massive innovation and productivity for office and service work. Listen on SpotifyListen on Apple PodcastsListen on Google PodcastsSome Questions Asked: Can you tell our audience a bit about your background and where you grew up? (01:54)You have this tie with Israel, when did that start? (14:10)What do you see in Florida and Miami? (22:41)What are you looking for in a founder? (29:38)In this episode, you will learn:Why Miami made the top of David’s list when he and his family decided to relocate (03:16)About taking ‘acorns’ and turning them into unicorns (09:41)How patience has paid off for Blumberg Capital (12:57)A little about the Israeli company that David and Tom are both investors in (20:01)Venture capitalists either follow the NASCAR model or the marionette model (33:59)Connect with David:LinkedInBlumberg CapitalTwitter See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information.


30 Nov 2021

Rank #2

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Brian Murphy: the Importance of Reinvention

What happens when a brand new tech startup finds itself in the middle of one of the worst financial crises the country has ever seen? With a little luck, some intuitiveness, and a lot of hard work, a pivot in the right direction can not only save a company, it can create major success, too. Brian Murphy founded ReliaQuest in 2007, just as the US was plunging into the Great Recession. While he didn’t know it yet, a DoD contract would come to be instrumental in the company’s pivot from IT to cybersecurity. In the years following, Murphy was able again to lead the company with flexibility to a market that better suited them. Murphy is the CEO and founder of ReliaQuest, a cybersecurity company serving enterprises globally. ReliaQuest, the leader in Open XDR-as-a-Service, is known for being the force multiplier for security operations teams. He also serves on the board of Embarc Collective, a Tampa Bay-area startup incubator, and is an official member of the Forbes Technology Council. On today’s episode of Investing in Florida Technology, Murphy speaks about the evolution of ReliaQuest, his advice to founders that are just starting out, and how he still finds time to serve as a chairman on the board of Embarc Collective. He also discusses the big pivot that brought ReliaQuest to where it is today and what he sees happening in the industry looking ahead. Listen on SpotifyListen on Apple PodcastsListen on Google PodcastsSome Questions Asked: Can you tell us a little about your background? (01:50)How did you make the switch to recurring revenue? (06:20)Have you had any trouble attracting talent in Florida? (08:47)How did COVID affect ReliaQuest? (12:02)Where is most of your hiring taking place? (14:06)Are you being acquisitive? Or are you still just growing organically? (15:58)In this episode, you will learn:What inspired Murphy to start ReliaQuest (2:41)A little about the software team at ReliaQuest (07:50)About the growing cybersecurity industry in Tampa (10:57)Brian's experience with bootstrapping (14:53)Where Brian sees ReliaQuest going in the next 5-10 years (23:04)Connect with Brian:LinkedInReliaquest See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information.


16 Nov 2021

Rank #3

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Hugh Campbell - Entrepreneurship as a Team Sport

Discipline, initiative, and responsibility are all skills you would expect a young person to learn in the military. But what about teamwork and learning to successfully collaborate with others as a whole greater than its parts? For Hugh Campbell, his time in the US Army taught him this invaluable lesson. When Campbell entered West Point fresh out of high school, he never dreamed of the opportunities that would soon be accessible to him. Through his work as a communications officer, Campbell learned invaluable lessons about leadership, problem-solving, and tech. After leaving the military and joining the private sector, Campbell put to work the skills that he had honed, which led directly to his many successes and a career as an “accidental entrepreneur.” Campbell currently serves as President of AC4S Technologies, a hybrid cloud solutions provider. Prior to his current position, he served as CEO of AC4S for 16 years. Before that, he held positions in planning, designing, and implementing large-scale telecommunications networks for companies like Intermedia Communications and Accelacom. He also serves as Chairman of the Board for the CEO Council of Tampa Bay and as a member of the board of trustees for BayCare Health System. Listen on SpotifyListen on Apple PodcastsListen on Google PodcastsSome Questions Asked: Where did you grow up and how did you end up at West Point? (04:07)Where did you go after you left the military? (07:10)How did West Point and the military prepare you for being an entrepreneur? (11:21)How can people like me invest more in minority founders? (18:25)In this episode, you will learn:About AC4S Technologies and where the name came from. (02:25)How Campbell became what he calls an “accidental entrepreneur.” (08:21)The advice Campbell has for young, hungry founders who are just starting out and why it’s so important to make sure you’re really vetting the partners you’re going into business with. (12:34)Why being an entrepreneur isn’t for the faint of heart and easily discouraged—and why it’s best to play the game as a team sport. (15:22)Connect with Hugh:LinkedInAC4S Technologies See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information.


2 Nov 2021

Rank #4

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Arnie Bellini - The Case for Being an Early Adopter

We’ve all had that lightbulb moment at least once in our lives, where we have a striking realization seemingly independent of everyone else around us. What we don’t all have the privilege of experiencing? Having that moment lead to an early adoption of and investment in what would quickly become the most important, groundbreaking technology on the planet. Arnie Bellini began his career at Price Waterhouse just as personal computers began their evolution from space-age technology to household necessity. Realizing the potential of this type of tech, he quit his consulting job, founded a company to help small businesses optimize their servers, and never looked back. Bellini is co-founder and former CEO of ConnectWise, a provider of IT services to companies in the Tampa market and the publisher of the industry's most widely-used business operating system.  He currently serves as managing partner of Bellini Capital, an investment firm based in the Tampa area. Listen to today’s episode of Investing in Florida Technology and learn Bellini’s start-up origin story at the dawn of the PC, why he believes it’s so important to balance your work life with family and hobbies, and how he equates the lessons he gained training to swim the English Channel to his business philosophy. Listen on SpotifyListen on Apple PodcastsListen on Google PodcastsSome Questions Asked: What was the dynamic like between you and your brother when you started your company as business partners? (03:32)When you started, did you envision that you would be building a company that you would sell for over a billion dollars? (04:24)When was the tipping point when you realized that you had become more of a software company? (11:08)How is your family involved in Bellini Capital? (16:18)What advice would you have for founders out there? (20:13)What kind of investments and things are you looking for that excite you? (24:32)In this episode, you will learn:A bit about Bellini and his experience as a founder of ConnectWise. (02:09)How Bellini became a programmer—out of necessity. (08:24)About Bellini’s experience becoming one of the few people over 50 to swim the English Channel. (12:52)How Bellini Capital is working to help preserve the Florida Wildlife Corridor. (16:56)The importance of work/life balance in order to avoid burnout as an entrepreneur. (21:52)What Bellini finds most exciting in the world of up-and-coming technology. (27:41)Connect with Arnie:LinkedInConnectwise See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information.


19 Oct 2021

Rank #5

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Reuben Pressman - Your Passion Makes a Difference

Have you ever had a moment of recognition that an issue you were experiencing was readily solvable, and you might just be the one to figure out how?Reuben Pressman started on the journey that brought him to where he is today when he began coding as a 10-year-old. As a student at the University of South Florida, he realized that the majority of the learning he was doing was going on outside the classroom—and that student involvement was a huge blind spot at his and many other schools.  After this a-ha moment as a student, Pressman set out to make it easy to collect usable data, then give the tools that institutions needed to make an impact. Launched in May of 2014, his company Presence has spent the last seven years doing just that.  Pressman is the founder and has served as CEO of Presence for more than nine years. The software serves to help universities improve retention rates by tracking data related to student involvement patterns and behaviors. In addition, he was recently announced as the CPO at Modern Campus, a higher education software company. He also serves as Entrepreneur in Residence for the city of St Petersburg, Florida.Find out why Pressman believes the most important trait in an employee is their ability to be a team player and the fortuitous way he first connected with Tom, in today’s episode of Investing in Florida Technology. Listen on SpotifyListen on Apple PodcastsListen on Google PodcastsSome Questions Asked: What can you tell us about Presence and the journey that brought you here? (03:08)Who was your first customer? (05:17)Where was the tipping point when you realized you would be able to scale and grow the company? (08:20)Tell us about your time as the Entrepreneur in Residence for the city of St Pete. (12:50)What made you decide that it might be time to sell? (17:54)In this episode, you will learn:How Presence and its mission grew out of Pressman’s observations about his own college experience. (03:20)How Pressman worked through all of the bureaucracy involved in selling to universities. (06:42)The fundraising journey behind Presence. (09:45)Pressman’s advice for founders who are just starting out right now. (14:47)Where Pressman sees himself going after Presence. (21:02)Connect with Reuben:LinkedInPresenceTwitter See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information.


5 Oct 2021

Rank #6

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Manny Medina - Master of Reinvention

Have you ever wondered what it takes for a young immigrant to truly achieve the American dream? Well, you might just be able to learn a thing or two from Manny Medina’s story.   After emigrating to Miami as a young teen and—as he puts it—surviving high school, Medina was able to develop a unique and valuable perspective on the US-Latin American market. From his jetsetting early years as a CPA at PricewaterhouseCoopers, to his time in Kuwait helping rebuild after the liberation, to creating network access points while the internet was still in its infancy, Medina has frequently been at the center of some of the most important industry events of the last 50 years. Medina’s decision in the late 1980s to take the leap of faith from real estate to tech when he found himself at a crossroads might’ve been the most important move he ever made. He was able to reinvent himself and his company, Terremark, once again, from a highly successful developer to an early adopter of burgeoning internet tech, where he found his true calling.Medina served as Chairman of the Board, President, and Chief Executive Officer of Terremark until 2011, when the company was acquired by Verizon Communications. In 2012, he founded Medina Capital, a private equity firm with a focus on emerging cybersecurity technologies where he currently serves as managing partner. He is also the founder and chairman of eMerge Americas, a tech networking event that serves to connect the US, Latin America, and Europe.  Listen on SpotifyListen on Apple PodcastsListen on Google PodcastsSome Questions Asked: What made you decide to take the risk of leaving your job at Pricewaterhouse to become an entrepreneur? (05:13)How long did you have your first firm? (7:23)What was the turning point where you realized your company would survive the dot com bubble bursting? (14:49)How much change has there been since you started in the ability to recruit for tech positions within Florida? (20:31)What's Medina capital working on now? (23:21)In this episode, you will learn:About Medina’s experience immigrating to the US from Cuba at 13. (02:25)How the real estate crash of the late ’80s spurred Medina’s move to tech. (08:07)The origin story of Terremark Worldwide. (09:51)The one surprising thing Medina did after Terremark was sold that he had never allowed himself to do before. (16:28)Where Medina sees Miami’s tech industry going in the next 5-10 years. (26:26)Connect with Manny:in the Miami Heraldon WikipediaMedina Capital See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information.


14 Sep 2021

Rank #7

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Claudia Duran - Taking Start-Ups to the Next Level

The world of entrepreneurship is more harrowing, thrilling, and rewarding as ever, but the past year and a half has been especially exciting for Florida investors. With the influx of people from New York, California, and even from Latin America, the area has experienced an incredible boom that has benefited investors and entrepreneurs alike. One such industry growing exponentially from all of this? Organizations that are designed to incubate entrepreneurs like Endeavor, where Claudia Duran serves as the managing director.Claudia works with Endeavor Miami, a global organization in over 30 markets, to identify high-impact entrepreneurs—those who have big ideas and are taking their ideas to the next step. Endeavor then works with those entrepreneurs to accelerate their growth by creating connections with mentors and investors.  We talk about what Endeavor is doing to encourage and stimulate start-ups, and Claudia takes me through her personal history, from her roots in El Salvador to her time as a finance major at Penn State. Claudia also tells me what it takes for a company to be selected by Endeavor, what their mentorship program looks like, and how once you’re an Endeavor entrepreneur, you’re part of that global network for life. Listen on SpotifyListen on Apple PodcastsListen on Google PodcastsSome Questions Asked: Can you tell us a little about Endeavor Miami’s mission?  (02:47)How did you get from El Salvador to the United States? (04:46)What are you looking for in these companies you choose to take into a cohort? And what does that process look like? (07:21)How many companies will apply for you to get to your 10? And what are you looking for in those 10 companies that you end up choosing? (12:02) How many companies have you seen go through your program since you’ve been in Miami? Are there any portfolio companies you want to highlight? That you're very excited about? (20:42)In this episode, you will learn:A bit about Claudia’s personal background (03:51)What the cohort experience looks like for companies that are selected by Endeavor (09:41)How some companies end up pivoting their business model as a result of their time with Endeavor (13:44)What happens with the entrepreneurs after Endeavor’s mentorship is over (16:54)Why Florida is the site of the next big tech ecosystem (26:54)Connect with Claudia:LinkedInEndeavor See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information.


1 Sep 2021

Rank #8

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Rennick Palley - Crypto Crash Course

To the traditional investor, the world of cryptocurrency can be intimidating. Luckily, my guest today is an expert in the field and helps us break it all down. If you’ve found yourself wondering about crypto, DeFi, and the blockchain economy, listen in—you may discover this brave new world of finance isn’t quite as complicated as you might think.Join me today as I welcome Rennick Palley, founder and CIO at Stratos Technologies. Rennick is an MIT graduate who started his career on Wall Street before turning his interest toward financial technology. He is also a co-founder of Goldfinch Finance, a decentralized global bank that aims to change the face of investing in businesses. We unravel the differences between Bitcoin and Ethereum, the relevancy of blockchain supply and demand, and how we may be looking at a not-so-distant future in which only a few of these new currencies remain relevant. Rennick also expands on the implications of blockchain in regards to global finance, and what that could mean for business finance over the world.Find out how Rennick went from Wall Street to venture capital projects, and how the professional mentoring he gained at a global equity fund helped him get there. Learn why Rennick believes that productivity is driven by technological advances, his view on the pitfalls of consumer banking in the US, and what led him to the world of blockchain and crypto. Listen on SpotifyListen on Apple PodcastsListen on Google PodcastsSome Questions Asked: How did you end up at MIT? (4:08)What took you from Wall Street to the world of crypto? (5:56)How would you compare Bitcoin to Ethereum? (10:09)Do you think that we’ll eventually only have a few different cryptocurrencies? (14:06)What is China’s place in all of this? (25:14)What can you tell us about Goldfinch Finance? (29:09)In this episode, you will learn:A bit about Rennick’s professional background (2:14)How Rennick’s beliefs about investment strategy changed over time (4:44)About Rennick’s professional mentor (6:01)The difference between crypto, DeFi, and blockchain (16:20)The implications of a liquid form of currency on the global economy (25:13)The key differences between angel investing and the Goldfinch blockchain system (33:33)Connect with Rennick:Stratos TechnologiesemailLinkedInTwitter See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information.


16 Jun 2021

Rank #9

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Brian Butler - From Army Officer to CEO

Curious as to how military training prepares you for the world of entrepreneurship? If you’ve ever found yourself at a crossroads in your career and felt that you just aren’t being offered anything to your liking, have you ever thought of striking out on your own? Entrepreneurship is a complicated and humbling experience, but it also allows you to be your own boss and create the business you’ve always wanted to work for. What happens when a former Army officer and member of the White House Homeland Security board retires from the military and decides to make his own luck? You get Brian Butler, founder and CEO of Vistra Communications. From college ROTC to working at the Pentagon to founding his own startup, Brain has experienced firsthand a remarkable professional career. Vistra Communications handles PR, marketing, and consulting for a number of government and corporate contracts, including AT&T and Coca-Cola. Founded in 2007, they now employ over 100 people and have offices in both Florida and Northern Virginia. As a 22 year veteran of the US Army, Brian has learned invaluable lessons through his service. Listen and learn what Brian attributes his success to and what we can do to help diversify the growing field of Florida entrepreneurs. Listen on SpotifyListen on Apple PodcastsListen on Google PodcastsSome Questions Asked: How did you transition from the army to entrepreneurship? (4:33)How did the military prepare you for the rollercoaster of business ownership? (7:22)What did the army teach you about leadership? (8:50)How can we fix the disparity in diversity amongst entrepreneurs? (14:58)What impact does technology have on your business? (19:16)Where does the military stand on adopting and developing technology? (21:22)In this episode, you will learn:How Brian got started as an entrepreneur. (2:27)Why Brian believes that veterans make excellent employees. (6:05)The type of attitude that makes a successful business leader. (11:15)About the emerging start-up scene out of South Florida. (18:24)Advice Brian has for founders. (25:13)Connect with Brian:LinkedInVistra CommunicationsVistra on FacebookVistra on Instagram See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information.


16 Mar 2021

Rank #10