Tuesday, November 12, 2013

#ThankYouMiami for Our Growing Start-Up Scene - Part 2: Will Weinraub

Will Weinraub, CEO and Co-Founder of LiveNinja

Welcome to Part 2 of my 4-part series, “#ThankYouMiami for Our Growing Start-Up Scene", where I recount my conversations with Miami entrepreneurs about what Miami is doing right for its entrepreneurial movement, where there is room for improvement, and why they each say #ThankYouMiami. Today, I share with you a summary of my interview with Will Weinraub from LiveNinja. Access the rest of the series here: Part 1, Part 3, and Part 4.

Miami entrepreneur Will Weinraub calls his hometown "a diverse, quickly-evolving city that keeps me on my toes and keeps me innovative".

The Start-Up
Will Weinraub is the CEO and co-founder of LiveNinja, a video chat marketplace where users can find and book chat sessions with experts ("ninjas") on a variety of subjects ranging from career counseling to video editing to yoga. Simultaneously, the LiveNinja platform gives individuals the necessary online tools to monetize their skills and connects them to potential customers.

LiveNinja has been widely recognized for its successful execution of an innovative concept. In December 2012, LiveNinja closed a seed round of $500,000 in funding through angel investors from Miami, New York, and South America.

The Miami Benefits
Will was born and raised in Miami and, from our conversation, is a big fan of the area. When I asked him why he decided to start LiveNinja in Miami, he quickly responded by asking: "Why not Miami?". He credits the following qualities for making Miami a valuable place for entrepreneurial endeavors:

1. Access to funding - When Will decided to start LiveNinja, he was pleased to find that there was a funding framework to facilitate its creation and growth locally. He saw possibilities for capital from both local angel investors, as well as foreign funding sources.

2. Community diversity - The range of demographics in Miami give start-ups, like LiveNinja, access to different audiences on which to test ideas and from which to get feedback.

3. Geographic location - Miami's proximity to Latin America and its connection to the international community facilitate access to foreign funding sources and to the option of easily expanding outside of the United States for companies like LiveNinja.

4. Industry transformation - Miami is rapidly evolving from a tourist destination to a thriving urban environment that supports locals, like Will, in their entrepreneurial ambitions.

The Miami Challenges
There are two challenges start-ups commonly face regardless of where they are located: acquiring funding and acquiring talent. I was curious to know whether these challenges were amplified or lessened by Miami's unique qualities so I asked Will whether LiveNinja has encountered any obstacles that may be Miami-specific.

In terms of funding, LiveNinja achieved a tremendous milestone when it received seed funding at the end of last year. However, Will believes Miami can attract additional funding opportunities for its early stage businesses through continued support of innovation and entrepreneurship. He stated that the ability to draw capital for local entrepreneurial undertakings is also dependent on the willingness of local entrepreneurs to work hard to bring it here.

Will found that identifying the local technical talent necessary to develop LiveNinja was slightly more challenging. In his eyes, there is technical talent in Miami, but it is much more scarce than marketing, sales, and management talent. He is confident that Miami's low cost of living, lifestyle opportunities, and weather will make it easy for companies to attract technical talent to the area into the future as long as they produce projects worthy of their attention.

The #ThankYouMiami Statement
So what is this talented Miami-native most grateful for? Will said "#ThankYouMiami for being enticing and exciting, for spurring my professional and personal growth, and for giving me both a family and a tech career".

Check back tomorrow for Part 3 of this 4-part series where I share with you my interview with Brad Liff, CEO and Founder of Fitting Room Social.

Are you a part of the Miami entrepreneurial movement? What do you think Miami is doing right to support its future growth? Where do you see room for improvement? Which local entrepreneurs would you like to see give their opinion on this subject? Leave a comment below or send me a tweet @ThankYouMiami!

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