Posted in Communication, Consulting, New York, Technology

Startups of Puerto Rico: Boricuas Doing It For Themselves

Startups of Puerto Rico
Startups of Puerto Rico

The economy of Puerto Rico may be struggling like many others, but there is a community of dedicated technologically-savvy entrepreneurs working hard to make La Isla de Borinquen a startup technology hub.

As a native New Yorker of Puerto Rican descent, I did not know there was a tech startup community on the Caribbean island.

According to one of the Puerto Rican pioneers of the startup community, Marcos Polanco, the startup community in Puerto Rico has officially existed since 2010 but has been around since 1996.

In 2010, Ramphis Castro and Marcos joined forces to create an association called Startups of Puerto Rico. They envisioned Puerto Rico and its people establishing start up technology companies and representing a growing number of successful businesses.

Castro and Polanco hosted a Startups of Puerto Rico Showcase on Tuesday, October 15 at the New York offices of the Puerto Rico Federal Affairs Administration.

I registered for the event to write this blog post. It was an honor just to be in the space, let alone in one with over 60 people with the collective idea of doing what we can to promote the startup community of Puerto Rico.

The event allowed four Puerto Rican startups the opportunity to pitch their companies to successful technology startup investors. The companies received priceless feedback from the tech investors who could have been anywhere they wanted to be at the time.

The tech investors on the pitch review panel included Bob Dorf, Amol Sarva, KJ Singh, and Ricardo García Amaya.

The startups from Puerto Rico included:

Blimp, represented by Giovanni Collazo, a startup providing “beautiful and easy project management for doers.”

Leavebox, represented by Roberto Santos, describes itself as the place “where Human Resources meets Business Intelligence by providing tools to manage employee absences.”

Kytelabs, represented by Jonathan Gonzalez, offers OneCard, “The last card you’ll ever carry.  Pay from any account, anywhere, on any system.  Say goodbye to your wallet.”

iGenApps, represented by Norman Ortiz, allows users to “create function-rich mobile apps from the palm of your hand with no programming.”

The startups showcased their companies and products and were open to suggestions on how to move their company/product to the next level. The investors also provided critical advice by expressing their occasional wish to either hear more specific information or see more dynamic presentations.

All the startups were amazing but I was most impressed with iGenApps. Smartphones are becoming more popular than laptops and it makes sense to be able create your own mobile app on your phone without the use of a desktop computer.

The night’s theme highlighted Puerto Rico as a place to do business and, as Startups of Puerto Rico notes on it’s website, “a real technology startup scene right smack in the middle of the Caribbean.”

Some of the event’s sponsors included the law firm Perkins Coie, Puerto Rican crowd-funding company Antrocket, and Puerto Rico’s first co-working space, Piloto 151.

A social gathering sponsored by Fans and Friends of Startups of Puerto Rico, founded by Carmen Bonilla, at Iguana‘s ended the evening.

I enjoyed the informative night and look forward to hearing more about Startups of Puerto Rico on the island and in New York.

It’s incredible to see a vibrant and visionary community of Boricuas creating their own, contributing to the local economy, and demonstrating leadership.

Keep up the wonderful work!

Posted in New York, Technology

Fans & Friends of Startups of Puerto Rico

Puerto Rican FlagDid you know there’s a community of startup companies in Puerto Rico? If not, well there is and the community has been flourishing for years. A group called Fans & Friends of Startups of Puerto Rico formed in New York City on August 15, 2013.

The New York City-based group, founded by Carmen Bonilla, aims to strengthen ties between the Puerto Rican startup community on the island and the startup community in New York City in order to promote Puerto Rico as a technology hub.

According to Mashable, a startup is a company set up to test a business model developed around a new idea. The startup community in Puerto Rico sprang up partly in response to the island’s economic difficulties, according to Bonilla.

Fans & Friends of Startups of Puerto Rico will provide programs and networking to its members and aim to grow the pipeline of aspiring entrepreneurs and the number of startups both in Puerto Rico and in NYC.

The community of Puerto Rican descent in New York is the largest in the US, creating a great opportunity for our communities to come together, bridge the gap, and help one another.

Are you interested in technology? Are you interested in doing what you can to help the economy of Puerto Rico? Are you involved in startups in New York or Puerto Rico? Then become a member of Fans & Friends of Startups of Puerto Rico by joining their Meetup group now!

Posted in Communication, New York

Not All Frozen Yogurt Places In New York Are the Same

Off The Wall Frozen Yogurt

Thanks to LinkedIn, I recently became the social media / marketing manager for Off The Wall Frozen Yogurt. In the last month, I have learned a great deal about the frozen yogurt industry. If you live or work in New York City, you may have noticed all the frozen yogurt shops popping up. At first glance, you would think they are all the same. However, as you take a closer look, you will see and taste that the actual product and service runs the gamut.

Some frozen yogurt has more of a tart taste, others are more on the sweeter side. Some are self serve, others serve the customer. Some spaces are tiny, and others spectacularly spacious. The two main factors for any business are the product and the service. At Off The Wall, you get both at a very high caliber.

To be honest, I’ve never really been a huge fan of yogurt. I recently started eating it for its health benefits. I would pass by frozen yogurt places all the time, not really noticing them. Of course now, I notice them everywhere.

While interviewing for Off The Wall, I tried the product and instantly became a fan. Even if I did not get the job, I would have returned as a customer. The product was incredibly delicious and the staff was extremely friendly and helpful. Off the Wall is much more then incredible frozen yogurt. It’s an awesome experience.

Off The Wall Frozen Yogurt is a self-serve, New York-based frozen yogurt chain founded in 2010. The company presently owns and operates a store in Cedarhurst, NY and three (soon to be four) stores in the borough of Manhattan. Off the Wall’s mission is to curate a playful customer experience from start to finish.

If you’re a frozen yogurt fan, and even if you’re not, you have to give Off The Wall a try. You’ll truly enjoy the frozen yogurt and the experience.

If you have already given it a try, let me know what you think. I’d love to hear from you.

Posted in music

Red Bull Music Academy Helps Musicians Showcase Their Talent

grassmass(Rodrigo Coelho) and Hiram Martinez are two of over 200 international musicians that are participating in this year’s Red Bull Music Academy (RBMA.)  I had the pleasure of meeting them both at the RBMA Drone Activity in Progress event at the Knockdown Center in Maspeth, Queens last Thursday night. The show of loud sounds and flashing lights introduced me to drone music and provided many musicians the opportunity to showcase their incredible talent.

grassmass (Rodrigo Coelho)
grassmass (Rodrigo Coelho)

São Paulo–based musician grassmass is part of the Brazilian duo Cassady who decided it was time to venture out on a solo career.  grassmass, who closed one of the stages at the RBMA drone event, plays the club scene in São Paulo and plans on debuting his personal electronic project in the next few months. The accomplished guitarist and bass player has become most comfortable with electronic music.

“I am really into Brazilian and African percussion and find electronic music the place where I can get the most freedom and enjoy bigger palettes and sound scapes,” said grassmass.

The Brazilian artist sent music from Cassady to the RBMA and was chosen as one of 2013 participants. grassmass used the RBMA drone event to experiment a bit with his music and prepare for his solo work.

“There is so much freedom as a solo artist,” grassmass said. “I have been producing music for almost 20 years now, so it’s about time.”

grassmass has also become more visual with his music and has started promoting it via Instagram.

grassmass is part of small contingent of Latino artists representing at this year’s RBMA. Mexican musician Hiram Martinez sent samples of his solo work to RBMA after a friend who attended the RBMA in Madrid made the recommendation.

Hiram Martinez performing at the 2013 Red Bull Music Academy drone event, May 2, 2013.
Hiram Martinez performing at the 2013 Red Bull Music Academy drone event, May 2, 2013.

Martinez was extremely excited to be chosen as one of the 2013 RBMA participants. The month-long event gives him an extraordinary opportunity to meet new people, make valuable contacts, showcase his music, and create a fan base.

Hiram, who is from the Guadalajara metro area, was a main guitarist in a post-rock band before working on his own electronic music. He knew early on that he was going to be a musician.

“I was always really interested in music,” Hiram said. “It was always an escape for me, on a lot of different levels.”

Hiram was excited and very nervous before his big gig at the RBMA drone event. It was going to be the first time he preformed his new music, which he describes as “down tempo melodic electronic/pop,” to an audience.

“In the beginning I was really scared,” confessed Hiram. “But it was the best experience. It really feels awesome to play my music and present it to people.”

Hiram Martinez is still working on his first project and his music is a continuous work in progress. He does not yet have a website or Facebook Fan Page, but be sure to follow him on Twitter to get the latest from this budding electronic musical artist.

If you are a music lover and want to hear work from up and coming artists like Hiram, check out the remaining RBMA events that run through May 31, 2013 at various venues across New York City.

Posted in music, Networking, Social Media

The New Myspace Site May Be Worth Checking Out

(Screen shot of the new Myspace site.)
(Screenshot of the new Myspace site.)

Remember MySpace? If you thought it was dead, think again. The social networking site that was the precursor to Facebook has been recently resurrected by a group of new investors including Justin Timberlake.

The new owners have been revamping the site since September and opened it up to the general public in January. Like millions, I have not actively used MySpace since the explosion of Facebook. I was curious to see what Timberlake and company did with the dinosaur of social media so I took it for a little spin.

If you remember your old MySpace login info you can use it on the new Myspace. You can also register with your Facebook or Twitter account or set up an entirely new account. The new Myspace is not going to compete with Facebook or Twitter so those companies have nothing to worry about. However, Spotify might want to keep an eye on the new Myspace.

When you log in to the new site using your old info, you’ll notice that none of your old friends, photos, music, artists or bands are automatically transferred. You begin your new Myspace journey with zero connections. A connection on the new Myspace is similar to a “Like” on Facebook. So if you are a musician on the old MySpace, you’ll have to start from scratch on the new Myspace to rebuild your fan base. That alone has many critics predicting the demise of the new site.

But after taking a tour of the new Myspace and testing it out for about two weeks or so, I have to say I’m a fan of the new entertainment site. You can connect to a song, an album, artist, video, photo, and another new Myspace member. The focus here is really not on collecting a lot of friends or followers, but on enjoying music you love.

I compare the site to Spotify because unlike Pandora, you can listen to a particular track whenever you want (as long as it’s available) and as often as you like for free. Similar to YouTube, you can also view music videos whenever you want.

You can create your own profile, display your top eight favorite artists, highlight a profile song, post updates like on Twitter and post pictures like on Flickr. The search option allows you to find your favorite music/artists and the discover option allows you to find new music from up-and-coming independent artists.

Not everyone is going to love to the new Myspace and some might not see the need to dive into another social networking site, but if you love music and want to have another online vehicle to listen and view your favorite artists and find new ones, the new Myspace site may be very well worth your time.

Posted in Social Media

People Under 30 Value Social Media Freedom Over Salary

Recent online statistics released by OnlineCollegeCourses.com illustrate the increasing power of social media across users of all ages. However, one of the most intriguing stats showed younger generations value social media freedom over money when looking for work.

Statistics gathered for a blog post entitled “This is Your Brain on Social Media,” highlighted the fact that 1 in 3 people under the age of 30 value social media freedom over salary. Of those polled, 56 percent said they would not take a job that did not allow access to social media.

The blog post also noted the average Facebook user spends 405 minutes a month on the social network. Typically, people spend 30 to 40 percent of the time talking about themselves, however that number jumps to 80 percent on social media.

The numbers also show social media is not slowing down any time soon. Facebook now has 1 billion users, Twitter has 555 million, and Pinterest has 11.7 million users.

For more interesting social media statistics, view the infographic provided by OnlineCollegeCourses.com.

Posted in Blogging, Consulting

WordPress Powers More Than 20 Percent of New Websites

(Image courtesy of WordPress.com.)

WordPress is the most popular blogging platform out there and it has been for quite some time. There are about 58 million WordPress websites on the Internet today, and counting.

Currently, WordPress powers about 22 percent of all new websites. Companies using WordPress to power their blogs include CNN, General Motors, eBay, the New York Times, and UPS.

More and more small business are using WordPress to run their main websites, basically because it is easy to use and there are a multitude of design themes to choose from.

I assisted Bogota Latin Bistro, a Colombian/Pan-Latin restaurant in Park Slope, Brooklyn, with its dynamic website using WordPress. One of Bogota’s owners just started his own small business consulting firm, MumtazCoaching.com, and I also helped with its initial installation.

What makes WordPress so easy to use it that you do not need to know html or any other computer coding. The most challenging part is setting up the software and database on a hosting site. Once that’s done you can choose a theme and download plug-ins that allow you to add contact forms, Twitter feeds, Facebook Like Pages, etc.

I learned so much working on the sites above that I revamped my personal site at philvelez.com using a self-hosted WordPress site (the site you are presenting viewing is directly hosted by WordPress.com.)

To find out more about the difference between hosted and self-hosted WordPress sites, check out this informative article.

If you would like help creating your own self-hosted WordPress site, feel free to contact me at any time.