Monday, June 22, 2015

Latin America: Land of Opportunity for M&A Pros

During the past 10 years, M&A activity in Latin America has pushed into the forefront. The region has seen the emergence of Latin American multinationals, home-grown private equity firms and U.S.-based private equity firms all vying for deals. Investors are attracted to the region for various reasons, but mainly economic growth opportunities coupled with investor-friendly policies. Private equity and venture capital firms committed $10.39 billion to investments in Latin America in 2014, exceeding the previous record of $10.27 billion in 2011, according to the Latin American Private Equity and Venture Capital Association.

Most M&A investors in Latin America are building businesses across the region rather than in a single country. But some countries, such as Brazil, Colombia and Mexico, are garnering more interest from investors than others. Also, some specific industries, including energy, financial services, health care and telecommunications, are stealing the spotlight.
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Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Investors Talk About Challenges for Women, Minorities in Silicon Valley

Women and minorities face significant barriers in Silicon Valley when they try to start companies and look for funding, although there are also signs of change, according to entrepreneurs and investors who talked during an event at Intel Corp. on Tuesday.

The tech leaders and investors spoke during an event about Intel Capital’s new $125 million fund to back women- or minority-led startups. That new fund is part of a company-wide push for diversity announced in January by Intel Chief Executive Brian Krzanich. Intel has tied employees’ pay this year to their success in hiring and retaining women and minorities, he said Tuesday.

Talk about the lack of diversity in tech and venture capital has increased with several recent studies pointing to dismal numbers of women and minorities in leadership positions as well as high-profile lawsuits.

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Monday, June 1, 2015

The Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) and The Blum Centers at UC Berkeley and UCLA are excited to host Demand Solutions: Ideas for Improving Lives in Cities on September 29, 2015 at the IDB headquarters in Washington, D.C.

Is Small Business for Me?

There are 28 million small businesses in the U.S., according to the SBA. They created 63 percent of new private sector jobs and 42 percent of private sector payroll. Headlines are grabbed by young entrepreneurs who are starting high tech companies, but in reality people over 50 own 51 percent of small businesses, while those between 35-49 own 33 percent and those under 35 own 16 percent. Women own 36 percent of small businesses, 2.3 million businesses are Hispanic-owned, 1.9 million are owned by African-Americans and 1.6 million are Asian-owned.

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Sunday, May 31, 2015

Airbus to Create Venture Capital Arm, Innovation Center in Silicon Valley

Airbus Group SE, Europe’s largest aerospace company, is establishing a venture capital arm in Silicon Valley along with a business innovation center headed by an ex- Google Inc. executive as it tries to maintain a technology edge in the face of a new breed of potential rivals.

The Toulouse-based company will spend an initial $150 million on its Airbus Group Ventures business to be led by Tim Dombrowski, a former partner of technology venture capital powerhouse Andreessen Horowitz. The unit’s mandate is to “invest in promising, disruptive and innovative business opportunities generated around the globe,” Airbus said on Friday.

Monday, May 25, 2015

NerdWallet Secures $64 Million in Series A Funding to Transform Personal Finance

SAN FRANCISCO, May 12, 2015 /PRNewswire/ -- NerdWallet today announced a $64 million Series A funding round led by Institutional Venture Partners (IVP) with participation from RRE Ventures, iGlobe Partners and additional angel investors. This is the first venture capital round for NerdWallet, a profitable fintech startup that brings clarity to consumer finance decisions. By balancing personal finance in favor of the consumer, the company aims to provide economic well-being for everyone.

When combined with existing cash reserves and a $33 million flexible loan facility from Silicon Valley Bank, the funding gives NerdWallet more than $100 million to transform one of the few industries yet to be disrupted by the Internet — personal finance.

"Consumers don't have a source of truth when making critical financial decisions," said Tim Chen, CEO and founder of NerdWallet. "They are either turning to friends and family who aren't experts or to advisors who want to sell them something. NerdWallet intends to bridge this gap by being an informed and trusted data-driven partner for consumers."

Whether it's selecting the best insurance provider, planning for retirement or starting a small business, consumers are faced with dozens of crucial personal finance decisions at every stage of their lives. NerdWallet helps consumers navigate these complex choices and provides transparency around all of their financial options.

"NerdWallet is the best kept secret in the financial technology market. With its explosive growth, strong profitability and strategic long-term vision, NerdWallet is positioned to win the multibillion dollar personal finance market," said Jules Maltz, General Partner at IVP. "We're proud to lead NerdWallet's first ever funding round and believe its vision of bringing clarity and transparency to all financial decisions is going to have huge social impact."

According to Tom Loverro, who led the investment on behalf of RRE Ventures,  "Traditional banking and financial services are under attack. The industry landscape will look dramatically different 10 years from today, with new technologies and startups changing the way consumers handle their finances. RRE is at the forefront of this upheaval, investing in companies transforming the last major category ripe for disruption."

Performance to Date 
In 2014, nearly 30 million consumers came to NerdWallet for accessible tools, research and expert advice to guide their financial decisions. The company's user base is growing by more than 150% year over year, while its revenues tripled.

From selecting banking, credit card or insurance products to navigating medical bills and student loans, NerdWallet takes the fear out of finance for individuals and small businesses. The company also connects consumers with a robust community of independent, vetted financial experts and medical billing specialists for personalized advice.  

NerdWallet was founded in 2009 and is profitable with strong cash reserves. The company has forged partnerships with eight of the largest banking and credit card companies in the world, and more than a dozen insurance providers. Headquartered in San Francisco, NerdWallet has more than 200 employees and boasts an impressive leadership team from Box, JPMorgan, LinkedIn, Trulia, Visa and Zynga.

Jules Maltz and Tom Loverro will join Tim Chen on NerdWallet's board of directors. Soo Boon Koh, founder and managing partner of iGlobe, will become a board observer. James D. Robinson III, former CEO of American Express; Vikram Pandit, former CEO of Citigroup; and David Henke, former senior vice president of Engineering and Operations at LinkedIn and Yahoo, will serve as board advisors. 

Additional investors in the round include Arjan Schutte of Core Innovation Capital, Aaron Lee, Brian Lee, Dharmesh Thakker, Emilie Choi, Eric Bahn, Josh Tonderys, Mike Grishaver, Parker Barrile, Raymie Stata, Richard Jun, Ryan Roslansky, Scott Roberts, Shirshanka Das and Sumir Meghani.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Latino fund to make first grants to five local programs

Here’s a statistic that troubles the local Latino community: About one penny of every dollar awarded by charitable foundations nationwide goes to Latino organizations. In Massachusetts, that ratio is only slightly higher, at two cents on the dollar.

A Boston organization created to shift that imbalance will make its first round of grants Wednesday, directing $100,000 to five local Latino-focused programs.

Created in 2012, the Latino Legacy Fund is the only charitable fund in Greater Boston focused solely on supporting Latino-led or Latino-focused nonprofits. The fund was seeded with contributions of $250,000 each from the Boston Foundation and Hispanics in Philanthropy. It has since grown to about $800,000 thanks to individual and corporate donors, including MFS Investment Management, Eastern Bank, and John Hancock.

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Latin America Venture Capitalists: Searching for More Than Just a Good Idea

It is a known fact that Latin American entrepreneurs embarking on startups are constantly on the lookout for financing to back their business ventures, with the hope of making the enterprise more profitable and boosting its growth on both a local and a global scale. It is equally true that the organizations that possess said funds are also on the lookout, but as it turns out, being an entrepreneur with a good idea for a venture is not enough – they want someone who goes above and beyond, showing commitment and good business vision.

Read full article by By Norberto Gaona

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Venture capital is facing up to its diversity problem

SAN FRANCISCO — For decades the venture capital industry — made up almost entirely of white men — has had the distinction of being the most exclusive club in Silicon Valley.

Now the financiers who have funded some of the world's most powerful companies and minted hundreds of billionaires are trying to face up to their diversity problem.

The trade group for the venture capital industry said Monday it is forming a task force to brainstorm ways to bring aboard more women and minorities.

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Monday, November 10, 2014

Minority-owned enterprises try online funding sources

Tyrene Gibson, a Fort Lee real estate agent, saw how much her 13-year-old daughter Aya suffered during her treatments for sickle-cell anemia. The strong pain made it difficult for the young girl to breathe, even on oxygen. Gibson had an idea for a better way to get oxygen to patients like her daughter. This spring, she reached out to people she didn't even know, over the Internet, to raise $25,000 to create a prototype.

Gibson's company, AyaMed Inc., used a website called IndieGoGo, one of a new wave of funding options for entrepreneurs. Generally referred to as "crowdfunding," sites such as IndieGoGo and Kickstarter let people who need funds for a product or service pitch their idea to the world and solicit donations, even as small as a dollar.

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IBM Wants Startups on its Cloud

The tech giant will announce Monday that it is offering up to $120,000 in credits–$10,000 per month–to entrepreneurs who are willing to use IBM’s cloud software to launch their companies or develop apps and services. Entrepreneurs will also be introduced to IBM customers, receive advice on how to go to market and get tech support.

“Our mantra is speed and our mission is to grow out our cloud business,” said IBM General Manager of Ecosystem Development Sandy Carter, who proposed the program, called the IBM Global Entrepreneur Program for Cloud Startups, about two months ago. “…There’s so much potential in the global economy for entrepreneurs

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Monday, November 3, 2014

Struggling in the shadow of Silicon Valley wealth

EAST PALO ALTO, Calif. — A few miles from Facebook's sprawling, opulent headquarters, police officers cuff a suspect in a hardscrabble neighborhood, while sirens wail not far away.

Bars frame windows. Patrol cars crisscross the streets near Cesar Chavez Academy, where school children frolic. Homeless people wander.

They share the same zip code with Facebook, but live worlds apart.

Throughout Silicon Valley, fences and roads divide the rich from poor, the powerful from the powerless.

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Confie Seguros Acquires Three Personal Lines Insurance Brokerages

HUNTINGTON BEACH, Calif., Nov. 3, 2014 /PRNewswire/ -- Confie Seguros, a national provider of personal lines insurance, announced today that it has acquired three insurance brokerages, two in New York's Buffalo area and one in California.

Confie Seguros acquired The Insurance Market Agency, Inc. in Tonawanda, NY and Action Auto Insurance Agency, Inc. in Cheektowaga, NY. Both Agencies have been part of the Buffalo community for many years and offer a variety of insurance products, including auto, homeowners and small commercial. Additionally, Confie also added Fast Quote Insurance, of Ontario, CA, specializing in auto insurance and serving customers from its five Southern California offices.

Joe Waked, Chairman of Confie Seguros, said, "We continue to pursue selective targets that will strengthen our operations and geographic base nationally, and we remain very pleased with the quality of businesses that we are incorporating into our insurance distribution platform. In addition to offering a broad cross section of products, these three agencies align with our strategic growth strategy and our company's culture."

Confie has acquired and successfully integrated over 70 businesses since its inception and has grown to a national retail organization that oversees over 560 offices. Last month the company announced five acquisitions in New York, Washington, and Texas.

About Confie Seguros
Established in 2008, Confie Seguros is a leading, California-based national insurance distribution company primarily focused on the insurance needs of Hispanic consumers. The experienced Confie Seguros management team continues to build Confie Seguros' portfolio of regional personal lines brokerages, and today has annual revenue of approximately $350 million and over 560 retail locations. The company has leading market positions in California, Arizona, Texas, Florida, Washington, Oregon, New York, New Jersey,  Nevada, Illinois, Alabama, Kansas, Wisconsin, South Carolina, Missouri, Louisiana,  and Indiana and expects to continue its expansion in those and other states, including  Georgia, Virginia and North Carolina. Confie Seguros is a portfolio company of ABRY Partners. For more information about Confie Seguros, please visit www.confieseguros.com.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Social Marketing Startup Thismoment Raises $17.6 Million

Thismoment, a San Francisco-based content marketing startup that helps brands create content for sharing to social media, has raised $17.6 million in new venture funding, according to CEO Vince Broady. The series D round was led by existing investors Sierra Ventures, Trident Capital and UMC Capital.

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Saturday, October 11, 2014

Marc Andreessen Aims to Solve Tech's Diversity Problem with $500,000 Donation

Prominent Silicon Valley venture capitalist Marc Andreessen and his wife, philanthropist and entrepreneur Laura Arrillaga-Andreessen, announced a $500,000 donation today to support diversity in technology. In an interview with USA Today, Andreessen and Arrillaga-Andreessen said that their donation would support the efforts of three tech non-profits, including Code2040, Girls Who Code and Hack the Hood, all of which are driven by the mission to decrease gender and/or racial gaps in the field of technology.

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‘Brazil is Not For Beginners’ Says Warburg Pincus’ Chip Kaye

It’s been a tough year for Brazil.

A crushing loss in the World Cup. Roiling markets and hits to its currency ahead of the upcoming presidential election. Growth rates that are a mere fraction of what they once were. Waning enthusiasm from institutional investors.

Despite the grim macro (and sporting) picture, private equity firms seeking investment there remain undeterred.

“When you invest in emerging markets, you’ve got to recognize the inherent cyclicality,” said Warburg Pincus Co-Chief Executive Charles “Chip” Kaye during a keynote address at the Latin American Private Equity & Venture Capital Association Summit and Investor Roundtable in New York Wednesday.

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Monday, October 6, 2014

Transnetwork Corporation adquiere el negocio de remesas de Citi en Centroamérica

HOUSTON, Oct. 6, 2014 /PRNewswire-HISPANIC PR WIRE/ -- Houston-based Transnetwork Corporation, a leading B2B electronic domestic and cross-border processing and payment platform with more than 10 years' experience sending remittances to financial networks and retail chains in Mexico and Latin America, has agreed to acquire the assets of Citi Remesas, Inc., a subsidiary of Citibank, and Citi Remesas' Central American remittance operations.

Transnetwork acquired the business on September 30. Under the transaction, the company inherited the vast network of leading retailers and banks from Citi's portfolio, as well as the branches and clients of Citi's El Salvador remittance operations branded as Remesas Familiares Cuscatlan.

In announcing the closing of the transaction, Jorge Raull, CEO of Transnetwork, stated, "Transnetwork Corp. and Citi Remesas, Inc. hold agreements with virtually all of the same money transmitters, making the operation highly efficient and seamless. The transaction strengthens our core business of providing payment solutions in Central and South America by expanding our payment network of prime retailers and supermarkets, creating more value for our international partners."

As part of the transaction, Transnetwork will be able to continue offering remittance payments at Citi's Central America branches for a six-month period, through April 1, 2015, as well as offer deposits into Citi Central America client accounts in the longer term.

Upon closing of the transaction Transnetwork will absorb Citi's agreements with payers in El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama, Ecuador, Peru and Brazil, where beneficiaries are able to collect their money at Citi branch locations in Central America as well as through a variety of the region's principal retail chains and financial institutions.

About Transnetwork Corporation
Transnetwork Corporation is a Houston-based B2B electronic domestic and cross-border processing and payment platform which enables licensed and regulated financial institutions to connect under one standard technology granting access to a diversified payment network in Mexico, Central and South America. With more than ten years of experience processing remittances to financial networks and retail chains, the firm currently operates in Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Panama, Ecuador, Peru, Colombia and Brazil. For more information, visit www.transnetwork.com.

SOURCE  Transnetwork Corporation

Friday, October 3, 2014

Latin America Venture Capital: Mixed Outlook

Private equity investments as well as deployments of venture capital in Latin America declined by 10 percent in the first half of this year, as compared to the same period last year, to $2.6 billion, the Latin American Private Equity and Venture Capital Association said recently. 

Fundraising in the period totaled $3.5 billion, a figure the organization estimates could reach $8 billion by year's end. What are the trends in venture capital and private equity in the region? Who is investing money and in what sectors? Which countries have attracted the most and least investment this year, and why? 

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Why Marriott wants more diverse hotel owners

In 2009, the Biagas family made an investment that the faint of heart likely couldn’t stomach. In the wake of the financial downturn, John and his siblings Mark, Randy and Evette (along with four other investors) put down $3.8 million to build their first Marriott-brand hotel in Lake Charles, Louisiana. The SpringHill Suites by Marriott would be the family’s first venture into the hotel business.

“Our father was an entrepreneur and he taught us not to put all of our eggs into one basket, so we’ve made a number of different investments,” John told Fortune.

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Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Palladium Makes Investment in Pronto Insurance, a Leading Provider of Non-Standard Auto Insurance to the Rapidly Growing Hispanic Market in Texas

NEW YORK and BROWNSVILLE, Texas, Oct. 1, 2014 /PRNewswire/ -- Palladium Equity Partners, LLC (along with its affiliates, "Palladium"), a private investment firm with over $2.5 billion in assets under management, today announced that it has made a significant investment in Pronto General Agency, Ltd. and its affiliates ("Pronto Insurance"), a leading managing general agency ("MGA") providing sales & distribution, underwriting, and claims administration services focused primarily on the non-standard auto insurance market segment in Texas.  As a result of the investment, Palladium holds a majority ownership interest in Pronto Insurance, while the company's leadership team, comprised of members of the Varela family and other executives, has retained a significant minority ownership interest.

Headquartered in Brownsville, TX and founded in 1997, Pronto Insurance has experienced significant growth since launching its MGA in 2005, expanding its business model from retail insurance distribution to multiple channels of distribution, including captive locations, franchisees, and independent agents.  As of today, Pronto Insurance's collected premiums are approximately $100 million.

"We are excited that Pronto Insurance has joined the Palladium family of companies, and we look forward to partnering with a firm that has significant experience in growing Hispanic-focused businesses," said Rafael Varela, founding partner of Pronto Insurance.  "We share a vision for Pronto Insurance's great potential and we intend to pursue a course of strategic growth and focused investment in the months and years ahead."

"Pronto Insurance has established a terrific position in the non-standard auto insurance space, with a strong brand focused on the Hispanic market, multiple channels of distribution, and an attractive Southwest footprint," said Erik Scott, a Managing Director of Palladium.  "We look forward to working with the Pronto Insurance leadership team to continue to grow the company organically by delivering a compelling mix of innovative services to its clients, as well as by pursuing acquisitions that make strategic sense both within and outside of Texas."

Pronto Insurance was advised by Sica | Fletcher.

About Pronto Insurance
Pronto Insurance is a provider of auto insurance solutions and other insurance products.  The company, which is headquartered in Brownsville, Texas, has approximately 100 locations statewide in Corpus Christi, the Rio Grande Valley, Laredo, San Antonio, El Paso, Houston and Austin.  For additional information about Pronto Insurance visit www.prontoinsurance.com.

About Palladium Equity Partners, LLC
Palladium is a middle market private equity firm with over $2.5 billion in assets under management. Palladium seeks to acquire and grow companies in partnership with founders and experienced management teams, and focuses primarily on buyout equity investments in the range of $50 to $150 million.  Since its founding in 1997, Palladium has invested over $1 billion of capital in more than 20 platform investments and over 50 add-on acquisitions. The principals of the firm have significant experience in financial services, business services, food, healthcare, industrial and media businesses, with a special focus on transitioning founder-owned businesses and investing in companies it believes will benefit from the growth in the U.S. Hispanic population. In April 2014, Palladium announced the final closing of Palladium Equity Partners IV, L.P. at $1.14 billion, significantly exceeding its target.  Palladium is based in New York City. For more information, visit www.palladiumequity.com.

Monday, September 29, 2014

The Biggest Venture Capital Players Investing in Travel Startups

There are all sorts of entities funding travel startups these days, including prominent angels, accelerators such as Y Combinator and Start-Up Chile, public company funds such as Concur’s $150 million Perfect Trip Fund, private equity firms such as TPG, hedge funds looking to diversify, and venture capital companies investing in all stages of the travel startup lifecycle — or eventual death spiral.

Venture capital firms active in travel include Thayer Ventures, Accel Partners, General Catalyst Partners, Battery Ventures, PROfounders Capital, Benchmark Capital, Sequoia Capital, Google Ventures, Sutter Hill Ventures, Altimeter Capital, Menlo Ventures, PAR Capital Management, and dozens more.

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Sequoia Capital Returns to Investing in Brazil

SÃO PAULO, Brazil — Sequoia Capital, the Silicon Valley venture capital firm, is bringing money back to Brazil.

Just a little more than a year after pulling back from South America, it has led a new $13.8 million round in Nubank, a financial services start-up based in São Paulo. Its latest investment in Brazil comes despite recession and political uncertainty with presidential elections coming next month.

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Friday, September 26, 2014

Latin America - E-Invoicing Doesn't Stop Economic Growth

A country or region's economic performance is largely a reflection of how competitive it is with other nations on the world stage. And in Latin America, many countries that comprise it are steadily ascending the ladder of financial success, based on the results of a recent report.

The World Economic Forum recently conducted an analysis of 144 economies throughout the globe, ranking each based on its economic competitiveness, using measurements such as innovation, talent development and the strength of institutions. On its Global Competitive Index, the United States improved its position for the second year in a row, climbing to the third best country overall, just behind Switzerland and Singapore, respectively. Finland and Germany rounded out the top five countries.

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Cultural Realities Of Latin American Entrepreneurship

One of the brilliant things about tech leaders and pundits in Silicon Valley is their true passion for entrepreneurship and their belief in the power of the human spirit and intellect. Surrounded by the sight of so many motivated and talented founders in the Valley itself, they assume that this optimistic sensibility can override nearly any obstacle for a dedicated entrepreneur.

However, outside of the Valley and particularly in the rest of the world, the reality is more nuanced. Truthfully, as a means of understanding startup culture in the rest of the world, this viewpoint does international entrepreneurs a disservice.

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Thursday, September 25, 2014

LatAm Online Shopping Mall Iguama Appoints E-Commerce Pioneer Bruce Matthews as Executive VP of Business Development

MIAMI, Sept. 24, 2014 /PRNewswire/ -- Iguama announced today that ecommerce pioneer Bruce Matthews will join the company as Executive Vice President of Business Development. 

Iguama is the online shopping mall where Latinos can discover and buy all the things they can't get at home. The marketplace provides a social environment in which US brands and stores can connect with consumers in Latin America directly and handles every aspect of fulfillment out of the United States including: international shipping, customs and international tax.

From 1990 to August 2014, Bruce was Vice President of Business Development at TigerDirect, a publicly listed retailer of computers and consumer electronics that has been selling online since 1996. He was a key member of the executive team that took TigerDirect from ground zero to being one of the top 25 US internet retailers and has more than 20 years' experience in the web retail space.

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Exploring the newly opened Mexican energy business

Latin America has long been a tricky place for foreign investors to do business given weak record-keeping, slow and inefficient judicial systems and high corruption levels, especially in the already risky world of private equity. Still, 2013 was a record year for private equity investment in the region, according to the Latin American Private Equity & Venture Capital Association, with $8.9 billion in total investments, up 13% over 2012, $5.5 billion in funds raised and $3.7 billion in exit proceeds. 

While investments in the first half of this year were down 10% coming off such a record year, it's expected that fundraising will hit $8 billion this year, leading to a lot of money needing to be put to work.

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Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Thiel Talks Startups at Business School

Drawing on his experiences as a co-founder of Paypal and early stage investor for Facebook, entrepreneur and venture capitalist Peter A. Thiel stressed the role of innovation in entrepreneurship during a conversation with Harvard Business School professor William A. Sahlman on Thursday.

Thiel, who focused on themes from his new book, “Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future,” addressed an audience of MBA students and other members of the Business School community on topics ranging from venture capitalism and social entrepreneurship to higher education and the future of Massive Open Online Courses. The event was hosted by the Business School’s Arthur Rock Center for Entrepreneurship, which facilitates faculty research and student and alumni entrepreneurship within the school.

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Latino small biz owners face challenges securing financing

A new study found that Latino small business owners and entrepreneurs across the U.S. often struggle to get business loans from banks and often turn to non-bank lenders with higher interest rates to secure financing, according to Biz2Credit.com.

The online platform for small business finance examined annual revenue, credit scores, age of business (in months) and operating expenses from more than 1,000 Latino-owned businesses with less than 250 employees and less than $10 million in annual revenues.

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Friday, September 19, 2014

Banks Go Digital -- In Layers

Banks are struggling to become digital, said a recent conference report sponsored by Adobe.

That seemed a little puzzling — what are banks besides digital? Money, after all largely consists of computerized records and transactions.

So when I was asking Steve Ellis, executive vice president and head of wholesale services at Wells Fargo, about the bank’s fintech accelerator program, I asked what he thought about digital shortcomings at banks.

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Investment in Latin America Falls 10% in First Half

RIO DE JANEIRO — Private equity and venture capital investments in Latin America dropped by 10 percent in the first half of this year compared with figures in the period a year earlier, the Latin American Private Equity and Venture Capital Association said on Thursday.

Investments totaled $2.6 billion, compared with $2.9 billion during the first half of 2013, the association, which is based in New York, said in a midyear survey, which is largely dependent on self-reporting by investors.

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Thursday, September 18, 2014

Protector Holdings Acquires SavePro Insurance Solutions

SAN FRANCISCO, Sept. 8, 2014 /PRNewswire/ -- Protector Holdings, LLC, a joint venture of EPIC (Edgewood Partners Insurance Center) and Dowling Capital Partners, announced today the acquisition of Northern California's SavePro Insurance Solutions.

SavePro (formally Bains and Woodward Insurance) was founded in 2008 in Yuba City, Calif. by Roger Bains and Paul Woodward, and has expanded to Chico, Eureka and Oroville, Calif.

In 2012, SavePro added David Rosenberg to bring Commercial Lines expertise to the agency, which has resulted in significant growth for the company.

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New Crowdfunding Platform Helps Latinos in Tech Careers

In the past five years, the technology sector in Los Angeles has been steadily growing. Since the beginning of 2009, when the country was in the midst of the worst recession in generations, investment in the L.A. area tech scene has risen 163%. During that same period, tech deals have increased by 180%. Additionally, the unemployment rate for the technology sector tends to be lower than the overall unemployment rate, and salaries tend to be higher. In the first quarter of this year, less than one percent of Web developers were unemployed.

While there's a growth trend in the tech sector, women and minorities remain underrepresented. This year the Internet search giant Google released its diversity numbers -- 83% of its tech workers are male. One percent of its tech staff is black, two percent are Latino, and 34% are Asian. Other technology companies post similar diversity data.

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Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Peter Piper plans franchise growth amid sale discussions

Peter Piper Pizza plans to open 50 new units in the next five years through franchising growth, amid talks over the 143-unit chain’s sale.

Hours after announcing its growth plans, Peter Piper president and CEO Charles Bruce confirmed to Nation’s Restaurant News that the Scottsdale, Ariz.-based chain is up for sale by owner Acon Investors, which bought the chain in 2006 for an undisclosed price

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4M fewer uninsured as Affordable Care Act kicks in

There were 41 million Americans lacking coverage in early 2014, down from 44.8 million last year, according to the National Health Interview Survey, the first official government look at the uninsured after Obamacare policies kicked in on January 1. The uninsured rate fell to 13.1%, from 14.4%.

The survey, conducted by the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, interviewed more than 27,600 people from January through March and asked them their coverage status. It also detailed whether they have private policies or participate in government programs.

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Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Two San Diego colleges receive federal grant aiding low-income Hispanic students

SAN DIEGO (CNS) - San Diego Mesa College announced today that it won a $2.6 million, five-year federal grant to assist Hispanics who are first-generation, low-income students.

Mesa and Southwestern College in Chula Vista were two of only 20 colleges and universities around the country to win the grants from the U.S. Department of Education.

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Private equity preps new Latin America push

Private equity and venture capital firms are setting up for more bets in Latin America after strong fundraising this year.

Some $3.5 billion earmarked for the region was collected during the first half of 2014, according to new data from the Latin American Private Equity & Venture Capital Association.

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Friday, September 5, 2014

SBA chief Maria Contreras-Sweet on micro-lending and the minimum wage

Maria Contreras-Sweet, who assumed the reins as head of the U.S. Small Business Administration five months ago, stopped in downtown Los Angeles this week during a West Coast tour to discuss micro-lending, immigrant entrepreneurship and access to capital.

Addressing a packed luncheon crowd at City Club Los Angeles, part of the Town Hall Los Angeles speaker series, she expounded on her efforts to streamline the lending process and promote job creation.

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Building a giant? Rocket bets big on new online markets

SINGAPORE/MOSCOW/BERLIN, Sept 5 (Reuters) - Germany's Rocket Internet faces daunting logistical challenges and rising local competition from Lagos to Laos as it races to capture customers in emerging markets before e-commerce titans Amazon and Alibaba can catch up.

That spells mounting losses as the venture capital company gears up to launch an initial public offering (IPO) this month that will help provide the war chest it needs to build and defend what it hopes will be the largest online shopping empire outside the United States and China.

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Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Chase Celebrates Its Support For Small Business With $3 Million Mission Main Street(SM) Grants Program

NEW YORKSept. 3, 2014 /PRNewswire/ -- Today, Chase continues its ongoing commitment to small business with the launch of Mission Main StreetSM Grants, a program that will award 20 grants of $150,000 to small businesses nationwide. Qualifying businesses that apply for a grant will gain access to a marketing Toolkit and a$150 coupon toward one market research study with Google Consumer Surveys from Premier Sponsor, Google. In addition, the 20 grant recipients will receive a trip to Google for an exclusive small business marketing workshop, a Google Chromebook Laptop computer and a $2,000 coupon toward one market research study with Google Consumer Surveys.
Today through October 3, any for-profit business in the U.S. with fewer than 100 employees and which meets all other eligibility requirements may apply. Full eligibility requirements are available atwww.MissionMainStreetGrants.com/rules.
"Small businesses are invaluable to the growth of our economy and represent the lifeblood of the neighborhoods and communities they serve," said Jennifer Piepszak, Head of Sales and Strategy for Chase Business Banking. "This year, we've expanded our grant program to help even more small businesses by contributing to their success and offering them insights and access to the best tools to fuel their growth."
Everyone is invited to show their support for their favorite registered small businesses by voting through their Facebook account at www.MissionMainStreetGrants.com. Businesses must receive at least 250 votes to be considered for a grant. The public voting period is open from September 3, 2014 through October 17, 2014.
"The Internet has proven to be a vital pipeline for small businesses, and it continues to connect more businesses to their customers every day," said Jon Kaplan, Vice President of US Sales & Operations, Google Inc. "We're excited to join Chase once again for the Mission Main Street Grants program to recognize some of the great small businesses around the country and help them make the most of the Web." The 20 grant recipients will be selected by a panel of experts representing a diverse group of organizations with a passion for small business.
The panel of judges includes: 
  • Darla Beggs, National Board Chair, National Association of Women Business Owners
  • Nick Cannon, Entrepertainer, Ncredible
  • David C. Chavern, Executive Vice President & Chief Operating Officer, U.S. Chamber of Commerce
  • Mark Garzone, Senior Vice President, Marketing, National Federation of Independent Business
  • Carla Hall, celebrity chef and owner of Carla Hall Petite Cookies
  • Jon Kaplan, Vice President, US Sales & Operations, Google Inc.
  • Chance Mitchell, CEO & Co-Founder, National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce
  • Marc H. Morial, President & CEO, National Urban League
  • Marc Nager, Chief Executive Officer, UP Global
  • Matthew Pavelek, Director of Communications, National Veteran Owned Business Association
  • Andres Pena, Vice President, External Affairs, U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce
  • Jennifer Piepszak, National Head of Sales, Chase Business Banking
  • J.P. Torres, PR & Communications Director, U.S. Pan Asian American Chamber of Commerce Education Foundation
  • Candace Waterman, Chief of Staff, Certification & Program Operations, Women Business Enterprise National Council
  • Joset Wright-Lacy, President, National Minority Supplier Development Council
"Small businesses are driving opportunities in their cities, recruiting talent from their communities and contributing to the ongoing growth of our economy. This program is a unique way to find remarkable enterprises that are ready for their next stage and we invite all businesses who qualify to consider applying," said Javier Palomarez, CEO of the US Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.
The program application is in English. Chase bankers are available to assist applicants who speak other languages complete the process. Mission Main StreetSM Grants recipients will be announced in January 2015.
About Chase and Small Business The grant program is part of Mission Main Street (#MissionMainSt), a campaign that celebrates growing American businesses and raises the profile of select entrepreneurs to help inspire others. For more information about the campaign visit www.chase.com/missionmainstreet.
Chase serves 4 million American small businesses, and was named the nation's No. 1 SBA lender for 2013, marking four consecutive years of approving a higher number of SBA loans and lines of credit than any other lender in the United States. Chase also remains the No. 1 SBA lender to women and minority-owned businesses. Businesses interested in expansion, hiring or working capital should contact a Chase Business Banking or visitwww.chase.com/business.
About Chase Chase is the U.S. consumer and commercial banking business of JPMorgan Chase & Co. (NYSE: JPM), a leading global financial services firm with assets of $2.5 trillion and operations worldwide. Chase serves nearly half of America's households with a broad range of financial services, including personal banking, small business lending, mortgages, credit cards, auto financing and investment advice. Customers can choose how and where they want to bank: 5,600 branches, 20,000 ATMs, online, mobile and by phone. For more information visit www.chase.com.

Chase Celebrates Its Support For Small Business With $3 Million Mission Main Street(SM) Grants Program

NEW YORKSept. 3, 2014 /PRNewswire/ -- Today, Chase continues its ongoing commitment to small business with the launch of Mission Main StreetSM Grants, a program that will award 20 grants of $150,000 to small businesses nationwide. Qualifying businesses that apply for a grant will gain access to a marketing Toolkit and a$150 coupon toward one market research study with Google Consumer Surveys from Premier Sponsor, Google. In addition, the 20 grant recipients will receive a trip to Google for an exclusive small business marketing workshop, a Google Chromebook Laptop computer and a $2,000 coupon toward one market research study with Google Consumer Surveys.
Today through October 3, any for-profit business in the U.S. with fewer than 100 employees and which meets all other eligibility requirements may apply. Full eligibility requirements are available atwww.MissionMainStreetGrants.com/rules.
"Small businesses are invaluable to the growth of our economy and represent the lifeblood of the neighborhoods and communities they serve," said Jennifer Piepszak, Head of Sales and Strategy for Chase Business Banking. "This year, we've expanded our grant program to help even more small businesses by contributing to their success and offering them insights and access to the best tools to fuel their growth."
Everyone is invited to show their support for their favorite registered small businesses by voting through their Facebook account at www.MissionMainStreetGrants.com. Businesses must receive at least 250 votes to be considered for a grant. The public voting period is open from September 3, 2014 through October 17, 2014.
"The Internet has proven to be a vital pipeline for small businesses, and it continues to connect more businesses to their customers every day," said Jon Kaplan, Vice President of US Sales & Operations, Google Inc. "We're excited to join Chase once again for the Mission Main Street Grants program to recognize some of the great small businesses around the country and help them make the most of the Web." The 20 grant recipients will be selected by a panel of experts representing a diverse group of organizations with a passion for small business.
The panel of judges includes: 
  • Darla Beggs, National Board Chair, National Association of Women Business Owners
  • Nick Cannon, Entrepertainer, Ncredible
  • David C. Chavern, Executive Vice President & Chief Operating Officer, U.S. Chamber of Commerce
  • Mark Garzone, Senior Vice President, Marketing, National Federation of Independent Business
  • Carla Hall, celebrity chef and owner of Carla Hall Petite Cookies
  • Jon Kaplan, Vice President, US Sales & Operations, Google Inc.
  • Chance Mitchell, CEO & Co-Founder, National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce
  • Marc H. Morial, President & CEO, National Urban League
  • Marc Nager, Chief Executive Officer, UP Global
  • Matthew Pavelek, Director of Communications, National Veteran Owned Business Association
  • Andres Pena, Vice President, External Affairs, U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce
  • Jennifer Piepszak, National Head of Sales, Chase Business Banking
  • J.P. Torres, PR & Communications Director, U.S. Pan Asian American Chamber of Commerce Education Foundation
  • Candace Waterman, Chief of Staff, Certification & Program Operations, Women Business Enterprise National Council
  • Joset Wright-Lacy, President, National Minority Supplier Development Council
"Small businesses are driving opportunities in their cities, recruiting talent from their communities and contributing to the ongoing growth of our economy. This program is a unique way to find remarkable enterprises that are ready for their next stage and we invite all businesses who qualify to consider applying," said Javier Palomarez, CEO of the US Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.
The program application is in English. Chase bankers are available to assist applicants who speak other languages complete the process. Mission Main StreetSM Grants recipients will be announced in January 2015.
About Chase and Small Business The grant program is part of Mission Main Street (#MissionMainSt), a campaign that celebrates growing American businesses and raises the profile of select entrepreneurs to help inspire others. For more information about the campaign visit www.chase.com/missionmainstreet.
Chase serves 4 million American small businesses, and was named the nation's No. 1 SBA lender for 2013, marking four consecutive years of approving a higher number of SBA loans and lines of credit than any other lender in the United States. Chase also remains the No. 1 SBA lender to women and minority-owned businesses. Businesses interested in expansion, hiring or working capital should contact a Chase Business Banking or visitwww.chase.com/business.
About Chase Chase is the U.S. consumer and commercial banking business of JPMorgan Chase & Co. (NYSE: JPM), a leading global financial services firm with assets of $2.5 trillion and operations worldwide. Chase serves nearly half of America's households with a broad range of financial services, including personal banking, small business lending, mortgages, credit cards, auto financing and investment advice. Customers can choose how and where they want to bank: 5,600 branches, 20,000 ATMs, online, mobile and by phone. For more information visit www.chase.com.

Friday, August 29, 2014

me News Weather Traffic Sports Entertainment SA Live Lifestyle Marketplace NEWS University of Texas receives Latin American art worth $10M

AUSTIN, Texas - A Houston couple has donated 120 modern and contemporary Latin American artworks valued at nearly $10 million to the University of Texas.

The Houston Chronicle reports (http://bit.ly/XUjj1d ) that Charles and Judy Tate, UT alumni, selected the university's Blanton Museum of Art for the donation. They also gave more than $1 million to a university endowment that supports a Latin American curatorship.

Read full article

MetLife Named Top 50 Company for Hispanic Women

NEW YORK, Aug 27, 2014 (BUSINESS WIRE) -- MetLife has been selected by LATINA Style Magazine as one of the 50 Best Companies for Latinas to Work for and is featured in the magazine’s 2014 LATINA Style 50 Report. Now in its 17th year, this annual report is one of the most respected sources of employment and career information for Hispanic women in the United States.

“At MetLife, we are committed to growing a diverse workforce that reflects our customers, shareholders and communities and to creating a culture of inclusion – both of which are essential to meeting our business goals,” said Elizabeth Nieto, MetLife’s global chief diversity and inclusion officer. “We’re proud that LATINA Style has recognized MetLife’s strong track record of attracting, developing and retaining a diverse workforce.”

The 50 Best Companies are selected based on their efforts to promote diversity and provide career advancement opportunities, with special attention this year to programs that recruit veterans and military personnel. MetLife is focused on gender diversity through efforts to strengthen the representation, talent development and advancement of women in senior leadership roles. In addition, the company has an ongoing campaign to recruit veterans and military personnel.

“This year LATINA Style is celebrating its 20th Anniversary in providing the Latina community with information that makes a difference in their everyday lives, and we are happy to honor MetLife in this year’s Top 50 Best Companies for Latinas,” said Robert E. Bard, president and chief executive officer of LATINA Style, Inc. “MetLife was chosen for its commitment to advancing Latina women in the workforce and sets an example that other companies should follow.”

The LATINA Style 50 Companies will be honored during LATINA Style’s Awards Ceremony & Diversity Leaders Conference in Washington, D.C., on February 5, 2015.

About MetLife
MetLife, Inc. MET, +0.55% through its subsidiaries and affiliates (“MetLife”), is one of the largest life insurance companies in the world. Founded in 1868, MetLife is a global provider of life insurance, annuities, employee benefits and asset management. Serving approximately 100 million customers, MetLife has operations in nearly 50 countries and holds leading market positions in the United States, Japan, Latin America, Asia, Europe and the Middle East. For more information, visit www.metlife.com

SOURCE: MetLife, Inc.

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