June 14, 2014
The recent acquisition of our partners .CO Internet by Neustar for a whopping USD$ 109 million dollars is a prime example of a successful exit by a South Florida tech company. To get here, there were many lessons learned, which according to Jose Ignacio Rasco, Managing Director of Straat Investments, the former parent company of .CO, had a lot to do with growing the value of the .CO brand. Part of .CO’s strategy was to build a global brand using the bottom-up approach, starting with the Miami community. The Miami-based startup has scaled globally with over one million .CO registered domains, yet the company focused on increasing brand recognition in Miami by investing in the local ecosystem through event partnerships and mentorship.
“We always say whatever we do, make sure we do it in Miami. Even though we may not get the exposure we would by sponsoring high profile events like SXSW, we saw the value of spending the extra cash in smaller events in Miami. It was always important that we were behind our community,” says Rasco.
With this mindset Rasco, alongside Juan Diego Calle, is setting his sites on Miami-based startups. They have invested in local startup Pop.co: a one-stop shop for starting your business online, including getting a domain, Google Business apps and a starter page in just minutes for $5 bucks a month. Rasco has also invested in Miami-based startup LiveNinja and BoutiqueHotels.com.
“As an entrepreneur here in Miami, the most important things to me are community support of our network, the willingness to mentor each other, and access to capital. .CO is a great example of a successful Miami startup that’s been able to deliver on all three for us,” says Will Weinraub, CEO of LiveNinja.
When looking at part of the strategy of .CO as a brand, Rasco admits that much of his success had to do with the leadership’s marketing capabilities.
“It’s hard to quantify the return on investment [in increasing brand value]. Startups have trouble telling their board members that they just spent X and this how they got Y back. It’s the tough part of brand building,” says Rasco.
To continue fostering the local ecosystem Rasco and Straat Investments are launching a new space to in Miami for experienced entrepreneurs to collaborate and find mentorship called Building.co, where they invested US $5 million. The space is expected to open in November of this year and will be located in Brickell.
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