Startup
Spotlight

Octopi

Tell us about you.

I studied Electrical Engineering at the University of Virginia, then obtained my masters at Georgia Tech in the same field. After graduation, I joined Verizon Communications as a Software Architect, but 2 years later, I quit my job to start my first company (ShareMeme) and be part of an accelerator program in Washington DC called Launchbox Digital. While that first startup was not a success, I learned many lessons from this experience which I’ve applied to my next companies: first find someone willing to pay you for a product before you spend the time and resources to build it. After that failure, I went to work at Intellum where I spent 5 years. I became the CTO of the company and grew the team to more than 20 software engineers distributed throughout the world and working with customers like AT&T, Facebook, Google, and SnapChat. Throughout these years, I’ve also developed and launch side projects with friends such as job509.com (which is now the #1 jobs website in Haiti) and htmlsig.com (on which more than half a million email signatures have been created). Then I stumbled into the shipping and maritime industry thanks to a friend who was looking for software for that industry and we ended up founding Octopi.

 

I believe the reason I became an entrepreneur is because of my intellectual curiosity. I love learning about different things and I love creating so I always find something new to work on. I’ve also been inspired by my dad who is himself a successful entrepreneur that I admire. As a kid, he would always put articles from The Economist on my nightstand for me to read, and I think that it cultivated in me that thirst for always learning about different topics.

 

 

Tell us about your company. Octopi is a Software as a Service used by cargo port terminals to keep track of all their operations. We help them digitize everything they do and then use that data to prepare reports and dashboard so that they have more visibility into their activities. Our target market are the small to medium port terminal that might still be doing a lot of work using pen and paper or Excel spreadsheets because there are not good commercial solutions that fits their needs. We started with one small terminal in Haiti in 2015 and today we are used by 6 port terminals in 5 different countries.
Why did you choose Miami to
start your company?

We chose Miami for 3 reasons:

 

(1) Miami is a strong shipping and logistic hub. From our office, we can drive to 5 cargo ports in less than 4 hours. Florida has 14 ports. Very few cities have such an interesting port community.

 

(2) Miami is very well located geographically for us to serve our target market which is the Americas. With the Miami International Airport, we are one direct flight away from most of our customers. If we need to visit our customer in Barbados, Haiti, Brazil, etc…, we have daily flights directly from Miami to visit them. I see Miami as a regional capital for all the americas. Our customers or prospective customers are often in town. In short, we feel like we are right in the center of our industry and target market here in Miami.

 

(3) Miami is a much more affordable city to start a company than San Francisco, Boston, New York, or Washington DC. We could have never bootstrapped our company in these other cities like we did in Miami. We would have definitely needed to raise funds in these other cities while in Miami we’ve been able to grow our company up until now without outside investors.

I see Miami as a regional
capital for all the
Americas. Our customers
or prospective customers
are often in town. In
short, we feel like we are
right in the center of our
industry and target
market here in Miami.

 

Luc Castera, Founder of Octopi
What is the biggest
challenge that you’ve
overcome since then?

Our biggest challenge is that we are working in an industry where people are not very open to innovation. They have been doing the same thing for many years and are reluctant to try something new. We talk to people that are keeping track of containers entering and leaving their ports on a notebook and they don’t want to change. In the last years, we’ve learned a lot about leading change inside organizations that are reluctant to innovation.

 

Where do you see your
company in 3 years? In 5?

Our mission is to modernize the shipping and maritime industry using modern software. In 3 to 5 years, I see us having a bigger footprint with more port terminals using Octopi. In addition, we want to become the center of information for all the port communities where we operate so that all the players in the logistics chain rely on Octopi for their operations. It’s already starting to happen at some of our customers. For example, in Haiti, the importers and shippers who move cargo through the port of Port-Au-Prince are constantly logging into Octopi to see what’s happening with their cargo at the port.

 

In the future, I picture Miami as the startup hub of Latin America. We have such a diverse group of entrepreneurs here coming from many different countries in the region.

Luc Castera, Founder of Octopi

Where do you see the
future of Miami?

In the future, I picture Miami as the startup hub of Latin America. We have such a diverse group of entrepreneurs here coming from many different countries in the region. As we grow our companies, I imagine we will keep building links with our friends that are back in our respective countries and in the process we will build one of the strongest and diverse entrepreneurial network. Whereas Silicon Valley is knows for it’s lack of diversity and often labeled as a inward looking bubble, I think Miami can become the innovation hub that is the opposite: connected through the world and built from the ground up with diversity.

 

Favorite local place to
take 
visiting friends
for a Miami experience?

My wife and I love to take friends to the PAMM, Wynwood, and to Michael Schwartz restaurants.