Procuring funds in the early stages of business remains one of the largest barriers to market entry and has become a hot topic for high tech businesses as technology-based solutions permeate all industries.
Home to more than 383,000 millionaire households and 34 people on Forbes’ list of the 400 richest people in America, Florida has ample funding available. While success stories from across The Corridor exhibit how startups like Orlando’s Fattmerchant, Tampa’s Morphogenesis and Gainesville’s Captozyme have tapped into such wealth, the reality is most entrepreneurs struggle in an increasingly competitive environment.
Fundraising has accelerated rapidly in recent years. While funds grow in dollar amounts, the number of funds has remained relatively the same. This dynamic causes investors to write fewer, larger checks, making it more difficult for smaller companies seeking less capital to benefit unless they boast a disruptive or scalable idea. Indeed, MoneyTree’s Q1 report this year ranked Florida among the top five states for largest deals by dollar amount, with $511 million in financing distributed amongst just 20 contracts.
“On one hand, The Corridor region is a much more credible geographic area to invest in than it was 15 years ago and investors from all over the country now consider investing here,” said Randy Scott, partner at Gainesville’s HealthQuest Capital and advisory board member for the Florida Institute for the Commercialization of Public Research. “On the other hand, the businesses starting here tend to be the ones raising smaller amounts of capital, which will make it tougher to raise capital in this era of bigger deals.”
Randy has been an executive, board member, entrepreneur and investor in health care and medical technology companies for more than 30 years. He recommends smaller companies in The Corridor seek funding from “less traditional sources like angel groups or family offices,” which offer assets from wealthy individuals or families with longer investment horizons.
Tampa’s Ballast Point Ventures, the most active venture investor in Florida over the past 10 years, is not an angel group or family office, yet it does assist companies in earlier stages generating around $3 million in revenue. According to Principal Sean Barkman, who works largely with software-as-a-service companies, this segment of the entrepreneurial ecosystem is underserved by larger funds.
“We are pleased that five of our first 10 investments in Ballast Point Ventures III (a $164–million fund raised in early 2015) are based in Florida and three of those companies are based in Central Florida,” said Sean.