New fund will be positioned to support regional startup companies
TAMPA, Fla. (Dec. 6, 2016) – The University of South Florida has been awarded a U.S. Economic Development Administration grant to create an early-stage seed fund for the Tampa Bay region, addressing one of the perennial funding issues that cause promising new companies to leave the area.
USF’s Innovation Enterprise, the economic and business development arm of the university, will create Seed Tampa Bay, which will invest in high growth potential tech startups that span a range of sectors. The $250,000 grant from the U.S. Economic Development Administration sets in motion the two-year plan to create the $5 million seed fund.
In November, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker announced just 35 organizations — including nonprofits, institutions of higher education, and entrepreneurship-focused organizations — from 19 states would receive nearly $15 million to create and expand commercialization programs and early-stage seed capital funds through the Economic Development Administration’s (EDA) Regional Innovation Strategies (RIS) program.
USF was the only entity in Florida to receive an award.
“While the Tampa Bay region is one of the nation’s largest and fastest-growing metropolitan areas, its entrepreneurial ecosystem lags behind other cities in providing funding at the earliest stage of investment,” said Paul Sanberg, USF senior vice president for research, innovation and economic development. “Seed Tampa Bay addresses that critical funding shortfall and will help the area retain high potential tech startups with the ability to grow and diversify the regional economy.”
USF’s Innovation Enterprise serves the USF system and wider regional community, infusing more than $400 million in annual economic impact into Florida’s economy and supporting more than 3,000 jobs. The USF Innovation Enterprise includes the Tampa Bay Technology Incubator, Student Innovation Incubator, the USF Research Park and the Technology Transfer Office.
USF is already the recipient of two grants under the EDA’s i6 Challenge Investments program totaling $1.5 million. Those resources have been used to support its partnership with non-profit technology accelerator program Tampa Bay WaVe.
“The Tampa Bay entrepreneurial ecosystem is on the rise thanks to the hard work of many individuals and organizations, and we are now poised to take a major step forward in building the optimal environment for our home-grown companies to fully realize their potential,” said Sanberg.
Seed Tampa Bay – which will be launched with support from the Florida High Tech Corridor Council and legal firm Squire Patten Boggs – will be led by an executive board of prominent investment groups from across the Tampa Bay region and managed by USF.
Seed Tampa Bay will invest in a wide range of companies from a variety of sectors, including life sciences, IT, finance, cybersecurity, health care, defense and environmental sciences. The goal of Seed Tampa Bay is to recruit applicants from less than three-year-old technology startups from the eight-county Tampa Bay region.
“Addressing the funding gap for early stage startups is one of the most important steps our region can take to retain its talented, young companies and grow them into significant employers,” said Valerie Landrio McDevitt, USF associate vice president for technology transfer and business partnerships.
Florida Funders, a Florida-focused angel investor network and online accredited investor platform, will advise USF on the strategy of the grant and provide the infrastructure needed to raise and manage the fund. Florida Funders also plans to provide ongoing support in the areas of technology and compliance. Florida Funders and members of its investor network have significant experience supporting the early stage ecosystem. Since 2014, Florida Funders has invested in 11 growth stage companies and added over 475 accredited investors to its platform, giving investors the ability to support Florida’s newest entrepreneurs with capital, connections and counsel.
Ultimately, Seed Tampa Bay hopes to grow to a $10 million fund and be fully self-sufficient, said McDevitt.
The University of South Florida is a high-impact, global research university dedicated to student success. USF is a Top 25 research university among public institutions nationwide in total research expenditures, according to the National Science Foundation. Serving over 48,000 students, the USF System has an annual budget of $1.6 billion and an annual economic impact of $4.4 billion. USF is a member of the American Athletic Conference.