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Focus on Florida

Positive Outlook for Venture Capital in Florida

by Kevin M. Levy on November 30, 2011

Florida has come a long way in terms of attracting the attention of venture capitalists. Over the past year, the dedicated work of a number of notable incubator founders, including Susan Amat with the Launch Pad at the University of Miami, Marc Billings with Incubate Miami and Jane Teague with Enterprise Development Corporation’s at FAU have begun to pay dividends for the state and venture capital activity. Not only have these incubators attracted attention, they have sparked the interest of local angel investors and VCs from the Northeast and California to come kick the tires of South Florida grown and based entrepreneurs.

The growth in participation in venture capital events and conferences among entrepreneurs and private investors in Florida has ballooned. For instance, Demo Days, an event held by Incubate Miami, grew from 20 attendees in 2010 to over 250 in 2011. Many of the attendees included a number of local angel groups and California and Northeastern-based VC firms.

Florida started the year with a strong foot forward. During the first quarter of this year, Florida was among the top-10 states to receive VC funding according to a quarterly survey conducted by MoneyTree survey by PricewaterhouseCoopers and the National Venture Capital Association. The most recent survey of the third quarter ranks Florida as 18th nationally. During the third quarter of this year, Florida companies received more than $48.3 million from professional venture-investment firms. Although the quarterly survey indicates there was a drop from the first quarter of the year to the third quarter, Florida should still be optimistic.

Given Florida’s proximity to South America, it’s also important to note the increased activity in those emerging markets. Funding for Private Equity and VC deals in Latin America more than doubled from 2009 to 2010, topping $8.1 billion. The positive activity will benefit Florida as well.

It is clear that our local angel market has awakened from its slumber during the 2008 to 2010 economic downturn, and that awakening has caught the attention of VC firms. Angel investors play a critical role because without a solid contributing angel base, it is difficult for entrepreneurs and companies to have the resources and capital to grow to a sufficient size to garner the attention of venture capitalists. With angel investment interest increasing in Florida, venture capitalists are now spending time evaluating and investing in South Florida entrepreneurial ventures. Based on the progress of the past year, Florida is poised to receive a warm welcome from increased VC firms in 2012.