Startup scene needs more investors. Here’s why they should get involved.

Posted on: September 20th, 2021 by Kirenaga Partners

Jim Thomas didn’t hesitate when asked about the Central Florida startup investment ecosystem’s biggest need. 

“Nothing is missing, in my opinion, except investor dollars,” said Thomas, partner at Orlando-based investment firm Kirenaga Partners. “The amount of quality deals that are coming to us on a daily basis from Florida, much less across the country, is astonishing. These are brilliant kids that want to stay in Florida. We just need to fund them and keep them.” 

Thomas and representatives of three other startup investment firms in Orlando and Tampa sounded off on the opportunities available in local startup investment during the Inside the Investor’s Mind event on June 30. The streamed event was hosted by Upsurge Florida, a partnership between Orlando-based Starter Studio and Tampa-based Tampa Bay Wave to boost early-stage startup investment in the region. 

Although Florida is the third-largest state by population and was ranked the No. 1 state for early-stage entrepreneurial activity by a 2020 Kauffman Foundation report, it ranked 15th in the U.S. for venture capital investment in the first quarter. Growing investments in early-stage tech companies can help those businesses grow, creating local jobs and innovative solutions along the way. Plus, these companies can create returns for their investors. 

Here’s more from the investors on why and how more people in Central Florida can become startup investors. 

It is a big opportunity for your portfolio 

“I think there’s a lot of people who are coming out of the woodwork to invest who were in traditional investments like commercial real estate. What I saw a lot of during the pandemic was some of those traditional businesses really took a hit, like Class A office spaces and big real estate investment groups. The companies that surged during the pandemic were the tech-enabling companies. Having tech investments is good to diversify the portfolio where traditional investments sometimes can fail.”

— Charlie Lewis, founder, BlueWave Investment Partners  

There are plenty of investment opportunities in the region

“DeepWork started investing because we saw that Florida and the surrounding areas have a very strong pipeline of companies but a capital gap. The very first investment we did ended up doing tremendously well. It was a Central Florida company by the name of Fattmerchant, and the exit did really well for a lot of investors.”

— Kathy Chiu, managing partner, DeepWork Capital 

Be selective in your investments 

“As an investor, you need to take a mentality and not do any deal that comes across your table. Be selective. For us and most investors, first and foremost, are looking at the founder. Is that founder the right founder to take this company and scale it? Are they going to quit when things get tough? If you’re an investor, consider what’s right for you. Are they going to be able to scale quickly without taking on a tremendous amount of capital they may never be able to get?”

— Ryan Whittemore, chief investment officer, Florida Funders

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