Saturday, February 24, 2018
Business

Trigaux: Tampa Bay area venture capital funding is still lean, but vital

Nationwide, venture capitalists invested $15.3 billion in 961 deals in the second quarter of 2016.

Sounds impressive. And it is, with more VC dollars funneling into the hands of fewer and more mature startups like rideshare phenom Uber gobbling up $3.5 billion, photo-sharing Snapchat nabbing $1.27 billion and genome diagnostic firm Human Longevity claiming $220 million.

That's a third of all VC money in the quarter going to just three firms.

Further down the pecking order are three Tampa Bay venture capital funding deals in the quarter for a combined $43.8 million. The top local deal was $30 million to Tampa's ReliaQuest, a 24/7 IT security firm. That's an impressive amount by local standards and the largest funding deal here in well over a year.

Also receiving $7 million funding in the quarter was St. Petersburg's Marxent, a maker of "augmented" virtual reality technology used to show off consumer products in 3D. Tampa firm Mynfo, whose startup team includes CEO Susan Gear (formerly of Catalina and Coolsavings) and veteran entrepreneur Marvin Scaff, received $6.8 million so its platform can expand to improve the effectiveness of customers' digital brands.

The first half of 2016 generated more than $71 million in area venture capital deals, making it the best first and second quarter of funding since 2011, when just over $73 million was committed.

In the past decade, the average VC funding in the first half of each year has averaged $43.8 million in Tampa Bay. This year is way ahead of that pace.

But Florida never seems sure how to measure how the state is doing in VC funding. The state — now third in population — attracted less than 1 percent of the funding doled out by venture capital firms this quarter. The big money magnets of the moment like Uber, Snapchat and Human Longevity are — no surprise — all based in California.

The Miami Herald this week opted to characterize the state's funding scene for startups with this headline: Uber, Snapchat feast on venture capital in Q2, while Florida flounders.

Well, sure, California startups dominate VC funding every single quarter.

But that does not mean Florida — and plenty of other states, I might add — should give up the entrepreneurial fight.

Establishing a solid, positive community for entrepreneurs is vital to Tampa Bay's broader economy. The startup scene here is not floundering but trying, sometimes failing and trying again.

That's how it grows.

Contact Robert Trigaux at [email protected] Follow @venturetampabay.

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