Thursday, April 26, 2018
Business

Will stronger startups draw venture capitalists to Tampa Bay?

This year alone, Ricardo Lasa and his team have twice persuaded venture capitalists to invest in his Lutz business, SiteWit Corp.

The $3 million has helped propel the startup through its vulnerable early days, he said.

The company caters to small businesses seeking more efficient ways to market themselves online. Now that it has partnered with such search engine giants as Google and Bing, SiteWit has a more muscular story to tell potential investor groups.

"We are gaining traction in a space with the potential of a lot of customers," says Lasa. "We are in a large space — online marketing — that everyone understands well."

And while SiteWit keeps close ties with Silicon Valley, Lasa says a Tampa Bay headquarters is a big business advantage. Competition for top engineering talent in Silicon Valley is expensive and fluid, he says. The team behind 3-year-old SiteWit here has been working together for a decade.

So far in 2013, four Tampa Bay area startups have attracted close to $30 million. That's out of $277 million committed to 34 deals across the state. The bulk of that money — $65 million — landed at a Miami firm called FoxyP2 that operates an online language school serving Spanish-speaking students around the globe.

Still, the latest numbers pale when compared to the peak of the "dot-com" boom that started in the late 1990s. In the first three quarters of 2000, Florida attracted a record $2.3 billion in venture capital. In the third quarter of 2000 alone, shortly before the technology bust, Florida attracted $927 million in venture capital, according to data collected by PricewaterhouseCoopers and the National Venture Capital Association.

The state has struggled to regain much venture capital momentum since then.

Consider that Florida attracted just $104 million for 12 deals in the third quarter this year. Nationwide in that same three-month period, venture capitalists invested $7.8 billion in 1,005 deals.

That means Florida — soon to be the nation's third-largest state by population — attracted just 1.2 percent of the nation's venture capital deals in the quarter, and won 1.3 percent of the funding.

That's like trying to water a thirsty garden with an eyedropper.

But it's not impossible. SiteWit's Lasa, who is a board member of the FirstWaVE business accelerator in downtown Tampa, agrees it's tough for early startups to gain traction. But a business that starts to show a track record of sales will find increasing sources of potential funding in Tampa Bay and Florida.

Lasa says the quality of area startups will improve as larger groups of successful technology entrepreneurs commit to mentor companies.

"That will be a first step in helping spawn other companies that will do well," he says.

The missing piece to this funding puzzle? Convincing both local and distant venture capital folks that the ground swell of Tampa Bay startups is worth more of their time — and money.

Robert Trigaux can be reached at [email protected]

Comments
Yelp search results reflected racist stereotype that Asian American restaurants serve cat and dog

Yelp search results reflected racist stereotype that Asian American restaurants serve cat and dog

A strange thing happened when typing "dog menu" into the restaurant ratings website and app Yelp. It automatically generated suggested searches. There were dog massage, hot dogs, pet groomers. Also: "dog meat." But it got more disturbing. Take Yelp...
Updated: 11 hours ago
As more emotional support animals fly on U.S. airlines, Congress eyes new ways to tighten the leash

As more emotional support animals fly on U.S. airlines, Congress eyes new ways to tighten the leash

WASHINGTON — With hundreds of thousands of emotional support animals taking to the skies on U.S. airlines, Congress may start pulling a tighter leash.Two new legislative options emerged this week to address a hairy issue for American Airlines, Southw...
Updated: 12 hours ago
Duke Energy announces new Florida leadership

Duke Energy announces new Florida leadership

ST. PETERSBURG — The head of Duke Energy Florida is leaving his post to take a new role with the utility’s parent company June 1, the company announced on Wednesday.Harry Sideris, 47, was appointed this week to serve as vice president and chief distr...
Updated: 12 hours ago

Comcast challenges Murdoch with rival bid for U.K.-based Sky

LONDON — U.S. media giant Comcast on Wednesday offered $30.7 billion for Sky PLC, topping a bid from Rupert Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox and setting up a bidding war for Britain’s biggest satellite TV company.Comcast said it would pay approximately $17...
Updated: 12 hours ago
Sprouts Farmers Market to open new store in Pasco County

Sprouts Farmers Market to open new store in Pasco County

TRINITY — Pasco County will be getting its first Sprouts Farmers Market, the organic grocery chain announced Wednesday. The new store will open at the Village at Mitchell Ranch on State Road 54 and Little Road. Officials with the speciality st...
Published: 04/25/18
Circle K launching own gas at eight Hillsborough locations

Circle K launching own gas at eight Hillsborough locations

TAMPA — Circle K is converting the gas station portion of eight of its Hillsborough locations to Circle K fuel. Previously, the fuel was provided by other brands, such as Shell. The new Circle K branding also brings with it the Canadian-owned conveni...
Published: 04/25/18
Florida leads other hurricane-prone states in quality of its building codes

Florida leads other hurricane-prone states in quality of its building codes

Florida has the strongest residential building codes among 18 coastal states, according to a new study by the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety. Florida’s rating is 95, almost three times higher than lowest-ranked Texas. Other states wit...
Published: 04/25/18
Study: Tampa Bay homes in once ‘redlined’ neighborhoods worth half those in other areas

Study: Tampa Bay homes in once ‘redlined’ neighborhoods worth half those in other areas

Times staffRedlining’ — banks’ refusal to make mortgage loans in certain areas — still has a huge effect on housing values even though the practice was banned 50 years ago. According to Zillow, a Tampa Bay house in a once-redlined area is worth less ...
Published: 04/25/18
Tex-Mex chain Chuy’s opens first Tampa restaurant, Nebraska Mini-Mart grab-and-go coming soon

Tex-Mex chain Chuy’s opens first Tampa restaurant, Nebraska Mini-Mart grab-and-go coming soon

NOW OPEN: TEX-MEX CHAIN CHUY’SThe Austin, Texas-based Tex-Mex chain Chuy’s opened its first Tampa restaurant on Tuesday, giving away free Chuy’s for two for a year to the first 50 customers. I know, we missed it, it’s a bummer, but we can still visit...
Published: 04/25/18
Clearwater looks to move out of City Hall to speed up Imagine Clearwater waterfront redevelopment

Clearwater looks to move out of City Hall to speed up Imagine Clearwater waterfront redevelopment

CLEARWATER — Elected officials have talked about relocating City Hall from the downtown bluff for a good 30 years. Now there’s a jolt of urgency to actually do it.Voters backed a referendum in November that essentially greenlighted the $55 million re...
Published: 04/25/18