Thursday, September 20, 2018
Business

Two Tampa tech startups get $1.5 million from angel investors

TAMPA — For a couple of local tech startups, the money from investors is just as green, even if it is coming from nontraditional sources.

Two Tampa technology startups will receive $1.5 million from angel investors in deals that the nonprofit startup incubator Tampa Bay WaVe helped shepherd by seeking capital from sources without a deep history in tech funding, the group said on Thursday.

Harness, a company founded by Miraj Patel and Andrew Scarborough, will receive $1.2 million from a group of investors led by Santosh Govindaraju, CEO of Convergent Capital Partners, a real estate private equity firm in Tampa with $250 million in assets. But Govindaraju, who becomes a new member of the company's board of directors, said his share is a personal investment unconnected to Convergent.

Harness has developed an app allowing users to "round-up" credit or debit card purchases with the change automatically donated back to their favorite charity.

Another Tampa company, Phonism, founded by CEO Steve Lazaridis, is getting $350,000 from an investment group formed by Tampa attorney Rich McIntyre. Phonism is a cloud company that has developed tools allowing voice over Internet-Protocol phone service providers to reduce support costs.

Linda Olson, president and co-founder of Tampa Bay WaVe, said the group has worked to overcome the challenge of finding funding for tech startups in a Tampa Bay business environment without rich venture capital sources.

"There's a lot of money in Tampa Bay," she said. "But the focus for so many of these individuals and groups is real estate."

Govindaraju said he wasn't comfortable with tech investment when he first looked at the sector nearly 20 years ago.

"I intended to invest in tech startups in the late '90s, but I didn't find the market fit me because it was too speculative at the time," he said. "Now, it's a different world."

After Tampa Bay WaVe connected him to Harness, he reconsidered his reluctance. "They can grow rapidly with relative ease," Govindaraju said of Harness.

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