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Tampa’s Weatherford Capital closes $355 million investment fund

The private equity firm led by former Florida House Speaker Will Weatherford raised far more than expected.
From left: Drew, Will and Sam Weatherford founded Weatherford Capital in Tampa in 2015.
From left: Drew, Will and Sam Weatherford founded Weatherford Capital in Tampa in 2015. [ JEREMY SCOTT | Weatherford Capital ]
Published Aug. 16

Weatherford Capital, the Tampa private equity firm managed by former Florida House Speaker Will Weatherford and his brothers, has closed its first investment fund at $355 million, well above expectations.

The firm’s Weatherford Capital Fund I, launched in April 2020, exceeded its $300 million target and $350 million hard cap. Most of the investors are high-net-worth families from around the country, Weatherford said.

The investment gives Weatherford Capital, which manages some $700 million in assets, what’s known as a “blind pool” of capital they can invest more nimbly, rather than finding a startup to invest in and then raising funds around that deal. The company aims to invest about $100 million to $150 million per year.

“The opportunity in the market, even with COVID, was right, and there were opportunities out there that we wanted to be able to take advantage of,” Weatherford said. “It was a very transformational moment for our firm, because I think a lot of firms chose not to raise capital or wait it out. Instead, we just pushed forward.”

Founded in 2015, Weatherford Capital has invested in 18 companies, with a focus on business-to-business and business-to-government technology, a sector whose growth was accelerated by the pandemic.

“Not only did it not cause challenges for the companies that we invested in and the leaders that run them, it became a tailwind,” Weatherford said. “The market changed really quickly and it forced technology to play a larger role in society than it had in the past, as we all know. So we were fortunate to have that happen.”

Weatherford and his brothers Drew and Sam all sit on multiple local and statewide boards; Will is chairman of the University of South Florida’s board of trustees, and was the co-chairman of this year’s Super Bowl LV host committee.

But until this year, the firm’s investment in local startups had been minimal. In January, the firm pumped $22.5 million into Tampa’s SOMA Global, which works on dispatch software for law enforcement and first responders. It was one of the few Series A investments — meaning relatively early equity placed in a startup by a capital venture firm — made by Weatherford Capital, which typically focuses on more established companies. And it was the company’s first major local investment.

“Since the genesis of the firm, we’ve paid as much attention to Florida and Tampa Bay’s firms as we can,” Drew Weatherford said. “We’re constantly hunting, but it’s a really competitive market. We’re very aware that the tech ecosystem in Tampa has come light years in the last decade, and we believe COVID has actually accelerated that to a great degree.”