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Jeff Vinik's latest big investment: $12 million in startup accelerator Dreamit

Tampa Bay Lightning owner and Water Street Tampa developer Jeff Vinik speaks during the Building Cities of the Future Summit by Bisnow and Dreamit at the Tampa Marriott Waterside Hotel & Marina in Tampa on Dec. 5. On Monday, Dreamit and Vinik announced that he is investing $12 million in the startup accelerator. ALESSANDRA DA PRA | Times (2017)
Published Mar. 19, 2018

TAMPA — Tampa Bay Lightning owner and developer Jeff Vinik is investing $12 million in Dreamit, an early-stage venture fund and startup accelerator with offices in New York, Philadelphia and — in the foreseeable future — Tampa.

Vinik, 58, will become a partner in the company and a member of Dreamit's board of directors, he and the company announced Monday.

"I met the guys from Dreamit almost a year and a half ago," Vinik said in a telephone interview. "From that very first meeting, I thought they were terrific. ... The way they've approached their business of accelerating companies (and) the way they're vetting potential investments has been outstanding."

Founded in 2008, Dreamit works with startups in two fields: health care and urban tech approaches to real estate, but Vinik said more could be coming.

"We're hoping to continue to grow the company and introduce new verticals in the months and years ahead," Vinik said. He also said the company will open a Tampa office in an innovation hub that Vinik plans to create, probably in early 2019, on the second floor of Channelside Bay Plaza.

PREVIOUS COVERAGE: Jeff Vinik plans new venture capital fund and innovation hub at Water Street Tampa

In 2016, Vinik invested an undisclosed amount of money — though he acknowledged it was smaller than his latest $12 million stake — to help Dreamit launch an "UrbanTech" accelerator for pre-Series A startups working on innovations related to real estate and the "built environment."

It is an area that Vinik believes could hold promise for the $3 billion Water Street Tampa redevelopment project that he and Cascade Investment, the personal wealth fund for Microsoft owner Bill Gates, are developing around Amalie Arena.

"Over the last year, my partnership with Dreamit has helped us identify emerging technologies and bridge the funding and resource gap between Tampa Bay and larger startup ecosystems like New York and San Francisco," Vinik said.

At least half the companies that went through the UrbanTech program last fall have or are raising their next round of capital, he said, "which is often a good metric for measuring the quality of the companies that went through."

Dreamit provides the startups it selects with a 14-week program offering coaching, opportunities to pitch their products in multiple cities and access to networks of customers, investors and industry contacts. It has worked with nearly 300 startups, among them LevelUp, Tissue Analytics and Raxar. Since 2013, about 90 of them have been focused on digital health and medical devices.

Companies Dreamit has worked with have raised $800 million in follow-on funding and built a combined value of almost $2 billion. About half close a capital raise within six months of going through its accelerator program.

"I've been highly impressed by Dreamit's team, the caliber of Dreamit startups and the large percentage of companies that continue growing with follow-on funding after the program," Vinik said. "Together, health care and real estate present large opportunities for innovative startups that can deliver substantial impact while generating attractive returns."

Along with his capital, Vinik brings a wide network of relationships and deep analytical experience as the former manager of Fidelity's Magellan mutual fund and his own hedge fund to Dreamit,

"Jeff is a visionary business leader who drives results," Dreamit managing partner Steve Barsh said in announcing the company's partnership with Vinik. "He built a track record of legendary returns in his investment career and produced a new model of how urban areas can work in the 21st century."

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Check back at tampabay.com for updates on this developing story. Contact Richard Danielson at rdanielson@tampabay.com or (813) 226-3403. Follow @Danielson_Times

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