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One day, the Tampa Bay area will land its Chewy

Jeffrey Korentur is CEO of a startup business in Tampa called Teewinot Life Sciences that specializes in creating cannabinoid substances (without the need for the cannabus plant) for pharmaceutical purposes. It has received 2 rounds of venture capital of just over $19 million. [Photo courtesy of LinkedIn]
Published Jul. 12, 2017

Imagine a Florida startup that recorded an impressive $26 million in sales during its first full year in business in 2011, logged more than $900 million in sales by 2016, and this year expects to increase revenues to nearly $2 billion with 5,000 employees.

Oh yeah, this Florida startup last month was sold for $3.3 billion — that's "billion" with a B — making it one of the biggest-ever deals in the Florida world of entrepreneurs.

That's even bigger than last week's deal by TV shopping retailer QVC to buy HSN of St. Petersburg.

The company that hit the jackpot is called Chewy, based in Dania Beach, just south of Fort Lauderdale. The buyer: Petsmart, the pet and pet food giant retailer that ranks roughly 50th among the country's largest privately owned businesses.

There's no reason that type of bonanza deal cannot happen one day in the Tampa Bay startup community.

Related Coverage: Venture capital funding stays slow and steady for Tampa Bay area, Florida startups

Startups here just need to keep pushing —growing, raising theirs profile and showing solid results as young companies capable of raising money, building a customer base and boosting sales.

To that end, the latest quarterly look at venture capital activity in the Tampa Bay market shows some modest (if not robust) gains in VC funding.

According to data supplied by Pitchbook and the National Venture Capital Association, two area startups received fresh funding during the three months ending this past June. They are Teewinot Life Sciences Corp., which got $12.3 million in a new round of money from Tuatara Capital in New York. Those funds will help grow the biopharmaceutical company's research and production of cannabinoid-based pharmaceuticals, said company CEO Jeffrey Korentur. (The 20-employee company recently changed its name to Teewinot (a Shoshone word for "many pinnacles") for trademark reasons.

The CEO said two funding rounds, now topping $19 million, will take the startup from the "bench top scale to the commercial scale."

Said Korentur: "Tampa is the company's home and we will be growing the footprint of our headquarters."

One other firm is identified in the Pitchbook-NVCA quarterly report for getting venture capital money. Protect My Car, a Clearwater provider of extended auto warranty and insurance services, received $7 million in VC funds from Great White Shark, Greg Norman's investment arm out of Sarasota.

Related Coverage: Trigaux: With Jeff Vinik's blessing, Dreamit accelerator urges best urban tech startups to step up

Looking at VC activity nationwide, the Pitchbook-NVCA reports says U.S. venture investment activity is "firmly in the middle of a self-correction period."

While on the surface this leveling off may give pause to some, the report says, many in the VC industry "welcome this news as a healthy return to steadier investment after several years of froth."

In the second quarter alone, $21.78 billion in venture capital was deployed to 1,958 companies.

Contact Robert Trigaux at rtrigaux@tampabay.com. Follow @venturetampabay.

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