Despite there being a pandemic that has all but decimated the national and global economies, there is cause for hope – especially for some early-stage tech startups. Over the past few months, several Florida investors have risen to the occasion and invested in Tampa Bay Wave companies.
Some of the groundwork for the recent investments started back in 2018, when Tampa Bay Wave, along with StarterStudio out of Orlando, secured a $300,000 grant from the U.S. Economic Development Association for the purpose of bolstering the startup energy in central Florida and connecting with investors from the Space Coast to the Gulf Coast to address early-stage capital funding gaps.
The grant, branded as UpSurge Florida, was to be matched with $375,000 of investment, and funded investor roadshows where the heads of the accelerator programs were able to connect with high net worth investors. The roadshows began in 2019 and the most recent one was in January of this year. The subsequent roadshow events had to be cancelled because of COVID-19, but the connections that were made proved invaluable nonetheless.
Tampa Bay Wave has dozens of graduate companies from its various accelerator programs, and as fairly new businesses, some were hit hard by the pandemic. So, Allen Clary, head of investor relations at Tampa Bay Wave, reached out to investors on behalf of Wave companies, to see about securing investment to keep the businesses flourishing.
The connections made through the roadshows, along with long-held investor relationships, got a few Wave companies their first 6-figure investments. A few of these companies include JustProtect, which created an automated assessment system to ensure compliance for businesses; and Script, an app that helps educational institutions automate paperwork and processes. Immertec, which created virtual software for surgery training, and has mesmerized investors and medical professionals alike since its inception, also received more investment.
If You Don’t Ask, The Answer’s Always No
Tampa Bay Wave frequently connects its accelerator businesses to investors, but after coronavirus, when many investors were wary of making large capital outlays, Clary frankly stated via e-mail outreach, “Wave companies need your support.” The feedback was positive, and many investors who responded to the call were a product of newly formed relationships created during the roadshow events. Wave businesses then created one-pagers in a standardized format to show interested investors. Investors assessed what type of companies would do well in their portfolios, and connected with founders.
Coronavirus has, in some ways, created winners and losers in the economy, but some companies have grown at an accelerated rate because of how conducive their business ideas are to life amid a pandemic. The fact that Wave also focuses on tech startups in particular means that their businesses, generally, weren’t as hard hit as a restaurant, for example. These companies already focus on virtual solutions.
The coronavirus has stopped many things – large events that bring hundreds of people to one place, in-person meetings, etc., but it cannot stop the wheels of economic progress. Americans are adapting to this “new normal,” having finally abandoned the idea that things will go back to the way they once were. Companies, especially have to adapt, and it’s good to know that investors are still willing to take risks for the sake of economic progress, and to bring consumers products and services that will streamline the transition into this new way of doing things.