By guest authors Irina Patterson and Candice Arnold
Irina: Could you talk a little bit about venture firms in Florida?
Alan: For the venture firms that work in Florida, that invest in Florida, that means they may be domiciled in the state, but there are also others such as Intersouth, Aurora, and Noro-Moseley that are not located in Florida but make it a point of actively seeking investments in Florida.
Irina: So, you have a number of collaborators with whom you’re constantly in contact, right?
Alan: Yes, it’s as much as time will permit. From my perspective, I’m never in touch with them as much as I would like to be because there are only eight hours in a day. You’re familiar with Florida Venture Forum.
Irina: Yes, I am.
Alan: It’s an absolutely superb organization and it does wonderful work at aggregating the venture community throughout the state. We have been very active with Florida Venture Forum for years. That becomes somewhat of a rallying point to connect with other venture firms that are interested in making equity investments in Florida.
Now, because its base is really venture capital, not angel capital, the Florida Venture Forum tends to be a little bit later stage focused, which is good for them. It fits to their primary membership extremely well. But they’re not necessarily focused heavily in early stage.
That’s changing somewhat. I’ve worked with them for a couple of years doing early-stage conferences, and we’re doing some planning work as to whether we want to do one this fall. That would be an early-stage focus, whereas the main conference, which occurs at the end of January every year, has a bit later stage focus to it because that’s its membership base.
Irina: How exactly do their conferences help you?
Alan: A couple of different ways. Let me give them to you in order of priority.
Again, Florida Venture Forum is a magnificent organization and it’s led by a gal by the name of Robin Kovaleski, who is fantastic. That would be a worthwhile call because she is a very talented person and is their executive director.
Their main yearly event is a two- or three-day conference and it has a number of different components. I’m going to hit three of them that are of value to us.
The first is networking. Probably far and away the primary advantage of going there is the ability to see, a minimum of once a year, the other venture fund representatives who are friends or people I talk to, I work with, and so on, and reconnect with them. That’s probably one of the key values of it.
Second, they invariably at their conference do a number of different panel discussions related to the state of the industry, the state of the economy, trends that may be going on, maybe even in very technical things like trends in investment terms and things like that. Those are always relevant and helpful.
Third, they showcase about twenty companies. That’s always enjoyable and sometimes we find a company there. I don’t think that’s as much value as the upper two elements, but they do a very nice showcase.
Again, it’s about a three-day event, they move it around the state, which is also good. It’s been in Naples, St. Petersburg, and Orlando. It’s been up here in Ponte Vedra, Miami, and Boca Raton. It’s just a good organization. You can get some deal flow from that, except that mostly you see deal flow on the fly anyway. For those of us in the business, you don’t wait for a conference to go find investable companies.