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Commissioner, startup community share thoughts on new legislation to increase access to capital

Veronica Brezina



The Funding Florida's Future event at Embarc Collective. Veronica Brezina.

Florida’s Office of Financial Regulation Commissioner took the stage at TiE Tampa Bay’s first in-person event of the year to introduce his new legislation that would help startups survive and thrive in the state. 

Commissioner Russell Weigel is touring different locations, meeting with startups and investors to have input into new legislation he is proposing. The desired outcome is to have Florida residents and businesses receive capital from within our state and ultimately remain in Florida and contribute to the state’s economy.

Newly minted TiE President Rich Heruska and organizer Sarah Hand kicked off the event.

Joe Hamilton, publisher of the St. Pete Catalyst, led a panel discussion on the topic Thursday evening at Embarc Collective with Embarc Collective Vice President of Platform Allie Felix, HealthAxis CEO Shilen Patel, and Kathy Chiu, managing partner at investment firm DeepWork Capital, to weigh in on the topic. 

The proposed legislation would introduce measures that would make capital more accessible for startups. Details on the breakdown of the measures can be found here

“We need to expand the ‘testing the waters’ component for capital raising to allow companies to have some level of contact with investors,” Weigel said to the crowd of local startups and investors, explaining how there’s a barrier between startups and investors that needs to be bridged. 

“Under the current law, we are extremely careful at protecting investors. We want to be sure that, moving forward, we are protecting investors, while not stifling innovation and allowing businesses to grow and thrive,” he said. 

Part of the solution is creating an investor exemption program in the state so the company doesn’t have to go through leaps and bounds to be allowed to solicit in the state. 

Weigel plans to file the bill in September in time for the new session that starts around January. If it travels through the Senate and House, it would go into effect around the October timeframe, he said. 

Chuiu, from an investor standpoint, understands the struggle startups face trying to work with investors. 

“Capital investment is nowhere where it should be today given the level of our pipeline,” she said to the crowd. 

The state of cryptocurrency and blockchain

One of the hot topics from the discussion was the future of cryptocurrency and how the local community had rejected or accepted it. 

“The crypto crowd is easy to find, they are sophisticated and big. The bigger ones want to be regulated and if the marketplace isn’t cleaned up, new legislation is going to be created and can wipe them out – that’s their fear. There’s a lot of talk out of DC about that,” Weigel said, adding how New York was first to license a Bitcoin exchange, allowing it to open legally to customers across the country.  

“I think it’s basically a speculative behavior when going to raise this currency. It compounds the already risky decision a founder is making to dabble in that space,” Patel said. 

However, Felix said there’s a cluster of companies in Embarc that use cryptocurrency.

She gave the example of how the Tampa blockchain startup Pocket Network sold $9.3 million of its token, which is a first for the local market.  

RELATED: Catalyst publisher takes top blockchain award


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