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Investors, entrepreneurs come together at May 18 capital conference

Bill DeYoung



The Early Stage Angel Capital Conference will feature 20 presentations (photo: Florida Venture Forum)

For 11 years, the Florida Venture Forum has played matchmaker between budding entrepreneurs and venture capitalists with its Early Stage Angel Capital Conference. Past early stage presenters have attracted more than $80 million in funding.

Twenty companies (19 of them based in Florida), chosen from a field of 150, will pitch to an audience of angel and early stage investors at the 2018 event, May 18 at the Westshore Grand in Tampa. More than 300 people are expected to attend.

Registration, here, will remain open until May 14.

“Access to early stage capital is critical to the commercialization of new ideas that have market potential, Jennifer Dunham, partner at Arsenal Venture Partners, chair of the conference selection committee, said in a statement. “This year, we again received a record number of applications from high quality early stage companies statewide and around the country.”

The Tampa Bay presenters include:

Simply Reliable, Inc., St. Petersburg (www.simplyreliable.com) makes smartOFFICE, mission-critical enterprise software for small business. smartOFFICE enables business owners and employees to run their business and collect revenues smoothly, efficiently and more profitably from first customer contact through final invoice.

DirectMail2.0, Clearwater (www.directmail2.com) offers a simple to use efficient one-stop solution to marry direct mail with a variety of the latest online digital marketing technologies resulting in exponential ROI by combining the fundamentals with the cutting edge. It also solves the problem of millions of SMBs who don’t have the resources or knowhow to launch an integrated online/offline campaign.

eTeki, Inc., Tampa (www.eteki.com) validates the technical skills and competency of candidates for companies without the time, expertise or headcount to efficiently screen them. They help recruiters pick winners and improve their reputations with hiring managers.

Preferhired, Palm Harbor (www.preferhired.com) is an HR Technology software company, that has built the first online candidate referral marketplace that empowers everyone to help their friends and colleagues find jobs while rewarding them throughout the recruitment process.

Ziptek LLC, Sarasota (www.ziptekglobal.com) is the game changer in soft tissue repair, especially ligament or tendon to bone and more focused (rotator cuff repair). Ziptek has designed a device to optimize healing. It is the only device that system that will release its hold on the repair tissue once the repair tissue is mature enough to take over (natural healing).

David Chitester is the founder and CEO of Seedfunders, which provides funding and mentoring to pre-revenue tech concepts and startups.

Seedfunders, the Tampa Bay investment firm and mentoring organization, has a six-part due diligence process, including (among other salient factors) the pitch, the projections … and the personnel. “What’s really most important is the entrepreneur – the guys, the gals founding the company,” says founder Dave Chitester. “That’s the number one thing we look at.”

Specifically, he says, investment groups like his look for “coachability. If they’re willing to listen and learn, that’s huge. You could have somebody very experienced in the industry, but if they think they know everything already, we’re not interested.

“And we’ve had that – people who say ‘This is the way it’s going to be.’ They might be right – but let’s talk about it. If we’re going to invest in somebody, we’re going to be a team. We have a lot of people with a lot of experience on our side.

“My motto is we’re going to force them to be successful. So we’re going to do everything we can. And if they’re not listening, that’s a big problem.”

Founded near the end of 2017, Seedfunders is all about the planting process – pre-revenue, scalable technology. For Chitester and his partner Irv Cohen, the goal is to be the first money in.

“We stay away from physical products – things that have to be maintained and distributed,” Chitester says. “We’re looking specifically at software platforms, things like that that can be developed. Our goal is to launch the company, get an MVP out there, get it launched and start generating revenue.”

A a total of $50,000 in cash awards will be presented to two winning companies at the conference, courtesy of Space Florida.

Chitester, a co-founder (in 2013) of the investment company Florida Funders, is looking forward to the Statewide Collegiate Business Plan Competition, a part of the conference that introduces up-and-coming entrepreneurs direct from the state’s university system.

He’ll also participate in the lunchtime panel discussion.

“This is one of the best conferences in the state – for us, it’s probably the best one,” Chitester says. “The companies are probably a little more advanced that seed stage, what we’re looking for, but the connections – the networking – is really, really important to us.”






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