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Leonardo DiCaprio, Florida Funders invest in space startup

Veronica Brezina



Leonardo DiCaprio in "The Wolf of Wall Street." Photo: Paramount Pictures.

Tampa venture capital firm Florida Funders and actor Leonardo DiCaprio have invested in a company that is leveraging new technology to map the landmass of Earth. 

The Orlando-based startup Nuview plans to build commercial satellites with light detection and ranging (lidar) capabilities to map the Earth’s entire surface in 3D at centimeter-level accuracy. 

“It’s so complex. Drones are highly inefficient, they don’t cover a lot of land mass, and planes are costly. When you think about these two technologies as our primary sources, it makes this market ripe for disruption,” Florida Funders CIO Ryan Whittemore said to the St. Pete Catalyst. This is the firm’s first investment in the space sector. 

Nuview has raised $3 million in a seed round and $12 million in an ongoing Series A round. 

Florida Funders participated in the Series A round among several co-investors in a group led by Los Angeles-based firm MaC Venture Capital. The other participants in the group include Broom Ventures, Cortado, Industrious, Liquid2 and Veto Capital, according to TechCrunch.

DiCaprio invested in Nuview separately, Whittemore said. 

DiCaprio, a vocal environmentalist, has a history of backing several companies. He previously invested in Casper Sleep Inc., a startup that sells mattresses online. Casper has since gone public. He has also invested in Beyond Meat Inc., a plant-based meat substitute company, and biotech firm VitroLabs Inc., which develops lab-grown leather. 

“We had no idea he was coming in. We already closed our investment. It’s exciting to have him, given his stature,” Whittemore said. 

Whittemore did not disclose the monetary amount Florida Funders invested in May, but said it was one of the firm’s larger investments funneled through its Fund 2 LLC entity. 

Nuview founder Clint Graumann wanted a local investor, Whittemore said. MaC Venture Capital validated Florida Funders as a significant investor and made the introduction. 

“The Nuview founder is incredibly qualified, inspiring and well-spoken,” Whittemore said, recalling when Graumann traveled from the company’s Lake Nona HQ to Florida Funder’s Tampa office. 

He and Chelsea Oppenheim, director of investments at Florida Funders, spent 100 hours of due diligence studying the tech and the startup’s business plan. 

Florida Funders has been interested in breaking into the space industry for a long time and struggled to find a startup that had hard revenue numbers and contracts. 

“The hard part for us was finding investment opportunities where there’s a tangible business model that is relevant in the near-term,” Whittemore said.

The investment follows Nuview recently securing a contract from the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) through National Security Innovation Capital (NSIC) for $2.75 million.

“There’s a lot of technology that will change our world 20 or 30 years from now, but that’s not what we are looking at. This [accurate Earth mapping] is a real problem that we could start solving as early as 2025 when we expect the first satellite to launch,” Whittemore said. “This is still a new frontier that investors should be looking at. It’s a difficult, highly complex sector that comes with risks, but the upside is massive for Florida.” 

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