Two early-stage venture capitalists from the San Francisco Bay area will be at the Synapse Summit to check out local investment possibilities, thanks to Steve MacDonald, founder of the former Tampa pharmacy benefits manager myMatrixx.
Both Jake Seid, managing director of Stone Bridge Ventures, and Zach Coelius, managing partner of Coelius Capital, said they heard about Synapse through MacDonald.
“I have been investing with Steve MacDonald for quite some time now and I have really come to respect him and his approach,” said Coelius. “He invited me and it sounds like a great opportunity to meet founders outside my normal investment area in San Francisco.”
MacDonald is a serial entrepreneur who founded at least three Tampa Bay area companies in the past two decades, before selling myMatrixx to Express Scripts for $250 million in 2017. He’s a board member and on the investment committee at Florida Funders, a Tampa-based hybrid of a venture fund and crowd-funding platform. He’s also an angel investor in tech companies, with more than 75 active investments, according to LinkedIn.
MacDonald, Seid and Coelius are among the investors who will be speaking at Synapse Summit, a conference celebrating innovation Jan. 23 and 24 in downtown Tampa.
Seid also will be one of the judges for “Pitch Madness,” a pitch competition for eight startups at Synapse.
Coelius previously was CEO of Triggit, an online advertising technology company he sold in 2015. He will talk about how he transitioned from entrepreneur to venture capitalist. He said the move was just “dumb luck.”
“When I sold my last company, AngelList had just started the syndicates model and I was able to raise capital, using it for a series A for a company I had been advising called Branch Metrics,” Coelius said. “I fell in love with the job and got lucky that two of the first three companies I invested in became unicorns and people started to think knew what I was doing.”
Seed stage funding for young companies is critical, Coelius said. “Without the risk taking of being the first money there would be no ecosystem at all.”
Startup investors’ capital goes much farther today than a decade or two ago, said Seid, whose portfolio companies have raised more than $700 million to date.
“Think about when eBay was starting. They had to buy data bases from Oracle, they had to buy servers from Sun Microsystems, very expensive monolithic infrastructure, before they even knew if people wanted to use the service,” Seid said. “Today, you can start in the cloud, and if nobody uses your service, you can iterate in a very low cost way. So I think we’re in a world now where seed investing is much more impactful for companies, where they can get to significant milestones, and the rise of that in Tampa will create a lot more entrepreneurial projects.”
The types of companies Seid invests in fall within four themes:
- Digital transformation of large legacy industries, such as financial services, real estate and insurance
- Artificial intelligence and blockchain
- Vertical software as a service, targeted to a particular industry
- Hybrid multi-clouds, which are a mix of on-premise, private cloud and third-party, public cloud services.
Investing in startups is “wild, unpredictable and very profitable,” Coelius said. “I look for new ideas, with the initial smoke of traction and a great team.”
Neither Coelius nor Seid currently have any investments in Tampa Bay companies, but both said they would be on the lookout during the Synapse Summit.
See the schedule of speakers and events for the summit here.