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Tampa-St. Pete firms score big on Q1 MoneyTree report

Margie Manning

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LendingMemo.com

Technology companies in the Tampa-St. Pete area are coming off a strong first quarter for funding.

Six local firms, including digital health company Peerfit and Bond-Pro, which develops insurance software products, raised $34.4 million in the first three months of 2019, according to the MoneyTree report from PricewaterhouseCoopers and CB Insights.

The total is likely much higher because the MoneyTree report did not include funding for KnowBe4, a Clearwater cybersecurity company that got financial backing from private equity giant KKR and Ten Eleven Ventures. KnowBe4 said in March it received a “sizable” investment but did not disclose the amount. Fortune estimated the investment at $50 million, and KnowBe4 said in a regulatory filing that it had raised $31.56 million in an equity offering in February.

Venture capital funding is one signal of a maturing technology sector, as companies with a proven model and operations get additional capital for new or refined products and to hire more people into high-skill, high-wage jobs that help expand local economies.

Nationally, venture capital funding fell 36 percent in Q1 2019 as venture capital-backed companies based in the U.S. raised $25 billion across 1,279 transactions, MoneyTree said. The number of deals was down by 4 percent. Mega-deals, or funding rounds greater than $100 million, continue to shape the venture capital landscape, said Tom Ciccolella, U.S. Venture Capital Leader for PwC.

“Investors are shifting away from the earliest and riskiest bets with U.S. seed-stage deal share declining to 24 percent of all deals versus 30 percent just a year ago,” said Anand Sanwal, CEO and co-founder of CB Insights.

The Tampa-St. Pete companies that raised money during Q1 primarily were expansion and later-stage companies, rather than very early startups.

Fred Duguay

Bond-Pro is a Tampa company founded in 1991 that secured $10 million in growth equity funding in a round led by Volition Capital in Boston. Bond-Pro develops software used by large insurance carriers to manage their surety business and specialty insurance products, said Fred Duguay, CEO.

“It was our first Series A funding. We used it for growth capital to accelerate the business offshore …  localizing our software products for use outside the U.S. and Canada,” Duguay said.

Duguay was managing director of a venture capital firm and co-founded a tech startup before he bought Bond-Pro from a larger insurer about eight years ago.

Here are the other Q1 2019 venture capital investments listed in the MoneyTree report.

Peerfit, a Tampa digital health company, got $18 million from Virgo Investment Group in San Francisco.

Global Safety Management, a Tampa software-as-a-service company, raised $4.1 million in a round led by Florida Funders.

Pinnacle Automotive Hospitality Services Holdings in Tampa, which porter services, auto wash/detail services, courtesy shuttle drivers, delivery coordinators, receptionists and greeters to automotive dealerships nationwide, received $2.02 million from Camden Partners in Baltimore.

Wesley Chapel biotech KeriCure received a $200,000 investment from Quake Capital, a seed and early-stage venture capital fund, and took part in Quake’s accelerator program in New York.

Knack, a Tampa educational technology company, won the Village Capital U.S. Education Program, a venture development program for a dozen U.S. education startups. The prize was a $125,000 investment by venture capital fund VilCap Investments and Educational Testing Service in Princeton, N.J.

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