The region’s burgeoning reputation as a fintech and blockchain hub continues to attract companies from across the nation and caught the attention of long-time investor Scott Kelly.
While the Phoenix area has also experienced tremendous growth in recent years, Tampa Bay’s startup ecosystem – and Florida’s lack of state income tax – proved irresistible to Kelly. The CEO of Black Dog Venture Partners completed his move from Arizona to Tampa on Aug. 1.
According to its website, Black Dog offers venture capital consulting and access to funding through a network of 13,000 investors. It also provides business development and executive coaching services for “disruptive” companies, focusing on those in the fintech, blockchain and gaming space. In addition, Kelly serves as a strategic advisor for Fortress Blockchain Technologies, a leader in building Web3 infrastructure.
“I think the business scene and the ecosystem are incredible,” said Kelly of both Tampa and St. Petersburg. “I’ve literally met hundreds of people, even before I got here.”
Kelly has a brother in nearby Clearwater and said he fell in love with the area when visiting for the 2021 Super Bowl. After spending the last 20 years in Phoenix, he decided to relocate in October of last year. He traveled back and forth in the meantime, and the move is now permanent.
Kelly said it is an exciting time for the region as founders continue launching promising new startups and existing companies experience growth. While Tampa Bay is home to many established investors, he said an increasing amount are now discovering the area’s potential.
“In fact, many that I communicate with in other parts of the country are intrigued by what’s happening here,” he added.
Black Dog, said Kelly, works with startups and entrepreneurs and helps them create pitch decks and business plans while connecting them to investors around the country. His company also provides scaling solutions as startups grow and assists with finding additional workforce talent. In some cases, said Kelly, Black Dog helps owners exit their company.
Kelly has spent 30 years in fundraising, marketing, sales, training and publicity. He also hosts a series of virtual and in-person VC Fast Pitch events, with the next one taking place on Oct. 13 at the University of Tampa. Black Dog’s conferences have helped startups raise millions of dollars over nearly a decade, according to the website.
While Kelly’s new home is in Tampa, he said he is also looking at office space for his company across the bay and will meet with several people next week to discuss potential locations in St. Petersburg.
“I’ve been fortunate to meet some great people in the St. Pete community,” said Kelly. “And there are some advantages to being in St. Pete versus Tampa, although I don’t really see it as a competition. I see it more as different opportunities.”
Kelly said he recently welcomed a couple of locals to the Black Dog team and expects to hire more aggressively by the beginning of October.
He added that he is “hitting the ground running” and already has a bevy of appointments set for his second week in the area.
Kelly believes the fintech industry will continue to flourish throughout Tampa Bay and mentioned blockchain integration platform BlockSpaces as a company that has thrived in the area’s ecosystem.
Kelly attended the opening ceremony for the University of South Florida St. Petersburg’s new Fintech Center in April and said the institution is “doing some pretty spectacular things.”
“So, I think there are great opportunities,” he said. “One of our portfolio companies – we’re probably going to bring in some staff into this market, and they are in the NFT fintech space.
“Again, I’m just excited to be here.”