By: Laura Layden - October 20, 2014 naples daily news
The Tamiami Angel Fund II has invested $330,000 in MassiveU, a growing company founded by Angelo Biasi in 2012. The company, offering a mobile learning platform, continues to evolve.
On top of the money from the angel fund, several of the fund’s investors put up $370,000 of their own money to help accelerate MassiveU’s growth.
The latest investments are on top of the initial $370,000 the company received in its earlier stages from the Tamiami Angel Fund 1, which involved many of the same investors, mostly from Naples and Sarasota.
Through the two funds, MassiveU — based in North Naples — now has raised more than $1 million. The company received more money than it asked for in this latest round.
“We thought, ‘Let’s trust this entrepreneur with some more capital and see how much he can continue to grow the business,’ ” said Tim Cartwright, the fund’s chairman and one of its investors.
The company is the only local business to receive money from the two funds, which combined have made 14 investments in nine companies, after receiving more than 1,300 applications and hearing more than 60 presentations from their top picks.
Companies make their pitches like they would on the hit TV show “Shark Thank,” with investors sitting around a large boardroom table, which seats about 40 members.
“Think of presenting in front of 40 sharks, instead of just five,” Cartwright said.
The second fund has made five investments — and its investors are looking to grow the fund, now at $2.85 million, up to $5 million, with more members.
MassiveU started out with Biasi’s idea to build the world’s first mobile-first learning platform, by offering apps that would allow educators, publishers and trainers to deliver learning to any mobile phone, tablet or online screen.
The company’s focus has shifted a bit, and its services are now more project-based. Its platform is geared more toward college and career readiness — and now incorporates social media.
“We are working primarily through publishers now,” Biasi said. “We are now more of a business to business company, but also are still working with the schools to get our technology in the hands of K (kindergarten) through career students, who are learning differently these days.
“They are consuming content differently these days. They are digitally social. They are mobile first, they are game- oriented. They are very project based.”
The company now has five full-time employees and a team of 12 behind it, including contract employees.
“Things are going great,” said Biasi, a former New York University professor. “We’ve expanded our team. We’ve built out our platform. We are executing on several large relationships and growing at pace for a technology company.”
One of the reasons the angel investors like the company is its strong management team, which includes John Gamba Jr., who started and sold five Internet companies over a 20-year career, including one that fetched $182 million after NTI Group Inc. purchased it, then sold it to Blackboard Inc.
“We’ve seen really, really good results with customers, and we see a very robust sales pipeline for new customers,” Cartwright said.
Some of the company’s first clients were local, including Collier County Public Schools and Florida Gulf Coast University in south Lee County.
MassiveU will use some its latest investment capital to further build out its technical platform to take advantage of opportunities in Latin America and other countries.
The company has the potential to make a real difference in delivering 21st-century skills to students, said Don Kiernan, a member of the Tamiami Angel Fund II, who also sits on MassiveU’s board.
“MassiveU is going to enhance the learning process in the country and worldwide,” he said.
The investors would make their money when MassiveU sells, or others buy them out, or if the company goes public, Cartwright explained. With their investments, the members gained equity in the company, and now own stock in it, he said.
None of the companies the funds have invested in has sold yet, but there haven’t been any failures yet either, Cartwright said, noting they are risky investments.
“We are eagerly anticipating our first company to have a profitable exit,” he said. Asked if that might happen soon, Cartwright said, “You know, I’m hopeful, but it’s nothing I can announce.”
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