By guest authors Irina Patterson and Candice Arnold
I am talking to Tim Cartwright, chairman of the Tamiami Angel Fund. Created in October 2010 in Naples, Florida, this member-owned and -operated fund, offers early-stage capital in the range of $250,000–$750,000 to high-growth companies located anywhere in the state of Florida. There are 30 investors in the fund, who each put in $50,000. Tamiami Fund is the first angel fund for southwest Florida.
Irina: Hi, Tim. Why don’t you briefly start with your background?
Tim: I’ll take you back to college. I started at the University of Wisconsin. I graduated from there with an economics degree. I was recruited to Arthur Andersen in Chicago, spent a of couple years with them, and left and went off and started my own company, a supply chain consulting company called Benchmark Solutions.
I grew that company to about 30 consultants in four different cities: Minneapolis, Chicago, Cleveland, and Detroit. I sold it in 1999.
I should probably mention that, along the way, when I was in Chicago with my consulting company, I picked up my MBA from J. L. Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. I graduated in 1997. I did that part time on the downtown Chicago campus.
Then, I was co-founder of another company called By-Products Interactive, which is an electronic publishing and price reporting service for agricultural commodities, primarily agricultural by-products.
I raised angel and venture capital for that endeavor. I went up and down with the Internet boom and bust. That company is still actively going, and my business partner it. We’re an Internet publishing company now in that particular industry vertical.
I moved down to Florida, looked at buying a business, and investigated investment banking and merger and acquisition, private equity venture capital jobs.
I ended up going to Naples and started my own firm that specializes in middle market mergers and acquisitions. Then I joined an organization in Naples called the Gulf Coast Venture Forum, which was an angel and entrepreneurial networking group.
I became the leader of that organization, and out of it grew the Tamiami Angel Fund.
Irina: How exactly did the Tamiami Fund come about?
Tim: I was the president of the Gulf Coast Venture Forum, which is a 501(c)6 not-for-profit organization. We operate with two different chapters, one in Naples and one in Sarasota.
In 2007, the Florida legislature passed an economic development act that included the establishment of the Florida Opportunity Fund.
I was approached by a number of community leaders and asked whether the Gulf Coast Venture Forum was going to participate in the Florida Opportunity Fund. The Florida Opportunity Fund was a fund of funds approach in which the state established a $30 million fund that would invest in venture capital funds or angel funds that promised to invest in early stage Florida-based companies.
So, we looked at that economic development act, studied it, and thought that it might be a good time, a good impetus or catalyst, to rally around and create an angel fund.
Before we decided to dive headfirst into creating the angel fund, we wanted to understand the strengths and weaknesses of our region and assess the probability of being successful.
So, I knitted together the Southwest Florida Regional Angel Fund assessment team, which included economic development officials from six counties in southwest Florida – Sarasota, Charlotte, Lee, Collier, Glades, and Hendry counties – and higher education officials from Ave Maria, Florida Gulf Coast University, Edison State College, and Hodges University, along with the Gulf Coast Venture Forum and an organization called the Regional Business Alliance.
Those 12 organizations conducted an assessment of our region based upon a Ewing-Kauffman Foundation Community Assessment template that was published by Susan Preston and talked about what was the right angel organization for our region.
We conducted an assessment over a 12-month period, and the conclusion was that we had a need for and means to establish an angel fund in southwest Florida. That collective group charged the leadership of the Gulf Coast Venture Forum to go out and establish the fund.
At that time, we named the fund the Tamiami Angel Fund. I went about the business of organizing and creating the fund, and we were successful in raising $1.5 million, initially.
I went out on a fundraising tour in probably one of the worst economic times to go raise funds. Fortunately, it was successful enough that in October 2010, we did a closing of the Tamiami Angel Fund for [again] $1.5 million. We’re actively reviewing business plans and holding company presentations and have a couple of companies in to do due diligence right now. But we have yet to make our first investment.