“Really the purpose of the event is to shine a spotlight on the entrepreneurial ecosystem, and raise the awareness in the community that you can start, fund and grow a business here in Southwest Florida,” says Timothy Cartwright, Chairman of Tamiami Angel Funds, a Naples-based group of high-net-worth individuals who invest in early-stage businesses. “You don’t have to go to Silicon Valley. If you really study it, there are great reasons to stay in Florida.”
Companies from Sarasota, Charlotte, DeSoto and Lee counties will be competing for some $50,000 in funding, Cartwright says. An additional $10,000 in grant money may be awarded, through the city, to a North Port business.
Interested businesses from the four counties can submit startup plans to Venture Pitch SWFL. Plans must be entered by Feb. 15. The businesses must be less than two years old and in the pre-revenue stage, or very early stages of producing revenue. Their plans must be scalable. Additionally, businesses should not have raised more than $1 million in capital.
The event is scheduled from 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at Isles Yacht Club in Punta Gorda. “It’s almost fundraising and friendraising and customer raising,” he explains. “That’s what special about putting together the ecosystem at these events.”
The events, usually held three times a year, began in 2015. Sponsors include Sun Newspapers, The Hatchery at Babcock Ranch, North Port Economic Development Corporation, Punta Gorda Chamber of Commerce, SCORE, a nonprofit association of volunteer business counselors; Tamiami Angel Funds; and Adrenaline Venture Fund.
This is the first time the event is being held in Charlotte County.
While it’s early in the application process, Cartwright says the response has been good, with ticket sales, sponsorships and companies.
The event was organized after business leaders recognized there wasn’t such an event in Southwest Florida. People had begun expressing interest in attending what were then private funding events.
So, they decided to follow the adage: “if you build it, they will come.”
“They have [come] and they’ve gone on to do some pretty great things,” he says.
A panel from SCORE will judge the applicants. Unlike the business tycoons on the popular TV show Shark Tank, the SCORE volunteers will do the judging privately.
“We are really looking for businesses from Sarasota. Historically ... we’ve already seen very interesting deal flow from Sarasota city and county,” Cartwright adds. “I think it’s a very rich area for entrepreneurship because the creative class is thriving.”