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Fundraising, Part II: ETBS gives entrepreneurs the stage


Crowd Hudson
Each of the 18 presenting companies were given about 12 minutes on stage to make their presentation and field questions, such as Mathew Hudson of Stadson Tech, at right. Photos by  David Glass of Florida Technology Journal.

Fundraising was also one of the underlying themes of the Enterprise Development Corp.’s all-day Emerging Technology Business Showcase on Friday, where 18 South Florida startups presented their pitch decks to investors, mentors and fellow entrepreneurs from the stage of a Hilton Hotel ballroom in Deerfield Beach. The presenting companies were: Exhibitarea

 Rob Strandberg, president and CEO  of the Enterprise Development Corporation (EDC), a nonprofit that has been helping South Florida's emerging technology companies launch and grow for more than a decade, said the format was changed this year in order to give the entrepreneurs more time to present their companies. Each got about 12 minutes on stage to make their presentations and field questions. There were also two large rooms where the teams could exhibit and plenty of time to network (shown in pictures above). "We hoped to engage the audience so they could really get to know some great entrepreneurs,” Strandberg said.

The presenters ranged from a college student team, DormDuels, to several serial entrepreneurs and spanned many industries. Some had already had success at raising money -- Linguasys and Neocis have already raised more than $1 million, for instance, while others were well into their seed rounds. Some investors I talked to in the networking breaks, the lunch and cocktail hour said they liked the new format and the mix of presentations and saw some interesting prospects in the bunch. Several entrepreneurs said they left with meetings with investors on their calendars. Can't ask for a better marker for success than that!

Panel A panel of a venture capitalist, angel investors and a founder (pictured at left) — John Duffy of 3Cinteractive, Raj Kulkarni of New World Angels, Richard Licursi of venVelo fund in Orlando and Casey A. Swercheck of the Florida Growth Fund — provided advice on raising money and debated the current state of the industry during the luncheon.

Their message: Start thinking about and planning for your Series A round of financing now, even if you are still in the seed stage. You need to be begin developing your network and forming your pipeline. "The best time to raise the money is when you don't really need it... Building that network is so crucial," Kulkarni said.

What's most important to investors? That was unanimous: A great management team with strong complementary skill sets. And how to choose an angel? "I'd advise a first-time entrepreneur the same way I would advise my 17 year old daughter about picking a boyfriend. It's really personal, there's not one right or wrong answer. You have to be able to get along, you have to know what you want out of the relationship... If you pick the wrong person, you will be miserable," Duffy said.

Panelists said they were seeing increasing VC interest in solutions in healthcare IT, data analytics and software as a service, and a decreased appetite for clean tech, biotech and life sciences.

And what about equity crowdfunding? "Awesome, good for the entrepreneur," said Duffy. And what does the VC say? Swercheck said it could be helpful to entrepreneurs in certain instances, particularly small businesses such as your neighborhood pizza restaurant, but VCs see nightmares ahead for high-growth companies that go that route and later seek venture funding.

Best of luck to all the presenting companies on their entrepreneurial journeys and please keep in touch.

Read an earlier Q&A with the EDC's Rob Strandberg here.

Follow me on Twitter @ndahlberg

(Photos provided by David Glass of Florida Technology Journal)