Innovation Gainesville project screens companies and provides information for people interested in helping fund new ventures.
“Many individuals with a high net worth have a certain sliver of their portfolios that they’re willing to put at risk. For that group, investing $25,000 into one of the start-ups in Gainesville is not going to put their portfolio at risk.”
– David Day, director of UF’s Office of Technology Licensing
“Buy local” is taking a new twist, with Innovation Gainesville spearheading a partnership that’s encouraging local folks to invest some of their portfolios in local start-ups.
“People are looking at their portfolios a lot differently than they did five years ago,” says Ann Collett, vice president for Innovation Gainesville with the Gainesville Area Chamber of Commerce. “We want to match people who don’t know how to invest in emerging local companies with solid new businesses.”
The Innovation Gainesville Angel Network works through a website. Potential investors can register so they can have access to the site, and businesses can apply for inclusion on the list of companies on the site.
“Companies that reach the quality bar can sign up,” says David Day, director of the University of Florida’s Office of Technology Licensing and part of the planning team for the angel network.
The Florida Institute for the Commercialization of Public Research is screening the companies, under a contract with chamber.
“The web portal provides an easy way for investors to check on companies that have been added to the list and on new information that’s been posted,” Collett says. “An investor can go in and send a quick question to a company.”
The group planning the investor network originally considered setting up an investment fund. “We decided it was better to help make connections, to get the two parties together without a lot of administrative overhead and to let relationships evolve organically,” Collett says
People who participate must be accredited investors, which requires that their net worth is at least $1 million, excluding their home, and that they made $200,000 each year for the last two years or $300,000 as a couple.
Although Gainesville has a strong core group of venture capital investors, a great potential exists to attract additional investors, Day says.
“Many individuals with a high net worth have a certain sliver of their portfolios that they’re willing to put at risk,” he says. “For that group, investing $25,000 into one of the start-ups in Gainesville is not going to put their portfolio at risk.”
The companies registered with the investor network include:
- ReliOx, which has developed a way to inexpensively produce chlorine dioxide, which kills bacteria, viruses, mold and fungi but to harmless to people
- Feathr, a mobile app for exchanging digital business cards
- Mercury Authentications, which enables physicians to provide digital signatures remotely
The investor network plans various outreach efforts, including meetings with financial advisors. “We’re hoping that some people will team up to invest together,” Collett says.
The network is another part of Innovation Gainesville’s efforts to foster economic development.
UF is one of the leading universities in the U.S. in transferring ideas into companies, says Rosemary Fagler, another member of the team that created the angel network. “Having venture capital efforts in our community is critical in helping some of these companies stay local, where they can grow, hire, thrive and invest and can participate in our community,” she says.
To learn more, go to http://innovationgainesville.com/igan