Local technology startup Feathr has accepted a $150,000 investment from four members of the Tampa Bay chapter of The Indus Entrepreneurs (TiE), a networking and investment organization based in Silicon Valley.
The investment will give the members a 20 percent ownership stake in the company.
It is the first business partnership to emerge from TiE Tampa Bay, the newest chapter of a global organization that has 25,000 members in seventeen countries.
Feathr is currently operating in the University of Florida’s Innovation Hub with a team of seven designers and programmers, all ages 21 to 24. Two UF students, Aidan Augustin and Neal Ormsbee, co-founded the app in 2011 after seeing the need for an easier way to network information at conferences.
“For most of the time we’ve been operating, we’ve been living quarter to quarter and getting small amounts of funding to tide us over,” Augustin said in a phone interview Monday. “This investment will allow us to think more strategically and long-term about developing the app.”
Initially developed as a digital business card management system, the smartphone app has grown into a tool that benefits both event organizers and attendees with real-time updates and networking capabilities. The team plans to launch its new user interface in May when it partners with six separate events happening in North Carolina, Orlando, Gainesville and South Florida.
Augustin first met with the TiE Tampa Bay chapter in November. After presenting his business idea to a group of charter members – entrepreneurs with a net worth of at least $5 million – members expressed concern about Feathr’s financing proposal and its business plan. TiE Tampa Bay president Kunal Jain and member Ashok Kartham convinced them to take a second look.
“There were some hesitations from various people involved,” Kartham said in a news release. “I had to work through that.”
Feathr invited the TiE investors to its offices in Gainesville to meet its staff and to answer any questions that would help strengthen their confidence in the success of the application. After going through hours of discussions, the group reached an agreement in February to pay $150,000 in four quarterly installments for 20 percent equity in the company.
The investors have already helped Feathr streamline its accounting system and pivot the smartphone application from a consumer product marketed to individuals to an event-oriented application that event organizers can buy and include in registration packets for attendees.
The application helps event attendees to connect with each other and with speakers, receive real-time schedule and room updates, share a customized profile with other attendees and manage several events in a single application.
Jain said he hopes the investment will help the team to focus on developing the product rather than being distracted by the need for fundraising. The investment in such a young company is a first for Jain, but he believes the team of investors will be able to help guide the company to continued success.
“It’s a risk, for sure, but it’s shared among the four of us; four minds working towards the same goal,” Jain said.