The University of Central Florida’s entrepreneurial ecosystem has added a key component—an initiative dedicated to supporting qualified early-stage companies with financial capital.
Over the past year, the Florida Angel Nexus (FAN) network has been quietly lining up accredited investors for promising early- stage companies and has succeeded in closing three deals, on target to meet its goal of investing $1 million in fiscal-year 2013. According to Michael O’Donnell, executive director for the UCF Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship and founder of the FAN, the initiative not only fills a significant need at UCF, it has the potential to help bring additional investment into the state.
“This is a new and exciting era for job and wealth creation,” O’Donnell says. “The number of growth companies and the amount of available resources are both on the rise. There are many people working to close the known gaps. The resulting opportunities that this creates for everyone involved will be substantial.”
The companies presented to investors are vetted by FAN advisors and are presented in a consistent format for individual evaluation. Firms do not need a UCF connection. However, many in the early pipeline have taken advantage of UCF’s suite of services for entrepreneurs.
FAN’s largest investment to date was in AZZLY, a company based in Vero Beach that delivers web-based patient care and revenue management services to small and mid-sized doctor’s offices and health providers. AZZLY recently won best pitch at the Florida Venture Forum’s 2013 Early Stage Venture Capital Conference and was a client of UCF’s GrowFL economic gardening program.
FlexReceipts, another FAN investment, participated in the Igniting Innovation (I2) Capital Acceleration Network, as part of the 2012 Cleantech to Spacetech multi-showcase event, in partnership with the Florida Cleantech Acceleration Network (FL- CAN). The business offers consumers and vendors an online receipt management system that eliminates the need for paper. Retailers are interested in the product because it also offers analytic data on customers’ buying patterns as well as targeted direct marketing options.
The latest FAN investment was ConvergTV, a UCF Business Incubation Program client. ConvergTV offers consumers the ability to choose customizable television content created by independent producers seeking to monetize their quality content through the company. ConvergTV recently announced a partnership with Vidora, a mobile video aggregation service, to offer programming live and on-demand for mobile devices.