Florida Venture Capital Conference Story

Capital Ideas at the Florida Venture Capital Conference

Entrepreneurial alert: The Florida Venture Capital Conference, set for Jan. 28-29 in Orlando, is the place to attract capital. In the past, conference presenters have raised nearly $3 billion.

2014 is an especially big year for the Florida Venture Forum. It marks the 30th anniversary of an organization that has steadily contributed to the success of entrepreneurial enterprises across the state of Florida.

Call this “from humble beginning to a billion-dollar effect.”

Nowhere is that more evident than at the annual Florida Venture Capital Conference, an event that has become a “must attend” networking opportunity for investors interested in emerging Florida companies. The conference showcases high-growth companies looking for equity financing before a nationwide audience of venture capitalists and investment bankers. To date, presenters at the conference have raised a total of $2.8 billion. Now in its 23rd year, the conference, Jan. 28-29 at the Hyatt Regency Orlando, is slated to include 20 to 25 fast-growing, private Florida companies in a variety of industries, as well as guest speakers and expert panel discussions.

The Florida Venture Forum started as a meeting of business leaders and academicians who identified a void in the community. Although many entrepreneurs had the expertise to back their ventures, they needed assistance in management, marketing and finance. Their solution was the formation of a new advisory and support organization. The group took hold, and today the Forum is a member-based, not-for-profit entity that assists members in obtaining funding through education, strategic partnering and effective networking. It also provides local businesses and individuals the opportunity to gain expert advice and managerial assistance.

Essentially, the Forum lives by this guiding statement: “connecting Florida entrepreneurs and capital sources to foster a thriving innovation economy.”

Aside from the annual conference, that mission is apparent through an assortment of programs offered throughout the state, ranging from industry-specific educational events to general themes, all tailored to emerging companies and with an emphasis on candid discussion. Most events feature a selection of panelists, consisting of high-ranking executives who share personal experiences.

Collegiate entrepreneurs are part of the mix, too, as the Forum focuses on emerging talent. For the past six years, the Forum has hosted the Early Stage Conference and Statewide Collegiate Business Plan Competition—giving students the opportunity to increase their level of real-world acumen while potentially raising investment dollars for their ventures.

For those interested, a variety of Forum memberships are offered, including levels specifically designed for corporations, investors, nonprofits, educational institutions, individuals and students. Also, the Forum recently launched an app designed to deliver easy access to resources, featuring a full member directory, board of directors list, links to entrepreneurial resources and a calendar of events.

Calling all entrepreneurs: Capital is available.

Editor’s note: Melanie Fernandez is an audit partner and director of Assurance Services for Cross, Fernandez & Riley LLP. She serves on the board of directors for the Florida Venture Forum and is past-president of the Association for Corporate Growth, Orlando chapter. [cfrcpa.com]