Category Archives: Southeast Economy

Will voters split The Golden State into Three Californias?

“Cryptocurrency Billionaire” Tom Draper is trying, once again, to split California; and as of this morning, his “Cal3” initiaitve has officially earned a spot on the November 6 ballot.

This time he’s proposing 3 states; last time he pitched the idea it was 6.  What we said then:

These pages have often extolled the virtues of doing business in the Southeast and Texas, the best climate for entrepreneurs and where we have focused our investment efforts for over twenty years.  Along the way we may have poked gentle fun at our friends in California whenever the state’s business environment fared poorly in surveys or did something like retroactively tax entrepreneurs.

So we can try to imagine the frustration engendered when a large and diverse geographic area strains under distant and schlerotic governing institutions…  Hard to see how this becomes a political reality though.

With the mood of the electorate today, anything might be possible.  But whatever one thinks of the notion, he has his work cut out for him. A May 8 article in Bloomberg points out that CA’s differences run deep, making it difficult to structure the break-up in a fashion that would be politically palatable across-the-board.

***

In related news…

The Orange County Register writes that California lacks a job-friendly economic policy.  The letter Gov. Jerry Brown wrote to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, pleading the case for “HQ2” to be located in his state, promised a long and complicated list of incentives, breaks and assistance.

It reads like a confession of everything California is doing to kill businesses” and “(would be) a useful list for the next governor, and for anyone who wonders why there’s no gold rush of businesses moving to California.”

The best (and worst) states for business

Last month CEO Magazine produced its annual ranking of the best states in which to do business, and, as with previous surveys, our region does very well.

The best place to do business in the United States is Texas, followed by No. 2 Florida and, in a tie, No. 3 North Carolina and South Carolina, according to Chief Executive’s 2018 “Best and Worst States for Business.” CEOs ranked Indiana No. 5, rounding out the top five states.

The worst place is No. 50 California, bested only slightly by No. 49 New York, No. 48 Illinois, No. 47 New Jersey, No. 46 Connecticut and No. 45 Massachusetts.

Seem familiar? That’s because those are the exact same positions each of these states has occupied in each of the last four years in our annual poll of CEOs about business climates.

The entire ranking includes TN & GA in the Top 10, at #6 & #7 respectively.  Those at the top tend not to change much because they have a consistent philosophy about how to approach the business climate, and they don’t see significant leadership changes.  There’s a similar dynamic at the bottom of the list as well:

Meanwhile, the high-tax, high-cost environments created by the bottom states also tend to be self-reinforcing. Mostly, those places are kept afloat economically by legacy advantages such as strong education and healthcare systems, as well as by the fact that in-demand, digitally skilled millennials enjoy living in their cities.

But states like Massachusetts risk eroding even those advantages as the cost of living skyrockets in big cities and traffic and other annoyances mount. … The situations of bottom feeders could get worse before they get better, in part because of a particular effect of federal tax reform on high-tax states—like the basement dwellers. “The exit numbers of companies and owners are going to be higher,” McGuire says, “because people won’t be able to deduct as much in property and income taxes. They’re being taxed into oblivion.” Also, the coasts are losing some of their perceived edge in talent and lifestyle amid sharply higher costs of living—and facing steadily increasing digital capabilities in the heartland.

“It’s getting to the point now where if you’re a digital marketing specialist, you can move to Nashville or Omaha and have three or four opportunities,” says David Hall, vice president for investments at Revolution LLC, a Washington, D.C.-based seed fund. “Before it was so scattered. You’re seeing the density of the tech and startup ecosystem build on itself and create great network effects within a region.”

This is the most recent item in a long run of stories describing a geographic analog to the process of creative destruction.  Those states who spray “startupicideon the economy –  suffocating regulations, inflated business taxes and fees, lawsuit-friendly legal environments, and political classes uninterested in business concerns, if not downright hostile to them – lose economic clout as people and capital migrate to other states with more favorable environments in which to work and live.

This migration of economic clout within the US has been more subtle than the California Gold Rush or Irish Potato Famine but is just as significant.  Some states are chasing away their earners, workers, and entrepreneurs; this is their tax base.

The growth corridors of the high-tech South would have a mercantile-like advantage but for the fact that employers can (and do!) simply move in order to thrive under our growth-oriented tax policieslower public sector debt burdensstronger job creationexcellent climate for entrepreneurs, and a superior overall business climate.  (The actual climate happens to be conducive to a great quality of life as well.)

Related stories:

Ballast Point Ventures Announces Successful Exit From TicketBiscuit

Tampa, FL – October 30, 2017

Ballast Point Ventures III, LP (“BPV”) is pleased to announce that it has successfully exited its growth equity investment in TicketBiscuit, a Birmingham-based online ticketing and event platform, through an acquisition by eTix. BPV invested in TicketBiscuit to help the Company grow its salesforce, bolster marketing efforts, and develop additional technology products.

Founded in 2001 by Chief Executive Officer, Jeff Gale, TicketBiscuit has a rich history of pioneering innovations in online ticketing, including mobile ticketing, seatPOWER® high-demand reserved seating, and Share and Tear® scanner-free admission control. TicketBiscuit provides a suite of ticketing software and services to music venues, comedy clubs, festivals, event centers and many other attractive niche vertical markets across the country, and experienced strong organic growth in these markets during BPV’s investment period.

Robert Faber, a Partner with BPV, served on TicketBiscuit’s board of directors prior to the acquisition. He remarked, “We are pleased to have partnered with the outstanding management team at TicketBiscuit and appreciate their excellent work in creating substantial value for all the shareholders. TicketBiscuit fits the profile of the type of well-managed, rapidly growing firms in the Southeast with which Ballast Point Ventures seeks to partner.  In addition, we were pleased to be a part of helping to build a successful company in the burgeoning Birmingham technology community where our firm has deep ties and interest.”

“Our team has worked relentlessly to build and support cutting edge technology and provide the best ticketing experience on the planet, and we are pleased to see that hard work pay off in a compelling combination with eTix” said Jeff Gale, Founder and CEO of TicketBiscuit. He continued, “Ballast Point Ventures was a great partner for us at our stage of development, and we greatly enjoyed working with Robert and the team at BPV.”

About TicketBiscuit
Headquartered in Birmingham, AL, TicketBiscuit provides proprietary software that powers the online ticket sales of over 2,000 clients and partners across North America and around the world. TicketBiscuit’s complete suite of services and solutions empowers clients to sell tickets online through mobile optimized websites, telephone call center, and the TicketBiscuit web-based box office interface.  For more information on TicketBiscuit, please visit http://www.ticketbiscuit.com

About BPV
Ballast Point Ventures, headquartered in Tampa, Florida, is a later stage venture capital and growth equity firm founded in 2002 to provide expansion capital for rapidly growing, privately owned companies, with a particular emphasis on companies located in the Southeast and Texas.  The BPV partners have more than 80 years of combined experience investing in and building high-growth companies in several industries, including health care, software, technology-enabled business services, communications, and consumer.  BPV has $360 million under management and seeks to make initial equity investments ranging in size from $4 million to $10 million. For more information on Ballast Point Ventures, please visit http://ballastpointventures.com/

The migration of talent and capital to the high-tech corridors of the Southeast

Good article from Technet about how the startup economy has spread across the country:

The American startup ecosystem — the envy of the world — has spread outside of the coasts and high-profile tech hubs, such as San Francisco, Boston, and New York City, to other parts of the country.  Startup activity is happening everywhere in cities and towns across America.

More than that, the startup culture of entrepreneurship, fueled by scalable technology, is spreading as well.  Around the country, an increasing number of companies are describing themselves as “startups” when they advertise for workers.

This is the most recent item in a long run of stories describing a geographic analog to the process of creative destruction.  Those states who spray “startupicide” on the economy –  suffocating regulations, inflated business taxes and fees, lawsuit-friendly legal environments, and political classes uninterested in business concerns, if not downright hostile to them – lose economic clout as people and capital migrate to other states with more favorable environments in which to work and live.

Local evidence of this trend can be found in this story, in which the U.S. Census Bureau reports

Three metro areas in Florida were among the nation’s 10 biggest gainers in the number of people moving there last year, and another three Florida metro areas were in the top 10 for overall growth rates.

Our hometown Tampa was #5 in the nation in 2016 population growth.

This migration of economic clout within the US has been more subtle than the California Gold Rush or Irish Potato Famine but is just as significant.  Some states are chasing away their earners, workers, and entrepreneurs; this is their tax base.

The growth corridors of the high-tech South would have a mercantile-like advantage but for the fact that employers can (and do!) simply move in order to thrive under our growth-oriented tax policieslower public sector debt burdensstronger job creation, excellent climate for entrepreneurs, and a superior overall business climate.  (The actual climate happens to be conducive to a great quality of life as well.)

The NVCA’s letter to the President-elect

The National Venture Capital Association (NVCA) has sent a letter to President-elect Donald Trump outlining how the entrepreneurial ecosystem is the key to creating new jobs and economic opportunity for Americans who feel left behind by the modern economy.

startup_trendsThe letter outlines an agenda crucial for supporting entrepreneurship and building a strong economy in all areas of the country, including: a tax policy that encourages new company formation; making capital markets work for small-cap companies; encouraging talented immigrants to build or work at American startups; making life-saving medical innovation a reality; increasing basic research investment; and other key policies that would bolster the entrepreneurial ecosystem and foster new company creation.

The NVCA’s letter opens with a brief paean to entrepreneurship:

Entrepreneurship is the key to expanded economic opportunity in the United States.  From FedEx to Genentech, entrepreneurs have fueled growth and expanded opportunity across the American economy.  America’s venture capitalists have been hard at work supporting these startups with tremendous growth potential in areas like personalized medicine, next-generation computing, 3D printing, and synthetic biology.

Young companies, many of them venture-backed, create an average of 3 million new jobs a year and have been responsible for almost all net new job creation in the United States in the last forty years.  In addition, venture capital has backed nearly half of all companies that have gone public since 1974, which have collectively been responsible for 85 percent of R&D investment during this period.  In short, while a small industry by relative standards, venture capital is mighty in its outsized role in supporting economic activity and creating growth and economic opportunity.

27,000 U.S. venture-backed startups have received $290 billion in funding—and 11,000 of those received funding for the first time—since 2012.  To put this into perspective, that calculates to about $170 million invested into 15 startups each day.  An underappreciated truth is that startup activity has proliferated in the middle of the country in recent years.  Since 2012, nearly half of all startups receiving venture capital backing have been based outside of California, Massachusetts and New York.  Specifically, about 12,900 venture-backed companies in the other 47 states have raised $83 billion in funding since 2012.  What’s more, the collective annual growth rate of companies receiving funding in these states (10.1%) has exceeded that of the top three states.

We highlight/excerpt three of their recommendations below, but we also encourage all our readers to check out the NVCA’s letter in its entirety.  (We also provide a few links to some of the relevant Greatest Hits here at Navigating Venture.)

1. Support tax policy that encourages new company formation.  Since the Reagan Administration, our tax code has been relatively effective at encouraging patient, long-term investment, but on net has been hostile to entrepreneurial companies.  For example, punitive loss limitation rules punish startups for hiring or investing in innovation, while benefits such as the R&D credit are inaccessible to startups.  Unfortunately, tax reform conversations in Washington have ignored these challenges while at the same time proposing to raise taxes on long-term startup investment to pay for unrelated priorities.For instance, carried interest has been an important feature of the tax code that has properly aligned the interests of entrepreneurs and venture investors since the creation of the modern venture capital industry.  Increasing the tax rate on carried interest capital gains will have an outsized impact on entrepreneurship due to the venture industry’s longer holding periods, higher risk, smaller size, and less reliance on fees for compensation.  These factors will magnify the negative impact of the tax increase for venture capital fund formation outside of the traditional venture regions on the coasts.

2. Reform the regulatory state to bolster startup activity.  When Washington piles on new regulations it is startups who are most adversely affected because these young, high-growth companies do not have the resources to navigate the regulatory state like large companies.  At the same time, government red tape is inhibiting government entities from tapping into venture-backed innovation in fields such as cybersecurity due to challenges with the government acquisition process.

3. Make life-saving medical innovation a reality.  The future has never been brighter in terms of scientific and health care discoveries that are on the horizon.  Venture capital is investing in revolutionary medical innovation and groundbreaking treatments and cures that are aimed at diagnosing, treating, and curing the deadliest and costly diseases.

Unfortunately, medical innovation is at risk unless policymakers adopt modern approaches to development, regulation, and reimbursement for medicine and medical devices.  Progress has been made to streamline the regulatory approval process at the Food and Drug Administration, particularly for novel technologies, but more improvements are needed.  In addition, we need to establish pro-innovation approaches to reimbursement at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid.

BPV completes successful exit from Tower Cloud

BPV portfolio company Tower Cloud has been acquired by Communications Sales & Leasing, Inc (NASDAQ: CSAL) in a stock and cash deal valued at $230 million plus milestone payments.  

Here is today’s write up from the Tampa Bay Business Journal:

St. Pete fiber optics firm acquired in $230 million deal

tcloudSt. Petersburg-based Tower Cloud is being acquired by Communications Sales & Leasing Inc. (NASDAQ: CSAL) in a stock and cash deal valued at $230 million.

Tower Cloud, founded in 2006 and backed by private equity investors, operates a fiber optic network in 15 markets in the Southeast United States, with nearly 6,000 route miles connecting large markets and Internet hubs with smaller markets and rural areas.

“Tower Cloud significantly expands our backhaul network and greatly accelerates our entry into the high growth small cell and dark fiber businesses,”Kenny Gunderman, president and CEO of Little Rock, Arkansas-based CS&L, said in a statement. “We continue to grow our wireless carrier relationships across all asset classes and are seeing an increasing number of opportunities arise as carriers densify their networks and look toward the deployment of 5G and related technologies.”

In an investor conference call about the deal Monday morning, Gunderman said, “Tower Cloud is very complementary to our strategy of acquiring and building mission critical communications infrastructure and becoming more and more relevant to the national wireless carriers in particular. The deal makes CS&L one of the largest owners of fiber in the country,” Gunderman said.

“We think that fiber is and will be the most critical component of the communications network going forward and Tower Cloud is an established provider of two of the biggest growth areas within fiber including dark fiber deployments and small cells,” Gunderman said in the call.

The acquisition expands CS&L’s national wireless carrier relationships because more than 90 percent of Tower Cloud’s revenues are from national wireless carriers. The deal also advances CS&L’s diversification strategy by increasing its exposure to the national wireless carriers with long-term contractual revenues.

Tower Cloud’s recent dark fiber and small cell awards with national wireless carriers will accelerate the company’s initiatives, the company said in a statement. Tower Cloud is currently constructing dark fiber routes in Florida and Georgia with total contractual revenues of $175 million.

Last November, Tower Cloud signed a contract with one of the “big 4” mobile carriers to expand its fiber network infrastructure and bring high-speed connectivity and capacity to Augusta, Georgia. It also announced last September that it would expand its fiber network into Jacksonville.

Florida Basks in a Texas-Style Resurgence

In case you missed it in last weekend’s Wall Street Journal, Florida is now “the showcase of America’s red-state prosperity.”  Hit especially hard by the collapse of real estate values in the last recession, the state…

(C)ut a variety of taxes, including those on businesses and property, no small feat in a state without an income tax. [The state government] also slashed 3,000 regulations and shrunk state payrolls by 11,000.

The WSJ article is entitled “Florida Basks in a Texas-Style Resurgence” and those of us fortunate enough to live in the growth corridors of the high-tech South easily recognize the reasons:  growth-oriented tax policieslower public sector debt burdensstronger job creation, excellent climate for entrepreneurs, and a superior overall business climate.  (The actual climate happens to be conducive to a great quality of life as well.)

BPV announces two new growth equity investments

PowerChord – St. Petersburg, FL
Provider of digital brand management software and services – Ballast Point Ventures has led a $10 million equity investment in PowerChord, Inc. Founded in 2001, PowerChord, Inc. provides a suite of internet brand management and digital marketing services for major brands and their dealer networks in the United States and Europe. PowerChord’s Software-as-a-Service offering allows major brands to maintain brand consistency down to the local dealer level. The Company’s customer engagement platform creates a universal online brand experience for national and international brands with consistent content, data, and messaging at the local dealer level. Today, there are over 9,000 individual dealers on the PowerChord platform. PowerChord is led by CEO Lanny Tucker and Founder and Chief Strategy Officer Pat Schunk. PowerChord will use the proceeds from this minority investment for partial shareholder liquidity, sales force additions, and to bolster its product development and marketing efforts.

 

The Zebra – Austin, Texas
Online automotive insurance agency and comparison platform – Ballast Point Ventures has led a $12.5 million equity investment in The Zebra. Founded in 2012, the Zebra offers a comprehensive automotive insurance comparison platform that allows consumers in all 50 states to compare quotes from more than 200 insurance carriers. The Company’s comparison engine collects user-submitted data via the website and displays the automotive insurance rates from multiple carriers, providing a valuable new tool to insurance shoppers that has earned comparisons to the travel search engine Kayak.com. The Zebra also operates as a licensed independent insurance agency and can currently sell and bind automotive policies in multiple U.S. states. The Company is led by Founder and CEO Adam Lyons and COO Joshua Dziabiak, both of whom were named to Inc. Magazine’s 30 Under 30. The Zebra will use the proceeds from this minority investment to enhance its online comparison platform, expand its insurance agency capabilities and hire new team members.

Southern Comfort

New figures from the Census Bureau show that, in 2015, Florida gained more people (365,703 – more than 1,000 a day) than California.

state growth

This is the most recent item in a long run of stories describing a geographic analog to the process of creative destruction.  Those states who spray “startupicide” on the economy –  suffocating regulations, inflated business taxes and fees, lawsuit-friendly legal environments, and political classes uninterested in business concerns, if not downright hostile to them – lose economic clout as people and capital migrate to other states with more favorable environments in which to work and live.

This migration of economic clout within the US has been more subtle than the California Gold Rush or Irish Potato Famine but is just as significant.  Some states are chasing away their earners, workers, and entrepreneurs; this is their tax base.

The growth corridors of the high-tech South would have a mercantile-like advantage but for the fact that employers can (and do!) simply move in order to thrive under our growth-oriented tax policieslower public sector debt burdens,stronger job creation, excellent climate for entrepreneurs, and a superior overall business climate.  (The actual climate happens to be conducive to a great quality of life as well.)

FVF’s “state of the industry” panel with Robert Faber

faber fvf

Robert Faber (L) discussing our state’s entrepreneurial ecosystem.

This past Friday BPV principal Robert Faber helped cap off the 24th annual Florida Venture Capital Conference as part of the “State of the Industry” panel discussion.

The panel covered several topics, including: new non-traditional sources of capital attracted to our state’s (and region’s) attractive business climate, start-up valuations, and how critical it is for an entrepreneur to do his or her homework on potential venture partners.

The Miami Herald reports that all of the panelists were “optimistic about opportunities in 2015” and foresee “a strong year ahead.”  We look forward to seeing many of you next year at the Vinoy in St. Petersburg for the 2016 Florida Venture Forum conference.

 

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