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Category Archives: Florida
If you are an entrepreneur or part of the “hodge-podge of scientists, institutions, and funding” that make up our state’s entrepreneurial ecosystem, please join us at the 2014 Florida Venture Capital Conference.
On January 28 & 29, hundreds of venture capitalists and private equity investors from across the U.S. and the world will be at the Hyatt Regency Orlando to listen to some of the most dynamic high-growth companies in Florida. (You can click here to register.)
The conference will feature expert panel discussions, exclusive networking opportunities, featured speakers and many of Florida’s top companies presenting to a national audience of venture capitalists, investment bankers and private equity investors.
With 3-Year Sales Growth of 964%, the BPV portfolio company ranked #478 on the 2013 Inc. 500 List of America’s Fastest-Growing Private Companies.
The 2013 Inc. 500, unveiled in the September issue of Inc., is the most competitive crop in the list’s history. To make the cut, companies had to have achieved a staggering minimum of 918.59% in sales growth.
“We are honored to be recognized by the 2013 Inc. 500 for the tremendous growth Tower Cloud has achieved over the last three years,” said Ronald Mudry, Tower Cloud’s founder and CEO. “Our placement as the 7th fastest growing telecommunication company in the nation, and the fastest growing wireless backhaul provider is a testament to all the hard work, dedication and customer focus of the Tower Cloud team.”
Today’s Wall Street Journal includes a story about the dramatic genetic breakthroughs that are revolutionizing cancer treatment.
(The promise of personalized cancer treatment, Part I, can be found here.)
One of our portfolio companies, MolecularMD, provides highly validated, standardized pharmacogenomic tests that support regulatory approval and clinical adoption of targeted, personalized oncology. Several of their assays help to identify a subset of the EGFR mutations mentioned in the story.
MolecularMD was founded by CEO Sheridan Snyder and Chief Scientific Officer Dr. Brian Druker. Mr. Snyder is a renowned leader in the biotechnology industry and behind several previous successful start-ups in the field, including Genzyme (NASDAQ: GENZ) where he served as Chairman, CEO, and President. Dr. Druker is a recipient of the Lasker-DeBakey Clinical Medical Research Award for his critical role in the development of Gleevec, a drug featured on the cover of Time magazine and described as a “magic bullet” that “convert(ed) a fatal cancer into a manageable chronic condition.”
Here’s an excerpt from today’s story, DNA Sequencing of Tumors Brings Hope of New Cancer Drugs:
Kellie Carey’s doctor finally stopped dodging questions about how long she had to live six weeks after he diagnosed her lung cancer.
“Maybe three months,” he told her in his office one sunny May morning in 2010, she recalls.
Yet she is still alive, a testament to the most extraordinary decade of progress ever in the long scientific struggle against lung cancer.
Tests found Ms. Carey’s lung cancer to be of a rare type that researchers had found just three years earlier by deciphering its genetic code. The 45-year-old businesswoman in 2010 went on a drug Pfizer Inc. was testing for that type. By pinpointing her cancer, the drug probably helped give her years more to live than chemotherapy would have, her doctors say…
Ms. Carey has one of at least 15 lung-cancer variations, almost all of which scientists didn’t know existed 10 years ago. Researchers have identified those variations, most of them in just the past four years, by decoding DNA in tumors—akin to how crime labs analyze DNA to genetically fingerprint suspects…
Among signs that revolution really is afoot: A June 2013 study found that lung-cancer patients who were treated with drugs targeted at their genetically identified varieties lived 1.4 years longer than patients on chemotherapy whose cancers weren’t genetically identified.
In effect, lung cancer is no longer a few common diagnoses. Instead, it is a growing list of rare cancers, each a target for its own drug regimen… The same goes for other malignancies: Scientists have decoded tumor DNA from breast, colon, kidney, skin and other cancers in recent years to discover scores of variations they didn’t know existed before… (R)apid diagnostic advances are making it easier for any doctor to test for the newfound cancers. Tests now can hunt for more than 200 mutations—of lung and other cancers—in one biopsy.
In June 2011 the WSJ wrote about what this would mean for the approval process for new cancer-fighting drugs:
By targeting mutations, researchers say fewer patients will be needed to prove the efficacy of new drugs, hastening their path to the market. In addition, fewer people will be enrolled in trials of drugs that provide them little hope of benefit.
But the use in drug development of specific genetic traits in tumors, called biomarkers, poses a maze of challenges. Many tumors are complex organisms fueled by multiple pathways. When one is disrupted even by a potent single agent, others compensate to help tumors develop resistance to treatment. Target therapies will likely be more effective when given along with similar agents or as some are used now, with existing conventional drugs… Researchers and drug companies are already working to test combinations of targeted agents. In some cases, they are collaborating with rivals. Combining agents risks increasing side effects and the cost of therapy, researchers and regulators say, and will likely require changes to current procedures for approving drugs.
The Private Equity Growth Capital Council (PEGCC) reports that Texas received the most private equity investment in U.S. based companies in 2012: $46.6 billion in growth equity and venture capital invested in 222 companies. (Florida ranked 4th in companies and 5th in dollars invested: 115 companies and $17.3 billion.)
This is the latest confirmation of “the gradual but inexorable geographic spread of the start-up ethos throughout the country” we wrote of when recounting The Atlantic’s road-trip through the Southeast in search of the next Silicon Valley. The magaizine praised the Southeast as a place which “embrace(s) an ethos that encourages rather than crushes startups and the broader mentality from which they grow.” In the same article Paul Graham, founder of Y Combinator, coined the term “startupicide” when describing cities or regions that might as well have been sprayed with something to suppress entrepreneurial activity:
I could see the average town was like a roach motel for startup ambitions,” he wrote. “Smart, ambitious people went in, but no startups came out…The problem is not that most towns kill startups. It’s that death is the default for startups, and most towns don’t save them. Instead of thinking of most places as being sprayed with startupicide, it’s more accurate to think of startups as all being poisoned, and a few places being sprayed with the antidote.
The growth corridors of the high-tech South enjoy several advantages familiar to NVSE readers: growth-oriented tax policies, lower public sector debt burdens, stronger job creation, the best climate for entrepreneurs, and a superior overall business climate. (The actual climate happens to be conducive to a great quality of life as well.)
Congratulations to David Day, his team at UF’s Office of Technology Licensing, and the University of Florida on being named the 2013 Incubator of the Year, besting much larger competition from all around the globe. The university’s OTL, Innovation Hub and incubator are vital parts of the hodge-podge of scientists, institutions and funding that make up Florida’s entrepreneurial ecosystem.
Incubator companies have attracted more than $1 billion in funding, and successes include the acquisition of incubated companies for $113 million, $98 million and $34 million. Since it opened in 1995, the incubator has had 28 companies graduate out of the facility or be acquired by other companies.
The UF incubator won one of two Dinah Adkins Incubator of the Year awards for incubators with a technology focus, then went on to win the highest award, the Randall M. Whaley Incubator of the Year for overall excellence. In the process, it topped incubators more than twice its size, such as the Hong Kong Science and Technology Parks Corp.
“It’s always special when the University of Florida can say one of its programs is the best in the world,” said David Day, director of the incubator and UF’s Office of Technology Licensing. “Today, we’re the best incubator in the world.”
…the awards panel looks at an incubator’s record of success and whether it has the financial footing for future success. The panel also looks at whether the incubator uses best practices established by the NBIA, which serves more than 1,900 members in more than 60 nations.
Breedlove said the UF incubator owes its success in part to “a remarkably effective commercialization process at the University of Florida,” and to pioneers who saw the economic potential in UF expertise.
“We wouldn’t be here without the visionary thinkers at the University of Florida in the mid-1990s who created this program when really there was no role model for biotechnology incubation,” Breedlove said. “They gave us everything we needed to be a successful program.”
Day said the research generated by UF — the 12th largest public research university accounting for one-third of the academic research in Florida — fuels the incubator.
New evidence from the dismal science confirms what social science has already shown: the love of taxes is the root of unhappiness.
The original social science, from the December 2009 issue of Science, indicated that states with the highest taxes also have the least happy residents. Residents of high tax states not only have less money to spend on other things that make them happy, they don’t enjoy many benefits in exchange for all their hard-earned tax dollars. Roads, schools, and crime are no better (and in many cases worse) while their state governments borrow even more and spend disproportionately on public employee pensions and entitlement programs. Their needs ignored at the expense of entrenched special interests, taxpayers get unhappy. And then they get out.
From this one might argue causation; high taxes = unhappiness. While we are certainly sympathetic to that point of view, we also have to wonder if it runs vice-versa, or at least cuts both ways: unhappy people like to raise taxes.
We are… happy. And happy to report that’s true for our region as well. NVSE readers already know that the Southeast’s advantages extend well beyond the matter of taxes and include lower public sector debt burdens, stronger job creation, the best 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 more recent dismal science is courtesy of The Red-State Path to Prosperity, from Arthur B. Laffer and Stephen Moore in last week’s Wall Street Journal:
Consider the South. We predict that within a decade five or six states in Dixie could entirely eliminate their income taxes. This would mean that the region stretching from Florida through Texas and Louisiana could become a vast state income-tax free zone. Three of these states—Florida, Texas and Tennessee—already impose no income tax. Louisiana and North Carolina… are moving quickly ahead with plans to eliminate theirs. Just to the west, Kansas and Oklahoma are also devising plans to replace their income taxes with more growth-friendly expanded sales taxes and energy extraction taxes…
All the empirical evidence shows that raising a state’s tax burden weakens its tax base. Still, too many blue-state lawmakers believe that a primary purpose of government is to redistribute income from rich to poor, even if those policies make everyone, including the poor, less well off. The obsession with “fairness” puts growth secondary. Meanwhile, in the South, watch for a zero-income-tax domino effect.
Here Mr. Laffer further discusses how blue states are struggling to compete for businesses and workers with the Journal‘s Mary Kissel:
It was 500 years ago today that Ponce de Leon landed at St. Augustine, ‘discovering’ Florida for Europe.
In honor of that historic event Adam Putnam, Florida’s Commissioner of Agriculture, wrote a column published in several of the State’s newspapers in which he recounts some interesting state history and sings the praises of living and working in Florida today.
Sitting at our desks, looking out the window at another gorgeous day in St. Petersburg – we find it impossible to disagree.
We enjoyed learning a few new things about our state’s early history and thought them worth passing along. Here’s an excerpt from Putnam’s column:
Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de Leon arrived in St. Augustine while searching — as legend has it — for the Fountain of Youth. On April 2, 1513, Ponce de Leon became the first European to discover the land where Native Americans had already lived for centuries. He called this land La Florida…
Every school child in America learns that the Pilgrims celebrated the nation’s first Thanksgiving meal after landing at Plymouth Rock. Yet more than 50 years before that, in 1565, Spanish settlers shared a harvest meal with Native Americans in Florida.
Pocahontas was immortalized in the Disney film, but more than 40 years before she saved John Smith, Pedro Menendez de Aviles – the first governor of Florida – negotiated a truce with the Calusa tribe by marrying the king’s sister.
Texas is known as the land of the cowboys, but Florida was the first place in the New World to have horses and cows, and the cowboys that came with them. Brought over by explorers and settlers from the Old World, we now know these animals as the original Cracker horse and Cracker cattle breeds.
Ballast Point Ventures is pleased to announce a successful exit from its investment in BPV II portfolio company FSV Payment Systems, a leading provider of prepaid program management and processing services. FSV is known for its expertise managing a broad range of prepaid programs for companies, government agencies, financial institutions, and incentive/marketing firms. Under the terms of the transaction, Ballast Point Ventures, North Hill Ventures, Berkley Capital, and the other non-management investors sold their ownership stakes in the Company to U.S. Bank. The acquisition combines U.S. Bank’s payments strength and prepaid expertise with FSV’s platform which will position the combined entity as one of the few financial institutions in the industry capable of providing efficient end-to-end prepaid programs and services for its clients.
Paul Johan, Partner with BPV, had praise for the management team:
The sale of our interest in FSV marks the end of a very successful three and a half year investment for BPV. We are very appreciative of the outstanding job that Rick Savard and his team did in taking FSV from a solid growth company to a very profitable firm with a high profile in the prepaid sector. They’ve done a fantastic job working with clients while leading a dramatic improvement to the service platform and technology capabilities of the company. Rick and his team have created significant value for FSV shareholders and their customers. We are delighted U.S. Bank will be working with FSV management to continue to build the business.
Additional detail can be found here.
The BPV team was very pleased to host a meeting last week with Kevin Burgoyne, the new Executive Director of the Florida Venture Forum, at our offices in St. Petersburg. It was an enjoyable and wide-ranging conversation about how to continue to build the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Florida, including new efforts to attract corporate participation, broaden FVF participation in North and South Florida, and raise FVF’s profile with key constituencies in the State.
Kevin’s energy, intellect, and background should serve us all very well as he pursues the goals of building the FVF brand, increasing membership, and strengthening our start-up community in Florida. He is a Gator and has an MBA from the University of Chicago. He grew up in Fort Myers, FL and previously worked in marketing and management roles in the media, technology and investment fields in Tampa, NY, CA, and Miami.
Please join us in welcoming Kevin and supporting him as he assumes this critical role. He can be reached at 305-343-0617 and email@example.com
For the eighth consecutive year, Texas has been voted the best state for business by Chief Executive magazine.
The Top 10 looks familiar to us, as it constitutes most of the geography in which we have focused our investment efforts for over twenty years now, and adds to the growing list of evidence that some states understand job creation better than others. The 2012 edition of their annual survey of CEOs includes a feature on What Keeps Texas on Top:
The state is growing its own companies but also is displaying remarkable success in luring investments from other states, particularly California, which once again ranks last in our survey. A raft of small, technology companies have either relocated to Texas or moved key operations there. Bigger California companies, such as Facebook, eBay and PetCo also have recently opened operations in Texas, and major manufacturers from different states, such as General Electric’s transportation unit and Caterpillar have located big new plants in Fort Worth and Victoria, respectively. “Employers from around the nation and all over the world continue to look to Texas as the premier location for business expansion, relocation and job growth thanks to our low taxes, reasonable and predictable regulations, fair legal system and skilled workforce,” Gov. Rick Perry told Chief Executive.
Texas has powerful momentum and it’s difficult to see what could halt it… The sheer diversification in its economy—all the way from wheat farming to semiconductors—suggests that the state could absorb many punches and keep on rolling.