Gainesville-based RegisterPatient, an online patient registration company founded in 2009, needed investors last year to fund a major growth spurt.
It didn’t expect to find those investors less than a mile from its headquarters.
Harbert Venture Partners, an Alabama-based venture capital firm that has a Gainesville office at the University of Florida’s new Innovation Hub, was the lead investor in a $4.1-million funding round that closed in October. “It’s good to have a reputable VC firm here looking at and investing in firms here locally,” says James Davis, director of public relations for RegisterPatient. “People don’t realize we’re a startup town now.”
Meanwhile, Trendy Entertainment, a gaming company, raised $18.2 million from venture firms in August. Two months later, AxoGen, a biotech firm, secured $21 million from PDL BioPharma. That was followed by the November announcement that Applied Genetics Technology, which develops treatments for rare retinal diseases, raised $37.5 million from a group of venture capital firms based out of state.
In total, more than $80 million was pumped into Gainesville companies last year, says David Day, director of UF’s Office of Technology Licensing. Since opening in 2011, the UF Innovation Hub has created 85 jobs and secured $7.2 million in private investments.
The area is doing better than the rest of Florida in attracting investments. During the first nine months of last year, Florida companies received $160 million from venture capital firms, 42% less than the year before.
“What you’re seeing is the development of an ecosystem in Gainesville where you have critical mass of talent,” says Bob Crutchfield, a partner with Harbert, which invests in health care and technology companies.
Boston-based MPM Capital opened an office at Innovation Hub this year, and Orlando-based Inflexion Partners keeps a Gainesville office. “The money and venture groups that existed out of state see the pipeline growing in the state and say, ‘It’s time to move in,’ ” says Jamie Grooms, CEO of the Florida Institute for the Commercialization of Public Research. In addition to money, the firms bring business expertise for startups.