The Orlando startup community’s plan to create an evergreen seed fund to help early-stage entrepreneurs receive funding they need to grow their business just got a boost from the Orange County.
The Orange County Commission unanimously agreed to give the FireSpring seed fund $100,000 on Aug. 25. The fund is another step toward the seed fund’s goal of raising $1 million by the end of the year.
So far, including Orange County’s contribution, FireSpring has raised more than $200,000. The city of Orlando contributed $100,000 in April, and Donna Mackenzie, executive director for Canvs, Starter Studio and FireSpring, confirmed that the University of Central Florida, Rollins College, Creative Village and Canvs are also funding partners for the seed fund
“This [Orange County] partnership is a cornerstone because it needs to be known that this fund is a community effort and it’s for the community,” Mackenzie said.
Initially, Mackenzie presented the FireSpring idea to Orange County in July in hopes of landing the $100,000 commitment. However, Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs wanted to table the idea to better understand how the fund works and the impact it would bring to Central Florida.
Mackenzie said since that time, she spoke with each commissioner, explaining to them the lack of funding Orlando has for its startup community and the fact that if many of the talented entrepreneurs here couldn’t get the right support for their startup businesses, they may relocate to a state that offers that kind of environment.
Local tech leaders such as Randy Berridge, president of the Florida High Tech Corridor; Tom O’Neal, associate vice president of research and commercialization at UCF; Kirstie Chadwick, president of the National Business Incubator Association; and Carlos Carbonell, CEO of Echo Interaction Group each spoke on behalf of the FireSpring fund, giving examples of promising startups leaving Central Florida because of the lack of venture capital or supporting funds for entrepreneurs.
Berridge pointed out at the meeting that the lack of funding for entrepreneurs was a main point of conversation among tech leaders at Orlando Business Journal’s technology industry outlook event. He mentioned that Orlando’s brain drain — startup creators leaving to relocate to other states — was part of what’s holding the city back form being a top tech hub.