Dave Chitester is a successful Florida entrepreneur who has moved to the forefront of the Florida startup community with the founding of Florida Funders, LLC. Florida Funders is a new way to connect Florida startups to capital. Here, Dave shares the story of how he came to build this great new networking tool.
SavvyCard will be listed on the Florida Funders database.
A few years ago, after selling my first two companies, I pretty much camped out in my home office and felt like I had it made. I didn’t get out much, many times not leaving the house for days. Gradually, I began to feel like I needed a new project. But I had no idea where to go or what to do.
My attorney suggested I join local business organizations like the Tampa Bay Technology Forum, Association for Corporate Growth, and Florida Venture Forum to network. I began to attend those meetings, and also used social media like Linkedin and Facebook to build my network. I started talking to people constantly in person and online, and suddenly I was going to meetings more than 10 times a month and built my Linkedin network to more than 500 contacts.
As I talked to all these new contacts, I heard again and again about a huge problem in Florida’s entrepreneur community. As an entrepreneur myself, I knew firsthand of the difficulties in getting a startup funded, but the more I networked, the more I realized the severity of the problem. Promising entrepreneurs losing their life savings and having to go back to their day jobs. Young companies with potential folding every day. Great talent leaving the state to find financing and make their fortune elsewhere. What could I do about it?
About the same time, Congress passed, and the President signed, the Jumpstart our Business Startups, or JOBS, Act. The JOBS Act was meant to make it easier for individuals to start a business and certain sections particularly deal with financing startups. For example, Title II of the act allows “general solicitation”, which means companies can now advertise their need for capital, previously forbidden by law. Also Title III allows for “crowdfunding” where individuals can invest in private companies subject to certain financial qualifications depending upon income. (Rules for Title III implementation have been publicized, but are not yet in force).
I began to consult my network for opinions on how this could change things for entrepreneurs, and the response was overwhelmingly positive. Then, a contact I had discussed the concept with a few months earlier sent me an email asking if I was going to the Crowd Investing Innovation Forum, the following week in Orlando! Bingo! More networking! I attended 28 sessions in two days there and met experts, service providers, and other professionals from all over the world. Six weeks later I formed Florida Funders, LLC.
Florida Funders is my answer to the startup funding problem and is actually a networking platform itself. Our goal is to keep promising entrepreneurs in the state by linking them with accredited investors looking for companies with high growth potential. It will be a win win scenario for everyone as we work together to build our entrepreneurial eco-system and drive growth, jobs, and prosperity throughout the state. Everything is possible when you network.