Editorial: Why local startups need more local investment

Aug 21, 2015, 6:00am EDT

Kim Carson

Local startups are turning to out-of-town investment – and vice versa.

Staff Jacksonville Business Journal

Perusing data provided by Pitchbook Data Inc. for our report on equity investing revealed an interesting dichotomy: When local companies need to raise large amounts of money, they turn to out-of-town investors ... and when local investors are looking for deals, it’s with out-of-town companies.

It’s an old story in Northeast Florida, where there have long been tales of founders and investors running into each other on airplanes heading to Boston or Silicon Valley to meet with other people. That’s not good for long-term development of the sort of entrepreneurial culture that Jacksonville is looking to grow. For that to happen, we need robust players on both sides of the process — those looking for money and those who have it to invest.

Much of the onus, to be sure, is on the entrepreneurs: No one is arguing that area investors should turn to local projects simply because they’re local. If those enterprises can’t show why they should be funded, they shouldn’t get a pass. But there is also at times a “prophet is without honor in his hometown” sense, in which smaller ventures in particular are overlooked because they don’t have a Silicon Valley area code or need a bit more hand-holding.

The good news is that the entrepreneurial community growing up in Jacksonville seems to be taking steps to change that. The seminars, workshops and networking provided by groups like Ignite, the Jax Community of Entrepreneurs, JaxBridges and others should help breed a more sophisticated class of startup, ones that can make the case as to why they should be funded.

If those efforts pay off, it could be a seismic change for our entrepreneurial economy.

As for the money side of the equation, those investors who are helping educate and mentor entrepreneurs should be applauded. That investment of time is almost as vital as the investment of capital.

For Jacksonville’s startup community to get to the next level, though, that next step — investment by locals in locals — needs to take place as well.