In order to grow a vibrant innovation-based economy in Orlando, technology startups urgently need seed-stage capital to grow into sustainable companies. Unfortunately, there is a severe shortage of this type of capital in our region. Florida ranks 18th in the amount of seed and early-stage capital deployed into Florida-based technology companies. This seed-stage funding gap has hindered our region’s innovation-based economic growth.
The U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA) recently announced a $250,000 grant opportunity that specifically targets the launch of community-based seed funds to help regions with seed-stage capital shortages finance tech startups with high growth potential. Canvs, Starter Studio and UCF are pursuing the EDA funds by proposing a community-based seed fund called StarterCorps. StarterCorps will provide urgently needed seed capital to Orlando’s most promising innovative tech startups. Because StarterCorps is a non-profit evergreen fund, all profits will be returned to the fund and be redeployed in future tech companies. Proceeds from the EDA grant will be used to incorporate and launch the fund, raise a minimum of $1M in the first year ($5M by third year), and to implement an intensive 3-month mentoring program through Starter Studio.
In order to be eligible for the EDA funds, StarterCorps must have written commitments from both public and private community partners for 1:1 matching funds, $250,000 in local match. The CRA’s Downtown Orlando Community Redevelopment Area Plan (Plan) addresses the need for business recruitment, development, and retention in the Area. Additionally, a specific goal of the Plan is to support and incentivize business incubators within the Area. The creation and implementation of StarterCorps and the seed fund will help the CRA achieve these goals within the Area. The proposed letter of commitment acknowledges the CRA’s commitment to providing $100,000 in local match funds to be provided to StarterCorps over a two fiscal year period. Such funds will only be dispersed to StarterCorps if the EDA grant funds are received by StarterCorps and upon StarterCorps and the CRA entering into a funding agreement establishing the terms related to such funding. Commitments have already been obtained for the remaining $150,000 of required local match.