By Nancy Dahlberg / firstname.lastname@example.org
Why are local investors a critical piece of South Florida’s entrepreneurship community? Look no further than what AGP Miami is doing to help fill a funding gap.
AGP, a South Florida network of angel investors, closed on its latest investment last week: Animusoft. The Miami-based startup, which built a software platform for the drone industry called ALIVE under founder and CEO Daniel Rodriguez, has raised $1 million in funding, of which about half was raised from AGP members.
Now with nearly 100 members, AGP focuses on investing in South Florida companies, many of whom have made significant traction through bootstrapping, such as Animusoft. At a time when access to capital continues to be a challenge for South Florida entrepreneurs, AGP, originally funded by the Knight Foundation and now self-sustaining, is one of the locally based networks that has been doubling down on its mission to address the funding gap and expanding its funding activity.
In the past quarter, AGP Miami invested $1.25 million into local, early-stage companies, said Raul Moas, managing director of the network. In addition to Animusoft, recent fundings include Home61, Nearpod, Gramercy, Birch and Eventplicity.
AGP recently added Melissa Krinzman, managing partner of Krillion Ventures, Mark Kingdon, founder of Quixotic Ventures, and Tigre Wenrich, CEO of the LAB Miami who heads up LABVentures, to its board of directors. “All three of them are exceptional individuals – that was a big win for us,” Moas said. They join Nico Berardi, AGP’s former managing director, Juan Pablo Cappello and Marco Giberti.
AGP’s staff is also growing. Rebecca Danta, a Miami native, returned to Miami this summer to be AGP’s venture associate, where she's heading up AGP’s dealflow management, Moas said. Most recently she worked for General Assembly in New York City.
Although South Florida deals will continue to be AGP’s primary focus, Danta will also be looking around Florida, including Gainesville, for potential deals.
“Miami is home and will continue to be home base ... but there are great deals around Florida, in particular Gainesville, and the same thing in Latin America,” Moas said. “We think that in the next 12 months, we will be positioned to start either establishing a presence in some of these markets or at the very least scouting them more actively.”
Feathr, Birch and Eventplicity are all AGP portfolio companies founded in Gainesville. “We have an opportunity to bring them into the fold of what is happening here,” Moas said. They plan to hire a scout there for the fall.
At a time when international startups are increasingly making Miami their corporate or U.S. base, AGP will also look more aggressively for companies in Latin America that members can get into early, and as the companies grow and if it makes sense for them, AGP could be their soft landing in Miami, Moas added. “We want to be there to support them. The expertise is already here.”
Since 2014, AGP has invested in 24 companies and invested $7.2 million, Moas said. That’s up from $4.6 million a year ago, when AGP had about 80 members.
AGP screens hundreds of deals to find companies that could be a good fit for members. Then a screening committee further selects companies that will be invited to pitch to the full membership. AGP members decide individually whether to invest in a startup.
To be sure, AGP is not the only local funder that has been expanding activity – for instance Krillion Ventures and New World Angels have invested in a number of local companies in the last couple of years, and others such as Las Olas Venture Capital are beginning to take off. At a time when venture capital still lags in Florida, AGP and other local funders are providing critical seed and Series A capital.
Animusoft will be using the new funding to build out marketing, sales and business development efforts as well as augment engineering staff with additional data scientists, Rodriguez said.
Five large architecture, engineering and construction firms are now piloting ALIVE, an operating system for drones, on job sites. Animusoft is also partnering with seven drone manufacturers, which will be packaging its software with their drones. “We are in active conversations with maritime cargo companies, logistics companies, law enforcement and farmers for other applications of drones powered by the ALIVE platform,” Rodriguez said.
As it expands, including a presence in the California Bay Area, Rodriguez says he plans to keep engineering, product and research efforts in Miami. “I am a Miami native, and plan to keep a solid footing here in South Florida. This is my home.”