New Venture Capital Company Utilizes CAPCO Tag

Pamela Leavy from the Tampa Bay Business Journal discusses the introduction of Advantage Capital Partners as a venture capital company in Florida’s CAPCO program:

New on the venture capital block is Advantage Capital Partners LLC, located in a suite on the 24th floor of the AmSouth Bank building in downtown Tampa.

Tim Cockshutt is principal of the national firm’s Florida office which signed, sealed and delivered its first venture capital deal in September 1999. A little more than $2 million went into the coffers of Control Center LLC in Orlando, manufacturers of power generation equipment.

Since then, the five-person Florida office has closed 12 deals with a total investment of about $24 million.

“We can only invest in Florida-based companies so we’re looking for interesting, attractive Florida deals,” said Cockshutt. “We are finding terrific deals to invest in.

“There are very few venture capitalists investing in early-stage technology companies in Florida. There isn’t much of a venture capital infrastructure in the state, but there’s a lot of entreprenuers looking to get financing for their companies.”

Unlike Communications Equity Associates LLC with its wealth of funds including merchant banking, investment banking and venture capital, Advantage Capital Partners is a Florida CAPCO, a certified capital company.

Under Florida law adopted in 1999, Florida is one of five CAPCO states. The legislature enacted this law to promote investment in qualified technology and other growth-oriented businesses.

The state authorized $15 million in premium tax credits to insurance companies each year for 10 years. The insurance companies then invested with private venture capital companies such as Advantage, which in turn invests in Florida companies.

Other CAPCO states include Missouri, New York, Wisconsin and Louisiana, home of Advantage Capital’s New Orleans-based headquarters.

Advantage Capital is the state’s largest participant in the Florida CAPCO program, which raised $150 million from participating insurance companies in 1999.

While Advantage associate Tate Garrett is “impressed” with the number and quality of deals from throughout the state, he said Advantage is particularly interested in biotech companies.

“Three of our 12 companies are life sciences or biotechs,” said Garrett. “We seem to be one of the only groups doing that.”

Another CAPCO venture capital firm doing business in Tampa is Stonehenge Capital Partners Corp., headquartered in Columbus, Ohio. Stonehenge was the first CAPCO company to invest in KView Inc.

Keith Gibson, KView’s chief operating officer, views both companies as venture capital leaders.

“We are living proof that venture capital can be raised locally,” said Gibson. “In my opinion, CAPCO is the perfect public-private partnership. It doesn’t cost the taxpayers money. You can argue it costs tax revenues, but it’s a reinvestment program. It has already created 200 jobs for us here in Tampa.”

Advantage Capital Partners is planning to attend the Florida Venture Capital Forum scheduled for Jan. 17-18 at the Boca Raton Resort & Club in Boca Raton.


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