There is a lot of potential so that Orlando is what Austin is to Texas, what Atlanta is to Georgia – a booming center where startups from all over the world flock to dream, innovate and grow.
The numbers are already showing potential: New PitchBook data shows that just over $360 million was invested in the Orlando-Kissimmee metro area in the first half of this year, well above the $144 million invested in the first half of the previous year were invested. Invested $320 million in Q2 2022, up from $90 million and $30 million allocated in Q2 2021 and 2020, respectively.
Unsurprisingly, the third quarter saw a decline from last year’s $160 million to just under $23 million this year. But compare that to the numbers PitchBook has for Gainesville: Gator City received just $9.57 million in equity investments this year. Or even Port Saint Lucie, where around $12 million in capital was committed this year.
“We have tremendous speed that’s happening and we’ve held back as we told the story, but there’s a huge underwave of stealth technology being built here.” David Adelson of the Orlando Economic Partnership
“When people hear Orlando, they don’t think about tech,” Jordan Walker, the Orlando-based co-founder of messaging platform Yac, told TechCrunch. “People automatically think of Disney World theme parks, but there’s a lot of innovation out here.”
“Orlando’s tech community is a very inclusive and very collaborative community,” added David Adelson, chief innovation officer at the Orlando Economic Partnership. “We have tremendous speed that’s happening and we’ve held back as we told the story, but there’s a huge underwave of stealth technology being built here.”
TechCrunch conducted a vibe check to see what’s happening in Orlando’s burgeoning venture scene right now and what needs to happen for it to continue to thrive. Founders and investors mentioned efforts to tap into the entrepreneurial community, while Adelson highlighted the city’s plans to become the center of the metaverse. All of this could add up to what Orlando really needs to make a bigger entrance: a beacon.
“Every major city has a beacon,” Walker’s co-founder Hunter McKinley told TechCrunch. He noted that Miami Mayor Francis Suarez and Austin’s Capital Factory have been leaders in driving innovation in their cities.
“Look at niches that seem to be sticking out in the city and find the most influential people who inspire them to become a beacon,” he continued. “Orlando needs a Suarez or Capital Factory to take ownership.”
Orlando: The silicon swamp?
Orlando would make a good venture hub. It has a burgeoning arts scene, a talent hotbed from the University of Central Florida, which is one of the largest schools in the United States, and good weather with a low cost of living compared to Los Angeles, San Francisco, and even Miami.