There’s much potential for Orlando to be what Austin is to Texas, what Atlanta is to Georgia — a booming hub where startups flock from around the world to dream, innovate, and grow.
The numbers are already showing potential: New PitchBook data found that in the first half of this year, a little more than $360 million was invested in the Orlando-Kissimmee metro area, way more than the $144 million invested in H1 last year. Q2 2022 saw $320 million invested, tracking higher than the $90 million and $30 million allocated in Q2 2021 and 2020, respectively.
Not totally surprisingly, Q3 saw a dip from the $160 million invested last year to just near $23 million this year. But compare that to the numbers PitchBook has for Gainesville: Gator City has received just $9.57 million in capital investment this year. Or even Port Saint Lucie, where around $12 million in capital was allocated this year.
“We have tremendous amounts of velocity happening and we’ve been quiet in how we’ve told the story, but there is a huge underswell of stealth technology being built here.” David Adelson of the Orlando Economic Partnership
“When people hear Orlando, they don’t think tech,” Jordan Walker, the Orlando-based co-founder of the messaging platform Yac, told TechCrunch. “People automatically think Disney World theme parks, but there is a lot of innovation out here.”
“The Orlando tech community is a very inclusive and very collaborative community,” David Adelson, the chief innovation officer at the Orlando Economic Partnership, added. “We have tremendous amounts of velocity happening and we’ve been quiet in how we’ve told the story, but there is a huge underswell of stealth technology being built here.”
TechCrunch conducted a vibe check to see what’s happening right now in Orlando’s burgeoning venture scene, as well as what needs to occur for it to continue thriving. Founders and investors mentioned efforts tapping into the entrepreneurial community, while Adelson highlighted the city’s plans to become the center of the metaverse. All of this could lead to the one thing Orlando really needs in order to make a bigger splash: a beacon.
“Every major city has a beacon,” Walker’s co-founder, Hunter McKinley, told TechCrunch. He pointed out that Miami Mayor Francis Suarez and Austin’s Capital Factory have been leaders in driving innovation to their cities.
“Look at niches that seem to stand out in the city and find the most influential people to incentivize them to become a beacon,” he continued. “Orlando needs a Suarez or Capital Factory to take ownership.”
Orlando: The Silicon Swamp?
Orlando would do well as a venture hub. It has an emerging art scene, an incubator of talent 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.