Orlando Opportunity Fund: The Journey & Launch

Today we hosted the official kickoff event for Orlando Opportunity Fund. The City of Orlando Mayor’s office proclaimed today to be “Orlando Opportunity Fund Day”. Very cool huh?

It’s been a journey! I am very thankful for the launch and am looking forward to the impact we are working to create in Central Florida.

Orlando Opportunity Fund is a qualified Opportunity Fund committed to producing investor returns while advancing our Central Florida entrepreneurs, communities and local economy through investments in commercial real estate and early stage tech startups.

I’m proud to be a partner in the fund and serve as the Chief Strategy Officer.

The journey

Through my whole professional life I’ve had a dual passionate interest in startups and real estate investing. Even looking back to my college experience at UCF, I started two ventures – one in real estate, and another that was a tech startup. Interestingly enough I won the school’s business plan competition twice (for each of those ventures), won nearly $20,000 in school, and to date am the only one to ever do that.

In addition to building my own businesses (SaaS companies, online directories, marketing agency, lending businesses, etc), I have also worked with over 1,000 growth stage companies on marketing strategy through economic gardening, GrowFl and my work with the Edward Lowe Foundation. This gave me an inside look into growth companies, their challenges and the business models I liked from an investment standpoint.

After exiting certain ventures, or if I was unable to responsibly re-invest into the growth of a given company I started, I would take my chips off the table and invest in real estate. I’ve been investing in real estate for over 10 years now.

I’ve truly committed myself to learning both asset classes and have had experience operating and managing both on the front lines.

All the while I have had a HUGE heart for Orlando and our local startups. Much of which stemmed from my experience working to raise money in Orlando for my startups, which was very much an uphill battle to say the least.

I invested that passion into creating Orlando Entrepreneurs, an asset for the community created to connect, cultivate and celebrate our local entrepreneurs. My focus was to shine light on the entrepreneurs building great businesses and help them to connect to the right resource at the right time, and gain the funding they need to start, scale and stay in Orlando.

The need

Unfortunately our Orlando market has really lacked startup funding. There is a great amount of wealth and capital here, but much of it was invested in real estate. Figuring out how to unlock portions of investors portfolios to invest in startups is something many in our community have been trying to crack for some time.

The birth of an idea

In late 2018 I began exploring models of how local government could possibly incentivize real estate investors to allocate a portion of their portfolio into startups. I thought, maybe if they did they could get a discount on their property taxes.

After conversations with the city and county, the model didn’t validate as local government gains much of their operating budget from property taxes. It just isn’t something they can afford to risk.

In January 2018 I was introduced to a new legislation called Opportunity Zones, that was just enacted through the Tax Cuts & Jobs Act on December 22, 2017.

This legislation incentivizes investors to invest in Qualified Opportunity Funds that invest in areas designated as Opportunity Zones. These funds can invest in businesses and real estate. To learn more about Opportunity Zones, read my article featured on Forbes – 7 Must Knows Before Investing in Opportunity Zones.

A light bulb clicked!

I dove deep into the Opportunity Zone market and got in very early. I spoke with my accountants, attorneys, colleagues and nobody had heard of them.

I decided to set out to create Orlando Opportunity Fund.

From idea to execution

I sought out trusted colleagues that I’ve worked with over the years and began building a team of very experienced veteran investors. Full bios can be found on our fund website.

  • John Cooper – President of Startup Investments
  • Vince Wolle – President of Real Estate Investments
  • Donna Mackenzie – Chief Financial Officer & COO
  • David Brim – Chief Strategy Officer

It’s been a long road from building the team, putting together the business plan, waiting for clarity of the regulations, working with attorneys, validating our model with investors and much more.

Our fund is very unique and Central Florida has never seen anything like it. We are targeting a raise of $20M+

  • 70% allocation to commercial real estate
  • 30% allocation to startups
  • Opportunity Zone tax incentives for investors with qualifying gains

The goal is to provide ongoing investor returns on their total fund investment driven by the real estate rental income, while providing a chance for wild appreciation that can come from successful startups. Investors (with qualifying capital gains) also get some great built in tax benefits (such as tax free appreciation on a 10+ year hold). Furthermore communities that have not seen much growth economically and those living and working in these areas can have the opportunity to advance.

It was wonderful today to officially announce the launch of our fund.

The proclamation was also really cool! Thank you Mayor Buddy Dyer and the City of Orlando Team.

I’m looking forward to the impact our fund will make for our entrepreneurs, communities and local economy.

Stay tuned!





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