LaunchPad40 Accelerates New Business Countdown
For anyone who understands the drive and motivating factors that once spurred our community to pull together and explore our galaxy, the potential for technically talented individuals to re-invent themselves as business owners should come as no surprise. Through teamwork, resilience and a “sky’s the limit” attitude, anything is possible.
“We have more engineers and technical talent per capita than anywhere else in the nation,” explained Mark Mohler, a local business tax attorney and founder of LaunchPad40, a Brevard-based investment firm offering micro venture capital to local high-tech start-ups. His venture capital company is designed to assist new businesses with, not only the funding needed to take a bright idea to market, but to also guide, mentor and build relationships with new business owners.
The initial step Mohler took was to facilitate a network of like-minded entrepreneurs to meet and share ideas and advice. His group, called Startup Space Coast, meets monthly and consists of about 80 members. His next goal was to establish a physical meeting space where technical talent and businessmen could share ideas and work together. In partnership with a group called “Coders Hackers & Founders,” a workspace called TrepHub, located at 907 East Strawbridge Avenue in downtown Melbourne, was created.
The obvious next step, Mohler said, was to create a financial mechanism to help businesses get from the planning stage to first stage operation – and that’s where LaunchPad40 came in.
LaunchPad40 recently made its first local investment in FracTEL, a cloud communications company founded by Michael Crown and located in Indialantic. Since 2007, FracTEL has provided online “cloud” telephone and communication services at a 60 to 70 percent savings over traditional phone services. “We offer an exclusive 100 percent up-time guarantee,” said Crown. “Companies can also take advantage of additional savings and extended reach by using the cloud connected devices they already own such as PCs, tablets and smartphones.”
The company’s plan allows unlimited minutes without a contract, allows new customers to keep their old phone numbers, provides a secure “encrypted” network, gives 24/7 support, assures 100 percent up-time and offers a wide array of business features.
Mohler met Crown last year at a local Founders Forum event. “I was immediately impressed with the FracTEL product and the business owner’s drive to take his company to the next plateau,” said Mohler. “After talking to him, I became a customer. After trying the product I realized how different it is. There is no due diligence like being a customer and discovering for yourself what is obviously a great product.”
More Than Money
LaunchPad40 is diligently on the lookout for a select group of small business start-ups. “Many of the engineers and high-tech talent I meet think the business side of entrepreneurship is challenging. I want to provide some infrastructure in a collaborative environment to help demystify the process of taking their sound business idea to market,” Mohler said. “I am looking to invest in high caliber people, like Mike, who just need a little bit of fuel but have the potential for high growth.”
Crown said the networking and collaborative services at TrepHub will now take his company to the next level, while the overall assistance provided by LaunchPad40 is priceless. “As a new business owner I was a bit fearful and intimidated about dealing with investors and taking the next step, but now I am confident,” said Crown. “LaunchPad40 brings more than money, they are teaching me the process needed to move forward and that is exactly what I needed.”
Space Coast Focused
Mohler describes his venture capital company as a “community-focused” endeavor committed to providing the kind of personal service that sometimes gets lost when dealing with big banks or large investment firms located in big cities that are miles away. “With all the potential we have right here in Brevard, we need to harness our resources,” Mohler said.
“In the Bay area and in bigger cities you can find plenty of big companies offering venture capital and funding, but you may not get the attention you could get working with someone close to home,” Mohler added.
It is obvious Mohler’s concern is as much about building relationships, networking, mentoring and nurturing new businesses as it is about funding. With other companies like FracTEL beginning to germinate and grow in the rich soil of an area that has made an international contribution, the sky is the limit.