Jonathan Taylor Eyes New Technologies for Investment
Software developer Jonathan Taylor believes Central Florida’s shortage of angel investors might be ending. When Taylor sold his highly successful software company, Voxeo, in July, he ended up with $150 million that he used to start three companies. It is a move that could help Central Florida win a place among the major technology centers in the U.S.
Florida inventors have long complained that investors were scarce in the region. Taylor’s turning that around. “We’re starting to see the beginning of an evolving trend in that area,” Taylor indicated. “In Central Florida, we don’t have a great depth and breadth of angel investors.” Investors stick with what they know. In Central Florida most investors know real estate, not software. But with the windfall from Taylor’s Voxeo comes a cluster of other sales in the region that have generated about a half billion dollars, which Taylor believes will be invested in the region.
“Those people, as I have done, are going to turn around and invest their money in what they understand,” Taylor said, “which is technology.”
Additionally, Taylor expects to see other Central Florida companies sold for prices in the $100 million range. Each one of those sales will lead regional investors to fund more businesses. “It’s harder to raise money here, but I think the cost efficiency and the local support is really valuable. I believe it’s going to continue to grow,” he said. “I think we’re at the start of a technology revolution in Central Florida.”
A Track Record of Success
During the past two decades, the 42-year-old Taylor has started seven companies, made a profit on five, sold four and purchased 17. His track record likely will be extended with the three new companies he is now getting in shape: Sighthound, a software product that uses artificial intelligence to make video security systems more effective; VineSleuth, a blog that will use objective data to evaluate wine; and Tropo, a communications software and research company.
Sighthound (Sighthound.com) arose from Taylor’s desire to solve a problem he had with his own home security system, which sent him a barrage of false warnings when it picked up shadows or leaves blowing in the wind. “I had installed a video security system on my house years ago. After putting together an idealistic solution at a realistic price point, I found it didn’t work very well. It was complex. It was full of false positives,” he said. “There were a lot of false motion events with trees blowing in the wind and shadows moving on the ground. A neighbor asked me what system I would recommend and I responded that I wouldn’t recommend anything. I didn’t think any of them worked very well.”
Taylor realized he had the software skills to solve his problem. “It was a relatively amazing reality that I couldn’t find any excellent video security systems,” he said. “I went back home that evening and thought about that and realized that I had started companies for less significant reasons.”
He and his partner looked at the market for a year and agreed there was an enormous opportunity for them. The company, Sighthound, is about a year old. And even without intense advertising it has attracted 4,000 customers ranging from homeowners to apartment buildings to government agencies to parents who want to watch over their kids. The easy-to-run software allows the user to tell the computer when to sound an alert.
“It’s off to a great start,” Taylor said. “It’s easy to install and get up and running, and an artificial intelligence engine that you train reduces false positives. It’s really that intelligence at the core that makes it better than anything out there today.”
VineSleuth (VineSleuth.com) will collect data from expert wine tasters, sensory scientists and statistical analytics to sell wine and help customers become more enthusiastic about the hunt for a great bottle of wine. It will, of course, have a smartphone app that a shopper could consult in a wine store. “Previously, I haven’t really been much of a wine enthusiast,” Taylor said. “I had an old friend who had a great business idea they brought to me. The more I looked at the business I realized there’s an opportunity to create a technology in an industry that’s somewhat dated.”
Expect to see sommeliers begin using their smartphones as a critical tool of their trade.
Making Orlando a Place for Business
Taylor’s largest business interest is Tropo, Inc., (Tropo.com) which spun out of Voxeo in December 2012 before Voxeo was acquired by Aspect Software. As Tropo chairman, Taylor will oversee the development of communications software in the developer and carrier platform markets. Tropo sells a software product to large mobile carriers rather than customers. “Tropo has a small customer base, but the contracts are large,” Taylor said. “Tropo is a very specific product for customers who want to build products that run on mobile carriers around the world.”
Taylor first came to Orlando from New York when his parents moved here in 1979. He has also lived in California and in New York, but plans to make Orlando his permanent home, both for his business and for his wife and two children, ages 5 and 7.
To help make Orlando a more attractive place for business and for his family, he’s been working as a board member to help develop the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts, which will occupy nine acres in downtown Orlando. “Most technology marketing people were attracted to cities that had more of a cultural background,” he said. “I think it’s really valuable for the city. I’ve found that Central Florida is the easiest and best place to do business.”