A Tampa Bay company aimed at “finding, funding and building the next generation of tech companies” is partnering with Florida Polytechnic University to help Florida’s only STEM-focused university advance students’ ideas for technological innovations.

The partnership with Florida Funders, described as part venture capitalist and part angel investor network, fosters potential career placements of students within Florida Funders’ expansive startup community, the university said.

“If you look at our Careers Portal there are currently 324 available jobs within our portfolio companies, which is incredible,” said Managing Partner Tom Wallace. “At Florida Funders, we work to find, fund and help build the next generation of breakout tech companies. We believe great companies can be built here, and they have been when you look at the success of companies like ConnectWise, Reliaquest, KnowBe4, etc. By supporting our young talent, creating job opportunities for them here and encouraging them to launch their own companies, Florida will see more success that positively impacts our economy.”

He and his partners and investors see “a bright future for engineering and tech talent in the state of Florida with the development of Florida Poly. Florida Funders is excited to introduce their senior students to portfolio companies to work on Capstone Projects, create pathways for internships and even careers with our portfolio companies,” Wallace said.

As part of the Capstone Projects, seniors work for companies for nine months, Wallace said “We are currently working to identify startups in our portfolio that could benefit from having the talented students of Florida Poly help them with their product buildouts. This allows the students to have an experiential learning opportunity working inside a startup, using what they’ve learned in the classroom.”

Students can also find available positions under the Careers Portal on the Florida Funders website and register in the Talent Portal to have their resumes reviewed and shared with companies who are hiring, he said.

Florida Poly President Randy Avent said providing students outlets to build great companies is key to the region’s development.

“This connection between Florida Funders and Florida Poly allows students to take their ideas to a partner with access to capital, can provide advice from startup professionals and can facilitate access to local customers. This relationship effectively enhances the differentiated model Florida Poly has built with high-touch STEM education and high-touch startup ecosystem access.”

In reality, Avent said, the entire state wins from this partnership. “Florida Funders and Florida Poly are strategically aligned in building a high technology economy within the state. By connecting technology and talent from Florida Poly to the startup ecosystem from Florida Funders, Florida keeps high wage STEM jobs in the state.”

Currently, Avent said, “Florida universities lose a great deal of their STEM talent to states such as Texas and California. Florida Poly was able to show the impact of STEM jobs in our recently published economic impact study, and this relationship enhances that impact by building attractive options for our students.”

That report shows Florida Polytechnic University contributes $289 million to the economy, including $72 million in gross domestic product in Polk County. Students also contribute a large chunk.

In addition, wages for STEM graduates average about $82,000 a year because they enter high paying fields, compared to the average $46,000 salary in Florida.

Florida Funders is unique in the sense that it is an ecosystem owner,” Avent said. “As Florida Poly proceeds, it is likely we will build more relationships with other similar ecosystem players within Florida. This will enhance our student experience as well as add economically to the state.”

“As a location, the Central Florida Innovation District aims to foster the physical ecosystem for growth based on innovation, proximity, connectivity and collaboration,” said Sean Malott, President & CEO of the Central Florida Development Council. “A place where companies born out of the transformational technologies developed at Florida Poly and funded by the Florida Funders can call home.”

Wallace added: “Our mission at Florida Funders is to help transition us from Sunshine State to Startup State. One way we can achieve that mission is to partner with Florida Poly in an effort to attract and keep great talent in the state of Florida. Ideally, Florida Poly graduates will go to work for one of the many great companies here in Florida, including startups. Perhaps they even become inspired to start their own company someday and forge a path for the next generation of tech companies that grow Florida even more.”

For more information about the Central Florida Innovation District or how to become a partner, contact Lindsay Zimmerman at lindsay@cfdc.org.