Investing in St. Pete Start-ups

Since 2013, the St. Petersburg Downtown Partnership has taken a stake in four local technology start-ups, helping to provide capital — but also connections — for young companies that pledge to keep their home in St. Petersburg. They are: LumaStream, an intelligent LED lighting manufacturer; SavvyCard, a mobile marketing and engagement system for professionals; Priatek, prize-based digital promotions; and PureMolecular, provider of rapid in field genetic information systems.

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The strategy is possible thanks to a token gift of stock the Partnership received in 1995 after members had helped Michael Morris, a former University of South Florida College of Marine Science graduate student, launch what became Ocean Optics Inc. When the stock’s value grew, the Partnership established its Technology Fund in accordance with Morris’ wishes to assist technology start-ups. Now, as investments mature, proceeds are plowed back into new companies, creating a self-perpetuating fund to grow St. Petersburg’s future.

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