2 min read February 2022 — Founded in 2015, Weatherford Capital has grown to become Tampa Bay’s largest private equity firm. In an interview with Invest:, Managing Partner Will Weatherford discussed the attractiveness of Tampa Bay, while providing a picture of today’s investment landscape and sharing his outlook for Tampa Bay’s budding private equity sector.
What makes Tampa Bay a great location for your firm’s HQ?
Tampa Bay has been an unwritten story to a large extent. There has been a delta between the reality and perception of Tampa Bay, and that delta is closing. People are starting to see Tampa for what it really is, not what they thought it was or what it was 20 years ago. There has been an incredible transformation here. This is a place where people raise families and build businesses. With so much growth and activity, this is an exciting place to be and there’s nowhere else I’d rather have our firm based.
We’ve had great leadership and the foundation has been set for Tampa Bay to fulfill its goals and potential. We’re maturing but we’ve got a long way to go, and the journey of growing is going to be fun to be a part of.
What has happened over the past two years that I would not have predicted is the incredible acceleration of migration here. Florida has historically had 1,000 people moving here every day for the past 10 years. That number is accelerating and the number of people bringing their businesses is also accelerating. In other words, the world is coming to us.
There’s an old saying, “Capital goes where it’s treated best,” and I think capital is treated better in Florida than it is in most other places. The overall environment of Florida is very favorable to investment.
What differentiates Weatherford Capital from other players in this region?
Culture is what separates us. We have built a culture where people feel valued and are excited about what we’re building, recognizing we’re in the first inning of our growth. At 42 years old, I am the oldest person at our firm. This is a young firm with ambition and a desire to make a difference. We create value with the companies we invest in but we also like to make a difference in our community. This is a firm that balances excellence in investing and in community involvement.
How has the increased amounts of capital in the markets affected your investments?
We are looking for people with character, a vision and an ability to execute on that vision. Leadership can sometimes be underestimated when it comes to investing. Sure, there’s a lot of money floating around and we’re not going to be able to participate in every deal we like, but we try to find those great leaders who share our values and have the ability to execute. We’ve had a great deal of success sticking to this formula. It’s what has made us who we are and now we’re the largest firm in Tampa Bay from an AUM perspective.
Do you believe company valuations are over-inflated?
There’s no question things are more expensive than they were two years ago, in particular in the growth technology space, which is our core focus. If you believe the world is being disrupted with tech and that software and other tech-enabled services are going to change the way we live our lives, then you can start to understand why valuations are the way they are.
What is your outlook for the private equity sector in Tampa Bay for the coming three years?
There are a lot of companies that will be in position to raise capital. One of the things Florida has lacked is localized capital. As an example, of all the sponsored deals by investment managers that have been done in the state of Florida, 95% of the money has come from out of state. There is a real opportunity for firms like ours to be closer in proximity to companies seeking capital. I think we’re going to see an influx of capital from Florida and into Florida, not just from external sources. From a private equity and venture perspective, we’re still early in our growth trajectories. Tampa Bay is in the second or third inning with regard to building out this ecosystem. Part of this ecosystem’s growth is capital, making sure there are capital providers such as us that can participate in growth rounds and buyouts. The other part is actually the startups, and we’re now seeing an influx of startups as the Embarc Collective and other accelerators are generating more companies. Fast forward three to five years and those startups will be raising their Series C capital. We’re excited because the puck is coming to where we are. We don’t do really early-stage investing, but when they get into Series B and Series C funding that’s when it gets interesting for us. We see a lot of businesses that are going to be right in our fairway over the next 24 to 36 months.
What are the main challenges ahead for Tampa Bay’s economy?
The demand for high-quality talent is only going to continue to grow, and I think we, the Tampa Bay community, are making great ground on ensuring a strong pool of future talent to meet the increasing demands of our region. The other challenge is infrastructure. Last time I checked, 350 people were moving to the Tampa Bay region every day, that adds up over time and strains our housing and infrastructure. Talent and infrastructure are the two things that could hold us back but with the right political leadership and focus, we can solve these issues.
For more information, visit: