A long-stalled Georgia program that uses taxpayer money to attract more funding for homegrown firms is set to make its first investment with a plan to funnel $3 million into an Atlanta-based financial services venture capital fund.The investment in TTV Capital would be the first by the Invest Georgia program, a favorite of Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle and the Metro Atlanta Chamber that was launched in 2013 by supporters who hope to eventually pump $100 million in state funding into young businesses that could transform Georgia into a startup hub.The decision by Invest Georgia gives the state a financial stake in the cultivation of startup companies and others with high-growth potential, but it also puts taxpayers dollars on the hook if the ventures fail.The program has been hobbled by years of setbacks. Lawmakers didn’t allocate money to fund the program the first year, and the $10 million it had in the bank came only after Gov. Nathan Deal shifted money away from the higher education system. State leaders for months delayed naming the members of the panel that would oversee how the money is spent.Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle. Bob Andres, firstname.lastname@example.orgIt faced an even more severe blow last year when Deal vetoed a controversial proposal that would have authorized the program to sell up to $55 million in insurance tax credits. The governor said that he was concerned it was combined with a separate “New Markets” program that was criticized as a windfall for banks and out-of-state capital investment firms.Lately, though, the program has showed new signs of life. Invest Georgia’s board tapped LCG Associates last year to manage the $10 million account. And the program said in a year-end report posted Monday that it is in “early discussions” with another private equity funds and is tracking about four others for more investments.The investment in TTV Capital, which focuses on financial technology businesses, is a symbol of Georgia’s focus on the growing “fintech” industry. Trillions of dollars flow across payment systems managed by Georgia companies every year, and the American Transaction Processors Coalition estimates the industry employs more than 40,000 in the state.How consumers pay today – by and large with a piece of plastic – is likely to change in the years ahead as smartphones become more sophisticated and ingrained in society, and consumers do more of their buying online. That’s not to mention the potential of virtual currencies like Bitcoin.In recent years, the payments industry has moved from relative afterthoughts to an industry at the forefront of state and local business recruiting and retention efforts. It also happens to complement other key Georgia industries, such as cybersecurity, telecommunications and health care information technology.The state is working to craft university coursework to help mold the next generation of the “fintech” workforce to help develop new technologies and services as payments move to mobile devices. About 70 percent of the debit, credit and gift card transactions in the U.S. each year are processed by companies with major Georgia operations, according to ATPC.Metro Atlanta has long been considered a dynamic secondary hub for technology creation – not in the league of Silicon Valley, but solidly among the ranks of secondary technology hubs such as Raleigh and Austin.It’s why the Metro Atlanta Chamber has made the fund a priority. The business group said through a spokesman Monday it would seek additional funding for the initiative this year, though there was no word on whether boosters are still hoping to reach the $100 million that was once envisioned.One of the knocks on Georgia has been the relative lack of investor funding for young companies known as venture capital. Venture capitalist bet on unproven or adolescent companies with promising ideas. Early investors hope to nurture these firms into strong companies, and if lucky, hit big like a Google or Apple.But the bets are often risky, and like in baseball, there are lot more strikeouts than home runs. A study a few years ago by a Harvard University lecturer found that about three-fourths of venture-back startups don’t return their investors’ money. The venture capital industry, however, says their failure rate isn’t nearly as high – about 40 percent.
Source: Georgia’s long-stalled startup fund is set to place its first $3M bet | Political Insider blog