Jeff Vinik invests $12 million into Dreamit Ventures, joins board

Real estate investor and Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik has expanded his relationship with Dreamit Ventures through a new $12 million investment into the early stage fund and accelerator, announced earlier this week. The deal will also see Vinik joining Dreamit as a Partner and a member of the Board of Directors.

Vinik was already partnered with Dreamit in a formal capacity prior to this investment. In 2016, he worked with Dreamit to launch its UrbanTech hybrid accelerator in Tampa. Unlike some startup incubators, the “hybrid” means startups aren’t required to relocate to Tampa during the entire 14-week program. Instead, it offers a briefer period where companies can get familiar with the area, and pitch their startup to local companies.

The debut cohort included companies focused on diverse areas ranging from water sensors to smart speed bumps to electric bikes to micro wind turbines and more.

Vinik had already invested an undisclosed, smaller amount in Dreamit to aid with the launch of UrbanTech, according to the Tampa Bay Times.

The accelerator is also tied to the $3 billion Water Street Tampa redevelopment project backed by both Vinik and Cascade Investment, Bill Gates’ private investment fund. While the 50-acre waterfront redevelopment project aims to bring in new residences, businesses, restaurants, hotels, shops, and more, a big part of Vinik’s vision for the Tampa Bay area includes attracting new technology investment and entrepreneurship to the area, too. 

“Over the last year, my partnership with Dreamit has helped us identify emerging technologies and bridge the funding and resource gap between Tampa Bay and larger startup ecosystems like New York and San Francisco. I’ve been highly impressed by Dreamit’s team, the caliber of Dreamit startups, and the large percentage of companies that continue growing with follow-on funding after the program,” said Vinik, in reference to his Dreamit investment.

Of course, Vinik also sees an opportunity in connecting the UrbanTech startups with the bigger companies who will be building in Tampa as a result of the real estate project; so investing into Dreamit makes sense, given those aligned goals.

Vinik’s involvement in Dreamit could be a boost for the accelerator, as well, thanks to Vinik’s connections not only as a result of his real estate investments, but also those forged in his earlier days managing the Fidelity Magellan Fund and his own hedge fund, Vinik Asset Management.

Since its founding in 2008, Dreamit has backed nearly 300 startups including SeatGeek, HouseParty, LevelUp, Adaptly, Wellth, Biomeme, Tissue Analytics, Redox, Eko Devices, Raxar, and Elevate. Its portfolio companies have gone on to raise around $800 million in follow-on funding, and have a combined value of nearly $2 billion. Dreamit is now investing in urban tech and healthcare – both areas where Tampa could play a role.

In urban tech specifically, the city is currently home to a connected vehicle technology project that allows cars to communicate with roadways and other vehicles to receive warnings about roadway conditions, speed limit changes, dangers and more.

An autonomous shuttle project was also in the works in Tampa, but has been put on hold.

Another project in development is SunTrax, a testing ground for new toll technology and self-driving cars. Test tracks like the 2.25-mile long SunTrax facility, may be increasingly needed to trial autonomous cars in the future, given the death of the pedestrian caused by an Uber autonomous car. It’s likely we’ll see more driverless cars pulled from roads and projects put on hold, then only allowed to test on closed tracks until the technology is safer.

“Jeff is a visionary business leader who drives results. He built a track record of legendary returns in his investment career and produced a new model of how urban areas can work in the 21st century,” said Steve Barsh, Managing Partner at Dreamit, in a statement about the new investment. “We back startups operating in large and important verticals that are ripe for innovation with more verticals to come. Vinik’s investment and participation is an exciting evolution for Dreamit and the startup community, and we look forward to working with Jeff as we continue to build and expand Dreamit.”