Incubators Continue To Sprout Across U.S. –

SAN DIEGO – San Diego VenturePlex, New South Ventures and Advantage Capital are the latest entrants into the world of incubators that hope to fill the needs of seed- to early-stage information technology companies cropping up around the nation.

VenturePlex, launched at the end of February by Hamilton Venture Services LLC and entrepreneur Dante Fichera, will back seed- to early-stage IT, life sciences and telecommunications companies in Southern California.

“These are the three areas out here that seem to bubble up from the ground the most because of the universities and industry segments located here,” said Paul Bouchard, VenturePlex chairman and Hamilton partner.

The incubator will help its tenants draft business plans, develop management teams, meet local venture capitalists, as well as provide access to low-cost legal, accounting, insurance and marketing advice. “This lets these guys in the incubator just concentrate on creating their businesses,” Fichera said.

The incubator has office space for 100 one-man companies and charges a program fee ranging from $650 a month for a cube to $850 per month for an office with a view. VenturePlex currently has 12 tenants, ranging from an online Mexican specialty grocer to a wireless Internet provider. It also houses Hamilton’s $90 million-targeted Hamilton Technology Ventures LP fund. Fichera expects about 40 companies to graduate a year, after spending between 6 to 15 months in the incubator. Tenants selected by Fichera have the option of paying the program cost up front or having VenturePlex pick up the program cost in exchange for equity in the company.

New South Ventures and Advantage Capital follow a slightly different incubator model. Launched February in Sarasota, Fla. by five accomplished entrepreneurs, New South is an early-stage venture fund that invests up to $1 million per deal in Florida-based technology oriented start-ups and also will co-invests with angels, said Partner John Montelione. The firm will incubate four to five companies a year and help with writing business plans, marketing, product development and locating a chief executive officer.

Advantage Capital, a backer of early-stage technology companies with investments ranging from $1 million to $3 million, was interested in scouting smaller deals, said Tim Cockshutt, senior vice president. So the venture firm, through its Advantage Capital Florida Partners fund, hired Caerus FirstRound Partners LLC as a sub-manager to identify very early-stage opportunities in which Advantage plans to invest about $250,000 per deal. Advantage has committed a total of $6 million to the program, Cockshutt added. Shelly Shcuster, one of Caerus’ three principals, also is head of the Sid Martin Biotechnology Development Institute of the University of Florida, a statewide incubator for life science and biotechnology companies. Any carried interest earned by Caerus will go to the University of Florida.