Orlando firm bags big venture deal
LensAR Inc., which makes laser eye surgery systems, received nearly $17 million from deep pocket investors, eclipsing nearly a dozen other Florida venture capital winners, including Orlando based Vestagen Technical Textiles Inc. ($8.25 million), a maker of advanced adidas predator health care wear, according to the latest MoneyTree report.LensAR said it will use the money to expand operations. It plans to fill more than 20 jobs, including sales positions in the field and management positions at its Orlando headquarters, where it currently employs 90 at the Central Florida Research Park.Overall, Florida companies landed a combined $104 million, up 250 percent from $29 million in the same quarter a year ago, the survey said.Still, Florida slipped two spots to 10th nationally as its latest total fell 33 percent from the second quarter, according to MoneyTree. The report is published by PricewaterhouseCoopers and the National Venture Capital Association based on Thomson Reuters’ data.Nationwide, venture investment rose 12 percent from the second quarter to $7.8 billion in the third quarter.Florida continued to lag far behind the usual venture capital meccas California ($4.3 billion), Massachusetts ($807 million) and New York ($652.8 million), MoneyTree stated.Local industry experts hope the success of a company such as LensAR could help attract more attention for Florida from major venture capital firms.”It’s no secret that Florida is a tough market when it comes to venture capital,” said Alex Fong, president of the Florida Photonics Cluster, an Orlando based industry group. “But if we have adidas predator a few more companies like LensAR, maybe it will change a lot of people’s minds and they’ll start to see that California is not the only place where people are creating innovative new products.”LensAR has now received more than $100 million from investment firms and individual investors since 2005 including a $70 million private equity deal earlier this month led by Nevada based PDL BioPharma, with assists by Aisling Capital, the Florida Growth Fund and Florida Opportunity Fund.The cash will fuel LensAR’s marketing of its laser surgery products, which include 3D imaging, cataract removal and vision correction, CEO Nick Curtis said. Its annual sales are now approaching $20 million, he said.LensAR says it has developed a laser system that performs cataract surgery faster, better and less expensively than any on the market. It accomplishes that, in part, by using a 3D map of the eye to identify precise areas to make micro adidas predator incisions for removing the cataract and inserting a lens implant.”Their machine replaces a lot of what surgeons used to do manually and makes cataract surgery a much easier procedure for them,” said Dennis Pape, president of Florida Venture Sourcing LLC, an Orlando entrepreneurial adidas predator advisory firm. “There is a huge market for cataract surgery, and LensAR has done well so far.”.