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ORLANDO-WebVestors Equity Partners is doing something eight other firms over the past 10 years have been unable to accomplish here–create a bonafide conventional venture fund. WebVisitors has closed deals with 24 wealthy individual Central Florida investors who have kicked in $20 million to get the fund off the ground. The fund formally closed Dec. 12 but will accept investments through December or until the amount reaches $30 million.

The fund will invest in startup companies marketing products related to defense technology but won’t ignore the hospitality or real estate industries, company officials say. WebVestors founder/managing partner Ned Grace is putting in $3 million of his own money into the fund. Grace is a former restaurateur who sold his Nasdaq-listed Rare Hospitality firm in 1996.

Although WebVestors is the first conventional venture fund, other venture firms have funded area startups. For example, the 11-month-old Advantage Venture Partners of Longwood, an Orlando suburb, has invested $2.5 million so far this year. Clients have pledged $20 million to date to Advantage.

WebVestors’ announcement comes as the city of Orlando reviews a $200,000 high-tech study it ordered from Austin, TX-based Angelos Angelou. The report notes Orlando has evolved into a new Southeast high-tech corridor with a growing number of firms, but few national corporations or institutions are aware of the city’s new image.

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