June Fletcher is a business reporter and editor with a focus on the economy, finance, banking, wealth management and residential real estate. She produces the Minding Your Money web video series that appears in the Business section. Her Executive Suite column, which profiles business leaders in the community, appears Mondays.
How did a humble paperboy eventually become the head of two of the largest angel funds in Florida?
For Tim Cartwright, chairman of Naples-based Tamiami Angel Funds I and II, it’s been a long and remarkable journey.
Born in Illinois, Cartwright moved numerous times as a child, as his father changed jobs as city manager of different towns.
“I went to four different elementary schools,” he said.
But the frequent moves — as well as the need to compete with three high-achieving siblings — made him both adaptable and ambitious.
By fifth grade he had established his own paper route; by high school he was delivering huge bundles of newspapers to other paperboys.
“I used to get up at 3:30 a.m. and pull the bundles off of semis,” recalled Cartwright, who at the time was living in DeKalb, Illinois.
Cartwright had other jobs as a teenager, too. At 14 he worked in a cornfield behind a detasseling machine, ripping silks off cobs the machine missed.
But he also played soccer and tennis, and he got good enough grades to be accepted at the University of Wisconsin, where he studied pre-engineering.
But a short stint with IBM doing computer modeling was enough to convince him that an engineering career really wasn’t for him.
“I’d spend eight hours doing modeling and realize I hadn’t talked to anyone all day,” he said. “I switched to economics and became president of my fraternity.”
After graduation, Cartwright joined Arthur Andersen, at the time one of the “big five” accounting firms. But he soon grew restless with corporate consulting.
So when he was 24, he nervously approached his parents about starting his own supply chain consulting company.
To his surprise, they were fully supportive of the idea, telling him that the time to take big risks was when you are young and unburdened with a mortgage and family.
“They told me that if I failed, I could get back into the workforce easily,” he said. “My father was in love with the idea of entrepreneurship.”
Cartwright called his new firm Benchmark Solutions and came up with ways to integrate and automate sales force systems like prospect tracking and customer discounts.
Eventually, he had 40 consultants working for him in four offices.
By the time he was 33, Cartwright was ready to move on, and he sold the business for $1 million to a colleague.
That was a mistake, he learned.
“I never fully collected the money,” he said.
Cartwright decided he needed a master’s in business administration to boost his credibility, and so he headed to the J.L. Kellogg Graduate School of Management at Northwestern University.
He then looked around for another business and decided that there was a need to modernize the way meat byproducts — a $54 billion per year industry — were bought and sold.
He and a partner raised more than $2 million in investor capital and in 2000 bought two companies, a byproducts brokerage and Jacobsen’s Publishing, a company founded in the mid-1800s that covered the agricultural byproducts market.
“It was so old the founder used to go to the stockyards and count the hides of cattle about to be slaughtered,” Cartwright said. “The news would be delivered by Pony Express.”
Cartwright and his partner called the new Chicago-based company By-Products Interactive and expanded its reach, creating an electronic marketplace to publish research and trade product.
But after 9/ll dampened Web-based businesses, the company began losing money, and Cartwright decided to ease out of it and leave it with his partner.
Cartwright and his wife, Amy, decided to move to Florida, where they first settled in Miami. They moved to Naples when Cartwright accepted a job here with a mergers and acquisitions firm.
“It took me nine months to get fired,” he said.
So in 2003 he formed his own MA firm for middle-market companies, Compass Advisory Group. In 2005 he became managing director of Fifth Avenue Advisors, a family wealth and business advisory firm that also handles MA and angel investing.
Cartwright also became part of an angel club, Gulf Coast Venture Forum, that was looking to raise venture capital.
Soon he was applying his supply-chain expertise to the enterprise and was chosen as chairman of Tamiami Angel Funds I and II, which together have provided $8.4 million in financing to a portfolio of 16 companies.
Although the fund shows a preference for companies based in Florida, only one is based in Naples — MassiveU, a mobile application provider that delivers learning content through smartphones, tablets and other online devices.
Cartwright is careful to note that the funds’ wealthy investors aren’t backing unproven startups and that they understand their investments are often risky.
But many are retired executives who aren’t just looking for return on investment — they want psychic pay, as well.
“They enjoy solving business problems and want to be mentors,” he said.
Though the two angel funds he manages only invest in up-and-running companies, the father of three recognizes that it’s important for the business community to back startups, as well.
That provides an incentive for ambitious young people to stay in Southwest Florida, he says.
“We’re an emerging region, and we need young people who are willing to take the leap of faith in business, like I did when I was young,” Cartwright said, adding that he’s often judged local shark-tank-style competitions.
“I believe, deep down, everyone is an entrepreneur,” he said.
Article source: http://www.naplesnews.com/columnists/business/june-fletcher/how-tim-cartwright-head-of-two-of-floridas-biggest-angel-funds-found-his-wings-32ee5664-40c6-63b5-e0-380332321.html