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One Spark investment capital rises to $3.5 million

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Marc Fraga and Jason Parry have both attendedOne Spark, taking in the ideas pitched by hundreds of creators. This year, the two will look at those ideas from a different perspective.

Fraga and Parry's MountainStar Capital investment firm is one of the new companies offering potential capital for projects at this year's One Spark festival.

The Ponte Vedra-based company's $500,000 pledge is among the $3.5 million announced Thursday as being available for the third annual crowdfunding festival. The amount is up from the $3.25 million available last year.

Fraga said One Spark reached out to the firm "and we were very happy to be a part of it to celebrate entrepreneurship in Jacksonville."

He and Parry said they will talk to creators both one-on-one and be in the audience for pitch sessions from participants.

While certain areas like real estate, innovation and technology are attractive to the company, it often can be more about the people than the idea.

Ultimately, Parry said, you're investing in the team more than anything.

"That management team is the biggest consideration," Parry said.

In addition to providing capital, MountainStar also will act as a consultant to help grow the business, Fraga said.

Elton Rivas, One Spark co-founder and CEO, said because of the additional capital available, the registration deadline is being extended to Feb. 25. He said the festival is on pace to match the 600 creators last year.

In addition to MountainStar, other local investment companies offering potential capital include GuideWell and PS27 Ventures, both of Jacksonville.

One notable absence this year is Shad Khan's Stache Investments, which was a leading presence during One Spark's first two years.

Rivas said Stache Investments had made a two-year commitment to One Spark as a potential investor. Because of that, Stache was not contacted this year.

Stache Investments had a public split with KYN, an accelerator born out of One Spark. Rivas ran KYN until Khan's company pulled its investment, saying it was concerned not enough money went to the startups.

Also announced Thursday was creators being allowed to offer "rewards" like T-shirts or music for different levels of contributions, much like on other crowdfunding websites.

Rivas said the change allows creators to raise money from anywhere in the world in exchange for the rewards. He said that's one of the areas in which One Spark can advise creators, as part of the "human eyeball process" on all creators the staff is doing this year. It's another way, Rivas said, to assist the participants.

As the festival grows and the footprint expands in Downtown, getting around and finding projects can be more difficult. Rivas said a few things are happening this year to address that.

The event guide will publish a week before the April 7-12 festival begins and the mobile app will be available a month ahead, which is earlier than years past.

Organizers also are changing their approach to signage to help people better navigate the festival, which spreads over several blocks Downtown. Instead of a big map, they'll use more signs as simple as "food village is three blocks this way" to better point people in the right direction.

The change is based on feedback plus ideas picked up along the way, Rivas said.

"You can learn things anywhere, from an airport to city signage to showcase conferences," he said.

For information on the festival, visit onespark.com.