Todd Belveal is founder and CEO of Washlava in Tampa. JEREMY SCOTT PHOTOGRAPHY

Link to original article: http://www.bizjournals.com/tampabay/news/2016/12/29/how-uf-students-with-dirty-clothes-are-helping-a.html Link to video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7vNVhnb6_Sw

Tampa tech startup Washlava has raised $1 million in the first part of an early-stage funding round.

It’s the first tranche of a $3.7 million Series A funding, with the rest expected to close in about 90 days, said Todd Belveal, founder and CEO of Washlava, which is developing a mobile app that eliminates cash from laundry facilities.

While most of the initial Series A funding is from Belveal’s previous relationships and out of town investors, there’s growing interest on the part of Tampa Bay investors as well, said Belveal, a technology and consumer products industry veteran who led the successful launch of airport car rental startup Silvercar.

That bodes well not just for Washlava, but for the many entrepreneurial startups that are seeking to find a foothold in the Tampa Bay technology ecosystem. Early stage funding has been their biggest stumbling block, those entrepreneurs have said.

About 90 percent of Washlava’s core technology is complete, including mobile apps for the iOS and Android platforms and proprietary hardware for washers and dryers. “Now we’re focused on scaling the platform, building up our computing capabilities and getting ready to launch at the end of the first quarter or the start of the second quarter of 2017, about 90 to 100 days from now,” Belveal said.

The company started a beta test at University of Florida’s Infinity Hall, a 308-person residence hall filled with students on an entrepreneurship track.

The response was overwhelmingly positive and the beta test, originally intended to be 60 days, has been extended, Belveal said.

The smart laundry platform that Washlava has at UF consists of machine-controlling technology inside 24 washers and dryers; an integrated wayfinding light system that indicates when washers and dryers are available, in use or reserved; and a native smartphone app that allows residents to reserve washers in advance, pay through their phones and monitor their laundry in real time.

Belveal’s goal is 140,000 users in the next three years, and he believes Washlava could achieve that solely through deployments in colleges and universities. The company also is looking at other laundromat facilities, and has partnered with a Tampa group to find a location for a prototype laundromat in Tampa or St. Petersburg.

Washlava is bringing on its first chief financial officer in January. The new CFO, Will Sprague, previously was interim CFO at ReliaQuest, a Tampa IT security firm. He also was CFO at Palm Beach Restaurant Partners, a restaurant group with holdings of Tampa restaurant company PDQ, according to his LinkedIn profile.

Washlava, which Belveal calls part consumer application and part fintech, with a payments platform, will benefit from Sprague’s financial acumen and cybersecurity expertise, Belveal said.

Margie Manning is Finance Editor of the Tampa Bay Business Journal. She covers the Money beat.