By: David Flores, Interim Executive Director, GAIN
Innovative ideas can be found both in the University of Florida and its incubators as well as startups not affiliated with the university. While the work that comes from these hubs may appear commonplace, these fruits are the result of years of labor, research and countless hours of hard work on behalf of a variety of local organizations.
Individuals spearheading this work include David Day at UF’s OTL who pushed licensing and commercialization for many years. Other examples include Grooveshark-U, that taught people how to code for free each semester. Next, the revitalization spearheaded by Ken McGurn in downtown. In addition, Gainesville is also home to Sue Washer and Rick Carlson who work to create publicly traded companies. As a community connected by a love for providing impactful solutions to complex problems, a perfect cocktail of efforts created what we see today.
Though specific segments of this ecosystem are easily found and as a community, we intuitively understand there’s a lot going on, there isn’t a clear image of the ecosystem as a whole. No one knows which startups are being started, why, and how likely they are to remain in Gainesville after they launch. While there is a wealth of anecdotal data available to help local innovators shape and mold their strategies, there is a disparity of information that could help us understand where our entrepreneurs decide to focus their efforts or results that indicate likely pathways to success.
Thus, efforts to begin tracking our startup ecosystems as a we track our startups is imperative. We should start by measuring activity and proceed to create actionable community based goals based on research findings.
Having realized the need for data-rooted strategies and tactics, we started collecting data on startups. We want to be able to pinpoint which industries are growing and which are likely to expand next, among the varied sectors of startups in the Gainesville community. We also want to be able to understand the challenges that startup founders face and determine effective solutions we can provide to encourage success among entrepreneurs and the dreams they work so hard to fulfill.
We have now a dataset that we can use to more fully understand our startups. The results provide information on how many employees they will be hiring in the next year. We can also know which companies are actively raising money and which niche industries are growing in town. With this information, we can track down Venture Capitalists in specialized industries, track down talent to help expand operations and lobby for our startup community with members of the local government.
We will be announcing our State of Startups Report during the GAIN Shootout. I look forward to sharing this information with all of you and hope you can contribute to helping us make this survey even stronger in the coming years.
I truly believe that by banding together as a communal force, we will succeed in our efforts to attract better investors, startup founders and industry experts to enhance our ecosystem. Ultimately, all this will make Gainesville a better place to live, work and play.