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Looking for a Hot Tech Market? Thrive Here

Entrepreneurs and businesses are finding the support they need to succeed in Greater Fort Lauderdale.

By Val Hunt Beerbower on October 13, 2021

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If you’re like more than 85% of Americans, you probably carry Fort Lauderdale’s tech legacy in your pocket.

More than 20,000 technologists worked at Motorola and IBM decades ago, developing programs that created “Simon,” the first smartphone. The first IBM personal computer helped create an innovation ecosystem in the region, and now, companies such as Citrix, Ultimate Kronos Group, Chewy and Magic Leap draw from Greater Fort Lauderdale’s talent pool.

Why Great Fort Lauderdale?

This region in South Florida is ranked among the top 50 U.S. tech talent markets. Abundant IT degrees and programs from the higher education institutions in the region provide a deep talent base for employers.

ShipMonk: A Success Story

Jan Bednar is proof positive. The founder and CEO of third-party logistics provider ShipMonk found his toehold from Florida Atlantic University (FAU).

“I had the great privilege to be invited to compete in and win first place in the 2014 FAU Business Plan Competition,” Bednar says. “This milestone was the first step to my budding BedaBox business being the first startup accepted into the FAU Tech Runway. Early successes there really provided a wealth of resources in our infancy that were critical to growing the business over the following years.”

Fort Lauderdale-based ShipMonk, which provides shipping and logistics services for small-to-medium-size e-commerce companies, attracted $290 million in investment funding in 2020.

Entrepreneurs Excel in Greater Fort Lauderdale

Innovation continues to breed success in Greater Fort Lauderdale, and it’s starting to catch fire across more than just tech sectors. “Entrepreneurship is something that’s truly unique to Greater Fort Lauderdale, and we need more of it,” says Chris Stegner, co-founder and CEO of Very Big Things, a digital products agency focused on transformation and disruption.

“Right now, we see our Fort Lauderdale community as a diamond in the rough made up of people who are truly motivated in being experts in their craft. Not only are we personally seeing it from the tech perspective, but if you take a look at all the small businesses and mom-and-pop-type restaurants that are opening around us, it’s inspiring to see how much authenticity is shaping our Fort Lauderdale area, and we need to continue supporting those who are taking the risk in following their dreams in pushing their craft forward.”

Research Fuels Life Sciences and Health Industry

The life sciences and health industry in the region also is active and growing, driven by a diverse roster of breakthrough companies and supported by some of the nation’s premier research resources.

The sector, which employs more than 13,000 people, includes medical device, biomedical, pharmaceutical and clinical research organizations. Allergan, Stryker and Teva are among the major companies in this sector with R&D, manufacturing and distribution facilities in the area.

Find Resources Galore

Entrepreneurs will find a bevy of support resources, such as incubators and tech meetup groups of all sizes and focuses. Among them are the Alan B. Levan/NSU Broward Center of Innovation at Nova Southeastern University, Broward College Entrepreneurship Experience (BCEx) and several accelerator programs.

Bednar credits his alma mater for helping him get his start, citing mentors like Bob Nelson from FAU’s Entrepreneur in Residence mentorship program. The Czech Republic native says this type of community-building is vital for the region’s long-term success.

“It’s been an honor to be a small part of that larger developing economic story, and we’re excited to see where it lands,” Bednar says. “None of this would have been possible for us without programs like FAU’s Tech Runway and support from the wider business community in town.”

“Fort Lauderdale, and all of South Florida for that matter,
has come a long way toward becoming the ‘Silicon Valley
of the South.’”

Jan Bednar | ShipMonk

The ecosystem created by these leading technology companies – along with the standout quality of life – has created the ideal environment for innovation and entrepreneurs, with recent recognition from a Kauffman Foundation study noting that Greater Fort Lauderdale is the No. 1 place in the country for startup activity.

“The local entrepreneurship community itself has been one of the more important roles in shaping our business today,” Stegner says. “Local leaders and founders have always been incredibly welcoming with sharing their experience, network and advice. This opened up a path for us to really connect with local business owners, and, in some cases, we helped them build some cool stuff along the way.”

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