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Gainesville Facilities, Resources Support Tech Companies and Startups

With dozens of startups choosing to make it their home and with the University of Florida’s ability to turn out talent in such disciplines as engineering and computer science, the Gainesville technology success story is just beginning.

By Teree Caruthers on September 25, 2014

With dozens of startups choosing to make it their home and with the University of Florida’s ability to turn out talent in such disciplines as engineering and computer science, the Gainesville technology success story is just beginning.

All of the Ingredients

Augie Lye, CEO of Gainesville-based video game developer Trendy Entertainment, says the region has all of the ingredients for a tech hotbed.

“It has the intelligence, the university, a low cost of living and an awesome culture,” says Lye, chairman of the recently formed Gainesville Technology Council. “The only missing ingredient was convincing kids that being an entrepreneur is possible. Simply put, being a nerd is now cool.”

Gainesville’s forward momentum as a tech hotspot owes much to the University of Florida, says David Massias, co-founder and CEO of Shadow Health, a Gainesville developer of interactive learning software used in nursing and allied health fields. The university, which attracts $640 million in research funding, produces dozens of inventions each year, many of which are spun off into freestanding enterprises or licensed to companies like Shadow Health.

Amir Rubin, CEO of Paracosm, says Gainesville is poised for more technology growth (he calls it a “startup community”). Paracosm is a software development company that allows concepts to be transformed into 3-D models. Rubin says the city is planning the future of its downtown and the redevelopment of the adjacent Power District – a 16-acre tract that once housed utility yards. If it can achieve higher density, prioritize biking/walking options and cut down on vehicle traffic, it will create the type of environment that appeals to tech companies.

“We will be able to grow into a legitimate tech community,” he says.

Many tech companies in the region are building their workforces. Shadow Health will hire 15 to 20 people this year to put it at 75 to 80 employees overall. Just two years ago, the company was Massias and one other person.

Optym, a Gainesville-based business that provides advanced analytical solutions to Fortune 500 companies in the transportation and logistics sector, expects to add at least 20 people per year for the next five years with an average salary of at least $80,000 per year, says Ravindra Ahuja, Optym’s president and CEO.

One of Gainesville’s tech standouts is Grooveshark, a music streaming service, which hosted a major event at the 2014 South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas. The concert was sold out, and fans started lining up 20 hours early to get prime seats.

Grooveshark is an open-artist distribution platform with more than 30 million monthly active users leveraging technology to discover music artists.

 

Giving Back by Playing Big Brother

Some successful Gainesville companies are giving back by helping to create tomorrow’s tech entrepreneurs.

Lye helped create HackerHouse, a 110-year-old Victorian mansion that houses eight “cadets” who live and eat for free while working on their tech project and receiving mentorship from Lye and several other Gainesville tech and investment veterans.

“Startups need mentoring, hand-holding and more importantly, the culture of awesomeness,” Lye says. “At HackerHouse, eight geniuses live, eat and breathe what it takes to be a true innovator. So far, HackerHouse has been an absolute success.”

Two companies – SpinChill, which has developed a process to spin cans and bottles in ice to increase heat transfer and get drinks cold 20 times faster than usual, and iFishEarth, which has developed an app for anglers – “have defied all the odds and are thriving,” Lye says.

“We’ve got some success stories in town,” Massias says. “Certain companies have gone through the system, and the entrepreneurs are still here. This forms the basis of folks that are always eager to help and play Big Brother, if you will.”

No Place Like Home

Homegrown and recently transplanted tech companies like Gainesville.

“We just cannot find any good reasons to go elsewhere,” Lye says. “When people ask me why we do not move to a burgeoning tech hub, I tell them that there is no need to move as we can make Gainesville itself a burgeoning tech hub.”

Lye adds, “I believe Gainesville is the best place in the country to start tech startups. Gainesville is such an untapped market.”  

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