4 November 2019                      View this email in your browser
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Orlando Venture Sourcing Weekly

News, analysis, and opinions
Orlando's innovation community.


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Our newsletter promises to keep you informed about the latest tech, startup, and innovation news and events in Orlando.  We will bring you our analysis and opinions as well as those from guest authors from the innovation community. Our newsletter is powered by Orlando Venture Sourcing. Please signup if you haven't already done so and forward this newsletter to your friends.

Weekly Spotlight

Everix Wins Florida Aerospace Capital Forum Pitch Competition


Everix, an Orlando startup disrupting the optical filter market with their non-deposition fabrication of ultra-thin flexible filters, won the Florida Venture Forum's second annual Florida Aerospace Capital Forum at the Guidewell Innovation Center at Lake Nona on Wednesday.

The event, attracting over 200 attendees, featured networking, panel discussions, and presentations by 16 pre-selected startups (9 from Central Florida) that competed for $100,000 in prize capital awarded by Space Florida. As the grand prize winner, Everix received $50,000.  Two Daytona Beach startups, Synmatter and Censys Technologies, were awarded first-runner up and second place with $30,000 and $20,000 cash prizes, respectively.

Photo from the Florida Venture Forum press release -  Dr. Hooman Banaei, CEO and Founder and Blaire Martin, Director of Finance:

Central Florida Tech Alliance Reconstituted at the Orlando Economic Partnership

Following the collapse of the Central Florida Tech Alliance, the organization has been reconstituted as the Orlando Tech Council (with the same leadership and key board members) at the Orlando Economic Partnership.  This leadership includes Chair, Adam Scheinberg Vice President of IT, Massey Services, Vice Chair, Rajiv Menon Founder & CEO, Informulate, Secretary, Jeff Lutes, SVP of Technology, Orlando Magic, and Executives At-Large Dr. Chris Morton, Co-founder & CEO, NanoPhotonica, Lily Wong, Digital Transformation Executive, Accenture, and Lou Grande, Senior Vice President of Information Technology, Red Lobster.

The Orlando Tech Council will consist of entities and companies that will each contribute a $2,500 sponsorship to participate in the council programs, events and oversight that will be available for the community.  The organization will focus on strengthening innovation resources, creating new opportunities for the tech community, and amplifying tech success stories.

The CFTA was the successor to the original Orlando Tech Association, the organization that sparked a focus on tech, particularly downtown, when it began in 2014.  OTA was an entrepreneur founded and run organization that grew to a large, if not the largest, tech organization in the Southeast.  OTA declined under its adoption by the City of Orlando and then, becoming independent of grant funding, morphed into a once again entrepreneur run Orlando Regional Tech Association which begat the CFTA.  The CFTA, as an independent entity, was successful at bringing in significant private sector sponsors.  However, it apparently had expenses that far exceeded sponsorships and collapsed before achieving stability.  

Now the organization is back under a quasi-government entity.  Deja vu as I recall an article in the Orlando Sentinel in 2017 entitled "Orlando's tech startup community seeks new energy" - written after the demise of OTA under the City and its reemergence as an independent ORTA.  In that article and his book Startup Communities, Brad Feld, cofounder of the national accelerator Techstars, cautioned against governments leading startup communities and organizations:  "Getting non-profits organized is helpful as long as they allow the community its autonomy.  Their goal should not be to organize or manage the startup community. The leaders have to be the entrepreneurs".

Donna Mackenzie Leaves StarterStudio

Donna Mackenzie resigned Tuesday from her almost 5 year position as the executive director of StarterStudio, effective immediately.  Mackenzie will remain on the organization's board.  In a press release, StarterStudio said Mackenzie is leaving to launch a new venture.  Lilian Myers, a long-time StarterStudio supporter, board member, and entrepreneur, will serve as interim executive director.

Mackenzie departure comes in the wake of significant changes in both innovation and coworking in downtown Orlando.  UCF has revamped its incubator program, focusing on creating "innovation districts" with a focus on specific market verticals and a mission of helping startups scale.  The downtown innovation district will be located at StarterStudio and managed by Rob Panepinto, UCF's new Director, Innovation Districts Strategy and Partnerships.  This district will focus on startups in digital media, fintech, and hospitality.  In the coworking space, disruption is occurring downtown with the massive amount of new workspace coming online that is currently creating an environment of unprofitable conditions for operators of coworking spaces.  This ultimately led to the recent closing of Catalyst Spaces.  While StaterStudio is weathering these market forces with its lease being paid by UCF, it nevertheless must attract and retain startups to fulfill its mission.

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Meet the Author
Dennis R. Pape

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