A Co-Op for Startups
3:45 pm 10/7/13
By Ken Thomas
Unlike other large metropolitan cities across the country, Jacksonville, Florida has never been known for its entrepreneurial startup scene. But that might be changing. What started about five years ago as a co-operative effort in an open workspace downtown, has slowly begun to blossom into a relaxed atmosphere for folks, with lots of ideas about starting their own businesses in the First Coast area of the sunshine state.
There’s a deliberate and consorted effort of collaboration among many of the entrepreneurs, business leaders, city officials and the startup accelerator company’s who are assisting with the process. That approach could be the key to the successful entrepreneurship for many innovators who want to become entrepreneurs.
Ignite (www.ignitewithus.com) has been a stellar example of such co-operation. A small staff has led the small division of the Adecco group into the forefront of the startup scene in the city. Their leadership philosophy, based upon the basic principle that a cooperative effort can help develop and sustain a competitive effort in the entrepreneurial world, has laid the foundation for success in Jacksonville.
Charlotte Cudd, Seed Marketer at Insight, described the scene in Jacksonville as one very different from other large cities, which may be valued as leaders in the startup game.
“We have some members who came from larger cities such as, San Francisco and Denver, they said they enjoy the collaborative efforts of Jacksonville where their ideas get noticed, whereas they might not have the same opportunity in those larger cities,” Cudd said.
Most of those ideas are presented to a group of Adecco executives and other entrepreneurs in monthly meet-ups that Cudd and her company organize. The meetings are designed to allow unknown entrepreneurs the opportunity to pitch their ideas in a 30-minute presentation. Afterwards, the entire group discusses the ideas and helps foster each other through the startup process.
“We really try to make it a team education process on what you need to know to succeed…and that’s why we don’t have such a competitive environment like other cities, it’s really collaborative,” Cudd said.
In addition to the Ingite meet-ups, the city of Jacksonville hosted its first creator festival for entrepreneurs earlier this year. The five day event brought together multi-cultural entrepreneurs for a chance to win $250,000 in startup prizes and brought national attention to the city.
“One Spark” (www.beonespark.com), helped create an atmosphere in downtown which fostered the entrepreneurship environment Cudd and her associates have been helping create for a number of years. However, she cautioned that the Jacksonville startup scene had been present for quite some time before One Spark, but she credited the event and Jacksonville Jaguars owner, Shad Kahn with jump starting an increased interest in startups.
“Shad Kahn used the ‘One Spark’ event to award startup funds to several entrepreneurs and collectively handed out more than a million dollars to innovators at the event,” Cudd said.
With a little help from business leaders and city officials, “One Spark 2014” is expected to broaden the city’s startup potential even more than the first event did. Needless to say, there continues to be a true excitement with start-up innovators on the banks of the St. Johns River. With the collaborative efforts of the city, local business and accelerators, like Ignite and other organizations, innovation in the river city has only just begun to sparkle.