Gainesville Poised for Entrepreneurial Future

By: David Whitney

I’ve been living and working in Gainesville for over two years, and I get more excited every day about our area becoming an entrepreneurial hotspot—a southern version of Silicon Valley, if you will.

But I run into a lot of skepticism. People point out how many innovative companies have failed here. They contend that we don’t have enough capital available to be a major center of innovative companies.

Hogwash, I say.

We have everything we need to become a nationally recognized center of entrepreneurship and innovation.

First, let me address the fact that many companies have launched and failed here. I counter this fact by saying that failure is the compost that nurtures eventual success.

All the successful entrepreneurs I know failed time and time again before eventually succeeding, and they built their success on what they learned in their earlier ventures.

I saw the “create, fail, recreate, succeed” model in action when I worked in Silicon Valley for 10 years.

Here in the Gainesville area, I see the same understanding that success depends upon failure. This view is making our area a place where pursuing audacious goals is an accepted way of life.

This pursue-fail-succeed model is indicative of our progress. So is the progress to date in creating an entrepreneurial-innovation ecosystem.  An example of this ecosystem is Alachua County’s many business incubators, which provide affordable and nurturing homes for new companies—and help to retain a critical mass of world-class talent that comes to college here.

The second way I respond to the doubters is to look at whether the needed capital is available here.

People always make an issue of capital, but that’s a mistake. I tell my students and the business owners I mentor to take that notion off the table.

If you need money, sell your products. And then sell more of what you have to sell.  Succeeding in business is about selling. If you aren’t willing to go out on the street and sell, something is wrong with you or your company. Are you embarrassed about convincing someone to buy into your passion?

Don’t know how to sell? Here’s a tip:  Networking is key to selling. Pick up the phone and talk to someone. Respond to e-mails today, not tomorrow.

We all recognize the abundance of research coming out of the University of Florida—much of which has unlimited potential to be commercialized. As important as this resource is, another resource is equally important to our young entrepreneurs.

That resource is today’s technology. Technology allows people with small amounts of money, but with big ideas, to have far-reaching impacts. Technology is making it possible for Gainesville-based companies to compete in a variety of fields, including video gaming, virtual reality, digital streaming, wireless broadband, social networking, Web 2.0 e-commerce and clean energy technology.

I’m energized by the spirit and can-do attitude of the young people I’m working with. I’m in awe of the passion in their hearts to do something great, and I sincerely believe they are going to change the world.

We all need to encourage our young entrepreneurs by challenging them to shake up the world as much as possible and by supporting them when the world shakes back.


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