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Doing New Things: Taking the Pulse on the Innovation Climate in Greater Gainesville

Doing New Things: Taking the Pulse on the Innovation Climate in Greater Gainesville

Doing New Things: Taking the pulse on the innovation climate in Greater Gainesville’


Greater Gainesville is unique to Florida in many ways, with the feel of both a small town and a bustling city. The area serves as the commercial, cultural and educational center for the region and thus makes it the perfect basin for innovation.

Centrally located in a high-tech corridor and just a short drive from Jacksonville, Orlando and Greater Tampa Bay, GG provides easy access to innovation events, accelerators, resources and network opportunities. As a hub for education, both the University of Florida and Santa Fe College provide ample resources for the innovation community.


What Does Innovation Mean?

Innovation is the ability of companies or individuals to develop new and interesting ideas that benefit society in a useful and practical way.

From the perspective of a consumer, innovation should be visible. In comparing a previous product with a new one, the differences should be noticeable. “Innovation” should also contribute to the benefits and user-friendliness for the consumer or a visible effect globally. For example, improving the health and quality of life of the general population or making a product more affordable for consumers.


What is the Difference Between a Startup and a Tech Company?

The term startup refers to a young company that is innovative and makes use of new technologies. They also must invent their own business model and process. They are considered a “temporary organization” since they are tasked with the search for a business model as opposed to the execution of an existing one.

A tech company refers to a larger company that has an established business model. They develop new technologies and find innovative uses for them, like Airbnb or Twitter. Tech companies are examples of what startups will develop into in the future.


What does innovation mean to Greater Gainesville?

UF Innovate

It stands without reason that the University of Florida has a major presence in GG. With a portfolio of 92 companies, UF Innovate is an umbrella organization that focuses on Tech Licensing, Ventures and Pathways. Credited by most as the driving force of Innovation in GG, their Accelerate Program consists of two incubators: The Hub, a mixed-use incubator, and UF Innovate | Accelerate @ SidMartin Biotech, a dedicated Biotech center.

“We are sector agnostic, so we do not pick winners or losers in terms of sectors of innovation,” said Karl LaPan, director of UF Innovate Accelerate. “A common denominator of all the companies we work with is that sense of something innovative. We have very strong areas of research in gene therapy and artificial intelligence, but we don’t predict, nor do we intentionally focus on any one area of innovation.”

The “secret sauce” of what makes UF Innovate successful is the commitment to entrepreneurial excellence. UF’s SidMartin Biotech is the only incubator to win the peer-nominated Incubator of the Year award more than once. They have been able to aid companies in creating innovative technology and capturing the values that make them attractive to outside buyers.

Through this, UF Innovate has ensured a healthy and robust ecosystem for entrepreneurs which allows them to start, grow, nurture and ultimately maintain their company locally, which has the effect of creating jobs and boosting the local economy.


“The human capital, talent, the pipeline of intellectual capacity that exists in the Greater Gainesville area speaks really highly to the likelihood of being able to set up these kinds of companies for success,” said LaPan.



StartGNV is committed to helping innovation grow locally. Through volunteer support and the numerous programs, startGNV has made a deep connection with the innovation community. One of their notable programs is celebrateGNV, which celebrates the success of the local innovation community. At this event, they acknowledge companies that are making an impact in Greater Gainesville through their products or services, as well as awarding a $5,000 rising star startup grant to highlight and support newer businesses.

All of the programs offered by startGNV work together to not only grow innovation in Greater Gainesville, but retain talent, build relationships and offer networking opportunities. An example of this is Tech Battle of the Bands, where tech companies go head-to-head in a music competition and fundraise to end homelessness. The Battle provides an opportunity for members of the innovation community to build friendships and come together, while raising money and awareness for a great cause.

“The overall goal and mission of startGNV is to support startups here in Gainesville. So, startups go through a lot of challenges; they’re kind of like a little plant that needs a lot of sunshine, water and a safe place to grow. Our board of directors serves as mentors to these startups. We serve as a platform to gain access to capital,” said Christine Caven, Director of Communication at PS27 Ventures and Vice President at startGNV.

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Notable alumni of startGNV include Quottly, an Edtech company started by past president of starGNV, James Gibson; Laundr, a delivery laundry service, considered the Uber of laundry and Thrifty, an app that enables sellers of second-hand items to make money from their unwanted goods.

“StartGNV is a connecter of all people here in town,” Caven said. “I think startGNV is the place to go if you want to get connected with the business community in Gainesville and to be successful in starting and running a small business.”



Infotech has streamlined and revolutionized the civil infrastructure industry. Serving both the local and public sectors, they have consolidated the area’s biggest players and variables that go into road construction from start to finish through their software. This includes construction, bidding, estimation and planning, all of which are focused on the same goal: Making civil infrastructure construction better.

“Innovation is part of our DNA,” said Andy Martin, Chief Technology Officer. Infotech had their beginnings working with the state Department of Transportation. After learning the needs of the owners, the market and the industry, Infotech was put in a unique position to develop a product to help better serve local agencies.

“Our obligation is to really advance that industry, help them find better, more efficient ways to build and maintain our civil infrastructure. Since it’s all taxpayer-funded, it becomes better use of that money to have better bridges and safer roads. I feel that is a really valuable contribution that we make,” Martin said.

Through the rapid advances of technology, Infotech faced the challenge of not only keeping up with industry changes but also providing top-of-the-line innovative technology to their customers. Infotech streamlined the use of a device called a rover, used primarily by inspectors in the field to accurately measure from point A to point B. By integrating this technology, measurements are captured and then immediately uploaded to their software to provide better ease of use and error-free measurements.


“We not only have to know how our users need to use our platform in the best way, but we also have to know how technology is changing today, tomorrow and three weeks from now so that we can anticipate how we make our software better as technology is changing,” said Lacey Jones, Associate Vice President of Marketing and Communications.


Innovation in GG is a force to be reckoned with. Large players like UF Innovate and startGNV aid in fostering the local environment and business ecosystem. Companies like Infotech provide their innovative products both locally and on a bigger scale, helping GG grow and laying the groundwork for even more innovation to come

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