It’s exciting to watch the entrepreneurial landscape grow not only in Silicon Valley but also elsewhere throughout the United States. Florida is just one of many states with a healthy entrepreneur eco-system. Florida’s startup landscape is vibrant, diverse and worth taking a look at.
Let’s review just some of the new concepts presented at a roundtable I co-hosted with the Jacksonville Startup Weekend  in January 2012:
- For example, Armex Industries, Inc. makes the Armex Zero Suit. Eric Keeler explained that the suit is a new kind of durable, special-purpose suit with significantly high heat and cold resistance. The suit is targeted at race car drivers, firefighters and military personnel.
- And then there’s Pay2Pitch.com, a network where entrepreneurs can pitch to investors and mentors and pay about $1,000 for a 20-minute interaction. Perry Kaye explained that the money being paid is given to the investor’s or mentor’s favorite charity. Not my favorite idea, but it represents a pain point: entrepreneurs are desperately trying to reach investors.
- Tim LeMaster of Ziffor introduced us to a service for table restaurants that would like to offer promotions for non-peak times. I found Tim’s idea compelling because several restaurants that have experimented with Groupon-like services have been inundated with unprofitable customers who arrive during peak hours.
- Rushabh Shah came forward with SustainAbin, an idea that assumes that at least 83 million people want to know how to practice a green lifestyle. Rushabh wants to create a portal that would harness this traffic and give those 83 million people meaningful content. As a result, he would be able to generate high value leads for local businesses, such as solar or organic farming, in the sustainability sector. The idea needs much fine tuning to actually turn into business.
- Finally, Vincent Langanella introduced us to Bthere, an idea for analyzing 911 data feeds to extract leads for glass repair, door and window repair and other crime related repairs for which consumers have an immediate need. I really liked this idea.
Of course, Florida serves as a haven for more than just budding entrepreneurs. A few examples include Ginio.com, which is based in Miami. Ginio is a company that builds social applications that facilitate both ecommerce and online to offline commerce with the help of a vertical search system that allows users to find and compare products with friends and indulge in self-expression by creating shared wish lists.
DisputeSuite, which is based in Tampa Bay, is a company that develops niche technology and education services to assist credit repair companies with the management and growth of their businesses.
Then there’s AppRiver, a Gulf Breeze based company that provides businesses of all sizes with a simple Web security solution that incorporates the latest available spam and virus protection, email encryption and Web security.
That’s just a sampling of the many different companies that Florida’s entrepreneur eco-system has produced. Two very successful companies that are a part of that rich eco system are Tampa Bay based Cableorganizer.com, one of the world’s leading purveyors of cable and wire management-related products, and Middleburg based Pragmatic Works, a company that seeks to make technology easy to use and learn.
According to Irina Patterson, a One Million by One Million ambassador (a program run by my organization) who is based in Florida herself, tech focused entrepreneurs in the Miami area can always find some kind of event to attend at least once every week:
“Websites like miamitechevents.com will give you plenty events to choose from, and the people who run those events are passionate community builders. I, myself, used to regularly attend Refresh Miami , Social Media Club  and Mobile Monday.”
Miami based Riyaad Seecharan, Founder of Ayumma:
“While Beige Book data from July 2012 points to a subdued outlook for Florida, the Miami entrepreneurship scene is nascent but vibrant. In particular, the region is focused on creating organizations and resources to support a culture of innovation.
Academic institutions like Florida International University (FIU), Florida Atlantic University (FAU), and the University of Miami (UM) are either setting up incubators or developing co-working spaces and business plan contests, which are all aligned with creating value for the region. FIU’s alliance with the Americas Venture Capital conference is providing access for local companies to investment dollars.
The recent investment of Miami’s Downtown Development Agency into UM’s Launchpad and the Miami Innovation Fund both bode well for companies in the region. They offer access to smaller investments, but they also provide talent and networking support to help entrepreneurs get their ideas off the ground.”
Dan Stewart, founder of Safety Harbor, Florida based Happy Grasshopper , had spent years building a customer relationship management (CRM) product with less success than he desired.
After investing hundreds of thousands of dollars and three years of his life, Dan found himself at an impasse and decided to put his project on the back burner. After he started working with our program, business improved and Happy Grasshopper is now a thriving business that’s well on its way to earning $1 million in annual revenue.
Momares, LLC is a Coral Gables, Florida based company that specializes in providing small and medium advertising businesses with a reliable SMS platform. Founder Marcos Menendez says:
“Our mobile marketing company has taken part in various entrepreneurship competitions and been in touch with startups throughout South Florida. As members of the local community, we’re happy to report that entrepreneurship is alive and very well in this region. Although small, the startup community has grown radically in the last few years and is fueled by various startup groups, as well as the creativity of local and international entrepreneurs.”
According to Marcos, most startups in South Florida are on a quest for investor funding. So, they pitch local angel investors and successful entrepreneurs who, if they’re not able to invest, are still generous with advice through local startup groups. Something else that Marcos thinks that may be fueling growth in South Florida involves collaboration with international talent:
“There are many talented programmers, developers, engineers and others in Latin America who have ties to local businesses. It’s not uncommon for these businesses to work closely with partners or colleagues who may have previously lived in Miami, but now contribute from other countries. This has allowed local startups to draw from a broader pool of talent. It has also kept them in touch with potential consumer markets and consumer behavior in other countries.”
Florida has good universities and a critical mass of success stories. The state needs to take these assets, and turn the region into a more comprehensive startup hub.
Florida  Photo via Shutterstock