More resources, support coming for area's technology start-ups

By Dave Hodges | Democrat Business Editor @TallyBiz on Twitter March 28, 2014 The technology commercialization "pipeline" in Tallahassee is itself in transition, with new partners and resources being added in the coming weeks that will aid individuals with new ventures. An update on the pipeline was part of Thursday's meeting of the Research & Engineering Roundtable of the Economic Development Council of Tallahassee-Leon County. Presenters explained the organized effort to help scientists and engineers move their innovations from the lab through the business development process and on to the marketplace. "I have been here 18 years and we are finally beginning to get into a situation where there are people that are interested in working together in this whole area," said John Frazier, FSU's assistant vice president for research and economic development. From the idea or innovation stage, important next steps are needed, Frazier told the lunchtime gathering at FSU Research Building A in Innovation Park. "The real key is finding out if there are partners or resources that can help the project move forward -- first of all, to find out if it's feasible technically, and then literally to find out whether anyone cares whether the product works or not." Universities here provide a pathway through licensing that allows an invention or idea to be developed commercially either by the originator or by investors who see its potential. Frazier said the Office of Commercialization has made such licensing arrangements with nearly 40 start-up firms since the office opened 15 years ago, and 14 of them are product-oriented and are still thriving. Together they have created 50 jobs and raised $36 million in external financing. As new companies get started, they seek support services and programs that move them along the pipeline. In light of that, Mike Campbell, director of North Florida outreach for the Jim Moran Institute for Global Entrepreneurship, discussed the origin of AERO, the Alliance of Entrepreneur Resource Organizations. "We have met every other month and what we are doing is we're collaborating," Campbell explained. "We are talking about what services each of us offers and how can we get them out to our constituents." AERO will use the clearinghouse-style website bigbendbiz.com to guide start-ups to the right program and provider, depending on their needs. In early May, the new business incubator and co-working space next door to the Amtrak Station on Railroad Avenue will be opening. Start-ups, however, can apply for space starting next week at www.domiventures.co. Micah Widen, CEO of Domi Ventures, which will operate the facility, said it will create an environment for entrepreneurs to prepare for eventual launch. "I really want to create a culture that people can plug into. There is no reason that I have to move to an Austin or a Colorado or North Carolina. We can do it right here in Tallahassee and let's bring those pieces in order to do it," Widen said. www.Tallahassee.com