Monthly Archives

December 2015

NAPLES HERALD: SWFL’s Budding Tech Scene: An Inside Look

By | News

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A mention of Southwest Florida easily conjures up images of beaches that look like they were plucked from a postcard, pristine manicured golf courses, and penthouse hotels that house the rich and famous.

But the people who live here know Southwest Florida is a lot more than that.

There’s a growing technology industry here—a ‘mini Austin’—some say. And with that comes an exponential opportunity for well-rounded growth throughout the region.

The Bonita Springs Estero Economic Development Council sponsored an event Wednesday that explored the relationship between the Southwest Florida economy and its rapidly growing technology sector.

The SWFL Tech Professionals Meet & Greet, held at FineMark National Bank & Trust, 10010 Coconut Road, Bonita Springs, attracted about 50 people, who ranged from wide-eyed college-aged students to silver-haired baby boomers.

On black fold out chairs, sitting on plush navy blue cushioned seats, the group heard from four different Southwest Floridians who came from a trio of powerful institutions. The movers and shakers included:

Ron Toll, Provost at Florida Gulf Coast University; President and CEO of the Southwest Florida Community Foundation, Sarah Owen; and Bill Schiller and Jason Dolle, who both spoke on behalf of the Sunset Coast Technology Consortium, a recently founded group of three local tech companies—REfindly, Testimonial Tree and Agent Shield—who’ve joined forces to share ideas, a vision for the future and strength in numbers, something the networking event aimed to do as well.

Owen talked about uniting the workforce and the Future Makers Coalition. She joked about the need for a workforce draft, while laughing along with the audience about her experience this year playing Fantasy Football.

Workers with speed, skill and tenacity, she said, are in high demand. The Community Foundation’s Future Makers Coalition helps to promote the knowledge and skills needed to succeed in the workplace, while aiming to increase the percentage of Southwest Floridians who’ve graduated from a post-secondary institution or certificate completion program.

“Talking doesn’t cook the rice,” Owen said.

But taking action does.

In a little under 10 years, she hopes to skyrocket the number of adults who’ve completed post-secondary education by 40 percent.

“If we do this together,” she said with a gleam in her eyes and a smile creeping up her face. “We’re no longer talking. We’re cooking the rice.”

Toll spoke about potential FGCU graduates and the need to find a stable and secure job after college. Helping Owen reach her goal, he said, was FGCU’s goal, too, and also that of the community.

He plans to help reach their shared goal with the university’s new program, Co-Op 6, designed to give juniors and seniors full-time job experience while they’re still enrolled in the university.

It could help increase and sharpen things like intellect, communication and problem solving skills, Toll said.

Typically, he said, internships last for two and a half months. Some are paid. And sometimes students only receive academic credit.

“We want to put our internship program on steroids,” he said.

Modeled after a program at Drexel University, Co-Op 6 means students will work approximately 40 hours a week for six months. They will not have class obligations and will still be considered FGCU students.

“For our students,” Toll said. “Imagine the impact it could have on their careers.”

Schiller and Dolle talked about working together and sharing ideas.

The technology trifecta that makes up Sunset Coast Technology Consortium is REfindly, which helps generate leads for real estate agents and brokers; Testimonial Tree, a company that helps other companies and professionals better capture reviews from satisfied customers; and Agent Shield, which has a patented technology for selling new homes.

Dolle credited the natural camaraderie and formation of the consortium to the normal evolution of the “How can I help?” attitude practiced regularly by all three companies. “You learn a lot from each other,” he said.

Each speaker connected their company or passion for technology to other presenters or audience members. Not only is the tech industry growing, it’s insisting on growing together.

People need to stop thinking of Florida as a place to retire, said Christine Ross, executive director for the economic development council.

“Maybe kayak in the middle of the day and then go back to coding,” she said, with a twinge of laughter.

It’s a place for young people, too.

Southwest Florida Tech Firms Convene for Sunset Coast Technology Consortium

By | News

SUNSET COAST TECHNOLOGY CONSORTIUM

Representatives from a dozen different technology enterprises gathered December 3 to formally launch a new collaboration aiming to advance greater awareness, resources and support for tech professionals based in Southwest Florida. Branded as The Sunset Coast Technology Consortium (SCTC), the gathering was comprised by software developers, executives and tech-centric entrepreneurs from enterprises that included Agent Shield Technologies, EyeMD Healthcare Systems, Flightdocs, Geofeedia, HyperTeam, Interactyx, Loop & Tie, MassiveU, REfindly and Testimonial Tree; all producers of proprietary software with business operations based in Southwest Florida. Through the auspices of the SCTC, the collective is determined to serve as a unified voice for the region’s growing technology community.

Testimonial Tree CEO & SCTC Co-founder Jason Dolle welcomed participants explaining that what the group could accomplish together is greater than what any might accomplish on his own, yet also spoke of several alliances that would be advantageous to Consortium Members. From supporting programs like Technology Round Table discussions facilitated by the Bonita Springs Chamber of Commerce, education initiatives like the FutureMakers program sponsored by Southwest Florida Community Foundation and Fusion Pointe, which provides beneficial mentoring services particularly crucial to firms seeking investment support.

“By working together, we can help create a better environment for not only doing business in this region, but succeeding in business. And for young people wanting to pursue careers in technology, we can help make sure they know that they don’t have to leave this market because great opportunities exist right here in Southwest Florida,” said Dolle.

Dolle offered insight on a few upcoming events and projects the Consortium is now directing, including the deployment of a website that will highlight news and information solely dedicated to the area’s tech community. Consortium Members were also invited to a special December 9 “Meet & Greet” which is hosted by the Bonita Estero Economic Development Council and sponsored by Fine Mark National Bank & Trust.

As part of the Consortium’s mission to create greater awareness, REfindly Content Developer and SCTC Director of Communications Bill Schiller acknowledged, “Unlike other professional groups made-up of businesses who use technology, you are the visionaries who actually create the technology businesses use and you’re essential to our region’s economic sustainability.” While each Consortium Member may have a unique product or service, Schiller stressed common areas of concern all share. “From workforce development and funding to infrastructure improvements and more, there are interests you collectively share and your voice deserves to be heard,” he said.

Schiller went on to introduce Naples Daily News Editor Manuel Garcia who affirmed the publication’s willingness to provide greater coverage of local technology news with support from SCTC. The group is also organizing a February, 2016, meeting that will take place at Naples Daily News’ headquarters on Immokalee Road in Naples.

As plans for 2016 continue to formalize, those who attended this first gathering of the Sunset Coast Technology Consortium expressed enthusiastic support as well as a bit of surprise by the number of enterprises which were represented. As one said, “These are busy people and it takes something extraordinary to get everyone together in one placeat one time… especially if it means stepping away from their computers for any length of time.”

As the voice of the tech community, the mission of the Sunset Coast Technology Consortium is to provide greater awareness, advocacy and resources for technology professionals in Southwest Florida. For more information, send an email to [email protected] or visit www.sunsetcoasttech.com.