Coalition Steps Up to Spur Innovation in Florida

To pave the way for stronger entrepreneurship, better coordination, and more networking, Launch Florida is bringing together disparate groups that share a stake in the state’s innovation economy.

A coalition called Launch Florida is bringing together innovation leaders, tech organizations, coworking spaces, and start-up communities that will work together to advance Florida’s innovation economy.

Florida has an innovation score of 38 on a scale of 1 to 100, with 100 being the most innovative, according to a Bloomberg map featured on the Launch Florida website. It lags well behind some of the most innovative states, including California and Massachusetts, which have scores of 93.

We wanted a peer-to-peer network. I’ve gotten a lot of benefit from connecting with these communities.

The group’s mission is “to foster collaboration between entrepreneurs, policymakers, business leaders, venture capitalists, and other stakeholders in order to catalyze the innovation economy throughout the sunshine state.”

Launch Florida is building “a network that creates value for everybody”—without competition getting in the way, said cochair Lucas Lindsey, executive director of the Tallahassee startup incubator Domi Station.

He and cochair Joe Russo, executive director of the Palm Beach Tech Association, founded the coalition to unite disparate communities that could benefit from collaboration. “We felt marooned,” Lindsey said. “We were doing our own thing, but with no one else around doing the same thing.”

“We wanted a peer-to-peer network” and the camaraderie that comes along with it, Lindsey said. “I’ve gotten a lot of benefit from connecting with these communities.”

This collaboration can help companies and organizations avoid reinventing the wheel. Various groups are doing work “in their own ecosystem” that is duplicative, Lindsey said. In some cases, it might make more sense to use someone else’s established framework than to create a new one, he said.

Launch Florida is creating a way for people to share best practices and other resources. For example, the coalition will enable people to collaborate on events—to share the costs and to bring together investors and start-ups, Lindsey said. This interaction will allow people in different places and different roles to get to know and trust each other—and find ways they might be able to help each other out.

Advocacy is another component. The coalition plans to advocate for state-level policy that affects start-ups. “We want to make innovation and entrepreneurship recognized as a legitimate economic development strategy,” Lindsey said, adding that they would like to see that policy as “part of the conversation in the next election cycle.”

Looking at the long term, Launch Florida will help leaders champion innovation and entrepreneurship in their own communities, empower entrepreneurs, and break down barriers to inclusion and opportunity. The group also is creating a platform for promotion—to allow coalition members to promote each other’s events and news.

Launch Florida held its first summit in June 2016. The response was positive, and about 25 people attended. “It’s fairly informal and grassroots at this point,” Lindsey said.

But the group is ramping up. It has been holding monthly conference calls and plans to hold another summit this May, which it hopes will attract more than 50 attendees.


Allison Torres Burtka

By Allison Torres Burtka

Allison Torres Burtka, a longtime association journalist, is a freelance writer and editor in West Bloomfield, Michigan. MORE

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