Building Tech Bonds
A fledgling effort is afoot in Central Florida to better connect the technology community. This past August, representatives of many of the region’s tech special interest groups came together in Orlando to explore how to work together to foster an interactive community that serves the needs of people in various technologies from bottom to top.
The University of Central Florida, the Florida High Tech Corridor Council, the Metro Orlando Economic Development Commission and Orlando Inc. have been working with senior management leaders from throughout the tech community for more than a year to create the Central Florida Technology Forum, which supports programs that serve C-level executives, startups, mid-level managers, entry level technologists and more.
Creating Vibrant Exchange
“Orlando Inc. has agreed to take the lead on convening the leadership of many existing groups that have an interest in growing this segment of our economy,” said Orlando Inc.’s Executive Vice President José A. Fajardo. “There’s a lot already going on, and the hope is that we can work together to create the kind of vibrant exchange of ideas across all technology sectors that leads to increased success in areas such as attracting venture capital, providing more educational opportunities and encouraging breakthrough technology startups.”
Those topics were recurring themes during the discussion that took place in August, which brought together nearly 50 leaders of existing technology organizations and other associations to have an open dialogue about what is missing in Metro Orlando’s technology community.
“The Central Florida technology community is highly silo’ed,” said Philip Holt, founder and CEO of Row Sham Bow, an advanced data analytics company, and an early leader of the Central Florida Technology Forum effort. “On the one hand, well-established, large-scale technology companies convene through chambers, EDOs, nonprofit boards and other traditional events. Then on the other hand, there is a community of emergent, entrepreneurial tech startups who have connected with each other through grassroots meet-ups, collaborative exchanges and street-level networking. There are no events or forums in Central Florida to bring these disparate groups together and the future of our technology economy is dependent on developing an entire ecosystem.”
Other tech leaders echoed Holt’s sentiments, hoping that connecting these communities would help address the challenges that the region faces in attracting talent and capital.
Said Randy Berridge, president of the Florida High Tech Corridor Council, “As our tech organizations and their leaders work together, we can build over time something similar to what our neighbors in Tampa have achieved through the Tampa Bay Technology Forum. There’s no doubt this group — in whatever its final form — will support a healthy tech community. UCF and its network, the EDC and its ability to support executives in their work, Orlando Inc.’s unique 100-year history of support for businesses and the High Tech Corridor Council’s 23-county regional network built around the strength of three of the nation’s greatest universities are at their disposal.”