Is Florida the Next Silicon Valley as Start-Up Communities Pop Up Around the State?

By Holly Hargett |

  | Apr 29, 2019  /  Business |

The Florida entrepreneurial landscape continues to grow as start-up communities pop up around the state - is it the next Silicon Valley? Orlando recently hosted new business development with Digital Orlando and Tampa is home to Synapse, Florida's innovation community that brings people in tech across the country for two days of seminars and networking opportunities. 

Florida's landscape is vibrant and diverse and recently Tampa Bay was ranked as one of the top 40 U.S. cities for entrepreneurs and the top-ranked market for women-owned businesses. Technology companies are branching out of the saturated Silicon Valley area and Florida seems primed with affordable living and building costs and active startup communities like the Tampa Bay WaVE, which helps tech companies build, launch and grow their businesses.

Health and tech businesses appear predominately around the state with Orlando's focus on the gaming and entertainment industry. Walt Disney World Resort has its own program, Disney Accelerator, which helps technology innovators turn their dreams for new media into a reality. Catalyst Spaces in Orlando provides workspace, resources and connections to Orlando entrepreneurs. 

Entrepreneur and investor Steve Case, best known as the former co-founder and CEO of AOL, is bringing his venture capital company Revolution and their Rise of the Rest (ROTR) Tour to Florida. The program is a nationwide effort that “invests in passionate entrepreneurs who leverage their expertise to change the way we live and work.” Case was a pioneer of the Internet and now is helping fellow entrepreneurs in the seed stage of their respective companies become industry pioneers.

In his guest column about the startup revolution thriving in Tampa Bay, Case says, "Over the past five years, Revolution’s Rise of the Rest bus tour has visited 38 cities and traveled more than 10,000 miles to witness what is happening in startup ecosystems that are frequently overlooked by Silicon Valley investors. In addition to Tampa Bay, for the first time, we are spending the majority of our tour in one state, visiting Orlando, Miami and the Space Coast. We will end the week in Puerto Rico to better understand the role of entrepreneurship in helping to rebuild the island’s economy following Hurricane Maria." 

Orlando | Monday, April 29 

First up is the Orlando competition on Monday, April 30. Doors open at 3:45 and programming starts at 4:30 p.m. Tickets give you access to the fireside chat with Steve Case, the opportunity to watch the eight finalists in the pitch competition held at the Cheyenne Saloon. 

Melbourne | Tuesday, April 30 

Watch eight local startups in the community compete for $100,000! The event doors open at 3:45 at Groundswell Startups at 2412 Irwin Street. J.D. Vance, Hillbilly Elegy author and Managing Partner at Revolution's Rise of the Rest Seed Fun, will join Steve Case on the stage during the fireside chat. 

Tampa | Wednesday, May 1 

Within five years and 26 tour stops, Case and his team at Revolution has invested $2.5 million in startup businesses. In addition to Case, investors include Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik, and Clearwater native Sara Blakely, founder of Spanx.  The Tampa competition is at ConnectWise , 4805 Independence Parkway. Doors open at 3:45 p.m. 

RELATED CONTENT: Rise of the Rest Tour Stops in Tampa May 1 to Give Away $100,000 to Competing Start-Up Businesses 

Miami | Thursday, May 2 

You'll hear from AOL co-founder and Revolution CEO and Chairman Steve Case during this fireside chat. In addition, Jean Case, chairman of the National Geographic Society and CEO of the Case Foundation. Doors open at 3:45 at The Citadel, 8300 NE 2nd Avenue. 

Puerto Rico | Friday, May 3 

Founder of the ThinkGoodGroup and Chairman of the World Central Kitchen Chef Jose Andres will be speaking at the fireside chat, in addition to Steve Case. They'll discuss their shared vision and mission to support innovation all across America. Doors open at 3:45 p.m. at the Museum of Art Contemporary of Puerto Rico in San Juan. 

The Rise of the Rest Florida Tour is proof that Florida has stepped up to help local entrepreneurs with Start-Up Miami and Jacksonville ranking #14 with Inc Magazine's ranking for the best place to start a business. Florida isn't just retirees, the state is ripe with millennials and it's creating a new generation of startups. In addition to the Tampa Bay WaVE, the city has Embarc Collective, an innovation hub that aggregates founders, accelerators and venture capitalists which has the support of Jeff Vinik, owner of the NHL's Tampa Bay Lightning and founder of Water Street Tampa.   

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Cover courtesy of Tampa WaVE Facebook page