IBM considers connecting with entrepreneurs as vital to its $33 billion annual revenue stream, said Claudia Munce, a vice president at IBM Venture Capital Group.
Hernandez added, “We’re looking for start-up companies to help us innovate in some strategic areas, and the sooner we get them involved, this gets the innovation flowing.”
Startup Florida is the fifth regional organization linked to the White House-launched Startup America Partnership, a national platform for assistance and mentorship led by CEO Scott Case, the founder of Priceline.com.
The founding principal for the partnership, Case said, is to help startups grow. “As a nation we need to step our game up, because the rest of the world is watching,” Case said. “To do that, entrepreneurs leading these new, young companies need to grow. We’re helping in delivering resources to help this growth.”
Today, the biggest challenge is visibility, making it known that Startup Florida and similar efforts across the U.S. are available to entrepreneurs for tools and needed resources.
Gomez strongly believes in the mission. “As an entrepreneur, one major challenge is not knowing where to look for your resources. By having this platform, it allows us to collectively gather thoughts that, without it, would have been hidden. This immediately expands my network.”
Case thinks Startup America can help change how Washington views all companies. While large and small operations are quite different in how they operate, Capitol Hill has failed to discern the differences over the years, he said.
Academic institutions also see the impact entrepreneurs are making on the U.S. economy. St. Thomas Universitys Institute for Global Entrepreneurship was formed as a response to the growth seen in South Florida, Latin America and the Caribbean. The school is now an active partner with Startup Florida.
What makes the Sunshine State a budding hub for entrepreneurs? Lower taxes and diversity, many of the corporate executives in attendance said. Jane Teague, executive director of Boca Raton, Florida-based Enterprise Development Corp., calls Florida’s diversity both a strength and a weakness, since the state’s population varies so widely from county to county. But aviation and aerospace are thriving, as are generic pharmaceutical companies.
To move forward, an entrepreneur should master their pitch, something Gomez and others can now do with the benefit of Startup Florida. “Come in with something very simple that a venture capitalist understands,” advised José-Maria Blanc, managing director of Intel Capital. “This will make sure he’ll be able to fully present it to his investment committee.”