Updated 8 yearss ago
Twenty years ago, the I-4 High Tech Corridor was chartered as a non-profit entity to promote an emerging aggregation of tech-related business and research activities along a 23-county stretch of mid-Florida. The designation evolved first to “Florida’s High Tech Corridor.” Now, the region is being branded simply as “The Corridor” to reflect its rising national aspirations, in much the same way that Silicon Valley in California and the Research Triangle in North Carolina are recognized without a geographic identifier.
The evolution reflects growing economic heft: There are now nearly 20,000 tech companies in the Corridor, from an Apple engineering facility to tiny UCF spinoff Garmor in Orlando, which produces single-atom-thick graphene industrial strengtheners, to Tech Data in St. Petersburg, an international reseller of computer and other technology with $28 billion in annual sales — more revenue than McDonald’s — to defense communications powerhouse Harris in Melbourne.
The three major state universities in the Corridor — UF, UCF and USF — last year collectively garnered 239 patents, more than the entire University of Texas system, Rice University and Texas A&M combined, with 226, and the Research Triangle’s Duke University, North Carolina State and University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, with 130.
As the region increasingly markets its tech backbone, it still plays the traditional Florida lifestyle card. No tech worker in the Corridor is more than 90 minutes from a beach. “I can tell you, we have no problem getting people to come down here,” says Blair Barbour, who recently moved his Photon-X firm from Huntsville, Ala., to metro Orlando.
An Epicenter for the Corridor
Florida’s High Tech Corridor crosses the state paralleling I-4 from Tampa through Orlando to the Space Coast, comprising about a third of the peninsula. But one 7,000-acre parcel about midway is emerging as an epicenter for the entire Corridor.
Lake Nona, southeast of downtown Orlando, was a quiet slice of rural Orange County dominated by pasture and pine trees some 20 years ago when the I-4 Corridor economic development enterprise was getting started. Today, Lake Nona is a high-tech boomtown.
While the Corridor is home to more than two-thirds of the state’s high-tech jobs and the broadest array of fields from simulation and nanotechnology to aerospace, no single part of the Corridor has been more successful in such a short time as Lake Nona.
In less than a decade, Lake Nona has attracted $2 billion in public and private investments, including the Sanford- Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute, Nemours Children’s Hospital, the University of Central Florida’s medical school, a UF research facility and others.
The newest arrival is the Veterans Administration Medical Center at Lake Nona, which opened in May. The $665-million facility bristles with the latest technology, and a Veterans Health National Simulation Center for training is going in next door.
Meanwhile, homes are springing up in a New Urbanist-style residential development, Laureate Park, and the area’s population has grown to nearly 10,000. Lake Nona developer Tavistock Development will open the first phase of a town center this year, including offices, boutique shops, hotels and commercial space. The center is projected to grow to 1 million square feet as Lake Nona’s population approaches 30,000 at build-out in the next several decades. “It’s all about the cluster … and collaboration,” says James Zboril, president of Tavistock Development and Lake Nona Property Holdings. “When the units are integrated, the pieces come alive. The really cool thing is when it all comes together and it works.”
Zboril says Lake Nona is excited to be taking a leading role in promoting health, wellness and technology in coordination with the Florida High Tech Corridor Council, which oversees the non-profit Corridor initiative of three research institutions — UCF, UF and USF.
Tech giant Cisco selected Lake Nona as the first community in the nation and ninth in the world to be named a Smart+Connected city, a designation and partnership that positions the community as a leader in digital infrastructure and networking technologies for integration of residents, researchers, commerce and industry.
The non-profit Corridor Council, based in Orlando, works to boost the tech industry and spur innovation through partnerships supporting research, marketing, workforce development and entrepreneurship. That all fits with Lake Nona’s collaborative nature, Zboril says, and the community teams up often with the Corridor in promoting the region.
“We have had a lot of success,” Zboril says of Lake Nona. “But the best is yet to come.”
“It’s all about the cluster … and collaboration. When the units are integrated, the pieces come alive. The really cool thing is when it all comes together and it works.” — James Zboril, president, Tavistock Development and Lake Nona Property Holdings
(High-Tech Corridor) Manufacturing
Word’s Out on Osceola
When William A. Martin travels around the country promoting Osceola County, he finds an eager audience among techies, who often have no idea where Osceola County is but have heard about the Florida Advanced Manufacturing Research Center. It’s not even built yet, but word of the $200-million project, which broke ground recently near Kissimmee, has spread rapidly through the high-tech world in universities, economic development groups and private industry.
“This is something I’ve never experienced in all my 40 years of attending trade shows,” Martin says. “It’s already put Osceola County on the map.”
The center, a partnership between Osceola County, the University of Central Florida and the Florida High Tech Corridor Council, will combine cutting-edge research and development with actual manufacturing of advanced sensors of all types.
Future generations of autos, planes, trains, homes, offices, machinery and tools will be filled with an array of devices that will function as the eyes and ears of their computerized brains and neural networks. The center will be a base for entrepreneurs to plan, design, manufacture and market smart sensors and related products.
The goal is to generate higherpaying jobs, says Randy Berridge, president of the Florida High Tech Corridor Council. He compares the Osceola venture to the successful Sematech project, which put Austin, Texas, on the high-tech map decades ago.
John Hitt, president of UCF, which operates a business incubator just 3 miles from the Advanced Manufacturing Research Center, is lobbying for additional state support to add photonics to the smart-sensor mix so the school can leverage its decades of leadership in that field.
M. J. Soileau, vice president for research and commercialization at UCF, calls the center a unique opportunity for the state to attract “the highest caliber research and development talent to help … meet the needs of high-tech industry in Florida.”
UCF and the Florida High Tech Corridor Council each committed $1 million for administration and marketing, and Osceola County is floating bonds to finance the first phase of construction.
Other Notable Companies
- Mitsubishi Hitachi Power Systems America: The Lake Mary-based company just north of Orlando manufactures and services a range of sophisticated parts and equipment for turbines, generators and other products. Early this year, the company completed its merger of thermal power generation businesses of Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and Hitachi Ltd.
- Medical devices cluster, Pinellas/Hillsborough counties: The Florida Medical Manufacturers Consortium, based in Tampa, estimates that medical device companies in Tampa Bay generate $1.2 billion a year. Pinellas County alone contributes a fifth of the state’s medical device revenue as home to 70% of the more than 10,000 medical technology jobs, with the likes of Halkey- Roberts, which designs and manufactures medical valves, clamps, pumps and other specialty products, and Synergy Health, a medical products sterilization company. Tampa-based Moffitt Cancer Center hosted the Business of BioTech 2015 Conference in April.
- Omega Medical Imaging, Sanford: The Sanford company manufactures imaging products for medical procedures such as endoscopy. The $6-million-ayear niche manufacturer won the CEO Nexus Award this year from GrowFL, the state’s second-stage company accelerator. Omega projects $50 million a year in revenue within five years.
- LumaStream, St. Petersburg: The company designs and makes low-voltage LED lighting systems with an artistic flair for commercial, retail, service, hospitality and other customers.
- Iradimed, Winter Springs: Iradimed manufactures and sells advanced intravenous infusion pump systems, with about 2,300 MRI-compatible systems installed worldwide, generating 2014 fiscal year revenue of $15.6 million and an operating profit margin of 19.6%.
(High-Tech Corridor) Aerospace/Avionics
Embry-Riddle: An Anchor Tenant
With more than 5,000 students at its flagship campus, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach is overshadowed in Florida by larger public and private universities with significantly higher budgets, extensive research programs and public outreach.
The school’s profile, however, is much greater nationally and internationally — the undisputed dean of aviation and aerospace institutions of higher learning in the world, and the only fully accredited aviation-oriented university. With its Prescott, Ariz., campus and online students worldwide, Embry-Riddle has more than 30,000 students.
Founded in 1925, Embry- Riddle is the nation’s largest supplier of bachelor-degreed air-traffic controllers to the Federal Aviation Administration. It’s the sole provider of aviation degree programs to the U.S. military in Europe. And major airlines hire more graduates from Embry-Riddle than from any other university. The school’s aerospace engineering program is the largest in the nation. Six Embry-Riddle alumni are current or former astronauts.
Embry-Riddle President John Johnson, who is retiring later this year, says that while the school doesn’t have an intercollegiate athletic football program, it does have top professors from elite schools, a fleet of 88 instructional aircraft, 40 state-of-the-art simulators, a fast-growing campus infrastructure and a record of placing 90% of grads in jobs within a year at higher salaries that reflect surging demand for STEM-trained professionals.
Johnson has been named the school’s first president emeritus, and Senior Vice President and Chief Operating Officer John R. Watret was appointed interim president in late May.
Part of the school’s success is in its financial flexibility as a private institution, the ability to charge higher fees than public universities, pay higher salaries and make investments in new buildings and equipment faster and with less second-guessing. “We move at the speed of thought,” says Richard Heist, Embry- Riddle provost. When the school decided to build a new student center last year, it simply wrote a check for $70 million. The school has invested nearly $200 million in improvements and additions to its Daytona campus alone in less than a decade and is increasingly emphasizing research, adding the first building in what will become a research and technology park that’s slated to open in 2017. One effort has extended the range of drones by using autonomous boats that serve as charging stations for the drones, extending their range for search and rescue and marine research.
While Embry-Riddle is not formally a member of the Corridor, talks are under way to explore ways of increasing participation and coordination. “We are the anchor tenant on the eastern end” of the Corridor, Heist says.
High Tech, High Wage
With average pay of more than $80,000 a year, aerospace firms accounted for the most employees per tech company in the Corridor, averaging 104 per establishment.
The eastern end of the Corridor is anchored by the aerospace and aviation industry and scores of companies in related research and development. Along the Space Coast, from Titusville to Palm Bay, longtime fixtures like NASA, Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, Harris, Raytheon, Eaton and Aerosonic contribute to an estimated $1.2 billion worth of economic activity a year in the region. Virtually all of the leading rocket makers and related launch firms have significant operations in Brevard County, including NASA’s United Launch Alliance, Boeing, XCOR Aerospace and SpaceX, the rocket-maker and launch firm owned by billionaire Elon Musk. Other newcomers include Brazilian aircraft manufacturer Embraer.
Each of the three major public universities in the Corridor — UCF, UF and USF — support the space sector with highly rated engineering programs and research centers. Numerous other schools work with those universities in an alliance, called the Florida Space Institute, which includes the Space Coast-based Florida Institute of Technology, Eastern Florida State College and Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.
Other members of the Space Institute based outside the Corridor include Florida A&M University, the University of Miami, Florida Atlantic University and Broward College.
One example of the synergy between schools and startups is Hoverfly Technologies, developer of drones for commercial, industrial and personal use. Founded in 2010 by a trio of entrepreneurs headed by Alfred Ducharme, former assistant engineering professor and dean at UCF, the company in Winter Springs in Seminole County produced the industry’s first flight controllers for commercial multirotor drones.
Other Notable Companies
Prioria Robotics, Gainesville: The developer of small unmanned aircraft systems was started by UF grads. The company has won contracts from the U.S. Army totaling $4.5 million. CEO Bryan da Frota says the UAVs have applications in areas ranging from security to agriculture. Using fleets of smart, sensor-packed unmanned vehicles, da Frota says, “You can do things that are dull, dirty and dangerous.”
Matrix Composites, Rockledge: The Brevard County company is a key supplier to Lockheed Martin and other firms that need precision composite parts for everything from missiles to light aircraft. Since its founding in 1993, the company has branched out from aerospace and defense into medical and optics fields. It has also taken on other challenges, creating, for example, composite, life-like trees for theme parks in Asia.
Elevated Horizons, Orlando: The crowd-funded startup designs and manufactures longrange multirotor unmanned aerial systems for agriculture monitoring. It was one of three companies selected by Space Florida to conduct authorized unmanned craft demonstrations at Exploration Park in Brevard in 2014.
Altavian, Gainesville: Founded in 2011, Altavian provides engineering, manufacturing and operations services for unmanned craft, with specialties in highresolution mapping and real-time video capabilities with drones for everything from agriculture to conservation resource protection.
A number of incubators for small tech-related firms have sprung up around Florida, offering low-cost, flexible space and other services — a so-called “tech ecosystem” — to young software and information entrepreneurs.
One, in Orlando, has structured itself as a non-profit. Canvs (pronounced canvas) offers a month-to-month deal for space in a comfortable center with an open floor plan where, for as little as $100 a month, young entrepreneurs can interact as they try to build their businesses. Opened in 2014 in the Church Street Exchange downtown, Canvs already has more than 45 companies and organizations, including notable startups such as app developer Echo Interaction Group and Allogy Interactive. Florida Institute of Technology also recently opened a Women’s Business Center in Canvs, to increase the number of women entrepreneurs locally. In May, the University of Central Florida took a stronger leadership role at Canvs, placing the networking center’s staff on its payroll in preparation for eventually linking operations to the planned Creative Village and UCF downtown campus.
Meanwhile, in Clearwater, a new incubator recently opened to serve north Pinellas and help companies go from “seed stage to high growth.” The Technical Arts Facility for Innovation and Entrepreneurship has room for up to 40 people in an open portion of the iDatix offices.
Steve Allen, founder and CEO of iDatix, made space available on his company’s third floor for people with good ideas but not a lot of money. Cubicles rent for a few hundred bucks a month and include access to everything from a costly 3-D printer to a boardroom.
The proliferation of incubators is also being driven by public-private enterprises, such as the Greenhouse in St. Petersburg. A joint effort of the city and the St. Petersburg Area Chamber of Commerce, Greenhouse provides business counseling, training, networking and access to capital and credit for startups.
- The University of Central Florida Business Incubator network, with offices throughout the Corridor, was recently named the state’s first Soft Landings International Incubator. In the past four years, the center has attracted more than 20 companies to the Corridor from Europe, South America and elsewhere.
- The National Business Incubation Association, which relocated from Ohio to Orlando in 2014, is an umbrella organization for 900 members worldwide. The NBIA expanded its services after moving to Orlando, opening the Global Training Center for Business Incubation and Innovation in Central Florida Research Park.
- University of South Florida Research Park spans 112 acres at USF’s flagship campus in Tampa and focuses primarily on biotechnology, life sciences and entrepreneurship. The Tampa Bay Technology Incubator, located in the research park, includes a state-of-theart wet lab facility. One of its clients, Trash 2 Cash Energy, a spinoff from the University of South Florida, has won awards for developing a way to convert methane gas to a commercially viable liquid hydrocarbon for diesel fuel.
- Hillsborough County has launched its own service to promote entrepreneurship called the Economic Development Innovation Initiative, or ED12, to coordinate resources for attracting talent. ED12 also supports nonprofits with incubation, mentoring, networking and second-stage growth acceleration.
- The non-profit Tampa Bay WaVE supports more than 100 tech startups out of its FirstWaVE Venture Center in downtown Tampa, with 16,000 square feet of coworking space, mentors, access to venture capital sources and other services, including meetings and seminars.
- The Clearwater Technology Alliance, a group of technology executives and owners, was founded in 2012 to promote the fastgrowing cluster of companies branded as the Clearwater Technology District Downtown. The district boasts more than 50 software and IT companies.
- The Florida Economic Gardening Institute, or GrowFL, was created by the Legislature in 2009 and is the only statewide group focused exclusively on promoting what are known as second-stage growth companies. The institute is led by UCF’s Business Incubator founder Tom O’Neal, executive director, and Tammie Nemecek, director.
- The Sid Martin Biotechnology Incubator at the University of Florida is a pioneer in the state’s effort to spur development in the high-risk field, where 85% of startups typically fail early. Launched in 1990, the incubator has seen 86% of companies graduating from its program stay in business for more than five years. So far it’s garnered more than $1.2 billion in investments, contracts and grants.
- The Florida High Tech Corridor is the umbrella organization for the Corridor, celebrating its 20th anniversary, promoting hightech clusters across 23 of the state’s 67 counties. The Florida High Tech Corridor Council oversees the initiative, led by the three leading research institutions, UCF, USF and UF. In fiscal 2014, the council invested $10.8 million in economic development, research and other initiatives supporting the tech industry, including almost $5 million in its Matching Grants Research Program, which was matched by $11.4 million in cash and in-kind services from companies.
Electronic Arts helped put the Orlando area on the map in the world of electronic gaming with its EA Tiburon sports video-game studio, creator of global bestsellers Madden NflFootball and PGA Tour Golf. What started out as a three-person team in 1994 has grown to more than 800 artists, graphic designers and tech whizzes. The parent company in Redwood City, Calif., reported more than $4.3 billion in revenue and $804 million in profit for fiscal 2015, driven in part by expansion across multiple platforms. Digital-game revenue soared to a record $2.23 billion, and more than 165 million monthly active users of its mobile titles in the final quarter drove that category to a record $524 million. Daryl Holt, GM of EA Tiburon’s Sports studio in Maitland, says the Corridor and its growing gamer community attract top job prospects from throughout the nation.
Other Notable Companies
- Trendy Entertainment, Gainesville: Founded in 2010 by UF engineering grad Augi Lye, Trendy has outlasted other startups in the field with hits such as Dungeon Defenders and other downloadable titles. The Gainesville-based firm now employs more than 100 people and has opened a number of satellite offices.
- Phyken Media, Orlando: A 2010 spinoff from an information technology firm in Orlando, Phyken is an independent producer specializing in media and mobile game development, with titles such as Wizard Ops Tactics available on Apple iOS and Android Google Play.
- N-Space, Orlando: One of the pioneers of video console-game development was founded in 1994 and has churned out multiple-million selling franchise hits such as Rugrats: Search for Reptar, and Duke Nukem: Time to Kill, and is now branching into independent role-playing game production.
- Florida Interactive Entertainment Academy: Students can earn a master’s of interactive entertainment from UCF’s graduate video game school in 16 months. With the help of Electronic Arts, the Economic Development Commission and other local businesses, the downtown Orlando academy opened in 2005.
When the Silicon Valley startup Malwarebytes was searching for a second U.S. location in 2014, it settled on Clearwater, where a cluster of cybersecurity firms has emerged. The 7-year-old company opened the Clearwater location last year after it received its first $30 million in outside financing for expansion. Despite decades of work to develop and refine software to protect computers from virus attacks and hackers, newer companies such as Malwarebytes are finding plenty of business competing against the likes of Microsoft.
Finding enough tech talent to fill positions can be a struggle. To help meet that need and better coordinate research and development, the Florida Legislature tapped the University of South Florida to open a Florida Center for Cybersecurity at its Tampa campus last year. The center, which operates as an information hub and focal point for universities and businesses in internet security statewide, also helped USF develop an online program for a master’s degree in cybersecurity.
Sri Sridharan, the center’s managing director, says surveys show that cybersecurity job openings outnumber qualified candidates by more than 10 to 1 nationwide, and the Tampa area is a good recruiting market because of MacDill Air Force Base and the large number of young military veterans in the region looking for civilian careers. One of the area’s fast-growing cybersecurity firms, Tampa-based Cybrix Group, founded in 2002, is a notable local example of a veteran owned small business in the security field.
Also in the region, Tampa Bay-based ThreatTrack Security recently expanded in Clearwater by leasing a 30,000-sq.-ft. facility. ThreatTrack has more than 300 employees worldwide, with Clearwater home to nearly 150, working on a range of products and services including antiviral software to detect and defend against internet attacks.
Geri Lopez, economic development director for Clearwater, says that while cybersecurity firms have clustered in the eastern part of town near the Clearwater Mall, downtown has 600 or more high-tech workers of all types, and the city is working to encourage more interaction between all the various businesses, civic groups and service providers.
“We have a strong group of companies doing software, and we’ve built a strategy to encourage them to grow and expand,” says Lopez. “Many of them don’t even know each other.” The new consortium is called Clearwater Business Spark!
Cybersecurity firm ReliaQuest expanded its Tampa headquarters this year, opening a 24- hour Security Operations Center with 55 IT jobs paying an average of $63,669 a year, an expansion supported in part by $330,000 in local and state incentives.
Sypris Electronics, also Tampa-based, opened a Cyber Collaboration Center at its Tampa headquarters in 2011.
Engineering & Software
When the distinctive Apple logo went up on a sign outside the Orlando University Center near UCF last year, the tech world took notice. Apple quietly built out a 14,000-sq.-ft. office without a news release or announcement of any kind.
Apple, notoriously quiet during early stages of product design and development, still has not commented about its Orlando facility. But job postings and engineers hired for the site indicate that the company is working on graphics-oriented projects, possibly a proprietary GPU, or graphics processor unit, the advanced electronic circuits used in everything from game consoles to mobile phones.
The opening of the Orlando hardware location came on the heels of Apple’s $356-million purchase in 2012 of AuthenTec, a Melbourne-based firm that specializes in biometric sensors for mobile devices.
Other Notable Companies
- NanoSpective, Orlando: The company specializes in materials science with tools that allow it to probe down to the atomic nanoscale level, analyzing materials from ceramics to polymers and products such as semiconductors for everything from quality control to patent protection.
- VaxDesign, Orlando: The pioneer in designing, developing and manufacturing models of the human immune systems for rapid vaccine testing and resolving complex biological problems was acquired by French drug giant SanofiPasteur in 2010 for $60 million.
Higher Ed & Research
A Solid Foundation in Research
In the Tampa-St. Petersburg area, major institutions include the USF medical school, Moffitt Cancer Center, the USF Center for Advanced Medical Learning and Simulation, Baxter International, SRI International and USF’s College of Marine Science.
In metro Orlando, dozens of key players range from Florida Hospital’s Nicholson Center for Surgical Advancement in Celebration, to the new $53-million UF Research and Academic Center in downtown Orlando. Alachua County, UF’s home base, has one of the largest biomedical clusters in the state, with more than 1,000 workers in Progress Corporate Park alone, and numerous spinoff companies from UF’s internationally acclaimed Sid Martin Biotech Incubator.
- Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach is a nonprofit independent institution offering more than 70 degree programs and is the world’s largest fully accredited university specializing in aviation and aerospace.
- Full Sail University in Winter Park offers 78 degree programs on a 212-acre campus. The digital arts specialty school has 18,000 students and more than 50,000 graduates, many of whom have gone on to careers in the digital arts, music and film industries.
- Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa is the only National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive cancer center based in Florida, specializing in peerreviewed research, programs in basic, translational and population research, cancer prevention, diagnosis and therapy, along with programs to educate health care professionals and the public, and to serve underserved populations.
- Nemours Children’s Hospital in Orlando provides advanced pediatric specialty care, with a 24-hour ER designed especially for children, and participates in research in numerous health fields from asthma to neurodevelopmental disorders.
- The Florida Institute of Technology, founded in 1958 in Melbourne, is the only independent technology university in the Southeast. Florida Tech has a 130-acre campus, more than 9,000 students, including about 2,000 in campus housing, and more than two dozen research centers and institutes.
- All Children’s Hospital Johns Hopkins Medicine in St. Petersburg is part of Johns Hopkins overall research efforts and conducts more than 150 clinical trials each year. The hospital established a Clinical and Translational Research Organization to facilitate clinical and other research in pediatrics.
- UCF’s College of Medicine, established in 2006, is one of the first U.S. medical schools in decades to be built. In 2014, the program enrolled its sixth class, and its second class at full enrollment of 120 students. The college is an integral part of the growing Medical City at Lake Nona, and in 2014, it won 27 grants totaling $8.03 million.
- USF Health, which includes the colleges of medicine, nursing, public health and pharmacy, received 87 NIH grants totaling $58.7 million in 2014.
- The University of Florida has 14 research centers and institutes in the Corridor, including the Interdisciplinary Center for Biotechnology Research and the Clinical and Translational Science Institute. In 2010, Orlando Health, and UF Health teamed up to form joint clinical programs in pediatrics, neuroscience, oncology, women’s health, transplantation and cardiovascular medicine. The partnership provides undergraduate and graduate medical residency and fellowship training at Orlando Health, and allows Orlando Health physicians and patients to be part of clinical trials through UF’s clinical research program. UF Health Cancer Center at Orlando Health launched in January 2014. The center focuses on developing individualized molecular-based targeted oncology therapies. The joint oncology program offers clinical trial collaborations and comprehensive cancer services. In 2014, UF received 313 NIH grants totaling $129.7 million.
- Florida Polytechnic University, established in 2012 in Lakeland, is Florida’s only public university dedicated to science, technology, engineering and mathematics. The school features two colleges: The college of innovation and technology and the college of engineering.
- Kevin Hourigan, CEO, Bayshore Solutions, Tampa: Hourigan led the web design firm through the dot-com shakeout of the early 2000s to solid growth today in digital development and services, recently partnering with the Hillsborough County tax collector to produce software for a new custom mobile service for the county office.
- Rachid Zahidi, president/COO, Sentinel Background Checks, Brandon (near Tampa): Zahidi has a team of a dozen employees who do advanced level background screening for potential hires in fields ranging from banking to technology.
- Sean Burke, founder, KiteDesk, Tampa: The serial entrepreneur has attracted more than $4 million in VC for KiteDesk. He says the company has created a platform for sales reps that slashes prospecting time for leads by 70%.
- Phillip R. Davis, founder, ThunderCloud Resources, Tampa: The startup streamlines the task of collecting, organizing and researching discovery documents and electronic files for law firms.
- Brenda Prenitzer, CEO, NanoSpective, Orlando: The firm, in the UCF Research Park, includes a number of UCF grads, specializing in analysis of nanoscale materials as small as atoms and microelectronic parts for quality control, patent protection and research.
- Carlos Carbonell, founder/CEO, Echo Interaction Group, Orlando: The developer of software applications for mobile devices, launched in 2008, has created more than 70 Android and iOS apps for dozens of clients in fields such as education, health, real estate and government.
- Bryan da Frota, co-founder/CEO, Prioria Robotics, Gainesville: Prioria has built a base of defense, commercial and public safety government clients for the company’s unmanned aerial systems and related engineering services and products, notably the Maveric, a carbon fiber unmanned aerial vehicle.
- Augi Lye, founder, Trendy Entertainment and ToneRite, Gainesville: The scientist-engineer and UF grad also created HackerHouse, an innovation hub in Gainesville for inventors working on prototypes of products while being mentored.
- Josh Brown, founder/ CEO, Power DMS, Orlando: The company has more than 60 employees and 1,400-plus customers using its proprietary software for paperless document and procedure management.
- Kunal Patel, CEO, Phyken Media, Orlando: An independent boutique developer of the mobile Wizard Ops immersive strategy games using 3-D animation software.
- David Romine, co-founder/CEO, AgileThought, Tampa. The software and mobile application development firm celebrated its 10th anniversary in 2014 by opening an office for 15 new employees in downtown Orlando.
- Ravindra K. Ahuja, founder/CEO, Optym, Gainesville: Ahuja is a former academician turned entrepreneur. His company develops planning and scheduling software, particularly for the railroad, airline, trucking and mining industries.
- Sigrid Cottrell, CEO, HyCarb, Orlando: The firm uses graphene nanoparticles to make batteries charge five times faster and hold the charge longer. It recently launched a crowdfunding campaign for commercialization.
- Daniel J. Scott, executive director, Tampa Bay Technology Forum: The serial entrepreneur and former USF business instructor was hired this year as executive director of the Tampa Bay Technology Forum and is raising the profile of the region as a tech hub.
- Tim Jones, founder/ CEO, Cybrix Group, Tampa: Cybrix is Jones’ second tech startup. He is a director of the Tampa Bay Defense Alliance networking and support organization.
- Orrett Davis, executive director, Orlando Tech Association: Davis co-founded a business accelerator program in Orlando, worked as an analyst at an early-stage venture capital firm and holds an MBA in entrepreneurship from Rollins College plus a B.S. in biologybiotechnology from the University of Florida.
- Gregg Pollack, founder, Envy Labs, Code School and Starter Studio, Orlando: The new business startup program in Orlando just completed its third three-month crash program, which leverages sponsorships and mentors to help entrepreneurs get startups running.
Amenities & Events
Since its modest beginnings in the 1980s, the Museum of Science and Industry in Tampa has grown to become the largest science center in the Southeast and fifth-largest in the nation. The facility now spans 74 acres. While the non-profit has struggled with finances in recent years, local leaders are committed to its future and exploring ways to ensure long-term success, possibly in a new, higher profile venue downtown.
With more than 450 interactive exhibits on everything from space and astronomy to robotics and gaming, MOSI gives visitors a hands-on feel for the creative side of technology. The center includes a NASA-themed exhibit, a space for budding inventors called Idea Zone and an exhibition called 3D Printing the Future, with demonstrations and hands-on creation of 3-D objects. MOSI’s popular Florida Hospital IMAX Dome Theater is featuring a 45-minute documentary called Journey to Space, an inspirational look at space flight’s past and the potential of future missions to Mars.
Events in the Corridor
The Tampa Bay Technology Forum, which brings together leaders from hundreds of large and small companies, government and civic groups, hosts or participates in 10 to 15 events nearly every month, from meetups to major conferences highlighting the region and its assets.
BarCamps, eclectic meetups of tech geeks and entrepreneurs, have sprung up worldwide in the past decade, and the daylong semi-informal gatherings have devoted followers in the Corridor, including in Orlando and notably in Tampa Bay, where sessions held on the campus of the University of South Florida, with speakers and space for networking, have attracted as many as 1,000 attendees.
The Orlando Electronic Interactive Entertainment Convention, or Otronicon, celebrated its 10th anniversary at the Orlando Science Center this year as a showcase for local digital media. It’s a place where the public can meet and learn about some of the 30,000 professionals working in the 3-D modeling, animation and game design fields in the Orlando area.
Ed-Tech Hack-a-Thon in Gainesville brings together hackers, programmers, graphic designers, tech mentors and investors for a weekend of app development in the education field, with an added twist: It offers a competition with cash prizes.
TIE: The Indus Entrepreneurs — The prominent global support network based in Silicon Valley opened a branch in Tampa in 2012, and last year TIE-Tampa obtained full nonprofit status. Headed by philanthropists, executives and entrepreneurs from India, the organization is ramping up networking meetings and events in Tampa, Orlando and others sites in the Florida High Tech Corridor.
- 19,914 -- Number of technology companies
- 247,330 -- Number of technology jobs
- $79,822 -- Average salary at tech companies
Tampa / St. Petersburg / Clearwater
- Population: 2.9 million
- Strengths: Bioscience, Medical Technology, Defense, USF Medical School, Marine Science
- Notable: Tampa’s defense sector includes MacDill Air Force Base and U.S. Central Command. A cluster of medical device manufacturers has a strong presence in northern Pinellas County.
- Population: 273,377
- Strengths: Bioscience, Medical Technology, Aviation, UF Medical School
- Notable: The Corridor’s three major public universities — UF, UCF and USF — were awarded 239 patents last year and garnered more than $197 million from the National Institute of Health.
Orlando / Kissimmee / Sanford
- Population: 2.3 million
- Strengths: Bioscience, Medical Technology, Defense, Optics, Photonics, UCF Medical School, Simulation, Digital Media
- Notable: Metro Orlando ranks as one of the top four photonics hubs nationwide, along with San Jose, Calif., Rochester, N.Y., and Tucson, Ariz. The region is also a hotbed for modeling and simulation, hosting the National Center for Simulation.
Palm Bay / Melbourne / Titusville
- Population: 556,885
- Strengths: Aviation/Aerospace, Bioscience, Medical Technology, Defense, Marine Science
- Notable: All the leading rocket makers and related launch firms have significant operations in Brevard County, including NASA’s United Launch Alliance, Boeing, Northrop Grumman, XCOR Aerospace and SpaceX.