Dan Rua, Runnin’ Down a Dream in Hogtown
I remember my first day in Gainesville, move-in day at Hume Hall in the summer of 1986. I was an “Apple kid”, dreaming about Apple’s startup story, moving in with my Apple II+ and I was lucky enough to land the same dorm as my seventh grade friend, high school best friend, and eventual wife, Melissa. After some crazy years at UF — including toga, a serial killer lockdown, an APPLE IIGS upgrade, and too many hours in the Union game room and computer lab — we graduated in 1991 and got married at the Herlong Mansion in Micanopy. We left Gainesville behind us to learn from a tech leader (IBM) in Research Triangle Park (RTP), North Carolina. Little did we know at the time how our dreams would come full circle to Gainesville, for us and so many families like us, hooked on technology and startups.
While in RTP I was impressed with its growing entrepreneurial community, driven by Fred Hutchison and so many others via CED, UNC and more. In fact, startups are what drew me to UNC Chapel Hill for graduate school, focused on entrepreneurship and venture capital. Upon graduation I connected with Silicon Valley venture capital fund, Draper Fisher Jurvetson, and founder Tim Draper who had the crazy idea that entrepreneurs can come from anywhere; so the money should go to where the entrepreneurs are. We moved to Northern Virginia — another entrepreneurial hotbed — to help Tim launch Draper Atlantic, investing in high-growth technology companies up and down the East Coast from Florida to New York. We backed and built over 30 companies, with me leading investments across the Southeast — a greenfield for national quality venture capital. After getting lucky with some big exits, I had the opportunity to continue my dream, moving closer to Florida family, raising our young family and starting the first institutional VC fund based in Gainesville, Inflexion Partners.
Fast forward a couple decades and the move back to Gainesville was the best decision Melissa and I ever made. Backing Florida companies like Grooveshark (music streaming pioneer), IZEA (influencer marketing pioneer) and CallMiner (speech analytics pioneer) has been a thrill, and current company Admiral (getadmiral.com) has the potential to be the most exciting of all. Raising two
young daughters in Gainesville’s supportive and innovative culture — plus some back-to-back Gator championships — has been a blessing. In the process, we’ve met amazing innovators and made lifelong friends. That said, my family’s story is just one of many “runnin’ down a dream” in Hogtown. Now more than ever, you don’t have to live in San Francisco, LA, Boston or New York to chase your startup dreams… Gainesville offers a combo of innovation, talent, energy and quality of life that simply can’t be matched.