Director of Incubation Services – The University of Florida
When people ask, “Why Gainesville?” I want to tell them the real question is “Why not Gainesville?”
The city and surrounds has an amazing array of talent, an outstanding entrepreneurial support network, award-winning incubators, a Top 10 landgrant university, and tons of regional assets in the world of startups.
I think of the Gainesville airport, currently undergoing expansion, and of the Gainesville Innovation District, whose development I have the privilege of directing alongside my colleague Jim O’Connell. This is where UF Innovate’sThe Hub is located, but soon there will also be a food-truck park, a boutique hotel, condominium housing, student housing, parking garages, and other amenities. This is all to enhance the entrepreneurial atmosphere that The Hub first established when it opened its doors in 2011, following in the footsteps of its sister facility, Sid Martin Biotech, which opened in 1995.
Both The Hub and Sid Martin Biotech provide high-quality, specialized space, educational training programs, connections to venture capital investment dollars, and networking with support businesses to promote startup company growth and success.
The Hub is 106,000-square-foot space, midway between campus and downtown that has served a variety of companies, plus hosted programs and events, including our “3rd Thursdays @ The Hub,” a networking celebration on the third Thursday of each month that brings together entrepreneurs, clients, support groups, and area service organizations. As a mixed-use incubator (one of the largest in the Southeast United States), The Hub can host 40-60 companies at any given time, and I’m proud to say that it won the InBIA’s Global Mixed-Use Incubator of the Year in 2018.
Sid Martin Biotech in Alachua is a full-service incubator, with greenhouses and laboratories for biomedical/biotechnology startups. The incubator twice earned the title Best Global Incubator of the Year by the International Business Innovation Association, in 2014 and again in 2017. Sid Martin has served more than 100 startup companies since it opened, and its companies have attracted more than $8.5 billion in capital investment and merger/acquisition dollars, most of that in the past 10 years.
UF has been a leader in business incubation, and the UF Incubation Services is one of the largest incubation systems in the United States, providing outstanding advisement and mentoring through the Advisory Boards at both incubators. These advisors represent a broad cross-section of individuals with specifi c sector and general business experience. All the advisors volunteer their time to assist our startup clients in the growth of their companies.
UF Innovate’s Incubation Services provides a portal for our client startups to access UF’s plethora of services and expertise, from the equipment labs to the research facilities to faculty experts. Of course, UF isn’t alone in its support of entrepreneurship in the Greater Gainesville area. The Gainesville Area Chamber of Commerce just released its “2025 Plan,” and entrepreneurship is a huge part of that. Efforts are underway to continue to build on the amazing foundation in the area for startup companies in information technology, biotechnology, and food sciences.
UF Innovate’s Incubation Services is just one answer to the question, “Why Gainesville?” But again, I think the better question is, “Why not?”