The Entrepreneur

Agapitus “Augi” Lye


Augi Lye at the “HackerHouse” in the Duckpond neighborhood downtown.

Erica Brough/Staff Photographer
Published: Friday, March 29, 2013 at 2:59 p.m.
Last Modified: Friday, March 29, 2013 at 2:59 p.m.

From classical music to video games, Augi Lye seemingly can do it all.

Facts

Downtown affiliation:
CEO of Trendy Entertainment and owner of ToneRite.
His contributions to downtown:
By providing space and mentorship to young developers, Lye helps pave the way for new startup companies and products.
What he expects to see next:
The success of current startups have laid the foundation for Gainesville to become the next big tech hub in America, he says, expecting the town to be in the same sentence as Silicon Valley; Boulder, Colo.; and Austin, Texas.

The 33-year-old entrepreneur creates successful startup companies, maintains a top-selling smartphone app and earned an $18.2 million investment — all while keeping an eye out for future developers and the future of downtown Gainesville.

“If you want something to be big, I can make it big,” he says.

Lye, who plays the violin and cello, originally attended the University of Florida on a music scholarship. After dropping out to record an album and tour the country, Lye returned to finish degrees in computer and electrical engineering. After graduation, he worked for Prioria Robotics, where he designed the vision processing algorithms for cameras used on the company's drone airplanes.

Lye then turned his attentions and talents back to music when he designed a device that breaks in stringed instruments. The ToneRite produces vibrations designed to take the place of many years of playing, after which the instrument produces a better sound. As owner of ToneRite, which has offices in the Duckpond neighborhood, Lye and his staff have sold thousands of devices to musicians around the world.

Music also led Lye to Jeremy Stieglitz, a pianist who wrote music for video games. As friends and networks merged, Trendy Entertainment was born, with Lye and Stieglitz at the helm. The video game development studio created Dungeon Defenders, a high-selling app that led to an $18.2 million investment from a New York venture capital firm.

Trendy is headquartered in the old Opera House downtown and boasts about 40 employees. That number should grow soon, as Lye and Stieglitz figure out how to best use the investment.

Lye enjoys bringing his investors to Gainesville and envisions downtown becoming “the next big tech hub in America,” he says. The overwhelming abundance of talent and youthful energy can best be experienced with a simple morning at Starbucks.

“Every other person is talking about the new iPhone app they're developing or the new software they're making,” he says. “Someone else will be pitching to an investor about this new company, and it's all bubbling and frothing.”

The close-knit and bustling technology startup scene downtown means a potential investor is usually only a friend or two away, he says.

“A lot of it is connecting the dots,” Lye says. “Your ability to get noticed fast is incredible because everyone knows everyone here.”

Instead of traveling to New York and San Francisco, where Trendy maintains smaller branch offices, Lye tries to bring investors to Gainesville to showcase the local opportunities.

“People talk about Silicon Valley, of course, and Boulder and Austin, but in that same sentence, I want people to start saying Gainesville,” he says. “The word is starting to get out, and we're starting to get noticed. I'd rather be here than anywhere else.”

Hackerhouse: Birthplace for ideas ready to launch

With a bit of MTV's The Real World mixed in, Augi Lye is taking business incubators like the Florida Innovation Hub to the next level.

Lye is searching for eight incredible engineers to live, eat, breathe and work in a house together to create viable prototypes of products that could be ready for investors. Anyone with an idea is welcome, says Lye, who is funding and organizing the program.

Lye is no stranger to helping engineers and developers. Roughly six months ago, he worked with downtown developer Ken McGurn to secure the Sun Center's basement for Hackerspace, a nonprofit organization that encourages engineers and artists to create, work and hang out. The membership-driven organization opens it doors on Tuesday evenings to anyone interested.

HackerHouse is the next level, Lye says. The house, a beautiful Victorian at 205 NE Sixth Ave., is being renovated to welcome its new residents in mid-May, or a week or so after University of Florida final exams.

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