Published: Friday, March 29, 2013 at 2:45 p.m.
Last Modified: Friday, March 29, 2013 at 2:45 p.m.
David Massias, 41, a native of Jamaica, came to Gainesville eight years ago when his wife, Michelle, accepted a residency here in pediatric medicine. He put his experience as a Wall Street venture capital deal broker to work with local startup companies as an investor and mentor with an interest in starting businesses.
CEO of Shadow Health at 15 SW First Ave.
His contributions to downtown:
Moved healthcare training software company into the former American Apparel location.
What he expects to see next:
“More buildings, more residents, more hotels, more service providers — restaurants. And obviously more technology startup companies. I think this place is going to be crawling with entrepreneurs.”
The University of Florida Office of Technology Licensing introduced him to a project in the Computer and Information Science and Engineering lab of professor Ben Lok to train medical students how to conduct examinations using a computerized, animated virtual patient. Massias’ idea was to take the technology from the lab, where it required large screens and head-mounted goggles, and move it to the laptop for wider use. He licensed the technology from UF to form Shadow Health and hired Lok’s graduate assistant, Aaron Kotranza, as his chief technology officer.
The company’s first products are marketed to nursing schools to take advantage of the nursing shortage, with about 2,500 graduate and undergraduate students and 20 schools using the technology. Students perform exams by typing questions and clicking on body parts of the virtual patient, who responds with 1,500 possible answers in the voice of an actress.
Shadow Health incubated in the UF Innovation Hub, built on the site of the former Shands at AGH to nurture technology startups, where it was spread among four offices. In August 2012, it moved into the former home of downtown’s Rice Hardware, which most recently housed American Apparel. After initially occupying 3,000 square feet, the company recently exercised its option on an additional 4,000 square feet, as they approach 40 employees and growing.
Massias says they chose their downtown location for several reasons. About half of their initial employees lived within a mile or two of downtown and wanted to bike to work. They wanted to be able to walk to lunch or order catered meals. They also wanted to be near other software companies such as Grooveshark, RegisterPatient.com, Digital Brands and Trendy Entertainment.
“A lot of times we meet out for lunch or dinner,” he says.
Beyond that, says Massias, downtown is just the place to be: “It’s the heartbeat of the community and we wanted to be in the middle of it,” he says.
“There’s an energy that’s becoming more and more visible daily downtown. That energy is the startup community. There’s more restaurants opening up. There’s a vitality.”