Innovation Hub continues to create jobs, attract investment


In this Feb. 13, 2012 file photo, Jamie Grooms, CEO of the Florida Institute for the Commercialization of Public Research, checks on Aidan Augustin, far right, and Gabriel Busto of the startup company Feathr at the University of Florida Innovation Hub.

Doug Finger/The Gainesville Sun
Published: Monday, August 26, 2013 at 9:02 p.m.
Last Modified: Monday, August 26, 2013 at 9:02 p.m.

For a company that started with two college students brainstorming around their pingpong table, Feathr has come a long way in less than two years.

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In this Feb. 13, 2012 file photo, Jamie Grooms, CEO of the Florida Institute for the Commercialization of Public Research, checks on Aidan Augustin, far right, and Gabriel Busto of the startup company Feathr at the University of Florida Innovation Hub.

Doug Finger/The Gainesville Sun

One of the first tenants to move into the Innovation Hub at the University of Florida, Feathr — a company that started developing electronic business cards and has moved on to developing an app for event organizers — today has eight full-time employees and three part-timers.

Aidan Augustin, co-founder of Feathr, said his company wouldn’t have gotten to that point without the help of the Innovation Hub.

“The Innovation Hub was a huge factor in our early growth and opportunities we had,” Augustin said.

During its first 20 months, the Innovation Hub business incubator has spawned 250 new jobs and attracted more than $10 million in private investments, according to a report to the U.S. Economic Development Administration.

The report, which covers the period from when the Hub opened in October 2011 through the end of June, is part of a requirement of the $8.2 million EDA grant used to help build the 48,000-square-foot Innovation Hub on Southwest Second Avenue between UF and downtown Gainesville. UF contributed $5 million to complete the project.

“The Hub is a powerful job creation engine for Florida,” said Jane Muir, who runs the Innovation Hub and is associate director of the Office of Licensing Technology at UF. “Most importantly, though, the Hub is a place that is turning ideas into products that improve people’s lives.”

Muir said it is one of the only incubators of its kind to house a university office of technology licensing, patent attorneys, accountants and investment firms that specialize in startup support. It also houses the offices of UF Tech Connect and the Florida Institute for the Commercialization of Public Research.

The three-story building now has about two dozen startup companies as tenants. At the Hub, students work on projects they hope will spawn startup companies that eventually will move out into their own space. The bathrooms have showers because tenants often spend the night working on their projects, Muir said.

The Hub is designed to “create collisions” between students, creators, investors, patent attorneys and accountants who specialize in startups. Companies that get their start in an incubator have an 87 percent success rate, and 78 percent of those stay in the community, Muir said. Typically, 80 percent of startup companies outside of incubator support fail.

Some of the “graduate” companies the Hub helped get started include:

Shadow Health, which developed an interactive, animated training simulator that allows medical and nursing students to interact with virtual patients by computer.

Gamedayr, a company that publishes online reports for college sports fans.

One current tenant, the online gift registry MonkeyWish Inc., just signed a deal with Evite and expects to hire 30 to 40 more people by the end of this year.

Feathr recently received a $150,000 grant from the Tampa Bay Chapter of TiE, The Indus Entrepreneurs, to develop its mobile app for event organizers.

Moving into the Hub exposed Augustin and Feathr co-founder Neal Ormsbee to their first mentors, several advisory board members and their first investor.

They also found their law firm and accounting firm through the Hub.

“The nexus of entrepreneurial talent and support was very beneficial to us,” Augustin said. “We never would have made it to this point otherwise.”

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