Starter Space the latest to give local startups a lift

Eric Pheterson, with GatorLab shows candidates around the offices on Wednesday.

Matt Stamey/The Gainesville Sun
Published: Friday, February 7, 2014 at 5:59 p.m.
Last Modified: Friday, February 7, 2014 at 5:59 p.m.

Think like-minded techies under one roof, racing against time to turn ideas into fully functioning companies.


About Hobnob

What: Invitation-only alternative career fair for students to network with local tech companies. Event includes barbecue, beverages and live entertainment by local bands.

When: Thursday
5 to 6 p.m.: Meet and greet
6 to 7 p.m.: Company fast pitches
7 to 8 p.m.: Networking and closing remarks

Where: Starter Space and covered open area of the old Firestone Garage, 308 W. University Ave.

Starter Space, a hybrid between an incubator and co-working space located at 308 W. University Ave., is the latest hub in Gainesville to harness talent and work to get companies off the ground. As part of their mission, Starter Space is hosting some new initiatives intended to help local startups. Among the initiatives:

GatorLab, which launches Sunday, aims to harness talent from student entrepreneurs interested in the tech realm. GatorLab involves developing an idea into a business within three months. About 20 chosen students will make up teams of two to four and will be given one of five projects to work on.

Business Hatchery, an effort led by Starter Space's co-founder Quang Tran, will give non-tech and social entrepreneurs a place to start their companies while immersed in Starter Space's fast-paced environment. Business Hatchery is expected to launch in the near future.

Hobnob, an initiative planned by the Gainesville Area Chamber of Commerce, will convert the Starter Space basement and the covered open area of the old Firestone Garage into an informal career fair on Thursday.

"It's not meant to be your traditional career fair," said Susan Davenport, vice president for economic development at the Chamber. "It's really meant to be more of what we think the word ‘hobnob' stands for, and just to mingle socially with these technology companies and to get to know them."

Thirteen companies, including Mobiquity, Grooveshark and Study Edge, will have tables set up to meet with students. Each will present two-minute company pitches starting at 6 p.m.

The event is invite-only, targeting STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) sophomores and juniors from the University of Florida and Santa Fe College.

Davenport said improving Gainesville's economy can benefit the entire state of Florida. One strategy is to retain talent from UF and SF College by showing students what local tech companies have to offer.

Davenport said local technology companies have a common struggle: the need for talent.

Eric Pheterson, Luke McGurrin and Karthik Shanadi, founders of startup companies housed in Starter Space, started GatorLab to fill this void.

Each GatorLab project is an app-based idea that Pheterson, McGurrin and Shanadi came up with.

"The idea was kind of borne out of noticing that there was a talent gap in Gainesville, where there's a lot of startups and other companies that need to find developers and different talent to get their company rolling forward, and it's kind of difficult to find those people right now," Pheterson said.

An idea called HaulBox, for example, is an app offering on-demand storage space with pick-up and drop-off services.

"Think Dropbox for your belongings," Shanadi said.

Because students are given an idea and expected to develop it into a company, they will be named founders, not interns.

"They'll be the original people that bring the companies off the ground," Pheterson said. "The idea is after they've put the time in during this semester, they'll be founders and they'll want to continue bringing the product along further."

Teams involved in GatorLab projects are expected to spend February doing market research, strategizing and starting development. By April, teams should have an app developed and a final demo ready to present to judges and potential investors.

The main focus now is getting GatorLab up and running, Tran said, but Business Hatchery is expected to launch soon. The two programs will share Starter Space's basement.

"What we are very much about is it (a startup company) has to add value to the group as a whole, versus just strictly getting somebody through to fill the desk or simply to make additional income," Tran said.

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