The Blank Slate Effect: From bustling city life to Space Coast, FL



Companies are spending tens of millions of dollars to attract top talent to Space Coast, FL, or the fifth largest high tech region in the United States. More than 20,000 people moved to the region last year and an additional 30,000 are expected to migrate soon.

Five entrepreneurs under the age of 40 share why it is that they moved to the area to join the Central Florida startup scene. Many see the region as a blank slate; young innovators, technologists and creators have limitless opportunities.

Jame Stern, 25, said that as he was researching the opportunity to move back to the Space Coast from New York, he first looked into what was going on with startups in the Orlando and Space Coast area.

“You can start a company any place,” Stern said. “When you’re in a place that has lot of hype and noise, you can’t really focus on the work that you’re doing. It seems everyone has got their heads down working in the Space Coast and they’re putting their time to good use.”

James Stern moved back to Satellite Beach after his first company, a video tools company called Bubble, was acquired in New York. Stern, 25, took part in two accelerator programs in NY and LA. He says he looks forward to contributing his new knowledge to what he considers to be a growing startup scene in his own backyard.

“Companies that I find the most interesting are not companies with a big consumer product but companies that can build products to enable other companies to do work or create,” Stern said. “Building products that can enable these companies — aerospace, commercial and defense — is a huge opportunity.”

Despite the technology opportunities available, Jasmyn Bennett, 27, says the Space Coast could step up its game. She left her job at Nine West shoes and moved to the Space Coast from New York this time last year for an opportunity to work with a plus-sized fashion startup called Society+.

“I do think there are other young people out here, it’s just hard to find them,” Bennett said. “Social engagement is what ultimately creates an attachment to people and place. I am committed to being here for the long haul, but I’d certainly like to see more going on in town.”

The opportunity to build something that does not get exist for a sleepy beach town, however, is attractive to creatives and designers like Founder of HelloNimble, Adam Hoffmann. After more than 15 years in the creative scene of Portland, Oregon, Hoffmann relocated to the Space Coast. Rather than compete with 90 other agencies seeking creative work at major corporations like Nike, Intel and Microsoft, Hoffmann saw great potential in the opportunity to brand the fifth largest high tech region in the country.

“Some of the most innovative products I’ve ever seen are being developed here,” Hoffmann, 30, said. “For someone with a design background, there’s an opportunity to define and tell a lot of great stories in this area that aren’t being told right now.”

The potential to work on cutting-edge technologies and big data in the Space Coast was attractive enough to Harvard University athletes, Nick Scahill and DJ Link, that they moved to the area immediately after college to join the team at Accent Technologies in Melbourne, FL.

“I think more talent would be here if the awareness that it’s 75 degrees here all year round and you can get the same salary you’re going to get elsewhere with no income tax and cheaper cost of living,” Scahill said. “I think it’s just exposure.”

Link said that the culture within Accent Technologies offers a lot of opportunity to young people who want the ability to contribute to a company and be heard. He said the opportunity the technologies at Accent provide were exciting but what’s keeping him around is the culture and innovative environment.

“I want to be a part of a place that has a lot of potential for growth,” Link said. “More than the potential for big data analytics, that growth comes from a great team and culture.”

For more stories on what’s next for emerging high tech companies and startups, be sure to check out www.swellstartups.com.

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