UF Innovate
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UF Innovate

Make Your Facility Eventful

Photo from 3rd Thursday at The Hub — Festivus Festival (Holiday 2019 edition). (Photo was taken by UF Innovate’s marketing department)

We had three major events at our facility in one week. (Originally, this read “ this week,” but my editor is a bit behind.) Regardless, the three events were amazing, and they furthered the substantiation that YOU NEED TO BE INVOLVED IN YOUR COMMUNITY! (Yes, I’m yelling. I want you to hear this.)

Your incubation program should be a “hub of activity,” a beehive of business, an enclave for entrepreneurship, and whatever additional alliteration that means you’re busy, open, and inviting.

The first event was “ Standing InnOvation” (Get it? Get it? Well, I thought it was clever.) This was our annual recognition of all inventors and innovators who have submitted an Intellectual Property disclosure or licensed a technology through our Tech Licensing office in the calendar year.

We had well over 300 inventions disclosed and more than 100 licensed. (The University of Florida is a large, active research institution.) More than 150 innovators attended.

We gave awards for best inventions of the year (in seven categories) and awarded one innovator as the Innovator of the Year. Attendees ate and drank and talked and, let me say it, NETWORKED. (Sorry, yelling again.) Yes, people actually spoke with other people.

The President of the university, the Vice President of Research, and the entire Tech Licensing group was in attendance. All in all, it was excellent “exposure” for the incubator and a great use of our lobby and foyer.

The second event was “3rd Thursday @ The Hub,” a gathering for entrepreneurs, held on the third Thursday of each month. We had music, refreshments, food, and even a “pop-up printing company,” which printed T-shirts as you watched!

(That guy was working hard, as everyone wanted a shirt. We had 140+ show up for this event, and, once again, the best thing was the NETWORKING! (Sorry, shouting.) More people were speaking with each other, talking about their businesses, exploring new partnerships and possibilities.

This particular event is open to the community, and we had people from the Chamber of Commerce, City Government, County Government, and other groups attend the event and encourage entrepreneurs. It’s outstanding exposure for our incubator and great use of our lobby and foyer (again!)!

The third event was the EDIT Pitch 2019. ( EDIT is Entrepreneurial Diversity in Information Technology.) This class is a “pre-incubation” effort to encourage minorities and women to engage in entrepreneurial ventures in IT.

A group of 7 wonderful individuals pitched their concepts to a crowd of 32 people. All received plenty of encouragement, solid critiques and quality suggestions for their business. The presenters pitched great ideas, with concepts on everything from gaming to social enterprise work to online education.

The panel of judges, each with expertise, provided insightful observations and suggestions, all of which were received with gratitude and positivity. Truly, this was entrepreneurship at its finest — people who really want to help, change, and shape the world with their ideas, who were listening to those with experience with the intent to learn, adapt, and make stronger companies.

This third event, too, was magnificent and a perfect use of our facility, per our motto of “We build, grow and support the spirit of entrepreneurship!” And, again, it allowed for lots of NETWORKING! (Back to shouting. Sorry.)

The moral of the story? It’s not enough to just “open your doors,” and it’s not enough to invite people in. You have to go out into the community and let people know you are available to help any and all entrepreneurs (and would-be entrepreneurs!). Not just those in your building.

I know what you’re about to say:

“But we can’t help everyone. We have to work with established businesses!”

Source: You (yes, I’m reading your mind)

I hear you already.

I would counter you need to build a pipeline of potential applicants, and you can do that by promoting NETWORKING. (Yes, NETWORKING is worth all capitals.)

You see, often it just takes the “right connection” to build the next business — the right advice, good mentoring, connections to funding, and introductions to potential customers.

Your program should be the literal hub of networking, providing contacts in support services, venture investment and business talent. You don’t have to provide those services, investments or talents, but you can provide the ecosystem in which those who need find those who have.

Maybe instead of yelling NETWORK I should whisper, “If you build it, [they] will come,” as Kevin Costner heard in the movie Field of Dreams. (I’ll try it.)

If you build opportunities for networking and invite the entrepreneurial community, they will come.

It’s been said, “It’s not what you know; it’s who you know.” As part of your vision and mission, make it a priority to know EVERYONE — and help everyone each other — in your entrepreneurial ecosystem.

Do this by hosting NETWORKING opportunities. Hold events. Build programs. Make introductions. Encourage community participation with your entrepreneurs so you can grow your local/regional network.

If necessary, shout your invitations from the rooftops (or internet, whatever). Or whisper. Whatever brings people together to talk and, you know, NETWORK.

Then your incubator or program will be a hub of activity, a beehive of business, an enclave of entrepreneurship. And you’ll be involved in the good things happening in your community — and they will be too.

Then hold another event to celebrate!

Mark Long has long experienced the intricacies of business incubation, acceleration, coworking spaces, makerspaces and other entrepreneurial assistance venues around the world. He shares his experience, outlook, background knowledge, studies, and observations in regular posts at the IncubatorBlogger. Feel free to follow him there — or follow him and UF Innovate right here.

University of Florida Innovate supports an innovation ecosystem that moves research discoveries from the laboratory to the market, fostering a resilient economy and making the world a better place. Based at one of the nation’s leading research institutions, UF Innovate comprises four organizations: Tech Licensing, Ventures and two business incubators, Sid Martin Biotech and The Hub. Within the UF Office of Research, the three organizations form a comprehensive system to take technologies from the lab to the public, bringing together the five critical elements in the “innovation ecosystem”: facilities, capital, management talent, intellectual property and technology-transfer expertise.

Originally published at http://incubatorblogger.wordpress.com on February 4, 2020.

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UF Innovate

UF Innovate

Tech Licensing, Ventures, Pathways, and Accelerate, which includes two business incubators, The Hub and Sid Martin Biotech. We build business on innovation.