Hundreds hear successes of UF startup companies
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — How far can a technology startup go with the help of angel investors? Pretty far.
The University of Florida’s seventh annual innovation showcase on Thursday featured 14 UF startup technology companies and a panel discussion with three successful startup entrepreneurs whose companies each were bought for more than $100 million.
“Entrepreneurs play a big role,” Jane Muir, associate director of UF’s Office of Technology Licensing said. “They are an important part of our eco-system.”
The showcase, called “A Celebration of Innovation,” at the Hilton University of Florida Conference Center drew more than 300 people, including entrepreneurs, investors, elected officials, university staff and students, to promote rising UF-affiliated startup companies and to establish a solid network between innovators and investors.
This year’s showcase celebrated the fertility of the region for technology firms, such as the arrival and planned expansion of India-based information technology company, MindTree, from 80 to 400 employees.
“It has grown way beyond the University of Florida,” UF President Bernie Machen said in his opening remarks. “The real celebration of innovation is the creativity and entrepreneurship shooting up all over this North Central area.”
The Office of Technology Licensing received 324 invention disclosures and generated a record 79 licenses and options last year on $644 million in research conducted at UF.
Last year alone, 15 new companies were created. Muir said they hope to double that number in the years to come.
The panel, which included Al Kern of Pasteuria Bioscience, Lou Oberndorf, of Medical Education Technologies Inc., and Randy Scott, who founded Novamin Technology, discussed the beginning stages of their companies, stressing that entrepreneurs needed to stay flexible to change.
“Startup companies are like sailboats,” Scott said to the audience. “See where the winds are today and how you can harness them.”
Following the discussion, representatives of each of the 14 startups presented their businesses during 15-minute break-out sessions, giving investors and other entrepreneurs a closer look at the each company.
“The message we are trying to get out today is that our community is a wonderful source of innovation and entrepreneurship,” Muir said. “Even though it might be small in terms of size, we are very big in terms of what we do with this innovation and the impact that these innovations are having on the world.”
As part of the celebration, Machen awarded Oberndorf the S. Clark Butler Entrepreneur of the Year Award.