A few years ago, when I was first exploring Tallahassee's seven hills, before I’d figured out the difference between Tennessee and Mahan or, more complicated still, Macomb, Railroad, and Wannish, I wrote an article about the room by the railroad. I wrote about Tallahassee as I saw it, through the eyes of a newcomer, someone who had moved from a metro of 4,500,000 to a metro of 370,000 while my wife took on the challenge of earning a Phd. I didn’t know it at the time, but I was writing about the room where I’d spend the next four years of my life, working days and nights and weekends now and then to help people believe in things bigger than themselves.
Fast forward and Domi, true to its name, has become a home. Like others searching for a like-minded community in a new place, I found a family here. I learned to lead here. Indeed, I grew up here. It has been my greatest honor to help shape and execute Domi’s mission. The results have created a strong foundation for all that comes next. Since our opening, Domi member companies have collectively raised $5.4m in investment and grants, fueling this city's growing fire of innovation and entrepreneurship.
Notably, Domi began as a meetup group, gaining momentum by gathering people. We've kept that going each and every year, organizing or hosting 465 events at Domi Station since the doors opened. From data science meetups to hackathons with Visit Tallahassee and Florida A&M, these events engaged and, I can only hope, inspired thousands of North Florida residents of all ages, backgrounds, and interests.
Without a doubt, Tallahassee's visibility as a startup community has increased, earning shoutouts as a Top 50 City for Entrepreneurs and strengthening connections to major startup hubs in places like Raleigh/Durham, Atlanta, Chattanooga, and Miami. Over the last few years, Domi's website alone has collected over 163,000 views. Don't let anyone tell you different: there are eyes on this city.
People have grown more confident, more empowered, and fallen more in love with Tallahassee. Even those who have left, or will leave, often feel a certain debt to this community because it believed in them, embraced them, and let them have an impact. If I had to list all of the companies and entrepreneurs creating that impact, this post would go on and on. Amazingly, Domi's incubator programs--flagships like Get Started, TCAP, and PowerUP--have engaged with 113 early-stage teams since we opened our doors in 2014. Every one of them was important to the movement.
More than a mere business incubator, I believe Domi has become a place where Tallahassee challenges itself and its history, however unjust, to go above and beyond, to defy stereotypes, and to become a community worth calling home. I'm most proud to say that over the last two years, 50% of our Get Started participants were people of color and 40% were women. Domi has become a place where people who wouldn’t have otherwise met meet. And perhaps that, however humble, is actually its most notable achievement.
Thank you to Micah, Jake, David, and John for welcoming me to the family. Thank you to our Board of Directors for your mentorship. Thank you to Sabrina and Dominick for having my back. Thank you to our sponsors and partners who believe, organizations like Leon County, Florida A&M University, and Florida State University. Thank you, Tallahassee, for letting me be a part of this amazing moment in your history. I cannot wait to follow along as you continue to build your future.
I’ll close the same way I closed that first article because, in spite of all the metrics and momentum of the last few years, some fundamental things remain true, and more work remains.
“It's pretty clear that nobody is here by accident. Everyone is right where they need to be, and if they work together they might do more than just build businesses—they might help change the way we talk about an entire community.”