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Florida

Startup Spotlight: SDS Launches Bundl, Takes the Capitol by Storm

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Startup Spotlight: SDS Launches Bundl, Takes the Capitol by Storm

Here at Domi we're big on accelerated impact, and we think you would agree that if there is anything that could afford to move a little faster, it's politics.  As the third largest state in the Union and an economy trending with tech news, Florida has a prime opportunity to blaze a digital trail on both sides of the aisle. Strategic Digital Services, a Tallahassee-based tech company, wants to be the one to blaze that trail. Since launching out of Domi the day our doors opened, SDS has grown from a team of 3 to 7--all in less than a year's time. They credit Domi Station with helping them locate and secure talented team members. Working to bridge the tech gap in professional politics, SDS is guiding Florida’s political industry toward bold strategies and innovative technologies.

21st Century Tools for 21st Century Politics

When it comes to the rough and tumble world of politics, SDS cofounders Matt Farrar and Joe Clements have been around the electoral block. They share nearly two decades of experience in lobbying and campaigning, putting them in a unique position to bring advanced digital, data, and technological methodologies to the Sunshine State.  “We're passionate about the powerful results that can be attained through the use of data and technology," said Farrar. "We pour that passion into our products and our work for clients."

The company's pedigree is impressive. A Panama City native, Farrar spent the last decade in Tallahassee, moving between Timmins Consulting and his own digital media consulting practice. Clements, a Rhodes and Truman Scholar, has worked for not one but two Republican Speakers of the House. In 2014, he was named among the state's 30 under 30 Rising Political Stars by SaintPetersBlog. Transitioning from hustling exclusively for clients, Farrar and Clements caught the entrepreneurial bug and, backed up by their growing team, have spent the last few months focused on the development of Bundl.

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Introducing Bundl, A Better Way to Track Political Contributions

Bundl, which launched Monday, took full advantage of Tallahassee's political klout. The team stormed Downtown, making their way to the Capitol as they handed out bright green invites. For politicos everywhere, Bundl's value proposition is short and sweet: Political contributions made easy. The app upends all-too-common and painstakingly antiquated reporting methods (we're looking at you, spreadsheets). It optimizes the contribution process by tracking and analyzing funds from the moment a check is requested to the moment it lands in the hands of a campaign or cause. The well-designed dashboard provides Florida lobbying firms and political fundraisers at-a-glance contribution management in real-time and across all devices, mobile or otherwise. Indeed, Bundl is a tool for shaping the future of politics, and we're proud to say it was built right here in Tallahassee.

Follow Bundl’s story on Twitter or check out their website to learn more.

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Short-Term Action, Long-Term Change

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Short-Term Action, Long-Term Change

A little more than six months ago, inspired by a series of entrepreneurial events and a cast of high-energy characters, I sat down and wrote about Tallahassee's emerging startup ecosystem. Their enthusiasm and innovative abandon had me optimistic that, in the face of underdog odds, this community could stitch together silos and carve out big economic wins, one startup at a time. I couldn't--and I still can't--shake the feeling that I had my finger on the pulse of something so suddenly full of life. Something with a heart that beats each day, keystroke by keystroke, in an historic warehouse down on Railroad Ave. The potential is more palpable now than it was then, but the matter of execution remains. We're all aware that there's a lot at stake. And we're working each day to deliver on the hype.

Here at Domi, we're constantly looking to the future, looking months and years down the road, and driving toward long-term goals via short-term actions. We get ahead by thinking ahead. But every once in awhile it makes a fair bit of sense to look back too. So before we launch into a series of posts telling the story of Tallahassee's startups, we thought we'd share an excerpt from a story that's already been told but squares well with the way we think around here.
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Changing Perceptions and Embracing the Renaissance  

At Domi’s incubator open house, in the room by the railroad, I make my first misstep. I’m huddled up with Ryan Kopinsky and another entrepreneur, Dominick Ard’is,Founder and CEO of TAU. Dominick points out a man standing across the room and says, “I swear that guy looks just like Jack Dorsey.”

We laugh at the absurdity of it, and I seize the opportunity to make awkwardly obvious the otherwise unstated: “Yeah, I’m sure Jack made a billion dollars with the IPO and then decided to fly to Tallahassee.”

The laughter sputters to a stop.

Ryan looks at me and lays it out. “That’s really the problem though, isn’t it? That’s what we have to work to change, that perception, the fact that we can make that joke.”

The space we’re all gathered in is a humble start, but it’s all the start anybody needs and it’s more than many others have. Someday it will be a gathering place with walls painted up as chalkboards and whiteboards and storyboards with bubbles and arrows, bold words and even bolder visions. But for now it’s not much more than unfinished concrete floors and old storage lockers where the County hid extra brooms and mops.

Back at the coffee shop, Vincent Hunt had told me there was a time when he felt being here was a total accident. It’s the kind of story you hear a lot outside powerhouse cities and in towns like Tallahassee. “I was convinced I would be here all of a year and get out,” he said.

I dangled a phrase, trying to hook his next thought. “But then…”

He gladly took the bait. “But then I started listening, and now I’m still here because we are on the cusp of a renaissance of creative culture. We’re primed to become a major player.”

Read the rest over on This Big City

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We'll admit, we still have concrete floors, but just about everything else has changed here in the room by railroad. The whiteboards are decorated with ideas, and the desks are filling up. The real work has begun. To get involved, send us an email at micah@domiventures.co and lucas@domiventures.co, or explore incubator and coworking opportunities on our website. Unleash your inner-entrepreneur, and help startup Tallahassee.

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The Challenge of Building Tallahassee's Startup Community from the Ground Up

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The Challenge of Building Tallahassee's Startup Community from the Ground Up

The Real Work Begins

With the advent of Domi Station’s grand opening on May 15th, all of our focus now shifts to building companies and creating jobs. There is no rocket science to doing this--it’s all about hard work and mentoring by Domi alongside support from the local ecosystem.

After months of working with young companies and entrepreneurs in the area, it is clear that one of the highest priorities will be growing the startup culture here in Tallahassee. That goes way beyond what happens within the walls of Domi Station. Real growth of the culture doesn’t happen until entrepreneurs start helping one another. Right now aspiring treps are just starting to learn about each other as well as resources available throughout the community. The next priority will be identifying what works in Tallahassee given how young the startup community is compared to other successful areas around the country. This summer and fall will be a crucial time for everyone in the area to invite others, develop working relationships, and collaborate.

The Challenges Ahead of Us All

If we are going to move forward, we need an honest assessment of what's holding us back. Our challenges include:

1. Limited investment for early stage companies

2. No recognition by the venture community as a place to start and grow companies

3. Few visible mentors

4. A severe lack of startup wherewithal by students and faculty at the universities

5. Limited historic tech scene in the community

6. A scarcity of the kind of skill sets tech companies need as they grow and hire

We need to work through each of these challenges, but we also need to get entrepreneurs thinking about solving hard problems, adding science to their concepts, and disrupting the marketplace. Young treps need to limit their focus on social media apps and the dearth of "me too" websites that have been done to death (and failed) by others. We need to find the innovators and creators that are key strengths of the universities and community.

Above all we need to help craft business models that can launch from Tallahassee. This would likely include models that require limited capital and mitigate the geographic handicap. Software as a Service (SaaS) with strong technology behind it are a good example. We'll also have to innovate to attract investors by doing things like holding online (via Google Hangout) pitch days so investors can join and participate remotely. It can be done, but just like the entrepreneurs we're here to help, Domi and all of our community partners need to find innovative ways to create companies and jobs in the heart of Florida's capital city.

 

This post was written by John Vecchio, Domi Ventures Co-Founder and Partner in Atlanta based venture capital fund Mosley Ventures.

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