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.
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.”
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 firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com, or explore incubator and coworking opportunities on our website. Unleash your inner-entrepreneur, and help startup Tallahassee.