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The Future is Here: Our Thoughts on 2017

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The Future is Here: Our Thoughts on 2017

Over at Domi Station, we talk a lot about the future. Our members are building it, we give it a home, and so on and so forth in tweet-worthy bites. Because there’s nothing more at odds with startupland than the status quo, we’ve had our sights set further down the road. We’ve worked hard and learned a ton. We’ve built and planned and gotten things done, always in relentless pursuit of some near-term future state.

As a result, 2016 was a busy year. 18 teams graduated from Get Started, 9 from Get Started U, and 7 from TCAP. We hosted 125+ events, tag-teamed TrailHacks with Visit Tallahassee, tackled a 3-day event in Atlanta that brought together 80 HBCU students from across country, made transitions in (and additions to!) staff, built out a board (complete with elected officers and a finance committee), spoke at a couple of conferences, attracted new sponsors, worked up a strategic plan, partnered on a pitch event with The Chamber, joined the Startup Champions Network, and launched PowerUP (big thanks due to fine folks over at First Commerce Credit Union). But 2016 is over. The future, it seems, has finally arrived.

Domi is now well into its second act. We are a bigger, better, stronger version of ourself, but just because the future is here doesn’t mean we’re done. We’re happy to announce a handful of new things for the new year, including an updated website, big changes to coworking memberships, and a pretty awesome new promo video. Other 2017 announcements are in the works, but we won’t spill all the beans just yet. You’ll have to follow along to find out more as the news drops. 

Thanks to the work of many organizations and many more entrepreneurs, Tallahassee’s innovation ecosystem adds depth and complexity by the day. We plan to be there for it all, continuing to build, continuing to plan, and continuing to get things done. So here’s to a new year. Here’s to the future. 

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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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HackFSU Draws 200 Entrepreneurs for 24 hour Hackathon

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HackFSU Draws 200 Entrepreneurs for 24 hour Hackathon

HackFSU, Florida's largest hackathon, was a runaway success. With close to 200 attendess from across the state, great schools and great friends came together to hack new concepts and iterate new products over an adrenaline infused 24-hour period. Domi was proud to be the event's title sponsor.

Dozens of new ideas turned into demonstration ready prototypes, but there was more than just hacking at HackFSU. The event's programming included multiple lightning round tech talks on subjects like Ruby, intellectual property, UX design, and Git. The talks aimed to expand horizons and encourage Tallahassee's growing tech community to work in new platforms.

But while the tech talks were eye-opening, it took a ton of RedBull to keep everyone awake for 24 hours. Indiscriminate energy drink consumption led to a 12am hype party, a 5am pushup contest, and an impromptu rave performance from one of the attendees. Needless to say, you can never quite plan for how an event might take on a life of its own.

HackFSU was planned and created by a group of 7 locals who worked for months in advance to make sure everything went off without a hitch. Momentum picked up through the planning stages, and by the time doors opened on April 5th the HackFSU team had received help and insight from tech groups as far away as Michigan, New Jersey, Cincinnati, and Arkansas.

The hackathon movement is huge but, until HackFSU, it lacked proper representation in the southeast. Published on the Major League Hacking Calendar, HackFSU added Florida to the national hackathon conversation.  When the HackFSU team recently attended a similar event at Virginia Tech, others recognized the HackFSU brand and shirts. Many expressed interest in attending next year's event--a sign that there are big things brewing in Tallahassee. HackFSU advanced our startup community's brand across the nation, making it Florida’s biggest and most successful hackathon yet.

This post was written by Diva Hurtado, a founding member of HackFSU and President of TechNOLEgy.

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