Growing Our Own

No bigger game than Amazon.

November is National Entrepreneurship Month.

I didn’t know that, but as far as I’m concerned we ought to be spotlighting and helping entrepreneurs 12 months a year.

Since 2008, there has been a net decline in new business creation in the U.S. One of the contributing factors appears to be a growing aversion to risk for young adults who grew up during the Great Recession.

 

A new survey by Junior Achievement shows that 9-out-of-10 parents would support their kids starting a business as adults, but only 1-in-3 teens say they would consider becoming an entrepreneur, identifying “risk” as one of the top reasons for not striking out on their own.

We need to reverse that trend—it’s not an overstatement to say that if we don’t we will lose our edge as a nation.

America was built by entrepreneurs: people in business, government, science, education and the non-profit world who took risks because they saw opportunity.

Entrepreneurs are the people who solve problems, build, create, sustain and design successful societies.

We’ve all been reading lately about the efforts of close to 250 cities and regions to lure a second Amazon headquarters and its promise of 50,000 jobs. It’s a big opportunity—no doubt a game changer for the lucky winner who will have to put up billions in incentives to make it happen. South Florida, including our own Business Development Board, is playing the game and to some extent I guess you have too.

But personally, I would rather make an investment in seeding a new generation of entrepreneurs than throwing money at an already wealthy company like Amazon. I prefer what they call “economic gardening” (growing your own) to chasing smoke stacks or the modern digital version.

Fortunately, there is a lot beginning to happen on the gardening front: FAU and Lynn University have good business schools, Tech Runway at FAU has potential and the business community in Palm Beach County is relatively strong. Boca Raton’s economic development efforts are impressive, West Palm Beach is coming of age and Boynton Beach has some very exciting projects under consideration. Northern Palm Beach County has a very strong business community anchored by a progressive Chamber of Commerce (shout out to our friend Chamber president Beth Kigel) and Lake Worth has tremendous potential especially in the energy sector.

As a two time board member of our BDB, I can attest that we have a solid economic development organization that in my opinion has been a little starved of resources by the county over the years (relative to budgets in Broward, Miami-Dade and Hillsborough counties).

I’m especially intrigued and excited by some of the emerging groups of young creative entrepreneurs that we are seeing pop up: Creative Mornings Palm Beach, Palm Beach Tech and One Million Cups are just a few of the groups emerging filled with energy, ambition and community building potential.

There are also some real interesting co-working spaces popping up.

I’m especially happy to see the growth and excitement behind Palm Beach Entrepreneur Week Nov. 10-18. (Like The Beatles song, that’s actually an 8 day week).

Highlights include a meetup at the Social House in Lake Worth, a Creative Morning at Saltwater Brewery in Delray Beach, a pitch competition in West Palm Beach, a Florida Venture Forum showcase at FAU’s Tech Runway and more… Check out the website for a full schedule: https://eweekpb.com/#landing-events

All this is really cool to see. But we need more.

More angel investors, more mentors, more venture capital, more news about entrepreneurs and more outreach into schools. The Boca Chamber’s Young Entrepreneurs Academy is a great start. We also need more affordable space in key downtowns like Delray—not easy to do based on market forces and high prices.

We sit in a great location—close enough to Miami (an international city and a gateway to the Americas), close to an emerging Fort Lauderdale and within a county that offers a great quality of life.

If we reach our potential—the Amazon’s of the world will be asking to move here and ideally the next Amazon will be born here.

Random Thoughts…

Dare 2 Be Great Scholars Believe in 'paying it forward'

Dare 2 Be Great Scholars Believe in ‘paying it forward’

This is the time of year that the Dare 2 Be Great board pours over applications for scholarships.
It’s a humbling experience to read through the resumes and essays of these incredible young men and women.
Many of the essays are inspirational and more than a few are heartbreaking.
The common thread seems to be resilience. It just seems that some people are built by adversity. They succeed regardless of life’s circumstances and overcome hurdles. It’s almost as if they succeed because they are determined to live better lives.
These kids inspire me. I wish we could help them all. It breaks my heart that we can’t. We’ll keep you posted on the Class of ’16.

It’s a Miracle
Congratulations to the Miracle League of Palm Beach County which pulled off its first successful dinner on the diamond last week.
Julia and Jeff Kadel and their team of volunteers have done a remarkable job bringing the great game of baseball to kids who might not otherwise have an ability to play.
So good to see this wonderful non-profit grow and thrive. And I’m pleased to see Celsius, a company I’m involved with, step up and sponsor.

An Affair to Remember

We hope you’ll visit the Delray Affair this weekend.
The 54th annual event is a great chance to see friends and to adopt a rescue pet.
That’s right.
We’ve adopted two pets at the Affair over the years: Randy and Sophie.
Both little dogs enriched our families beyond words. We also hope the city doesn’t “fee” this event to death.

It’s Delray’s signature event, a tradition and helps our Chamber of Commerce stay healthy and more than ever this city needs a healthy chamber.

Hello Rhys, Goodbye Kim
We wish Tech Runway’s founding director Kim Gramm well on her new job in Texas.
Kim did a lot to put FAU’s ambitious project on the map.
She will be missed.

We are excited to see our Leadership Florida friend Rhys Williams step into the role of leading Tech Runway.

Thanks, Alyona

We’ll also miss Alyona Ushe well as she departs Delray’s innovative Arts Garage.
Alyona won’t be far away as she will continue to work her magic in Pompano Beach.
It’s not easy to start something and make it relevant. Alyona put the Arts Garage on the cultural map in South Florida creating buzz and staging lots of memorable shows and performances.
She made an impact.

Building the Ecosystem: Addressing the Gaps

techrunway

All across America, communities are celebrating entrepreneurship.

As well they should be, because America was built by entrepreneurs and its future depends on their success.

Americans are an innovative people, freedom loving, creative problem-solvers who aren’t afraid of risks or dreaming big. No act of terror can shake those values, it’s in our DNA.

That ethos has made us an exceptional nation—and the pacesetters for the world. But here at YourDelrayBoca.com, we think local.

Luckily, there’s a nascent effort under way at FAU to foster the next generation of great entrepreneurs.

Tech Runway as it’s called sits in a barren part of the campus in an airplane hangar not far from Boca Airport.

It’s a cool building—you really ought to stop by and visit– and it’s buzzing with possibilities and excitement.

In the interests of full disclosure, I sit on the Tech Runway Advisory Board because the concept taps into the three ideas/values that drive me: leadership (Tech Runway seeks to be a leading voice in the emerging South Florida entrepreneurial ecosystem), entrepreneurship (the runway is a launching pad for new companies) and community (Tech Runway seeks to be a gathering place for those who want to see an entrepreneurial ecosystem take shape).

Last week, thanks to Connor Lynch, Stacey Hallberg and Northern Trust, we hosted 60 plus business, civic and entrepreneurial leaders at the bank in downtown Delray to discuss Tech Runway’s vision and to elicit buy-in and support from local movers and shakers.

Our new board chair David Roth—an accomplished entrepreneur behind the brands Wakaya Perfection and Fiji Water—keynoted the event along with FAU President Dr. John Kelly.

I had the honor of speaking at the event and outlined Delray’s long time vision to be a hub for creative professionals offering jobs and opportunities for young people. But it was President Kelly who ignited the crowd with his aspirations for the university.

Dr. Kelly summed up the mission of Tech Runway perfectly: “we’ll be educating future scientists, propelling undergraduate research and inspiring the next generation of entrepreneurs to take their ideas from concept to commercialization. This infusion of intellectual capital will create a powerful new economic engine for South Florida.”

Kelly’s goal is to turn FAU into one of the top public universities in America and he has assembled a stellar team to lead the way. The Runway is an important component in the big picture.

Delray and Boca—as the cities closest to FAU—have a unique opportunity to benefit from the investment and the talent that is being attracted to the university and to projects like the Research Park and Tech Runway. As mentioned in other columns, Lynn University is emerging as a player as well.

So what’s missing? Quite a bit, but creative office space in urban environments and investment capital are two glaring gaps that need to be filled if we are to fulfill our potential and realize the vision.

Young entrepreneurs are seeking urban, walkable and vibrant environments—much like what Delray and Boca Raton has to offer. They are also seeking a community of like-minded people who they can partner with. These “collisions” are harder to arrange in traditional suburban style office parks.

Building “creative” space, co-working facilities and the like in a high cost environment is not easy, but we must find a way or we risk losing our best and brightest to other cities and regions.

In Boca, Dr. Kelly thinks the 20th Street corridor and its warehouses represent an opportunity. Durham, North Carolina converted similar space to entrepreneurial uses to great success.

In Delray, we have opportunities on Congress Avenue, but also downtown if we can find a way to talk intelligently about growth and sustainability. Like I’ve said, the downtown is not done. We are missing the work and learn part of live, work, learn and play. We can’t lose our will now.

Boca too has an enormous opportunity and many units are being planned for downtown Boca. Hopefully, the city is also leaving space for creative style offices, not Class A, but space that entrepreneurs would seek out and enjoy.

The other missing ingredient is angel, seed and venture capital.

We have plenty of wealth in these parts, but we need more local investing and we need to attract some accomplished VCs too. VC’s and angels look for deal flow, the more the better.

Historically, we haven’t had much, but that’s changing in South Florida, thanks to efforts such as Tech Runway.

If we can support, nurture and invest in the next generation of entrepreneurs we will do a lot to diversify and improve our local economy.

There have been efforts in the past. But this effort looks and feels different. I think this one is going to work.

 

Bold Visions Inspire Giving

A rendering of the health center at FAU

A rendering of the health center at FAU

It’s been a good two weeks for Boca Raton’s two universities, thanks to the generosity and vision of Christine Lynn.

Lynn University announced at its annual State of the University address recently that it will build the Christine E. Lynn University Center, a project that begins the final phase of the school’s Campus Master Plan.

 The new building is made possible by a $15 million gift, the largest in university history, from Board of Trustees Chair Christine E. Lynn. Mrs. Lynn’s commitment is a challenge grant that establishes the foundation for others to participate in this momentous project.

This week, Ms. Lynn gave Florida Atlantic University $5 million gift to help construct a building on its Boca Raton campus.

 The Christine E. Lynn Sports Medicine Center will be a treatment center for FAU student athletes within the Schmidt Family Complex for Academic and Athletic Excellence. It’ll include rehabilitation facilities, hydrotherapy treatments and medical exam rooms.

Both Lynn and FAU are growing in stature, importance and reputation thanks in large part to the dynamic leadership provided by its presidents—John Kelly at FAU and Kevin Ross at Lynn. That kind of dynamic leadership spurs excitement and giving. Leadership matters. You can’t succeed without it.

 “The Christine E. Lynn University Center will stand at the heart of our campus and enhance the experience of students, employees and every person who visits,” says President Ross. “We are grateful for Mrs. Lynn’s unparalleled generosity and the role she continues to play in our university’s future.”

The university center’s design is the culmination of years of preparation, beginning with the development of the Lynn 2020 strategic plan in 2005, and the Campus Master Plan, developed with design firm Gensler and approved by the board of trustees in 2009.

 “Our approach is based on Lynn’s core values as a vibrant, energetic campus,” says Gensler Senior Associate Cliff Bollmann. “The goal is to drive energy on campus and create a space where students want to be.”

 The building will encompass student essentials including Lynn’s award-winning 24-hour dining, Hannifan Center for Career Connections, the Center for Learning Abroad, campus store, mailroom, coffee shop, student affairs offices, collaboration spaces and more. Its design includes a large “living room” for informal gatherings and presentations, with expansive glass windows that connect students outdoors with activity occurring inside.

The university center, collectively with future residential spaces including the recently announced Mary and Harold Perper Residence Hall, will bring together academics, housing and the overall student experience to drive engagement and create a gathering place for future generations. The project’s crowning element will be a green space envisioned as a park dedicated to Mrs. Lynn.

The university center is expected to be completed in 2018 and is only one part of Lynn’s bold vision which includes an award winning curriculum and relationships with key partners including that little company in Cupertino– Apple.

At FAU, keep a close watch on the Tech Runway which will nurture start-up companies via funding, mentoring and activities.

The Runway itself is a start-up and I’ve been proud to serve on its advisory board.

Next week, I along with local businessman Connor Lynch and Stacey Halberg of Northern Trust will host a special dinner in Delray to introduce the concept to key leaders. President Kelly and others will be there to share the vision.

Exciting times…indeed. Our local universities are leading the way.

 

 

 

There’s Something Happening Here

Ready for lift off.

Ready for lift off.

It feels good to be in on the ground floor of an opportunity.

I’m one of those types who prefer building to maintaining or worse yet protecting a lead.

I was fortunate to move to Delray in the 80s, when the city felt like a start-up and to serve on the City Commission from 2000-07, when the Decade of Excellence had been completed and we had a blank canvas to pursue a continuation of the vision—one that built on and complemented the excellent work that had been done before our group got elected.

So I was intrigued when I was asked to serve on the advisory board for Tech Runway, a new initiative at Florida Atlantic University that is seeking to build something special.

Tech Runway is nestled next to the runway at Boca Airport on FAU’s campus. The space—vast and teeming with possibility—houses start-up companies and events. It seeks to be a leading part of a growing ecosystem for entrepreneurship and technology taking root in South Florida.

When it comes to the entrepreneurial space you can feel the ground shifting in our region. Miami is on fire, with maker space, co-working, tech companies, VC’s and innovation in everything from augmented reality and finance to food and the arts.

Fort Lauderdale is also experiencing somewhat of a renaissance downtown, with condo projects, office space and a wonderful entrepreneurial hub named Thesis (http://www.thes.is/).

In Palm Beach County, downtown Boca Raton seems on the verge and the Arvida Park of Commerce has new energy and new policies to drive investment. FAU and Lynn are gaining momentum and the county’s chief economic development office, The Business Development Board of Palm Beach County is focusing efforts and energy on entrepreneurship and retention. FAU’s Research Park, under the very capable leadership of Andrew Duffel, is also a player to be watched as it celebrates its 30th anniversary.

The county’ public school system also has bright spots including Boca High’s STEM program, Atlantic’s vaunted IB program and Spanish River High School’s entrepreneurship academy.

Hopefully, we can find a way to keep our young talent home, even if many might go away for college.

As Scooter Willis of FAU’s Tech Garage (also an amazing asset) puts it “find a way to get as many smart people here as possible and good things will happen.”

Amen.

Headwinds? We have a few.

A lack of VC’s. A lack of angels. A lack of seed funders. The Gold Coast Venture Capital Association is making amazing strides and should be applauded, but we need more capital willing to get in the game. Talented engineers and entrepreneurs will follow the money which historically has been in places like Austin, Boulder, Boston, the Valley and NY. We are going to need to get in the game soon and in a big way…a way that makes a splash, hits all the blogs and is covered in Inc., and Fast Company.

The dollars are here, what’s missing is the monomaniac on a mission who either can write the check or find the check and build the funding mechanism around it.

Manny Medina and others are doing it in Miami. A visionary developer is doing it in Wynwood and another in Miami’s design district.

While it definitely takes a village to build an ecosystem it doesn’t hurt to have a leader.

Think about companies: Amazon is Bezos. Virgin is Branson. Tesla is Musk. Facebook is Zuckerberg.

Same with local areas that make the leap: Fred Wilson in NYC, Brad Feld in Boulder are but two examples.

In South Florida, the Knight Foundation is playing a catalytic role but there is room in Palm Beach County—room in Boca Raton and Delray Beach for leadership, vision and drive.

The talent is here, if we can keep it home. The lifestyle is here. The moment is here, if we seize it.

Tech Runway will be a major driver, but the beauty of building an ecosystem is it’s not a zero sum game. The rising tide does lift all boats. There’s room for many to take the ride.

 

 

A Tech Cluster in the Works

Lots of tech news happening in these parts

Lots of tech news happening in these parts

Is a tech cluster forming in South Florida?
It sure seems that way according to new research by real estate firm CB Richard Ellis.

Four cities in the Sunshine State made the top 50 list of tech clusters in the most recent survey of technology activity nationwide.

Miami ranked 50th, Fort Lauderdale 48th, Orlando 47th and Tampa 36th in a report card issued by CBRE that includes a range of factors measuring office space, tech jobs, tech degrees and technology investment.

CBRE cited Miami as a particularly fast rising city based on the growth of its millennial population and the explosive buzz around the eMerge conference.

Just like South by Southwest put Austin on the global map, eMerge is creating a brand for Miami.

Closer to home, we are seeing efforts at local universities begin to gain traction.

Lynn University has developed a very close relationship with Apple, with regular site visits by key Lynn leaders to Apple’s plush campus in Cupertino. The relationship is developing new and innovative ways to deliver higher education and promises to make Lynn a global leader in the emerging field. Lynn will have a presence at eMerge to discuss its ambitious and exciting plans.

FAU is also ramping up its efforts with the launch of Tech Runway (full disclosure, I sit on the Tech Runway Advisory Board) and the success of the FAU Research Park which is growing companies including Dan Kane’s latest Modernizing Medicine.

Even the Internet Coast, which was quiet for a while, has re-emerged with a lot of activities and events.

In Delray, technology based firms are quietly setting up shop, attracted by the vibrancy of Atlantic Avenue.

Even off the avenue, we are witnessing some interesting office plays, including a beautiful space operated by Regus (a co-working firm) on Congress Avenue in the newly purchased Arbors building.

Downtown, the 55 Delray building is a virtual beehive or entrepreneurs and Atlantic Plaza boasts the presence of Domain Holdings and Bidtellect, companies founded by the super entrepreneur (and all around cool guy) John Ferber (fuller disclosure, I performed John and his lovely wife Jenna’s wedding ceremony at the Seagate Club a few years back).

Boca Raton has a rich tech heritage as the birthplace of the IBM PC.

Many of the former IBMers remained in the area. Former IBM Boca President Pete Martinez is one of those who stayed here. He’s got a new start-up called Game Changing Technologies that is worth keeping tabs on.

All of this is good news for our community as we diversify the economy beyond real estate, construction and tourism.

 

FAU & Lynn: Driving Local Innovation

President John Kelly has energized not only FAU but the broader community.

President John Kelly has energized not only FAU but the broader community as well.

We pride ourselves on being local trend spotters here at YourDelrayBoca.com.

So we are proud to announce that we are seeing a positive trend taking shape in Boca Raton, which will impact the entire region.

Our two local universities FAU and Lynn are making major strides to deepen their excellence, expand their influence and increase their relevance to our local economy.

This is important because both FAU and Lynn are major drivers of intellectual capital and leaders in how our region is viewed by the world. If the Boca area is seen as an intellectual hub and a magnet for young talent, it virtually guarantees economic sustainability and quality of life for the entire community.

FAU has clearly been invigorated by the leadership of President John Kelly. Great leaders engage with the world and bring energy to institutions.  In his first year, Dr. Kelly’s drive and ambition for FAU has clearly penetrated not only the university community but the outside world as well.

A recent agreement to partner with Scripps Florida and the Max Planck Institute is just one of many partnerships fostered as a result of his energetic leadership. It seems that wherever we travel these days, the topic of FAU comes up in conversation and usually in terms of collaboration and external outreach. In Delray alone, the university is working with Delray Students First, Dare 2 Be Great and the Achievement Centers for Children and Families.

VP of Public Service Jorge Calzadilla and his team have been making the rounds and turning heads in the community with their zeal to make an impact and to turn FAU into a university of national significance.

Calzadilla came with President Kelly from Clemson where he served 27 years and did remarkable work impacting children in South Carolina. If you meet Jorge, you can’t help but be swept up by his enthusiasm and vision for FAU.

On the research front, we recently had a chance to hear new VP of Research Dan Flynn discuss his plans to turn FAU into a major research institution complete with patents, start-ups, commercialization efforts, student research opportunities, faculty initiatives and major grants. Flynn has done it before at other institutions and sees no barriers to FAU becoming a world class research center utilizing the amazing natural resources provided by the ocean and the Everglades.

All of this is good news for students, our region, Boca and Delray, alumni and the general community.  Not only will a reinvigorated FAU attract talent, it will help our region retain its young minds. Already in some of our work with young students in Delray and Boca we are beginning to hear a desire to stay home and attend FAU or come back home for graduate work. And keep an eye on FAU’s Tech Runway and Research Park because within a decade or even sooner you will see the first superstar company launched right here in our backyard. All of the elements are in place.

This is great news for those of us who value economic development and it provides our region with an opportunity to go beyond food, beverage, services, construction, tourism and retirees to fuel our economy.

At Lynn University, President Kevin Ross and his leadership team are innovating on multiple fronts.

From a curriculum that is high on relevance and providing hands on experience in an increasingly global society to a very impactful partnership with a little company in Cupertino called Apple, Lynn’s campus crackles with excitement.

Dr. Ross has attracted a top-notch faculty attracted by the opportunity to innovate and a diverse student body that is placing a premium on making an impact on the world.

Whenever I visit with President Ross I’m reminded of a saying: “Normal” is what the majority does, which is why “different” is so much more interesting.

Indeed.

And Lynn has transformed its model to be both different and compelling.

To have both Boca universities performing at high levels at the same time is a unique and happy circumstance.

Switched on cities, progressive non-profits, schools and businesses will find ways to tap into the innovation and excellence happening at Lynn and FAU.

And that’s good news for Boca Raton and Delray Beach.