Featured Carousel Features January 2019

The Hub Provides the Environment for Bridging the Skills Gap

Written By: Mark Long

“There’s a reason a business incubator is called an incubator and not a microwave,” I often say. “That’s because growing a company takes time.”

Incubation brings to mind what a chicken does for an egg; the chicken keeps the egg warm so the baby chicken inside the egg can develop fully. What’s inside the egg, however, is as important as the environment surrounding the egg.

We think that a business incubator has to provide the environment for a startup to grow, but it also provides much more. The incubator’s program of coaching, advising, networking and exposure to investors is equally important. It builds the “inside” of the company as well, bridging the skills gap most entrepreneurs bring to the incubator experience.

UF Innovate | The Hub, one of UF’s two incubators that I have the privilege to direct, is a 100,000-square-foot business facility located between the University of Florida campus and downtown Gainesville. It serves as a bridge between the city and the university, and it offers incubation for technology startups of many kinds, some related to UF technology, some not.

Sure, The Hub provides a place for new companies with a host of amenities that are extremely useful to startup clients, including furniture, internet connection, a color copier/printer and 24-hour reception services. Life sciences clients of The Hub enjoy access to a host of shared equipment, including autoclaves, biosafety cabinets, chemical fume hoods, lab incubators, -80 freezers and more.

But it also provides resources that bridge the skills gap. The Hub and the Collaboratory for Women Innovators, located in the facility, offers the “So What? Who Cares? Why You?” methodology to find the business value of new ideas and to help individuals turn their concepts into an actual company.

Many universities and nonprofits use this method, developed by Wendy Kennedy, to help individuals turn their dreams into reality by providing a path to understanding business methods. The Wendy Kennedy method is a six-week course that includes one-on-one mentoring sessions with the instructor and one-hour class sessions. The Hub also provides assistance with Business Model Canvas construction and information on Lean Startup methods.

The incubator’s program of coaching, advising, networking and exposure to investors is equally important. It builds the “inside” of the company as well, bridging the skills gap most entrepreneurs bring to the incubator experience.

The Hub has a 13-member advisory board comprising serial entrepreneurs, attorneys, accountants, former CEOs and other seasoned executives who provide expert mentoring, advising and networking assistance to clients. Every client of The Hub has an advisor who coordinates growth activities with the client CEO.

In addition to business advisement, advisors provide access to capital, coordination of other resources and needs, and assistance with finding partners and customers. Many of The Hub’s graduated clients recognize the tremendous value added by their advisor.

Each month, The Hub offers educational seminars on topics such as providing employee benefits, strategies for intellectual property management, recruiting and retaining outstanding employees, constructing an effective investor pitch and other sessions that address business management and startup needs.

Those entrepreneurs who are not resident clients of The Hub can still benefit from the incubator. Each month, the incubator hosts “3rd Thursdays @ The Hub,” a networking event from 4 to 6 p.m. that provides a casual atmosphere for conversation and networking with beverages and snacks. (RSVP by calling The Hub at 352-294-0885 or by registering for the event at innovate.research.ufl.edu/event-calendar.)

We like to say that UF Innovate | The Hub is “the hub for entrepreneurial activity in North Central Florida,” and we are trying to make the building – and our website – the one-stop shop for entrepreneurs. The online event calendar link listed above seeks to list all events for entrepreneurs in this area.

The event calendar is part of a new program, the Innovation NaviGator, that provides assistance, contacts and information for anyone in the Greater Gainesville community seeking to start a business, get proper permits, write a business plan or obtain whatever is needed to turn an idea into a company.

Our NaviGator holds weekly office hours at The Hub and at Sid Martin Biotech, the other UF business incubator. You can email, or make an appointment by calling 352-294-0885. You also can access the program via the website. 

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