Startup Success Begins at SCF

Guest Correspondence

BY CAROL PROBSTFELD SRQ DAILY SATURDAY PERSPECTIVES EDITION SATURDAY NOV 21, 2020

Local entrepreneurs play a vital role in building a strong economy for our region. Many of us dream of being our own boss and seeing our great idea become a booming business or brand.

What most aspiring entrepreneurs lack is the knowledge of how to take the first steps toward achieving their dream. This fall, State College of Florida, Manatee-Sarasota launched the SCF Technology Incubator/Accelerator to help prospective entrepreneurs take those challenging first steps.

The SCF Technology Incubator/Accelerator is a place for startups and entrepreneurs to learn and grow in collaboration with financial, legal, marketing, and other business mentors to convert ideas into viable business models. Our goal is to connect participants with the resources, expertise, and networks they need to launch their companies and join the local business community.

Our director, Matt Harper, has hit the ground running since joining SCF this summer, building relationships and developing a roster of experienced entrepreneurial mentors for the program. A retired U.S. Navy officer, Matt has spent the last six years advising and mentoring entrepreneurs. He was the founding director of a Veteran business incubator in San Diego and worked with a range of businesses, including turnarounds, venture startups, small and medium-sized businesses and nonprofits.

Matt’s first mission with SCF highlights the college’s long commitment to its Veteran students. The SCF Veteran Business Incubator recognizes Veterans' sacrifices and is designed to help them understand the requirements of being an entrepreneur and educate them on the building blocks of founding and running a startup business. We strive to provide transitioning military personnel with the tools to help them evaluate the potential of starting a new business or growing an existing business. The inaugural cohort of eight companies began on Oct. 6 and the program will conclude on Dec. 3 when the companies make presentations to invited investors as part of a “Pitch Day.”

The startup community we are building at SCF relies on a host of experts. Our advisors and mentors offer a wide range of support and can help entrepreneurs fast-track growth and with raising capital for their startups. We continually invite entrepreneurs, investors, prominent research-oriented universities, government participants and subject matter experts to join our startup community to interact with our program participants through locally hosted events and member company presentations. 

In early 2021, the Incubator will move into its permanent home in the newly renovated building 8 on our Bradenton Campus. In addition to the community of entrepreneurs, mentors, advisors, and coordinators, the Incubator will also begin offering onsite workspace and class A office space. Incubator membership will include access to the full host of physical and educational resources available at the college.

This program is one piece of the SCF Center for Advanced Technology & Innovation, funded by a $3.6 million Florida Job Growth Grant the college received in January 2019. The Center already includes the Coding Technology Academy and will also feature a video studio and Academic Partnership Center when complete.

The next incubator program, slated to begin April 5, 2021, will target high-growth, venture startups in the sports technology field. Please visit Innovate.SCF.edu for more information.

Our goal is to create a startup community where innovation meets opportunity that leads to the expansion of the business community in Manatee and Sarasota Counties. When local entrepreneurs come up with the next big idea, SCF can help them take their first steps to success.

Dr. Carol Probstfeld is president of State College of Florida, Manatee-Sarasota.

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