Innovation Coast reaches toward Fort Walton Beach, Destin, Panama City with Venture Hive

Louis Cooper, Special to Innovation Coast

Innovation Coast has forged a partnership with Venture Hive, a company that creates unique, timely and relevant content for business accelerators, communities, K-12 and universities.

The partnership with Venture Hive, which is based in Miami but has an office in Fort Walton Beach, represents Innovation Coast’s first alliance with an Okaloosa County organization. Until now, Innovation Coast has focused on fostering tech businesses in Escambia and Santa Rosa counties.

The two groups inked the agreement in February.

“As the furthermost east company within the Innovation Coast, we hope to be the bridge that brings all of our like-minded companies together, from Pensacola to Panama City,” said Dustin Gautney, program manager for Venture Hive.

“We feel the Venture Hive is ideal to bring businesses within the Fort Walton Beach/Destin/Panama City region into the Innovation Coast. Ultimately expanding the reach and larger network of companies all wanting to drive this area's technology economy.”

Venture Hive hosts several programs every year supported by partnerships with municipalities and economic development funding.

Innovation Coast is an alliance of companies and institutions of higher learning in Northwest Florida. The organization works to promote and grow technology and knowledge-based companies in the region.

“The partnership between Innovation Coast and Venture Hive will be advantageous to both parties,” said Lindsay Ryman, director of programs for Innovation Coast.

“Innovation Coast intends to host an event at Venture Hive’s Fort Walton location in 2016. With Venture Hive’s aid in marketing the event to the community, they will help in the expansion of the tech council’s reach across the Panhandle. Innovation Coast will assist Venture Hive through marketing in the greater Pensacola area and support their growth westward.”

The relationship between the two shows great promise for the entire Gulf Coast, Gautney said.

“Our area is well placed to be a technology hub,” he said. “With attractive opportunities to build within and entice startups to relocate, the partnership between Venture Hive and Innovation Coast is just one piece of the larger picture.

One of Venture Hive’s featured programs is its Veteran Accelerator, which helps foster veteran-owned businesses in Northwest Florida.

In February, Venture Hive announced members of its second Veteran’s Accelerator class:

· Aerial Autonomy of Fort Walton Beach: An engineering company developing software for commercial customers who record video or images for inspections, monitoring or other applications using a pilotless drone.

· All Around Baby of Navarre: Manufacturers of state‐of‐the‐art baby mobiles using mobile phone technology to offer monitoring, soothing and educational apps to leverage current technology to the traditional baby mobile units.

· Airtime Aircraft of Fort Walton Beach: An engineering company focused on making recreational flying convenient and affordable with their quick-setup amphibious aircraft.

· Decurator of Destin: An app‐based company that delivers styled home decor ideas in the shape of interactive mood boards. Designed to streamline the decorating process, Decurator helps small interior design stores to stay competitive by lowering their costs and promoting furniture sales.

· High Caliber Lady of Fort Walton Beach: Educating and training women on the use of non‐lethal personal protection tools, such as stun guns and pepper spray as well as pistol safety and marksmanship.

· Holy Kidz Summer Camps of Santa Rosa Beach: Firm franchises Christian-based programs by providing cost effective camps for religious organizations.

· Sharing Hands Network of Fort Walton Beach: The Sharing Hands Network exists to improve the lives of families and individuals in need by facilitating awareness of, and a connection to, those organizations and individuals who have resources to share.

Companies that participate in the accelerator get highly practical workshops and training sessions, free working space in Venture Hive’s Fort Walton Beach office for a year, exposure to qualified investors and a demo day at the conclusion of the program. The intensive program also provides them with access to a dedicated group of business coaches and mentors.

“These businesses have the potential to scale and drive more economy within our region,” Gautney said. “The virtual program will give many veteran-owned businesses the entrepreneur education they may have not had available locally.”

In addition to the seven local companies invited to participate in person, Venture Hive also chosen 10 businesses for its national virtual Veteran Accelerator.

The new Veteran Accelerator class begins March 14 and goes through the week of June 6.  In 2015, seven veteran-owned businesses participated in the accelerator’s inaugural class.

The new partnership between Venture Hive and Innovation Coast will benefit the accelerator participants, as well.

“Innovation Coast has offered graduates of the Venture Hive programs the one-time opportunity to become members for a year at a discounted rate of $150, half off the startup rate,” Ryman said. “After a year, renewal will be held at the membership level their organization falls under.”

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