UCF Business Incubator heats up Central Fla. job market
Fifteen years after the founding of the Business Incubator Program at UCF, the entrepreneurial organization has created nearly 3,600 jobs and established 100 companies.
There are currently about 150 companies within the program working toward stabilizing themselves economically, or "graduating" from the program, said Director Gordon Hogan.
The Business Incubator Program is a university-driven, community partnership that provides early-stage or start-up companies with the enabling tools, training and foundation to establish a prosperous business operation.
The original idea was to provide a place for scientists at UCF to start a company, as UCF is a public, not-for-profit government entity.
A company wanting to work within the incubator must apply to the program as well as take a six-week course provided by the organization. Once accepted, companies spend the first year meeting once per month with an adviser. On average, a company will work within the incubator for two to five years, utilizing the resources and expertise of the program's many partners.
Julien Meyer founded one such company during his junior year of undergraduate studies at UCF. Originally College TKTS, Meyer's company operated out of his dorm room in 2012. He then acquired CollegeStack, a coupon and discount company for students, and kept the name. By mid 2013, CollegeStack was becoming so successful, Meyer said, that he applied to the incubator program to acquire office space and get assistance with the legal side of running a business.
"The biggest thing you get with working within the incubator is experience," Meyer said. "What you get is the years and years of experience that the advisers have."
Meyer went on to talk about the considerable amount of resources from mentors who have worked the ins and outs of a business and can pass on their experience to members of the incubator program.
"Basically 50 percent of the people that we work with came [to the company] in the last year," he said. "I would say almost all that credit goes to the incubator."
Another company working within the incubator is TALAWAH Technologies, Inc., which began as a graduate research study at UCF that Brian Fisher, the chief technology officer, has now decided to commercialize.
The initial need for the technology came about after the 2003 Columbia disaster. UCF received funding for research into finding better technology for the sensors beneath the temperature tiles on NASA space shuttles. Once Fisher successfully created the technology, he decided to find other applications to use his product.
"As an engineer, it's hard to foresee some of how these things work, especially coming from the academia side of it," Fisher said.
Fisher said that business research and academic research processes are quite opposite from each other, and learning how to do market research after already having the prototype has been a very different experience for him.
"The business incubator has provided a wealth of resources," he said.
For students looking to begin their own businesses, Hogan advises students to start within the Blackstone Launchpad or the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship first, until their idea becomes a reality.
"Our role in the incubation program is to help companies grow," Hogan said. "We therefore create jobs; we don't incubate ideas. We're not against helping [students,] but we can't take them in as a client."
If a student does reach out to the Business Incubator Program, Hogan said, an adviser will assist him or her if possible, or help point them in the right direction.
A few locations:
12201 Research Parkway