First local innovation conference looks to take Jax to next level

Sep 21, 2015, 2:02pm EDT

Colleen Michele Jones

Reporter- Jacksonville Business Journal

Led by the Jacksonville Community of Entrepreneurs (JaxCoE), plans are in the works for the first Innovation Connection Conference to be held Oct. 23 at the Schultz Center. The day-long event will include workshop sessions, brainstorming sessions and panel discussions with speakers from across the region and the nation.

The preliminary lineup includes Adam Arredondo, co-leader of the Kansas City Startup Village; Adam Greenspan, director of business incubation at the University City Science Center in Philadelphia; Kevin Koym, founder and CEO of Tech Range in Austin, Texas; Jane Muir, director of the Florida Innovation Hub at the University of Florida in Gainesville;Gabriela Perez, a successful entrepreneur who was part of the founding team at Best Doctors, which pioneered e-second opinions; Jennifer Walsh, a Jacksonville-based businesswoman; and Ted Willich, CEO of NLP Logix, a data analytics firm in Jacksonville. More speakers will be announced over the next few weeks.

One of the goals of the conference is to brainstorm solutions for some of the challenges facing local entrepreneurs, such as potential sources of investment and ways to make Jacksonville a national leader in the innovation space.

Kate Stewart, co-founder of JaxCoE, said the conference hopes to tap into the expertise and experience of leaders in other communities that have been able to build up their own ecoystems.

“Many cities have already paved the way to show us how to be successful," Stewart said. "We don’t have to reinvent the wheel. That’s why we invited speakers from other cities which already have or are developing as innovation hubs: Austin, Orlando, Miami, Boston, Philadelphia and Kansas City. Many of the cities are very similar to Jacksonville in many ways.”

JaxCoE was formed as a nonprofit in 2014 to provide a support network for innovators across Northeast Florida and to strengthen the ecosystem of resources available to that community.

“People say that Jacksonville has no identity — we are convinced that the time has come for that to change,” Stewart said. “Jacksonville has everything it needs to become a major innovation hub in the Southeast. Think of it like Austin in the very early tech boom days. During this conference, our entire community will engage in a conversation to decide how to move forward. What resources do we need? How can we put them in place? What industries or verticals should we focus on as a city? How can we break down silos and collaborate for the greatest good? How can we include everybody in our vision, people from every neighborhood and background?”

Tickets for the event are $15 and include breakfast, lunch and an after-party. Sponsorship opportunities are also available.