5 Reasons to Found Your Startup in JAX
I’ve received hundreds of questions over the past few years about why I’m still in Jacksonville (JAX) as have many of my great friends and colleagues. Questions such as “Why continue to swim upstream in a smaller startup community?” “Why not just go somewhere else and plug in where it’s ‘easier’ to launch a company?” Or, “What makes JAX so special?”
During this same time a few themes have surfaced as key reasons to start in JAX. Some people may argue with the points outlined below. That’s good. Healthy debate spawns new thought patterns. So, check them out below and let’s chat.
1) Small Community, Big Aspirations, Humble Drive
Jacksonville has all the benefits of a small community feel. It’s more midwest than deep south, with the benefit of 75 degree days in October and beautiful beaches. The work ethic of a rust-belt city, with the energy of a community of makers. Here’s the thing, what really matters to startups in a small community is that it’s super easy to open doors and JAX has that. Have a great idea, solid business model and want a meeting with key influencers in town? No problem. Need an office space in the emerging hub of startups in downtown Jacksonville? Plenty of options at a low cost. Want a cool place to live a short bike ride from your office? Rent, buy or room in nearby neighborhoods and bike along the riverfront to the heart of the city. State income tax? Not here. Sum all that up and add in the key fact that the community is humble, laser focused and making a name for itself via action (not talk) and you have a solid picture of a eager startup ecosystem.
Startups seize opportunity. JAX has that. Start here now. Not soon, not tomorrow, not in a year or two when “more things are completed,” start now and you will be in at the ground level of a rising tide in a community of doers.
2) A Blank Canvas
Simply put, Jacksonville provides rapidly scaling startups with the opportunity to become a community hero.
The majority of JAX’s industry is in traditional markets such as real estate development, transportation and logistics, healthcare, and financial services. These mature markets provide the backdrop and infrastructure needed for early stage ventures to thrive. The academic and support institutions for the startup community actively participate and are well placed for steady growth.
Culturally, Jacksonville is primed to advance significant efforts and interesting businesses, especially those who are willing to take an interest in developing the city. The city has one of the best food truck scenes on the east coast with over 4 dozen trucks and nearly a dozen microbreweries in the area. Couple this foodie culture with regional advocacy for events like One Spark and you have a clear demonstration of the city’s cultural undercurrent. Essentially, those who start businesses, movements, organizations, etc. that provide some community benefit will gain exponentially more traction than it would in more dense markets. JAX is a city that has, needs and loves doers.
3) The Median
Jacksonville is within the standard deviation of a number of key economic indices… and that’s a good thing for startups! What better way to test, launch and validate your market than in a market that sits right in the middle of everything. With average income levels, housing prices and economic growth it breeds tremendous opportunities for startups. There was an article in Slate calling Jacksonville the “Most Average Place in America,”well guess what? That’s a great thing for startups disrupting the norm.
4) Tech Talent With a Purpose
During the past 10 years Jacksonville’s tech community has exploded, primarily driven by a 72.4% expansion in tech employment since 2001 (Forbes). While a portion of this has been due to big business IT centers, the startup scene continues to benefit from a strong Rails, Node.js and .NET development community and one of the largest design communities in the Southeast (AIGA Jacksonville has hundreds of engaged, thought-leading members).
On top of the already burgeoning scene, current conversations underway with some of the nation’s best private web-development academies to plant roots in the heart of JAX will add yet another key piece of the ecosystem; accelerated growth of talent. One other point of reference, it's important to note that most of the top tech talent that’s here has chosen to stay here even after closing funding rounds from NY or SF; and yes, their investors believe that they can still do extremely well. The leadership in the community is connected, focused, spirited and driven to push the scene forward by doing things that matter on a global scale.
5) Accelerator Programs Such as KYN, Healthbox & Ignite Adecco
In the past year Jacksonville has witnessed a rapidly expanding ecosystem that now includes a variety of accelerator programs in a variety of industries. While Ignite Adecco may be an internal catalyst for Adecco there is no doubt they play a major role in the community. The Healthbox program backed by Florida Blue has a large network with other programs in Boston, Chicago, London, and Nashville. For the first time, those starting rapid-scale startups in Jacksonville now have a clear pathway for support and funding. Whether it’s early validation and funding via One Spark (The World’s Crowdfunding Festival) or KYN; an accelerator team that provides $35k in seed funding and more importantly has design, development, product launch and manufacturing teams that work full-time alongside startups to help them grow, Jacksonville startups are gaining the resources they need for rapid scale.
Hope to see you in JAX soon. Happy to help get you connected. Thanks for reading.
*Originally posted at http://kyn.is/blog/5-reasons-to-found-your-startup-in-jax