Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University just announced a substantial $1 million dollar commitment to FireSpring Fund, an evergreen nonprofit fund working toward building Central Florida’s technology and creative community by investing in promising companies.
Donna Mackenzie, Executive Director of FireSpring Fund, says “working together in cooperation will make us all stronger by creating more companies ready for venture investment. That will in turn attract venture funding both from within and outside of our region, that will invest in companies in our region and help us to diversify and grow our economy and create high-paying jobs.”
Ray Leach, the CEO of Jumpstart, which serves as one of the models for Central Florida-based venture investment nonprofit Firespring Fund, said recently at an Orlando, Inc. (Orlando Regional Chamber of Commerce) event that in order to grow a tech ecosystem, public/private partnerships need to share the work and investment together.
After this latest $1 million commitment by Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, and the financial support of both City of Orlando and Orange County governments, University of Central Florida, and several private companies and organizations, our region is on its way to do exactly what Leach suggests. As a tech community, we should be excited that we have yet another partner enter our ecosystem.
Sharing in that excitement is Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer, one of the first advocates of FireSpring Fund. “The City of Orlando is pleased to welcome Embry-Riddle as a financial partner in the FireSpring fund,” said Mayor Dyer. “When our government, educational anchors and private sector businesses partner to support our entrepreneurial ecosystem, we are working together to nurture and grow the most promising innovative technology and advanced manufacturing startups in Central Florida, and in turn, growing Orlando’s innovation-based economy and helping to create new jobs and opportunities for our residents.”
Donna Mackenzie, who also leads Canvs and Starter Studio, has been quietly working very diligently in furthering this connection and negotiating the investment for several months. But it wasn’t a hard sell. Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University (ERAU) understood the value of connectivity early on and knew that a relationship with the tech community would serve as a bridge between Volusia County and Orlando in general. Embry-Riddle is a center of excellence for innovation in the areas of Simulation Technology, Aerospace and Software Engineering to name a few. The connectivity to Embry-Riddle will also be beneficial to Central Florida startups that may benefit from the support available at Embry-Riddle: incubator space, unique partnerships, research facilities, laboratory space and other resources.
Mackenzie said this commitment “represents a strong partnership between Embry-Riddle and others in Central Florida like FireSpring Fund, Orlando Tech Association, Canvs, University of Central Florida, City of Orlando, Orange County, Rollins and many others that are working together to solve for a lack of seed funding and resources to give our startups every possibility of great success.”
Our region is more than just Orlando city limits. The power of our collective, the spirit of collaboration and our willingness to work outside of silos will be the catalyst to propelling us to success.