How can we engage a community around feature’s brand and create real social and economic impact?
In 2012, feature launched a venture technology lab to help bring promising tech startup companies to market. It was a successful Open Innovation pilot driven by the community, focused on social investment and economic growth.
"The most effective way to manage change successfully is to create it."
CHALLENGE: The Change Leader
Since the 19th century, Jacksonville, FL, has been a major military and port town. By the 20th century, our economy was globally recognized as a hot bed for banking, insurance, healthcare, construction, logistics, and tourism. Modern day 2013, Forbes Magazine ranks Jacksonville as the second-fastest growing technology services city in the country.
Paying It Forward
In 2011, passionate about Downtown Jacksonville's revitalization, enhancing the local technology community’s competitive context, and Northeast Florida's entrepreneurial ecosystem, the feature team set out to make social impact through software engineering. With a strategy to foster a culture of innovation and excellence, we needed to promote collaboration with transparency, shared innovation, and capital in order to help more people invent and build technology-based companies. If successful, we'd inspire, excite, and help build momentum for the community.
INVESTING IN A JACKSONVILLE INNOVATION HUB
feature developed a systematic method for collecting information through continued research of Jacksonville's economy, government policy, social activities, grassroots movements, incentives, academia trends, media interests, non-customer buying habits, tech groups, technological developments, competitors, and the business community's satisfaction. These elements demonstrated a point-of-connection with significant potential for Jacksonville's success. However, at the current state of 2011, the ecosystem lacked an engaged network of expert technologists, mentors, venture capital, and openness that could help put controls in place to create a vision for goal-setting and value creation.
Furthermore, in the southeast region, connecting with capital has been relatively rare and hard to accomplish, leading to brain drain to other competing geographical hot spots. Jacksonville's broader competition was any other source of funding where early-stage entrepreneurs were able to move to a new location, creating more opportunity and a higher success rate for themselves with a longer runway from higher rounds of funds raised. feature aimed to cultivate an environment that attracted and retained dynamic, profound, and ambitious professionals, entrepreneurs, investors, and organizations who were also committed to create, build, and maintain successful companies locally.
Through feature's performance measures we had the ability to process and analyze the data being collected very fast. We rapidly acquired great capacity to design controls in our business model, based on improvement techniques, and initiated our venture technology lab. The feature lab was built to improve the success rate of regional startups and took a different approach to connect these fledgling companies with a community of like-minded experts here to support each other for the greater good. Our methods included quantitative and qualitative research, business model prototyping, technology prototyping, organizational design, and intellectual property development. We would brand this Open Innovation pilot: "The Factory".
Background + Overview
Today, launching a software-based technology venture requires fewer owned resources since the costs of these resources have become increasingly less prohibitive. As a result, they also require far less capital than they would have in years previously, if done correctly and with the right teams in place. New tools allow for faster development with hosting and server resources to be leased and utilized on‐demand leading to reduced engineering, equipment, and employee startup costs. A community with the appropriate tools enabled founding teams to easily plan, communicate, and execute while leveraging a “use-when-needed” talent and resource pool located within a network we collectively created.
We were able to work with some of the most fantastic people and great minds in our industry. We continue to outperform our peers in the market in part through helping to build more productive, better performing, accurate, and emotionally healthier teams through validated product launches. The plan was implemented by simplifying milestone objectives:
1. Team Validation
2. Product Validation
3. Customer Validation
4. Business Model Validation
5. Positive Revenue-Based Model
The milestone-driven program was designed around our philosophy, culture, and methodologies while integrating other entrepreneurial sciences, Lean Startup, and customer development where iterative cycles grew the businesses while minimizing expenditures and hedging risk. The accountability program that accompanied our investment, product development, and on-premise coaching is one of the most important ways success was positively impacted, and the area where our model was most differentiated. This process was critically reviewing progress, on an ongoing basis, to ensure continual improvement in the context of the ever-changing landscape of business and technology.
"A business has two basic functions: marketing and innovation."
- Peter Drucker
Through patience, passion, care, imagination, and courage, feature connected entrepreneurial technology ventures to resources and piloted change into reality. Our dedication helped to raise public awareness to Downtown Jacksonville while exciting a community around technology. The feature brand continues to be recognized as an innovative technology services hub for Jacksonville and Florida's leading entrepreneurs, industry experts, capital, and technologists to connect and launch quality digital business models. Our R&D Creation Lab emphasizes innovative thinking and experimentation, qualities that frequently translate into opportunities to collaborate, network, and exploit pivotal business climates, industry issues, and emerging technologies.
- Behind the scenes of a Downtown Tech Hub
- Workscapes: feature engineers its software design business Downtown
- Jacksonville tops the list of 2014 best cities to start a business
- High Tech Companies Choose Downtown
- Can The Factory be the spark for Downtown?
- Tech firm to start 'venture lab' in historic Downtown building
- The Factory launches companies
- Barriers to entry for tech startups have gotten lower
- Another Great Research Tool for Your Portfolio's Arsenal
- Complete Business Management Software at One Spark
- feature owners mentioned with Northeast Florida's Top Technology Innovators and Influencers
- There's an app for that: Restroom Alert
- Are your profits in the toilet?
- In search of the app for success
- One Spark - the festival is over: can the party continue?
- Sneak peek at some of One Spark's creators
- Reversing Brain Drain, Jacksonville
- The Factory coaches technology startups
- Tech Faster: Innovators Interviews
- Would your startup be helped by a business accelerator?
- Jacksonville's tech community needs cohesion
- Pieces need to come together for local tech scene to grow up
Integrated components taught relevant business knowledge and "fail fast" concepts to accelerate product-market-fit. This created qualified startups capable of engaging a much larger investor pool to scale the successful founding teams to sustainability.
Visibility. feature shared success stories, challenges, and opportunities. The media housed content such as articles, interviews, videos, news, and awards.
Engaged Coaching. Coaches offered diverse industry knowledge and experience to help founding teams focus efforts on executing feasible ideas and mission-critical tasks.
Partner Resources. Technologists, software engineers, IP/Patent Attorneys, CPAs, designers, marketers, writers, sales, etc. helped connect innovation with execution.
Corporate Matchmaker. If there was an overlap, feature worked with corporate partners to match useful innovations to their business goals. This allowed improved contributions through collaboration, mentoring, sponsorships, and partnerships.
Capital. With a strict focus on business value, technology-based investments have attracted venture capital, angel investors, and private investors looking to diversify.
Commercialization. feature brought together expertise, R&D, technology, and business to guide inventors with patentable or copyrightable technologies.
Talent Development. Training, mentoring, continuous learning, and interaction are cornerstones of the feature organization. This has cultivated a productive and innovative environment.
Tech Startup Culture. feature continues to host a variety of events ranging from educational workshops and roundtable discussions to networking events and conferences. These events provide opportunities to connect with the best and brightest in the region’s tech industry.
Software + Cloud Computing.
feature's innovation lab was chosen to be 1 out of 5 BizSpark PLUS partners in Florida. Azure for BizSpark Plus covered $60K of startup’s cloud computing costs.Through this offer, every dollar startups saved meant more money for them to spend elsewhere in their business.