Startup Resources

Spotlight on Hutchison PLLC

Spotlight on Hutchison PLLC 1051 700 startupGNV

Like bread and butter, some things just go together. So often, satisfaction comes with making a perfect pair and what is a better match for aspiring entrepreneurs than a law firm dedicated to helping startups?

For Hutchison, a law firm formed to serve entrepreneurs, Gainesville is the perfect fit with its fruitful startup scene. The firm opened an office in the city in 2015, moving into the community due to the heavy concentration of startups and uprising university talent pool with a promising future.

Hutchison was established over twenty years ago in Raleigh, North Carolina, where its headquarters are still located. When choosing where to extend their hand to business owners, they landed upon Gainesville, as the city was home to numerous pre-existing clients. Hutchison had helped North Florida clients for over a decade before moving to town. By 2015, they not only had roots in the area but an understanding of Gainesville culture on a social and professional level.

“The firm’s DNA is built on representing emerging growth technology companies,” said Justyn Kasierski, managing partner at Hutchison PLLC. “Of course, the University of Florida is renowned for spinning out those types of companies. That is what first attracted us to the area back in 2005. What we found after working in Gainesville is that there is an entrepreneur ecosystem flourishing more and more everyday.”

Since coming to Gainesville, Hutchison has watched the city entrepreneurially transcend over the years they’ve been in town. The startup scene continues to grow in Alachua at every phase of the business life-cycle. Though there is a steady drip of early-stage startups, an increasing number of local companies are also migrating into the growth phase and beyond. That’s where Hutchison comes in, providing guidance at every stage of a startup life.

Moreover, Hutchison’s belief in the city’s promise is ever growing. “Our firm spends a lot of time in entrepreneurial ecosystems like Nashville, Atlanta, and more. We feel Gainesville is right there with that DNA, minus the size difference. Gainesville punches above its weight when it comes to entrepreneurship. Success breeds success, and we believe Greater Gainesville’s collaborative ecosystem will continue to nurture and accelerate the formation and growth of companies here,” said Kasierski.

What exactly are those advantages that Alachua has to offer? Take Gainesville’s affordable and available office spaces, warehouses, manufacturing areas, and lab spaces. Then, there’s UF and Santa Fe, which provide a highly-educated talent pool in Hutchison’s eyes. On top of it all, the cost of living is relatively low in Gainesville, meaning that companies’ payroll can also be lower, there are incredible incubators and accelerators, and there is no state income tax. One may say Gainesville is a breeding ground for startups, providing quite the advantageous environment for entrepreneurs.

The folks at Hutchison are business attorneys, rather than attorneys practicing business. In other words, their entire practice focuses on business as opposed to being a law firm that handles business law as only one of many other sectors. Their singular focus on business law means that they understand what it means to grow an organization from the ground up, making them a perfect match for entrepreneurs needing legal guidance.

Kasierski explained that Hutchison’s entire business model is focused on startups and rising entrepreneurs. “What makes us unique as a firm is our focus on serving entrepreneurs. There are a lot of great law firms in Florida, but we think we are unique because of that mission. We feel like it’s something we need to be present in – the Gainesville ecosystem – so we are.”

As it grows, Gainesville is likely to further transpire into more of an entrepreneurial hub than we see today. Standing by is Hutchison, ready to facilitate the growth of the entrepreneurs that transform the city.

Founder Q&A: Launching and Learning with Christoffer Prompovitch

Founder Q&A: Launching and Learning with Christoffer Prompovitch 800 600 startupGNV

Founder Q&A: Launching and Learning with Christoffer Prompovitch

Christoffer Prompovitch, CEO & founder of ClaimFound, opens up about the successes and challenges of his company’s 18-month launching journey. After leaving a full time job in D.C. in 2016 to be a full-time entrepreneur, Chris is offering up insights on the value of calculated risk taking, finding the need in a market, tending to details, and the unexpected benefits of launching a company in Gainesville, FL.

1. Describe your startup in 3 sentences or less.

ClaimFound is a web application that helps people find, retrieve, and monitor unclaimed property (lost money) sitting with government agencies across the country. There is approximately $60 billion in lost money belonging to more than 100 million Americans, but no central platform to easily find and return these assets. Our mission is to improve financial welfare of Americans by connecting them with their lost money and other opportunities that puts money in their pockets.  

2. Tell us about the initial company idea and how it was hatched.

My co-founder and I met nearly a decade ago during our undergraduate studies at Virginia Commonwealth University. Over the years, we have worked on many different consulting projects and even some early-stage business ideas, but nothing significant ever materialized. Eventually, he decided to get his Ph.D from University of Florida and I opted to get some work experience.

In late summer 2015, I was at my co-founder’s house when his father walked by and exclaimed “I finally got our money back”. He continued by telling us a story about how there was an unclaimed life insurance policy for my co-founders grandmother in Florida, worth around $10,000, but it had taken him more than a year to get it back and required an attorney.

My co-founder and I started doing some research on unclaimed property and discovered there are billions of dollars being held by government agencies across the country and no central or modern solution to help people find and process this money. We were amazed that no one else had solved this problem yet and thought our background and skill sets made us perfect for the job. I saved up some cash and quit my job in Washington D.C. and then moved down to Gainesville Florida in the summer of 2016 to start working on the idea full time.  

3. How large is your company and how long did it take to build your current team?

Currently, ClaimFound is a team of seven full time employees and two interns. The company was started after we raised some initial capital from friends and family in early 2017 and we’ve built out the team methodically since then, focusing on both technical ability and personality fit to make sure we bring on the right people.

4. How is your team transitioning from ideation phase to validating product market fit?

ClaimFound went live in Florida in early February and we’re now beginning the process of formally validating our product-market-fit.

During the ideation phase, before we ever took on any investment, we spent a considerable amount of time researching the user experience surrounding the existing process to recover your unclaimed property and talking extensively with several treasurers and unclaimed property heads across the country. By the time we had finished our research, it was clear there was already significant demand for the product we wanted to build.

For example, we learned that in 2017 approximately $7 billion in new unclaimed property was turned over to treasurers across the country, but only $3 Billion paid out to the rightful owners in that year, which represented nearly 15 million claims. This statistic was quite interesting because it suggested that in 2017 at least 15 million people were already using an unclaimed property product/service and the remaining unclaimed property ($4 billion or 20 million people) wasn’t able to be returned to rightful owners.

Both the conversations we had with treasurers and the insight we drew from the unclaimed property statistic dramatically impacted the decisions we made for our initial product development. We realized that we weren’t building something that never existed, and therefore its initial viability or adoption didn’t need to be validated. We were building a product that was to significantly improve upon the existing solutions in the marketplace. This meant that rather than building out a bare-bones MVP, we needed a more complete, feature-rich improvement to show its true value.  As a result, we spent the last 18 months focusing on user experience and functionality at the most critical points in the claims process with heavy emphasis on real-world beta tests, and set up a formal working relationship with the Florida Unclaimed Property Division so we could be in a position to successfully scale from an operational perspective once we went live to the public.

Over the next few months we’ll be focusing on two metrics to prove initial product-market-fit: 1) Total processed unclaimed property and 2) Our viral coefficient. Being able to successfully scale our user base will allow us to achieve our next set of milestones.

5. What are the top priorities for ClaimFound currently and why?

Currently, ClaimFound is focusing on jumpstarting user growth in Florida, bringing our first two monetization strategies online to generate meaningful revenue, and landing two to three additional state partnerships. Achieving these goals will get us closer to operational break-even and allow us to raise a much larger investment round so that we can continue expanding nationally.

6. What has been an unexpected challenge ClaimFound has experienced?

There have been many of challenges along the way, but the one I significantly underestimated was building the actual product. Our original mental conception of what we needed to build seemed so straight forward that we thought we could code it without much difficulty. In reality and especially since this is the first web application my co-founder and I have built, there were many more nuances and details that needed to be addressed to have a stable, well-functioning, and scalable web application. The devil is in the details and even building conceptually straightforward products takes considerable effort and focus.

“When we started, our original assumption was that we’d have to move to the Bay Area or NYC to really start building out the company. We completely debunked this idea and have found that there is top tier development talent coming out of University of Florida and in the surrounding Gainesville area.”

7. What has been an unexpected success ClaimFound has experienced?

We have had great success in getting to the point we are today, but i’ve been most surprised by our ability to connect with the right advisors and industry mentors and our ability to recruit talented developers from Gainesville.

From the start, before I even left my full-time job in Washington D.C., we had a very easy time finding and connecting with the right people across the country that could help advise the company and make introductions to state treasurers. Currently, ClaimFound’s advisory board has a collective experience of more than 50 years in the unclaimed property industry and knows every treasurer and unclaimed property head in the country on a personal basis.  

Our second success has come from the talent we’ve found in Gainesville. When we started, our original assumption was that we’d have to move to the Bay Area or NYC to really start building out the company. We completely debunked this idea and have found that there is top tier development talent coming out of University of Florida and in the surrounding Gainesville area. Furthermore, our investors love that we’re located in Florida because of lower corporate tax rates and our investment dollars going 3 – 4 times further being located in Gainesville.

8. How has launching a company changed your lifestyle?

I certainly work a lot more than I did at my last job, but I’ve never been happier in my entire life. I have complete control over my schedule, which provides me the flexibility to maintain important personal relationships and exercise, while still being able to get my work done each and every day. However, I do have to stay very organized and scheduled, otherwise I can get pretty stressed out.  

“…even if your idea doesn’t work out in the long-run, the experience you’ll have gained made your life far richer than if you stayed in a 9-5 (or your personal equivalent) where you weren’t growing.”

9. What advice would you give potential entrepreneurs thinking about taking the leap to start their own company?

If you truly and genuinely believe in your idea then just go for it. The fear of failure and everything else preventing you from following your passion exists in your head and is the worst prior to making the leap. You’ll realize very quickly once you do that the world doesn’t end and that even if your idea doesn’t work out in the long-run, the experience you’ll have gained made your life far richer than if you stayed in a 9-5 (or your personal equivalent) where you weren’t growing.

Starting ClaimFound was hands down the best decision I’ve ever made in my life. My personal, emotional, and professional growth has increased by an order of magnitude. I’ve found something that i’m truly passionate about and motivates me to get out of the bed each morning and do my best work. I sincerely hope everyone can find their same passion and focus for life and if the mental fear of making the leap to start your own company is all that’s holding you back, what are you waiting for?

From Prototypes to Patents: A Look Into The Santa Fe College IPDC

From Prototypes to Patents: A Look Into The Santa Fe College IPDC 1680 1120 startupGNV

From Prototypes to Patents: A Look Into The Santa Fe College IPDC

Alachua County is a home to startup incubators. So, it only seems fitting that Alachua County and the City of Gainesville develop the infrastructure with the right resources and tools to enable entrepreneurs. That’s where the Santa Fe College Innovative Product Development Center (IPDC) comes in. The program was born when some of Santa Fe’s top minds came together and partnered with local government. With a $500,000 grant from the US Economic Development Administration (EDA) to run IPDC for three years, Santa Fe College and the Gainesville community developed a creative system to help aspiring entrepreneurs succeed.

startups, IPDC, startupGNV

The IPDC costs nothing for client companies to participate, and the program is accessible to anyone with a product idea or with a startup. Whether that someone has a pre-existing company or if that someone simply has an business or product idea they want to make a reality… applying is open to entrepreneurs in any stage of the professional journey.

“We connect our clients with prototyping partners, marketing partners, legal partners … any partner that would help them fill in the gaps.”

Entrepreneurship may sound sexy, but there are some hard realities behind getting a business in operation or a product in production. Take navigating the U.S. patent process for example. Or, legal services, licensing processes, commercialization, product development, business insurance… should we go on? IPDC knows there’s a lot that goes on behind the scenes of the romanticized startup world. That’s why the program takes on young entrepreneurs and startups as clients to give them the resources and partners they need to feel good and look good.

“We connect our clients with prototyping partners, marketing partners, legal partners … any partner that would help them fill in the gaps,” said Program Director Karl Zawoy. Just some of the many IPDC partners include four law firms, product development company Tech Toybox, and strategic branding team Underdog Marketing. Zawoy explained that partnerships are only one component of IPDC. Clients are also exposed to a wide range of events to stay informed as they develop their product or business. “Already planned for next year are three events for our clients, with seminars ranging from topics like grants and loans to human resource functions.”

“The IPDC meets any entrepreneur where they’re at, then provides them the collateral to independently flourish.”

IPDC had 32 clients in 2018 and within the next year aim to double that number. Clients range from service companies to product companies and everything in between. Just a few of the IPDC’s clients include: TissuePro Technology, a manufacturer of tissue preparation and analysis products. X-Skis, who combines skis and snowboards into one product, and Slice Engineering, an engineering team that solves problems in the additive manufacturing industry. There entrepreneurial possibilities are countless.

Take another IPDC client company, Exothermic. They create software for medical applications, cyber security, and startups. Like Exothermic, many beginning inventors and entrepreneurs are smart and passionate, yet not fully experienced in professional undertakings. Through IPDC, Exothermic has had access to resources like trainings, presentations, and partnerships so that they could effectively get up and running. Trainings include topics such as drafting a business plan or developing a business model, while presentations cover subjects like pitching to investors or how to apply for patents. The IPDC meets any entrepreneur where they’re at, then provides them the collateral to independently flourish.

Take a look for yourself. For more information or to apply, visit the IPDC website. There, you’ll find a full list of resources, events, and the partners available to clients. There’s no catch; just a team of smart people helping other smart people.

Article contributed by Meg Boria-Meyer

Co.Accelerator Presents Beta Cohort

Co.Accelerator Presents Beta Cohort 400 267 startupGNV

Co.Accelerator Presents Beta Cohort

The current of entrepreneurialism swirls strong and vibrant, increasingly touching everyday life in Gainesville. Thanks to the efforts of Co.Accelerator over the last three months, a new group of Gainesville’s innovative thinkers are one step closer to reaching the consciousness of consumers.

Co.Accelerator is a startup accelerator looking to strengthen new businesses that focus on design thinking and community. For the last three months, the entrepreneurs of its first group, the Beta Cohort, worked with mentors and local business leaders to bring their ideas closer to market. These local innovative thinkers unveiled their efforts on August 16 at Demo Day.

Beta Cohort

The startups participating in this first session cross several sectors. They are rethinking or introducing designs to better meet community and user needs. And thanks to participation in this Beta Cohort, each has made significant progress. Some are planning to launch in the coming months and others already have their first paying customers.

Keep your eye out for these budding businesses launching and growing right here in Gainesville:

Tribe is the safe and convenient way to complete almost any item on your to-do list. Our community marketplace helps you find and offer help in a spirit of togetherness.
Synchronize is a Gainesville based start-up company that focuses on the use of student- owned personal devices within the classroom. Schools spend millions on technology due to fact they are unable to trust the students with their own devices. Synchronize is a platform linking students’ devices to teachers’ computers in order to monitor the applications being used.
At Longwing Roasting, coffee is art through science. We believe in a deliberate and measured approach to crafting a coffee experience, one that extends past the cup.
Reva aims to revolutionize the way people tackle their commutes by introducing the most technologically advanced electric bikes that meet at the intersection of functionality, affordability, and quality. We hope to redefine what an electric bike can be, and begin transitioning the public perception of what ebikes are.
Sift Local showcases the vendors of handmade and artisanal products from local markets across the country. We offer these artisanal and handmade vendors a public platform to showcase their creative talents and sell their products to event attendees and the public.
CharterHook is a listing and reservation company that provides services to guides and charters. Services listed on our site include but are not limited to fishing, sightseeing, cruises, and diving tours via licensed captains and certified professionals.
At Gatherade, we build products that make life simpler. Our goal is to help people, organizations and businesses save time and money and reduce the ever-increasing complexity of life through a location based mobile application focused on bringing people together.

Members of this first cohort presented their progress to the public in a stunning, intimate setting at local brewery Cypress & Grove. The venue was selected in keeping with the central mission of “community” at Co.Accelerator. The organization hopes to embed support for entrepreneurs directly into the workings of the Gainesville community.

UF Innovate | The Hub supported the initiative by providing the creative space for the participating entrepreneurs. UFTH Director Mark Long noted, “The establishment of the Co.Accelerator at The Hub is a true benchmark in the growth of the Gainesville entrepreneurial ecosystem. The program shows the depth of entrepreneurial spirit and the momentum we have here in driving new technologies, applications and inventions forward.”

Want to learn how to participate in a future cohort with your own business idea? Throw your name in the hat at

Article contributed by Lisa Banks.

Spotlight on Santa Fe College

Spotlight on Santa Fe College 945 532 startupGNV

Meet Santa Fe College…

Santa Fe College’s Center for Innovation and Economic Development (CIED) and the Gainesville Technology Entrepreneurship Center (GTEC) strive to enhance economic development in our community through their support of innovation and startup companies. Led by Dug Jones, Associate Vice President for Economic Development, both CIED and GTEC share a belief that there is an abundance of opportunities to serve our local entrepreneurs without focusing on competition, preferring to operate from a place of collaboration. In fact, the collaborative nature of StartupGNV is what drew Santa Fe to developing a partnership with the organization when it was still known as GAIN; they feel strongly that the collaborative efforts of StartupGNV are what make our startup community so cohesive.

When Santa Fe and GAIN first partnered, the organization was rich with service providers who were enthusiastic supporters of the local startup community, offering their assistance to new ventures in order to foster their success. While service providers maintain a vital presence in the StartupGNV family, Santa Fe appreciates that the organization’s leadership has evolved to fill more roles with fellow entrepreneurs who have been in the trenches and done the necessary work to be successful, who can now give back through support and mentorship of new entrepreneurs. This transition in leadership over time has happened organically, and as an innovation hub, Santa Fe believes it’s important to continue to grow as an organization in order to stay relevant, incorporate fresh ideas, attract rising entrepreneurs, and foster continued engagement.

Santa Fe College’s CIED and GTEC have had several staff members serve StartupGNV in leadership roles over the years; throughout their involvement, one of the most rewarding aspects has been observing the companies that are doing wonderfully and knowing that StartupGNV aided in their success. Whether hosting pitch contests to help entrepreneurs refine their messaging, to connecting startups with investors, StartupGNV has been the birthplace of a wealth of new ventures that have gone on to achieve their highest success.

CIED and GTEC believe that it’s vital to meet entrepreneurs where they’re at in regards to their needs, through their partnership with StartupGNV as well as their own services. As an entrepreneur-centric incubator, they strive to be as flexible as possible in providing support to new venues, as each organization’s needs are different, in addition to their metrics for success. Their goal is to do whatever they can to support the vision of their entrepreneurs and remove barriers for startups to move forward however they see fit.Interest in learning more about CIED’s incubator programs? Feel free to reach out to Dug Jones, Associate Vice President, Economic Development, as for more info!

Article contributed by Tamara Herchel.