by: Katherine Hardwick in Spotlight No Comments  

Over the past few years there has been growing interest from high tech companies in locating Downtown. All of this buzz may help explain why Forbes Magazine recently named Jacksonville as the second fastest growing high tech center in the country, surpassed only by Austin, TX.

When asked why they locate Downtown, the overwhelming sentiment is that high tech companies want to be around other like-minded, creative and entrepreneurial individuals, and the Downtown environment that helps them flourish. Companies are also seeking open, flexible and stylish spaces to spur their imagination and creativity.

credit: @coworkjax

CoWork Jax | credit: @coworkjax

CoWork Jax opened its doors in 2012 to create Jacksonville’s first co-working community with a simple mission of offering entrepreneurs and small businesses an environment to collaborate, conspire and grow. Today, it boasts more than 100 members and more than 15 companies with nearly 90 employees having grown out of CoWork – many located in Downtown and surrounding neighborhoods.

Darren Bounds started one such company, SportsYapper, in 2012. Now with a staff of 13 employees and an office located at 100 Laura Street, this app is similar to Twitter but optimized for sports fanatics and accounts for approximately 35% of the sports conversations currently occurring on Twitter.

Another company to come from CoWork Jax is KYN, an offshoot of One Spark that was formed in 2013. According to Shay Arnett, Chief Technologist, KYN provides a 24-week accelerator support program building stability and sustainability in start-up companies. The program provides seed funding and $70,000 in design, development and launch resources for new companies. The program is funded through STACHE Investments and is currently located in the Suddath Building on Bay Street.


IGNITE | credit: @IgniteWithUs

While many of Downtown’s tech firms are homegrown, others are fostered by national companies. As the innovation lab for Adecco Group, the world’s largest staffing and recruiting firm, Ignite is a team of 25 adventurous minds devoted to the creation of digital solutions related to work. Located in the Dyal Upchurch Building, Ignite uses a human-centered, lean and data-driven approach to solve problems ranging from hiring process efficiency, to workforce entry, to career transition.

And, beginning in May 2014, feature[23] is moving approximately 12 employees into the Greenleaf Building from St. Augustine. Jeremy Vaughan, Principal, is looking to harness feature[23]’s open innovation culture to empower the business community with technology and accelerate better-integrated digital enterprises. Working closely with many large companies in Downtown, the move will be not only a strategic business decision, but also a way to collaborate with other organizations and initiatives more closely. Perhaps not so surprising, five of the employees are looking at living in Downtown Jacksonville.

by: Katherine Hardwick in Downtown Shout-outs, Spotlight No Comments  

Oliver Barakat Profile JBJ 2013 ListRecently released, the Jacksonville Business Journal’s annual list of top movers and shakers spotlights local business, civic and government decision makers of 2013. It’s no surprise that one major unifying thread joined many of named–20 of the 30–together: Downtown Jacksonville.

Some based in Downtown, some cultivating Downtown and some championing Downtown, DVI would like to thank the following Downtown-minded movers and shakers for their commitment to enriching the fabric of Downtown Jacksonville. Leading the list is DVI’s very own Board of Directors secretary, Oliver Barakat.

1. Oliver Barakat is senior vice president at CBRE Group, Inc. and chairman of the Downtown Investment Authority.

2. Lori Boyer, City Councilmember, District 5, is an outspoken advocate for Downtown in policy-making.

3. Alex Coley, principal at Hallmark Partners Inc., is a driving force for 220 Riverside, a new mixed-use development in Downtown set to launch this summer.

4. Daniel Davis, president and CEO of JaxChamber continues to make Downtown a priority for the Chamber.

5. Renee Finley was head of public-private partnerships for the City of Jacksonville and is a vice president with Florida Blue.

6. Bill Foley III is Chairman of Fidelity National Financial, one of Downtown’s Fortune 500 companies.

7. Mark Frisch is CEO of Sunshine Sports Soccer Group, a new entertainment advocate group located in Downtown – and we’d love to see a soccer stadium Downtown!

8. Pat Geraghty is CEO of Florida Blue, a longstanding tenant in Downtown’s Brooklyn neighborhood.

9. William Gulliford, City Council president, is a major supporter of Downtown revitalization, including efforts to secure private management for Hemming Plaza.

10. John Keane is the executive director of the Police and Fire Pension Fund, which owners properties in Downtown.  

11. Jacques Klempf, CEO of Dixie Egg Co. and Ovinte Wine Lounge, is a key party interested in the rehabilitation the Bostwick Building.

12. Sherry Magill, president at Jessie Ball duPont Fund, is leading the charge to renovate the Haydon Burns Library for a major nonprofit center.

13. Hope McMath, executive director of the Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens, is a major supporter of connectivity between Downtown and Riverside/Avondale.

14. Matt Rapp, executive director of THE PLAYERS Championship, was instrumental in expanding TPC into Downtown in 2013.

15. Elton Rivas, co-creator of One Spark and KYN, helped bring more than 100,000 people Downtown for the inaugural crowdfunding festival with a spinoff business incubator program.

16. Peter Rummell, immediate past chair of Jacksonville Civic Council, is a key advocate for Downtown revitalization and a major backer of One Spark.

17. Toney Sleiman is CEO of Sleiman Enterprises, which owns The Jacksonville Landing, and is working toward public-private investment to re-imagine this major landmark.

18. Hap Stein, is chairman and CEO of Regency Centers, a major developer, owner and operator of commercial property, is developing develop a Fresh Market-anchored shopping center in Downtown’s Brooklyn neighborhood.

19. Alan Verlander, COO of Gator Bowl Sports and Entertainment, is working attract major sporting events Downtown and community-wide.

20. Aundra Wallace, CEO of the Downtown Investment Authority, is leading the update of Downtown’s Community Redevelopment Area (CRA) strategy to drive short and longterm economic development and revitalization.

View the full JBJ list here.


by: Katherine Hardwick in Spotlight No Comments  

Based on a demonstration project between DVI and local entrepreneurs in 2011, CoWork Jax opened its doors on January 26, 2012, to create Jacksonville’s first co-working community with a simple mission of offering entrepreneurs and small businesses an environment to collaborate, conspire and grow.


It’s a formula that not only fosters local entrepreneurs and small businesses, but fosters Downtown growth as well. To date, 15 companies with nearly 90 employees have grown out of CoWork Jax. Companies such as: Ignite, Content Design Group, Digital Edge Marketing , Sports Yapper, One Spark and KYN have all outgrown their CoWork spaces and have relocated, leasing office space in Downtown and surrounding neighborhoods.

The three founders of CoWork Jax, Varick Rosete, Dennis Eusebio and Elton Rivas, developed and launched the inaugural five-day One Spark innovation festival at CoWork. This festival, of course, went on to bring more than 500 creators and 130,000 patrons Downtown and had an estimated economic impact in the tens of millions in its first year. In turn, Northeast Florida’s first business accelerator program, KYN, was imagined here. Selecting four companies from the One Spark Festival, KYN will nurture and develop these companies to grow their businesses Downtown through a 16-week boot-camp-style curriculum designed to validate business models, and scale the companies while attracting additional investment to their businesses.

Today, CoWork boasts more than 100 members and 50 “alumni” members. Approximately 20 participants and program managers are regularly working out of the space, and CoWork is the home of Healthbox Florida’s first cohort of seven companies. An average of 850 unique people come through CoWork’s doors each month, including: members, event and meeting attendees, clients, colleagues, family, and friends.

CoWork Jax has proven itself as a laboratory for fresh innovative thinking, and also as a great vehicle to help revitalize Downtown Jacksonville.