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.
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.
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 is moving approximately 12 employees into the Greenleaf Building from St. Augustine. Jeremy Vaughan, Principal, is looking to harness feature’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.