When Paul Sohl arrived in Central Florida roughly three years ago, he was instantly energized by Orlando’s innovation community.
However, what was missing, he said, was a vehicle to create a narrative that could communicate the region’s successes.
That’s where Innovate Orlando has come in, a relatively new organization that has quickly become invaluable, he said.
“I have always heard sometimes competing narratives about innovation here; it’s natural,” said Sohl, Florida High Tech Corridor’s CEO. “But when you have a group like Innovate Orlando, they can help develop and mine the great stuff going on in innovation and put it into the context of a narrative that makes sense.”
Innovate Orlando’s efforts will accelerate in October.
The gropu will spearhead MetaCenter Global Week, an event meant to showcase the city to some of the biggest companies in tech.
FOUR KEY STRATEGIES
Innovate Orlando debuted earlier this year with four goals in mind:
- Create, develop and oversee the Orlando Tech Community group.
- Develop a 5-year strategic plan, known as “Breakthrough Orlando.”
- Create a strategic partnership that aids the development of the Creative Village.
- Market the region as a global tech hub known as the MetaCenter.
So far, so good.
“Our technology and innovation ecosystem has matured to a point where it makes sense to have an independent, mission-driven organization leading its continued growth,” said Daryl Holt, senior vice president and general manager of Tiburon Studios at Electronic Arts. “We are ready for the next level and the emergence of Innovate Orlando from existing organizations and ideas is a natural next step.”
As the community emerged from the pandemic, Orlando saw a wide range of sectors see growth.
These include a good number of Metaverse-related technologies like augmented reality, artificial intelligence and gaming.
Holt, Innovate Orlando’s chairman and founding board member, said its strength comes in bringing these together.
“Many members of Orlando’s innovation community, including our team at Electronic Arts, tend to operate in silos,” he said. “However, as the technical hub has matured in Central Florida, we’ve seen different collaboration and cross-over points as we collectively contribute to the ecosystem.”
That created the need for an independent organization with its main mission being the growth of tech and innovation in Orlando, he said.
“As a neutral entity, Innovate Orlando can be a bridge builder and offer a vision for Orlando’s tech community that we can not only rally around but also contribute to,” Holt said.
INNOVATE ORLANDO’S CREATION
Innovate Orlando was created after Orlando Tech Community formally split from the Orlando Economic Partnership in June.
The organization named David Adelson CEO shortly therafter.
Adelson had been OEP’s chief innovation officer.
It has been instrumental in planning events that bring the community together.
TenX Tech downtown, for instance, brought hundreds to the area’s Wall Street block, partnering with other organizations in the community.
302 Interactive COO and cofounder Bobby Torres attended that event along with his team.
He said Innovate Orlando’s ability to bring some cohesion to the ecosystem has been a big part of why the community has been growing.
“Non-profit organizations like Innovate Orlando often serve as a key connector that can be a catalyst for more growth,” he said. “My hope is we will see growth in the businesses that make up this community.”
Now that he has had more time to take it all in, Sohl said the Orlando tech community sits at a perfect time to start building a narrative.
He likened it to Visit Orlando, Central Florida’s high-powered organization that promotes tourism across the city, state and country.
The group was created in 1984 and quickly became one of the more influential bodies in the city.
“I see Innovate Orlando in the same vein because you have so many things going on and you need an organization like this,” Sohl said. “It’s not to limit innovation or stifle anything. It’s to have a place and a narrative within a place that is independent of sector or anything else. Now is the time to do it.”
A series supported by Innovate Orlando