4Q4: Four questions for … Dawn Haynes, Starter Studio & OTC

Dawn Haynes has perhaps one of the more unique viewpoints of Orlando’s startup community.

She was named the head of Starter Studio about two years ago and recently was installed as Orlando Tech Community’s president.

We caught up with her with four questions on Orlando’s tech scene.

What are OTC’s priorities this year?

For this year, OTC will continue to build on the momentum gained during the past 12 months, and continue to evolve, grow and add value and benefits to the members based on the key learnings and member feedback gleaned from the various initiatives undertaken. The three committees.

The Startup/Growth committee will focus on supporting entrepreneurial tech businesses through these important and critical phases of development.  Providing access to the myriad of resources needed to not just survive in the startup phase, but to truly thrive as they grow and scale.

Tech Connect will focus on progressing the mapping of our tech/innovation ecosystem that occurred last year into connecting with each stakeholder group and facilitating the interconnectivity of all the groups that will enable us to become a top 10 tech/innovation hub.

Marketing/PR will build awareness of our region’s broad tech and innovation capabilities, its outstanding resources that support startups, and being a champion/advocate in the press and community for our member organizatons by highlighting and showcasing their major wins and achievements!

Look back briefly. What were some big moments for OTC in 2023?

I believe one of the most important accomplishments was making OTC available and accessible to everyone and anyone connected to tech and innovation.  The member base grew in 2023 to over 300 members and attendance increased at the Ten X Tech Live Events (both the member-only and open events), encouraging conversation and serendipitous collaboration opportunities. 

In addition, OTC started its journey of understanding and providing value to its members. The introduction of the Founders Dinners has been invaluable in connecting startup founders with successfully exited entrepreneurs for learning, guidance and encouragement.  The introduction of the TenX Talks education series (open to anyone, not just members) has provided insight on topics that are hugely valuable to startup and growth companies.

Tech Connect started the ecosystem project to map all the stakeholder groups necessary to build a healthy, thriving, connected tech/innovation/startup ecosystem; identify gaps, and explore best practices for connecting and elevating each stakeholder group to facilitate collaboration valuable to each group.

Finally, the inaugural Metacenter Global Week (MCGW) event was a critical and important visible step into establishing Orlando as a top 10 tech/innovation hub!  If we all view MCGW as the entrepreneurial endeavor it is, we have to congratulate David Adelson and his small but mighty team on an incredible accomplishment.  In a matter of months, the MVP was brought to market with major brands participating and with its launch, the opportunity to obtain valuable constructive customer feedback to continue building and improving the product for future iterations.

What advice do you have for startups in Orlando?

Become a member of the OTC!  You’ll have access to valuable resources and connections, most importantly immediate introduction to the incredible ESO (entrepreneurial support organization) community here in Orlando.

Take full advantage of each organization as each one has something different and valuable to offer.  Remember it’s an “AND” and not an “OR”.  Any ESO worth its salt will go out of its way to introduce you and connect you to others as additional resources to help start, build and grow your business. The OTC and ESO Community are working together to ensure there is no wrong front door for startup founders here in our region – wherever you start is simply an entry point to all available resources and support.

How does OTC maximize value to each member, seeing as how there is such variety in Orlando?

By fully understanding the needs and challenges of each sector, vertical and organization and then using that knowledge to inform the continued work to facilitate, build and catalyze a connected tech/innovation/startup ecosystem; which in turn will enable us as a community to provide the right resources and support to the right people at the right time.