4Q4: Four questions for … Rupert Meghnot, Orlandopreneur

It has been more than a year since longtime Orlando tech figure Rupert Meghnot launched a meetup group that looked to capture and enhance some of the energy surrounding the city’s entrepreneurial scene.

Ever since, Orlandopreneur has seen more than 1,000 people sign up for updates through its meetup page and routinely draws more than 100 to its monthly gatherings.

The timing could not have been more perfect for Orlandopreneur’s emergence, as a post-pandemic buzz about the city’s entrepreneurs has carried for some time now.

Although his realistic outlook stops short of saying that the city’s tech ecosystem sits in a “strong” position, he does admit there has been progress made.

“We wouldn’t consider it ‘strong;’ more like ‘inexorable,'” he said. “That, in and of itself, is a good thing. Our goal is to make it strong.”

We talked to Meghnot about entrepreneurship and Orlandopreneur’s role within the community.


Where do you see entrepreneurship today vs. 10 years ago?

Honestly, I don’t see much change between today versus 10 years ago concerning entrepreneurship. The failure rate is still appallingly high at 95 percent. Yes, we have new tools, more influencers, and more effort. However, none of them seem to be helping. Of course, anything is better than nothing, but the entrepreneur remains their own biggest obstacle to success.

What do you think when you see young people being familiarized, even generally, with entrepreneurship?

The younger the better. Our world, particularly the United States, suffers from a profound lack of leadership. As a project management professional, I seek out the root causes of problems to solve. I consider deficient parenting (as many studies support) to be a cause. And we know that leadership and entrepreneurship go hand-in-hand.

Both are characterized by four things: initiative, creativity, resilience, and risk tolerance. Those who possess the highest amounts of these things tend to become our greatest leaders and entrepreneurs. Therefore, it behooves all parents – and teachers – to expose their kids to entrepreneurship as early as possible. Even if you as a parent don’t understand entrepreneurship, there are many people and organizations that do. And, they would be delighted to take your children onto a safe and enlightening journey of creativity, cognitive thinking, problem-solving, and calculated risktaking. Once we have a sufficient number of children exposed to entrepreneurship, we will definitely begin to see an increase in the quantity and quality of those willing to serve as our leaders. Make it so.

How does Orlandopreneur contribute to the city’s ecosystem?

We bring new stakeholders to the ecosystem. Nearly 50 percent of our event attendees are new. Ecosystem regulars consistently say that they’re always seeing new people at our events. Of our soon-to-be 2000 members, most aren’t involved in our ecosystem. They will be. We bring people together. Our monthly Startup Happy Hour events see a majority being entrepreneurs and startup founders. The other half are a good mix of small business owners, mentors, professional service providers, and investors. We also address the causes of startup failure like nobody else. As you have seen, every event we hold includes a learning component, in which we present to our attendees an issue that contributes to their failure, and offer a solution (or two, or 10).

The lesson is from a point of view that they haven’t heard before, and it deals with it in a manner that’s supposed to increase their chances of success. When a majority of our attendees say that we “made an impact,” we know we’re fulfilling our purpose. Finally, we practice collaboration in a manner that gives new meaning to the word (well, at least compared to how it’s been practiced). There are 300+ entrepreneurial and business service organizations in the area, all providing various services to help entrepreneurs, startup founders, and small business owners succeed. They all offer value to the ecosystem. Typically, however, they are non-profits, with little to no marketing budget. The result is that precious few of the aforementioned stakeholders even know of their existence. So, our form of collaboration begins with informing our members about these other organizations, and the value they provide. As a for-profit, we have a budget set aside to market for them. We also partner with them, showcasing them directly to the hundreds of people who attend each event. We help them get the word out.

Assess where we are in the city’s entrepreneurial community.

Our tech ecosystem is again seeing some progress, some of which is due to the efforts of other (tech-focused) organizations. We have been seeing some joint (collaborative) events and programs, which is a good sign. Consider what we have on our table: widespread recognition of our startup ecosystem in the press; 12 world-class tech sectors; half a million college students within 100 miles – 150k in Orange County, alone; 300-plus organizations to help startups and small businesses; the list goes on. However, our tech sectors aren’t really collaborating. Are we moving forward? Yes. Though we wouldn’t consider it “strong”. More like “inexorable”, which is a good thing in itself. Our goal is to help make it strong.