5 Questions with Gary Bruce

April 30, 2015

On May 7, Startup Quest® graduate, Gary Bruce of St. Augustine, Florida, will showcase his company, SurfPlasma, at the 12th Annual BioFlorida Celebration of Biotechnology in Alachua, Florida. Gary co-founded SurfPlasma as CEO after graduating from Startup Quest®. Using research funded by NASA and DARPA to develop plasma energy for the control of aircraft and the propulsion of spacecraft, SurfPlasma has created a device that sanitizes air, objects and surfaces without damage to sensitive materials.

Gary is just one example of Startup Quest® graduates bringing technologies to the commercial market. We caught up with him recently to garner some lessons from his Startup Quest® experience.

1. What attracted you to the Startup Quest® program?

I first learned about Startup Quest® through an email invitation that I received from the program. While I chose not to participate the first year, I figured it might be worth seeing what the program entailed the second year. I went in to the introductory class not sure if the program was for me, but in meeting the mentors, my interest was piqued. The partnership that the program has with the University of Florida was a very encouraging factor. The people and resources behind the program motivated me to get involved. When I was selected for the project and technology that I was most interested in, I was hooked. Startup Quest® reawakened something inside me, and after graduation the program continues to provide me resources to succeed through the University’s Innovation Hub.

2. What were you doing before Startup Quest®?

Prior to Startup Quest®, I founded Project Special Care, a not-for-profit that worked with children who had cognitive and physical disabilities. This was a passion that had turned into a full-time career. Before that, I attended UF’s Training, Research and Education for Environmental Occupations (TREEO) Center, where I became an adjunct instructor in environmental science and provided consulting, training and remediation for chemical and biological contamination at sites around Florida. In addition, I was an adjunct instructor at the St. Lucie National Nuclear Training Academy and a guest lecturer at University of St. Augustine for Health Science.

3. What was the most important thing you learned from Startup Quest®?

Startup Quest® utilizes a real world structure to teach you how to put a business plan together in a short time frame. Startup Quest® challenged me to set goals and encouraged me to reach them, which are important factors in running a businesses. This is not a passive program, meaning that you learn by doing. The goals and timelines I learned to meet in Startup Quest® have helped me prepare for other competitions, like the Cade Museum Prize and the President’s Innovative Showcase.

4. How has the program impacted your career?

If it wasn’t for Startup Quest®, I wouldn’t be working in the University of Florida’s Innovation Hub or pursuing SurfPlasma’s exciting technology. Startup Quest® is really the spark that got everything going, and it continues to provide invaluable resources and contacts.

5. What advice would you give current and future Startup Quest® participants?

Startup Quest® is an opportunity to invest in yourself. What you’ll receive from Startup Quest® is in direct proportion to what you put into it. Startup Quest® will provide you with the tools to accomplish your goals, knowing that your success is ultimately dependent on you.