5 Things You Might Not Know About Startup Quest®

April 15, 2015

Welcome to The Startup, a weekly blog about entrepreneurship that will not only spotlight successes in the Startup Quest® program but also businesses formed by graduates and advice from our mentors and judges.

For this inaugural blog, we wanted to share with you five interesting facts you might not know about Startup Quest® and the entrepreneurs we are helping to cultivate and support.

In coming weeks, you will hear more about some of these highlights. And we also want to hear from you! So if you have a success worth sharing on the blog, or advice that can help other participants, please email us at socialmedia@startupquest.org.

1. Startup Quest® is a big win for the workforce system, in Florida and also as a telling success for other states. The Startup Quest® pilot was funded with a CareerSource Florida grant of $175,000. Its success led the U.S. Department of Labor to award nearly $12 million – one of the largest Workforce Innovation Fund grant awards ever – to expand the program into eight workforce regions in Florida.

2. Two of our graduates are semi-finalists for the $50,000 Cade Museum Prize for Innovation, an annual competition for early-stage inventors and entrepreneurs in Florida, with the goal to provide seed capital and publicity for great entrepreneurial and innovative ideas. From the 16 semifinalists from around the state, these two found their roots at Startup Quest®.

  • LifeNet Systems, Inc. was created by Startup Quest® teammates Mary Ohlfs and Yolanda Castillo-Baron. They commercialized their program-assigned NASA technology to create net, energy-absorbing roadway barriers that replace the common concrete and steel barriers. Less than a year after graduating from the program, Mary Ohlfs signed a licensing agreement to commercialize this cutting-edge technology.
  • Startup Quest® graduate Gary Bruce commercialized a University of Florida technology: plasma Energy Surface Sanitizer, which destroys viruses, bacteria, and fungi in indoor environments. Gary is working on his new company SurfPlasma out of the Florida Innovation Hub at UF.

3. The timing of Startup Quest® could not be better. In 2013 Entrepreneur Magazine reported that Florida is in the top 10 states for entrepreneurship and innovation, partly due to its programs that support entrepreneurs, business creation and high-tech industries. Since then Startup Quest® has been nationally-recognized for its innovative approach to entrepreneurship and community collaboration and highlighted as a “promising practice.”

4. Boomers, boomers, and more boomers! The majority of today’s entrepreneurs are mothers and fathers, and some even grandmothers or grandfathers, with twice as many successful entrepreneurs over the age of 50 as under the age of 25. Entrepreneurship training is key for these over-50 aspiring business owners. One Baby Boomer graduate of Startup Quest®, Sandy Primack, has created his own company, negotiated a licensing agreement with the University of South Florida for their patented technology, and is developing software that teaches children to read through phonics.

5. To date, 167 Startup Quest® graduates have become self-employed – surpassing the grant goal of 157. With all regions still operating programs, we are excited to see just how far we go above the goal!