Cisco Partner Helps Launch Technology-Rich Business Incubator in North Florida
August 8, 2001
Enterprise North Florida Corporation (ENFC), a 501( c)( 3) organization, was established in the mid-nineties to help emerging growth companies get to market faster, and in turn, attract and retain business for the Jacksonville area. ENFC recently opened the Technology Enterprise Center (TEC), a business incubator/ accelerator providing business assistance services to technology start-ups in the Jacksonville, Florida area.
"We think that in order to be successful, a start-up company needs to spend 80 percent of its time developing its product or service," notes Al Rossiter, director of the TEC. "Unfortunately, many companies find themselves spending 80 percent of their time setting up the business. With the TEC, our goal is to get them back to spending the bulk of their time on their core genius."
Unique Building Requires Unique Solution
Rossiter's work with ENFC customers gave him a good idea of the services TEC clients would need. His team toured other business incubators throughout the country and felt many of them weren't as technologically strong as they could be. The North Florida TEC was going to cater to high-end, high-impact start-up companies, so Rossiter and his team decided to take the business incubator concept to a whole new level.
"The mission of the TEC is to attract and support the most demanding technology start-up companies," said Rossiter. "That drove everything else."
Rossiter's goal was two-fold: provide a center that substantially accelerates the growth and launch of high tech start-up companies; and for the center to become a recognized technol-ogy focal point for northeast Florida, showcasing events and activities for those interested in the early stage of emerging technology.
With demanding technology start-ups as clients, Rossiter and his team needed to ensure that their greatest area of focus was staying ahead of its customers, making sure that not a single element of TEC's set-up impeded growth, but instead facilitated it.
"We needed the ability to provide more office space instantly, add additional phones imme-diately, and accommodate plug-and-play movement to another space within the building," said Rossiter. "Everything at the TEC is geared to meeting client needs."
In order to provide this flexible plug-and-play environment with voice, print and office automation, the TEC team put together an RFP and reviewed several computing and networking solutions providers before choosing Cisco partner Technology Solutions Group (TSG).
Cisco Partner Fits The Bill
"We went with TSG because they were competitive in their bidding, but also because they positioned themselves as a partner with us rather than a vendor," said Rossiter. "We could communicate what our challenges were and they'd come back with some options to think about. They actually helped us with our RFP, suggesting better solutions."
As a solutions provider located in Jacksonville, TSG prides itself on building long-term relationships with its customers.
"Our focus is providing solutions to customers who are deploying and leveraging technology as a competitive tool," said Steve Piston, General Manager at TSG. "So what the TEC needed was right up our alley." TSG is a Cisco Premiere Partner, as well as having earned the Cisco IP Telephony Specialized Partner and Security Specialist Partner certification. TSG was able to differentiate itself for the TEC bid because it could offer Cisco-based turnkey solutions for voice, print and office automation.
"Cisco is the best of breed when you look at products, service and support," adds Piston. "Since we pride ourselves on delivering complete solutions, including voice and data convergence, IP telephony and content delivery, aligning ourselves with Cisco was the smart thing to do."
Providing Powerful Solutions for Unique Environment
Once Rossiter chose TSG, the firm effectively became the TEC's IT staff. With the TEC's set-up as a business incubator, TSG had to plan for up to 25 separate companies being housed in one 34,000 square foot building. Each company has its own business model, its own priorities, and its own unique requirements. TSG recommended installing a common voice and data platform that would provide the critical flexibility demanded by the TEC. Companies with two employees may move into the TEC, and within a month or two have ten or twelve employees. Then they need more space and they're up to 20 employees and then in a year or two they're out the door and off on their own and another company moves in. One of the first tests was to ensure the platform could handle all of the different call routing. Not only did it perform flawlessly, it fit in well with the TEC's own needs. With money and space at a premium, the footprint of a circuit-based system would have taken up revenue-producing square footage.
"Cisco was fantastic during this implementation with its support and guidance," said Piston. "We came across a few minor issues because of the unique environment at the TEC, and they helped us to quickly resolve those issues and made sure the necessary product was available when it was needed." The fact that the local Internet carrier is Cisco-based as well made for an even easier and quicker installation, and a very smooth transition to the new system. The TEC's dynamic environment provides flexibility and accommodation. Unlike some of the other business incubators Rossiter visited, the TEC's flexibility is designed to remove constraints for its clients.
"Simple moves, adds and changes within the building were key to this solution being successful," added Piston. "It absolutely could not be labor intensive. Al and his team are not technologists, they're here to help their clients focus on building their businesses. In our opinion, Cisco is the only company that is not only offering these kinds of solutions today, but also is also poised for success with other emerging applications."
Cisco Technology Helps TEC Bring in the Business
Today, Rossiter hears of start-ups in the area vacating leases so they can move to the TEC.
"The Cisco-enabled technology here is a major attribute in attracting customers, so it's now an admitting process," said Rossiter. "And the more companies we look at, the pickier we can be, meaning we'll truly have the best and the brightest at the TEC." Also key to its clients' success are the partnerships enabled by the TEC.
"A critical element here is making sure that our client companies get linked up with the kinds of partners that can go the distance with them," said Rossiter. "It's the combination of synergy, connections and networking that is making the TEC such a success." The TEC's resident companies are constantly in contact with other people visiting the center such as investors and people in a similar businesses with senior-level experience. TEC companies have access to top law firms, accountants, banks, etc. through introductions made to TEC sponsoring companies. For instance, if a TEC company is a potential IPO, Rossiter and his team can link them with a law firm that specializes in technology IPOs. With the Cisco solution in the TEC building, and ENFC's network of partners, the TEC is fostering important relationships for its resident companies.
"With the Cisco technology put in place by TSG, we're not just providing office space," said Rossiter. "We're accommodating, flexible, and adaptable to businesses in the start-up mode, while enabling important business relationships. That makes everyone successful."