Business is my Worship: Interview with Ryan Smith

By: Josh Wilson

Business is my Worship: Interview with Ryan Smith

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Ryan Smith serves as a Principal of Elevation Capital Group, bringing more than 15 years of extensive business experience in market evaluation, property analysis, management systems, due diligence and finance.

Elevation Capital Group, and its affiliates, (“Elevation”) have grown into a well-respected leader in the alternative real estate investment space. Elevation focuses exclusively on cycle-resilient real estate strategies and niche property types, including manufactured housing communities and self-storage. Elevation, through its affiliates, has acquired properties worth more than $475 million and has an interest in over 175 assets across more than 30 states.

A seasoned and engaging public speaker, Ryan has spoken to audiences ranging from 20 to more than 10,000, sharing the stage with names such as Steve Forbes, Kristen Armstrong, Rudy Giuliani, Colin Powell, Sarah Palin, Ben Stein and other notable industry leaders.

Ryan graduated from the University of Tampa with a Bachelor’s of Science in Computer Science.
A highly recruited athlete, Ryan was drafted as a high school senior by the Baltimore Orioles, and again in college by the Anaheim Angels, but ultimately made the decision to pursue an entrepreneurial business career.


Timing and Luck: Interview with Troy Johnston

By: Josh Wilson

Timing and Luck: Interview with Troy Johnston

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Personal Bio
Troy Johnston is a Co-Founder of Seller.Tools and passionate about exponential results and automation in the Amazon and e-commerce space. He’s previously consulted for 9-figure brands in the health and wellness industry. Prior to his time consulting he was building and eventually sold his natural skin and hair care brand for a 7-figure exit.
Company Bio
Seller.Tools is a full suite of Amazon optimization tools created and used by the top 1% of Amazon sellers. Each unique feature empowers sellers to make the most of their Amazon presence while automating the highest value activities in a FBA business.

Congratulations to Capacitech Energy for Winning 2nd Place at Florida Venture Forum

By: Christina Fleming

Congratulations to Capacitech Energy LLC for receiving 2nd Place at the Florida Venture Forum (2019). Founded by CEO, Joe Sleppy, Capacitech Energy is an Orlando-based company that specializes in advanced energy storage technology. Capacitech Energy’s cable-based capacitor technology (CBC) is an energy storage component that is unique because it looks like a wire and stores energy. The CBC can be customized, giving it an exclusive value. Capacitech Energy was one of three Orlando-based companies to participate in this year’s Florida Venture Forum. This was their second consecutive year of participating.

The Florida Venture Forum is the largest statewide support organization for entrepreneurs and investors in Florida. It helps growing companies to connect with investors and sources of capital from all around the country.


Duplicate Success: Interview with Mike Wright

By: Josh Wilson

Duplicate Success: Interview with Mike Wright

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Michael Wright is an attorney with over 30 years’ experience, specializing in commercial real estate investment. He established MMI Development to acquire, invest in, develop, and manage commercial real estate properties, either through land assemblage or purchasing existing income-producing properties, including multifamily, office, and retail. His strategy has always been to buy, improve, operate, and sell.

Before founding MMI Development, Mr. Wright was a partner at Gray Robinson, P.A., Of Counsel at Smith Mackinnon, P.A., and an Associate at Akerman Senterfitt, P.A. and Senior Real Estate Counsel at Southern Farm Bureau Life Insurance Company. During that time and in those positions, he handled well over two billion dollars in commercial real estate transactions focusing on complex finance transactions, land use and development, and title insurance claims and defense. He received his Juris Doctorate from the University of Mississippi and his undergraduate degree in Economics and Finance from the University of Southern Mississippi. Michael is also an Instrument Rated Private Pilot with 1,000+ hours.


Stage Not Age: Interview with Lilian Myers

By: Josh Wilson

Stage Not Age: Interview with Lilian Myers

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Lilian Myers is a founder and principal with EconomyFour, a social impact organization that assists public and private sector enterprises to rethink a future of long life and life stage for the workforce, product innovation, and investment. Prior to EconomyFour, Myers was IBM’s Global Leader for Ageing and the Longevity Economy where she brought 25 years of health and consumer commerce as a co-founder and early-stage executive with several companies, including ones acquired by Siemens, Aetna, and Google.

A passion for startups, leadership in areas including corporate development, marketing, product management and internationalization has kept her close to entrepreneurs in roles including coach and mentor at  the University of Central Florida in Orlando’s Venture Lab, board member at, advisory board member at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University’s Center for Entrepreneurship, and advisor at the Guidewell Innovation Center in Lake Nona, FL.  Lilian regularly conducts workshops, speaks, and publishes on longevity, long-life, innovation, and entrepreneurship.

Economy Four –

LinkedIn –


Orlando startup scene builds momentum as Rise of Rest finalists compete for $100k

By: David Brim

Steve Case, co-founder of AOL, is visiting cities around the country to find markets ripe with entrepreneurial talent that have been left behind by the greater tech investment community. At each stop local entrepreneurs pitch to win a $100k investment.

Case and his team visited Orlando as their first stop on their road trip to see what our startup scene had to offer.

Orlando had roughly 150 submissions, the most received from any city. Eight finalists were selected:

Rise of Rest Finalists

AireHealth: Drug delivery for respiratory illnesses through a portable and connected nebulizer.

Alertgy: The company has developed a blood-glucose monitor and alert system.

Doghead Simulations: The company’s Rumii platform is a social VR product that conducts virtual meetings in a simulated 3D environment.

Edukate: Financial wellness platform has personalized guidance and benefits information.

FleetZoo: A platform for vehicle fleet owners to track their assets.

InitWeather: Using artificial intelligence, InitWeather has developed weather forecasting products for the energy and finance industries.

Millebot: This company specializes in large-scale 3D printing for on-demand production.

Pangian: An AI-powered social network for telecommuters.

The Rise of the Rest Pitches

The quality of the pitches were very strong. Each entrepreneur only had four minutes to pitch. Knowing from experience judging and winning pitch competitions, that is not an easy task. It is often much easier to give a 15 minute pitch than cover all of the relevant points in only 4 minutes! The finalists all did a great job – there was not a weak pitch in the bunch and the judges definitely had their work cut out for them!


The Rise of the Rest pitch winner!

Congrats to the winner of $100k AireHealth!

CEO quick pitch: AireHealth’s connected-portable nebulizer is designed to help you be proactive with your therapy, even on the go. Our goal is to help you catch and prevent worsening symptoms.


Final Thoughts

I’m happy that Orlando shared some of our finest emerging entrepreneurs and startups with Steve Case, and the Rise of the Rest crew.

Big props to all finalists! Everyone did a great job.

I was also very pleased with how our community came together for the Rise of the Rest event. Let’s continue to build on this momentum and show the world that Orlando is a great place to start, scale and invest in startups.

Embrace the Change: Interview with Cathy Sawruk

By: Josh Wilson

Embrace the Change: Interview with Cathy Sawruk

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Experienced Principal Broker with a demonstrated history of working in the real estate industry in Central Florida and around the state. Specializing in both commercial and residential property as well as real estate investments and development. Worked with the largest planned unit development in East Orange County.

Sawruk Realty is made up of professionals with decades of experience in residential and commercial developments, single-family homes, and luxury real estate. With such experience, the team can provide insight and opportunities that are not as accessible to other agents and firms in the community. Our team of experts represents the best and brightest in the industry, and we’re always striving to lead the field in research, innovation, and maximize profit for our clients. Today’s buyers and sellers need a trusted resource that can guide them through Central Florida Real Estate. With our extensive knowledge and commitment to providing only the best and most timely information to our clients, we are your go-to source for real estate industry insight and advice.


Fundraising for the Orlando Museum of Art and the Council of 101 since 1995, The Zebra Coalition, Foundation for Foster Children, Women Playing for T.I.M.E., Lighthouse of Central Florida, Bridges of Light Foundation, Cystic Fibrosis Foundation including major fundraising for mayoral candidates, judges and member of Congress.

O’Dang Hummus founder, Jesse Wolfe, shares his experience with entrepreneurs seeking to grow with Walmart

By: David Brim

We received an update from local food entrepreneur Jesse Wolfe this evening, which can be seen below. It is great to see how he and his business, O’Dang Hummus, is progressing.

Several months back Jesse sat down with Josh Wilson, our podcast host for an interview that you don’t want to miss. During this podcast Jesse shared his experience starting and scaling his business, his pitch on ABC’s SharkTank, and the lessons learned throughout his entrepreneurial journey.

April 17th, 2019 update via Jesse Wolfe

Monday I had the absolute honor of speaking at the 2019 Walmart Pre-Open Call Summit.

Just two short years ago I filled out the application for Walmart Open Call, and was selected to Pitch O’Dang to their team. That event changed everything, and allowed us to become one of the fastest growing food companies in the world today. Getting to speak and give back to fellow entrepreneurs embarking on the journey was absolutely incredible, and truly humbling.

Thanks to Walmart for being such an awesome partner for small business.

My $.02s

It has been great to see Jesse and O’Dang Hummus progress. They’ve come a very long way from pitching O’dang at the UCF Business Plan Competition many years ago as a student, to landing a deal on SharkTank, getting into Walmart…and now being asked to share his lessons and journey with Walmart with other hopeful and aspiring entrepreneurs.

Keep rocking Jesse! We’re proud of you – David Brim

Capacitech Energy Gains Momentum after Funding from Varnadore Financial

By: David Brim

We are excited to share that local energy startup Capacitech has received funding from Varnadore Financial.

We received word about this funding from Joe Sleppy, CEO of Capacitech Energy, and learned more from a press release published on the UCF Incubator website (content included below).

Congrats Joe and team! Keep rocking and making Orlando proud.

Orlando, Fla. (April 10, 2019) – As Orlando’s Capacitech Energy looks to scale its wire-shaped capacitor innovation, the firm has entered into a partnership with Varnadore Financial to expand its company.

Varnadore has provided funding for Capacitech. This will enable the company to nearly quadruple production.


“Establishing manufacturing is one of the largest remaining bottlenecks for the company to start manufacturing our innovation and generating revenue” says Joe Sleppy, CEO, Capacitech Energy. “Plus, we are very excited to expand our operations in Central Florida, helping us work with more local partners and build the infrastructure to support manufacturing jobs in the near future.”

Capacitech will be using RTP Systems in Melbourne to build the equipment and tools needed for the expansion. It will be housed in Orlando’s Sisom Thin Films, which is building prototypes, and KCP Products for manufacturing. Sisom and RTP Systems will also be supplying the raw materials.

Varnadore was formed in 2011 as a small-business consulting and accounting firm. In 2016, it increased its services to also be a private equity investment firm. It is owned by David and Seth Varnadore , who are father and son.

“When Capacitech came to our attention, we were immediately interested, because it is an exciting startup with forward thinking ambition,” says Seth Varnadore , founder, Varnadore Financial. “Once we met Joe Sleppy and his management team, we knew we wanted to be involved with Capacitech and we look forward to a long, productive relationship with Joe and his team.”

Capacitech Energy was formed to bring the development of a cable-based Capacitor to market. That technology was developed at the University of Central Florida in 2014.

There are many applications for this technology. Capacitech is currently focused on building the cable-based capacitor inside DC power cords to help batteries in solar power systems and IT backup power systems last longer. It can also help miniaturize electronics and could greatly enhance the energy, automotive, healthcare and IT industries.

Once brought to market, the National Science Foundation calls the technology transformative.

“Adding energy storage capability to these cables is transformative and has the potential to be employed in a myriad of electrical and electronic applications,” the National Science Foundation wrote in its abstract of a recent grant award.

#  #  #


For more information media should contact –

Joe Sleppy, CEO, Capacitech Energy, 727-434-1229,

Carol Ann Dykes Logue, Site Manager, UCF Business Incubation Program, 407-207-7426,

Alan Byrd, Alan Byrd & Associates, 407-415-8470,

About Capacitech Energy: Capacitech is bringing a new type of capacitor to market. This capacitor, unlike traditional capacitors, is shaped like a wire rather than a soda can. This unique form factor has a plethora of advantages. Most significantly, its thin and flexile nature gives way to embed Capacitech’s Cable-Based Capacitor (CBC) inside power cords. This enables Capacitech’s customers to build capacitive, high-power density energy storage into the infrastructure of systems to improve power quality and complement batteries up without needing to change circuit designs. We are initially targeting the residential solar power market and will scale to IT backup power systems, EVs, wind turbines, and more in the future.  For more information, visit

About the UCF Business Incubation Program: The University of Central Florida Business Incubation Program is a community resource that provides early-stage companies with the tools, training and infrastructure to become financially stable, high growth/impact enterprises. Since 1999, this award-winning program has helped over 390 local startup companies reach their potential faster by providing vital business development resources.

With seven facilities throughout the region, the UCF Business Incubation Program is an economic development partnership between the University of Central Florida, the Corridor, Orange, Osceola, Seminole and Volusia counties, and the cities of Apopka, Kissimmee, Orlando and Winter Springs. For the 2016/17 and 2017 /18 fiscal years, the activities of these participating firms have helped sustain more than 6,275 local jobs and have had a cumulative impact of more than $888 million on regional GDP and more than $1.59 billion on regional sales. During the same period, the program has returned $12.03 for every $1 invested in the program. For more information, visit

The Philosophy of Service: Interview with Cliff Ingari

By: Josh Wilson

The Philosophy of Service: Interview with Cliff Ingari

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Cliff Ingari –PRESIDENT, SimSTAFF Technical Services

Cliff Ingari is President of SimSTAFF Technical Services, LLC based in Orlando, Florida.   He was the prior President of AVT Simulation where he brings more than 35 years of Military Simulation and Training experience and executive leadership to, both growing and scaling technology companies from startup to over $30M in annual revenues.

In August 2017, Cliff divested his interest in AVT Simulation, which he led with his former business partner, Robert Abascal for over 15 years.  During those 15 years, he helped create 2 other successful training companies, acquired the third company from a large defense contractor, and then sold that company to another large defense contractor after a business model transformation.

Prior to joining AVT in early 2002, Cliff held several Project Management positions in the training and simulation industry. He has been involved in the development of the F-14D Fighter Weapons School (“Top Gun”) training program, the A-6E, the Apache Helicopter simulation program and the Close Combat Tactical Trainers (CCTT) program.

Cliff began his simulation career in 1983 serving in the United States Air Force where he trained F-4D and F-16 pilot’s flight instruction and tactics.

His passion is aviation, leadership, mergers/acquisitions, business coaching and entrepreneurship where he finds opportunities to serve the local Orlando business and Academic communities with mentorship, coaching and guest speaking in the Central Florida area to help other entrepreneurs navigate the challenges and successes of entrepreneurship.  He has served as a Business Coach to numerous companies under the Rollins Business Accelerator (RBA) Program, and as a mentor to a group of aspiring entrepreneurs under a 10-week Startup Quest® Entrepreneurial Training Program, a Workforce Innovation Fund grant from the U.S. Department of Labor.  Cliff also participated in the Camaraderie Foundation’s Mentor/Protégé program where he had the honor of mentoring a United States Marine Corp Veteran.

Cliff currently serves on the Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, Industry Advisory Board, the University of Central Florida Business Incubator Veteran’s Initiative Board and the Rollins College Leadership Center Business Advisory Board.

Cliff received both his Bachelor’s Degree in Aeronautical Science (Cum Laude) and his Master’s Degree in Business Administration (with distinction) from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, Florida.

Connect with Cliff on LinkedIn