On today’s episode, we interview David Brim, the founder of Orlando Entrepreneurs. He shares his thoughts on the Orlando Entrepreneurial Ecosystem and what inspired him to create Orlando Entrepreneurs.
Intro: Hello, this is David Brim, and I’m the founder of Orlando Entrepreneurs. We are the hub for Orlando Entrepreneurship, and our mission is to connect, cultivate, and celebrate our local entrepreneurs. We bring together our local entrepreneurial ecosystem, to positively impact our entrepreneurs, their companies and our local economy. To learn more visit OrlandoEntrepreneurs.org Now, over to Josh Wilson to get forward with our show.
Good day and welcome to Orlando Entrepreneurs. My name is Josh and I’m the host of the show, and I just want to welcome you guys to the show. This show is built by Orlando Entrepreneurs for Orlando Entrepreneurs. Today, this is our intro show. This is where you get to know myself and the founder of Orlando Entrepreneurs, David Brim.
David, you’re the first person on this show. Welcome to the show.
Thank you. Glad to be here and excited to participate in this show and help champion Central Florida and Orlando Entrepreneurship.
Awesome. Awesome. So why don’t you tell us a little bit about who you are, so we can get to know how you got started in this as an entrepreneur and then what could people expect from the show. So why don’t you tell a low world, especially the people are favorite people in Orlando, who you are.
Sure. Again, my name is David Brim. I’ve been an entrepreneur in Orlando for about 10 years now. I transferred to UCF (University of Central Florida) from Pittsburgh, and I was very active in their entrepreneurial activities there. I started a couple companies while I was still in school, including a software company that we grew to about 10,000 users, and were featured on mashable. I boot strapped this and learned a lot through that process We won a bunch of money during business plan competitions in school at UCF, probably about $17,000. After this we had a big challenge raising investment funding for this venture. I got to a point where I threw my hands up and I said, you know what? Instead of trying to seek out investors in this market, who were very focused on investing in real estate (this was around the 2008 time frame. The real estate market had just crashed. A lot of investors were snapping up properties in real estate, and that’s an asset class that they’re very comfortable with. But when it came to investing in startups and tech ventures, it was very foreign to them. They didn’t know how to value it. They didn’t know how to really didn’t have much confidence in the asset class because of his risky at times. ) I decided I would, instead of trying to raise money, I needed designers, developers and marketers. So I went ahead and I started a marketing agency called Brand Advance. I bootstrapped that from the first year after graduating college to about $220,000 in sales and grow from there. I started initially utilizing contractors than bought more and more resources in house. And then I would use the extra capacity to really start growing other ventures that I had: such as different online directories. I started another SaaS Ed tech company called Bright Impact, and I grew that to about $100,000 in sales.
So I’ve been an entrepreneur in this market through and through and throughout that experience, I’ve learned that there’s not really even essential place to learn about all the great resources that exist for Orlando Entrepreneurs. The funding sources, which are starting to become a little more prevalent now, still have a long ways to go, but they’re out here. There are accelerators, there are incubators, co-working spaces and many other great resources for entrepreneurs, but there was no single place to learn about them and no single place for entrepreneurs to tell their stories. So many of them have wins and they have setbacks and challenges that we can learn from, but they’re really left untold.
And so Orlando Entrepreneurs was created so it can be that hub. So we can champion entrepreneurship, help grow entrepreneurs here, their companies in our local economy, to create a greater impact for everybody involved.
Man, that’s great. So in school you started your first business on a pitch competition kind of walk us through what that looks like. Us being entrepreneurs and people listening. We might be entrepreneurs just getting started or wanting to get started, and we might have some people listening in there might be growing really big companies. But let’s go back to the beginning. When you started that first idea and you went through this pitch competition, kinda walked through this. What did it feel like? How exciting was it? Give us that story.
Sure, it was a very, very exciting time. And again, I went to the University of Central Florida at the time. They had a venture lab, and currently the comparison would be the Blackstone launchpad, which exists now. And I LIVED THERE. I would, and this sounds really bad, but at times I would even cut class because I would learn so much more from sitting with these experienced entrepreneurs and picking their brain than I would sitting in class. And what I did know is that when I learned things in class or in the venture lab, I was able to immediately apply them in my venture. So the lessons I learned became much more concrete and one day saw that they had a pitch competition. The first year, I actually won twice, but the first year I had a venture I co-founded with a business partner. The venture was focused on real estate lease option properties (rent, to own properties) and we wanted to basically take all the people who are renting and try to work with investors to get them into a rent own situations so they can stop throwing away their red payments and use that towards building equity. And then we had a magazine for it, and we had an online platform and ended up merging that with a larger Florida publication. And then we went on to found GroupTable, which was a collaboration software. But that whole process just was amazing. And when I was in those competitions, we learned from all these successful entrepreneurs and investors who’ve started sold companies. And I sat there in that room and I said, those are the guys I wanna be. This was pre shark tank. This was probably around the time that the Big Idea with Donny Deutch was on, if you remember that show. But I caught that entrepreneurial bug, but looking back on it, I just love that aspect of working with entrepreneurs helping to grow entrepreneurs and ultimately, I want o go in that direction of eventually investing more in entrepreneurs and being on that side of the table. But that was a very very, very exciting monumental time in my life.
So you were standing up on stage given this presentation for these ideas that you helped co create with fellow students and fellow entrepreneurs, and you’re up on stage and you’re pitching it, and then the judges, and they have these conversations, who should we pick? and they picked you! When they said your name in your company name in your group name. How did that make you feel? Like what went through your head at that moment cause you just won a significant amount of money for a student.
Interestingly enough, I remember that feeling. I remember at that moment they were announcing the winners and they announced a fourth place and it wasn’t us like, okay, we didn’t get fourth place. And there were only four competitors left at this time, it was the finals. So there was four teams left. they announced third place. It’s like, okay, we have to be above three. And I was just on egg shells. I’m just like, oh my god. And I kinda closed my eyes and then they announce the second place. And I just dapped up my co founder. I’m like, oh my god, we did it. So pretty much next year it was very similar. But man, what a great feeling! And UCF really got behind us and they gave us a lot of press. They gave us space in their UCF Incubator. So we got to meet with and get to know a lot of other entrepreneurs and members of the community, and really helped us grow that. And it was quite a ride. And we grew GroupTable to about10,000 users and were able to exit. Not at an amount that I looking back on it I was very happy about, but what a wonderful learning process.
Yeah, so that is so exciting for an entrepreneur to build something and to get the appreciation of not only their users, the community, but also money.
As you were building this, you started to see the different components and the different resources that this city Orlando has to offer for entrepreneurs. Talk to us about some of the ecosystem of entrepreneurship, like those who help build it, those who help support it. Could you talk to us about some of that?
Sure. I’m happy to… I’m very mindful that the ecosystem, entrepreneurial ecosystem, here in Orlando has changed significantly from the time that I was in college in 2007 and 2008 until today. There’s many different… I would call them nodes. It’s very fragmented and that’s one of the reasons I started Orlando Entrepreneurs, but you have resources like the Disney Entrepreneurship Center. You have the Fire spring Fund, Canvas and Catalyst. You have the UCF who’s starting their Florida Angel Nexus. They’ve been at that for a few years now and also their Fan Fund. They are really focus on championing angel investing in Central Florida, really throughout all the Florida. And that’s really what we need in my mind.
Orlando has all the raw ingredients that it needs to be a major hub for entrepreneurship, and it is a great place to start a business. It’s a great place to live. But the challenge here that we’re all as a community, trying to wrap our heads around and address, is the funding. The funding actually is here. There’s money here in Orlando, but a lot of the money is allocated to asset classes like real estate, like I mentioned. And so the trick is to, how do we extract some of those, a percentage of the portfolio that’s allocated to real estate into seed eventing, into growth companies that are local and really help cultivate that.
Because as an ecosystem, when you look at… silicon valley, obviously is on a whole another level, when you look at Boston and Atlanta and New York, and these are areas that when they have these successes and wins and they have larger exits and people are part of that team, then what happens is those people, they share their experiences, but also their money because it’s a journey that they’re comfortable with and they’re familiar with. And so they invest in those next companies and become the mentors and the advisors. And they, become the lead investors and they help grow those new ventures and then it really compounds, and the whole ecosystem gets more sophisticated, more connected. And just overall, it’s a rising tide floats all boats. And so that’s where we’re at. We need a significant more amount of venture funding.
But you also have the UCF incubator programs, you have the launchpad, you have what they’re doing or the office of research and commercialization. You have even multimedia resources like melrose library. There’s many different events that happen. Orlando Tech is kind of morphing, but they’ve done some great things. You have Tech & Beers and you, you have 1 Million Cups and you have all these different nodes of people that are championing entrepreneurship, and we’re, again looking to really bring it together and have all those resources, be able to have a presence and tell their story and share the props that people like the testimonials that people have with them, but also give entrepreneurs that voice to really help champion entrepreneurship here in Orlando.
So the vision that you had for Orlando as an ecosystem, Orlando Entrepreneurs and this show right here is that your mission is to highlight these other groups and lift them up to the community and more specifically to the entrepreneurs, so that they have a place to go to find the resources, to find the answers to the questions that they have, and to essentially bring attention to Orlando as a great place, to buy business, to grow business, to invest in business, and then to exit great businesses, and then reinvest the money.
You’ve got it.
Awesome. So that is your purpose in your heart and doing this David. My name is josh and I, I’m the conduit of conversation here. I’m the host of this. I’m an entrepreneur myself, and I’m really excited about going out into the community on the front lines with business owners with entrepreneurs, and bringing them on the show and bringing them on the show to ask the questions that entrepreneurs have.
What’s your story? How did you get started? What kind of struggles did you overcome? What kind of visions do you see for Orlando being the place to build great businesses? So that’s what you… our listeners have to look forward to this show is, I’m gonna ask the questions that entrepreneurs ask so that you listening, you can learn with us, and if you’re listening to my voice and to David’s voice and you’re an entrepreneur yourself and you have a great story to share and you’ve grown a business or you exited a business or maybe you invest in business, we would love to have you come on the show to share your wisdom, your advice, and to help lift up the entrepreneurial community here in Orlando, let’s make Orlando, the hub for Florida entrepreneurship as a whole. But this is a great place. This is where my family is. This is where we will be building for a long, long time. What do you think dave? Do you think that Orlando is the place to build great businesses.
Yes, absolutely. And I was pulled from Pittsburgh down to Orlando. I was inspired to come here, and maybe it was the allure of Disney and that whole magical world of having your dreams come true, that kind of pulled me and allured me here, but it really is a great place. Beautiful weather. We talked earlier before the show about the infrastructure that’s improving with it for what is a whole other story, but the international airport that’s here, UCF is the largest university in the country, and they’re turning out quality students and the quality research. They have to grow a lot of the innovations coming out of the research department, but it’s a very young university, and those research innovations are going to spin out. And when you look at Stanford and some other universities that are very mature, the thing is that they have such a high valuation on those ventures that come out, and it’s really a premiums tacked on because it is Stanford and Google emerged from it, or it is these other universities that are really well known and they’ve had these big wins. Orlando has a unique opportunity to even attract more outside capital, because I think it’s the underdog and being an underdog, investors can get a greater valuation on companies, because frankly entrepreneurs here are not spoiled, they are starving. They want the funding, and if they don’t get it here, they’re gonna go somewhere else. And that’s going to be a shame because we want entrepreneurs start here, we want them to stay here. We want them to grow and re invest here as josh had mentioned, and having them start here and then just leave and take those tax dollars and all the jobs that they’re creating away with them and all that potential is a real shame because we have the opportunity to keep them here.
And I think you said it right, we’re hungry as entrepreneurs. We’re hungry, we’re hungry to build our vision out. We’re hungry to do the thing that we’re so passionate about and work, and we’re hungry to get it into the marketplace to be appreciated, to be valued. And if we could do that as a community, lift up our local entrepreneurs, bring money here to invest in these great businesses that are starting. So that way we get to build here, we could stay here, we could grow here, we could put Orlando on the map so that we’re not passed over so that we’re not overlooked to be a great place to build business through investing. So I think that this is a great mission. And as a community, as Orlando as a community, we could really link our arms around the entrepreneurs and help lift them up because it is hard. It’s an adventure. Entrepreneurship is not for everyone, but for those who choose this or that entrepreneurship chose them, Orlando is a great place. And I personally, Josh and David, we want be that person, those people, who lift up our entrepreneurs.
Absolutely. That’s a really good point. And one of the things that is on our website is an events calendar, and we aggregate a lot of events from the local community. So we’re not only trying to bring people together virtually and through this show, but also in person through these events. We also have a meet up group that has about 720 people in it that are local entrepreneurs, that we’re gonna be having more frequent meet ups in the near future. But that’s true, Josh hit the nail in the head that we as a community, not really has a specific organizations, which every organization has to do their part, but we’ve noticed that sometimes there’s a very territorial kind of mentality that… it’s almost like the politician that jumps in front of the building and cuts the ribbon or kisses the baby. It’s the entrepreneur that is building this company, we’re here to support them. But we as a community, need to help break down barriers and open doors for them to really help them grow. I would like to see more collaboration between these different entities, and I think the function of lack is that there’s somewhat of a scarcity mindset here where there is a certain amount of capital that’s allocated to these entrepreneurial type of endeavors and initiatives. So I think that, that really is a conduit and lends itself to creating more of a territorial, build a silo, I help the entrepreneurs better than you counted mentality, whereas we need to get past that and really bring the whole community together and just keep the entrepreneur first and really help champion them and help them grow well.
It sounds like you’re doing that with Orlando Entrepreneurs, this show the website, all the resources, all the things that you’ve invested to help build and grow to get it to where it is today. Help us get to where we want to get to tomorrow. So David, where could people go to find out information about the show about the resources here in our land out and just about the entrepreneurial journey as a whole?
Our website is OrlandoEntrepreneurs.org, and there’s a great resource center there with 75+ resources that are local to the community that can help entrepreneurs. We have our podcast show, which is this that we’re on, and you could subscribe to that, not only on our website, on our blog, but also through iTunes, stitcher and google play. So we encourage you to visit that and subscribe and keep tuned on everything we’re doing here in the local community.
Thank you for listening in on today’s episode, if you would like to be a guest on the show or started conversation with me. Josh, your host sent me an email to josh@OrlandoEntrepreneurs.org. You can also find out more information on Orlando’s Entrepreneurial Ecosystem. Discover resources to help you start and grow your business and subscribe to future shows by visiting www.OrlandoEntrepreneurs.org
About Our Guest on Today’s Show: David Brim
Orlando Entrepreneurs was founded by David Brim. A graduate of the University of Central Florida, where he majored in marketing, David is the only two-time winner of the school’s Joust Business Plan Competition. Brim has founded numerous businesses in Central Florida across industries such as marketing, technology (SaaS & online directories), real estate, and e- commerce. Some of David’s ventures were accepted and graduated from the UCF Business Incubator Program. His marketing agency Brand Advance, founded in 2009, was bootstrapped to over $2.5M in sales. One of his tech startups, GroupTable, reached 10,000 users before exit. In addition to his passion for advising, consulting and investing in startups, David is an active real estate investor and investment real estate specialist. He blogs at Filled to the Brim and is the author of Land More Customers through Online Marketing, a book that reached # 13 on the Amazon Best Seller list within its category during 2014 and was also utilized in Entrepreneurial Marketing classes at the University of Central Florida. Brim is an entrepreneur mentor at the Blackstone LaunchPad at UCF, and a member of the National Economic Gardening strategic research team and Orlando based GrowFL team, where he has helped over 1,000 second stage company entrepreneurs grow their business. He has helped coach / judge numerous Orlando business competitions and mentors many startups in the area. Through his 10+ years in entrepreneurship within Central Florida, he has leveraged many local entrepreneurial resources and helped others to do the same. Through these experiences he found that there was no central location to help entrepreneurs find the right resources they need at the right time. He created Orlando Entrepreneurs to fill that void as a Network & Resource Center with the mission to connect, cultivate, and celebrate Central Florida entrepreneurs.