How Orlando is positioning itself as a technology hub, rival of Silicon Valley


  • Orlando rocked Florida’s reputation as a location primarily for tourists and retirees.
  • Instead, the city is becoming a hub for tech, defense, training, and finance companies.
  • Executives from EA, Luminar, and Stax told Insider why its tech scene is booming.

Defense and tech startup Red 6 is opening a hub in Orlando to develop its airborne tactical augmented reality system.

It is one of a long line of companies, including Lockheed Martin, Oracle, Verizon and Deloitte, with offices in central Florida.

For years, people viewed the Sunshine State primarily as a vacation and retiree destination, but groups such as the Orlando Economic Partnership are striving to eraise its profile as a technological hub.

“Everyone in Orlando knows the story of Disney,” Tim Giuliani, president of the Partnership, told Insider. “That part of history that people don’t know or remember is the space race.”

NASA began conducting launch operations at Cape Canaveral over 70 years ago. The city is also home to the Kennedy Space Center and simulation command centers for the United States Army, Air Force, and Navy, which has resulted in an influx of other tech, defense and training.

“You have this cluster here, which has developed over a long period, and now you see it reaching critical mass,” Giuliani said. “You see more and more companies leaving California and New York.”

“We have made great strides in growing our reputation as a city where tech companies and start-ups can not only open up, grow, relocate and prosper, but also be close to some of the leaders. global innovation, ”said Orlando Mayor Buddy. Dyer added.

Orlando has talent, transport and low taxes

Executives from Electronic Arts, Luminar and Stax told Insider that Orlando’s large talent pool makes it easy for them to recruit in the region.

“We have all of these great colleges that are literally in our backyard,” said Suneera Madhani, founder of Stax, the Orlando-based small business payments platform. These include the University of Central Florida, the University of Florida, and Valancia College.

Giuliani said there are half a million students within a hundred mile radius of downtown Orlando.

“We were able to harness that talent,” said Jason Eichenholz, CTO of Luminar. The standalone LIDAR startup has around 400 employees, of which around 60% are based in Orlando.

“At the start of Luminar, when we met a potential client and they had a specific LIDAR engineer, we had millennia of men and women experienced in LIDAR technology, which gave us a very unfair advantage over our competition, ”added Eichenholz.

Executives said it was also easy to recruit workers from other states to move to Orlando.

Electronic Arts vice president Daryl Holt said his Orlando studios have more than 850 employees – some from the region, including many UCF graduates, and others who have moved.

Migration to the state has exploded due to its hot climate, low cost of living and lack of income tax.

“Who wouldn’t want to move to Florida? Mahdani said. Many of Stax’s senior and middle managers have moved from New York, California and Atlanta, he added.

Eichenholz said some young tech workers have moved to California to work for companies like Google, Apple, and Facebook, but once they’ve had families, “we’re exceptionally successful in attracting them to Florida.” .

Executives said Orlando has a favorable business environment and a vibrant tech community. Madhani, for example, sits on the board of Starter Studio, a venture-tech accelerator that helped her found Stax in 2014.

“It’s a wonderful junction point between industry, education and government that are all heading in the same direction,” said Holt.

Giuliani said Orlando is a well-connected city. In addition to an international airport, Brightline is expected to launch a rail line connecting Orlando to Miami, Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach in 2022.

“Obviously, Silicon Valley is not going to die and New York is not going to die,” Giuliani said. “There will just be more for everyone.”


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