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Hodges and Labx are looking for 'firebrands' in SWFL: Moore About Business

Hodges University and a Naples company are hoping to start an innovative business hub similar to Silicon Valley and the Research Triangle. Hodges and LabX introduced a new program they believe will accelerate entrepreneurialism in Southwest Florida.

Todd Reynolds, Director of Special Programs at Hodges University, recently asked an audience of Lee County business and community leaders: “How many of you have ever been lucky enough to be part of an ‘aha’ moment? One such moment has led us here today.”

Two years ago, he and Dr. John Meyer, president of Hodges University, coordinated think-tank discussions about the evolution of higher education and workforce development.

“We believe, with this council’s influence, and the combined support of you all listening, that the collaboration we are about to introduce between Hodges University and LabX could really catch fire and be a difference-maker for Lee County, Southwest Florida and beyond,” said Reynolds.

Reynolds then introduced Wil Glaser, President of LabX. Glaser moved to Naples about 16 years ago and has several successful entrepreneurial enterprises, including LabX. He believes Southwest Florida has a major opportunity to explore.

"Why can’t we be an emergent technology, or why can’t we be known as a successful Silicon Valley?," said Glaser. "So, when I met with John and Todd and Mr. Talmage...when we were touring the lab, the question came up of ‘How can we be getting this more into this community?"

Hodges and LabX are collaborating to create an entrepreneurial start-hub to develop game changing and innovative ideas. Glaser said that talent is critical for these new ideas.

“What we need to be doing is creating a team that identifies these firebrands. I didn’t even know this word existed, but a firebrand is another word for a person who stands out, who feels very strong about an idea and will take risks to see it through,” said Glaser.

“It just takes one individual to go through and really change an entire economy," he continued. “So, if all we need is that one Bill Gates, that one Steve Jobs, that one Elon Musk, that can develop that company that is worth hundreds of billions of dollars, with more companies springing up, shouldn’t we be actively looking at these individuals within our own communities?”

The hub is meant for people who are currently working at full time jobs, but don’t have the ability to completely step out and launch their business. The collaboration is intended to provide these innovators with a community and environment that will nurture and grow their business idea.

Their next step is to connect with local business organizations and business that can contribute to building this community.

Karen Moore is the publisher of Southwest Florida Business Today.

Publisher of SWFL Business Today