Paul Hoffman is the president of Sarasota technology company SouthTech Solutions and currently serves as the president of the Suncoast Technology Forum, which announced a partnership with the Tampa Bay Technology Forum at the start of 2010.
Q: What’s the purpose of the Suncoast Technology Forum?
We want to build a system that can provide education, communication and a voice for technology companies in the region. Between 40 and 50 businesses are part of the forum, and now we’re linked with the Tampa Bay Technology Forum, so we get all the benefits of that group as well—more than 110 events and seminars each year, plus peer-to-peer groups and entrepreneurial tracks for new businesses. And it’s not just for tech companies—it’s there for any business that’s tied to technology. It’s an excellent resource, linked to some of the top technology leaders in the area.
Q: How is the technology industry changing?
The creative side of technology is growing substantially. Ringling [College] is on the leading edge of that growth, because people want more interaction, more graphics, more video. The second area that’s growing is mobility. With smart phones and tablets, people aren’t locked to their desks anymore, so anybody involved in that mobile atmosphere can grow. The third trend is that those who understand both technology and how to grow a business using technology are going to really benefit.
Q: How can we market this area to tech entrepreneurs?
You’re always going to get technology CEOs who want to live in a great place. The opportunity is here, and with the film industry and other media growing—that creative technology is going to be great for our area.
Q. What might stop a tech entrepreneur from coming here?
A big challenge is getting the right employees. The educational institutions bring in good people, but we also lose them [to other regions of the country], so there isn’t a big mass of experienced technology professionals. The cost of living also makes trying to find that resource pool and build it here a huge challenge.
And the high-speed Internet is something we’re going to need to be competitive. The wheels are turning in the right direction, but the speed of it—that’ll be the interesting part. The key is whether we’re going to be a leader or a follower in that area. We’ve got to decide how fast we want to move.
Q: What do you recommend for a local business that wants to develop new technology?
Understand that building technology itself isn’t enough. You’ve got to build a business. I’m an old CPA, so my advice is to build your concept and build a business plan around it. How are you going to market and sell it? What are the financial aspects of it? Look at a two- or three-year plan. Too many people just start building what they think is cool technology without thinking about it as a business.
For more information
Suncoast Technology Forum
7282 55th Ave. E., Suite 242
Bradenton, FL 34203
E-mail: info@suncoast technologyforum.com