Sarasota County has a burgeoning cluster of bio-health companies and other locally grown and relocated companies that are seeing rapid growth, contributing to the creation of a widening talent pool and helping diversify our economic base.
These companies often fall into the category of disruptive innovators whose products have the potential to shake up or redefine an industry.
US Nano is a small research and development company of seven employees right now, which the EDC helped relocate to Sarasota County. But it is in its final tests for its core patented product, nano-biosensors — a multi-billion market — that could create the kind of growth most tech companies dream of.
“The markets we are targeting are significant,” said Alexey Gusev, President of US Nano, who developed the technology at a tech incubator at the University of Notre Dame. “This company has a very high growth potential.”
US Nano’s biosensors are composed of special inks made with semiconductor nano-wires that can be printed on most surfaces and conform to different shapes without breaking. These nano-wires are responsible for the unique sensing capabilities of US Nano’s devices.
“We have built a technology platform to allow us to inexpensively make nano-wires,” Gusev said. “We lowered the production costs of that material by three orders of magnitude. We took it from being prohibitively expensive to being very affordable.”
Nano-wires have been shown to work extremely well for sensors, with applications in energy, heath care, defense and consumer electronic devices.
“Only we have this inexpensive material,” Gusev said. “We feel like we are on the brink of something pretty big here.”
Delivery is another disruptive company launched by successful Sarasota entrepreneur Eric Nashbar, who also owns FaxBetter.com.
Delivery solves a problem that most major companies deal with — the expense of snail-mailing paper statements to customers every month, which cost an average of 51 cents per customer per mailing. For instance, Capital One mails 30 million every month.
The problem is that most customers — 80 percent — prefer to get a paper statement so they can have it on their desk, file it for their records and are assured that an email statement won’t go to the spam folder.
Delivery solves a large chunk of this by allowing consumers to get their statements sent directly to their printers through a one-time setup with multiple safeguards and redundancies. The bill arrives in the printer tray, solving the customer’s concerns while cutting the company’s costs by half. In tests, Nashbar said 50 percent of customers wanting hard-copy statements would opt for the Perfect. Delivery option.
“We’ve beta-tested with thousands of users and it works perfectly,” Nashbar said. “But we are facing the first-adopter hurdle.”
He has major national corporations willing to sign on — but not be the first. The EDC is working with Delivery to find an innovating business to be that first adopter.
A company already experiencing that rapid growth is the organically grown Offers.com, a big data and predictive analysis company that identifies homes that are most likely to go on the market next. The company aggregates data from dozens of sources and has 250 pieces of information used monthly to run an algorithm to find these homes.
Offrs.com launched in January 2015 in the HuB and now has parts of two floors and 30 employees. It has 3,500 clients in 42 states and is growing at about 15 percent per month, said Rich Swier, Jr., a director of the company and founder of the HuB.
The company is releasing a new product called ROOF — “Real Estate Office of the Future” — which involves artificial intelligence and machine-learning algorithms. They are bringing in top AI developers and recently hired the top sales leader at realtor.com.
But they are facing the challenge of every fast-growing company and that is finding the right people. They are a flat organization where people are cross-trained to do about any job. So they look for passion. “The average employee hired on has doubled his or her income,” Swier said. The EDC has worked with each of these “disruptive innovators,” and many others, according to their needs. These companies represent an exciting future for Sarasota County’s burgeoning innovation economy.
— Contact Mark Huey, president and chief executive officer of the Economic Development Corp. of Sarasota County, at firstname.lastname@example.org. EDC is the public/private partnership leading economic diversification efforts by working with community and regional partners.