Jacksonville's Startup Economy
3:00 pm
Fri March 7, 2014

Jacksonville's Startup Economy: Why I Stayed - Elton Rivas

Elton Rivas considered two factors when deciding whether to lay down business roots in Jacksonville: enjoyable surroundings and cold, hard data.

As part of our Startup Economy Series we've asked those involved in Jacksonville's innovation economy why they have stayed in the city. Today we'll hear from Elton Rivas, co-founder of KYN, CoWork Jax, and One Spark.

"I did the brilliant thing every young guy does, I followed a girl to college and ended up at UNF."

"I graduated with a management and marketing degree and really immediately looked for a job in the corporate world. I had some startup experience and entrepreneur experience already and wanted to get that big company experience."

"I immediately looked outside of Jacksonville, and I ended up landing with a company here, Interline Brands. Great company, I had a great five years with them in a lot of different areas."

"During my five years with them I spent a lot of time on the road, and so I had exposure to a lot of different markets, international and domestic."

"I looked at Jacksonville frankly just as a home base; it was where I went back to, where headquarters was, where my condo was, and that was it, and didn't really get actively involved in the community until a few years ago when I left Interline and really wanted to get back to (my) entrepreneurial roots."

"You always hear about the big markets to do startups or anything new: The New Yorks, the Silicon Valleys, San Francisco, and now Austin, so I didn't really think of Jacksonville as a great place to launch new things."

Elton Rivas
Elton Rivas

"Myself and one of my partners in business at the time, we did a lot of research on the Jacksonville market. It was right after the housing bubble burst, and that's actually a really good time to start something new, cyclically speaking at least if you see that historically."

"We looked at Jacksonville and it was on the median of everything. Demographics, housing prices, all these different trends in business."

"When you think about that, the bar is, we'll say relatively low, because there's just not enough density of startups or other things that are there, and so it's actually a pretty good place to start something."

"During that time when we were researching, we found that there were, per capita, more startups that happened here in a certain period of time than there were in the Bay Area in San Francisco, and it just blew our mind."

"Now, not as many succeeded mind you, but at least there was an undercurrent of people starting things and I remember that research coming across and looking at it and just blew our mind and said well, might as well give it a run here for a few years and see what happens."

"It was, I guess a little bit—we were here and it was easier to do something here than go somewhere else, but there was a lot of data that we looked at early on, and that's a lot of my background is really making decisions based on data."

"You can either go plug into a market, or you can try to create the one that you want to be part of, and that was the second piece of the equation. The first was data, and does this make sense from a business standpoint."

"The second piece was saying, if we're going to do something, why not just plant your roots somewhere that you really enjoy and then build the economy you want to be a part of?"

"So, a lot of the businesses we're involved in, from CoWork to One Spark to KYN, they're all very passion driven projects that have a very good foundational business sense to them."

Elton Rivas is the co-founder of KYN, CoWork Jax, and One Spark.

You can follow Patrick Donges on Twitter @patrickhdonges and Karen Feagins @karenfeagins.