With its high quality of life rankings, welcoming residents, and business friendly environment, Fort Myers, Florida located in Lee County boasts the ideal climate for entrepreneurs looking to press the launch button on their new startup endeavor. And thanks to Dieter Kondek, a Southwest Florida resident of 13 years, they now have the perfect space to do it. It’s called The RocketLounge, and it’s the first incubator of its type in the area.
After running pitch events and startup accelerator programs in San Francisco, Berlin and Munich, Dieter realized his own home — Fort Myers — was ready for a tech incubator and accelerator. He opened the doors to The RocketLounge in April with partners Peter Ocsody and Joerg Sahlmann.
We chatted with Dieter to learn more about The RocketLounge, and his vision of making Lee County a tech innovation hub.
What do you think is the best part of being an entrepreneur in Fort Myers and Lee County?
Being able to build your technology company in a very innovative environment, in a place that is a nature and boater’s paradise, with an awesome quality of life for family — all for a reasonable cost of living.
Tell us more about The RocketLounge – what is it; and what resources does it offer entrepreneurs?
The RocketLounge is Southwest Florida’s incubator and accelerator for tech startups and international technology companies. Our business campus is much more than a co-working or shared office space — it’s a tech startup’s paradise and a one-stop-shop for entrepreneurs. Resources include:
• Comprehensive business training programs
• Social media training
• Networking opportunities with other entrepreneurs, mentors and coaches
• Access to angel and venture capital investors, student interns, strategic partners and customers, and advisory board members
• Pitching training and events
• High-speed internet
• Access to student interns
• Team building
• Access to legal and accounting services, including intellectual property management.
Who are the initial businesses at The RocketLounge, and what kinds of things are they working on? Are there any projects you’re especially excited about?
Fifty percent of our tenants are from Europe, with a focus in Healthcare, FinTech and Enterprise Software solutions. Local startups from Florida and the U.S. have a focus on app development, healthcare IT, e-commerce, and social software. One of our tenants from Berlin, Germany has developed an early prevention test for Type 2 Diabetes, which just received FDA registration and was funded from an angel investor in Florida. The company has established its headquarters at The RocketLounge.
What advice would you give to someone considering starting their own business?
Move into an incubator like The RocketLounge and meet great mentors, maybe they also will invest as Angels into your company and will be your advisors for a long time to help to scale your business.
What do you think is most special, unique or interesting about The RocketLounge?
We are the first Silicon Valley-style incubator in Southwest Florida with an international approach. We partner with European incubators to provide RocketLounge members access to international markets. We also organize shark-tank style pitch events every month, which allow our tenants the opportunity to pitch in front of local angel and venture capital investors. With our own Moonshot program we will fund early stage startups with up to $50,000 for participating in The RocketLounge Accelerator program for six weeks and they’ll get space at The RocketLounge for up to six months.
How do you see Lee County and Southwest Florida 10 years from now?
We will be the next Austin, Texas, with several thousand high-paid tech jobs created through our technology ecosystem.
For more information on The RocketLounge, check out the website at http://www.therocketlounge.com.