In this second installment of Orlando Profiles in Tech, we hear from Charlie Lewis, CEO and founder of BlueWave, on what brought him to Orlando, what’s kept him here and how being here is integral to his personal and professional success.

The Orlando innovation ecosystem is rich with high-caliber tech talent and boundary-pushing entrepreneurs. In an effort to foster a more connected community, the Orlando Tech Council presents “Profiles in Tech,” a new series highlighting the region’s top executives, innovators and movers and shakers whose ideas and companies are changing the world right from our own backyard.

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In this second installment of Orlando Profiles in Tech, we hear from Charlie Lewis, CEO and founder of BlueWave, on what brought him to Orlando, what’s kept him here and how being here is integral to his personal and professional success.

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Have you experienced an “only in Orlando” moment? If so, what was it?    

Yes, weekly! Over the past 15 years I have seen what felt like a small town, blossom into a community that has a multitude of unique burrows. Sometimes it hits me while grabbing a pastrami sandwich at Hinckley Meats or sipping on a craft beer in the Milk District at Sideward. Other times, I am shocked that our family weekend plans can include a Saturday at the beach, followed by a Sunday at Epcot with my girls taking pictures with princesses. In either case, my mind says ahhh….”Only in Orlando.” 

What brought you to the Orlando region? What’s kept you here?  

I was raised in both Orlando and Kansas City, Missouri, so I grew up here-ish. After finishing my degree in Marketing at Missouri State University, I made the move to Orlando to work for Disney in the Marketing department. While that was not a long term fit for me, I realized the city had a lot to offer in addition to close beaches, great weather and a small-town feel. It had an environment that was inviting for me to start a family while at the same time building a career. For me it had a lot of boxes checked in the pros column!  

What makes Orlando the right place for your business? How does being in Orlando contribute to your business success or personal growth?  

To answer this as direct as possible, here is what I think works for my businesses: Favorable taxes (stat/county/city), affordable and qualified talent, pro-business state policies, lower cost of living and overall fun place to have great work-life balance for my team. For my business and personal growth, this city has an underlying kindness throughout the business community. It’s not hard to find and access that CEO that is two steps ahead of me to ask the question “what do I do now that I have my company here?” This is truly different in many cities where the business communities are cold, non-supportive and inaccessible. I find myself growing/learning every day. Having a community that supports you can be the difference between success and failure. 

What makes the Orlando tech ecosystem unique?  

Diversity of the people! I love that most people that live here are from somewhere else with entirely different backgrounds. You have tech enthusiasts from all over the world bringing a lot of different perspective that is constantly being infused into our culture and tech ecosystem via new companies, ideas, technology, funding, talent and opportunity. A melting pot of sorts. 

What’s one thing you wish Orlando had? What will it take to make that a reality?  

Venture Capital that is focused on funding A, B and C rounds for growing second stage companies. We need to prove that VC can feel safe investing in Orlando founded and based companies. Prove they can grow and thrive here without having to relocate post A funding. The ones that have stayed, had to fight for that decision. In addition, the more we contribute to funding early-stage companies, the more if forces VC to look at this market as a serious investment pipeline. The day we see VC and PE fighting over local deal flow, will be the day this will become a reality.   

If you had to describe to an out-of-town friend what it’s like to live, work, learn and play in Orlando, what would you say?  

We do things here every weekend that many people save all year to do just once a year! Breweries, beaches, lakes, restaurants, amusement parks and rocket launches!  Professionally, this community has provided me the resources to start multiple business, invest in real-estate and tech startups, all while growing my companies with people I enjoy being around. If I get the itch, I am always a 5 min golf cart ride away from that amazing brewery or that perfect foodie spot. I can’t think of many places that offer what we have here without giving something up. It’s truly my home.

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The Orlando Tech Council is composed of private industry, resource organizations and public partners that work to develop new programs with the core objectives: strengthen the Orlando region’s innovation resources, create new opportunities for companies to scale, and to amplify the region’s success stories, raising the global profile of Orlando as a leading community for entrepreneurship and innovation.

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