Matthew Broffman, director of Innovation for the City of Orlando, shares how Orlando’s experience economy makes its tech ecosystem unique and what makes Orlando such a diverse, welcoming and accepting place to live.
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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This week’s Orlando Profiles in Tech features Matthew Broffman, director of Innovation for the City of Orlando. Learn more about how our experience economy makes our tech ecosystem unique and what makes Orlando such a diverse, welcoming and accepting place to live.
Have you experienced an “only in Orlando” moment? If so, what was it?
There’s no doubt that the most Orlando moment I have every year is at Orlando Fringe, which represents everything awesome about Orlando. It brings together some fantastic art and showcases the talent we have here and is embraced by the welcoming and accepting community that comes out to enjoy the festival. Throw in a little live music, drinks and great weather, and it’s a great Orlando experience. This year’s timing (the festival is at the end of May) will hopefully be a nice transition back to our new normal and a great way to see new and old friends while hanging out outside.
What brought you to the Orlando region? What’s kept you here?
Well, I moved here when I was one. Growing up here, I never envisioned spending my adult life in Orlando. I went to school in Missouri and took a job out of college here in Orlando. It was a great opportunity, but I swore I would only be there for a year or so and then leave for another job in another city. Fast forward a few years, and I was offered the opportunity to move to Chicago but turned it down because I had fallen in love with Orlando and decided that this was where I wanted to live and raise my family.
What makes Orlando the right place for your business? How does being in Orlando contribute to your business success or personal growth?
Well, I couldn’t imagine the City of Orlando government being anywhere other than Orlando! But when I look at Bungalower, which I started eight years ago and continue to own, I think it’s Orlando’s unique culture that has allowed it to remain successful. We are one of very few local news websites covering such a small geographic area that has remained financially viable. That is because folks in Orlando want to engage with what is happening in their community, and we have people who support us through our membership program that allows that to happen. I’m not sure that would work everywhere.
What makes the Orlando tech ecosystem unique?
I think what sets Orlando’s tech talent apart from other areas are our roots in building great experiences. So many people in Orlando are used to being around great experiences, working to develop them, or at one point working at one. This background and experience design expertise is why you see revolutionary technology companies in Orlando, from creating virtual realities with gaming and simulation to creating new experiences in the financial and automotive industries. I don’t think people understand that Orlando isn’t just a place where people visit for the experiences; it’s also where we’re building and designing great experiences.
What’s one thing you wish Orlando had? What will it take to make that a reality?
When I try to look at what Orlando is missing, I see that it’s just missing more of what we already have. We need more green space, more bike trails, more restaurants. But I also think you have to balance that with our growth. Our city continues to grow; I think as a community, we’ve done an excellent job ensuring that we get everything we need to support that growth.
But I have to say to those who are reading this and thinking, “what about XYZ?” If we don’t have it, I’d suggest figuring out how to make it happen. I’ve seen so many people turn a complaint about what we don’t have into a fantastic asset for our city. As I’ve mentioned, Orlando is an accepting city, and if you have an idea, people will help you pave the way to make it happen. It isn’t necessarily easy, but it’s more doable here than just about anywhere else.
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?
Orlando is an incredible city with all of the amenities that anyone could want. I think we have to be honest about what sets us apart, and that’s the weather, closeness to the beach, and our theme parks. And yes, that means those who can afford it can visit the theme parks, but what it means for the rest of us is that we have ended up with this fantastic mix of people living in Orlando. Orlando is made up of people who embrace diversity and are accepting; people who are incredibly creative and empathetic; and people who are amazing artists. That makes Orlando the best city to live in and raise a family.
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.