Nick Walsh, chief operating officer of Envy Labs, details how Star Wars Weekends led to one of his best clients and what it means to have a “yes, and…” tech culture.
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 Nick Walsh, COO of Envy Labs. Read how Star Wars Weekends led to one of his best clients and what it means to have a “yes, and…” tech culture.
Have you experienced an “only in Orlando” moment? If so, what was it?
Orlando creates happy coincidences. Right time, right place kind of stuff. My favorite story happened back when Star Wars Weekends were still a thing at Hollywood Studios. One of our lead developers attended, and his family wound up sharing a lunch table with another random group. A guy from that group recognized the logo on our developer’s shirt (a product we’d founded, called Code School) and mentioned that his team was itching to create something similar. He was from a well-known consulting firm, and they’d go on to be one of our best clients.
What brought you to the Orlando region? What’s kept you here?
I grew up in faraway Brevard County, actually, where most of my schools were named after the space program. Moving inland came with attending UCF, and the rest just fell into place. I’ve been fortunate enough to get married here, purchase a house here, and find myself surrounded by family, coworkers, neighbors, and organizations that are nothing short of amazing.
What makes Orlando the right place for your business? How does being in Orlando contribute to your business success or personal growth?
We don’t really have walled gardens in Orlando. Executives, founders, public figures — there’s an incredible amount of access through organizations, events, and good ol’ networking. It’s an area that pushes innovation as a core value as it grows, and those are the sorts of opportunities that make custom software exciting at Envy Labs.
Going further, there’s a shared mission. We’re extremely friendly with “competitors” — success in tech isn’t zero sum, and raising the profile of the region helps everyone.
What makes the Orlando tech ecosystem unique?
Straight to cliché for this: You can be the change. Many of our hires met us at tech meetups we organized. We were able to bootstrap, spin out, and exit a SaaS product at a time when tech investors focused on the Northeast and West Coast. In StarterStudio, we helped kick off an accelerator to give other founders those same opportunities.
If it’s missing, if it’s imperfect, or if you just have a bit of experience to add, a driven individual can make a marked difference. As I heard it described recently, Orlando tech is a culture of “yes, and…”
What’s one thing you wish Orlando had? What will it take to make that a reality?
Connectedness, for sure. Software, simulation and research, higher education, defense, hopitality, healthcare… there are incredible organizations doing incredible things in tech-adjacent industries, but we lack ways to pass insights around. Building those bridges is the Tech Council’s raison d’être, so it’s a matter of moving forward and highlighting successes.
A close second: better public transit, pedestrian walkways, and cycling paths. Growing pains for a growing metro.
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?
It’s a region that’s full of heart, and a place that really can’t be defined by any one of its distinct parts. You’ll quickly build up a purple wardrobe for Orlando City and Orlando Pride matches, enjoy the crazy good food scene, and rub elbows with tourists and business leaders alike. Just like the rest of us, you’ll love it for what it is and what it can be.
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.