In this week’s Orlando Profiles in Tech, Rajiv Menon, Founder/CEO of Informulate and current Orlando Tech Council Chair, discusses what makes Orlando the right place for his business and what makes the Orlando tech ecosystem especially unique.

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 week’s Orlando Profiles in Tech, Rajiv Menon, Founder/CEO of Informulate and current Orlando Tech Council Chair, discusses what makes Orlando the right place for his business and what makes the Orlando tech ecosystem especially unique.

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

Yes, several moments. And they mostly revolve around the people here. I love how our community is so open and welcoming. As a community organizer for several years, it always amazes me how every year, new people step up to help with events, lead things, and give of themselves. Then there is the variety. I have lived in five cities and I think we have the right mix: big city opportunities with small town feel. I like how different it is – you can be downtown with its busy-ness, and then in Winter Park with its fashionable/upscale feel, and then Oviedo with its farms, and so on, all within about an hour. One of my favorite things is having a water view – there are so many ponds and lakes that we’ve had a water view in all three of our homes – which as someone who has worked from home for several years I enjoy very much. Having a choice of hundreds of beaches, tourist attractions, and things to do within a few hours drive is also a massive plus. We’ve had a lot of family and friends come live in our house for vacations.   

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

My wife and I were married in Portland – she had just graduated from her Master’s degree and one of her job offers was from a company in Orlando. We are both from India and much prefer warmer weather, so she took the job and I followed her since my work could be done remotely. I founded Informulate that same year, so a lot happened in that first year! Today, 15+ years later, we can confidently say that Orlando is home.

Currently in my role as Chair of the Orlando Tech Council under the Orlando Economic Partnership, I’m honored to have an opportunity to understand and impact a tech ecosystem at a deep level. Orlando is starting to see an acceleration towards an innovation-based economy. So there is great opportunity for growing my business and getting access to competitively priced talent. Apart from that, our two kids are going to school here and now we have strong relationships and roots now with my wife being very active in the faith community and my collaborations in the tech community. Those are the things that will likely keep me here indefinitely. 

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

Orlando is one of the fastest growing metro areas in the country. We’ve always had a strong base for simulation, tourism, and health care. With big exits like Luminar and FattMerchant and a host of other startups in the scaling stage, I think we are about to hit the knee of the curve for innovation. My company, Informulate, is a software-development and innovation consultancy. We apply Lean, Agile and Design Thinking methodology while building custom web, mobile and data analytics solutions for our clients. The combination of methodology and tools like Cloud, Automation, Salesforce etc. help our clients with their journey towards Digital Transformation. As Orlando matures, we have seen a growing understanding of why innovation methodology and the strategic application of software to business is critical – and that is driving demand for our services.

On a personal level, one of our biggest clients is a large international university based in Silicon Valley. So I travel there almost every year to attend innovation conferences and engage with leaders. Typically, I bring those ideas, methodologies and thinking back here to help spread that “gospel of innovation” via the events I organize for Lean Startup Orlando and Startup Weekend Orlando. The results have been very fulfilling with Startup Weekend Orlando winning the Global Startup Battle two years in a row across 150 cities worldwide.

So I’m grateful that Orlando has afforded me the opportunities to launch a business, found a professional group, organize startup events and, through these diverse experiences, build my own skills and leadership. For someone like me, Orlando is not too big, not too small, not too mature and not too nascent, in other words its *just right*. 

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What makes the Orlando tech ecosystem unique?  

Orlando is at the perfect stage of development. Any organization or startup that launches here right now will receive tremendous benefits in terms of hiring costs, cost of living savings (compared to the larger tech metros), lower competition for regional PR/visibility, lots of tech research and IP from large universities as well as a large talent pool graduating every year, and of course tax benefits from being in Florida. As Orlando grows and matures, access to capital and opportunities will continue to increase. High net worth individuals and deep pocketed investment groups are now looking at startups for returns. We have developed some amazing new institutions over the last five-to-ten years: Rally, StarterStudio, Orlando Tech Council, new co-working spaces, new programs for entrepreneur support, etc. Most importantly, our regional trend lines are headed in the right direction: Orlando is growing and maturing rapidly which provides a lot of opportunity. 

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

Orlando has almost everything I want – except mountains. I lived in Portland, OR and adored the hikes! But we’ve discovered direct flights to Ashville for under $100 so that has become our go-to destination for a quick getaway. On a serious note, I think the one thing Orlando needs is one large $200 million+ dollar investment fund. Tampa, Miami, Pittsburgh all have a single spearhead fund that becomes the lightning rod for investment, talent migration and startup activity. I believe if we get a flagship fund, we can rapidly catalyze our transition into an innovation economy. To make it a reality, public funding from State, County or City might help to kickstart the capitalization process and that would help bring other investors to the table. 

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?  

I actually lobbied my sister and family to move here from Canada and they’re glad they did. The weather is a huge and obvious reason but its also about real estate prices, Disney, the large enterprises, health care, educational institutions and opportunities. As I said before, Orlando is growing rapidly – assets or business you build here are going to grow as well, and I’m not just talking about tech startups but regular business opportunities such as medical practices, yoga, gyms, etc. as well. It is a powerful reason to move to a region that is growing fast but is not already over-developed. That is the reason we are seeing a serious exodus out of high population centers like San Francisco, New York, Boston etc. where cost of living and even quality of life are suffering due to over-development, traffic and other issues. So whether you are young or old, starting a company or looking for a new job, or wanting to raise a family – Orlando has something for everyone. 

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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