Three Groundswell Startups named ‘Top Startups to Watch’ by Orlando Inno
Three Groundswell companies will be recognized during the Orlando Inno Top Startups to Watch Ceremony hosted at the Orlando Citrus Club on Jan 19 at 5 p.m. The Orlando Business Journal announced this week that Kalogon, SwiftPaws, and Spaced Ventures are three of ten companies in Central Florida selected for the award based on their impressive technology or service, recent strides in growth, fundraising success or a combination of reasons.
For nearly a decade, dozens of seasoned founders with exits have been working alongside entrepreneurs in the Space Coast to demystify the fundraising process, bootstrap better, fail faster, and bring more innovative technologies to market. Beginning in coffee shops in 2015 and then expanding to an 11,000-square-foot skatepark renovated to serve as the state’s largest and most active coworking space in 2016. The three local founders recognized by Orlando Inno said that access to local resources, talent, and mentorship was key to achieving their top milestones this year.
Founder and CEO of SwiftPaws, Meghan Wolfgram was featured on Shark Tank this past April 8. She said that winning Lori Greiner’s Golden Ticket – the champion pitch prize awarded to one company per season – was the highlight of 2022. She added that delivering on $100,000 in orders that came as a result of the broadcast that first weekend would not be possible without the strength of the local partnerships she has established over the course of many years.
“People told me it takes a decade to create an overnight success,” Wolfgram said. “I think many [founders] can attest to that. It also takes so much more effort than the big wins that you see.”
Wolfgram applauded Orlando Inno for recognizing rising stars in the Central Florida startup community. She said that if there is one thing that her company needs for continued success in 2023, it is support and recognition for local manufacturers like the Brevard Achievement Center (BAC) that make American-made products possible.
Founder of the world’s first smart seat, Tim Balz, said his company Kalogon also works with the BAC and appreciates that the company is incredibly mission-aligned.
“The BAC makes it possible for Kalogon to work with people who use wheelchairs to build meaningful, innovative products for people who also use wheelchairs,” Balz said. “It’s understanding the customer deeply and working with them in disruptive ways that, I think, makes a company great.”
Balz, who quit his job at SpaceX to start Kalogon with several fellow engineers, said that top highlights this year included receiving more global recognition as Most Innovative Product in Accessibility at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show as well as a contract award from the United States Air Force to revolutionize the way the military sits. Balz said he’s eager to announce two additional Kalogon products in 2023.
Founder and CEO of Spaced Ventures, Aaron Burnett, said it was a “crazy” year to be building a new business. Despite the economic and geopolitical ups and downs, Burnett said his crowdfunding platform for space technologies is excited to host more than $150M of interest.
“We hit 12,000 new users just before the stock markets tanked,” he said. “Then in September we opened a SpaceX citation which quickly became the world’s largest in its first week and then 10X the world’s largest in a few weeks.”
Groundswell Startups Chief Operating Officer, Jarin Eisenberg, said it was a wild ride for many of the startup companies that engaged with the tech incubator this year. She said Groundswell founders have successfully raised more than $120 million since the nonprofit’s inception and that it’s rewarding to see the level of camaraderie between brand new entrepreneurs and more seasoned founders.
“If you’ve been to Groundswell then you know how cathartic can be to see these founders who work so hard get the recognition they deserve.” Eisenberg said. “We are definitely proud to see these founders recognized as a part of the Central Florida startup success story.”