Mentor Program Aims To Encourage High-Tech Entrepreneurs

By Laura Layden
Naples Daily News, Fla.

Fusion Pointe is off to a running start with its mentoring program for high-tech entrepreneurs in Southwest Florida.

The nonprofit group has accepted seven startups into its no-cost program. Other companies are in the pipeline and will soon transition into the program, which launched in November.

Fusion Pointe’s mission is to encourage, accelerate and expand the region’s innovation economy. The goal of the mentoring program is to produce more investor-ready businesses in the region (think elevator pitches or pitches on ABC’s “Shark Tank”).

“The first key is finding those potential entrepreneurs and the second key is aligning their mentors and their skills and market expertise to the entrepreneurs’ needs,” said Steve Walling, Fusion Pointe’s board chairman.

The group has about a dozen mentors and will continue to add more to its already impressive slate of successful entrepreneurs and business executives as its program ramps up to meet demand. The high demand for the services has surprised some, including Jim Moore, Lee County’s former economic development director who now sits on Fusion Pointe’s board of directors.

“We’ve done more quickly than I ever thought was possible,” he said. “The demand is there. The ideas are there. I was concerned are there even enough entrepreneurs here and the answer is they are here.”

Moore has been involved with Fusion Pointe from its inception. He was in the crowd of about 80 who attended an event Tuesday night at Northern Trust Bank in Bonita Springs that offered a glimpse into the early successes of the mentoring program, modeled after one offered by JumpStart Inc., a nonprofit that has helped turn around northeast Ohio’s hard-hit economy.

“It’s hard to get people to move,” Moore said. “It’s easier to grow your own to create companies.”

The group’s first mentees include:

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