Philip Holt, Director at ArenaNet and co-founder of Canvs, a co-working and tech hub in the Church Street Exchange, posted an open letter on June 4 on LinkedIn about the future of the space and his next big move.
May people are watching Canvs as a litmus test for the success and/or failure of the upcoming Creative Village project and downtown UCF campus.
The following is taken directly from Holt’s post on LinkedIn:
In late 2010, Scott Faris introduced me to Intersouth Partners, a fantastic venture capital firm who would later fund Row Sham Bow, and Jonathan Taylor, the founder and CEO of Voxeo. One of my most urgent needs was to find office space for my fledgling startup. As a brand new company, the traditional office rental space was out of reach for us, but Jonathan had just expanded his office space to the 10th floor of the Chase Plaza and was looking for a few early stage companies to cowork with his company. I had never heard of coworking before, but thought the idea was brilliant. We were surrounded by a thriving and growing tech firm, we had fantastic office space, access to meeting rooms, infrastructure, and more. I would soon discover that the biggest benefit to working at the Voxeo offices was our entry into the downtown tech community and the connections we made because of our location. I met Gregg Pollack, David Glass, Necole Pynn, Carlos Carbonell, Jordan Johnson, Ted Murphy, and many other entrepreneurs and technologists because of our co-location with Voxeo.
Several years later, when it became clear that Voxeo’s acquirer didn’t share Jonathan’s passion for the local, grassroots tech community, I started looking for a new space to call home. We wanted to be a part of a bustling tech community — to thrive on the energy of other startups, to learn from the experience and knowledge of other entrepreneurs and technologists, and to benefit from serendipitous connections. We decided we should create the next evolution of the coworking spaces that Jonathan, Gregg, and Carlos had created in their own companies. The idea for Canvs was born.
Canvs has always been a big idea. If we can lower the barrier to entry for other entrepreneurs and technologists to create or join young companies, we can make an impact on the growth of our tech community. The more companies that startup, the more opportunities our region has to nurture and grow the next major, innovative company in Central Florida. I grew up in the suburbs of Seattle and saw first hand the impact that a major tech company can have on a region as Microsoft sprang out of the woods of Redmond and forever altered the entire Seattle region. The next Microsoft founder could be hatching his or her company from a college dorm, a downtown coffee shop, or a kitchen table. These are the future builders of our city and they require our support and assistance to give them every opportunity for success.
Canvs has had many early successes. Our members have launched new products, received funding, hired employees, connected with business opportunities, found mentors, been spotlighted in the local and national news, and have been acquired. But after selling Row Sham Bow/SPLYT this Spring, I have been out of the day to day action at Canvs and among the cofounders of Canvs, only Jeremy Paulding is still working from Canvs. As such, I’ve been working with my other founders, the exec committee of Canvs’ board of directors, and the entire board of directors on moving Canvs to its next phase of growth. And now with my impending return to Seattle, it is important to build out the management and operational team at Canvs.
I am very pleased to announce that Donna Mackenzie has been appointed Executive Director of Canvs. Donna has a long track record of executive-level success in area startups and non-profits, including IZEA and Channel Intelligence. She has recently been appointed the Executive Director of Starter Studio, which is housed at Canvs, and shares so much with Canvs in terms of mission and purpose. Donna will take on executive oversight and leadership at Canvs along side her current duties with Starter Studio.
Joining Donna is Melissa Wasserman as Director of Operations. Melissa has spent the last 7 years as a key leader in UCF’s nationally recognized Business Incubutor program and also currently serving as Starter Studio’s Director of Programming and Operations. The alignment between Starter Studio and Canvs is very close and we are fortunate to be able to share the leadership, operations, and programming duties across both organizations.
Necole Pynn is leaving Canvs to pursue other opportunities. As Managing Director, Necole worked with me from the earliest of days on the planning, design, opening, and operations of Canvs. She has been a critical part of Canvs’ success, our launch, and we’ll always be grateful for her contributions. We know she’ll be successful at whatever is next for her and wish her well.
Soledad Hasan continues to provide financial and accounting support and Shahier Rahmon continues as the Administrative Coordinator for Canvs. This is a strong team and is positioned for much success as we continue to drive the mission at Canvs: to help transform Orlando into a nationally recognized center for technology based startups.