Software Startup Greeted with "Highly Active Startup Environment" in Gainesville

15, July 2013

10 years after earning his MBA from the University of Florida, Rick Carlson moved back to Gainesville to raise his son and begin his software start-up company, SharpSpring.

"It was a real pleasant surprise to come back to Gainesville after 10 years and be greeted by this kind of fledgling, but highly active, startup environment," he said.

Carlson aimed to create his own startup after working for Aluria Software, a startup in Orlando that grew from five to 50 employees while he was there. Through other jobs in Internet security firms, Carlson began extrapolating ideas on how businesses could measure their marketing efforts. Today, his startup, SharpSpring, provides tracking software for small businesses to use on their websites to show who is visiting their sites, how they got there, and what they do when they get there.

Below is an exerpt from the article in The Gainesville Sun:

"Large enterprises have had similar technologies," he said. "Our mission is to bring these enterprise-class features into a really affordable but also easy-to-use application that a small business can use to make their marketing dollars go further."

Companies can start using the service for free and are charged based on the level of benefit they receive.

Since SharpSpring started advertising in April, 388 customers have signed up and a few are at the level of paying customer, Carlson said. A full-featured launch is not scheduled for another 60 days.

Carlson said the company has benefited from some of the support available to startups in Gainesville.

SharpSpring "incubated" in an office in the downtown Sun Center and started hiring people, including former Grooveshark employee Travis Whitton as chief technology officer.

The company received funding from angel — or early-stage — investors and from the Florida Institute for the Commercialization of Public Research after licensing voice analytics technology from UF.

The company was also able to hire three employees through a grant from FloridaWorks that pays for on-the-job training in tech fields for people who are unemployed or underemployed.

SharpSpring now has five fulltime employees and two interns. In January, the company moved into the first-floor office of the Gainesville Community Redevelopment Agency building that opened in 2010.

Carlson said he chose the building for its modern architecture — "that just looks like it should have technology companies in it" — and its proximity to downtown, Innovation Square and UF to try to recruit talent that can bike to work as the company grows, especially as they compete for talent with the new and growing tech companies in town.

While he said it is difficult to predict SharpSpring's hiring plans, "There's something wrong if we're not a 20- to 50-person company over the next two years. We're not as successful as we'd like to be if that's not the case."

Read the full article.