Business Development Executive, Withum
At Withum, we take pride in assisting today’s startups as they grow into tomorrow’s top companies. As business advisors working with emerging businesses, we understand that the pressures faced by entrepreneurs in today’s economic environment are constant. Many executives find themselves playing multiple roles while at the same time cultivating the next level of management or implementing a growth plan. We go beyond your traditional accounting firm’s services of providing financial advice and business guidance.
Builder, Creator, & Founder, UniKey Technologies
An Engineer by degree, and entrepreneur by practice, Phil Dumas has played key roles in several startup and large companies. Most recently, Phil founded UniKey Technologies, a phone-as-a-key company focused on enabling people to move freely and securely through the world’s doors, with ultimate control, convenience, and peace-of-mind. Phil has a passion for, and has been working on, alternative access control solutions for over a decade. With extensive product development, large customer management, turn-around, and M&A experience, Phil has been able to wear the multiple hats required to disrupt the access control space. Phil is also known for his successful appearance on ABC’s Shark Tank, becoming the first company to get an offer from all five sharks.
Partner, Foley & Lardner LLP
Foley & Lardner LLP (foley.com) has over 1,100 lawyers in 24 offices across the United States, Mexico, Europe, and Asia, Foley approaches client service by first understanding our clients’ priorities, objectives, and challenges. Michael (Mike) A. Okaty is a partner and business lawyer who focuses on a wide variety of corporate transactions, governance, and counseling. Mike has experience in a wide variety of corporate law matters, including corporate formation, corporate operations and governance, contract drafting, review and negotiation, mergers and acquisitions, and capital raising and finance transactions for both public and private companies and lenders.
Manager, Beresford Ventures
Mert has been an active early stage investor since 2015. He has invested in more than 70 start-ups in the U.S. He is an entrepreneur with successful exits. Currently based in Central Florida, he is active in multiple countries. He has 25+ years of experience in sales, business development, corporate planning, operations, and executive leadership in Healthcare and the Medical Device industry. He recently exited a technical services and medical equipment company, is an active board member of a publicly traded healthcare company, and manager at Beresford Ventures.
Dr. Dennis Pape
Member and CEO, SeedFundersOrlando
For over 30 years, Dennis has been starting and advising new technology ventures. He is focused on providing startups and early-stage technology businesses with the tools they need to get noticed and funded.
Dennis is cofounder and CEO of SeedFundersOrlando, a seed capital firm in Orlando investing in pre-revenue technology startups. For over 30 years Dennis has been involved with starting and advising new technology ventures. He founded and scaled a VC-backed optical information processing firm, Photonic Systems, in Melbourne before joining a VC-backed corporate technology commercialization firm, Milcom Technologies, in Maitland. He founded and managed a coworking space in downtown Orlando, Catalyst Spaces, and currently edits two online news publications, Florida Venture Sourcing and Orlando Venture Sourcing. He is on the Board of Advisors of the Rollins College Crummer Graduate School of Business Center for Advanced Entrepreneurship as well as a member of the Orlando Technology Council. Dennis has an A. B. in Physics from Cornell University and a Ph.D. in Physics from Duke University.
President and Founder, RINI Technologies
For Dan Rini, president and founder of RINI Technologies, the thought of working for someone else never sat well with him. He grew up with parents that owned their own businesses and was very entrepreneurial inclined himself. As a young kid, growing up in Canada, Rini would sell firewood in the winter, bait in the summer and pumpkins in the fall. As far back as Rini can remember, dining room table talks always centered on business. Rini’s entrepreneurial path was solidified while studying Mechanical Engineering at The University of Central Florida. “As a grad student doing funded research, you’re basically operating a small business,” he said. “You have your idea that you designed, you’re writing proposals to get contracts for research programs and you’re managing your project. Another thing that always pointed me in the direction of starting my own company was the fact that as an international student, with a student visa, I wasn’t able to work for some of the local companies like Lockheed Martin or Siemens. That was a path a lot of my classmates took. They’d get an internship and then go on to work for that company. As an international student, I didn’t have that option.”
The transition from the work Rini was doing as a PHD student in the fields of thermodynamics and fluid-mechanics to the founding of his company in the spring of 2000 was pretty seamless. RINI Technologies was initially focused on designing advanced cooling solutions for laser weapons, something Rini had already been working on. He generated some intellectual properties around that, and continues to have some revenue flowing in as a result, but most of their work in the early years was dictated by the contracts they secured. What advice does Rini have for aspiring entrepreneurs? “Don’t quit your day job right away,” he said. “There’s a lot you can get done while still at your job. People too often make the leap too soon. When you do take that leap, you better have some lily pads in sight before you jump. It’s important to have a business plan, but, on day one, it doesn’t need to be more than a one page document. Make sure the focus is on how you’re going to make money. Most new businesses burn through way too much cash at the start. Don’t let this happen to you.”