LifeNet Systems Co-Founder to Travel to Houston for Licensing Signing This Week
Gainesville, Fla. — Less than a year after the Startup Quest® entrepreneurship training program taught her to develop a business plan for a company using a cutting-edge NASA technology improving roadway safety, Mary Ohlfs is signing the licensing agreement to commercialize the product — exemplifying why Startup Quest® is a new model in workforce development for job creation and small business development. Her local workforce investment board trained participants in learning these skills to help them become better employees as well as possible entrepreneurs for tech companies or lifestyle businesses.
Traveling with Ohlfs to the Johnson Space Center in Houston for the Friday, June 27, signing is her Startup Quest® team mentor, Mark Davidson, Ph.D.; fellow Startup Quest® team member and LifeNet Systems, Inc. Vice President of Marketing, Yolanda Castillo-Baron; Startup Quest® Co-founder Angela Pate; and CareerSource North Central Florida Executive Director Kim Tesch-Vaught.
“The entrepreneurial skills and knowledge I gained during the Startup Quest® program helped me to pursue owning my own company,” said Ohlfs. ”With my new skill set, the strong mentorship of Mark Davidson and the support of my Startup Quest® team I look forward to building a successful, profitable business.”
Ohlfs’ team took second place in 2013 in an investor pitch competition, the final event of the 10-week entrepreneurial training program. Now her Florida-based company, LifeNet Systems, Inc., will commercialize the NASA technology their mentor chose for their team project. Using the technology developed by Johnson Space Center inventors, the business will create net roadway barriers to replace concrete and steel barriers. LifeNet barriers are taller and softer than existing barriers. Concrete and steel barriers are dangerous and often cause extensive vehicle damage and fatalities. LifeNet barriers will stop a vehicle traveling 80 mph within eight feet safely and securely.
Startup Quest® advances an additional model for workforce development by growing self-employment through entrepreneurship, shifting the mindset from “find a job” to “create my job.” The program aims to create opportunities by developing new pathways for both employment and self-employment — giving participants the tools and training they need to create new businesses and stimulate job creation. During the training program, highly educated degree-holding professionals who are unemployed or underemployed work with mentors to form a simulated startup, learning skills for self-employment or employment with a new or existing company.
“Startup Quest® provides NASA with another valuable outlet for technology transfers,” said David R. Makufka, Kennedy Space Center, manager, Technology Transfer Office. “With this program, our agency collaborates with regional workforce boards in Florida to provide publically-funded technologies to talented teams of aspiring entrepreneurs, who have the potential to commercialize our technology into a new high-tech business and positively impact local economies.”
Successful CEOs and entrepreneurs serve as Startup Quest® volunteer mentors, leading participant teams to create business plans that utilize inventions from Florida universities and NASA. Startup Quest® began as a pilot program in 2011 with 83 participants. The program was formed with partners including CareerSource North Central Florida, the University of Florida Office of Technology Licensing, the Gainesville Area Chamber of Commerce, and dozens of successful entrepreneur mentors and investor judges. The pilot program, funded by the state workforce board, CareerSource Florida, resulted in:
- 20 participants becoming self-employed
- 14 startup companies formed
- 26 additional jobs created from those that became self-employed
- 73 participants becoming employed by 35 businesses