Despite the severe economic disruptions caused by Covid-19, the latest ‘State-Of-Startups’ in the Southeast report published by BIP Capital is encouraging.
The report sites that the ‘maturation of the southeastern startup ecosystem has allowed for a steadfast response to adversity. While we saw a rapid downtown in investing in March due to the pandemic, it appears a steep year-over-year decline has begun to recover, with momentum returning in the second half of 2021.’
One institution that is deeply rooted in the startup community here in the Southeast is the Boca Raton campus of Florida Atlantic University, otherwise, known as FAU. In particular, FAU has a dedicated program based at the Adams Center College of Business which runs a Veterans focused entrepreneurship education and training program with the support of Veterans Florida who subsidizes the costs for Veterans. Dr. Kevin Cox is the lead instructor for the program which is in its sixth year.

This entrepreneurship course is an immersive and comprehensive educational program designed for current or future business owners. The 8-week program provides Veterans with the knowledge and skills they need for starting and/or growing their businesses. In addition to the in-depth educational program, all participants are paired with a successful entrepreneur who provides direct guidance and mentorship throughout the program and beyond.  Each year the program invites local CEOs and business professionals to present their startup ideas as part of their ‘pitch competition. Last year, one of the program’s winners was Steve Edwards, Founder, and CEO of Premier Virtual.

The success of Premier Virtual has been a true testament to the support a program like this offers, and what it can do for a startup. Not only did Steve’s company win the pitch contest at the local level, but he also went on to win at the national level, which earned him additional funding and resources.
“The experience of the course was incredible, recalls Steve. We were introduced to Dr. Cox through a business incubator in West Palm Beach called 1909. Because of my veteran status, I was able to qualify and take the course. Their mentorship was a big part of why we won the local and state pitch contest, and the support from Veterans Florida gave us a great deal of exposure, that led directly to new business for us.”

In just over a year, Premier Virtual’s event platform has powered over 1,000 virtual hiring events, where more than 10,000 employers were able to fill critical job openings from over 100,000 registered candidates! In the previous 8 years of experience that Steve had hosting in-person hiring events, he did not reach half of the numbers that his Premier Virtual platform produced in just one year!

‘We are very proud of Steve and how he was able to grab the momentum that was generated by Covid-19 and run with it. Steve has continued to invest in the software and is truly emerging as the premier platform in the virtual hiring event space. We like to take credit for being there in the beginning, but the truth is we knew that a great idea like that just needs a little support, and with Steve’s passion and dedication, it would be a huge success!’ said Dr. Cox.
‘We are now accepting entries for the 2021 pitch contest and are looking forward to finding the next Premier Virtual. Any veteran who has the entrepreneur spirit can apply at https://business.fau.edu/centers/adams-center/veterans/index.php The contest starts on February 25th, so the deadlines for entries are coming up quick.”