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Patrick Murphy explores tech start-up efforts in Orlando the millennial way

Millennial entrepreneurs may be different, business sociology theory tells us, seeking a rich social-open-office-loose-collaboration-with-video-gaming-on-breaks environment, with more than a touch of serious business mentoring, but on a more casual basis.

At least that’s what U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy was being advised in his exploration of a tech startup cooperative in Orlando, seeking to plug in to what might work in developing the 21st century business models.

On Monday Murphy sat down with leaders and tech entrepreneurs at the CANVS co-working space in Downtown Orlando, where more than 100 tiny start-up tech companies are finding a desk, each other to collaborate with, some professionally developed angel funding programs, and an address — one of the most distinctive and notorious addresses in Orlando.

The companies, most still just one or two people, some a few more, are seeking to launch successful endeavors the millennial way. And Murphy, at age 33, making him a member of the millennial generation, hopes to take that message and vibe forward in his campaign for Florida’s U.S. Senate seat.

“If elected to the Senate, I’d be the first real millennial elected to the Senate,” Murphy said. “I honestly said it for a reason.”

CANVS is a nonprofit that includes two mentoring, angel investment and accelerator programs, Starter Studio and FireSpring Fund, and is just beginning to launch some successful businesses as its second full year ends this month. Murphy sat down with entrepreneurs Carlos Carbonell of echo, Ron Nelson of G5 Engineering Solutions, Chris Whitlow of edu(k)ate and others, each trying to become the next Purple Rock Scissors, launching into Orlando’s fledging tech scene.

As they met, scores of entrepreneurs worked side-by-side at rows of desks, met in some of CANVS’s co-working meeting rooms, or sat in the three-story lobby sharing coffee.

The building is the historic as the former Church Street Exchange, the shopping mall portion of what was once the city’s highly-successful Church Street Station entertainment complex. The entertainment district had risen to national prominence in the 1970s and ’80s, fallen hard in the 1990s, and risen again in the past decade.

But the three-story exchange building, once one of Church Street’s centerpieces and still located in one of the most strategic spots in downtown Orlando, has been known for complete repurposing. In the 2000s it became headquarters to Lou Pearlman‘s business empire. Then, as numerous big creditors and small investors began wondering where their money went, authorities determined his empire was built on a variety of scams, and the building was infamously raided in 2007 by scores of state and federal law enforcement agents in search of everything Pearlman ever touched. Pearman died Friday night in prison, while serving a 25-year sentence for fraud and conspiracy, for running a Ponzi scheme in the building that stole hundreds of millions of dollars.

Now the building is rising again, the home of to what may be the next generation of Silicon Valley wizards, Orlando style.

Written By

Scott Powers is an Orlando-based political journalist with 30+ years’ experience, mostly at newspapers such as the Orlando Sentinel and the Columbus Dispatch. He covers local, state and federal politics and space news across much of Central Florida. His career earned numerous journalism awards for stories ranging from the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster to presidential elections to misplaced nuclear waste. He and his wife Connie have three grown children. Besides them, he’s into mystery and suspense books and movies, rock, blues, basketball, baseball, writing unpublished novels, and being amused. Email him at

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