Startup Quest began in 2011 as a collaboration between CareerSource North Central Florida and the University of Florida. "We were looking for something to do to help with some of the large layoffs we were seeing with well educated individuals from the University of Florida as they were experiencing some of the large budget cuts. So we launched a pilot program in 2011 in the Gainesville area to help with the individuals who may have been laid off," says Frank Avery, Interim Executive Director of CareerSource North Central Florida.
The Gainesville pilot program was a success and the program expanded to cities around the state. Sean McCoy says with Startup Quest "We change them from finding the job to creating the job".
Startup Quest teaches through experience. during the ten week entrepreneurship program professionals team up and are assigned a patented technology generated from a Florida university or NASA. With the help of mentors, teams create a business plan and a pitch, competing against each other.
Marlana Armstrong and Rachel Brock were part of last year's second place team, their assigned product, an ovarian cancer screening test. Now they are taking what they learned from Startup Quest beyond the program with their startup company O-Bio.
Brock says there's no FDA approved ovarian cancer screening test available and they saw the need for an accurate, reliable, and affordable option for women. She describes the need for a test in the market because it's often called "the silent disease", not symtomatic until the cancer is advanced.
Startup Quest plans on continuing to expand the hands-on entreprenureship program with plans to grow nationally and globally.