Is it just a coworking space?

Canvs, as the name implies, strives to be a blank canvas that inspires and empowers entrepreneurs, creatives, and innovators.

Canvs is a not-for-profit organization that provides places, programs and funding to enable early-stage tech-enabled entrepreneurs to get started and grow in Orlando.

It is a community effort in every way, shape, and form.

We begin with and end with community. Canvs exists to fill the business-threatening gaps every entrepreneur faces in office space, programs, funding, mentorship, and step-change guidance so that businesses can start here, stay here, and grow here.

Yes, we have co-working space in the Church Street Exchange Building in downtown Orlando, in downtown Winter Park, and most recently a location in the Parramore community. All combined, we have dedicated desks for 150 people and 16 private offices. Canvs is a community of more than 300 entrepreneurs, explorers, creatives, tech workers, small businesses, and individuals that are doing side-gigs or just simply need a place to work with all the amenities, socialization and collaboration of an office.

But co-working is only a small part of our offer to the community.

If we were only comprised of rentable space, Internet access, and free coffee, then additional funding beyond the membership fees we collect would not be needed. The space is simply the platform where the real impact of Canvs begins. In addition to the opportunity the space provides for people to meet, collaborate, and exchange ideas, Canvs hosts more than 150 programs every year, which averages to almost 3 each week – with most free and open to the public.

Canvs can be considered the “front door” – the start of many who attend a meetup or a program that kickstarts and feeds their entrepreneurial journey. Our programs and resources range from meetups, lunch and learns, founder’s talks, day-long workshops, and accelerators, to funding.

Our programs, FireSpring Fund & Starter Studio, are led by entrepreneurs, staff, volunteers, and mentors to provide education for anyone that wants to start and grow a business in the Central Florida region.

These two accelerator programs encourage entrepreneurs with an idea to explore entrepreneurship, learn to validate their idea utilizing lean business startup methodology and customer discovery, learn to grow their businesses once they have “justified” their value proposition and helps them learn to raise venture funding.

There is a competitive application process to enter both of these intensive programs. Our programs are run by experienced entrepreneurs, for entrepreneurs. Starter Studio is an ideation phase program and requires entrepreneurs to be involved in the program full-time and to devote a minimum of 500 hours over a three-month period.

FireSpring Fund was created to offer similar, but more advanced programming for startups that have already gained or are about to gain paying customers and have a validated business model. FireSpring Fund is a funded accelerator, meaning that in addition to the accelerator program, investment is made into to the companies of between $25k and $225k. It is much like the for-profit accelerator TechStars, except that the profits from the investments that are made in the companies do not go to individual investors but are returned to the evergreen fund, FireSpring.

This is a key difference between our accelerator and many in the region and in the U.S. When one of our portfolio companies is sold or merged, the investment and gains we receive back can then be used to invest in other companies.

It enables us to continue the “economic gardening” that we are starting here today for future generations.

Results are being followed closely and so far, these two programs have graduated eight classes consisting of 60 companies, with an additional two in progress currently. Sixty companies have graduated to date, and we have funded $225K to 9 companies that have raised more than $1.5M in additional venture funding. The goal of these accelerators is to create more investment-ready companies and increase the rate of investment in Central Florida.

All programming is provided free of charge. Canvs is a not-for-profit organization, as well as Starter Studio and FireSpring Fund.

They all exist to further the mission to make it easy for anyone to startup, increase the odds of success for those that do, and inspire more people to startup in Central Florida.

Membership fees paid to Canvs only fund the space, not the programs we offer. We depend on the support of the community to forward our mission of “economic gardening” through our programs, providing space, education, and a collaborative approach to learning and growing and enabling us to invest relatively small amounts of capital in promising companies.

If all we did was provide space, we would not need funding from corporate sponsors, universities and local government.

And the potential impact would be greatly reduced. This funding is an investment in our community and an investment that will allow Canvs and programs to be self-sustaining within ten years.

We do need funding to provide the programs of Canvs, FireSpring Fund, and Starter Studio, as well as the funding through FireSpring, for now. Within ten years these programs can become self-sustaining. It all succeeds even without the typical 10x return venture capital funds depend on, because it creates jobs, futures and dreams.

Canvs, FireSpring Fund and Starter Studio are part of a larger ecosystem in the region that includes other co-working spaces, educational programs, mentoring, and funding.

We are unique because no single individual or company benefits from the success of the companies we invest in; but we are not unique in our goal to help build a robust startup and investment climate in our region.

We invite you to join our community and become a supporter of the myriad efforts other organizations are also undertaking to help build and sustain an impactful startup culture. Whether you want to be a coworking member, sponsor, mentor, attend meetups or programs, all are welcome here.

We are more than just desks, coffee, and wifi. We are Canvs.

Executive Director of Canvs, FireSpring Fund, Starter Studio

Donna Mackenzie 

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