The newly-minted director of startup incubator Domi Station says kids used to grow up wanting to be rock stars – now they want to be entrepreneurs. He aims to take advantage of the talent Tallahassee has to offer.
Antonio Montoya calls himself a “serial immigrant.” The new Domi Station Director is a native of Medellin, Colombia, and living in Huntsville, Alabama for the past 15 years is one the longest stays he has had in one place. There he was director of a coworking space called HuntsvilleWest, not unlike Domi in its collaborative approach. Yet, Montoya came to head Tallahassee’s startup incubator because of the potential he sees in the people and their ideas.
“What I’m hoping to create here at Domi is a place where those guys that made it to the other side look back and say, okay, let’s help the guys that are jumping now with the things that we’ve learned,” Montoya said.
To Montoya, startup success is about community. Sharing with others who are growing their businesses the stories of success, and sometimes more importantly failure, can make all the difference in a company’s future. Montoya says he sees similarities between Huntsville and Tallahassee, but the Capital City has entirely different resources for fledgling businesses to draw from.
“It’s a similar sized city that wants to grow and diversify its economy,” Montoya said. “And it think that in Tallahassee there is an opportunity to leverage startups and entrepreneurs. Plus, all these resources that revolve around the university and government create a unique ecosystem.”
Being a startup, whether it’s in technology, agriculture or selling boutique clothing – doesn’t mean you have to be a Facebook or Google. Montoya has worked with more modest startups that have less of what he calls “flash,” but plenty of heart. And it all comes down to the product or service they provide. Montoya recommends entrepreneurs focus less on how they will get funded, but how they can make their ideas have value to the consumer.
“Particularly now in the U.S. it’s kind of crazy because it’s all about ‘Oh, I got funded,’ and then that’s it. Which is like this one opportunity to go and present in front of investors, and you get money. A lot of people think that’s the unique, defining moment for a startup,” Montoya said. “The defining moment for a startup is when you sell. When you see, ‘This thing is working, this thing I’m building basically to produce money, is finally producing money.”
Montoya officially assumes his role as executive director on April 1, and Domi Station will turn four years old in May.