An interview with startGNV Board Member and 2018-2020 Board President
Aidan Augustin practices what he preaches, and then some.
The Co-founder/President of Feathr tirelessly dedicates himself to the advancement of Gainesville's local innovation ecosystem. For the past three years, he served as President of the startGNV Board of Directors while simultaneously running his startup company.
He led the organization through significant milestones, such as launching a tech talent web portal, completing a full re-brand, and hiring its first full-time Director. Did we mention he still made time to lead the startGNV bike rides and proof-read investor emails for budding startups?
As part of our 'Get to Know' startGNV blog series- check out our interview on why Aidan loves Gainesville-- and why his peers in Gainesville adore him right back!
Tell us about your journey to the world of startups:
Aidan: While I was an engineering student at UF, I interned at a local startup called CitiSync in 2010 and then participated in Grooveshark University. In late 2011 I participated in a Startup Weekend and co-founded Feathr; in 2012, we dropped out of UF to pursue it full time.
“Aidan has been a true inspiration to so many in our entrepreneurial ecosystem in the model of Josh Greenberg before him. He’s given tirelessly of his time and energy in building the community around him, and his legacy will include the many entrepreneurs who try something they might never have attempted.” Erik Sander, Executive Director, Florida Engineering Experiment Station Michael Durham Director, University of Florida Engineering Innovation Institute
How long have you served on the startGNV board?
Aidan: I joined the board of startGNV (then called GAIN) in January of 2017. I became board president in January 2018 to lead the reboot of GAIN into startGNV and served in that role for three years until December 2020.
"The Board thanks Aidan for his dedication to the advancement of Gainesville's innovation ecosystem, not only as our Board President but also as a friend and mentor to everyone around him. Aidan is someone who is never too busy to review an investor report or make a warm connection for a budding startup," says Lindsey Day, startGNV Products and Talent Committee member and Assistant Director of Talent Acquisition and Development at Infotech Inc. "His spirit of collaboration, authenticity, and community have shaped so much of startGNV's efforts, and we are proud to continue working with him in the future."
During your time as President, what are your favorite accomplishments and activities from startGNV?
Aidan: Unifying the efforts of several different events and organizations that had previously been entirely separate from each other (Startup Weekend, BarCamp, Gainesville Tech Association, Chamber Tech Council “Tech Talent Initiative”). And bringing consistency (pre-COVID) to a lineup of signature events that the community could rely upon, to include the annual CelebrateGNV.
You left Gainesville for Austin. What made you decide to return? What do you love about Gainesville, and what would you tell others who are thinking of moving here?
Aidan: Feathr’s return to Gainesville was primarily driven by the recruiting advantages of Gainesville combined with the cost of living/quality of life. We believe the benefit of Gainesville’s abundance of early- and mid-career talent far outweighs the challenge of Gainesville’s relative scarcity of senior/executive-level talent, and the lower cost of living means that Feathr can provide its employees with a superior quality of life. Gainesville is a great place to both start and scale a company – as a cash-strapped early-stage startup, Gainesville offers a significant population of student and young professional talent who are open to the tradeoff of lower starting salary in exchange for stock options and the accelerated learning experience of working at an early-stage startup. As a growth-stage company in Gainesville, offering market-rate compensation or higher, you now have a unique value proposition to employees who enjoy the Gainesville quality of life (smaller city, hip local culture, abundance of nature, etc.) but don’t want to sacrifice their professional goals. Everybody wins.
You’ve been an advocate of Brad Feld’s “Startup Community Way.” Tell us about your vision for Gainesville’s innovation ecosystem?
Aidan: I believe there are two keys for Gainesville’s innovation ecosystem to meaningfully progress: first, we need to continue building greater connectivity and collaboration between local companies across all stages (early, growth, mature). This could include employees in similar roles across companies swapping best practices and assisting each other in professional development as well as founders/executives sharing resources and introductions to their network, etc. Second, we need successful entrepreneurs and tech executives to stay involved in the ecosystem as mentors, investors, board members, etc. – or starting/leading new companies.
What are your hopes for the innovation ecosystem and startGNV in 2021?
Aidan: In 2021, I hope that with the vaccine rollout underway that we will soon be able to return gathering in-person and that startGNV can lead the charge, thereby delivering our signature events similar to 2019.
“Aidan has our sincere gratitude for his service to startGNV and the local startup community. Serving as the organization’s President is the toughest volunteer role, and he executed his Board duties with dedication and gravitas. Aidan has an amazing ability to connect the entrepreneurial citizens of our startup community through socials, meetings and events; he is truly a super-connector. He supports every effort of the organization and community. We are grateful for his active leadership and his work to advance the value of our organization.” Elliott Welker, Incubator Manager at UF Innovate - Sid Martin Biotech.