If you haven't met Christine Caven– you're missing out.
The startGNV Executive Board Member and Director of Communications for PS27 Ventures has taken on the not-so-small task of changing the perception that "there are no VC firms in Gainesville."
And in her spare time– she's a Gainesville explorer, advocate, and bicycle enthusiast. Did we mention she's startGNV's stellar photographer?
Check out our post below to get to know Christine!
A little about Christine:
I'm Christine Caven, and I'm originally from Boynton Beach, Florida, where I grew up loving beach days, skateboarding, surfing, and competitive wakeboarding. In 2011, I graduated from Spanish River High in Boca Raton and moved to Jacksonville to study Sociology and American Sign Language at the University of North Florida.
As many first-year college students do, I changed my major during my first year. I shifted my focus to Public Relations with a minor in Community Leadership. My favorite class at UNF was a leadership class, "Intergroup Dialogue Among Diverse Populations," where we learned about social identity development, prejudice, stereotyping, and their effects on groups. I also met some of my favorite teachers and best friends in that class.
During my senior communications internship, I worked for The World's Largest Crowdfunding Festival, One Spark. That experience ignited my passion for helping innovators, creators, entrepreneurs, and artists. I was introduced to One Spark by Matt Caven, a volunteer coordinator and fellow UNF student who is now my husband. During that internship at One Spark, I grew my skills by writing news releases, editorials and creating video content. I also got to know many of the startups that I still work with today, like FreshJax, Hazlnut, and Civilized Coffee.
I graduated from UNF in August of 2014. Swoop! In January 2015, I started working at PS27 Ventures and have been working in venture capital ever since.
Tell us about your work at PS27 and why you love the company?
As Director of Communications at PS27 Ventures, my job consists of a lot of hands-on work. Day-to-day, I help manage PS27 Ventures' digital footprint: our website, social channels, email communications, press releases, media relations, and content strategy. I also help our portfolio companies with their media and marketing strategy. This includes weekly calls on a variety of projects – some of the work that I do with the companies includes helping them define their brand, communicate the company's purpose, form strategic partnerships, and create content, photos, and videos for their social media channels.
Community outreach is another large piece of my role. On a weekly basis, I reach out to other regional incubators, venture capital firms, subject matter experts, and universities to learn about the various resources available to help startup companies. This also allows me to talk about PS27's many programs through our non-profit arm, The PS27 Foundation.
One of the many unique things that PS27 offers startups is the opportunity to learn from our network. Once a year, we host Leadership Week, an intense program that teaches startup founders and their teams how to navigate fast growth and transition from founder to CEO. With a minor in Community Leadership, this is just one of many things about my job that allowed me to utilize my undergrad skills to the fullest. Seeing founders come in on day one, not knowing anyone in the group, and walk away just a few days later hugging each other, sometimes in tears, is transformational. It's gratifying to be a part of something that has an impact on people professionally and personally.
So, why do I love PS27? We have the best team around, and we have a lot of fun at work. Every day we get to look at some of the most innovative projects in the world, and it's very inspiring. I'm privileged to have a seat at our table and am very grateful for working alongside founders for the past six years.
Tell us how you found out about startGNV and how long you've served on the startGNV board?
I actually found out about startGNV through Instagram. I saw an open call to join their Board of Directors and applied through a Google form. While waiting to hear back, I reached out to a friend, Ming Yang, who I got to know during PS27 Leadership Week in 2019. Ming had been featured on their page and had great things to say about startGNV and Aidan Augustin. So after a few Zoom interviews with startGNV leadership, I was in!
The first time I met some of the other new board members was on a chilly evening in December for a mixer at Cypress and Grove in 2020. I left that meeting with some business cards and new networking relationships to follow up on. I officially started serving on the board in January 2021.
Favorite moment/memory in the innovation ecosystem so far?
My favorite memory in Gainesville so far, hands down, would have to be the startGNV mixer with Infotech at Vecinos in Downtown Gainesville. It was great to see members of the startup community coming together to celebrate Pride Month. I had an absolute blast with co-board member Jasmine singing Christina Aguilera "What a Girl Wants" on stage for karaoke. I'm still recovering from the deep belly laughs that were had that night watching a variety of outstanding musical performances.
Tell us about your vision for startGNV and Gainesville's innovation ecosystem? Hopes and dreams for 2022?
The word on the street is that "there are no VC firms in Gainesville" and I'd like to change that perception. My hope for 2022 is to introduce myself, and PS27 Ventures, to the key players in town and let them know what services we offer. PS27 Ventures is proud to sponsor startGNV and my goal is to reach as many entrepreneurs in town through our programs and events. We've even tossed around the idea of setting up a "satellite office" in Gainesville and hosting virtual pitch events with the PS27 team. For now, my office is remote, primarily Opus Innovation, and I'm happy to meet one-on-one with founders who want to learn more about what we do at PS27.
Advice for young professionals hoping to get involved/ interested in the innovation ecosystem like yourself?
Reach out! There are so many events, programs, and resources in Gainesville to help young professionals who want to get involved in the innovation ecosystem. I also highly recommend volunteering and serving on a board of directors. This will be the 3rd board that I have served on in my career journey and each group has taught me invaluable lessons in business, networking, and leadership.
For a more casual introduction to the Gainesville tech community I can also recommend joining startGNV for a Sip and Support Mixer, showing up to UF Innovation Third Thursdays at The Hub, or grabbing coffee with any of the startGNV board members to get plugged in.
You moved here during COVID. What's your favorite thing about Gainesville you've discovered so far, and what do you want to see next?
Biking! Jacksonville is the largest city in the country by land mass. After moving to Gainesville, a much smaller town, I found that many resources were now walking or biking distance from our new home.
Living a balanced, healthy lifestyle is very important to me and I would have to say my favorite thing about Gainesville so far has been the ability to bike around town. During the COVID lockdown, I would leave the house a few times a week by bike and explore. During those rides I discovered that Depot Park connects to the Hawthorne Trail, a 15-mile-long bike path where you can see deer, tortoises, armadillo, and of course – alligators.
I've also discovered several Farmers Markets like the Gove Street Market on Mondays and the GNV Market on Thursdays. Having fresh local produce and getting to know some of the farmers has been great. Shout out to KÖR Farms, who has the absolute best breads around, and Juicy Girls 352 for their focus on sustainability and the "Cardi Beet" juice.
What I'd love to see next in Gainesville: A rooftop bar with a pool. I'm imagining White Limozeen in Nashville but with orange and blue umbrellas instead of pink. If you haven't heard of White Limozeen yet, you should Google it.
Any shameless plugs for why other people should move here?
There are so many fun things to do. Great weather, nice people, amazing food. Really Gainesville is one of the best places to get all of the things of a big city but within 20 minutes driving distance. We have museums, zoos, parks, trails, concert venues, and the best part is you can ride your bike to any of them.
What's the best thing your peers can do to help build the innovation ecosystem and why should they do it? What's the benefit for all?
"Show Your Work." There are so many amazing people doing great things for tech, students, and startups. The best thing my peers can do to help build the innovation ecosystem is to share about what you're working on, specifically on social media.
There's a book by Austin Kleon called "Steal Like an Artist" and one of the topics he touches on is the importance of showing your work to the community. In today's world building a personal brand on social media is just as important as building a product or a company. We have to be able to communicate our stories digitally. It's not who you know, it's who knows you.
If you're not already doing this, try highlighting a local company, a project, a team win, or an event once or twice a week on LinkedIn. If we all "beat the drum" about the exciting things happening here in Gainesville to nearby communities the reverb will hit us tenfold. I know Jacksonville's listening.
You have an AMAZING knack for social media, any tips and tricks for our startups?
My top 3 C's 2021 tips for social are as follows:
--Be Consistent with video content and build a following on TikTok
--Communicate the purpose of your brand, why are you doing this, what community organizations do you give back to, who do you help?
--Collaborate with killer copy! Do everything you can to leverage target audiences that are already out there. This is as simple as grabbing a coffee at a local shop, asking the barista for a photo, and tagging the coffee shop on social. Ask people to share your story shamelessly and give back by creating content for others without being asked.