Get to Know Keira Simmonds

Keira Simmonds is not a native to Gainesville, but she certainly calls it home. When she isn't rallying UF alumni, she's helping local youth develop their paths ahead. She's not afraid to try new things, jump right in, and as entrepreneurial advocates, we love that spirit.

Get to Know Keira Simmonds

Keira Simmonds is not a native to Gainesville, but she certainly calls it home. When she isn't rallying UF alumni, she's helping local youth develop their paths ahead. She's not afraid to try new things and jump right in.

As entrepreneurial advocates, we love that spirit. We think Keira is inspiring and know you will too!


I have an extensive background in workforce development and career services and have always known that tech, innovation and startups are important drivers of economic growth for the community.

A little about Keira:

I am not native Gainesville, but have come to love Gainesville as my home. Although I was born in New York and raised in Jamaica, my family and I moved to the ‘ville in 2013 with my husband, mother and two wonderful sons. I am most definitely your quintessential introvert and enjoy spending time at home with family and good eats. Of late, I have developed an obsession with Asian cuisine but a good old fashioned bacon cheeseburger is probably my best comfort food.

Oddly enough, I have probably always been on the outside, occasionally peeking in to the startup/tech community. My interest stems from mostly curiosity and desire to learn but also the value I place on a good idea. I must have gotten that from my mother who was a small business  owner herself in her day.

Tell us about your work at UF and why you love the company?

I have an extensive background in workforce development and career services and have always known that tech, innovation and startups are important drivers of economic growth for the community.

However, it was not until my start at the University of Florida Career Connections Center that I was able to work closely with students in the Herbert Wertheim College of Engineering who were looking to transition into the world of work that I begun to see the opportunity that Gainesville had to provide meaningful experiences to students looking to build and develop skills. Now, I serve as the Senior Assistant Director of Campus Initiatives at the career center. The Career Connections Center (C3) is ranked as the #2 college career center by Best Colleges and has a goal of providing meaningful career experiences to every UF student.

I am proud to contribute to that mission and have the awesome privilege of working with some talented and passionate individuals at the C3. My work now centers around alumni engagement, globalization and diversity, equity and inclusion programming. So to be able to contribute to the mission of startGNV is in alignment with my hopes for UF and greater Gainesville talent. A hope that those who simply have an idea are able to have access and support to the resources they need to develop it and impact the Gainesville community.

It is not lost on me too that this desire is stronger for underrepresented populations who most often do no have the access to information, capital and mentorship than others do.

Favorite moment/memory in the innovation ecosystem so far?

So now that I am not on the outside looking in but in the mix, I must say that my favorite memory was hosting the AMA on Diversity in the Innovation Ecosystem.

We have some rockstars in Gainesville and the interest to support underrepresented individuals and their ideas is definitely present.

Tell us about your vision for startGNV and Gainesville's innovation ecosystem? Hopes and dreams for 2021?

My hope for 2021 is that we continue to educate others on the ecosystem and identify ways to include those who might otherwise not get involved because of lack of awareness or access.

Advice for those hoping to get involved/ interested in the innovation ecosystem like yourself?

My advice to those hoping to get involved is to just reach out and ask for direction. I plan on doing more of that myself. So I am sort of speaking to myself here. There is a lot to learn.

For my peers, if you are thinking about contributing to the innovations ecosystem, I would say to get involved and don’t hinder your great ideas by saying I can’t or don’t know how.

Any shameless plugs for why other people should move here?

For those who are thinking about moving to Gainesville. I would say- do it. Gainesville is not just a college town. It has a little bit of everything for everyone and is centrally located and just far enough away to be able to take a breather and spend quality time with family. I truly love it here.

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?

For my peers, if you are thinking about contributing to the innovations ecosystem, I would say to get involved and don’t hinder your great ideas by saying I can’t or don’t know how.

Tap into startGNV to get connected and meet new people who are doing awesome things and can point you in the right direction to scale your idea and bring it into reality. To our students and alumni, I would confirm that there is a vibrant innovation ecosystem here in the ‘ville. With innovation comes opportunity to use your skills and talents to help it grow. We need you.  

You run an amazing nonprofit here in town! Tell us about it. How can our startup and tech leaders do similar work to help kids grow and thrive here in GNV.

So my nonprofit LYFEhouse has been serving youth, families an social service agencies since 2017. Our focus is career and leadership training as a vehicle to promote personal and professional growth and opportunity. For tech and startup companies that want to get involved, I would encourage them to consider mentoring young people and engaging them in dialogue about your own journey.

Additionally, support their ideas whether it be by encouraging words, sharing a bit of advice or through more tangible resources. Young people have to feel supported and need vested and caring individuals to feel comfortable in taking risks and innovating. It is my belief that people drive innovation and if we are able to cultivate entrepreneurial youth, especially those who are underrepresented, then the future of the innovation ecosystem is bright.