naples acceleratorby Claire O. Murphy

Finnair would like to be the first to welcome you to Miami International Airport.

All too familiar words to one of the busiest entrepreneurs in the Naples Accelerator as he makes frequent trips to his home-country of Finland.

Oskari Kariste, Chairman of Ilme, M Room and Local Greens and father of three pre-teen daughters, spends his summers in Finland, “so the girls have close ties back to Finland” but moved to Naples permanently in 2014 after being a vacationer here for three years prior.

“It’s all about happy accidents,” Oskari said when describing his start with the Accelerator.

Oskari was looking to do business here in Naples and was introduced to the Accelerator through local businessmen before it even came into existence. Then, once the Naples Accelerator was ready to add companies, he jumped onboard.

boardroomOskari recognizes the benefits of being in the Naples Accelerator because of the easy access to local business networks and “introductions to potential partners and investors that can support your business, which is especially important for international companies,” Oskari explained. The Accelerator gives companies the stamp of credibility that investors and customers can feel good about.

There is also, of course, a draw to Naples in particular, beyond the beauty southwest Florida has to offer, “it’s the overall business
climate, not just the weather climate but the business climate is very supportive, very friendly, very encouraging,” Oskari explained about his decision to move his family and business headquarters to Naples.

Supportive, friendly and encouraging are important adjectives in Accelerator Executive Director, Dr. Marshall Goodman’s book for international companies. “In many cases they’re not start-ups, they’re transplants, they’ve been successful in their country, with proven products and experience,” Marshall explained, “bringing a company to this environment can be a shock…we can help ease them into our culture and our preferred method for doing business.”

The international culture continues to grow at the Naples Accelerator with current international companies: Airfi from London, HyperTeam from Hungary, RUMM from the United Kingdom, and Active Asset Allocation from France, and with the approval of $2 million from the State of Florida and the implementation of the Adrenaline Venture Fund, the accelerator is poised to grow even more.

conferenceDr. Goodman loves the cultural perspectives these international companies bring, “innovation rarely occurs in monolithic cultures.

There is a hyper-diversity here,” Marshall exclaimed.

With the increased funding and growing interest from local and international companies, Marshall has clear plans for better technology, more equipment and infrastructure in the Naples space and feels the Immokalee Accelerator is on the horizon.

“We hope to bring high-tech to the food processing world and we are very excited about the collaboration with FGCU and UF,”  Marshall described, “and we look forward to student engagement and involvement throughout the process in Naples and Immokalee.”

Oskari reflects Marshall’s vision with his company, Local Greens, “we know agriculture is one of the main business fields in the state of Florida,” he explained, “which gives us opportunity to introduce the latest applications in high-tech agriculture through our unique, enclosed, entirely organic, greenhouse production.”

Oskari felt being in Florida has a distinct advantage with the University of Florida’s existing ecosystem, massive demographic and distribution potential, and highly successful tourism. Moving his companies to the Naples Accelerator is a decision Oskari feels good about and is confident his latest company, Ilme – a high-end advertising and marketing company – will do just as well.

There is great opportunity at the Naples Accelerator,” he said.

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