Friday Business Report Revisits Innovation Jobs Program In South Florida

Feb 14, 2014

Last fall, an innovation training program called StartupQuest launched in South Florida. Full time employees were not welcome. It was specifically for folks who were out of work or underemployed.

Ronald Herbas is on the right in a dark suit.
Credit courtesy Ronald Herbas

The goal of the program was to help people get new technology skills -- and jobs.

When you hear the words "technology" or "innovation," you might picture a kid, in a hoodie, coding all night at a computer. But in this program, the average age of participants was 51, and almost everyone had a master’s degree and decades of experience.

Friday Business Report's Karen Rundlet spoke with StartupQuest graduate, Ronald Herbas.  

Karen Rundlet:  Ronald, what are you doing today, career-wise, after the program?

Ronald Herbas: What I’ve decided to do is to launch my own management consulting firm, focus on education technology firms that are targeting K-12 public schools. 

KR: Why did you decide though to strike out on your own?

RH: I just couldn’t wait for the call back. I was sending resumes. It wasn’t happening for me here. 

KR: Would you prefer to be doing something else other than going out on your own?

RH: To be honest with you, my dream was always to start my own company. I’ve been doing this for companies left and right for over 15 years.

KR:  How did the StartupQuest program affect how you handle your business?

RH: The way it affected it was I realized that I needed to be part of an environment of entrepreneurs. People who were serious about starting or kicking off a new venture. Every time that I was away not doing anything, unproductive, was just chipping away at my confidence so I intentionally wanted to put myself and surround myself with like-minded people who really were somewhat in a similar situation but wanted to do something and to take ownership of essentially their destiny.

KR: You used to work in Chicago. What did you do?

RH: I was the Chief Operating Officer for Risemont Educational Solutions, which was a $25 million educational services company focused on the public school system in Chicago.

KR: So same field but this time you are self employed?

RH: Correct.

KR: How long have you been here?

RH: About a year.

KR: Did you come here with a job? 

RH: No I actually came over here to focus on my family, to take care of Mom.  Since Mom was not going to come to Chicago, I decided to basically sell everything up there and I took a role as the Vice President for Rocket Learning.

KR: But that didn’t last forever, clearly.

RH: No it just took me by surprise because I was there, completely changed my whole world, to focus on the business -- and next thing you know, I received my pink slip.

KR: Now one of the goals of StartupQuest is to teach tech skills and to get people jobs. Did that happen?

RH: Well in my case I have a computer science background. I already have master's in information systems, an MBA, so I already brought the foundational skills to the table. What they helped me with was refreshed my mind regarding the processes, building a business plan and commercializing technology but most importantly also is getting the courage to really do this.

KR: How long will you give South Florida before you consider moving again?

RH: Karen that’s a great question. My mother’s here and I want to make sure that she’s taken care of. I’m doing everything possible to make sure that South Florida becomes my home and I’ve put my stake and a flag out here. I really would like to make sure that we build a great business here.