By Tom Ballard, Director of Innovation and Entrepreneurial Initiatives, Pershing Yoakley & Associates, P.C.
“We want to be a catalyst for entrepreneurial growth,” Antonio Montoya says in describing the Rocket Hatch initiative that he has launched in Huntsville.
The native of the Republic of Colombia is not a stranger to either the start-up or technology worlds. He is also a student of those who have preceded him with similar initiatives in other communities.
“The challenge is learning from others,” Montoya says. In that regard, he has visited nearby cities, such as Chattanooga and its CO.LAB, as well as more distant locations, such as the Creative Corridor in Iowa.
“There are a lot of similarities between the Cedar Rapids and Chattanooga efforts,” he notes.
Montoya wants to bring the best of what he’s seen elsewhere to Huntsville.
“We are participating in a lot of (local) activities,” he says, citing the “Huntsville Open Tech Coffee” group as an example. “We are also trying to create events.”
One of those that is being planned is something called the “Rocket City Launch” which will be a 48-hour weekend event for entrepreneurs. It is set for May 2, 3 and 4. There are a number of organizations involved, including Mind Gear Labs and the Women’s Business Center of North Alabama, a local non-profit focused on entrepreneurship.
“We are looking for sponsors,” Montoya says, adding, “I see Rocket Hatch as being a community of services for start-ups.”
Montoya believes Huntsville has a “very mature” ecosystem in two areas – Department of Defense/aerospace, because of the Marshall Space Flight Center and Redstone Arsenal, and biotechnology, thanks to the Hudson-Alpha Institute of Biotechnology.
“Both of these communities are vertically integrated and have significant attention and resources already,” he explains. “They represent quite a bit of inspiration, since they show what can be achieved, and they are very successful.”
So, it’s only natural that he asks, “What is the best role we can play as a partner?” The answer is what he calls the underserved entrepreneurial ecosystems. They include creatives, social entrepreneurs and cloud technologists.
“These people have a harder time connecting and being successful today here in town,” Montoya says. This is what he wants Rocket Hatch to tackle, and he believes he can be successful with the help of partners.
Rocket Hatch was an idea that started evolving about a year ago. Montoya is in the process of incorporating, but quickly acknowledges that “it needs a non-profit component.”
“I’m going to go slow,” he says.
So, what is the motivation that drives Montoya?
“It’s time that I did something to make an impact on the place I live,” he says. “Huntsville is my h