THE PUBLICLY TRADED COMPANY IS LED BY A UF MBA
Among the many prestigious University of Florida alumni, there are countless CEOs and founders of global corporations. However, not many of these CEOs have founded publicly traded companies headquartered in Gainesville, Florida. Rick Carlson received his MBA from the University of Florida and is currently the CEO of SharpSpring, a marketing technology company. SharpSpring moved into its newly completed global headquarters in UF Innovation Square in 2015.
Carlson is motivated by a fundamental belief that Gainesville is transforming into an urban tech hub and that UF graduates are the ideal candidates to drive the success of SharpSpring. He signed a lease for the Nimbus Building in Innovation Square with Gainesville commercial developer Trimark Properties. SharpSpring has experienced exponential growth since 2012, expanding from a workforce of four to 80 employees in just three years. SharpSpring’s growth mirrors the rapid growth in the overall marketing automation industry, which was valued at more than $1.62 billion in 2015, according to Marketing Automation Insider.
SharpSpring is a rapidly growing global provider of cloud-based marketing automation solutions that enable businesses to improve lead generation and engagement to drive more sales. The company’s product lines, which include SharpSpring and SharpSpring Mail+, are known for their innovation, flexible architecture, ease of use and cost-effectiveness — all backed by high-quality, multilingual customer support.
These trusted tools help digital marketers around the world increase revenue via a wide variety of online marketing techniques, from dynamic email newsletters to highly sophisticated one-on-one relationship marketing. SharpSpring provides a dedicated support service to help customers maximize the results of their digital marketing campaigns that reach across six continents, over 100 countries and 13 languages, making SharpSpring a multinational leader in digital marketing technology.
After outgrowing three offices in Gainesville since its inception, SharpSpring sought a larger space in downtown Gainesville. Sharp Spring worked with Trimark Properties to start construction on the Nimbus office space in late 2015. Originally, the design was meant to accommodate multiple small business owners looking for desk space and the ability to network with other small enterprises.
However, after SharpSpring voiced interest in acquiring the entire state-of-the- art office space, Trimark changed the design of the office building drastically to accommodate the company’s unique needs. The two-story, 15,000-square-foot building was constructed to fit the exact specifications of SharpSpring, which needed a facility to support its modern office culture.
This approach of customizing office space to the individual needs of each client has helped propel Trimark to become a leading provider of commercial real estate in Gainesville. The company will continue this trajectory with the development of Ingenuity, a dynamic, fully customizable office space in UF Innovation Square. The success of the Nimbus Building prompted this recent venture, which will provide modern office space in a highly coveted Gainesville downtown district.
The newly designed and completed Nimbus Building features an open floor plan with flexible spaces that can be transformed to accommodate more employees over the next several years as SharpSpring grows and hires additional staff. The sustainable design was an important factor in SharpSpring’s decision to relocate.
The building features dynamic glass windows that automatically tint on bright days to block sunlight and reduce cooling costs. Additionally, the Goodwin Company meticulously milled 100-year old reclaimed wood from a building previously located on the property, and that wood is used as a design accent in several areas within the facility.
Trimark’s design uses mixed materials to create a clean, inviting workspace; the wood warms soften the minimalist feel created by the glass, steel beams and stained concrete floors. The large amount of glass means the space is very open and bright, with lots of natural light. It’s a very modern, sleek design with a lot of soul.
Since June 2016, SharpSpring has added 43 employees and has plans to add 20 more positions by February 2017.
SharpSpring’s recruiters often find new talent from the University of Florida, but they are not only looking for undergraduates. They also bring in mid-level and upper-level managers from the University of Florida’s prestigious graduate programs, and they seek alumni with industry experience. Their recruiting reach is nationwide. The upper-level hires have immediate impact and serve as leaders and mentors for the growing team.
“If you are top in your field, committed to your work and ready to grow, SharpSpring may be the right fit for you,” Carlson said. “Collaboration and teamwork aren’t just words on signs; they are a way of life here.”
Although the company has undergone rapid expansion, its job application page highlights a similar philosophy. It reads:
“We hire slowly, looking for the right people. Around the office, you’ll see a lot of fun, cool people working hard. We’re serious but casual, respectful but not uptight. There are a lot of smiling people in these pictures, and rest assured the smiles are genuine.”
By hiring deliberately, SharpSpring focuses on creating a work environment where employees are well-suited to work with one another. Currently, the hunt for senior leadership, developers, and recent graduates is in full force, and there is no denying that the benefits of being part of the fast-paced enterprise make the job worthwhile. Company lunch twice a month, massages, happy hour for IT professionals and car detailing are just a few special extras the company offers.
It’s important for SharpSpring to hire the brightest minds so that the team can tackle all of its goals for the future. SharpSpring’s flagship platform is making marketing automation technology — previously only available to large corporations with huge budgets — available to all types of businesses. The platform also includes special features designed for marketing agencies. There is a large market for these services that, until recently, was essentially untapped by larger players in the industry.
“SharpSpring is breaking a boundary, allowing all companies to access the best technology and compete,” Carlson said. “At the same time, we’re the little guy competing with companies 10 times the size of us — and winning. That underdog mentality is at the core of our culture.”
With a culture focused on exceeding every expectation, building meaningful connections and incorporating social responsibility into the daily work schedule, it is difficult to see a world in which SharpSpring could fail. By strategically placing itself in the thriving center of Innovation Square, the company is just steps away from the nearly 7,000 students who graduate annually from the University of Florida’s undergraduate and graduate programs. Undoubtedly, many of those graduates will be swooped up by SharpSpring’s recruiters — another victory for the Gator Nation.
KAITLYN MCKINLEY is a communications professional living in Gainesville, Florida. She is passionate about the real estate business, finance and marketing luxury brands.