When it comes to brand-name recognition, many people hear "Orlando" and immediately think about theme parks. Last year alone, 62 million tourists visited Orlando, more than New York City.
But the recent recession drilled it home for city leaders: Orlando's economy cannot be solely based on tourism and the service industry.
"You need to have diversity within your economic pie, and growing this high-tech sector is critically important for the long-term future of Orlando," said Mayor Buddy Dyer.
To do that, he said investing in Orlando's amenities and infrastructure is key, including things like SunRail, the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts, and a new stadium for the Orlando City Soccer Club.
Those are all part of the vision of attracting talent, yet the tech scene's growth has also been less planned and more a product of the right people starting companies at the right time.
"A lot of this has grown organically," Dyer said. "It's been nurtured by city government, but it hasn't had the city government at the lead. It's been more, we're helping them."
Helping them, the mayor explained, by giving them space to thrive.
"We now do truly have a sense of community, something that we didn't necessarily have before," said Orrett Davis, the Orlando Tech Association's executive director.
Building on Canvs' success, Dyer now sets his sights on a new project: The billion-dollar Creative Village planned to transform the former site of the old Amway Arena into a 68-acre tech hub for business, transportation and education.
Concept art of downtown Orlando's Creative Village. (Creative Village Development LLC)
Now, however, the city faces a hurdle. In June, the Creative Village project made Florida Gov. Rick Scott's long list of budget vetoes, denying the project critical funding.
"I always have a plan B, C, and D," a confident Dyer explained. "So, we're on plan B, and that involves some private funding."
"It's going to happen," the mayor continued. "It's like SunRail; it's like soccer. They become so important to our community that we just have to figure out the right path to get it done."
And technologists remain excited at the prospect.
"I think it's going to be completely transformative for everything that's happening in this downtown tech cluster," Davis said.
In the meantime, Canvs is filling the gap until the Creative Village becomes reality, and entrepreneurs aren't waiting around; they're too busy making moves.