Orlando, Fla. (June 14, 2021) – It’s no secret that small businesses often have difficulty connecting with large companies. Once made, those connections can significantly change the direction of a company’s growth.

The UCF Business Incubation Program understands this dynamic and has hired Ray Villegas as program manager, overseeing the Mentorship and First Customer program in the Innovation Districts.

In addition to having worked for large, nationwide companies and as a small business owner, Villegas joins the UCF Business Incubation Program with almost 14 years of experience in connecting business of all sizes to each other and the community. During that time he worked in leadership positions at three local chambers of commerce and other economic development organizations in the Central Florida region.

“With the connections the University of Central Florida has in Central Florida and throughout the country, we believe we are uniquely positioned to provide this type of service to our clients that very few organizations can provide,” says Rob Panepinto, director, Innovation Districts Strategy and Partnerships and senior strategic advisor, Partnerships and Innovation, University of Central Florida. “We’ve already had success in this realm, but believe this move will help us truly push this service and help our clients scale significantly.”

In January 2020, the Incubation Program announced an agreement with Leidos (NYSE: LDOS), a FORTUNE® 500 science and technology leader, to be the initial First Customer partner. That relationship resulted in Research Park Innovation District client US Encryption collaborating with Leidos in a pilot of their unique data encryption platform.  The insights gained from that pilot provided invaluable information for US Encryption to use in their continued development.

A second client, Aviana Biomolecular located in the UCF Life Sciences Incubator in Lake Nona, collaborated with Leidos on proposals for grants to fund further development of their medical diagnostic platform.

In October 2020, a partnership was formed with YPO Orlando to recruit mentors from their members who are all highly successful entrepreneurs who have built high growth companies.  YPO mentors have engaged in mentorship relationships with the CEOs of more than a half dozen Innovation District companies.  The impact of their input and connections for those companies is already showing results.

“I’m thankful to be stepping into a program with a tremendous track record of success in helping businesses connect with larger and established companies,” Villegas says. “The power of the entrepreneurs in these programs is breathtaking and I truly want to give them every tool of success available in our program.”

Over the years, companies throughout the UCF Business Incubation Program have been able to land major clients, companies known throughout the world partially because of the business acumen learned as client companies.

For instance, in Kissimmee, SmartX provides logistical support to divisions of NSG Pilkington and Nissan in Brazil. In Seminole County’s Winter Springs Incubator, Freshorize has contracts with multiple airlines like Delta, United and Spirit.


For more information, please contact:

UCF Business Incubation Program: Carol Ann Dykes Logue, 407-635-9882, carolann.dykeslogue@ucf.edu or Alan Byrd, Alan Byrd & Associates, 407-415-8470, Alan@ByrdConnections.com

About the UCF Business Incubation Program: The University of Central Florida Business Incubation Program is a community resource that provides early-stage companies with the tools, training and infrastructure to become financially stable, high growth/impact enterprises. Since 1999, this award-winning program has provided vital business development resources resulting in over 300 local startup companies reaching their potential faster and graduating into the community where they continue to grow and positively impact the local economy.

With seven facilities throughout the region, the UCF Business Incubation Program is an economic development partnership between the University of Central Florida, the Corridor, Orange, Osceola, Seminole and Volusia Counties, and the cities of Kissimmee, Orlando and Winter Springs. For the 2017/2018 fiscal years, the activities of these participating firms have helped to sustain more than 6,725 local jobs and have had a cumulative impact of over $725 million on regional GDP and over $1.3 billion on regional sales. During the same period, the program has returned more than $12.00 in state and local taxes for every $1.00 invested in the program. In addition, for every $1.00 of public investment the firms also produced $118 of additional regional GDP and $226 of regional sales. For more information, visit  www.incubator.ucf.edu.