It’s been said necessity is the mother of invention.
That was certainly the case for Shep Harmon, who rode out Hurricane Matthew while living in downtown St. Augustine in 2016.
The storm caused major flooding for local residents like Harmon, and he lost valuable personal and financial documents as well as family photographs and other artifacts in the turmoil.
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Five years later, Harmon turned that lesson into a business proposition. He’s created a digital platform that organizes and stores files safely to the cloud. These can include scanned or digitized real estate documents; financial records; estate settlement and right of attorney agreements; wills; family genealogy records; disaster preparedness plans; password information; music files; photos; as well as anything someone would want to save for posterity.
Users can decide what they want to share with family members, planning professionals or others. Since the platform is housed on a personal secure cloud server, companies cannot data scrape or pull client information, according to Harmon, who worked for 30 years in the financial industry.
Harmon, president and co-founder of the POM (Peace of Mind) Vault, presented his idea to a group of investors and business leaders at a Pitch Factory event Nov. 18 at the link, a tech hub/co-working space that opened in July in Nocatee.
Think “Shark Tank” at the local level.
With several years of development under his belt, Harmon has an edge in the showcase. He’s got his four-minute “elevator speech” down pat at this point.
Telling the crowd that “information is the most valuable asset,” Harmon went on to explain that people, in their distracted, busy lives, are not the best at safekeeping this information.
“There’s a solution for that,” Harmon announced as he detailed the way the POM Vault works, adding, “We really are like a warehouse with shelves.”
Harmon, 74, who now lives in World Golf Village, recently released his digital platform but wants to bring it to a national scale. He is looking for an investment of between $500,000 and $1 million to try to appeal to financial professionals who might include the system as part of their services.
Now in its third year, the St. Johns County Chamber of Commerce launched the Pitch Factory in cooperation with the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce. It aims to arm startups with the tools required to promote their fledgling businesses, including helping refine business models and pitches, gain feedback, develop relationships and, ideally, lead to investment or scalable growth.
While free, participants agree to attend all six sessions, culminating in a “Shark Tank”-style pitch event attended by potential venture capital investors.
Last week’s event was part of the larger EnterCircle Summit hosted by the link in Ponte Vedra Beach which is angling itself to become part of the glue of the county’s growing entrepreneurial community.
Isabelle Renault, president and CEO of the St. Johns County Chamber of Commerce, said: “Entrepreneurship is a driver for change and innovation. It allows a community to find solutions to market demand from within its own boundaries. Entrepreneurship programs and facilities help retain graduating students within the local workforce and — for those who left — help attract them back home.”
Besides the Pitch Factory, the three-day event included a series of seminars, workshops and lectures by many leaders in the local innovation space, including Rick Kunzi, founder of Treylor Park Restaurants (with a location in Nocatee); Raghu Misra, founder of the link; and Renault.
The idea is to connect and bring exposure to entrepreneurs at varying stages of their business ventures, according to Anamaria Contreras, programs manager for the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce and Jacksonville Women’s Business Center.
Contreras helped developed the Pitch Factory for the St. Johns County Chamber.
“Our goal is giving entrepreneurs, regardless of where they are in their journey, the tools that they need to achieve that next step, whether it’s financing or relationships in the business community,” Contreras said.
She said the larger city of Jacksonville is looking to tap into more of startup businesses in St. Johns County.
“You can feel it in the air — the innovation, the entrepreneurship,” Contreras said.