Tech Spotlight: Carlos Carbonell

The team of Carlos Carbonell and Amy Jantzer at Echo Interaction Group.

From left, Andrew Kozlik, lead Echo developer; Carlos Carbonell, Echo CEO; Amy Jantzer, Echo senior vice president; and Brett Burky, social media specialist.

Roberto Gonzalez

Carlos Carbonell is living the American dream. 

He came to the United States in 1989 at age 14 with his father and two siblings, having fled Panama shortly before an American invasion ousted dictator Manuel Noriega. Carbonell’s father, a former Panamanian consul to the U.S., became a political exile in Miami, and the family lived there in poverty.

But Carbonell persevered, and in 1997 received an advertising degree from the University of Florida with an additional concentration in civil engineering. After serving as a vice president of an ad agency, he started Echo Interaction Group in Orlando six years ago. Ten employees now write code and design mobile applications for Apple and Android smartphones in a large, glass-walled corner office of Canvs.

Echo has designed 60 apps—which typically take three to six months apiece to write—for clients ranging from the Florida House of Representatives and Florida Hospital to the new Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts. Carbonell says it is a myth that a kid invents an app in his basement or garage and sells it for millions of dollars. Rather, businesses come to him with a need and his company designs a solution, then writes an app. He recently launched a second tech company, Echo42.

Carbonell has been a leader in the business and tech communities, served on civic boards and is active in the Hispanic and gay communities. Last year, he was commended on the House floor by U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson and received the Governor’s Business Ambassador Award from Rick Scott for innovation excellence and creating jobs.

He also interacts with Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer and Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs on technology and civic issues. 

“Little old Carlos Carbonell would have never had access to people like that,” he says, almost in disbelief. “It is awesome to know the Who’s Who of Orlando. They want you to succeed in tech. The secret sauce of Orlando is the small-town mentality to help you.”

Carbonell’s 35-year-old senior vice president, Amy Jantzer, previously owned her own social media consulting company before joining Echo four years ago to handle marketing and client interaction. She also serves on the Small Business Development Council advisory board and the Child Rescue Network. Jantzer, who has a pink streak running through her blond hair as a tribute to five friends whose mothers died of breast cancer, is a huge advocate for young people—especially women—becoming involved in the tech industry.

“It’s all about getting boys and girls interested in technology and realizing that it could be a career when they grow up,’’ she says.

The stereotype that most computer programmers are introverted is largely true, Jantzer says, but Echo has them sitting at facing tables, forcing interaction like in a newsroom. Jantzer complains that colleges lack classes teaching the latest Apple programming for iPhone and iPad devices, whose software is constantly updated, requiring corresponding developer tweaks. So many programmers are self-taught.

That’s the case with A’sa Dickens, a 23-year-old Seminole State College dropout from Winter Springs who was working for $7.61 an hour a few years ago at McDonald’s. A friend hired at Echo helped get him an internship, which turned into a job writing and updating apps. 

Dickens started designing games in high school, then learned graphics, animation, 3-D modeling and other programming skills in college. He took a crash course in web development and learned other computer languages at Echo. He also attends free programming and technology seminars at Canvs.

“I just saw it as my college,” Dickens says of his informal education. “College is actually way easier. Nothing beats real-world experience.’’ 

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