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1 Million Cups: Meet local doers tackling opportunities in the global marketplace

(L-R) Maria Gibbs, Scott Hutterman, Dr., Loren Murfield, and Jared Kohn at 1 Million Cups in Tampa.

 Carl David, an entrepreneur with APD Connect, presents creative business ideas.

Neil Cosentino listens in at 1 Million Cups in Ybor City.

(L-R) Erik Gates at 1 Million Cups where entrepreneurs reach out to network and inspire.

(L-R) Erik Gates, Amanda Almorado, and Andy Hardy listen to ideas presented by entrepreneurs.

“I’m in my prime, so I might as well go for it,” says USF student Carl David in between questions from the audience. Those of us with bright ideas for new ventures could take a lesson from him, no matter our age.

Succinctly, this is the theme that drives weekly meetings of 1 Million Cups Tampa. Part of a national network of Wednesday morning entrepreneurial pitches (and energizing cups of coffee) originally started in Kansas City by the Kauffman Foundation, the gathering is part Shark Tank, part friendly litmus test. 

For the crowd of regulars and newcomers, mostly fellow entrepreneurs, the intent of the 6-minute presentation and subsequent Q-and-A is to understand a presenter’s business concept, intended customer, needs for growth, and perhaps most importantly, needs from the community.

While much of modern business is unbounded by geography, local assistance in myriad formats can still make huge impacts on fledgling business ideas. Make it work in your neighborhood, among your network, and broader expansion becomes easier to grasp.

To get a flavor for what it's like, consider four entrepreneurial pitches heard at two recent 1 Million Cups gatherings in Ybor City:

APDConnect

Carl David’s business is called APDConnect, a platform likened to “LinkedIn meets Soundcloud.” He and his partner intend for it to connect visual artists, musicians and DJs with venues and with each other, in order to flatten the barriers to growth that many artistic creators face.

A poignant comment from Neil Cosentino was: “What about film? Videographers, filmmakers? There are many out there and plenty of businesses in need of contract providers. Plus, many videographers need musical accompaniment for their visuals.” The next step for APDConnect may be adding video capabilities to its website to accommodate film creators.

Socread

The future of reading is listening, according to Socread, which aims to extrapolate the podcast and talking book format to all forms of written media, so that they can be heard rather than read, through thoughtful narration and even (possibly) summarization.

Our technology-assisted world is rapidly moving toward easing the consumption of content and reducing the moments in life when we must choose to visually focus on text displayed on a screen (and skim a particularly involved article) -- or give the traffic in front of us undivided attention. 

While in the car, at the gym or elsewhere in daily life, we could be listening to that New York Times opinion piece read by a soothing, Terry Gross-esque narrator. Several noted presenter and Founder Ikwo Ibiam’s excellent voice-over tone and pitch.

One major hiccup for Socread will be the digital copyrights to content, which may be addressed by summarizing key points and take-aways from a given article rather than recording it read verbatim.

SmartStop

LITACore is a mobile tech initiative designed to train start-ups and established businesses at each stage of their product development lifecycle. Their President, Alex Irizarry, pitched SmartStop, an app to track and monitor the school bus trip to and from class for parents and students.

Ideally, it would give its users the ability to track individual school buses, time pick-ups and drop-offs, ensure safe delivery of students to and from school, and for school districts to track the speed and efficiency of routes.

Unlike public transportation, which in many cities can be tracked in real-time, school buses are comparatively “dumb,” even in 2017. This leaves room for error, mishaps and uncertainty about the early-morning and late-afternoon movement of millions of youngsters around our cities and neighborhoods each day.

Launch Code

What was perhaps the most advanced pitch of the four, and one we have previously written about at 83 Degrees (Free computer class can launch your coding career, was Launch Code, a national nonprofit offering free technology education for free, and upon completion of courses, individualized help with job placement.

In essence, it bridges the gap between employers in need of skilled coders and individuals interested to advance their qualifications in the tech arena through an affordable, rapid training program.

Matt Mawhinney’s presentation made this viewer think: This is so great! Why wouldn’t someone looking to get out of a minimum-wage job but without the resources for an AA or BS in computer science sign up with Launch Code?

The program is funded nationally and sustained regionally (with the nearest “office” in Miami) through the support of employer partners, private donations, and federal/state grants. 

LC101 is the most popular course. On average, 60 percent of students who start it graduate successfully after 20 weeks of coding instruction in languages like Java, Python and Javascript. That includes six hours per week of in-class time and an additional 10 to 15 hours of reading and coursework outside of class, for a total commitment of about 20 hours per week.

The final product is a portfolio of work that students can show to employers.

Post-completion, students are primed for an internship and eventual permanent placement in coding jobs that pay as much as $51,000, above the average household income of the Tampa Bay Region.

1 Million Cups

Conceptualized by the progressive Kauffman Foundation and maintained locally with assistance from the Hillsborough County Entrepreneur Collaborative Center (ECC) and Tampa Bay Business Owners organization, 1 Million Cups is an open, supportive platform for local start-ups to practice their pitch on fellow entrepreneurs and anyone else who may be in attendance (it’s free and open to the public, always). 

Chris Krimitsos (Florida Podcasters Association} usually moderates the meetings, and had this to say: “1 Million Cups is a gumbo, bringing together the entrepreneurial community and all its flavors!”

There are also editions of 1MC in St. Petersburg, Ocala, Orlando, Daytona, and so on, 151 total throughout the U.S.

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Read more articles by Alex English.

Alex English is a Tampa native who has lived in Sarasota, Seattle, New York, Bordeaux and Milan. He is passionate about urban development, retail and style, and publishes Remarqed, a personal blog on those subjects.
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