Tampa Bay Tech Week Sets Stage For Innovative, Entrepreneurial Startup Community

TiECon Florida 2013 will kick off Tampa Bay Tech Week with A Celebration of Entrepreneurship, a full day conference on Friday, Sept. 20, at Safety Harbor Spa & Resort in Pinellas County.

Speakers who hail from Tampa to Silicon Valley will share tips, tricks and secrets of success with attendees at the professional and networking conference hosted by TiE Tampa, a chapter of the not-for-profit organization The Indus Entrepreneurs (TiE).

"Attendees of TiECon Florida will have an opportunity to learn firsthand what it takes to be a super entrepreneur and succeed where others have not,'' says TiE Tampa President Kunal Jain.

Jain encourages members of the tech community and entrepreneurs at all stages of development to attend the event, which will include workshops, speakers and pitch sessions. The keynote will be delivered by Rob Wright, Founder and CEO of myList and Founder Chairman of Channel Intelligence (a Google company). Breakout sessions will feature discussions about developing global markets, digital strategies for startups and finding venture capital.

"We will be awarding those people who have really shown some courage and made the startup community proud," Jain explains in a video interview. "It's really important to show courage, get out and be passionate about your dreams, so we are going to showcase those people to appreciate their efforts."

The day will be capped off by a dinner and dancing featuring music by DJ Ravidrums, a Tampa native who combines DJing with drumming in an energetic and innovative display of music and technology.

One Returns, One Starts

Tampa Bay Tech Week events also include the Florida Defense & Technology Showcase Sept 23-24, presented by the Tampa Bay Innovation Center and Florida Federal Contractors Association (FFCA) and hosted by Congressman C.W. Bill Young, and the Sept. 26 inaugural meeting of Startup Grind Tampa Bay, a chapter of the global entrepreneurial community.

Florida Defense & Technology Showcase (FDTS), now in its seventh year, is a reverse tradeshow that brings subcontractors together with prime defense contractors to develop relationships, network and increase local sales opportunities.

FDTS showcases the defense technology and advanced manufacturing sectors within Florida to a national audience, says Danielle Weitlauf, Tampa Bay Innovation Center Manager/ Florida Federal Contractors Association Director. "The Tampa Bay region has a strong technology industry base that continues to bring new innovations forward to further advance the defense community.''

Weitlauf notes, "Several of the companies the Tampa Bay Innovation Center has worked with as startups now participate in and exhibit at FDTS each year.''

Full day, after-lunch general admission, or luncheon-only ticket options are available for the two-day event.

Debuting Startup Grind Tampa Bay

Startup Grind Tampa Bay will place an emphasis on helping local members connect with successful startups and the people behind them, says Chapter Director Joy Randels. "Our focus is to educate, inspire and make valuable lasting connections.''

Monthly group meetings are to be held at Oxford Exchange at 420 W Kennedy Blvd. At the kick-off event on Sept. 26, Webtalk Chair and CEO RJ Garbowicz will welcome local entrepreneurs.

"Startup founders will have the opportunity to learn from experienced technical founders -- entrepreneurs currently building companies today -- who will share their knowledge and lessons learned,'' says Randels, founder and CEO of NewMarket Partners. "Startup Grind is truly an organization by, about and for tech founders.''

Of Geeks, By Geeks And For Geeks

The first-ever Tampa Tech Week will culminate with Bar/Code Camp 2013 on Saturday, Sept 28, from 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. at the University of South Florida College of Business.

"You can find other people like yourself, or people you may want to work with,'' says Bar/Code Camp head organizer Brenda Young. "We provide a forum for conversations that are spontaneous.''

For first-timers considering attending the event, here's how it works:

Sessions on either side of camp will cover a broad range of technology-centered topics, with a primary focus on emerging, cutting edge trends. For the second year, the event will combine .net/Microsoft Code Camp with Bar Camp.

Popular presentations in 2013, according to Young, will likely include "mobile, cross-platform building, integration, big data -- any number of topics that would make a difference for attendees in keeping up with their professions.''

Code Camp sessions and speakers are determined in advance. Bar Camp, meanwhile, uses an "un-conference'' style, where sessions and speakers are designated on the day of the event through an open sign-up process.

"We also have a rule of two feet on either side,'' says Young. "If the session that you are in is too advanced, not interesting, or not what you expected, you are allowed to use your two feet, get up and go join another session.''

Schooled In Tech

Middle school kids writing game code? High school students creating robots? At this year’s Bar/Code Camp, expect to see both.

Students from a summer computer camp hosted by USF as well as those involved a group called First Robotics will attend the Sept. 28 event, says Young. Several student teams are expected to showcase their designs.

"Local kids can get together for the day and they're not playing games, they're writing video games!'' Young says of the programs. "They have a great time, and there's that connection between the adults who are doing things in tech and the next generation of young people who are coming up.''

USF College of Business in Tampa and the University College Continuing Education program facilitate the event, which draws a primarily local crowd.

"It is fabulous to work with them,'' Young explains. "They make sure all of the people we are bringing in will have everything we need,'' down to ample parking for attendees just a short walk away from the College of Business at the SunDome, which she agrees will be "very nice.''

Last year, 850 people attended Bar/Code Camp. Young, president of the consulting company Marbay Group, anticipates more than 1,000 attendees in 2013.

"This kind of environment is ripe for the birth of start-ups. Just as important, it is a great way to meet like-minded individuals and add some skills to your freelance toolbox,'' says Peter Radizeski, who helped co-found BarCamp Tampa Bay as well as IGNITE Tampa

Radizeski notes, "Events like Bar/Code Camp build the community. It is a showcase for local talent -- it gets people together in an environment that allows for the sharing of knowledge and ideas.''

Focus Takes Leadership

Hillsborough County leaders helped make Tampa Bay Tech week happen. Two of four events taking place during the tech-themed week in late September are partially funded by grant money from the Hillsborough County Economic Development Innovation Initiative (EDI2), a program designed to bring educational, entrepreneurial events like Bar/Code Camp and Startup Grind to Tampa.

"We're interested in doing things to benefit the entire startup community,'' explains Hillsborough County Commissioner Mark Sharpe. "You've got to have a lot of people and there have to be places in the community where they can gather, talk and share ideas.''

Justine Benstead is a freelance writer who spends her days walking her dog Chloe in her South Tampa neighborhood, drinking far too much coffee, tweeting and taking photos with her trusty Nikon. Comments? Contact 83 Degrees.

Read more articles by Justine Benstead.

Justine Benstead is a feature writer for 83 Degrees Media in the Tampa Bay region of Florida.
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