Global VC tournament to take place in Tampa in 2016

A startup pitch competition offering $1 million in prizes to a global winner is headed toward Tampa Bay. The 1776 Challenge Cup, which will take place at startup business accelerator and venture center Tampa Bay WaVe in February 2016, is billed as a ‘worldwide tournament for the most promising, world-changing startups to win cash prizes, make international connections and share their vision on a global stage.’

The Challenge Cup competition, which was created by Washington, D.C.-based incubater 1776 in fall 2013, takes place in three rounds across 45 cities and nine regions across the world, culminating in a global competition in D.C. in spring 2016. Startups that focus on solving challenges related to topics like health, education, energy and smart cities have been determining criteria for past winners. 

Current and prior local hosts for the competitions in the United States have included tech hubs like Denver, Austin and San Francisco. So how was Tampa Bay selected as a host for a local round of the 1776 Challenge Cup this year?

“Tampa Bay just made its case for its startup community," Nick Caputo says. "This is really just further evidence of the growing startup community in Tampa Bay.”

Caputo, who interned with Tampa Bay WaVe from spring 2014 through fall 2015 while completing a Bachelors in Entrepreneurship at the University of Tampa, began working for the business as a part-time marketing assistant and later accepted a full-time role as an SEO analyst for Rank K.O., an internet marketing company housed at WaVe’s new, expanded downtown headquarters

“We all know that it is difficult -- not impossible -- to find funding in our region,” Caputo says, and the 1776 Challenge Cup could “enable some of our startups to get experience that they will rarely have the chance to get.”

Not to mention exposure, he adds. 

“You don't receive many opportunities to be showcased on a global scale,” Caputo says. “This is going to be huge for our region’s entrepreneurship community.”

What makes the 1776 Challenge Cup a different kind of pitch competition from the many others that Tampa Bay has seen in the past few years? It's primarily focused on scalable startups that aim to solve problems and modern challenges -- in other words, social good companies. 

Two startups have already applied to compete in the local challenge, Caputo says, but both teams are from Gainesville, two hours north of Tampa Bay. 

“I will be ramping up outreach in the coming weeks, so applications will be starting to roll in very soon,” Caputo says.

To apply to compete in the local Tampa Bay round of the 1776 Challenge Cup, visit the challenge website. Deadlines listed on the event website indicate that applications must be received three weeks prior to any event.  

The local Tampa 1776 Challenge Cup will take place on February 10, 2016, at Tampa Bay WaVe, 500 E. Kennedy Blvd, Suite 300. WaVe headquarters relocated from Tampa’s Skyes Building to the new location in Oct. 2015 after earning a second i6 Challenge grant (for $500,000 in 2014; the first was for $1 million in 2008), and a $50,000 Growth Accelerator Fund Grant from the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), which was presented at WaVe's Grand Opening event.

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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