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SunView Software of Tampa wins innovation award

A Tampa software company has won a coveted Gold Award for its IT platform enabling the use of artificial intelligence.

SunView Software, a leading provider of IT Service Management software, claimed the Innovation Of The Year Award at the annual IT Service Management Conference and Exhibition, Pink 17, in Las Vegas.

Its ChangeGear 7 Service Manager with Service Smart Technology beat out Silver Award winner CA Technologies’ CA Service Management – xFlow User Experience at the industry’s No. 1 event in February.

SunView’s flagship platform, ChangeGear is an enterprise-grade IT Service Management platform with a full suite of services including Help Desk, Change Management, Incident Management, Problem Management, Configuration Management and more.

The latest release, ChangeGear 7, is a first-to-market platform delivering artificial intelligence to the service desk.

The conference, organized by global training, consulting and conference service provider Pink Elephant, was the 21st annual international event. Pink Elephant also gave top Project Of The Year and Practitioner Of The Year awards.

Sunview Software helps companies deliver, manage and monitor IT services. It has invested $1 million into expanding its headquarters – and added more than 45 employees since early 2016.

Growth is ongoing.

SunView Software is part of a growing Tampa Bay tech community that is gaining traction. “Over the last few years, we’ve seen an increasing number of new venture-funded technology startups form in and around the Bay area, making Tampa a competitive hub for software development jobs in the marketplace,” says Seng Sun, SunView’s CEO. “Being a Tampa-based company ourselves, we recognize the tremendous potential in the community we have here. That’s why we’ve teamed up with the USF Computer Science Department and the Tampa Hillsborough Economic Development Corporation to help us to discover, recruit and retain local talent. Last month’s award win is indicative our initiative’s success.”

Now the privately-held company is gearing up for HDI 2017 Conference & Expo on May 9-12 in Washington D.C. At the showcase, it will be giving people a look at ChangeGear’s new mobile experience, plus enhancements to its AI technology and self-service capabilities, including a chatbot virtual support agent.


Jobs Roundup: Who is hiring? Home Depot, Vistra Communications, CWU Inc., City of Clearwater

The Atlanta-based Home Depot is in a spring hiring spree, with plans to hire some 1,350 in the greater Tampa area during March, or by early April. Its goal is to hire more than 80,000 associates in all of its stores and distribution centers for the season.

“Some of those have already been hired,” says Matt Harrigan, a Home Depot spokesman. “Spring is always our busiest time of year. ... It’s kind of like Christmas in our stores. Its really our holiday season.”

Home Depot is hiring for a “mix” of positions, depending on the individual store’s needs, he says. It will fill positions for cashiers, lot associates, garden and freight personnel. Full, part-time and temporary positions may be available.

About half of the typical, 90-day-seasonal workers stay on after the rush, and can apply their hours toward company benefits, Harrigan says.

Those benefits include profit sharing, tuition assistance, discounted stock purchases, and 401Ks. Employees also have access to the company's associate discount site, where they can purchase cell phones, electronics, gym memberships and other items.

Salaries vary by store location and employee qualifications, Harrigan says.

Home Depot announced its streamlined online application process earlier this month. It optimized the process for mobile use, reducing estimated application time from 90 to 15 minutes, he explains.

It offers job-related training on product lines, computers and other skills associated with their assignment.

“Primarily we look for just someone who is passionate about customer service,” Harrigan adds. “Our focus is always to find associates that will fit our orange-blooded culture.”

Employees typically wear an orange apron saying “I put customers first.” The company’s core values include taking care of customers and each other, the entrepreneurial spirit, giving back to the community, veterans' housing and other home improvement projects, he says.

With 30 stores in the greater Tampa area, it’s one of Home Depot’s larger markets, he says.

The company’s website advertises jobs are “in bloom” and people can “put down roots where they really can grow.” It indicates 16- and 17-year-olds in Florida are welcome to apply for store support/lot associate, customer service/sales associate (garden) and cashier jobs.

Home Depot, which has a total of 2,278 retail stores, racked up $94.6 billion in sales during the 2016 fiscal year, earning $8 billion.

Here are some other job opportunities in Tampa Bay.

• Vistra Communications has moved its headquarters to Lutz and is planning to hire 50 new employees by 2022, doubling its size and pumping $1.3 million into the economy. Vistra was founded in 2007 and serves corporate, government and nonprofit clients. It is a nationally recognized, full-service communications and professional solutions agency. Submit your resume or learn more about current opportunities here.

• CWU Inc. recently announced plans to move from Clearwater to Tampa and add 20 new jobs by 2018. The company, founded in 2004, also is moving 30 existing positions to Tampa. It provides direct operational and training support services to more than 90 federal agencies. Learn more.

• The city of Clearwater is advertising ongoing employment opportunities on its website for a library volunteer coordinator, library intern, seasonal marine operator, social events staff, beach lifeguards, wastewater plant operators, and school crossing guards. Applicants should print out an application here, fill it out and submit it to Municipal Services Building at 100 South Myrtle Avenue, Clearwater, FL, or fax it to (727) 562-4877. No online applications are being accepted for these positions.


Mobile app helps property owners find repair services

Imagine your toilet is overflowing and you call a repair service only to learn no one can come out for a couple of days. Or temperatures are 90+ degrees and your air conditioner quits running. You have to pay extra if you want someone the same day, if anyone is available at all.

A Tampa-based fix-it company, Homee on Demand, was created to help out in times like these. It maps subcontractors in your area who can arrive quickly, usually within 30 minutes around the clock.

“Pricing is usually 30 percent better than you’ll get going direct to the individual company,” says Doug Schaedler, Co-founder and CEO.  “You can select who you would like to come.”

Homee does repairs and remodeling on homes, condominiums, apartments and commercial establishments.

Homee Founders Schaedler and business colleague Dave Theus, Chief Technology Officer, have discovered people like to use the service even for non-emergency situations. About 60 percent are looking for a handyman primarily for “non-urgent work,” Schaedler says.

Homee’s app lets property owners and managers connect with repair workers on demand through their Smartphones or tablets. “It’s meant to be a mobile platform,” Schaedler says. “It automatically identifies your location.”

Users download the app at the Apple or Google Play stores, connecting with 350 repair services in the Tampa Bay region. They can find plumbers, electricians, handymen, and heating/venting/air conditioning repair service providers.

Nearly 20,000 people already have installed the app and can access more than 1,000 total subcontractors in the Homee network.

Homee serves the Tampa Bay region, in the north up to Inverness, in the south to Sarasota, in the east to Lakeland and the west to the Gulf of Mexico. It also services Orlando, Miami, Fort Lauderdale, and Jacksonville. In January, it began serving Cincinnati as well.

“Our plan is begin the national rollout here in the next few months, and do an additional 12 to 15 cities by the end of this year,” Schaedler says.

The company has raised $1.35 million in capital.

Theus and Schaedler got the idea for the app after experiencing problems getting home repairs themselves. Homee launched the app last summer and, as the licensed general contractor, screens and signs up subcontractors.

Homee, which offers work to subcontractors during idle time, is able to set discount pricing, Schaedler says.

“Every month we’ve been doubling both the number of transactions and the number of users,” he says.

Homee on Demand currently is hiring for a variety of positions. “We’re doing a lot of hiring especially here in Tampa which is our headquarters,” Schaedler adds.

He expects to double the staff of 15, adding tech savvy individuals for positions like VP of marketing and marketing managers. Other jobs are in software development or involve staff interaction with subcontractors.

“We just brought on an additional three people,” he says.

Wages are negotiated but, in general, will be “above local Tampa wages,” he says.

“We think it [Homee] is a unique thing for Tampa. We’re really pleased with the progress so far,” he says.


Local Boys and Girls Clubs hiring childcare workers

The Boys and Girls Clubs of Tampa Bay are hiring at locations in Hillsborough and Pasco counties. The organization is looking for helpers for its Summer Day Camp as well as its year-round after-school programs.
 
“We’ve starting the process, coordinating the number of hires we’ll actually need [for the summer],” says Sandra Kay-Weaver, VP of Talent. “Ideally we’d like to have everyone on board by the end of May, and in our training.”
 
The organization usually brings on 50-70 staffers to oversee camp programs; experience in childcare is not mandatory. “It’s very helpful if they have experience working with children in groups,” she says.
 
Applicants must be at least 18 years of age. The camp positions’ pay averages $8.75 to $15 an hour depending on job experience, Kay-Weaver says. Some positions are fulltime and some are part-time, depending on the club’s need. “Hopefully they [the applicants] are engaging, fun,” she says.
 
Part-time positions are available year-round for the after-school program. “We are always recruiting for a pipeline of part-time positions,” Kay-Weaver says.
 
Cassandra Thomas, Director of Marketing and Communications, says there usually are more part-time positions than full. “One of the biggest areas we seem to have trouble filling is bus drivers,” she adds.
 
Because staff interacts with children, screening is rigorous. “We do very meticulous drug screening, background checks,” says Thomas, “and it does include people working on the administrative side as well. We tend to go into the clubs too.”
 
At Bethune Park in Wimauma, Club Director Ronneka Peacock says the need for after-school program specialists is immediate. “My club absolutely needs people right now,” she says.
 
She prefers people with some kind of childcare experience, even if it’s babysitting. “I’m looking for staff and are able to have fun and still have the kids respect them and listen to them,” she says.
 
Those who are interested in applying for jobs at Boys and Girls Clubs of Tampa Bay can begin the process online. Information is available on internships and volunteer opportunities as well. Candidates also can check the club locations and pick up an application on-site.
 
The organization has a full-time staff of about 40 to 50, who work at the administrative offices or the clubs. These positions do open up periodically. “It’s always a great idea if they have Boys and Girls Clubs in their background,” Kay-Weaver says. “We want people who are dedicated to our mission.”

Tampa Bay Area job fairs connect jobseekers, employers

Jobseekers can connect with potential employers at several job fairs in the Tampa Bay region in coming weeks.

CareerSource is gearing up for three job fair events, including its Tampa Bay internship hiring event for students and recent graduates on April 4.
 
Jason Druding, Special Projects Coordinator for CareerSource Tampa Bay and CareerSource Pinellas, says the event for interns is expected to include 20 employers, among them the insurance provider Amerilife, one of the event’s sponsors, and Brookdale Senior Living, an assisted living, long-term care provider in the Tampa Bay area.
 
All positions -- including internships, entry level and full-time -- are paid.
 
Opportunities will be in science, technology, engineering and math-related careers, including graphic design, registered and licensed practical nurses, as well as business sales, marketing and development, Druding says.
 
The event, expected to attract some 200 jobseekers, is scheduled from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. at DoubleTree Tampa Airport-Westshore. There is no charge for jobseekers or employers. Pre-register at Eventbrite.
 
On April 12, CareerSource Tampa Bay's Veterans/General Career Fair will focus on entry level through mid-level management. The event kicks off at 10 a.m. and will be open exclusively to veterans for the first hour. It then opens to the general public through 1 p.m.

“We feature up to 50 employers. Last year we had over 1,200 candidates who attended,” Druding says.
 
The career fair is expected to include a wide variety of career opportunities including call center, hospitality, healthcare and construction.
 
It will be held at T. Pepin Hospitality Center on 50th Street near Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard in Tampa. Pre-registration is available at the Career Source website.
 
A Youth Virtual Job Fair with more than 150 employers is scheduled May 14 through 20. The event focuses on youths 14 through 24, who are encouraged to set up profiles, upload resumes and interact with employers online.
 
“The profile allows them to showcase who they are and what kind of experience they bring to the table,” Druding explains.
 
The virtual fair is expected to draw some 2,000 candidates. Registration begins in mid-April.
 
“Candidates are welcome to utilize resources available through CareerSource Tampa Bay and CareerSource Pinellas offices to ... help prepare for these events,” he adds.
 
Here are some other hiring opportunities:
 
• The Tampa Job Fair by Coast-to-Coast Career Fairs is scheduled from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. March 20 at Doubletree by Hilton Tampa Airport - Westshore. Jobseekers can attend free and interview with multiple employers. Online registration is here.
 
* The Career Job Fair and Resource Expo is slated March 27 at the Children’s Board of Hillsborough County in Ybor City. The event by Red Carpet USA Entertainment and Events Inc. will feature 25 or more employers from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. Admission is free. You can register here
 
Resume help is available.
 
* National Career Fairs is holding a free, Live Hiring Job Fair for jobseekers from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. April 11 at Doubletree by Hilton Tampa Westshore Airport, Tampa. You can register here

• Keiser University TAMPA CAREER FAIR 2017 is planned from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. April 11 at 5002 W. Waters Ave., Tampa. The event is open to students, graduates and jobseekers in the community. You can register here.  

Prospera joins Clearwater SPARK, nurtures Hispanic businesses

Twenty-five years ago, Prospera -- then called the Hispanic Business Initiative Fund -- was established in a small West Tampa office. 

There was a need to support Hispanic entrepreneurs in the area, says Claudia Johnson, senior business development consultant on the West Coast. Prospera stepped in to fill this void by offering bilingual technical assistance and workshops to Spanish-speaking businesses.

Decades later, the organization has spread to markets in south Florida and as far north as Jacksonville. Additional offices have opened in Miami and Orlando. Over the past 25 years, Prospera has “supported several thousands of people,” Johnson says. “Our objective became to strengthen the state of Florida’s economical sector with Hispanics.” 

Now, Clearwater is the latest city in Prospera’s far-reaching network. As of January, the group became the sixth organization to join Clearwater Business SPARK, a city-led business incubator that brings together a variety of resources for entrepreneurs and small business owners.

Prospera was looking for a home base in Pinellas County, Johnson says, and Clearwater made the most sense for a partnership. “The city has the majority of Hispanics [in the county,]” she says. “So that is where we are working closely. Now we have a more clear collaboration, a strong collaboration.” 

Denise Sanderson, the city’s director of Economic Development and Housing, says Hispanic entrepreneurs and small businesses represent approximately 20 percent of the city’s population. “Hispanic-owned businesses are an important and growing sector of our local economy,” she adds.

While Pinellas County residents were always welcome to participate in Prospera’s workshops and grant programs in other cities, the organization is now specifically targeting Clearwater. The organization will host six bilingual public workshops covering a variety of topics of interest to small businesses at Clearwater libraries throughout the year. The first was held Jan. 31 with around 30 attendees, Johnson says. 

In addition to training, and mentorship assistance with marketing and business planning, Prospera offers grants to small businesses looking to pay for professional services such as accountants and attorneys. The group also helps facilitate small business loans to entrepreneurs through partnerships with several banking institutions. “We’ve facilitated about $20 million worth of money for loans for clients throughout the whole state,” Johnson says.

She adds, “We’re here to help strengthen their business -- from start-ups to ongoing businesses. We’re a very active organization to help Hispanics.”

Tampa company develops new software for scan-to-print

Computer-aided design software can be used in the creation a number of things, like cars and bridges. The CAD model is important when the bridge is built -- and even when it needs repair. But what happens when there is no computer model? When the original is an arm or a part for a car no longer being made? What happens when the object is scanned into a computer?
 
It used to take an engineer to figure things out. But, thanks to Dr. Dan Simkins Jr., an associate professor at Tampa’s University of South Florida, that’s no longer the case. Simkins has developed a software suite that resolves the problem. And it’s expected to become available in eight weeks.
 
“We have the software. It works. We can demonstrate it,” he says.
 
Simkins, of USF’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, and serial entrepreneur Art Slowe co-founded Formerics in 2011. With help from four of Simkins’ doctoral students over the years, they are bringing the software to market.
 
The idea came from Simkins’ research before he earned his PhD. “What’s new for us is that now people want to start to do engineering on things they didn’t create from scratch, like a heart,” explains Simkins, the company’s Chief Technical Officer.
 
Computers come up with mathematical descriptions that are used in computerized models. When computers are used in the design process, it’s easier to test the strength of that bridge, for example. Creating a design for use in surgical planning was “a new kind of problem,” he says.
 
Additionally, the use of new materials brought new challenges. So Simkins found a way to work with these laminate materials. “What our technology does is it enables manufacturers to maximize the capability of those materials,” Slowe says.
 
The software can be used in a variety of industries, including medicine, entertainment, aerospace, defense and automotive.
 
“It will take a generation to fully implement this technology,” Slowe asserts.
 
The software does automatically what it used to take an engineer to accomplish, significantly reducing the cost of scan-to-print services. “We can convert a laser scan of an object into a 3-D printable version of that object without human intervention. That sounds silly but it’s a big deal,” Slowe explains.
 
Formerics got its name from the Latin words for model and number. It received a $50,000 seed loan from the USF Research Foundation, which was matched by the Florida High Tech Corridor. It also is a member of the National Science Foundation’s I-Corps, designed to help professors learn how to commercialize research.
 
Part of USF’s Tampa Bay Technology Incubator, Formerics is targeting the North and South American markets. “We’re resident in the USF Connect building. We’re closely tied with the USF community,” Slowe says. “We did not do this on our own. We had support and it’s made a material difference.”

Networking events: Upcoming local tech meetings offer education, opportunities

Marketing guru Ron Stein will be speaking March 14 about a very important business topic: How to get customers. “I think a company’s message is the single most import selling and marketing tool that they have. It cuts across everything,” Stein says.
 
Stein is featured at TECH Talk at 8:30 a.m. March 14 at Microsoft offices at 5426 Bay Center Dr., Suite 700, in Tampa. The event is being held by Tampa Bay Innovation Center.
 
A columnist on selling and marketing for Florida Trend magazine, Stein is founder of More Customers Academy and FastPath Marketing. He also offers mentoring at the Tampa Bay Innovation Center and other tech incubators.
 
The program, “How to Get People to Buy from You Instead of Your Competition,” will target small- and medium-sized tech business and those interested in the local tech industry. He will speak about why customers should choose your business, offering practical tips and examples about to empower a sales team.
 
A Miami native, Stein holds a bachelor’s degree in Electrical Engineering from the University of Florida. He’s gained practical business experience by doing it. He’s worked as CEO of an Israeli tech startup, lectured at UF’s business school, and honed his experience for more than 25 years in selling, marketing and business development. Most of it has been in the tech sector.
 
The event is free, but reservations are advised through Eventbrite.
 
Through TEC Garage, the innovation center offers programs for entrepreneurs, innovators, investors and others interested in the growth of the local tech community.
 
Here are some more tech-related meetings in the area:
 
  • Local entrepreneur Pat Bhava, whose startup technology platform – PikMyKid obtained $1 million in funding, will be sharing his experiences at 8 a.m. March 3 at BIZCONNECT@PLATT. The event will be held at Jan Kaminis Platt Regional Library at 3910 S. Manhattan Ave., Tampa.
  • Florida GovCon Summit 2017 is focusing on teaming together for larger federal contracts. It is aimed at small businesses looking for federal tech contracts in Florida. The event begins at 8 a.m. March 29 and ends at 5 p.m. March 30 at DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Tampa Airport-Westshore. To register, visit the summit website.
  • Gulf Coast MakerCon 2017 will be showcasing hometown innovation and invention starting from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. April 8 at Florida State Fairgrounds. In its sixth year, the event with a manufacturing and tech focus allows people to share resources, learn a craft, perfect their skills, find educational and career opportunities, try new tools and more. Learn more.

Metrohm USA building new Riverview headquarters

Metrohm USA, the North American subsidiary of a major Swiss manufacturer, is expanding its operations in the Tampa Bay region. The company broke ground on a new state-of-the-art facility in Riverview Feb. 24 that will cost nearly $20 million.
 
 “We’ve just outgrown our current space. When we moved in here we were a much smaller operation,” explains Dr. Michael Allen, the company’s VP of Marketing.
 
Metrohm, founded in 1943 in Herisau, Switzerland, makes high-precision instruments used in chemical analysis.
 
Metrohm USA, which opened to Riverview in 2009, currently employs about 90 in sales support roles in 55,000 square feet at 6555 Pelican Creek Circle. The staff count rises to 250 including those in the field serving the United States, Canada, and parts of Mexico.
 
The new facility, at 9250 Camden Field Parkway in Riverview, will contain 90,000 square feet. The new headquarters is expected to be ready for move in next January.
 
Plans call for laboratories designed for innovation and collaboration, training facilities, engineering and machining facilities, and distribution. The layout is intended to enhance creativity and teamwork and includes meeting rooms to support up to 200.
 
Allen says company will probably bring in a dozen new employees during the first two or three years after the move. “The jobs that we’ll be adding are going to be mixed,” he says.
 
Some are expected to be more lucrative technical jobs. The new positions are likely to include finance, marketing, and warehousing.
 
Allen says they always have jobs. “Right now we have 17 open positions,” he adds.

Hungry? EatMobile can help you find nearest food truck, and help vendors find new customers

EatMobile Inc.’s story began with an ice cream sandwich. A refrozen, unappetizing ice cream sandwich. Matt Land had heard the tantalizing music of a passing ice cream truck. He was lured by the thought of a sweet and refreshing treat. Instead, he was in for a letdown.
 
“I didn’t finish the whole thing,” he recalls.
 
Fortunately for Land, that wasn’t the end of the story. He shared the incident with long-time friend Jacob Lishen, a sales and marketing expert, and his mother Lori Townsend, who has experience in project management in the global restaurant chain industry. Together with Robb Vandaveer, a Marine Corps veteran and software architect, they started EatMobile.
 
They now have a network of some 50 food trucks in Tampa, St. Petersburg, Clearwater, Sarasota and Lakeland, and plan to beta test the new service. The trucks represent a wide variety of culinary tastes from barbecue to seafood, tacos to vegetarian, and pizza. “Literally, everything you can think of, it’s here in this area, and it’s amazing,” says Land, the company’s CEO.
 
The first food truck he consulted with during the research phase was Blazin 28 Pizza. Dillon Walts operates his pizza food truck out of an old fire truck, where he’s built a wood-brick oven. He sells from a stand set up outside.
 
“Every truck is its own unique incredible business,” Land says.
 
EatMobile arranged some meals during Tampa Bay Startup Week February 13-17. He also shared his company’s journey with attendees.
 
“Our core purpose… is increasing local spending to these local businesses,” explains Land.
 
Located in Tampa, EatMobile has become part of the tech accelerator Tamba Bay WaVE. “It’s been incredible since we’ve been able to flip the switch,” Land says. “It really feels like it’s meant to be and there’s a path laid before us.”
 
Since that fateful day two years ago, when Land bought the ice cream sandwich, the team has done a lot of work researching and talking to consumers and clients. It officially launched with Startup Week after about seven months in operation.
 
EatMobile’s goal is to help people find food trucks for a quick bite in their area, or sign up food trucks for special events like weddings or company events. People can access services through their phones, tablets or computers. They are working on an app that can be downloaded.
 
Food trucks will have three levels of service through their online platform, including profiles, videos and imagery taken from drones or unmanned aircraft.
 
Land considers it an honor to provide a venue and business tools for families pursuing the American dream. In the past, they’ve been on their own. “They don’t have time for networking, hunting for catering opportunities,” he says.
 
Profits will come from multiple sources including food sales, vendor services, data services and advertising.
 
In the short term, EatMobile is connecting with technology experts to roll out its offerings into the market more quickly. It’s also looking for investors who share their goals.
 
 “This is something that truly has the potential to do a lot of good,” he explains. “It’s not about us, it’s about them.”
 
EatMobile is giving back through a monetary donation to Feeding Tampa Bay. It plans to expand into giving free meals to the homeless.
 
“We’re very passionate about giving back,” he says.

Local software developers to hack cars in GM event

General Motors has chosen Tampa Bay for the first stop in its Makers Hustle Harder Hackathon tour, enabling software developers to put their apps into GM cars here for testing.
 
“My team will help them load their app in the car and drive it around and test it,” says Daphne L. Zargar, GM’s Global Manager – Partner Relations, Application Ecosystem and Development. “For any developer, of any age, or background, or company, that’s unprecedented.”
 
Zargar’s team developed the software that developers can download to make apps, potentially for GM’s app store. Apps may be able to do things like turn your car into a moving weather station, map the locations of potholes in the road, or even select your preferred music before you enter the car. A user, for example, also might be able to choose a preferred Global Positioning System.
 
The event kicks off Feb. 27 at Tampa Hackerspace at 4931 W. Nassau St. in the Westshore area. From 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., a live webinar will introduce participants to the hackathon.
 
“We’re expecting 60 to 80 developers to participate,” says Bill Shaw, President and Founder of Hackerspace. “It’s going to be a pretty packed event. We’re actually expecting it to reach capacity.”
 
When the kickoff webinar is completed, hackers can get to work. The GM team will be available for support throughout the week that culminates in Hackathon Day March 4. That’s the day developers will be able to see their apps in action; presentations start at 4 p.m. with prizes following.
 
“This is a brand new thing for GM. They’ve never really opened up their software like this before,” Shaw says.
 
The Detroit automaker, which employs 215,000, released a software development kit in late January that lets developers interact with its cars. With its kit, developers can test in-vehicle applications for GM’s infotainment systems without traveling to Detroit.
 
GM approached the 4-year-old Tampa Hackerspace, described as the largest facility of its kind in Florida, about putting together the event. “I really am wanting to get out into the new grass roots cities that are helping to support these kinds of technology,” Zargar says.
 
Rather than hold the event in New York or the West Coast, they opted for “non-obvious cities,” Zargar says.
 
A former Clearwater resident, she’s familiar with the Tampa Bay area. Much like Detroit, she says, St. Petersburg has “come full circle with restaurants.” And tech sector has grown. “I’m very passionate about supporting them,” she says.
 
Plans are being made for separate events in Boston and Chicago. “We want to get our platform out to developers and hackers’ hands without a lot of constraint,” she explains.
 
Learn more or sign up to participate. Developers can download what they need here.
 
Hackers, tinkerers and builders have lots of options with the new GM data. In addition to all the practical apps, there’s also potential for fun and games, literally. The car can be a simulator for video games.
 
While it may seem like a far out idea now, things will change when cars are able to run driverless. “There are all of these things you can suddenly do,” Shaw observes.

Artificial intelligence for business, ERIN greets you at the door

ERIN, an artificial intelligence system that can think, reason and problem solve with humans, is poised to revolutionize the business world. The brainchild of Tampa’s Nitro Solutions, ERIN brings to business what Apple’s Siri and Amazon’s Alexa assistants have brought to consumers.
 
 “Unlike Siri, you can see her and she can see you,” says Nitro’s CEO Pete Slade.
 
ERIN, short for Enterprise Ready Intelligent NitroAI, looks like a human and can act as receptionist, greeting customers to your waiting area from a computer screen. “She can read emotion on your face,” Slade explains. “Her responses are based on what she’s observed you doing.”
 
Available by subscription, ERIN is designed for both small and large businesses. She can announce a client’s arrival, even offer a bottle of water to be delivered by an employee. She’s also a watchdog that keeps track of who is in the waiting area and whether they are employees, ex-employees, repeat visitors or strangers. You can ask her what she saw at 3 p.m., for example.
 
 “You can work with it and train it. You can chat with her,” Slade says. “She can respond to you as you have that information. You can also text her and instant message her.”
 
Smaller business can be part of beta testing, provide feedback and receive preferred pricing. Fees have not yet been set.
 
Out of the box, ERIN can be male or female. Larger businesses can have ERIN customized to take on the appearance of a particular ethnicity, and even wear a polo with the company logo.
 
“She is incredibly smart for where technology stands today. She is not as smart as you and I,” Slade says. “What she has is the ability to listen and understand intent.”
 
ERIN can connect businesses to databases, facilitating research jobs that are cumbersome for employees because of the sheer volume of information. She can free employees to do other tasks, perhaps more complex, higher-paying tasks. Essentially, she can fill in labor gaps, thinking and talking with people. In some cases, as other technologies do, she may replace human labor.
 
“It’s not like you install her and everybody’s gone. You install her and she augments your business,” Slade says.
 
Because of ERIN’s versatility, she can be used in a variety of industries. She can be used to handle simple triage for patients, manage security initiatives, and help businesses make better decisions by mining historical data and forecasted outcomes.
 
Her core platform has been in development for a number of years.
 
Visitors to Nitro’s downtown Tampa office respond favorably when ERIN greets them in the reception area. Relating to her as a person stimulates ideas about how to utilize her in the business world. “The visual layer that is ERIN has been a really great success. People are asking for her,” Slade says.
 
“We’re very excited to get her out, and to get the beta started, and to get her onboard,” adds COO Molly Slade.
 
ERIN is unique, beyond Siri, Alexa or even AlphaGo, Google DeepMind’s champion board game player. She's is a potential game changer. “Their (Google’s) focus was to learn and understand [the game] Go and become the best at it,” he says. “We’ve got our engine and our focus is on business.”
 
So what’s next for ERIN? “We’re constantly innovating. We’re already working on the next piece of her,” he says. “We’ve got great ideas, things we want to teach her to do.”

Job News: Tampa Bay Area companies creating new jobs in tech, logistics, finance

Looking for a your first job or considering a new job? Businesses expanding or relocating to the Tampa Bay Area are good prospects, and they may open the door to a variety of job opportunities.
 
A good example is Suncoast Credit Union. The company broke ground Feb. 2 on a three-story, 107,176-square-foot building at 6536 East Hillsborough Avenue, according to a company announcement. That means more jobs, about 450 new jobs during the next five years, and an economic boost for the area. With the additional jobs, the credit union’s main location will employ a total of some 1,100 employees in 12 buildings.
 
"We do expect to continue to grow and will need qualified and enthusiastic team members," says Gary Vien, the credit union’s Chief Administrative Officer.
 
Suncoast is Florida’s largest credit union. It runs 62,000 full-service branches in 21 counties, servicing approximately 700,000. “If interested today, job seekers can apply to the numerous openings we have by clicking on the career link at the bottom of our website,” Vien says.

Another company that is expanding is ReliaQuest, a Tampa-based IT security firm planning to add 150 jobs this year. It announced expansion plans earlier this month to meet cybersecurity challenges for its customers. The expansion will allow the company to build a new Research and Development arm of the firm called RQ Innovation Team, as well as introduce advanced monitoring solutions.
 
The company, which added nearly 110 jobs last year, operates from a state-of-the-art headquarters on Harbour Island and Security Office Centers in Tampa and Las Vegas. ReliaQuest is looking to recruit and retain high-quality IT professionals. It is applying for the Veterans Florida Business Training Grant Program aimed at providing talent from trained and skilled military veterans in the state. Learn more.
 
Here are some other potential opportunities:
 
• Sourcetoad Development Studio, which develops custom enterprise applications, has just moved into new digs on W. Busch Boulevard in Tampa, and is looking for a product/project manager and a frontend engineer with experience in either Angular, the Google-backed JavaScript, or React, the Facebook-backed JavaScript. “We have a growing need for good engineers with a strong JavaScript background,” says CEO Greg Ross-Munro. Learn more. 
 
• BlueLine Associates announced plans in January to relocate its global headquarters from Cary, N.C., to Tampa. It is expecting to create 150 new jobs and invest $2 million in the local economy. The company is moving its financial, legal, and human resources services here into its already existing Tampa office, according to a company announcement. Its average annual wage is $71,909. Learn more.
 
* Cott Corporation, a beverage producer and distributor headquartered in Tampa, is expanding its operations in Hillsborough County, creating 60 new jobs and investing $800,000, according to an announcement last month. Learn more

Startup Week returns to Tampa, St. Pete in mid-February

 Wondering how to raise $1 million for a startup in Tampa Bay? And why it’s different here than other places? You can get answers at Tampa Bay Startup Week Feb. 13 through 17.
 
The annual event is being held on both sides of the bay this year in Tampa and St. Petersburg.
 
“The event is designed to showcase all the resources that are available in Tampa Bay for entrepreneurs of all sizes,” says Gracie Leigh Stemmer, President of Startup Tampa Bay Inc., the nonprofit organization that runs the event.
 
The week kicks off with the first three days on the Tampa side, featuring an opening event at the Rialto Theatre at 1617 N. Franklin St. with Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn. The week winds to a close on the St. Petersburg side for the last two days at the Station House at 260 First Ave. S., with St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman. It includes tracks for special interests such as coding and development, public relations and marketing, fashion and veterans’ entrepreneurship.
 
Highlights of the week include “How to Raise $1 Million in Tampa Bay” featuring local founders who have raised more than that for their companies: Pat Bhava, CEO of PikMyKid, which helps streamline car lines at school dismissal time; Ed Buckley, CEO of Peerfit, a fitness company; Reuben Pressman, CEO of Check I’m Here, a software platform for colleges; and David Osterweil, CEO of Fitlife Foods, a retail chain offering prepared meals with all-natural ingredients.The session is slated from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. Feb. 16 in St. Petersburg.
 
Also planned are “Uncovering the Future with Tampa Bay Leaders” from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. Feb. 15 in Tampa, featuring Danielle Vona, Founder and Chief Thinker, The Marketing Posse; and Ryan Ross, Executive VP of Marketing and Digital Commerce for HSN.

“How to Impact Your Startup Community with Brad Feld” is a Skype session from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. Feb. 15 in Tampa with Feld, an early-stage investor and entrepreneur for more than 20 years. The author of the Startup Revolution Series, Feld is co-founder of the venture capital firm, Foundry Group in Boulder, CO, and co-founder of Techstars, a global partner of Startup Week sponsored by Chase for Business.

“We know there’s a lot of entrepreneurs and business leaders. We’re hoping to use these events to connect them together,” says Michael Laplante, one of the event organizers.

To register for the free event, visit the Tampa Bay Startup Week website includes a slate of events and you can indicate which ones you want to attend, which will help them with planning. “We want people to be able to come in anytime they want,” Laplante says.

TechHire meeting slated to talk about employment needs

Tampa business leaders are meeting to talk about employment needs Feb. 9 as part of the nationwide TechHire initiative focused on jobseekers 17 to 29.
 
Among them is Mike Burnett, Regional Account Executive for Northern Technologies Group Inc., an IT solutions company in Lutz. NTG began operating a second facility in late January at Bears Avenue and Interstate 275, enabling it to better serve its client base.
 
NTG is looking to hire four to six employees and is expecting to continue to expand. NTG employs 60 and is “top-heavy with engineers,” Burnett says.
 
“We are currently the end-to-end IT department for organizations as small as 20 users and up to 1,500 total users,” he explains.
 
Burnett says he hopes NTG will be one of those places employees look to for opportunities through the TechHire program. They are looking for people with the “right attitude” who are “willing to learn” and be “part of our growing team,” he adds.
 
The Feb. 9 meeting will be held from 9:30 a.m. to 11 a.m. in the Ybor Room at Hillsborough Community College’s Ybor Campus, according to the event’s organizer, The Tampa Bay Innovation Alliance. Contact the alliance to reserve a seat.
 
The meeting also features Travis Bond, CEO and Founder of Caresync, a leading provider of software and services for chronic care management. Caresync has located its headquarters at Hidden River Corporate Park at Interstate 75 and Fletcher Avenue in Tampa -- and committed to expanding its staff to 500 this year.
 
The company recently brought 150 existing jobs to its Hidden River facility. It is looking to hire employees to work as clinical care coordinators and product developers, as well as in human resources, information technology and administration.
 
The meeting is for tech businesses and those who want to start a business. It follows a Dec. 15 meeting.
 
The alliance’s job is to provide feedback about the gap in talent in the area, says Kelley Sims, the alliance’s Senior Vice President. It would like employers to agree to give preference to graduates through the TechHire program.
 
“Our goal is to engage 150 businesses in the area to basically support and be prepared to look at these graduates,” Sims says.
 
The alliance wants to deepen its understanding of the area’s employment needs. “We want to mine the data on the specifics of who they’ve hired and where there have been gaps,” she says.
 
Tampa Bay was awarded $3.8 million last summer to pay for technical training and connect people with jobs. In December, Tampa Bay was officially recognized as a TechHire community.
 
The initiative was started by then-President Barack Obama in March 2015, with goal of creating a tech talent pipeline across the nation.
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