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Lakeland Art Installation Honors Veterans, Public Servants

A new public art installation in Lakeland pays tribute to veterans, police, firefighters and emergency responders.

The piece is a collaboration among Platform Art, Polk County Veterans Council and Lakeland youth.

Platform Art worked with Polk County Public Schools to provide workshops for high school teachers to help them incorporate 3D curriculum into their classrooms. They then held a design challenge, asking students to create a sculpture that represents public agencies using a one foot square footprint. Over 60 students responded to the challenge.

The winner was Lake Region High School senior Maria Vazquez, whose sculpture was then fabricated on a larger scale in glass and steel by regional artist Tom Monaco. The final piece consists of two vertical slabs of steel with images of first a couple looking at each other and then a baby behind them. A glass plate in front is engraved with the poem "Honor" by William McGehee, which wraps around a silhouette image of a soldier.

"You’re not only looking at a public servant, but at the reasons they do their job – their family, children," says Cynthia Haffey, executive director for Platform Art and graduate of the University of South Florida.

Vasquez first got the inspiration for the sculpture when she came across McGehee’s poem. After further research, Platform Art realized the poem was written while McGehee was in high school, and that he is currently on his second deployment in Afghanistan. He recorded himself reading the poem, which is incorporated into the display.

Once Vasquez’s design was selected, she met with Monaco and talked about how the public could interact with the piece and how people could approach it physically and visually.

"It was a great learning process for her," says Haffey. "She was stunned at the amount of thoughtful consideration you have to put into a work of art when doing something for the general public."

Vasquez is the daughter of immigrants living in Polk County. After graduating, she will attend Polk State College and then plans to further her education at a design school.

Platform Art is a nonprofit organization in Polk County that focuses on visual arts, leaning toward public art. The project is the first in a series of three with a similar theme and purpose. It will be displayed in City Hall for the summer, and will then be installed in Veterans Park. Eventually, the hope is for this and other sculptures in the series to tour the Tampa Bay region and potentially the State.

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Cynthia Haffey, Platform Art

USF's Patel College Hosts Internationally Acclaimed Climate Change Expert

USF students studying sustainability now have another resource to help understand the global impact of climate change and steps that can be taken to reduce the effects.  

The Patel College of Global Sustainability at the University of South Florida recently awarded Rajendra Pachauri, Ph.D. the Eminent Global Scholar in Sustainability Award. The newly created award was designed to recognize professionals who are doing significant work to advance the well-being of the wider global community.

"It reflects the interdisciplinary nature of the work we do at the Patel College," says Patel College Dean Kala Vairavamoorthy.

The College also hopes the award recipients will be an ambassador and adviser for them and support their research and education programs, which include a focus on sustainable communities and environments.

Pachauri is a 2007 Nobel Peace Prize recipient and Chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). He visited USF recently and spoke with students about the Climate Change report recently released by the United Nations. His lecture, titled "Energy Scenarios and Climate Impacts," focused on the impact humans are having on the environment and the results of this impact such as shrinking polar caps, rising sea waters and higher concentrations of greenhouses gases. He also discussed projected risks of these changes such as slowed economic growth, new poverty traps in urban areas, food utilization issues and increase in disease.

His lecture wasn’t all doom and gloom though. He discussed the opportunities for change, which was inspiring for the students. Possible solutions include more rapid improvements in energy efficiency and more utilization of low-carbon energy supplies from renewable sources. The Patel College is working on some of these very issues.

"Having someone of his stature who is at all the meetings where [climate change] is discussed and debated, sharing where the planet is in terms of external pressures and impact of resource management -- for our students, it’s a really big deal," says Vairavamoorthy.

Pachauri also communicates the political dimensions and interests from other countries, helping students learn how different governments respond to this information and the nuances involved in trying to negotiate and operate as a global community in light of these uncertainties.

USF is looking to continue Pachauri’s involvement with a more formal partnership, leading to more visits and engagement with students.

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Kala Vairavamoorthy., Patel College of Global Sustainability at USF

Florida Music Students Win Scholarships For Piano Performances

Six young pianists from around Florida were awarded a total of $22,500 in scholarship and prize money in the 2014 Artist Series Concerts of Sarasota Competition for Piano. 

Ten pianists made it to the final stage of the three-round competition in late March, which was judged by Julian Martin of the Juliard School; Robert Sherman, an award-winning radio broadcaster, music critic and educator; and acclaimed Pianist Derek Han.

Three pianists from the Scholarship Level (ages 14-19) received a total of $7,500 in scholarships. Priscilla Navarro, 19, of Ft. Myers was awarded the first prize Lee & Jerry Ross Scholarship of $3,000. Second-place Prize Winner Alvin Xue, 15, of Wellington, received $2,500 in prize money; and Third-place Winner Tiffany Chen, 16, of West Palm Beach received $2,000. 

In the Performance Level (ages 20-25), Heqing Huang, 20, of Boca Raton was awarded the first place Virginia B. Toulmin Award, amounting to $6,000. Second-place Winner Emily Charlson, 23, Tallahassee, received $5,000, and Third-place Winner Dan Sato, 25, Miami, was awarded $4,000. 

Endowments from private donors and money raised by Friends of the Artist Series organization provide the scholarship funding for the Artist Series Competition. 

The Artist Series Concerts Competition was established by Artistic Director Lee Dougherty Ross in 2002. Under the guidance of Coordinator Joy McIntyre, Professor Emerita of Music at Boston University, the competition grew to the statewide level in 2007. Since 2007, McIntyre says the competition has run on a multi-disciplinary cycle that annually celebrates top pianists, string musicians and vocalists.

“I applaud the Artist Series and its known leaders, Lee Dougherty Ross and Executive Director John Fisher. They have done really marvelous things with it. …  They are investing money in the future of classical music by supporting these young musicians,” McIntyre says. 

McIntyre adds that the city of Sarasota itself provides a unique cultural environment that fosters young musicians and artists.

“It’s a cultural mecca, if you will, where all kinds of things are going on. People of all levels of appreciation, whether it’s orchestra or theatre or art; classical or jazz music -- or the circus, of course -- are active supporters of the arts. Sarasota is where it’s at in terms of lively cultural life.”

Writer: Jessi Smith
Source: Joy McIntyre, Artist Concert Series Competition Coordinator

Ignite! Tampa Bay Announces Speakers For 4th Annual Event

Notable names in the growing Tampa entrepreneurship scene will take the stage at the Cuban Club on May 22, 2014. Doors open at 6 p.m. for the fourth annual Ignite! Tampa Bay, an event billed with the phrase "Enlighten us, but make it quick!''

Speakers will cover a range of topics from local politics to TED-like inspirational talks. Armed with slides that auto-advance every 15 seconds and whatever props they can carry, presenters take the podium for exactly five minutes to inspire and "ignite'' the audience. 

Ignite! Tampa Bay 2014 presenters include local Tampa and St. Petersburg residents who are active members of the startup community: USFSP Entrepreneurship program co-Founder Nathan Schwagler will discuss his love for Tampa Bay with a talk titled "On Gratitude''; Software Engineer and Technologist Aubrey Goodman is tackling "Active Vulnerability''; and Launchtrack Founder Jonathan Cordeau is talking about "How NO Empowers.'' A complete list of speakers will be released in coming weeks. 

Chris Krimitsos, founder and CEO of the Tampa Bay Business Owners, will be the evening's emcee.

Held at the historic Cuban Club in Ybor City, the 2014 Ignite! will strive to find a balance between inspiring and overwhelming the audience, says Joy Randels, one of the event's organizers.
 
The national movement (founded in Seattle in 2006 through O'Reilly Media) launched in Tampa in 2011. Some might say that Ignite! Tampa Bay has found footing after three years of trial and error.

Almost four years ago, Ignite! was one of the first entrepreneurial showcases to step into the Tampa limelight. The event moved from the former Wyndham Tampa Westshore (now Holiday Inn Tampa) in summer 2011 to the Glazer Children's Museum in January 2012, doubling in audience size. By 2013, the evening was staged at the Tampa Theatre in downtown Tampa, where over 800 attendees heard from more than 30 speakers.
 
"It was too much,'' Randels says of the 2013 event, which ran long. "This year, we will be done on time so that people can go out and connect afterward, and the number of presenters will be limited to 20.''

Randels spoke at the 2013 event, challenging local entrepreneurs to work together to change the status quo and be supportive of each other's endeavors.
 
Ignite! Tampa is subsidized by the Hillsborough County EDI2 fund through Technova, Florida Inc., a nonprofit that produces entrepreneurial events like Ignite! and Barcamp Tampa Bay throughout the year, along with supporting independent events like Startup Weekend, Startup Bus, Tampa Hackerspace, FIRST Robotics and Robocon.

Join the Ignite Tampa Bay Meetup group for event updates or visit the website to purchase tickets.

Writer: Justine Benstead
Source: Joy Randels, Ignite! Tampa Bay

Iconic Ringling Cube Gets Facelift From Students

For decades, motorists and visitors to Ringling College of Art + Design have been greeted by the same image on the college’s front lawn: A minimalist, tilted cube that stands more than 15 feet high at the corner of Tamiami Trail and Martin Luther King Boulevard. 
 
Over the years, time and the elements weathered the Cube into a drab, gray block, and it faded into the scenery for most passersby. Three Ringling College students, however, recognized the sculpture as a six-sided blank canvas, and seized the opportunity to give the Cube a fresh makeover. 
 
Graphic Design Seniors Mariana Silva, Anna Jones and Kim Daley developed the concept for the “Faces of Ringling” project, a school-wide collaboration aimed to give the Cube a literal “facelift” by combining the self portraits of two dozen students.
 
“A lot of alumni like the Cube a lot, so we didn’t want to remove it. Instead, we were looking for a cost effective way of bringing life back to the Cube, and in a way that would represent the college today and its diverse student body,’’ Silva says. “We found that bus wrap is cost effective and can be done quickly.” 
 
The team worked within the RCAD Design Center, an internship class that gives students the opportunity to work on “real world” projects, to draft the concept for “Faces of Ringling,” and presented to the college board early in the Spring 2014 semester. They also put out a call to student artists for self portraits, and received more than 100 submissions.
 
The team selected the work of 24 students from approximately half of the college’s 14 majors to be displayed in four-portrait collages on each of the Cube’s six sides. Sarasota-based sign company, Signs in One Day, installed the Cube portrait wrap on April 11, providing the Cube with a fresh face -- 24 of them, in fact.
 
“The idea is to create something different every year, or at least regularly, with lots of student involvement. It’s a better representation of the school,” Silva says. 
 
Writer: Jessi Smith
Sources: Mariana Silva, Kim Daley, Anna Jones: RCAD Graphic Design ‘14
 

Global Business Forum Discusses Indo-U.S. Partnership, Economic Growth

As actors, actresses and film fans converge in Tampa for the International Indian Film Acacemy’s (IIFA) Bollywood awards, the FICCI-IIFA Global Business Forum focuses on the business side of the relationship between the U.S. and India.

A joint initiative of the IIFA and the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry, the Forum takes place at the Tampa Convention Center April 24 – 25.

The theme: "Indo-U.S. Partnership: A Catalyst for Economic Growth'' focuses on the trade relationship between India and America, bringing in change makers, thought leaders and business owners to discuss new and existing business opportunities.

Speakers will represent government, education and industry, and will include Consul General of India Ajit Kumar, Dr. RK Pachauri, who leads the Nobel prize winning UN Intergovernmental panel on Climate change, Raj Biyani, managing director of Microsoft IT-India and N.R. Narayana Murthy, executive chairman of Infosys Limited.

Prominent women leaders will speak about issues particularly relevant to women. Speakers include Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi; Nisha Desai Biswal, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs; Judy Genshaft, president of the University of South Florida; and Renu Khator, president of the University of Houston and former USF Provost. Actress and former Miss World Priyanka Chopera and actress Tara Abrahams will present the Girl Rising Project, a global campaign for girls’ education.

The Indian economy is currently the 10th largest in the world, with trade between India and the U.S. reaching the $60 billion level in 2012.  

The event is the 10th of its kind, and the first time in the United States, indicating a strong interest in developing relationships and strengthening ties between the two countries. With close to 30,000 people of Indian descent, the Tampa Bay region was a natural fit for the forum’s U.S. debut.

The event will increase the visibility of local brands on an international scale. "It’s a recognition of Tampa Bay to the world," says Kunal Jain of TiE Tampa Bay, an event partner.

The event is led by the University of South Florida College of Business and Tampa Bay Trade and Protocol Council, among others. Partners include Enterprise Florida, Tampa Hillsborough Economic Development Corporation, Visit Tampa Bay and TiE Tampa Bay.

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Kunal Jain, TiE Tampa Bay

Too Funny! Eckerd College Improv Team Among Top In Nation

An improv group from Eckerd College was selected to perform at the longest-running and largest improv festival in the world.  

The 11-student group, Another Man’s Trash, performed at the Chicago Improv Festival on April 4. The team is one of only two student groups selected to perform at the event, which featured 150 performances. Seven of the group’s members performed, and the trip was partially funded by the Eckerd College Organization of Students.

Formed in 2008, the group was founded and is completely run by students from all majors, from theater to marine science. The group has grown in popularity, with weekly shows bringing sellout crowds on campus, even having to turn people away at times. The audience selects the subjects for the shows, and the students make it their own.

Being a part of the group is not only fun, but a learning opportunity for the students. Being on stage in front of hundreds of peers takes a considerable amount of poise, not to mention communication skills and the ability to think on your feet.

These skills can be applied to a wide range of future careers -- any job that requires presentations or working with people. The group's director, Geoffrey Fella, takes a more personal view. "My favorite skill that the group has taught us is how to honestly portray life on stage,” says Fella. “People think improv is about making jokes in front of an audience, but truly beautiful improv aims at presenting the truths of our day-to-day lives in a way that is funny in and of itself."

Fella, a philosophy major, learned about the group second-hand and at first wasn’t particularly interested in performing. He underwent an apprenticeship to see if he was a good fit for the group, and he learned to enjoy the challenge. Eventually, he fell in love with the craft. "Improv makes you a better human being."

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Geoffrey Fella and Tom Scherberger, Eckerd College

'This Is Big': TEDxTampaBay Gears Up For Fifth Year

Do you enjoy learning about big ideas? Are you interested in hearing about the human brain from a neurobiologist's perspective? How about an award-winning journalist's thoughts on media and psychology?

These, and other innovative ideas, will be at the forefront of the fifth annual TEDxTampaBay conference.

The theme for 2014 is "This is big,'' and TEDxTampaBay plans to deliver.

"We want to explore an expansive topic, and chose an eclectic mix of presenters that will explore a truly 'big' idea-- our brain, our minds and our selves,'' explains founder Gina Clifford. "The energy that builds during TEDx events is incredible, and we hope to inspire that level of engagement again this year.''

The half-day event in May will showcase speeches and presentations from several Tampa Bay area innovators and thought leaders. TEDxTampaBay 2014 presenters include:

·      USF Health neurobiologist Dr. Edwin Weeber: "What we know about the human brain.''

·      President Emeritus of The Poynter Institute Karen B. Dunlap: "Is media shaping our psychological development?''

·      Root Learning CEO Jim Haudan: "Why does authenticity matter?''

·      Latin-inspired Jazz Musicians La Lucha: "Eclectic musicians challenge our thinking about music.''

TEDxTampaBay is based on the popular international TED conference model -- community talks where presenters discuss "ideas worth spreading'' for inspired audiences. Subsequently formed independent TEDx events have evolved in cities worldwide.

TED and TEDx are often marginalized as tech-centric events, but Clifford says the experience is much more diverse. She notes that TED, a nonprofit organization that first appeared on the scene in 1984, stands for Technology, Entertainment and Design (TED) talks.

"Over the years, we've hosted poets, scientists, social activists, journalists, artists, musicians and entrepreneurs,'' Clifford explains. "Furthermore, TEDx presenters strive to connect with our humanity -- so, you could say that TEDx presenters are part performer and part presenter.''

Clifford founded TEDxTampaBay in 2009 "to inspire, energize and build a critical mass of people who enjoy sharing truly big ideas.''

TEDxTampaBay is completely run by a volunteer crew and made possible through ticket sales and sponsors like IBM, ThinkTank, Industrial Strength, Studio@620, ClearpH and Creative Loafing.

"Because TEDxTampaBay is not a money-making endeavor, we couldn't produce an event of this magnitude without generous sponsorship support,'' Clifford says.

500 attendees are expected at TEDxTampaBay 2014, which takes place on Thursday, May 15, from noon to 4 p.m. at the Tampa Convention Center. General admission tickets to TEDxTampaBay 2014 are now available for $30.00, including lunch; or $75 for lunch, premium seating and a TEDxTampaBay T-shirt.
 
Writer: Justine Benstead
Source, Gina Clifford, TEDxTampaBay founder

Pecha Kucha Tampa Bay V14 Focuses On Community Spirit

Attendees at the 14th installment of Pecha Kucha Tampa Bay will meet new people and discover new things and happenings in the Tampa Bay region.  

Pronounced "pech chak cha," the event on April 11 is a place for the community to network, share stories and open their minds. Speakers will share 20 slides that run 20 seconds each in an effort to keep their talks precise and keep the audience engaged.

The events typically don't have a pre-determined theme, but rather seem to evolve based on the speaker lineup. V14 carries the theme of cool and interesting things groups are working on in the city. You’ll hear about a bike sharing program called Coastbike, as well as Tampa Hackerspace, a community space in downtown Tampa where members share equipment and projects.

City of Tampa Councilwoman Lisa Montelione will talk about the importance of open lines of communication both inside and outside of local government.  Montelione attended one of the first Pecha Kucha Tampa Bay events and was blown away by the atmosphere and the topics. "There’s something for everybody," says Montelione."Often times there’s something being presented that you've never heard of before."

Other speakers include:
    •    Angelo Nales - Tattoo Artist
    •    Bill Shaw - Tampa Hackerspace
    •    Brandon Murphy - Ad guy
    •    Eric Trull - Coastbike
    •    Noel Smith - GraphicStudio
    •    Noelle Mason - Skydiver
    •    Steven Fage - Robotics

The event takes place at the Tampa Museum of Art. Admission is $5 and includes access to the Museum’s exhibits. This is the second event at the Museum, and plans are to continue to host future events there.  

"Besides being a phenomenal space, there’s a good synergy between the Museum, which presents national works, and what individuals are doing on a local level," says Ken Cowart, Pecha Kucha Tampa Bay founder and organizer.

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Ken Cowart, Pecha Kucha; Lisa Montelione, City of Tampa Council

Startup Aims To Improve Your Shopping Experience With One Simple App

Almost every product you purchase in day-to-day life has one thing in common: a paper receipt.

For flexReceipts, that's a problem. What's their solution? Going paperless.

Backed by an investment from TiE Tampa's Angel Network in late March 2014, the startup company is poised to enter the national market with a tech-savvy answer to traditional paper receipts.

Customizable digital receipts tie in modern tech trends such as recommendations from retailers, social media, tailored special offers and more. flexReceipts intends to simultaneously solve a pain point for consumers and provide an enhanced marketing platform for businesses.

"flexReceipts has great growth potential,'' says TiE Tampa Charter Member Ashok Kartham. "I think it can be a success story that the area needs, to showcase tech startups from the Florida region.''

Tomas Diaz, flexReceipts founder and CEO, was a sales executive at Whirlpool for more than a decade before developing the startup company in 2011. Diaz and other management team members "bring deep retail experience'' to the startup, says Kartham.

flexReceipts has received several previous rounds of funding, including an investment by The Florida Technology Seed Capital Fund, LLC (FTSCF), a subsidiary of the Institute for Commercialization of Public Research, in March 2014, and an investment from Winter Park venture fund and business accelerator venVelo in August 2012. The company is also active on AngelList.

Four investors from the TiE Tampa Angel Network -- Kartham, Prashanth Rajendran, Seema Jain and Dr. Rajan Naik -- invested in the Orlando-based startup. The company, which has already partnered with some major retailers, plans to bring new technology jobs to Florida over the next few years.

TiE Tampa's goal is to expand angel investors beyond charter members and commit $1 million in angel capital in 2014. To this end, Rajendran is assembling a structured, experienced team and due diligence processes as part of an Angel Forum initiative to help lower the risk associated with angel investment and enable more syndicated deals, Kartham says.

"TiE is uniquely positioned to make a difference to the growing startup ecosystem in the Tampa Bay area and Florida,'' Kartham says. "We hope to invest in innovative startups in Tampa in coming months.''

This is the second angel investment out of TiE Tampa. The first was awarded to mobile conference app Feathr, which "has made significant progress and grown revenues since receiving TiE angel funding more than a year ago,'' Kartham says.

Writer: Justine Benstead
Source: Ashok Kartham, TiE Tampa

Hillsborough Community College Hosts April Job Fairs

Students and alumni from Hillsborough Community College (HCC) as well as the general public can meet local employers at one of three upcoming job fairs.

The job fair series begins with the HCC Brandon Campus fair April 2, continuing with the Ybor City Campus April 7 and ending with the Dale Mabry Campus April 15.

"We are proud to serve the Tampa Bay area and want to help individuals succeed in their professional and academic life," says Gianna Nicholas, job placement assistant at HCC’s Dale Mabry Campus.

Companies in attendance will discuss current position openings in the Tampa Bay region. A wide range of industries and companies will be represented. Participants include Busch Gardens, Moffitt Cancer Center, Tampa Electric Company, Grow Financial Federal Credit Union, Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office, Early Autism Project, Randstad, Hilton Worldwide and USAA.

Position openings will be both part-time and full-time, and include: research analysts, therapists, customer service associates, retail sales associates, benefits consultants, law enforcement officers, engineers, information technology professionals and accountants.

The job fairs are marketed for HCC students, but are open to anyone in the Tampa Bay community who is seeking a new position.

"Our Career Center’s mission is to assist anyone in the community, not just our students," says Randy Disks, manager of the Career Resource Center at HCC’s Brandon Campus. "Our philosophy as a community college is that we are part of the [larger] community."

Disks noted that the job market seems to have steady growth in recent years, as is demonstrated by the strong employer interest in the upcoming career fairs. The fairs are a good way to gauge the companies that are hiring in the Tampa Bay area.

Workshops will also be held leading up to the job fair on topics such as resume writing and how to prepare for the fair.

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Sources: Randy Disks, Gianna Nicholas, HCC

Gasparilla Fringe Festival Features Uncommon Arts To Make You Gasp!

As the 2014 Gasparilla festivities wind down, there’s one more opportunity to experience the arts Gasparilla style, but not in the traditional realm.

Gasp! The Gasparilla Fringe Festival presented by Creative Loafing and Tampa Museum of Art promises to enlighten and indulge attendees with multidisciplinary arts experiences not to be found elsewhere.

On March 28 from 6 to 10 p.m., the Museum will be transformed into a performing arts mecca with performances from over 30 local visual and performing artists, including both emerging and established.

"The event speaks to the vibrancy of the culture here, that so many different kinds of performing arts are thriving," says David Warner, editor-in-chief for Creative Loafing. "This is a way to support them and also get a taste of all of them.”

Actors and actresses will perform short plays inside Mini Coopers, affectionately referred to as "Mini Plays."

Post Dinner Conversation will perform improv, while letting the audience call the shots.

Musician Acho Brother will collaborate with a live action artist painting an oil canvas in reaction to the music.  

Graphicstudio will bring a printing press, and Creative Loafing’s Peter Meinke and Erica Dawson will create "chat books" called cordelistas. The studio’s exhibition, Graphicstudio: Uncommon Practices at USF, will also be open exclusively for attendees.

Lynn Waddell, author of Fringe Florida, will present in collaboration with Ward Hall, legendary carnival talker.

The event is designed to be a true reflection of the vitality and diversity of the arts community in Tampa Bay.

"They’re very talented people, making this work here," says Warner. "It reflects the community in ways the community doesn’t always get reflected."

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: David Warner, Creative Loafing

Social Mobile Conference Embraces Branding In New Economy

As consumers move beyond traditional ways of finding information, purchase decisions are made based on sharing, comparing and rating experiences using social media. Real-time information through a mobile device is becoming an expectation. In light of this, brands are continuously looking for new and meaningful ways to connect with customers.

The Social Mobile Engagement Conference & Code Challenge, September 4-5, 2014 at the Tampa Marriott Waterside Hotel and Marina, is designed to be an outlet for this kind of information while highlighting local talent and organizations to senior tech leaders from across the nation.  

The event is an expansion of the Social Mobile Payments Conference, which took place twice since 2011 and focused on social media and mobile commerce. After the last event in 2013, organizer Bruce Burke started looking at the thought process leading up to the transaction of buying a good or service. By focusing on just the payment aspect he felt he was missing part of the story. By widening the scope and audience, Burks hopes to appeal to an even broader audience that is interested in learning more about the customer journey, including the user and social experience. "Engagement starts when the product is first discovered by the consumer," says Burke.

Burke’s company, Gulf Bay Consulting, is organizing the event but his motivation behind it is a sense of purpose and wanting to see the Tampa Bay community help create the next big thing.

The first day will consist of workshops on topics such as user experience, social communities, mobile engagement, big data and gamification. The second day will be a code challenge, sponsored in part by the Hillsborough County Economic Development Innovative Initiative (EDI2). Coders will hack, explore and create. The afternoon will be open to the public, where people can vote for and cheer on their favorite teams and coders.

Abstracts are being accepted until March 28 for individuals and companies interested in presenting at the event.  

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Bruce Burke, Gulf Bay Consulting

Hillsborough County Grants More Than $200K To Local Tech Events

Hillsborough County has awarded $230,000 in funding to 31 local applicants through its flagship tech-centric program, the Economic Development Innovation Initiative (EDI2).

The EDI2 program is the first of its kind of Florida. Established in June 2013, the program aims to bring innovation, job creation, technology and new business to the Tampa Bay region. In an effort to lead this movement, the Hillsborough County Economic Development department set aside $2 million in funding to award to events and programs that are centered around technology and innovation. Led by County Commissioner Mark Sharpe, EDI2 awarded $307,000 to applicants in the first round of funding in fall 2013.

Some of the latest round of funding will go toward programs and events already well-established within the Tampa Bay community, such as Startup Weekend Tampa Bay 2014 in March, monthly StartupGrind events, and the Moffitt Cancer Center's Business of BioTech 2014.

The bulk of the funding was awarded to one-off conferences like Gulf Bay Consulting's Social Media Engagement event in September 2014, which received $12,375. Girls in Tech Tampa Bay, meanwhile, was awarded $12,500 for outreach and an event in December 2014, and TiE Tampa Bay's TiE Breaker III 2014, which took place in January, received $19,000. The University of Tampa's Entrepreneurs Student Organization was awarded $14,500 for its Southeast Entrepreneurial Conference in February 2014.

Other funded programs include the Computer Mentors Group, Inc., which was awarded $25,000 for the 2014 STEM Education Showcase Tampa, and Nuturism Media Group, Inc., awarded $25,000 for Running Lean Bootcamp. Both are in May 2014.

To view a full listing of funded projects and applications, visit the Hillsborough County website.

Events and programs must meet several stages of criteria before they are awarded funding, including the ability to measure event metrics and a way to clearly identify the economic development impact of each project.

EDI2 is "focused on building a vibrant and sustainable startup community and is centered on the use of technology and innovation,'' according to a news release from Hillsborough County.

Hillsborough County is currently accepting applications for its third cycle of EDI2 funding. Applications and additional information can be found at the EDI2 website. The deadline to apply for the third round of EDI2 funding is April 1, 2013.

Writer: Justine Benstead
Source: Annette Spina, Hillsborough County

New Partnership Makes Digital Signage More Accessible, User-Friendly

Wondersign and IAdea recently announced a partnership that will enhance the flexibility and user-friendliness of the digital signage world.

Wondersign is a cloud-based content delivery system for digital signage. Customers purchase the signage hardware for restaurants, stores or other areas and use Wondersign’s product to manage the content design and development. The drag and drop interface works with any web browser and doesn’t require advanced technical knowledge. Based out of Switzerland, Wondersign runs its North American operations from its Tampa office.

Taiwan-based IAdea provides media players and sign boards to power large-scale, commercial grade digital signage projects. The partnership offers customers a way to manage their devices out of the box, simplifying their deployment and operation.

"The fact that [IAdea] has identified a cloud-based software-as-a-service like Wondersign as a strategic partner for the future shows where the industry is going,” says Casper Fopp, director of marketing and public relations for Wondersign.

The partnership is particularly useful for small- to medium-sized businesses that may be new to the world of digital signage and overwhelmed with the prospect of managing multiple signage locations. The cloud-based nature of the software is attractive to businesses that have different locations and are not able to have a physical presence everywhere their signage is placed.

"The partnership helps a lot of people get into the digital signage world with easier access," says Alvin Kuo, senior sales manager for IAdea.

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Sources: Casper Fopp, Wondersign; Alvin Luo, IAdea
179 Diversity Articles | Page: | Show All
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