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Bright House, City Of Tampa Partner To Provide Free WiFi In Downtown Parks

People who live, work and play in downtown Tampa parks will now have a way to access the Internet for free on their laptop, tablet or smartphone thanks to a partnership between the City of Tampa and Bright House Networks.

The project is the latest in a series of technology-focused initiatives started by Mayor Bob Buckhorn, which includes hack-a-thons and mobile payments for parking meters. The effort will make it easier for people to use the parks on a more regular basis, as well as allow people who work downtown to work in the parks.

"It’s one more factor that makes downtown even more attractive and more exciting for the intellectual capital that we’re trying to attract," says Buckhorn. "If people want to live, work and play in the urban core, then you’ve got to have urban amenities to facilitate that."

The WiFi will also be available the entire length of the Tampa Riverwalk, which spans from the Florida Aquarium to the Heights and Water Works Park north of the Straz Center for the Performing Arts. It is free for the first two hours, up to 1 GB per month. Bright House customers will be able to use complimentary WiFi in other parts of downtown as well.

The WiFi is funded by Bright House Networks and part of a larger agreement that allows Bright House access to city infrastructure to place hot spots elsewhere in the city. It’s scheduled to be complete by the end of 2014.

Free WiFi is offered in other cities including New York, Paris and Hong Kong.

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn

Dali Museum, MOSI Tampa Celebrate Merging Of Art, Science

A new partnership between two Tampa Bay area museums will provide visitors with an interactive experience that engages the mind and senses.

The Dali Museum in St. Petersburg and Museum of Science and Industry (MOSI) in Tampa are partnering this summer as a way to encourage patrons to cross the bridges separating the Bay to experience what both museums have to offer. Dali had a fascination with illusion and was interested in math and science as well, making the partnership a natural one.

The Dali Museum will showcase a lot of the permanent collection that involves different types of perception and dimension, while MOSI’s focus will be on 3D.

The highpoint of the Dali Museum’s exhibit, Marvels of Illusion, is an interactive piece allowing visitors to download a mobile app that will allow them to become a part of a painting. The painting used for the exhibit is Dali’s 1976 painting: "Gala Contemplating the Mediterranean Sea Which at Twenty Meters Becomes the Portrait of Abraham Lincoln (Homage to Rothko)." Close up, you see a female figure intended to be Dali’s wife, Gala. As you step back, it becomes a portrait of Abraham Lincoln.

"It’s the kind of thing that really fascinates kids, and people of all ages," says Kathy Greif, Marketing Director for the Dali Museum.

The partnership will feature art displays at MOSI and science displays at the Dali Museum. The museums will also have reciprocal lectures, and visitors to one museum will receive half off admission to the other.

"In both cases, it’s a great place to visit no matter if you’re 2 or 100," says Greif.

Marvels of Illusion runs June 14 – October 12 at the Dali Museum.

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Kathy Greif, The Dali Museum

Stonehenge Growth Equity Partners Invests In Mobile Medical Help System

Stonehenge Growth Equity Partners (SGEP) recently invested in MobileHelp, a leading provider of M-PERS, or Mobile-Personal Emergency Response System, technology based in Boca Raton.

A Tampa-based investment firm, SGEP focuses on growth stage companies that use technology to solve a business problem, concentrating on the Southeastern United States. The company typically invests $1M to $5M per company, allowing them to assist growing companies that might not meet the minimum funding requirements of larger investors.

SGEP Managing Partner Steven Lux moved to Tampa in 1999 to open an investment office of Bank One, which later became Stonehenge Capital Company and then SCEP. Lux and his team were looking for Florida-based companies to invest in, and chose Tampa because of the ease of travel to major cities across the state. Current investments include Dixie Southern, a custom steel fabricator in Bradenton, Health Integrated, a medical care management company in Tampa and Ottlite, a lighting company in Tampa.

MobileHelp was a natural fit for the firm’s focus on companies that use technology to meet a need or improve a product. The personal response system, which enables someone to contact a call center in the event medical assistance is needed, has been around for a long time. What differentiates MobileHelp’s product is the wireless component, allowing people to take the device anywhere they go. The device also has a GPS component which allows for constant tracking of the individual, as well as fall detection technology.

"We’re seeing a lot of companies that are able to advance and progress much further with lower amounts of capital than they would have five or six years ago because of the use of technology," says Lux. "It’s exciting to be in the Tampa Bay area. We continue to see good growth opportunities here."

Stonehenge currently has $40 million in capital under management and is looking to expand that to $65 - $70 million within the next 4 – 5 years.

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Steven Lux, Stonehenge Growth Equity Partners

St. Joseph's Hospital-North Hosts Tampa's First Robotic-Assisted, Single-Site Hysterectomy

A physician at St. Joseph’s Hospital-North is the first in Tampa to perform a relatively new, innovative option for a hysterectomy.

Dr. Pamela Twitty, OBGYN at The Women’s Group, says she is happy to be the first physician in Tampa to perform a robotic-assisted single site-hysterectomy.  Hysterectomies are the second most common surgery performed in America on women and are often used to treat serious conditions such as endometriosis, excessive bleeding or fibroids.

In a traditional hysterectomy, a doctor makes a five- to seven-inch incision, leaving a noticeable scar and resulting in an average of one to two months or recovery time. The new procedure, called the da Vinci robotic-assisted single site surgery, makes a single, one inch incision. The results are less pain and scarring, a shortened hospital stay and quicker return to normal activities.

A unique feature of the robotic assistance is the control provided to the physician. The doctor can control the surgical instruments using a console in the operating room, eliminating the need to coordinate one or more assistants to help with instrumentation.  

Robotic-assisted surgery technology has been used for almost 10 years and started with general surgeons for gall bladder surgery. It has become an option for gynecological surgeries within the past two years. What’s innovative about the da Vinci procedure is the single incision, allowing for minimal scarring and a quicker recovery.

"I’ve been a big fan for as long as I’ve been in medicine of staying innovative and using safe and new technologies," says Dr. Twitty. "I’m truly thrilled that it’s an option we can offer now."

The procedure can be used for other gynecological surgeries such as on the fallopian tubes or ovaries. As advancements continue, it could expand to other areas of general medicine.

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Dr. Pamela Twitty, The Woman's Group

Tampa Startup Helps U.S. Travelers Find Parking Across Nation

Transportation reservation services like Discount Park and Ride intend to streamline your travel experience, whether you’re heading out of town for a business trip or a vacation cruise.

The Tampa startup launched in March 2014 to offer travelers a tailored parking solution -- and is quickly picking up speed in the national transportation sector.

Discount Park and Ride already has 35 partners across major U.S. markets, including San Francisco, Atlanta, New York, Chicago, Boston, Miami, and, of course, Tampa.  

How does it work? DPR partners with local parking lots to help travelers search for a safe place to park their cars. Partner facilities offer shuttles services and guaranteed reservations in off-site locations.

Concerned about just where these “off-site” locations may be? Discount Park and Ride has thought of that. Browse each location in advance and compare with other parking options through an interactive map on the DPR website. Local parking partners in Tampa, for example, include Memorial Airport Parking and Embassy Suites Tampa Airport/Westshore.

Consumers can search the Discount Park and Ride website by filters like price, location, service offerings, and distance from the airport/seaport; reviews and detailed information like shuttle frequency and payment methods are also available.

“Our goal is to provide value for the consumer and a prime customer experience,” says Discount Park and Ride President and co-Founder Alex Miningham.

Miningham attended Florida State University and holds an MBA in Business. A serial entrepreneur, he co-founded software technology startup inDegree as well as Capital Parking, a former parking company in Tampa. The company quickly expanded from a valet parking business servicing local high-end restaurants into a surface lot management company with a focus on airport and seaport parking in Tampa.

In 2013, HEPdata Inc. acquired inDegree. Shortly after, Miningham left his role at Capital Parking to found Discount Park and Ride.

 DPR plans to spread out into other sectors of parking, from special events at sports and concert venues to off-street and garage parking in large metropolitan areas of the country.

Miningham cites problems in the parking industry between “brick-and-mortar facilities and third-party reservation companies” as part of the inspiration for founding Discount Park and Ride. DPR aims to eliminate some of the industry’s problems by offering parking partners a host of tools to manage and modify data, from listings to pricing to sales reports.

So far, feedback from industry partners has been positive. In fact, Discount Park and Ride is expanding much more rapidly than originally anticipated, says Miningham, with partners in major markets nationwide after only one month of operation. 

Discount Park and Ride isn’t the first company to offer parking and shuttle service to and from facilities like airports; Park N’ Fly  also operates in the Tampa Bay area. The difference, according to Miningham, is scale. 

“Park N’ Fly is a nationally branded parking company with brick-and-mortar locations nationwide who have struck partnerships on a very small scale with strategic partners in certain markets. DPR, on the other hand, doesn’t operate any brick and mortar facilities; rather, we strike partnerships with facilities across the nation on a much larger scale,” Miningham explains. 

Discount Park and Ride currently employs 15 people in the Tampa Bay region. The company, which raised over $1 million in a seed round of financing through a private equity firm, is currently closing in on its second round of funding.

“We’re excited to continue our expansion with a focus on innovation along the way,” Miningham says. “Our ultimate goal is to be the go-to reservation company for consumers when they’re looking to reserve parking across any sector.”

Writer: Justine Benstead
Source: Alex Miningham, Discount Park and Ride

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

Tampa Startups Shine At Jacksonville Crowd-Funding Festival

The second annual One Spark crowd funding festival in downtown Jacksonville, FL, drew a mass of more than 260,000 attendees April 9-13, 2014. Over 600 creators pitched products and projects to the crowds during the five-day event.
 
“It’s kind of like a Bonnaroo for entrepreneurs,” says Tampa Bay WaVe marketing manager Gracie Stemmer.
 
Tampa Bay area startups that pitched at One Spark include Drawer; Marbel; MamaBear App; PledgeYourBets; WeVue and Wazinit?; all are housed in the First WaVe Venture Center
 
Startup Weekend Tampa Bay 2013 winner Wazinit, an app for scanning food labels and comparing ingredients, took the second place finish as a Top Tech creator at One Spark. The beta-stage startup received a check for $980.79.
 
Local clothier Black & Denim was also selected from more than 20,000 applicants to present at One Spark. The clothing company received over $7,000 in funds directly through contributions from attendees, says founder Roberto Torres. 
 
“Something remarkable is happening in our state,” says Torres, “and we got to represent Tampa and show them what we are all about!”
 
The Florida NEXT Foundation partnered with Tampa Bay WaVE to sponsor and curate a venue on the sixth floor of the Sun Trust building in Jacksonville during One Spark.
  
The space hosted 40 creators from Tampa and Jacksonville, making it the largest venue at the festival. Public attendees visited venues to see creator pitches, enticed by DJs, food, free beer, games, and other events to drive traffic to the creators.
 
Pitches and projects ranged from apps to stores to art galleries to summer learning camps. By using the One Spark mobile application, attendees voted for the startups that they liked best. Based on the popular vote, $310,000 in crowd funding and cash awards was divvied up amongst winners in the juried categories of Art, Innovation, Science, Technology and Music. 
 
One Spark itself began as a project on crowdsourcing platform Kickstarter in 2013
 
“WaVe has a great relationship with OneSpark,” says Stemmer. “We’re really trying to facilitate entrepreneurship in all of Florida.”
 
Sources: Gracie Stemmer, Tampa Bay WaVe marketing manager; Roberto Torres, Black & Denim founder

Startup Grind Tampa Bay Hosts Citizinvestor, StatWeather Founders For Fireside Chats

Local networking group Startup Grind Tampa Bay will host Citizinvestor founders Tony DeSisto and Jordan Raynor as featured speakers on Thursday, April 17, at a monthly meetup for area entrepreneurs.
 
Tampa-based startup company Citizinvestor is modeled on the principle of ‘crowdfunding for the people.’
 
“A lot of what they’ll talk about, I think, is quitting their full time jobs, jumping in with two feet to risk everything on it,” says Startup Grind Tampa chapter director Joy Randels. “They’ve completely bootstrapped their company from the beginning, have found office space with little more than ‘friends and family money’ and are growing with real revenue. I think that’s a pretty inspiring story.”
 
Citizinvestor has established itself in the crowdfunding arena as a distinctive player by partnering exclusively with government officials or partners. The startup has over 150 government accounts registered to date.
 
“I love the fact that they’re giving citizens the ability to make decisions about how they want to see money used,” says Randels. “Whether it’s a public event, or building a park in your neighborhood, it’s a way for the government and the citizens to work together to get projects and programs funded that citizens of that community feel are valuable.” 
 
Startup Grind aims to make events diverse to appeal to a wide range of attendees, offering smaller group meetings to interested entrepreneurs and aspiring entrepreneurs alike. Visit the Startup Grind Tampa Bay website or Youtube channel to learn more.
 
At the following month’s meeting on May 15, Scientist, Mathematician and Entrepreneur Ria Persad Carlo will speak at Startup Grind Tampa Bay as part of the Google for Entrepreneurs “#40forward” initiative. Every Startup Grind chapter around the world will feature a female entrepreneur in the month of May, says Randels.
 
Persad is the founder of StatWeather, a company that has created an enterprise software application which allows them to determine predictable weather streams. StatWeather then sells weather predictability to risk management companies.  
 
“She’s had an amazing, inspiring life,” Randels says of Persad, who studied mathematics and physics and was also a child piano prodigy.
 
The next meeting of Startup Grind Tampa Bay will take place at 6:30 p.m. on April 17, 2014 at the Oxford Exchange Commerce Club. Tickets are $20 at the door.
 
Source: Joy Randels, Startup Grind Tampa Bay

Pinellas Tech Company Adds Local Jobs, Expands In California

A Tampa Bay area company and major player in the technology solutions provider market is expanding its West Coast presence while adding jobs locally.

Oldsmar-based Vology in Pinellas County has acquired a California division of Govplace, a value added reseller (VAR) to the federal government.

With the acquisition, Vology will need to create additional sales and engineering resources in Irvine, CA, along with additional back office staff in the Tampa Bay region to support them.

Vology will likely add between 100 to 120 "really good'' jobs in Florida over the next three years, says CEO Barry Shevlin.

The majority of the positions will likely be technical resources, with the average Vology employee earning "a bit over $75,000 per year,'' Shevlin says.

The company currently employs approximately 200 people in the Tampa Bay region, with plans to double its Florida business over the next three years.

"We're committed to the Tampa Bay area,'' says Shevlin. "It's a great place to work and live.''

Vology launched in Oldsmar in 2002 as Network Liquidators before rebranding in 2010. The company offers services like IT consulting and engineering, virtualization and storage, and end-to-end technological solutions. Vology has been ranked in the Inc. 500/5000 list of fastest growing private companies in the U.S. for eight consecutive years, beginning in 2006.

California is Vology's second largest market. Acquiring Govplace allows Vology to bring in the company's 18 years of experience exclusively serving state, local government and education (SLED) customers in California through enterprise IT solutions.

The Govplace acquisition also gives Vology a second physical location in California to support a growing customer base. Vology is headquartered in the Tampa Bay region, with current offices in Irvine, Sacramento, Syracuse, New York City, Denver, Austin, and Oklahoma City.

Writer: Justine Benstead
Source: Barry Shevlin, Vology CEO

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

Aqua Mizer Launches New Water-Saving Technology

A Sarasota-based company is launching a product that will significantly decrease residential water use.

Aqua Mizer's flagship product, the Adjustable Flush System, is a retrofit toilet tank flush system that replaces components inside a residential toilet tank to reduce leaking. A major feature is a flapper that allows the toilet to be flushed with more velocity and less water, saving a quarter to a gallon of water with each flush. The system was first patented and brought to market in 2010, when the current owners took over an invention originally created in 2008.

The company estimates that if a toilet is leaking, installing the system will save 75,000 to 200,000 gallons of water per year. The average return on investment is three to six months.

"If just leaky toilets in Florida were replaced, it would reduce consumption by 275 billion gallons of water per year," says Michael Sisti, VP of Sales and Marketing for Aqua Mizer.

Aqua Mizer is currently rolling out a new product that does everything the current flush system does, with an added feature. In the event of a catastrophic leak where water starts running full force, it shuts off the toilet within 30 seconds.
The company recently launched a campaign on Indiegogo to help fund the product’s launch. The campaign will allow the public to acquire the product, which is not normally available in retail establishments.

The company plans to sell The Protector through wholesale distribution channels, primarily to property managers and plumbing contractors.

The Rivo at Ringling, a high-rise condo in downtown Sarasota, recently installed the Aqua Mizer system in all toilets in the 106 building unit (235 in all). The first month’s water bill following installation showed a reduction of close to 110,000 gallons of water compare with the same month the previous year.

The Protector was recently submitted to an innovation contest through the Cade Museum for Innovation in Gainesville, FL and was selected in the final 16 semi-finalists for a potential $50,000 prize.

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Michael Sisti, Aqua Mizer

Startup Surge Aims To Deliver 'Action-Oriented Event' For Entrepreneurs

Tampa Bay area startup founders will have the opportunity to hear from and pitch to local entrepreneurial experts on Friday, March 28, during Startup Surge, an event aimed at helping individuals launch and grow their businesses.

Tampa Bay WaVE, a sizable presence in Tampa's active tech scene, is inviting entrepreneurs to attend Startup Surge events, which include open office hours, workshops, featured speakers, networking and a startup showcase competition for more than $1,000 in cash and prizes.

Startup Surge is an action-oriented event, says Gracie Stemmer, marketing manager at Tampa Bay WaVE.

"The goal is for attendees to get answers to tough questions, create a strategy, move forward and become one of Tampa's success stories,'' Stemmer says.

Who should consider attending?

Stemmer recommends the events to supporters of Tampa's entrepreneurial community, prospective entrepreneurs with an idea or current entrepreneurs who have questions about their companies.
 
In the evening, the Startup Surge Showcase will be held at the Firestick Grill at the Tampa Bay Times Forum. Startups, including several developed as the result of past Startup Weekend or Startup Bus events, will compete for more than $1,000 in cash and other prizes. Drawer, LilyPad, MamaBear App, SavvyCard, Shootrac, WeVue and others have signed on to present.

"The showcase is the icing on the cake,'' Stemmer says. "It shows attendees how the community has fostered the current successes who are presenting at the event.''

Featured speakers include Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn and Dr. Peter Mansoor, a retired U.S. Army Colonel and former executive officer to General David Petraeus.

Bright House Networks Business Solutions is the title sponsor for Startup Surge Day, while the Tampa Bay Lightning is the title sponsor for the Surge Showcase.

Tampa Bay WaVE is a nonprofit organization and home to a venture center and coworking space in the Sykes building in downtown Tampa. WaVE's programs are supported in part by Hillsborough County Economic Development's Innovation Initiative called EDI2.

"We are looking to put Tampa Bay on the map as a home to successful tech companies and a vibrant tech startup community,'' Stemmer says.

Writer: Justine Benstead
Source: Gracie Stemmer, Tampa Bay WaVE

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
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