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Entrepreneurship : Innovation + Job News

356 Entrepreneurship Articles | Page: | Show All

SMARTstart Business Incubator In Pasco Expands Services, Space

Startups and growing businesses in Pasco County will soon have more opportunities for learning, development and shared space.

The SMARTstart Business Incubators in Dade City and New Port Richey provide free workshops and classes, monthly roundtables, networking events and coworking space for entrepreneurs in Pasco County.

The Dade City incubator opened in July of 2013 and has already helped create 42 jobs with a total of 65 additional ones projected over the next two years. Four additional offices were recently added to the space, with another 3,800 square feet expected that will include an additional conference room and kitchen.

The 9,000-square-foot New Port Richey facilitate opened in June and plans are to expand with an additional 3,000 of space pending city approval. The space currently includes a large classroom and coworking space, and the expansion will mean more office suites as well as space for events such as pitch sessions.

During the opening of the New Port Richey incubator, the Pasco EDC was presented with a $50,000 sponsorship from Florida High Tech Corridor Council and University of South Florida which will help fund the expansion. Funds will also be used to invest in additional technology and support staff.

"It’s been kind of a rocket approach, which is really exciting," says Krista Covey, program director and economic development manager for the SMARTStart program. "We’ve had a lot of success stories, even as early as we are in the process."

The incubators are a project of the Pasco Economic Development Council, whose goal is to help new and growing businesses in Pasco County. According to a study from the U.S. Economic Development Administration, 87 percent of businesses who graduate from an incubator program remain in business after five years, compared with 20 percent who don’t.

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Krista Covey, Pasco Economic Development Council

Florida Bookstore Day Celebrates Local Bookstores, Authors

Tiffany Razzano was driving down Central Avenue in downtown St. Petersburg when she spotted a poster in the storefront window at Daddy Cool Records promoting Record Store Day. She then drove past Wilson’s Book World and thought, "Why is there no bookstore day?"

She did some research only to learn that California is the only state that has fully developed the concept of a bookstore day.

So why not Florida? Why not now? she thought. The result?

The inaugural Florida Bookstore Day will take place at independent and used bookstores in cities throughout the state on November 15, concentrating on the Tampa Bay area, where Razzano runs Wordier Than Thou, a group that supports creative writers through open mic events, a literary magazine and a radio show.

"I wanted to do something big," says Razzano. "It’s a celebration of independent bookstores and the writing community. People won’t even know they’re at a literary event."

Her goal is to showcase local bookstores and the writing community. Soon after she started talking up the concept in social media and elsewhere, Razzano connected with book lovers in Orlando who wanted to be part of the celebration. Bookstores from the Panhandle to the Florida Keys have now signed on to participate. Expect a day of book releases and author signings, open mics and workshops on literary topics

Local participants include: Inkwood Books, Mojo Books and Music, Old Tampa Book Company and Oxford Exchange in Tampa, Standup Librarians, Wilson’s Book World and Wings Bookstore in St. Petersburg, Book Bank in Largo and Back in the Day Books in Dunedin.

An after party will take place at the Venture Compound in St. Petersburg, featuring local authors and literary organizations, the Bluebird Books Bus, raffles and food trucks.

The event is sponsored by Florida Antiquarian Book Fair and also received a grant from Awesome Tampa Bay.
 
Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Tiffany Razzano, Florida Bookstore Day

Working Women Of Tampa Bay Expands Statewide

A Tampa-based networking group for female professionals and entrepreneurs is expanding throughout Florida.

Working Women of Florida is an expansion of the Working Women of Tampa Bay professional networking group, which Jessica Rivelli founded in Tampa in 2009. WWoTB currently has 750 local members in Tampa, with an additional 100 statewide. The group expanded to include an Orlando chapter in 2012.

"Our immediate goal is to grow Working Women throughout the state of Florida to includes chapters in Fort Myers, Ft. Lauderdale, Miami, Orlando and Jacksonville,'' says Rivelli.

Events include lunch-and-learns, coffee chats and educational seminars with local and national successful female entrepreneurs and businesswomen.

The group's second annual state conference will be Sept. 11 and 12, 2014, at Ruth Eckerd Hall in Clearwater, FL. Rivelli expects 300 female entrepreneurs and executives from around the state to attend.

Keynote speakers include Alex Sink, former Chief Financial Officer for the state of Florida; Bevan Gray-Rogel, Encore Tampa Bay president and founder; Lisa G Jacobsen, Executive Coach at Workplace Solutions Tampa; and Dr. Jennifer Hall, Director of Coaching at the Leadership Development Institute at Eckerd College.

Tampa Bay-based speakers also include Angela Ardolino, founder of Tampa Bay Parenting Magazine; Dotty Bollinger, COO and president of Laser Spine Institute; and Lee Lowry, past president of The Junior League of Tampa.

Registration for the Working Women of Florida State Conference is available on the event website.

To help grow WWoF, Rivelli hired Lauren Tice as Director of Development for Working Women of Florida. Tice is a Florida native who grew up in Temple Terrace, northeast of Tampa, and graduated from the University of South Florida with a degree in Communications.

"Lauren's role is to expand Working Women through out the state,'' says Rivelli. “She'll be traveling regularly to grow chapters and get talented professionals involved. I'm very excited to have her on board.''

Tice has a background in networking and communications, having previously served as Coordinator of Member Services for the Greater Temple Terrace Chamber of Commerce for close to five years. More recently, Tice worked as events manager and eventually director of The Regent, a special events and performance venue in Riverview, southeast of Tampa.

Writer: Justine Benstead
Source: Jessica Rivelli, Working Women of Tampa Bay

How To Create A Custom Song For Your Special Event

When a couple wanting to have a baby got the news that they were expecting, the sister of the mother-to-be commemorated the event in a uniquely modern way: by requesting a custom song for the new family.
 
CustomSong, an entrepreneurial startup based in the Tampa Bay region, brings musicians from around the world together on one website. Customers can request an artist or have one assigned to create a personalized piece of music for a special event, from birthdays to baby showers. Choose between a range of styles like acoustic guitar, soft romantic piano and full band.

Songs can be gifted or earmarked for a specific event, like the parent's dance at a wedding or a custom birthday tune. Customers fill in the details for lyrics, communicating directly with the artist via the Custom Song platform. Once lyrics are finalized and approved, the artist will record the song.

"It's a song that is truly original and personal, created just for you,'' says Custom Song cofounder Heather Andrews of Tampa. "It really helps create a special moment.''

Andrews, a graduate of James Madison University in Virginia, and co-Founder Kristina Anderson of Clearwater, a USF grad, operate CustomSong out of their home offices, local co-working spaces and coffee shops.   

If you are making a video or photo montage of the event, says Andrews, your custom song is a natural soundtrack.

CustomSong began in 2013 and launched in summer 2014, but Andrews had the idea in mind for years. The personalized event product concept was inspired by Custom Ink, where Andrews previously worked.

"Working there and making these custom shirts for special events, I saw that customers were so happy with them,'' says Andrews. "Being a part of a business where you can create something specifically for a customer that gets them excited, I was in search of, 'what can I do to be in that area of business?' ''

Despite a self-professed inability to carry a tune, Andrews and Anderson decided to try the world of music-making. They began to notice that while some individual artists were offering custom songs, they were struggling when it came to things like turnaround and customer service.
 
"They just want to create good quality music,'' Andrews says. "We thought there was a good opportunity there to create the platform, be the business side of it, and manage all of the back-end details for a site where artists could offer their services.''
 
The site standardizes things like pricing, quality, song length and turnaround time (two weeks).

"We give both the customer and the artist a guarantee, something to feel confident and comfortable with,'' says Andrews.
 
Sample songs are available on the CustomSong website.
 
From online research to attending Open Mic nights, scouting new talent is an aspect of Custom Song that Andrews and Anderson are discovering takes time.

A small number of musicians from the United States and the UK are currently active on the site. The cofounders plan to expand into other areas and attract more foreign-language speaking artists.
 
"We're trying to grow more artists, but to do it carefully and slowly. We want to make sure the artists also have a great experience,'' says Andrews. "The platform is very targeted to customers, but it's also a channel for artists to earn additional income. We want to find people who have creativity and talent, and work with them one-on-one to make sure that they fit with our model.''

Interested in creating music with Custom Song? Sign up here.

The most rewarding aspect of the process for Andrews is knowing that custom songs are a part of moments like weddings or expecting a new baby.

"I don't know the couple, but just knowing the background story, it touches me,'' she says. "It's amazing to be part of creating these songs for those big events in life.''

Writer: Justine Benstead
Source: Heather Andrews, CustomSong

KeriCure Invisible Bandage Expands Product Line, Seeks Capital Funding

A Wesley Chapel based business is expanding its product line and seeking additional funding to increase its sales force and market presence.

KeriCure is a proprietary invisible bandage product that provides a natural, safe, effective way to heal topical wounds. The product uses a unique nanoparticle emulsion technology to mimic the skin’s natural healing properties.

CEO and Founder Kerriann Greenhalgh, PhD an organic chemist and University of South Florida graduate, created the product after being personally affected by inadequate over the counter wound care. Her husband contracted a serious MRSA infection from a small cut on his hand and almost lost the use of his entire hand. Her chemistry background led her to create an innovative solution that is now available for public use.

The company launched in August 2012 and has products for both veterinary and human use available in retail stores such as Amazon, Vitamin Discount Centers, Publix and Earth Origins as well as online.

They recently launched a Series A Fundraise, seeking funding to grow their market presence and expand their product line, with particular focus on the healthcare space. FDA clearance is currently being sought for the advanced liquid bandage, which will be used by physicians to protect surgical incisions.  

"We’re looking to capitalize on the success we had the first two years," says Greenhalgh.

They are also looking to add additives to the natural product line such as vitamin E and tea tree oil.

Kericure was a recent participant in the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce’s Startup Scholars program, which is cited as a big contributor to success. As a result of that program, Greenhalgh helped start a local networking group called the Consumer Products Club, which supports local businesses with shared resources, services, opportunities and ideas for marketing and distribution channels.  

"We’re all working together and seeing growth across the board for everybody,” says Greenhalgh. “Each person is bringing unique experiences and successes to the table."

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Kerriann Greenhalgh, KeriCure

On Tampa Bay's Radar: A New Exercise App To Help You Get Fit

Do you spend a lot of time traveling for work or constricted in a home office? The new iOS app Fittr could be your fitness solution.

Initially developed as a workout service for people at home with limited equipment, Fittr now features unique workouts suitable for home, the gym, a park or a hotel room.

Fitness is a fast-growing niche market for purveyors of mobile applications. From exercise apps designed for your smartphone or tablet to app-based nutritional databases, there is no shortage of opportunity to exercise with the help of a hand-held device.

The Tampa Bay-based startup team behind Fittr plans to distinguish itself from the competition in a few ways.

"The noticeable difference between our workouts and our competition is that ours is a 1-2-3 punch: It's adaptive on the run, it learns from the user over time, AND learns from the data of the entire group,'' says Fittr's Chief Marketing Technologist Kiki Schirr. "Here's an example: Don't want to do squats today? Swap it. Swap squats a few times and we'll stop suggesting it,'' Schirr explains.

Once the app learns the habits and likes or dislikes of your age group or weight range, it will aim to offer tailored suggestions that take the data into account.

In addition to adaptive fitness routines, the Fittr app utilizes a motivational point system that rewards users who increase workout difficulty or length over time. Exercises that earn a certain number of points on day one earn less on day four unless you up the intensity or number of reps. To boost your overall Fittr score (and to get a more well-rounded workout), you'll have to change things up. Points are calculated based on a variety of factors, including your personal fitness level as well as data from the overall set.

Once opened, the application prompts you to answer a few questions about your fitness level and workout habits. Choose between goals like Lose Weight, Get Cut and Get Stronger. Track metrics that matter to you, whether it's weight lost or inches gained. Plug in preferences and custom information like the type of equipment you have available on a given day.
Fittr CEO Tyler Perkins, an athlete and ACE-certified personal trainer, designed the foundation of every Fittr workout.

New users can download the app and enjoy a free one-week trial of built-in exercises. After that, it's $11.99 per month to join the workout service. Multi-month packages will be available soon, Schirr says.

Along with Schirr and Perkins, Fittr's team includes Chief Design Officer and Project Manager Nolan Perkins and CTO Seo Townsend.

The first version of Fittr was released during a launch party on July 16 at Tampa Bay WaVE. A Fundable campaign for Fittr also opened that day.

Post-launch plans include adding nutrition content and building an Android-compatible application.

"After nutrition, we'll be adding social aspects. After social aspects, it's device integration. Then social round two, then adding niche exercises, then more devices, and then... we have so many wonderful things planned for this app!'' Schirr says.

The startup team was recently accepted to Tampa Bay WaVe's FirstWAVE accelorator program.

"Fittr is incredibly grateful for all the opportunities that the Tampa Bay area has provided. From the [Hillsborough County] EDI2 initiative, Tampa Bay Innovates, Ignite Tampa Bay, StartupGrind (http://www.83degreesmedia.com/features/grind042214.aspx), TBTF, or Collaborative Technologies of Tampa Bay, everyone has welcomed us with open arms,'' says Schirr. "However, we owe an even deeper debt of gratitude to Tampa Bay WaVE, which has provided us access to amazing mentors and other startups who've been there before.''

"Tampa is full of great opportunities for startups,'' Perkins agrees. "We're grateful for all the support of the Tampa Bay community.''
 
Writer: Justine Benstead
Source: Kiki Schirr, Chief Marketing Technologist, Fittr

Startup Aims To Increase Connections, Community With Micro Experiences

In today’s digital world, we often lose the ability or desire to connect on a personal level or try new experiences. A new start-up hopes to change this by giving millennials (defined as ages 21 – 33) and others a chance to network and engage in a whole new way.

Tampa-based Outeraction encourages people to step outside of their comfort zone by participating in micro experiences such as rock climbing, kayaking, paddle boarding, cooking classes and brewery tours. In order to facilitate interaction, the experiences are limited to 30 people, cost $30 each and last no longer than three hours.

"Social media drowns everything out. I wanted to change the way people interact." says founder Matt Rutkovitz, University of Tampa graduate.

Rutkovitz formed the company out of a need to help people and make their lives better. He wanted to create a consistent and trustworthy environment that would make people comfortable with trying something different.  

The intention of the events is not business networking or dating. The goal is to create experiences that will get people connected with their community and their peers.

Outeraction also works with local companies to provide an outsourced employee benefit called a "Fun for Businesses" package. These events are not limited by age or quantity and are aimed at increasing employee team building, communication skills and productivity.

Some events also have a philanthropic component, such as an upcoming Habitat for Humanity event.

"Community is the capstone of growth," says Rutkovitz "We have to connect with each other as much as possible."

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Matt Rutkovitz, Outeraction

St. Petersburg Greenhouse Launches Craft Entrepreneurship Program

Etsy, the most popular online marketplace for handmade items, is collaborating with cities across the U.S. to make it easier for crafters to supplement their income through workshops and expert advice. Because of its thriving arts culture, St. Petersburg was recently selected as one of 10 cities to pilot the program this year.

The program started last March in Rockford IL and has since expanded to places like Newark NJ and Santa Cruz County, Dallas TX.  The idea is to create an open source curriculum that can be used by other areas to run their own classes.

Unlike most economic development programs that provide tools to start businesses, Etsy’s goal is to provide supplemental income for people out of work during seasonal periods or perhaps to help a household boost itself over the poverty line.

Local classes will be hosted by the St. Petersburg Greenhouse, a collaborative effort between the St. Petersburg Chamber of Commerce and City of St. Petersburg. Classes are free and available to crafters who have not sold on Etsy in the past.

Classes are taught by local craft sellers who have been successful using Etsy as an outlet. Topics include time management, branding, pricing, shipping and photography. Participants will be able to sell their first 20 items for free on Etsy. The first session begins August 4.

"Here in St. Petersburg, such a large part of our economy and what makes us go is in the arts," says Sean Kennedy, Greenhouse Manager and Economic Development Coordinator for the St. Petersburg Chamber of Commerce. "We think it’s important to help artists be in the best position to succeed financially as well as develop their craft."

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Sean Kennedy, St. Petersburg Greenhouse

Florida Universities Rank Among Best For Patents, Innovation

Innovation continues to grow among Florida’s top research universities, as indicated by a recent global ranking of universities by the number of patents granted in 2013.

The University of South Florida (USF), University of Florida (UF) and University of Central Florida (UCF) were granted 239 patents all together. This puts the group ahead of other prestigious groups such as the research Triangle in North Carolina (Duke University, North Carolina State University and the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill) and the Texas universities (the entire University of Texas system, Rice University and Texas A&M University), all of which have a longstanding tradition of high quality research and technology innovation.

Together, the Florida universities head the Florida High Tech Corridor Council,  an economic development initiative whose mission is to grow the state's high tech industry through research, marketing, workforce development and entrepreneurship. The Corridor’s partnership involves over 25 organizations, 14 state and community colleges and 12 workforce boards.

"It’s great to be recognized by the National Academy, which is well more than 100 universities." says Randy Berridge, Florida High Tech Corridor Council President. "The report reflects the strength in our 23-county corridor region."

The report was produced by the Tampa-based National Academy of Inventors and the Intellectual Property Owners Association and recognizes the role that patents play in university research, innovation, technology and eventually workforce enhancement. The goal is eventually to commercialize the patents, thus creating companies and jobs surrounding the success of the products or services.

Berridge attributes the success to the leadership within each university and the emphasis placed on the importance of high quality research. "It represents not only the university but the professors who are doing the heavy lifting in generating the technologies through their input and that of their top students," says Berridge.

USF was ranked 12 overall, with 95 patents granted – up from 83 in 2012.

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Randy Berridge, Florida High Tech Corridor

Urban Charrette, CNU Tampa Bay Host:'Urbanism On Tap 3.3: Youthpreneurs'

Tampa's Urban Charrette and the Congress for the New Urbanism (CNU) Tampa Bay will host Urbanism on Tap at the Pour House in the Channel District of downtown Tampa on July 8, 2014 starting at 5:30 p.m.

Urbanism on Tap is a recurring open mic event, focused on generating constructive conversations within the community about current ideas and trends that are shaping the city of Tampa.

Moderators and attendees are invited to share their views and stories related to the topic of the day. The intention of the event is to generate a lively exchange of ideas, which will enhance our ability to make Tampa a more livable city.

The upcoming event, the third in a three-part series, is entitled "Youthpreneurs.'' This last event of the series features Tampa's young entrepreneurs involved in startups, creative professions and small businesses. How do public or private interests support young professionals and small businesses? What do such professionals and businesses need to thrive? The event will focus on how these young professionals and small businesses may shape urban development in Tampa and revitalize the city's downtown, an urban trend that is sweeping the rest of the nation.

The events are free and open to the public.

Organizers encourage people to visit Urbanism on Tap's Facebook page and website to continue the conversation online following the event.

Venue: Pour House at Grand Central, Channel District, Tampa (1208 E Kennedy Blvd #112, Tampa, FL 33602);
Date and Time: July 8, 2014 from 5:30 p.m. – 7 p.m.

Writer: Vinod Kadu
Source: Erin Chantry, CNU Tampa Bay; Ashly Anderson, Urban Charrette

Fitness Website Helps Users Find Their YES!

Fitness is the new craze. Everywhere you look you hear about someone running a race, reaching a fitness goal or buying the latest gadget to track their progress.
 
Lakeland-based Make YES! Happen is a hub for all things fitness, with the goal of making things easier and more accessible to both novice and advanced fitness buffs.  The site defines YES! as “that moment when aspiration and inspiration come to fruition in exuberant success.”  

The concept was developed in 2008 when CEO Kevin Transue (also known as Captain YES!) was a financial planner training for a half iron man triathlon in his spare time. The experience made him realize how fragmented the event and fitness industry is. He wanted to create a stadium concept of sorts, to help people stay motivated and support others with common interests.

"I want one location where I can see how many calories I’ve burned and how far I run," says Transue. "At the same time I want to connect with others who are like me."

The idea became reality in 2012 when Transue connected with co-founder Scott Parker to create the site, which is expected to officially launch toward the end of June.

The team hopes to help users find their YES! moment through education, guidance, mentoring, accountability, interaction and rewards.

Users will be able to connect their fitness devices such as Fit Bit or Run Keeper into one location to easily access statistics such as calories burned or run times. They will also connect with others with similar fitness interests for motivation and support. Through the event portal, they can find out which events their friends are participating in. Nonprofits that run fitness-related events will be able to use the fundraising platform to easily capture funds and attract runners. The coaching portal will allow fitness coaches to access information for their clients and make comments about their workouts.

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Kevin Transue, Make Yes Happen

St. Petersburg College's Innovation Lab Offers Free Flow Of Ideas

A new lab at St. Petersburg College (SPC) offers an open, creative learning environment for all ages to play and discover.

The Innovation Lab is now open to the public and located in the Seminole Community Library at SPC. If you have an interest in computers, science or digital arts, you can share new ideas and develop new skills with equipment such as the FreeFab3D Monolith 3D Printer, which was built locally using other 3D printers. Or, discover your inner musician with the littleBits Synth Kit, which allows you to produce music and create your own instruments. Use the MaKey MaKey Original Invention Kit to turn an everyday object into a keyboard and connect it to the Internet.

"I think of it more as a collaborative learning incubator for ideas," says Chad Mairn, Information Services Librarian at SPC and the lab’s creator.

The original premise was to give people an open space where they can be uninhibited and have the freedom to fail, a key aspect of the creative process. With a recent trend in libraries becoming more than simply a source of books and growing into a hub for information, both physical and digital, it was a natural fit.

The lab’s equipment was funded by an Innovation Grant from the SPC Foundation. Knowing the importance of design, Mairn also wanted an environment that is conducive to creativity and innovation, so he approached SPC Provost Jim Oliver and obtained additional funding for interior design work.

Future plans include workshops and other business-oriented thinking in the lab. The main goal is to give people the resources to become successful.

"It’s an invitation to play," says Mairn.

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Chad Mairn, St. Petersburg College

The Beer Project Taps Into Arts, Crafts And Beer Scene

Downtown St. Petersburg turns into a mecca for beer and art lovers June 12-14.

The Beer Project is the merging of beer crafts and craft beer, showcasing the growing craft beer and arts industries in St. Petersburg.

The event is the first of its kind for St. Petersburg, presented by the Museum of Fine Arts in partnership with Green Bench Brewing, St. Petersburg's first craft microbrewery. It’s all about inspiration, bringing together artists, authors, venues, businesses and home brewers to enjoy beer inspired by art and art inspired by beer.

Green Bench Brewing Company will introduce new recipes inspired by the Museum’s collections. Double Rice IPA, brewed with a base of rice and Japanese hop called Sorachi Ace, was inspired by the Asian collection. The Agave Green Chili Blonde Ale will also be introduced, infused with lime peel known as Rubia Caliente and inspired by the Museum’s recently closed New Mexican piece.

"It will be exciting to see what their interpretation is on our collection. It’s a nice pairing of art and craft and business," says Mary Szaroleta, associate curator of public programming at the Museum of Fine Arts.

Authors Shawn Bowman of Portland and Gerard Walen will be on hand to sign copies of their books. Bowman’s wearable jewelry, birdhouse and sculptures using beer can and bottle parts will inspire new ways to use resources. Walen’s book, Florida Breweries, lists some of the best places to find beer in the State of Florida.

Participants will taste home brewed beer and vote for their favorite from over 40 local home brews at a competition sanctioned by the American Home Brewers Association.

An art walk turned beer trail will drive beer lovers into the downtown arts districts, where seven arts venues will offer tastings.

"We’re trying to engage people who don’t normally go into the galleries to see what is downtown and to also taste local brewing companies’ beers," says Szaroleta.

Other event partners include: Cigar City Brewing, Brew Bus Tampa Bay, CD Roma Restaurant and Avid Brewing and Growing Supplies.

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Mary Szaroleta, Museum of Fine Arts

Google For Entrepreneurs Powers Startup Weekend Tampa Bay 2014

What makes Tampa's upcoming Startup Weekend distinctive? 

For one, Google for Entrepreneurs is backing the event. And new in 2014, the weekend will expand to include Youth and Maker events along with the core startup-driven competition.

Three years ago, Startup Weekend formed in Tampa as part of an international movement in more than 200 cities around the world. At the weekend-long, volunteer-led event, anyone is welcome to pitch an idea for a startup business. For the next 54 hours, teams form, vote for the top ideas, and dive in to all aspects of developing a fresh new product -- from coding to marketing to creating a working prototype. There are winners, and sometimes real-world businesses form as a result.

The winner of the third Startup Weekend Tampa Bay developed his proposal from a pain point he'd encountered upon arrival to the event. Seeking a more interactive, real-time way to engage with other attendees, Todd Goldberg pitched the product that would go on to win Tampa's 2012 Startup Weekend -- EXMO, now Eventjoy. The business, which provides fee free ticketing and organization for events, is now a Y-combinator backed Tampa Bay success story.

Wazinit, an app to help consumers identify food ingredients and allergens, has achieved notoriety of its own since winning Startup Weekend Tampa Bay 2013. The beta-stage mobile application gained a place in Tampa Bay WaVE's First WaVE accelerator program, garnered almost $1,000 at crowd-sourcing festival OneSpark in Feb. 2014, and took a second place finish as a Top Tech creator at the event.

A similar standout startup could evolve from this July's Startup Weekend Tampa Bay. Don't consider yourself an expert, or even an experienced, techie? Co-organizer Michael LaPlante says that diversity amongst attendees will be a focus in 2014. Traditionally, the event caters to a tech-savvy crowd who already know about coding or creating a product.
 
"This year, we are really trying to target a different demographic and go outside of just technology,'' LaPlante explains. "We want all entrepreneurs to feel welcome to come pitch their ideas and have a life-changing experience.''

"You will be able to contribute, no matter what, if you participate,'' he says.

A weeklong event "focused around bringing the community and all the events together into a culmination of 'awesomeness' '' is also on the radar, LaPlante teases. This Startup Week concept is set to roll out in six core cities, including Tampa, according to Startup Weekend founder Andrew Hyde.
 
Startup Weekend Tampa Bay 2014 will take place July 25-27 at the Hillsborough Community College Dale Mabry Campus. To register or volunteer, visit the Startup Weekend Tampa Bay 2014 website.

Writer: Justine Benstead
Source: Michael LaPlante, Startup Weekend Tampa Bay

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
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