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Fashion entrepreneur to speak at Centre for Women on Thursday

The creator of a high-performance women’s innerwear collection will join local women entrepreneurs Thursday for a special event honoring the winners of the 2016 innovateHER Business Challenge.

The ‘Sip, Tip, and Talk’ innovateHER reception will take place from 6-8 p.m. on Thursday, March 10, at the Westin Tampa Bay’s BluVu Rooftop Venue.

BODYOLOGY founder Kelly Burton will address the crowd with tips and advice for building a successful business. Burton, a former research professional, developed the line to create sweat-wicking and quick-drying undershirts, shorts, leggings and more.

“I love women entrepreneurs,” Burton says. “They inspire me and cause me to be excited about the future of our country and our world. There are few places I'd rather be than in a room filled with women who are chasing their dreams.”

Aspiring entrepreneurs shouldn’t be afraid of the potential for failure, Burton says.

“If you're bold enough to step out on faith and start your own business, one thing is for sure: you're going to make mistakes. It's a part of the process,” Burton says. “However, if you're going to be successful, you've got to learn quickly and efficiently. Download the lesson and keep it moving. Don't beat yourself up or throw your own personal pity party. You made the best decision you could with the information at hand. Just dust yourself off, recalibrate and get back at it.” 

The innovateHER Business Challenge, which took place in fall 2015, was sponsored locally by a partnership between the Helen Gordon Davis Centre for Women and the Small Business Administration.

“We are funded for five years by SBA to provide business counseling and training for women,” Women's Business Centre Director Stacey Banks-Houston told 83 Degrees in September.

The competition challenged local female entrepreneurs to develop and present a business plan for the chance to win prizes and move forward to compete in a national round of the competition.

Burton advises women entrepreneurs to take the time to pursue opportunities like those presented by the Centre.

“Be good to yourself. Consider what that means for you and do it,” she says. “You've only got one life to live and you don't want to look up one day and realize you're all spent up because you did everything for everyone else, but never gave yourself what you needed to truly thrive.” 

The Sip...Tip...and Talk Reception will have hors d'oeuvres and a cash bar. The event cost is $30 for Centre for Women members and for $35 for the general public with advance registration; $40 at the door.

Uber, Tampa Bay WaVe partner to drive innovation forward

Entrepreneurs in Tampa Bay will now have the chance to work with representatives from a revolutionary startup with international reach: Uber.

A new partnership between the ride-sharing company and local business incubator Tampa Bay WaVe was announced in February 2016.

Tampa Bay WaVe will offer Uber Technologies space in the nonprofit’s FirstWaVE Venture Center in downtown Tampa, where Uber drivers can plan and host driver training sessions. In return, Uber representatives will participate in entrepreneur workshops and other open-to-the-public events hosted by Tampa Bay WaVe, offering the local tech community a first-hand look at the company that revolutionized the car services industry.

“We are ecstatic about this new partnership and look forward to welcoming Uber as part of the WaVE community,”  WaVe Marketing Manager Gracie Stemmer says. “Uber’s insights and experiences are invaluable for entrepreneurs who are in the same position Uber was before their breakout success.” 

Tampa Bay WaVe is billed as 'by entrepreneurs, for entrepreneurs,' while Uber allows drivers to create flexible schedules and work as independent contractors in Florida.

Uber has helmed previous events for entrepreneurs in Tampa Bay; in October 2015, the company sent established angel investors out in Uber cars around Tampa and St. Petersburg for a three-hour pitch event. Local startup founders or residents who scored a ride got 15 minutes to make a backseat business pitch to angel investors from groups like the Tamiami Angel Fund and Florida Funders, LLC.

“This is a great opportunity for local startups to benefit from the past experiences of a successful startup that has reached their breakout success,” Stemmer wrote in a blog post announcing the WaVe/Uber partnership. “Uber has been there, done that, bought the T-shirt and created the app!”

Tampa Bay WaVe, home to an entrepreneurial business center and coworking space in downtown Tampa sponsored an event track at Tampa Bay Startup Week in February. Learn more about Startup Week by clicking here.

Uber of Tampa Bay has also developed a partnership, Direct Connect, with Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority in neighboring Pinellas County. The pilot program, which was announced in late February, will reimburse riders who use Uber to reach designated bus stops by half of the fare, or up to $3.

How Gasparilla Interactive Conference aims to inspire attendees

The Gasparilla Interactive gathering in mid-March will focus on a creative theme: discovering inspiration. 

During the inaugural event in 2015, the Gasparilla Interactive Founder's Club focused on branding the first-year festival as a companion to other well-known and well-attended Gasparilla events that take place in Tampa each spring - the film and arts festivals, for example. 

The focus on branding helped establish Gasparilla Interactive and made sense, since the event's roots are in AAF Tampa Bay and Ad 2 Tampa Bay; lead event organizer Vinny Tafuro is a past president of both organizations.

The second time around, the conference "covers a broader range of topics, and focuses much more on entrepreneurship and the future” than technology alone, Tafuro explains. 

For 2016, replacing the word ‘festival’ with conference was a specific choice, Tafuro says. 

“We discussed what attendees should expect to leave with," Tafuro explains. "We felt that regardless of current industry or profession, everyone should walk away feeling inspired about the future in some way.”

Gasparilla Interactive Conference will draw presenters from big-name companies in the tech world, like product designers Gabe Valdivia of Facebook and Alison Chefec of BuzzFeed. Tampa’s World IA Day organizer Amy Espinosa will moderate a discussion on information architecture between the two.

Gasparilla Interactive Conference presenters also include:To see all of the speakers scheduled to present at Gasparilla Interactive, click here

“Anyone who wants to be inspired by, and prepared for, the vast opportunities that technology affords us to create value” should consider attending, Tafuro says. “Regardless of industry.”

Gasparilla Interactive Conference is a non-profit event that will be held March 10-11 at the Hillsborough Community College’s Ybor City. Register and find more information by clicking here.

Follow along with the Gasparilla Interactive Conference by using the hashtag #GasparillaIX.

New water taxi aims to transport passengers on Tampa area waterways

Yacht Starship Dining Cruises is launching a new pirate-themed water taxi service around Tampa that will help “landlubbers” travel the high seas of the Hillsborough River, Hillsborough Bay and Garrison Channel. 

Pirate Water Taxi will offer three 50-foot vessels that make stops at 14 locations along the waterfront in the Channelside District, Davis Island and downtown Tampa. Passengers aboard each vessel will enjoy the convenience of onboard restrooms and concessions while the captains, acting as pirates, engage guests with witty, whimsical narrations. 

“The pirate inspiration is part of the rich Gasparilla tradition here in the city,” says Troy Manthey, president and CEO of Yacht Starship Dining Cruises. Manthey, who hails from New Orleans and is a fifth-generation Mississippi River passenger boat captain, began cutting the currents of Tampa Bay when he visited the area in 2001 and realized the potential here. “I wanted to open up the beautiful waterfront to the community.” So he did, when he established Yacht Starship. Now, Manthey hopes his Pirate Water Taxi service, which debuts on February 27, helps locals and tourists connect with Tampa’s growing number of waterfront attractions.

“There will be multiple stops between The Florida Aquarium and Rick’s on the River, including Ulele, Curtis Hixon Park, Bayshore, and other places.” Unlike other water taxi services, which often have just one vessel, Pirate Water Taxi will field three. “That way, one boat can be undergoing maintenance, another can handle a private charter, and we’ll still have a vessel operating for public service,” he explains. The water taxis will operate seven days a week, with extended hours during weekends and special events. 

While Tampa Bay’s new water taxi will handle the utilitarian duties of ferrying 40 to 50 people around downtown Tampa, Manthey stresses that his new water taxis will be more than just another way to get around the city. 

“This service is as much a tourism attraction as it is a mode of transportation,” he says. “Our captains will be cast as pirates and they will engage with passengers, telling them about the area, where the best places to go are, and what they can enjoy at each attraction.”

Pirate Water Taxi will be officially unveiled Friday, Feb. 26, during a christening ceremony at the Tampa Convention Center. Hearkening a longtime tradition for launching new boats, bottles of champagne will be smashed against the new water taxi vessels, and the boats will be ceremoniously named. 

June coding weekend will aim to help Tampa homeless through technology

A June event will aim to benefit Tampa’s homeless population through computer coding.

The June 3rd through 5th weekend-long hack-a-thon, hosted by Hillsborough County annually in conjunction with the National Day of Civic Hacking, has been rebranded as a ‘code-a-palooza’ for 2016. It will take place at Crossover Church, 1235 E. Fowler Ave. in Tampa, a larger venue than initially planned. 

The event will be sponsored by Peak 10  an IT and cloud storage services company that is is an anchor member of the Tampa Innovation Alliance, a group working to redefine the area surrounding the University of South Florida in northeast Hillsborough County.

Tampa Innovation Alliance board members set out to put on a traditional weekend hack-a-thon event, but with the goal of creating “an element that will stretch out longer than just the weekend, and actually solve a real-world problem,” explains Alliance executive director Mark Sharpe.

A request by the Alliance to Hillsborough County for data led to a counter-request: solve a problem for us. County or government-sponsored hack-a-thons often have a civil services component, and for the June ‘code-a-palooza,’ the focus is on the homeless population in the Tampa Bay region.

“They’ve got social service organizations helping them to manage this homeless problem, which the county is responsible for, but they don’t have tracking devices or an application which can effectively connect the homeless person -- many of whom do have smartphones -- with the services,” Sharpe explains.

Using county-provided data, coders and creative thinkers will work together to bridge the gap between members of the homeless population and the service organizations that aim to connect with them.

By creating an application that enhances on or is compatible with the county’s existing software, Sharpe hopes to see coding teams develop something that can "maybe even have a market application.”

“There are severe homeless problems in other cities,” Sharpe says, “like Denver, Colorado,” with whom the Alliance has partnered for the 10-10-10 conference.

“We’re still kind of exploring -- we don’t have it all figured out -- but we’re going to be encouraging people who have coding skills, or who can solve problems, to join in at ‘code-a-palooza’ in June,” Sharpe says.

Coding skills are not required to participate.

A winner of the weekend event will be announced on the final day of the hack-a-thon, but the Alliance hopes to see concepts worked on by the teams continue to grow, Sharpe says. Peak 10 will allow interested coders to use the company’s cloud data system for work throughout the summer and fall, and Alliance partners such as University Mall may facilitate projects by providing meeting space.

“We hope the winner might have the opportunity to sell their application, or have it used by the county,” Sharpe says.

To learn more about the June ‘code-a-palooza’ event, visit the Tampa Innovation Alliance website.

Tampa Bay tennis pro serves up love for the sport with innovative game

Tampa Bay area tennis professional David Archer is rallying for support behind a new game his dad invented to teach children how scoring occurs. Tennis, The Game was invented by Richard Neil Archer in 1997 to help the younger Archer’s four-year-old son, Justin, learn the rules of the game. 

“My dad used a cardboard carrying tray from a 24-pack of Pepsi and a string tied across the top of that to create a net,” explains Archer, who is now 55 years old. In 2000, the Archers made 2,000 copies of the game and sold it to parents, schools,and organizations throughout the United States and in other nations, including England, Mexico, Serbia and Spain. 

“Tennis scoring is easy once you get it,” Archer remarks, “but getting to understand it can take time.” A rather unusual 15-30-40 scoring sequence and unique gameplay terms, such as “love” for a score of zero points and “deuce” to describe a tie at 40 points, make learning the game challenging for many, both young and old, who are unfamiliar with tennis. 

More than 2,000 copies of Tennis, The Game have been sold over the years, but now the Archers are hoping a Kickstarter campaign will serve up enough funds to produce more copies of the game to educate more children in classrooms across the country. 

“Tennis, The Game allows 30 children to learn the scoring and basic rules of the sport in 45 minutes,” Archer says. “The game is retro -- you have to interface with someone to play the game, handle scoring, call the right lines. It’s not a roll-the-dice, move-the-piece kind of game -- you’re really playing tennis.” The Archers, who sell the game for $30 each through their Kickstarter site, are hoping to raise $15,000 to launch the next edition and fund a series of YouTube videos that will teach tennis fundamentals to a much wider audience. 

What’s the inspiration behind all of this? Spreading the love of tennis to the next generation, especially at-risk and economically disadvantaged youth who may not otherwise have opportunities to learn the sport. 

“I realized that many kids wake up every day and have no hope. I want to give these kids a hope and a future.” Tennis, The Game can be played indoors, taught in after-school groups and in other settings where children can be taught tennis without use of a court. 

Archer also parlays his love for the game by teaching children the basics as a coach with Global Community Tennis of Pinellas, a nonprofit organization that teaches at-risk boys and girls throughout the community beginner-level skills for free with the aim of preparing them for more competitive play at the high school level and beyond. 

The kids play on tennis courts at the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Police Athletic League, High Point Neighborhood Family Center in Clearwater, and Citizen’s Alliance for Progress, Inc. Union Academy Family Center in Tarpon Springs. 

“We’ll learn how successful this can be when one of these kids becomes ranked in the United States Tennis Association of Florida.” 

Archer, who is authoring '8 Weeks to Tournament Tennis,' an instructional book aimed to prime children ages 5-8 in the fundamentals of the sport, says Tennis, The Game is something that children “absolutely love.” But the board game will need investors to expand the product into a larger market and subsequently help more young children learn about the sport. “Our mission is to instill a love for the game. Love is not something you manufacture -- it is given to you and then given to others.” 

Clearwater targets entrepreneurs with new business SPARK

The City of Clearwater has launched a new initiative to serve as a catalyst for economic development and business innovation in North Pinellas County.

The Clearwater Business SPARK brings together a network of resources targeting the growth of small businesses and entrepreneurs.

“It’s all about supporting our small business and entrepreneurial community,” says Audra Aja, who is with the City of Clearwater Economic Development and Housing Department and program coordinator for Clearwater Business SPARK.  

Rather than being an acronym, SPARK is simply meant to “embody the thought of sparking innovation through business success, growth and entrepreneurship,” says Aja.

Partners in SPARK include the city of Clearwater’s Economic Development and Housing Department, Clearwater Public Library, Clearwater Regional Chamber of Commerce, Florida Small Business Development Center of Pinellas County and Technical Arts Facility for Innovation and Entrepreneurship or TAFFIE.

“The real driver for launching SPARK was a study that identified the need to work together from a number of different angles to promote Clearwater as a viable area for business,” says Elaine Mann, executive director of TAFFIE.

An Urban Land Institute study undertaken by the city identified 23 software and information technology companies located in the downtown area. And those companies had over 800 employees.   

That was a surprise to a lot of people.

“People, even those who live here, tend to think of the beaches and tourism when they think of Clearwater, but we have a quite a number of large and small businesses and technology companies,” says Mann.

The study spurred the city to pursue a number of initiatives, including identifying the downtown Clearwater Redevelopment Area as a technology district and putting together a technology council focused on helping brand and market the downtown area as a tech hub. 

Putting together SPARK was the next step in the process. 

“We realized that we have a lot of great resources already here in Clearwater, but we did not have a cohesive, formal way of working together,” says Aja. 

To determine the best direction to take, she says the group visited the St. Petersburg Greenhouse, the Tampa Bay WaVE in Tampa, and the HuB in Sarasota – in total about nine different venues that support innovation and entrepreneurs.  

“We have spent about a year-and-a-half solidifying our programs and figuring out how to best deliver them to the community,” said Aja.

In a news release announcing SPARK, Clearwater Mayor George Cretekos says, “The creation of Clearwater Business SPARK begins a relationship between the city and its local partners that will ignite entrepreneurship and business development in greater Clearwater and enhance the city’s future and its business community.”

SPARK partner Steve Allen is president and CEO of DocuPhase/iDatix, a Clearwater-based software technology company.

Allen is also the founder of TAFFIE, which is located in the iDatix corporate headquarters and serves as an incubator, accelerator and co-working space for local business startups.

TAFFIE opened in 2013 as a result of Allen’s interest in helping the city brainstorm how to create an ecosystem for attracting the right business talent, says Allen.  

“One of the things the group of us talked about was how we did not have an area for these small tech companies to congregate,” says Allen. “I had available space in my own company.  And after the Urban Land Institute study pointed out the need for an business incubator and accelerator, I decided to pull the trigger.’’

TAFFIE has evolved as a co-working and incubating space for emerging and small businesses, as well as the “go-to” site for several entrepreneurial programs open to the public, such as the monthly entrepreneurs’ roundtable and a twice monthly Rise and Shine morning education and networking meeting.

In addition to the resources offered by TAFFIE, other SPARK partners, such as the Clearwater Public Library provide free business-related tools like Lynda.com, a professional video learning library on topics ranging from business management to graphic design, and database access to mailing lists and numerous other topics.  

One of the library’s coolest new offerings is the “Makerspace,” which gives individuals, inventors and startups access to 3D printers, and other high-tech equipment.  All it takes to participate is a Clearwater library card.

In addition, through SPARK, the city is also offering business coaching, site selecting and permitting assistance, access to financing and grant opportunity exploration.

For more information, contact Audra Aja, program coordinator, at 727-443-0217 or info@ClearwaterBusinessSpark.com

Startups compete for top spot in Bright House pitch competition

Five startup companies formed in the Tampa Bay area have been selected from a pool of more than 30 small businesses to compete as finalists in the Bright House Networks Pitch 6 competition.

Finalists include:

Motorworks Brewing
Residential Acoustics, LLC (learn more about the company in this 83 Degrees profile)
Safer Home Services
Urban E. Recycling 
VetCor, LLC

The annual Bright House Networks Regional Business Awards recognize a number of regional companies in categories for startups, mid-size, small and large businesses. The Pitch 6 competition serves as the final phase in selecting a winner for the Start-up Category of the awards.

"The Tampa Bay region’s best start-ups will pitch their company to our panel of judges," says Joe Durkin, Sr. Director of Corporate Communications at Bright House Networks.

Bright House Networks partners with local and regional Chambers of Commerce, including those in Hillsborough, Hernando, Pasco, Pinellas and surrounding counties, to select local businesses and startups for recognition in the awards program each year.

For a complete list of the finalists in every category, click here

The Tampa Pitch 6 startup competition will take place from 5 to 7 p.m. on Tuesday, January 26, at the Straz Center's Jaeb Theater in downtown Tampa. A post-show reception will immediately follow.

Winners of the "shark tank style" event will be announced on February 11th at the communication company's Regional Business Awards Gala, where up to $1 million in prizes and services will be awarded to winners across the four categories.

West Pasco Business Challenge includes $1K cash prize

Local Tampa Bay area businesses will have the chance to pitch their ideas and compete for cash prizes and services in the West Pasco Chamber "Business Challenge" on January 28.

“The goal of the Business Challenge is to say ‘New Port Richey is open for business,’ explains City of New Port Richey Economic Development Director Mario Iezzoni.

The Chamber of Commerce advanced the idea of a local business challenge “because West Pasco County consists of many family-run businesses,” Iezzoni says.“The Business Challenges is one of several conduits New Port Richey is implementing to provide as a resource for further business development.”

A long-time professor of Entrepreneurship at the University of South Florida and a CPA, Iezzoni says the city hopes to convey a message of community growth through locally owned businesses.

“I’ve come to realize that children raised in a family-run business environment, witnessing the challenges their parents experience in the daily grind of operating a business, do exceptionally well in their own enterprises,” Iezzoni says. “The business challenge is one small step in a chain of events that must occur to achieve this lofty goal.”

Business Challenge finalists will present to a panel of judges, which includes: 
  • John Gaston, of Tampa Bay MultiMedia
  • Steve Farrell, of Team Farrell
  • Minh Mai, of Venom
  • Irene Hurst, Director of the USF MBA Program
  • Bob Carroll, of Bob Carroll Building Contractor, Inc.
Event prizes include a cash prize of $1,000 from an anonymous donor and a variety of cash and service donations from local businesses, including Waverly Media, HITS 106, Wiseman Accounting and Bookkeeping, Minuteman Press, The Tampa Bay Times, 72HRPrint.com, WPCC, and ABCO Graphics and Printing.

The presentations, which are open to the public, will start at 3 p.m. on January 28 at the Richey Suncoast Theatre. An awards program will be held at 5 pm at Dulcet Restaurant & Lounge.  

“The goal is to activate what I believe is a rather large talent pool of potential entrepreneurs,” Iezzoni says. “The goal is to leverage generational talent as an economic development strategy to address many of the economic challenges that exist along the Highway-19 corridor.”

Along with an emphasis on entrepreneurial talent among local business owners, the city is taking strides toward a goal of defining itself “as the next New Urbanism City,” Iezzoni says.

Efforts include an emphasis on walking, biking and upgrading IT infrastructure, as well as the development of two residential complexes that Iezzoni says are being designed as “new urbanism concepts” geared toward millennials.

“Millennials don’t want to waste time traveling, they want resources - such as the business incubator we’ve developed in town that is a crossroads and gathering place,” Iezzoni says. “They want recreation, nice parks, affordable neighborhoods, and unique natural resources such as the Grey Preserve to be close by, all within 5 minutes. Our city offers that.”

Cigar City Brewing founder among speakers at upcoming 'business failures' meetup

Inspirational quotes that highlight growth out of failure and the ability to overcome setbacks on the path to success abound, especially online. Rather than read about successes and failures, however, members of the local startup community can mingle with area entrepreneurs during the second edition of F*** Up Nights Tampa Bay on Thursday, January 14. 

That's when Tampa Bay's high-profile meetup - with the not-so-family-friendly name - is back, for the group's first gathering in 2016. Many an f-bomb will be dropped, if the inaugural event is any indication.

Cigar City Brewing founder Joey Redner is among the speakers at FUNTampaBay's upcoming get-together, where business owners will share failure stories with Tampa Bay area startup founders in an informal way over beer, wine, and light snacks.

Along with Redner, speakers at FUNTampaBay on January 14 include the former NFL guard Ian Beckles, who is also the longtime co-host of The Ron & Ian Show on iHeartMedia, and successful serial entrepreneur Joy Randels, who has launched more than a dozen technology companies around the country.

Randels is herself the organizer for the Tampa Bay chapter of Startup Grind, which invites successful - and sometimes not-so-successful - founders to join Randels in a fireside chat and Q&A before a live audience.

Since the launch of FUNTampaBay in October 2015, event organizer and University of South Florida alumni Maria Alithinos says the group has been getting "more and more interest from the Tampa Bay community.

"To make the next event a bit more engaging, we're adding an 'Open Mic F*ckUp,'" Alithinos explains. After speakers finish their presentations, audience members can take the stage for five minute mini-sessions.

The open mic element is unique to Tampa Bay, and while Alithinos says she doesn't know how it will play out, "It could be cathartic" for attendees who open up about past mistakes to the crowd.

FUNTampaBay: Vol II will be held at Redner's Cigar City Cider & Mead1812 North 15th Street in Ybor City. The meetup will take place from 6:00- 9:00 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 14, 2016. Alithinos expects the event to hit the venue's 75-person capacity. To register for tickets or learn more about the event, click here

The inaugural FUNTampaBay event unfolded in CoWork Ybor and The Blind Tiger Café. Local business owners and serial entrepreneurs Brent C.J. Britton, Chuck Papageorgiou, and Scott Moore spoke at the meeting, which drew around 50 guests on a weeknight in early October 2015. Speakers shared anecdotes about losing millions on bad deals, crippling whole companies, and how to make the perfect mistake in business.

"I really hope FUN becomes part of the Tampa Bay startup and entrepreneurial ecosystem," Alithinos says. "I think it's valuable. It would be awesome for the movers and shakers in the area to share their professional bad luck stories...because we all have one." 

Mingle with local tech crowd at upcoming Tampa Bay area meetups

Meet like-minded friends and potential business partners at the upcoming Collaborative Technologies of Tampa Bay, Tampa Bay Startup Week, and other technology events put on by and for tech enthusiasts and members of the Tampa Bay startup scene in spring 2016.

FUNTampaBay
Thursday, January 14
6 p.m.
Cigar City Cider and Mead
Ybor City

The second edition of F*** Up Nights Tampa Bay -- or FUNTampaBay -- will be held at event speaker Joey Redner's Ybor City outpost, Cigar City Cider and Mead. During the informal gathering, hear discussions about success and failure from speakers including Redner, local serial entrepreneur Joy Randels, and former NFL guard turned media personalist Ian Beckles. The event will also open the floor to audience members for an "Open Mic" portion.

To search for tickets or learn more about FUN events around the world, click here.

1 Million Cups
Wednesday, January 20, recurring
9 a.m.
St. Petersburg GreenhouseHillsborough County Entrepreneur Collaborative Center

1 Million Cups, a weekly Wednesday morning gathering where area business leaders and local residents come together to hear aspiring startups and growing companies pitch their ideas, has become a staple of both the St. Petersburg and Tampa business communities. The Bay area's first 1 Million Cups event took root at St. Petersburg's Greenhouse in 2013, and expanded across Tampa Bay to the Hillsborough County Mark Sharpe Entrepreneur Collaborative Center in 2015. Now, each week brings a packed house of community members to hear new ideas and sip on donated Kahwa Coffee

Each Wednesday morning, visitors to either location can hear from new startups or get updates from past presenters. To learn more about Tampa's 1 Million Cups meetups or to apply to present, click here; see information about 1 Million Cups in St. Petersburg or apply to be a presenter here.

Tampa Bay Startup Week
February 8-12
TBD

Tampa Bay technology enthusiasts and members of the startup scene saw a new concept unfold in 2015 - a full week of dedicated events, broken down by track and then further by subject matter. Topics ranging a wide gamut of interests from coding to beer brewing drew a diverse crowd to the events -- some interactive -- that took place around the cities of Tampa and St. Petersburg.

The 2016 Tampa Bay Startup Week main event sponsor is Chase, working together with tech.co. Stay tuned for more info about events, speakers, and special opportunities - in 2015, events culminated with an open skate on the ice at Amalie Arena.

To learn more or register for Tampa Bay Startup Week events, click here.

1776 Challenge Cup
Wednesday, February 10
Tampa Bay WaVe offices
Tampa

The 1776 Challenge Cup offers grand prize winners up to $1 million in prizes during the final round of a startup pitch competition. A local round one will take place at startup business accelerator and venture center Tampa Bay WaVe in downtown Tampa on February 10. The Cup is billed as a ‘worldwide tournament for the most promising, world-changing startups to win cash prizes, make international connections and share their vision on a global stage.'

Southeastern Entrepreneurship Conference
February 19-20
8 a.m. - 6:30 p.m.
University of Tampa John P. Lowth Entrepreneurship Center 
Tampa

At the two-day 2016 Southeast Entrepreneurship Conference (SEEC 2016), local college students will come together with students from top-ranked schools across the nation to compete in the Spartan Pitch Competition at the John P. Lowth Entrepreneurship Center on the University of Tampa campus.

During the competition, students will pitch startup ideas to a panel of judges in hopes of securing funding for their business ventures. Along with the business challenge portion of the event, students will have the opportunity to network with business leaders and peers. Around 20 speakers will also share insights on business and entrepreneurship.

The event is open to the public, and members of the local business community are encouraged to attend. To register, click here.

#Collabtb (Q1 Tech & Entrepreneur Peer Networking Event)
Thursday, March 3
5:30 p.m.
The Getaway
St. Pete

Hosted by Collaborative Technologies of Tampa Bay with partnership from Tampa Bay Tech Events, #collabTB quarterly meetups draw a crowd of several hundred to the laid-back beach bar behind St. Pete staple The Getaway. The focus of the gatherings is networking and community-building in a relaxed atmosphere, with no speakers or formal agenda.
 
Tech startups and area entrepreneurs,aspiring students, and those who want to make new connections in the community are encouraged to attend. Raffles, "swag," and giveaways will be offered.

To register for the Collabtb Q3 Tech and Entrepreneur Peer networking event, click here. Be sure to use the hashtag #Collabtb on Twitter.

Are you, or an organization you know, hosting a tech-oriented event in the Tampa Bay area in 2016? Let us know in the comments below to have your activity included in a future 83 Degrees newsletter!

January job news: Who's hiring in Tampa Bay in 2016

Digital marketing agencies, architecture consulting and stonework firms, beachfront customer service and other roles with expanding local companies are highlighted in the first 83 Degrees job news roundup of the year. 
 
Here's who's hiring in Tampa Bay in January 2016:

St. Petersburg-based A1 Marketing Concepts is seeking to fill several fulltime marketing and communications positions, including Marketing Coordinator, Public Relations Assistant, Business Management Associate, Sales Account Representative, and Customer Relations Associate. The company provides targeted marketing and promotional campaigns to clients in a variety of industries. 

A digital marketing agency with the distinction of being a full-service HubSpot Gold partner is seeking a Marketing Director to join the Big Sea team in downtown St. Petersburg. Job requirements for the role at Big Sea include five or more years of marketing industry experience;  a BA/BS degree in Communications or Marketing is "strongly preferred"; excellent written and verbal communication skills; time management and organization skills; the ability to think creatively; HubSpot certifications, WordPress and web-based CMS experience preferred.

L-3 Communications is hiring an ISR Systems Engineer in the company's Tampa offices. Qualifications include a BS or MS in a relevant field, with eight or more years of intelligence analysis or C4ISR experience, or specialized training combined with 10 or more years experience. 

Masonite International is hiring for a variety of roles at the company's Tampa offices; current openings range from senior roles in accounting and auditing to customer service or internship positions. 

The Fortune 1000 Pall Corporation is seeking a Manufacturing and Industrial Engineer to work from the materials science company's New Port Richey offices. Job requirements include a minimum BS in Engineering; at least three years related work experience in a technical capacity; five years preferred. Computer proficiency, with experience using SAP and CAD/CAM, and in the Filtration and Aerospace industries, preferred.

PGT Industries has operated from Sarasota County for several decades as a leading industry supplier and manufacturer of custom aluminum, vinyl and impact resistant house windows, doors and porch enclosures. PGT plans to hire dozens of new employees in fields that range from sales to customer service to finance or engineering.

Downtown St. Petersburg-based Symphoni Media is hiring a Web Designer. Two or more years of experience with HTML and CSS is required, along with a portfolio, strong design skills, and excellent communication skills. 

The 20-acre beachfront hotel property Tradewinds Island Resorts on St. Pete Beach is hiring for dozens of positions in early 2016. Job roles are both part- and full-time positions, including Valet, Cook, Reservations Agent, Front Office, Security, Night Auditing, Bartending, and many more; available positions cover a range of experience and educational requirements. 

Hiring in the Tampa Bay region? Send a note to tips@83degreesmedia.com. Hired? Reach out on Twitter @83degreesmedia if our job listings put you on the path to success.

UT student team wins local round of Hult Prize competition

A student-led team from the University of Tampa hopes to pitch their ideas to President Bill Clinton and a panel of judges for the chance to earn $1 million in startup funding.

Each year, hundreds of teams from universities around the world compete in the Hult Prize competition to solve a pressing issue related to education and poverty.

The 2016 challenge: “Can we build sustainable, scalable and fast-growing social enterprises that double the income of 10 million people residing in crowded urban spaces by better connecting people, goods, services and capital?”

The annual competition awards one million dollars in start-up funding to the team of students that develops the most compelling solution to this question.

Each student team competes in a regional round before moving on to the finals in New York City next fall; but before teams can head to Boston, San Francisco, London, Dubai, or Shanghai for regionals, they must win the competition at the local level. In December 2015, a student team from UT, led by business management student Bay Downing, took top honors in the local round of competition.

Team OptiMrkt was chosen of the 10 competing teams because they “had the most compelling idea,” explains Hult Prize at UT Campus Director Caio Amaral. “The main argument was that the initiative and team work in OptiMrkt was very optimistic.”

OptiMrkt aims to reinvent the way that trade works for those “on the bottom of the pyramid” with a fresh approach to urban markets.

The team also “had partnerships lined up, and a business model that impressed most of the majority of the judges,” says Amaral, who competed for the prize in 2014 on team BamBoost (read about their story here).

OptiMrkt team members include Downing along with MBA-seeking Chenoy Ceil and entrepreneurship students Luciano Perdomo and Monty Berrow.

“UT is very proud of OptiMrkt and how far they have come,” Amaral says.

OptiMrkt will compete with around 50 teams, including those from Ivy League schools like Harvard and MIT, during a regional competition March 11-12, 2016. If they win the regional phase, team members will have the opportunity to attend the Hult Prize Accelerator program in summer 2016, along with the top five teams from other regions.

There, Amaral says, “They will launch from a simple idea to being feasible in the market.” 

Finally, they will travel to New York City to pitch their solution before world leaders at the Clinton Global Initiative’s next annual meeting in late September 2016.

The University of Tampa is no stranger to the Hult Prize competition; multiple teams have made it to regional and final competitions in previous years. Team Tembo, which operates from the UT Innovation and Collaboration building, has transitioned from student project into a full-scale, growing business.

To learn more about Tembo’s efforts to provide education to children and parents in urban slums through mobile phones and an evidence-based curriculum, or to contribute, visit their GoFundMe page

Creator of Chinese family robot talks tech at Startup Grind Tampa Bay on Dec. 16

The final meeting of Startup Grind Tampa Bay in 2015 will feature a founder who is visiting Tampa as a potential U.S. headquarters for his company, Solbit, which is currently based in Shenzhen, China.

Gavenraj Sodhi, CEO of 7 Senses Labs (formerly iMedia), will visit Tampa along with Solbit, the company's product and namesake. The founder and CEO will demonstrate the prototype of Solbit, a family robot, at the Startup Grind Tampa Bay event at CoWork Ybor on Wednesday, Dec. 16.

Sodhi initially launched iMedia as an edutainment company using gamification for students in grades K-8, but the technology has since evolved into Solbit, a company that aims to deliver educational materials focused on STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math) through the use of the family-friendly robot.

Solbit's robot features integrated camera capabilities and a cloud-based language library that help the robot to serve as a child’s personal learning companion. 3D printing functions, voice recognition and other Artificial Intelligence functions are just some of the improvements Sodhi hopes to makes to the robot in time.

Initially, Solbit is aimed to serve as a learning-based companion for children ages 4-7.

Team data scientist and robotics engineers are working to further develop ways to foster two-way communication between child and robot to create a better learning experience, Startup Grind Tampa Bay founder Joy Randels says. 

"From an artificial intelligence standpoint, our ecosystem is developing into a content-friendly, data-rich environment," Randels wrote in an email. "The robot is meant to learn and adapt with the child and family."

Solbit, which is incorporated in Hong Kong with offices in Shenzhen, is currently funding its product through bootstrapping, some funding from JD.com, which is akin to Amazon.com in China, and winnings from several competitions, like the 1776 Challenge Cup for Education.

Randels, who has long known Sodhi and served on the board of one of his previous startup companies, offers some highlights of Solbit:
  • Dr. Cory Kidd, a long-time robotics expert and MIT Media Lab alumni, has joined as Director of Robotics and will be supporting 7 Senses Labs in the development of learning robots and the A.I. portion of the platform
  •  Bater Makhabel, from Tsinghua University, joined as Data Scientist with a focus on machine learning and algorithm development
  • Solbit just launched with Essential Learning Group in Shanghai, a pilot for a first learning module, that leverages Leap Motion and Intel Real Sense for kids to gesture during the learning exercises for skills mastery and for those that have learning disabilities. The module launched in September in Apple and Android stores and will be supporting Solibit integration 
Click here to register to attend Startup Grind Tampa Bay at 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday, December 16, at CoWork Ybor, 1901 E. 7th Ave.

Tampa native launches mobile boating app for marinas

A mobile app that allows boaters to make reservations for docking vessels with the ease of booking a table at a restaurant has expanded to Tampa Bay area marinas.
 
Dockwa, which launched in the New England area in May 2015, has seen rapid expansion on the eastern coast of the United States and into the Bahamas, with more than 175 participating marinas in 16 states getting on board with the application.
 
“There's an incredibly vibrant entrepreneurial spirit within Tampa, and I'm grateful to be a part of it and eager to expand Dockwa's footprint in the region," explains Dockwa co-Founder and CEO Michael Melillo, a Tampa native. 
 
Dockwa is marketed as “Open Table meets Hotel Tonight.” The award-winning mobile application and marketing platform has raised over $1.4 million in angel and private investments from such investors as David Skok of Matrix Partners and HubSpot CEO Brian Halligan. 

The app has a simple, straightforward premise aimed at connecting boaters to marinas in real time: interested parties can download Dockwa, explore the app’s maps, and hit a button to reserve a slip. Payments don’t go through until customers verify their reservations on site at the marinas; all information is kept in an integrated database.

A growing number of marinas in the Tampa Bay area have joined the Dockwa network, which includes 40 marinas across the state. Local partners include:
  • Gulfport Marina in Gulfport
  • Port Tarpon Marina in Tarpon Springs
  • Marina Jack in Sarasota
  • Longboat Key Club Moorings in Longboat Key
  • Tampa Marriott Waterside Marina in downtown Tampa
An expansion to the Gulf Coast made sense, Melillo says: “Tampa is among the top boating destinations in Florida.”

But bringing his business to Tampa Bay also struck a personal chord, Melillo says. "Expanding Dockwa to the Tampa Bay area has been an important milestone both personally and professionally for me. Tampa is also where I was born, lived for a number of years, and frequent often to see family.

“Having the opportunity for them to see Dockwa contribute to the Tampa community and economy is an especially rewarding experience,” says Melillo, who earned a BS in Finance/Economics from Elon University and spent time as a financial analyst before co-founding Dockwa in fall 2014.  

The Boat Owners Association of the United States (BoatUS) launched a partnership with Dockwa in October 2015 that allows members who arrange dockage through the Dockwa app or online platform to waive booking fees.
 
By early 2016, Melillo plans to expand the company to include marina partners on the west coast of the U.S.
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