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Entrepreneurship : Innovation + Job News

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Innovation Incubator Brings New Business Potential To USF Students

Global Entrepreneurship Week brings a new “beat’’ to the University of South Florida starting today (Tuesday, November 19.)

During the Building Entrepreneurship Around Tampa (B.E.A.T.) event, USF will launch its new Student Innovation Incubator (SII) in the USF CONNECT Galleria at the USF Research Park.

The Student Innovation Incubator will offer USF undergraduate and graduate students the opportunity to work in a collaborative business environment with peers in a new on-campus workspace. The goal: to allow students from all disciplines to create and grow new businesses.

SII was developed by USF CONNECT, the business side of USF Research & Innovation, in partnership with the USF Center for Entrepreneurship, Florida High Tech Corridor Council and Hillsborough County.

Tampa tech startups and entrepreneurs from the First WaVE Accelerator and small businesses from USF’s Tampa Bay Technology Incubator will showcase their companies at a ribbon cutting today to students and entrepreneurs from across the Tampa Bay area.

Doors open to the public at 1 p.m. with tours of entrepreneurship facilities and exhibits, showcases and open house tours of the new Student Innovation Incubator.

At 3 p.m., following remarks from dignitaries including Randy Berridge, President of the Florida High Tech Corridor Council; Hillsborough County Commissioner Mark Sharpe; Tampa City Council Councilman Mike Suarez; and Paul Sanberg, Sr. VP for Research & Innovation at USF, USF President Judy Genshaft will cut the ribbon to officially mark the grand opening of the student incubator. A reception is to follow.

Global Entrepreneurship Week, held annually each November, is designed around the concept of inspiring innovation and celebrating entrepreneurship. In 2013, 138 countries around the world are hosting events with the help of local partners like USF CONNECT.

B.E.A.T. will take place Tuesday, Nov. 19, 2013, at 3 p.m. at the USF CONNECT Galleria at 3720 Spectrum Blvd, Tampa, FL. Directions can be found here. Free parking is available in a visitor lot on the north side of the red USF CONNECT building.

Writer: Justine Benstead
Source: Judy Lowry, USF Research Communications

Sarasota Company Designs Innovative, Customizable Electric Scooter

A new plug and play transportation vehicle will soon be on the market that adds convenience to city life.

The Vectrix VT-1, ‘tall wheel’ e-scooter includes interchangeable lithium batteries that can be removed from the vehicle and plugged directly into a standard electric outlet. What’s different and innovative about the design is its ease of use. To charge the battery, simply lift up the seat, remove the battery cover and pull the batteries out. This is particularly attractive to city dwellers who are not able to charge an entire vehicle through the night because of lack of a carport or garage.

It also has an option for removing the back for expanded storage, and an LCD command screen with animated digital communications. Another innovative feature is the fact that it transforms into a fleet vehicle if needed, giving it the nickname "the transformer" among designers.

The scooter was designed by ROBRADY, a product design and development firm headquartered in Sarasota. The manufacturing and engineering was done by partner company, Vectrix.

ROBRADY has been designing scooters with Vectrix for years, but this is the first time all of these components have come together in one product.

"This one is a watershed moment for us," comments Rob Brady, CEO and Design Director for ROBRADY. "It has been exciting and dynamic to try to figure out how everything works in such a clean, tight electric vehicle."

All in all, the design took 18 months and was done with the use of clay modeling, prototypes and a lot of testing.
The scooter has a range of 55 miles on a full charge and can reach a speed of 62 miles per hour.  

The product was unveiled in early November in Milan, Italy and will be available in the United States in 2014.

ROBRADY has been in Sarasota for over 20 years and has five buildings, with just under 50 employees.

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Rob Brady, ROBRADY

New App Captures Real-Life Recommendations From Friends

Like many newcomers, when Justin Davis and his wife moved to Tampa two and a half years ago, they didn’t know many good restaurants, entertainment venues or things to do. As they met people, they would ask for recommendations, only to forget them when it came time to actually go out and try a new place.

A new app named Drawer meets this need by allowing users to capture and track recommendations from people they know and trust.

"Think of it as Twitter meets Foursquare meets Pinterest," says Davis, Drawer’s founder.  

Users create virtual "drawers," giving each one a descriptive name such as "On the beach" or "Cuban restaurants." As they receive recommendations from others, they can add the location to the appropriate drawer. Other information can be added as well, such as who provided the recommendation or maybe a specific dish to try. Users can also create their own lists of places they want to recommend to others.

In a Twitter-style feature, users can also follow others to see their favorites.

The app was launched last week by Davis’s company, Madera Labs, a user experience firm based in Tampa. Although initially marketed in Tampa, the app can be used globally.

Drawer was part of Tampa Bay WaVE’s inaugural FirstWaVE Accelerator class, which provides entrepreneurs with resources such as mentoring and networking.

Next steps include expanding to allow businesses to deliver more customized experiences for their customers.

The app is available on iPhone and should be launched for Android and the web soon.

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Justin Davis, Madera Labs

Triad Retail Media Expands, Adds 150+ Jobs In St. Pete

On November 1st, Triad Retail Media moved into its brand new 65,000 square-foot St. Petersburg national headquarters which will accommodate the firm’s growing staff as well as 150-200 new jobs created over the next three years.

The newly created jobs will focus on content, communications, IT, business intelligence, design and creative, ad operations, and video content management.

Triad creates, manages and operates online media programs for leading, high-traffic retail e-commerce websites including Walmart, eBay, Toys "R" Us, CVS, Sam’s Club, and several other recognizable brands.

The company’s move from the Westshore neighborhood of Tampa to the new office at Carillon in St. Petersburg was specifically selected because of the space available to accommodate the company’s expanding workforce.

"It will be a gradual, persistent hiring. We don’t expect to grow and then stop," says Misty Brown, Triad’s VP of communications.

Tampa’s market for technology, art and talented workforce highly resonated with the firm’s decision to further expand its presence in the Tampa Bay region.

"There are many advantages and multiple levels of talent in Tampa Bay. There is terrific talent here, several tech hubs are here, and there great art schools," says Brown.

Recently named on the annual Inc. 500|5000 list as one of the nation’s fastest growing companies and #27 in Tampa Bay, Triad reached a three-year sales growth increase of 143% and employs more than 400 in seven offices nationwide.

"We are a company of entrepreneurs; if you have an idea, you can expect to see it grow here. We welcome challenges," says Brown.

The firm’s early 2013 acquisition by Rockbridge Growth Equity has helped to further position Triad’s stock in the Tampa Bay market as well as the company’s significant and continued growth.

"Rockbridge has been a fantastic partner to enable our growth. It’s been an aid to our continued growth," says Brown.

The City of St. Petersburg worked closely with Pinellas County to facilitate Triad’s relocation to St. Petersburg as well as working directly with Triad and Enterprise Florida to qualify the firm for tax refunds through the Qualified Target Industry program.

For career opportunities, visit Triad online or via LinkedIn.

Writer: Kaye Brown
Source: Misty Brown, Triad Retail Media

Salsarita's Plans 500 New Jobs In Tampa Bay

Mexican-inspired Salsarita’s Fresh Cantina is rapidly expanding throughout Florida, and plans to bring up to 500 new jobs to the Tampa Bay region over the next three to five years.

With two locations already existing in Florida, Salsarita’s has more than 80 locations across the United States. The brand has targeted the Tampa and St. Petersburg area as a prime location to plant 20 new locations.

"Growth of the brand is happening in two ways: we are going to continue to build company restaurants in the Carolinas. Outside of the Carolina’s we’re going to be growing through franchising," says Chris Bailey, head of franchise development.

After settling the sale of McAlister’s Deli two years ago, the former owners began to seek out brands having significant growth opportunities. The team identified and purchased Salsarita’s, immediately beginning plans for long-term growth development.

The company’s expansion in Florida is a part of a tailored approach to franchise development that will begin operational investments in Tampa Bay in early 2014. The brand is committed to protecting the market territory of franchisees, adding one or more new locations per franchisee per year.

Each new Salsarita’s location would add between 15 and 22 new positions, including full-time restaurant managers, shift managers and servers.

Franchising has become a source of professional re-birth and a second career investment opportunity for many seasoned professionals seeking solid entrepreneurial opportunities.

"There is a growing appreciation and eagerness to work with franchises. Of all of the areas in industry and business that have been impacted adversely by the last several years of economic challenges, franchising has been the least impacted and the most consistent. It is, by nature, designed to give that go-getter entrepreneurial spirit the engine in which they can execute a good business," says Bailey.

For information on franchising and career opportunities, visit Salsarita’s Fresh Cantina online.

Writer: Kaye Brown
Source: Chris Bailey, Salsarita’s Fresh Cantina

USF Offers Seed Capital To Companies In Technology Incubator

A new source of capital is available for startups that were formed based on the licensing of University of South Florida (USF) technologies.

Companies affiliated with the Tampa Bay Technology Incubator (TBTI) at USF Connect can apply for up to $50,000 in funding to help take their products or services to the next level.

The goal is to assist these companies with reaching their goals within a year or less. The money is designed to help them overcome obstacles that may be keeping them from taking the next step -- whether it be taking a product to market, developing a prototype, paying salaries or purchasing needed materials.

To qualify, a company must have been formed using USF-licensed technology. Companies at TBTI span all industries, from a skateboard briefcase to science education materials, to mobile structures that will be deployed in therapeutics.

The funding is available through the Seed Capital Accelerator Program and is sourced from the USF Research Foundation, which set aside money from its long-term earnings for this purpose.

"One of the biggest things these early stage companies struggle with is getting proof of concept that helps them get investment or move them to the next level," says Valerie McDevitt, assistant VP for Patents & Licensing at USF.
"At the beginning stages it can be really hard to get that money, and it makes a huge difference."

Funding will be based on agreed project objectives being met. The deadline to apply is November 15, 2013.

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Valerie McDevitt, USF

TBTF Honors USFSP Technology Thought Leaders

Daniel James Scott, associate director of the University of South Florida St. Petersburg (USFSP) Entrepreneurship Program, and Reuben Pressman, the first graduate of the program, recently received honors at Tampa Bay Technology Forum’s 10th Annual Industry Achievement Awards Gala.

Scott was recognized as Technology Leader of the Year, an award that acknowledged the accumulation of work he has done in the entrepreneurship community for the past 10-12 years. His work includes co-founding the Entrepreneurship Program at USFSP, Gazelle Lab, a seed stage investment fund, and the Tampa Bay 6/20 Initiative, a group of entrepreneurs working on a 20-year plan for the region. Scott also had a part in the development of the St. Petersburg Greenhouse and bringing the headquarters of the Association for Small Business and Entrepreneurship to Tampa Bay. He recently founded Alorum, which uses technology to simplify lead generation.

"We’re trying to kick the ball further down the field in terms of what we can do with technology, entrepreneurship and the marriage of the two in our community," says Scott, USF Tampa graduate.  

Scott’s priorities for the future of entrepreneurship in Tampa Bay are focused on two areas: giving students a voice in the discussion and identifying more seed funding for start-ups.

"The community’s students, (including middle school, high school and college), should be given much more of a seat at the table when we talk about how we’re building our community," says Scott, noting that today's young people will be successful entrepreneurs 20 years from now, and therefore they need to be a part of the conversation now.

As for identifying seed capital, Scott says one thing other successful cities have in common is one or more visionaries who have grown a company in the area and are willing to put forth substantial financial support to help other companies succeed.

Pressman received the Rising Star Award, which recognizes someone under 30 who is involved in the technology community.

A recent graduate from USFSP’s Entrepreneurship Program, Pressman runs monthly meet-ups for entrepreneurs and provides assistance for Tampa Bay WaVE, Startup Weekend Tampa Bay and Startup Bus Southeast. Initiatives he co-founded include Awesome St. Petersburg, which provides microgrants for projects that further the livability of the Tampa Bay region, Swings Tampa Bay, which builds communities through public swings, and Reuben & Hunter, a brand identity and web development firm.

His latest endeavor, Check I’m Here, allows universities to track and increase campus engagement through card readers on mobile phones.

"We’re at a continuous growth stage for technology here in Tampa Bay," says Pressman. "I plan on staying here and helping create a better ecosystem for everybody. I’m excited to be able to start and grow companies in Tampa Bay."

His vision is to see the technical community get more involved with non-tech communities, such as investment and the arts, creating what he refers to as "cross-community collaboration."

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Sources: Reuben Pressman and Daniel James Scott, USFSP

St. Petersburg Technology Companies Celebrate Art Of Collaboration

It’s not often that two companies with somewhat overlapping services share the same work space.

That’s the case for Big Sea Design and Development and Roundhouse Creative Studio in St. Petersburg. Big Sea Design specializes in content design and graphics for websites and mobile apps, as well as social media strategy. Roundhouse Creative produces videos, as well as motion graphics, websites and other marketing solutions.

In November 2012, the two companies moved into the same space in St. Petersburg’s fully self-sustaining net zero building.

The collaboration came about because of a friendship between two company leaders, Andi Graham (Big Sea Design) and Andrew Lee (Roundhouse Creative). When the space became available that was too large to hold either of the companies separately, they decided to share the space. The work environment is completely open, allowing for each company’s employees to collaborate on projects, asking for advice and ideas, as well as work on joint projects.

"It’s almost like having an additional team available," says Casey Paquet, project manager for Big Sea Design and Development.

To celebrate their one year anniversary in the shared space, the companies are hosting an art show titled: COLLAB: Celebrating the art of collaboration, November 9 from 6 to 10 pm.

Artists are encouraged to collaborate on pieces that explore the benefits of collaboration and will feature mediums such as paintings, photography and mixed media from collaborative artist pairs. Creative Clay and VSA (the State of Florida organization for arts and disabilities) will also have artwork for display.

Artists will be available for conversation at the event, and many pieces will be available for sale. Urban Brew and Barbeque will provide craft beer and wine.

"Most people would consider us tech companies," says Paquet. "But, the work we do is creative and in line with the process an artist goes through. We feel like we’re a part of the artist community. It’s part of our blood."

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Casey Paquet, Big Sea Design and Development

Hillsborough Community College Launches Certificate Program, Event For Entrepreneurs

Hillsborough Community College (HCC) enhances its offerings for current and aspiring entrepreneurs with a new certificate program open to the public and an event focused on active military and veterans.

The 12-credit, one semester certificate program in Entrepreneurship and Innovation launches in January 2014. Students will learn from local business owners and HCC faculty as well as conduct field research in the business community.  

"It will give our students a chance to develop their ideas and collaborate with other entrepreneurs to begin contributing pretty substantially to the local economy," says Andy Gold, business faculty member at HCC and a driving force behind the program’s creation.  

A lifelong entrepreneur, Gold moved to Florida a year ago and has since immersed himself into the Tampa Bay entrepreneurship ecosystem. "I’ve met some really amazing people in Tampa Bay. We’re well on our way to building a substantial program at HCC that can work with everybody."

Students will start off in the same cohort, and will then be broken into groups based on where they are in their entrepreneurial journey:

Path one – Intrepreneur: People who enjoy the innovation, adaptability and problem solving skills that come with entrepreneurial education but still want to work in a traditional corporate environment.

Path two – Specialization: People with a desire to be self-employed but without a business idea. After the certificate program is completed, they can take additional courses in a specialized area of focus such as event planning or computer repair.

Path three – Launch: People who are prepared with a concept and ready to start their own business. The program will help students develop their idea and make it more scalable.

HCC is also hosting a Veterans Entrepreneurship Training Symposium (VETS) October 26 at its Dale Mabry campus in Tampa. Open to active military, veterans and their spouses, the program will provide entrepreneurs with a day’s worth of seminars about starting a business.

Greg Celestan, local entrepreneur and CEO of Celestar Corporation and U.S. Army Lieutenant Colonel is the keynote speaker. At the end of the day, a business pitch competition will award $5K in assistance to the winning pitch.

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Andy Gold, HCC

Valet Boss App Among Hottest Tech Startups In Nation

After lunch one summer afternoon, Susie Steiner stood in the hot sun for "what felt like forever.'' Steiner was waiting for her valet-parked car to be retrieved by an attendant at International Plaza in Tampa.

"It felt like 95 degrees,'' she recalls, "and I was frustrated that there was not a faster way to retrieve my vehicle.''
 
Steiner, who is CEO of ExecuTrans Services in Tampa and organizer and facilitator of Startup Weekend Tampa Bay, is no stranger to the startup community. So when she identified a need for a more streamlined valet retrieval service, she created one herself. The mobile app Valet Boss was born.

At last week's Tech Cocktail Social at Fox Jazz Cafe, Valet Boss competed with four local startups for the title of Hottest Showcasing Startup in the area, and for the opportunity to continue on to a national conference and showcase in Las Vegas.
 
The October 8th demo "went so well that we couldn't demonstrate the product fast enough!'' Steiner says. "Fortunately, we were allotted two minutes to pitch on stage and ended up winning the community vote -- as well as corporate Tech Cocktail's vote.''

Now, the startup will join 24 other companies from around the country to compete for the title of Hottest Showcasing Startup in the Nation at Tech Cocktail Celebrate, held Oct. 24-25 in Las Vegas.

Valet Boss will launch in Tampa in Dec. 2013, in anticipation of the holiday season. With no outside funding to date, the Tampa startup is completely bootstrapped. The app, which is free to the consumer, can be implemented at restaurants, bars, hospitals, casinos, hotels, airports and private events.

Valet Boss provides as a great a benefit to locations that implement the service as it does to consumers, says Steiner.

"Our peers have spoken, and 100 percent of valet users said they would use the app,'' she explains. "Additionally, many stated they would valet park more frequently because of the cashless system Valet Boss offers.''

The startup's public launch will include Atlanta, Chicago, Houston, LA and Minneapolis, Steiner says. To join the queue, visit ValetBoss.com.

Writer: Justine Benstead
Source: Susie Steiner, Valet Boss

Service Design + Tourism Conference Explores Creative Thinking, Sarasota

Design, service, tourism and creative thinking come together in Sarasota November 7 – 9 at the Service Design + Tourism Conference.

Hosted by Ringling College of Art and Design, the 2nd annual event focuses on improving services at every point of contact with customers. A global event, the first conference took place in Innsbruck, Austria in 2012.

Attendees include business leaders, designers, service and tourism providers, faculty and students from across the globe. They will walk away with new ideas and the latest best practices to help create meaningful, engaging customer service experiences.

The three-day experience includes speakers from across the world talking about service innovation in every setting from airports to cruises, theme parks and general service businesses. Luc Mayrand, creative director and senior show producer from Walt Disney Imagineering, will talk about developing an authentically Disney experience in a changing international marketplace. Simon Bradley, vice president of marketing, North America for Virgin Atlantic will discuss how the airlines focuses on the passenger experience to engage customers year round and turn them into brand ambassadors. Jonathan Frolich, vice president-global innovation for Hyatt Hotels Corporation, will talk about how Hyatt is using design thinking to transform the hotel guest experience.

Several local speakers will appear as well, including Paul Wilborn, executive director of the Palladium Theater in St. Petersburg who will discuss how thinking local helped transform the theater into a major arts destination.

Thursday a pre-show will feature the first Tourism Service Jam in the United States, led by initiators of the Global Service Jams. Similar to a musical jam, the all-day event brings participants together in a cooperative spirit for a design challenge. Teams will be asked to develop a prototype for a completely new service with a shared theme.

On Saturday afternoon, Lorraine Buck of Marvel Brand of Feld Entertainment will give a preview of Marvel Universe Live.

"Tampa Bay has so many opportunities to distinguish itself as an important business ally to people from around the world." says Michelle Bauer, president and chief strategist for Common Language and member of the conference production team. "By bringing the heads of firms and universities from across the globe here to see this region for the first time, we have an opportunity to create impressions on them that could ripple in huge ways for our tourism, service, and education industries,"

Event partners and supporters include: RIDG, St. Petersburg Chamber, Visit Florida, WeVue, AIGA Tampa Bay, Spark Growth, BIG, Luxury Hoteliers, atLarge, Inc., Visit Sarasota, Gulf Coast Community Foundation, SRQ Airport, and The Ringling Museum of Art.

83 Degrees readers can get 20 percent off the full conference ticket price by using the code DESIGN when registering by Oct. 30.  

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Michelle Bauer, Common Language

EmbroidMe Adds 20 New Locations, 200+ Jobs in Tampa

EmbroidMe, a world leader in custom embroidery, screen printing and promotional products, has selected Tampa Bay for its next wave of expansion, adding 20 new locations that are expected to bring more than 200 professional jobs to the area.

It all began with Signarama, a custom brand signage franchise which has grown to more than 900 locations in 50 countries. In 2000, the EmbroidMe brand was added to create custom branded promotional solutions for businesses. With six different  brands under the United Franchise Group, businesses can grow their companies with brand solutions from outdoor advertising to convention planning to business brokerage and energy efficiency.

"We specialize in helping business from advertising to being more green. A lot of times our franchisees work together on providing solutions to businesses," says Erin Crawford, VP of Development.

The EmbroidMe brand has grown to more than 300 locations, with 200 in Florida and 15 abroad.

As the economy experienced a climate shift in recent past years, the company decided to focus its growth plan on strengthening its existing locations for long-term sustainability.

Now, the brand is opening up expansion and new franchise opportunities, centering its focus on the promotional products industry, which is one of the strongest forms of marketing for many businesses.

"We are not just an embroidery company; we are a full-service promotional marketing solutions partner. We’re growing and expanding throughout the United States, specifically in markets where we see things picking back up," says Crawford.

Over the next five years, EmbroidMe plans to add at least seven new locations in Tampa, four in St. Petersburg, and one in Clearwater. The new additions will call for up to five new employees per store which can grow to have up to 15 employees focused on production and sales.

"We have a strong presence in this area and in this market, so we have a heavy growth plan for the bigger markets in Florida -- like Tampa, Orlando, Jacksonville and south Florida," says Crawford.

For more information on franchising and career opportunities, visit EmbroidMe’s website.

Writer: Kaye Brown
Source: Erin Crawford, EmbroidMe & United Franchise Group

USF Entrepreneurship Students Use Paper Clip For Charity

Teams of students in the New Venture Formation class at the University of South Florida (USF)’s Masters of Science in Entrepreneurship in Applied Technologies program were given a challenge: Start a business and see how far you can get using one paperclip. They had one week to do it.

The challenge, presented by Sean Lux, PhD, was based on One Red Paper Clip, a 2005 project by Kyle MacDonald in which he traded a red paper clip with random people, item by item, until he eventually received a house.

Given the timing of the challenge, the night after the government shut down, one team had an interest in doing something that would benefit people. The thinking was that people who may have donated to local charities in the past may not be able to do so because of lost wages and furloughs. They put up a web site using Go Fund Me to see how much money they could raise for Feeding America Tampa Bay.

The team used the paper clip as a symbol of tying people together, adding a double meaning with the title “clipping hunger.” They reached out to family, friends and used social media to spread the word. In just four days, they raised over $2,000, with donation amounts ranging from $1 to $1,000.

"We were absolutely overwhelmed by everyone’s generosity," says Summer Decker, PhD, a member of the student team, which also included Victor Florez, Kelly Heckinger and Ronald Solis. Decker is an assistant professor in USF’s Department of Radiology who enrolled in the program to become more entrepreneurial in the lab environment.

"As entrepreneurship students, we learned that having a really good, sound idea and a good story would help people feel excited and passionate about your project and your group," says Decker. The group also learned the value of networks, as the largest donor was someone Decker connected with during a previous class assignment which asked students to get in touch with someone they had not seen in a long time.

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Summer Decker, USF

1 Million Cups Of Coffee Support Entrepreneurship In Cities

A new opportunity is brewing for entrepreneurs in Tampa Bay. 1 Million Cups St. Petersburg officially kicks off October 9 at St. Petersburg Greenhouse and invites business owners, mentors and the entire community to come together to support local businesses and start-ups.

The concept was launched through the Kauffman Foundation, with the idea of seeing how much business and support entrepreneurs could receive around one million cups of coffee. The idea is simple: every Wednesday at 9:00 am, communities across the country bring together entrepreneurs, mentors, advisers and business minds to learn about and support new businesses. Each event features two businesses that present for six minutes each and then allow 20 minutes of questions, with the event ending at exactly one hour.

The concept began in Kansas City in April of 2012, and has rolled out in 20 communities nationwide. Kauffman provides back end administration, support and promotion, as well as opportunities for participating communities to gather together for benchmarking.  

The organizing team for 1 Million Cups St. Petersburg consists of: Sean Kennedy of St. Petersburg Greenhouse, John Morrow with USF St. Petersburg’s Sustainable Entrepreneurship and Innovation Alliance, Reuben Pressman, serial entrepreneur, Danielle Weitlauf of Tampa Bay Innovation Center and Richard Wood with Eagle Datagistics.

“We want more energy, more people coming together to talk about entrepreneurship in a very casual format,” says Danielle Weitlauf, Manager for Tampa Bay Innovation Center and one of the organizers for 1 Million Cups St. Petersburg.

In keeping with the 1 Million Cups theme, Kahwa Coffee is donating coffee each week.

Presenters for the kick-off event are Eye Crawler and Causetofund.

A common question that comes up at other 1 Million Cups events is: “What can the community do to support you?” Speakers will walk away with just that -- advice, connections and support from the community.

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Danielle Weitlauf, Tampa Bay Innovation Center

Tampa Startups Compete For National Attention At Tech Cocktail Event

Have you heard of Taskvilla, a Tampa company that offers business-hiring software? How about Tie the Knot, a custom website and iPhone app builder for the modern bride and groom?

Tonight at Fox Jazz Cafe on West Kennedy Boulevard, these local startups, along with LilyPad, Seat by Seat, and Valet Boss, will each compete for the title "Hottest Showcasing Startup'' and the chance to continue on to a two-day national conference in Las Vegas.

Since 2006, Tech Cocktail has hosted "Socials'' in cities worldwide, including tech hubs like San Francisco and Austin. For the first time, Tech Cocktail is coming to Tampa.

"Tech Cocktail was created to stimulate local tech communities,'' explains Gracie Stemmer, marketing director for Tampa Bay WaVE and head of the Tech Cocktail Committee in Tampa. "The event will showcase some of the area's most exciting tech companies and most supportive organizations.''

Entrepreneurs, supporters of the tech community or members of the public who are interested in what is taking place in Tampa Bay's tech world are welcome to attend, Stemmer says.

Criteria for selection of the five startups that will demo tonight included being established less than three years ago, raising less than $1 million in total funding, and having a working product in at least beta stage.

Each startup will have two minutes to pitch their products, while attendees will have the opportunity to network with members of the local entrepreneurial community and area tech enthusiasts.

Community-building events are an asset to Tampa's entrepreneurs, Stemmer says. "When our local community comes together and rallies around our startups, we are re-enforcing and strengthening what Tampa Bay has to offer.''

Tech Cocktail Celebrate, to be held in Las Vegas on Oct. 22-23, will offer 30 worldwide finalists the opportunity to showcase their companies to big names in the tech world.

"Becoming a recognizable tech community in the national entrepreneurial arena will not only keep our talent here in Tampa Bay, but also allows us to move talent in to our thriving area,'' says Stemmer.

Tech Cocktail's Social is Tuesday‚ Oct. 8th‚ 6-8:30 p.m., at Fox Jazz Cafe at 5401 W. Kennedy Boulevard.

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