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Robotics competition brings STEM-focused K-12 students to Tampa

More than 50 teams of students from kindergarten age through to high school seniors will build robots, create lego structures, and participate in technology-themed challenges at Roboticon Tampa Bay on Saturday, Oct. 10, and Sunday, Oct. 11.

Roboticon Tampa Bay will host a series of FIRST Robotics (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) educational events during the two days at the Bob Martinez Athletics Center at the University of Tampa in downtown Tampa: a LEGO League, Tech Challenge and Robotics Competition. All of the events are open to the public.

FIRST Robotics programs around the world are largely volunteer-run; nearly 200,000 worldwide volunteers work with around twice that many students. Studies of students involved in FIRST activities have shown that involved students are 50 percent more likely to attend college than their peers, four times more likely to pursue a career in engineering, and 2.5 times more likely to volunteer in their communities, says Roboticon Tampa Bay organizer and Eureka Factory Founder Terri Willingham.

“Ultimately, we want to build a capable, technically literate and professional workforce of future employees and business leaders in Tampa, and we need young minds like the ones that will be at Roboticon,” Willingham says. “This is our chance to make a powerful impact on visiting students. Caring business professionals make a difference in children’s lives, and can influence our economic future, as well.”

By highlighting technology and robotics at the local Roboticon, Willingham seeks “to show youth attending the event why they might want to live, learn and work in Tampa as they move on from high school.”

Highlights of the two-day Roboticon Tampa Bay events include:FIRST LEGO League team scrimmages will “give folks the chance to see some of our youngest engineers in training,” says Willingham, while robot-building will earn some high school students awards.

In addition to educational workshops and interactive competitions, Roboticon Tampa Bay will feature music by teenage DJ Jake Delacruz, as well as a “tropical Star Wars” performance by Steel Pan Band from the Maestro Maines School of Music on Oct. 11 at 1 p.m.

Also on Sunday, visitors can browse the FIRST Robotics Teams fundraiser.

“Robots and a sale! How awesome is that?” Willingham exclaims.

In early fall 2015, FIRST released a Newspaper in Education special edition dedicated to STEM themes to middle and high school students statewide in an effort to bring student -- and administrative -- attention to STEM fields.

Rather than allocating funds primarily to sports or non-academic programs, Willingham says, public high schools that invest “school dollars and student time into more STEM-related programming will provide a far higher return on the investment for schools, students and the community.”

Roboticon Tampa Bay is one of many innovative local events to receive funding from the Hillsborough County Economic Development Innovation Initiative (EDI2) grant.

“The outlook for science and technology careers is robust,” Willingham says. “The future is what Roboticon is all about. What it’s showing: just a slice of a world full of empowered, educated, supported and inspired youth can do.”

Hillsborough County “sees that future,” she adds, “and we’re grateful for our county’s dedication to these goals.”

All of the weekend’s Roboticon Tampa Bay events are open to the public, and Willingham anticipates up to 1,000 students, parents, and interested attendees from around Tampa Bay and across the state of Florida to stop by the two-day weekend expo. Over 50 teams are slated to compete; double 2014’s numbers. 

Uber hosts "ride-and-pitch" for Tampa Bay investors, entrepreneurs

Entrepreneurs and aspiring startup founders in Tampa Bay enjoyed a new way to reach an investment audience for one day only: in an Uber car.

For three hours on Friday, October 9, select Uber drivers hosted investors from the local Tampa Bay area, giving entrepreneurs the chance to "ride and pitch." 

Following two successful stints in its home base of San Francisco and in Philadephia, ridesharing company Uber paired up with Florida Funders, LLC to bring Tampa Bay investors and entrepreneurs together - for 15 minutes per ride. 

David Chitester founded Florida Funders, a Tampa-based company that connects local businesses with investors and financing, in 2014, after noting that the Tampa Bay region was "losing too many young, promising entrepreneurs to places like Silicon Valley and Austin. If we can fund some of these firms, they can grow here, and the local community will benefit.''

Using modern technology to give them a few minutes of investors' time could be a good way to keep those young, promising entrepreneurs. 

Chitester found himself hesitant to get involved with the UberPitch contest initially - "but when I returned the call from Uber and discussed the concept, it really made sense for us to get involved," he says. "We are well connected in the Tampa Bay region with both investors and entrepreneurs. Also, we are disrupting the investment industry and Uber is disrupting the transportation industry, so it is a great match of philosophies." 

Since Uber has run the pitch contest in only a few cities around the country, the unconventional company's selection of Tampa as a host city "shows we are getting national recognition for the efforts everyone here is making in the local startup community and eco-system," Chitester says.

Each Uber car involved in the pitch contests hosted two investors, riding separately, for an hour and a half each on Friday morning. Altogether, two UberPitch cars could be requested around downtown St. Petersburg; two in Tampa's downtown and West Shore business districts; and one in the University of South Florida's growing "Innovation District." That means that selected riders were able to talk about their ideas with ten potential investors during the three-hour event.

To access Uber cars with investors, individuals simply input a code (TBPITCH) when reserving a ride through the Uber smartphone app. Once an investor car picked them up, riders had 15 minutes to pitch to an investor before getting dropped back off at their original locations.

Not all rider requested were granted in the "lottery-style" special event time frame.

Several of the participating investors are based in Tampa Bay; all in the state of Florida. Investor riders include:Interested in learning more about the Uber Pitch events? Search the hashtag #UberPITCH on social media sites and follow @Uber_Florida on Twitter for real-time updates.

Marlow’s Tavern hires 62 new employees, opens in Carrollwood neighborhood of Tampa

Marlow’s Tavern, a neighborhood-style tavern known for its low employee turnover, is making its first foray into the Tampa Bay area with a new restaurant in Tampa’s Carrollwood community.

Although the company eventually expects to open several restaurants in the region, opening first in Carrollwood in September made good business sense, says Harold Phillips, local operating partner for the restaurant.  

“Carrollwood is an established community with a diverse, fairly affluent residential base and a significant number of homes are within a five mile radius of our location,” says Phillips.

The restaurant will be located in the Village Center (13164 N Dale Mabry Highway), a high-traffic area that has seen substantial investment in the last few years.  

In 2014, the shopping and dining destination completed a multi-million dollar renovation project that resulted in an updated courtyard, a reconfigured entryway and a major remodel for anchor tenants, including an expanded, 49,000-square-foot Publix grocery store.

Marlow’s Tavern opened its first location in Alpharetta, GA, in 2014 and now has restaurants throughout Georgia, as well as locations in Orlando and Winter Park.

In an industry known for its high turnover – the average restaurant has a 100-to-150 percent annual turnover – Marlow’s Tavern has been averaging 18-to-20 percent, perhaps attributed to the company’s rigorous employee screening process.

“We’re looking for people who fit with our culture, what we call Marlow’s Magic,” says Phillips. “It’s a set of principles, beliefs and promises we make to our stakeholders, which includes everyone from our guests to vendors, the neighborhood and our employees.” 

Sixty-two employees were hired for the new Carrollwood restaurant from an initial applicant pool of nearly 1,000 online applicants, says Phillips. Personality tests, an interview with the management team, pre-orientation and then a two-week training program are all part of the hiring process.

Radio show podcast program teaches Tampa teens digital entrepreneurship

Local Tampa Bay area teenagers have the chance to learn about digital radio programming and podcast creation during a seven-week class at the Hillel Academy in Carrollwood.

Tampa Bay-based non-profit Forward Thinking Initiatives (FTI), in partnership with Life Improvement Radio, is teaching local students who range from 5th through 12th grades how to start their own radio podcast program at the Teen Radio Show: The Digital Entrepreneur program.

Students are learning “everything they need to know to create their own podcast program, including how to create scripts for actual guest interviews, how to use the technology, understanding how to finance their own show, how to create ads and sponsors, and how to interview exciting guests,” says FTI founder Debra Campbell.

Campbell hopes to see students take the skills they learn in the Teen Radio Show program, which began in mid-September and runs through mid-November, and apply them to other interests. 

“When young people think about starting their own business, they typically don't think to begin with their own passions and interests,” she explains. “Although all of our programs are under the umbrella of entrepreneurship and innovation, we frequently theme the programs to appeal more to the young people we work with.”

During the seven week digital entrepreneurship workshop, students learn about:
  • Technology used to create podcasts
  • Conducting an interview
  • Developing and writing scripts for guest interviews
  • Financing a radio show
  • Creating ads and sponsors for the show
  • Interviewing live guests on the air
Podcast programs created by students in the classes will run on Life Improvement Radio.

“What I hope the students will gain from the experience is a ‘no fear approach’ to learning something totally new, or even a bit intimidating,” Campbell says. 

Parents might just learn something, too: “Last time we ran the program, many parents stayed for the classes as well,” Campbell explains. “We welcome parents! It fosters great dinner conversations at home.”  
 
The two-month-long program takes place weekly on Friday evenings at the Hillel Academy in Carrollwood neighborhood of Tampa. 

Students in the Teen Radio program are "gaining entrepreneurial skills such as budgeting, how to finance their programs and how to market them,” Campbell says, “but my hope is this will be the kind of learning kids gain when they get a new game that they want to learn how to play. They don't think about the learning, they just jump in.”

FTI aims to engage young students in after-school programs that focus on entrepreneurship, innovation, leadership and creative thinking. A recent FTI program hosted at the St. Petersburg Greenhouse taught students from local Artz4Life Academy about helicopter design and innovative thinking. FTI programs and partners such as the Greenhouse and the John F. Germany Library have earned accolades including the Kauffman Foundation Platinum Award and The Freedoms Foundation Leavey Award for Private Enterprise Education.

 

Lingerie and swimwear company hiring at new Tampa stores, headquarters

Tampa Bay-area women and young adults have a new local shopping option when it comes to intimate apparel: lingerie and swimwear company Ashley Nation opened its first retail store in October 2015 at Westfield Citrus Park Mall.
 
The apparel company, which established national headquarters in Tampa in fall 2014, scouted locations along the East Coast of the United States before selecting Tampa.

Ashley Nation Founder and CEO Saul Perez calls Tampa “the perfect location,” noting that the decision to grow the company's retail brand and online sales from here was due, in part, to the city’s current growth, along with the “convenient national airport and great weather.”

“This market had all the things we were looking for,” says Perez. “But the most important thing is the people. The people here are so welcoming and receptive."
 
To kick off the store opening, Ashley Nation developed a partnership with the University of South Florida to benefit the charity Bright Pink with a giant game of Twister in the park. Since October is recognized as Breast Cancer Awareness Month, the breast and ovarian cancer awareness charity made sense as beneficiary, Perez says.

Plus, the walls of the company’s first store are hot pink. 

Members of USF’s student government and several sororities helped spread the word about the charity Twister game, which took place September 26 at USF's Riverfront Park.

The partnership with USF is fitting: for one thing, Perez says, students are the store’s “core demographic.”

Perez recruited local advertising and branding agency Schifino Lee to help conceptualize a brand identity and Wilder Architecture to develop the storefront design.

"We felt that all of the expertise we needed to grow the brand is available here in Tampa,” he explains.
 
Ashley Nation sells sleepwear, swimsuits and intimate apparel.
 
“Free your sexy” is the brand's official motto, but Perez says it's "more than a slogan to us. It’s an attitude towards living a spontaneous lifestyle. We want our customers to be true to themselves, and our brand is a reflection of that."
 
Perez plans to expand Ashley Nation to include stores at Westfield Brandon and Countryside malls as early as late 2015. A Sarasota location is also a possibility for 2016, Perez says.
 
Ashley Nation is currently hiring for sales associates at retail stores, as well as for “numerous positions in our corporate office in Tampa,” Perez says. Available positions at Ashley Nation headquarters include Marketing Coordinator and E-Commerce Operations Manager.
 
Email Ashley Nation to learn more about job openings.

TiEcon Florida 2015 brings innovators, investors to Tampa

Silicon Valley investors and serial entrepreneurs from the Tampa Bay Area and around Florida were among the speakers and attendees during TiEcon Florida 2015 on October 3rd at the Westin Harbour Island Hotel.

The conference's program was "very meticulously assembled to take the audience through an incredibly inspirational day, filled with story-telling,” says TiE Tampa Bay President-elect and TiEcon Chair Ramesh Sambasivan.

Entrepreneurs and investors traveled from around the nation to attend TiEcon Florida 2015, which highlighted such topics as raising capital, bootstrapping efforts and business accelerators.

TiEcon Florida 2015 attendees learned ''about innovative disruption from millennial entrepreneurs who are presently redefining the banking, sports-media and web-browsing experiences, the future of healthcare and life sciences,” Sambasivan says.

Other topics included: “What it takes to found and fund startups in Florida; how to get media-savvy; what it takes to raise entrepreneurs; and what investors look for in Florida, as told by a venture capitalist and angel investors.”

In short, Sambasivan adds, the day's event speakers addressed “the issues that keep startup founders up at night.”

A group of “very approachable” speakers differentiates TiEcon from most other conferences, Sambasivan says. “The day is peppered with phenomenal keynote speakers who will literally regale the audiences with inspirational stories of their entrepreneurial journeys."

Hillsborough County Commissioner Sandy Murman and Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn opened the event's dinner banquet, and comedian Kabir Singh performed. 

During a pitch segment, startups had a chance to be picked to present to angel investors from the TiE Tampa Angel Forum. The top 3 finalists -- Residential Acoustics led by CEO Walter Peek, Knack led by Co-Founder & CEO Samyr Qureshi, and Grand Opinion led by CEO Ashish Dhar -- won an invitation to pitch to real investors (an exclusive event for TiE Tampa Bay Charter Members who are accredited investors). The Pitch-Your-Startup award did not involve getting a capital infusion as part of the event.  

Sambasivan says the conference is “among the best kept secrets of Florida's entrepreneurial ecosystem, where speakers are highly accomplished entrepreneurs.”

TiE Tampa Bay aims to foster entrepreneurship in Florida startup ventures through access to TiE's global network, mentoring and early stage funding, Sambasivan explains. 

“TiEcon Florida is for every person who enjoys a good, inspiring entrepreneurial story. TiEcon Florida is for those who want to meet mentors, investors and like-minded people. TiEcon Florida is for those who believe in entrepreneurship as an engine of prosperity and economic development," Sambasivan says.

To learn more about TiE Tampa Bay, visit the group’s website.

Women entrepreneurs compete for $70,000 from the SBA

Entrepreneurial women in the Tampa Bay area have the opportunity to win up to $5,000 in cash or prizes -- and the chance to compete for a $70,000 award, furnished by Microsoft.

The 2016 InnovatHER Business Challenge invites local female industry leaders and business owners to share their ideas for products and services that would enrich everyday lives on a national stage.

Those finalists will have an opportunity to compete for $70,000 in the second year of the Small Business Administration’s national prize competition, InnovateHER 2016: Innovating for Women Business Challenge and Summit.

Local nonprofit organization The Helen Gordon Davis Centre for Women, a partner agency of the SBA is offering the local challenge as part of the partnership.

“We are funded for five years by SBA to provide business counseling and training for women,” explains Women's Business Centre director Stacey Banks-Houston.

Women make up 57 percent of the workforce, according to U.S. Department of Labor statistics. The SBA’s 2016 InnovatHER Business Challenge “is a great way for women to gain exposure for their business nationally, as well as technical assistance,” Banks-Houston says.  

The challenge officially began on September 14th, but “women can get started until at least November 1st,” Banks-Houston says. “The competition ends November 30th, so participants must be able to complete the requirements by then.” 

Requirements for the competition include:
  • Attending three Women’s Business Centre workshops or webinars
  • Participating in three hours of business counseling with a WBC counselor
  • Submitting a 2-minute video explaining how you would incorporate Microsoft products in your business.
  • Submitting a business plan
Videos must be submitted by November 20; the three finalists chosen on December 2 will win up to $5,000 in cash or prizes.

Funds for local level prizes are contributed by sponsors and supporters of the Women's Business Centre, Banks-Houston says.
Winners of the local round will then move on to the National SBA InnovateHER Challenge, when they will compete for $70,000.

During the finals, up to 10 finalists will compete for the three levels of cash prizes, provided by Microsoft. 2016 national InnovateHER finals will take place on March 16 and 17, during a Women’s Summit in the Washington, D.C. area.

Learn more about the SBA InnovateHER Challenge requirements here.

Concerned about qualification? Banks-Houston says that a product or service’s potential impact is more important than experience.

“Any woman with a product or service that has a measurable impact on the lives of women and families, has the potential for commercialization, and fills a need in the marketplace” should consider competing in the challenge, she says.

Interested in starting a conversation with other challengers? Try using the hashtag #innovatHERTampa on social media.

Local horror theme park hiring hundreds of seasonal Halloween employees

An expansive wooded park located in the quiet suburban neighborhoods north of Tampa will be transformed into a horror park for fall 2015. Think haunted hayrides, a house of horror and a monster-themed midway, all with a hint of zombie or other pandemic-inducing mayhem.

The horror park, “Scream-A-Geddon,” is located in Dade City on the grounds of aerial adventure park Treehoppers, which opens to the public at noon on September 15.

Treehoppers CEO Benjamin Nagengast says that the 60-acre, independently owned park “offers the most immersive scream park experience in Central Florida.”

To staff the new Halloween attraction, Nagengast is seeking around 400 seasonal employees for both full- and part-time positions. Job opportunities include actors, shift supervisors, greeters, parking attendants, cashiers, make-up artists and more.

Training will be provided; no experience necessary. To apply for a seasonal role with Scream-A-Geddon, please visit the attraction’s website.

“Scream-A-Geddon” will open on September 25, and remain open for select dates through November 1, 2015. Find a list of frequently asked questions here.
 
The Scream-A-Geddon theme is “fear to the extreme,” Nagengast says, and the park’s forested location helps increase the spook factor. Several of the park’s six attractions take advantage of the natural surroundings – the half-mile 'Cursed Hayride' through the woods; the 'Dead Woods', a forest trail attraction complete with a creepy back story.

Other attractions of the horror park include an interactive haunted house with Hollywood-quality special effects and the midway, where visitors can enjoy carnival games, food and beverages, and beer.

Scream-A-Geddon “is Florida’s scariest haunted horror park,” Nagengast says. “Once victims enter Scream-A-Geddon they will all be subjected to the horrors within.”

Due to the nature of the event, Scream-A-Geddon is recommended for adults and teenagers aged 13 years old and older.

"Being an independent Halloween horror park allows us to stretch the boundaries of what customers have come to expect at the more 'corporate' Halloween attractions in the Tampa Bay and Orlando areas," Mark Bremer, creative director at Scream-A-Geddon, said in a press release. "Victims who want a more interactive, intimate and terrifying haunted experience will be thrilled when our facility opens this fall."

CourseDrive app brings mobile tech to golfers, country clubs

Imagine standing on the green at your favorite golf course in the Tampa Bay area, or elsewhere in the country, when heavy, dark storm clouds begin to roll in. By the time the clouds clear and the rain stops falling, the course – and clubhouse – is long empty.

What if there was a quick, convenient way for the club to send a message to golfers, enticing them to head back out by, say, lowering cart fees to half off for the rest of the day?

CourseDriver, a mobile application for golfers and clubs, evolved from co-Founder Gabriel Aluisy’s “passion for connecting golfers to golf clubs and creating a better experience for both parties.”

“Golfers are craving more technology to enhance their rounds and interact with the club. Clubs are looking to attract younger members as well as show existing members and guests that they are improving and innovating,” says Aluisy, a golfer himself. “Our app facilitates this.”

Acccording to Aluisy, CourseDriver creates “that immediate connection” between a golf club and its members.

Aluisy, who earned a bachelor’s degree in communications from American University in Washington, D.C, is also the Founder of Tampa-based advertising agency Shake Creative. Advertising is an important aspect of the app; in-app instant messaging functionality is what makes it most attractive to clubs, Aluisy says.

“Clubs using our app have the ability to reach back out and communicate to anyone who has ever played a round at their course and downloaded the app,” he explains. “As long as our app is on a player's phone, the club is in the pocket of their target market to initiate a conversation or send a marketing message.” 

The app, which is free for the players to download, features the instant messaging function, along with features that golfers might need during a round, such as GPS distance tracking, score tracking, live satellite weather, round history and upcoming tournaments. Players can even order food and drink from the club via the app.

CourseDriver launched in April 2015 at Isla Del Sol Yacht & Country Club in St. Petersburg, and in August expanded to Harbour Ridge Yacht & Country Club in Stuart, on Florida’s east coast. After a stint in beta mode, the app will be available nationwide.

Aluisy developed the idea for CourseDriver into an app along with Gary Teaney, a business consultant with Transformational Consulting for Business.

“We brainstormed a feature set that would remedy the pain points my clients in the private club industry had,” Aluisy says. “They were losing members and had trouble attracting younger folks to the game. This was my solution.” 

Aluisy hopes to see the app in 200 clubs by the end of 2016. As the platform expands, he anticipates hiring locally in the Tampa Bay area for a sales team, developers, and designers.

To learn more about CourseDriver or request a demo, visit the website.

Local actors put on 2nd festival in downtown Tampa

Drawing on its debut success last year and added star power, the Tampa Bay Theatre Festival is calling on area actors and theatre enthusiasts to attend the three-day event Sept. 4-6, 2015.

Festival events will take place at the Straz downtown, Stageworks Theatre in Grand Central at Kennedy in the Channel District and at Hillsborough Community College (HCC) Ybor Main Stage. The Festival is packed with original plays and workshops, including quite a coup for such a new festival: master acting class with Broadway, TV actor/director and NBC’s Blacklist co-star Harry Lennix.  

“My goal is to empower the local actor,” says Festival Founder Rory Lawrence, a Tampa resident who founded his own theatre companies, RQL Productions and RL Stage, about six years ago and will present his latest comedy, “Hour Confessions,’’ at the opening events of the festival. Lawrence says he started the festival here because he had attended theatre festivals in other parts of the country, and realized, “Man, we don’t have a festival here!” 

He believed local theatre actors needed more support and networking opportunities. “There are so many actors here that don’t know how or where to go,” says Lawrence.

With much nail-biting leading up to last year’s first Tampa Bay Theatre Festival given the event’s meager pre-sales, he was thrilled when, by his most conservative estimate, more than 1,200 people attended, with several events sold out. “Plays were packed, workshops filled.” Lawrence says this year, they have expanded and are hoping to double attendance.

Thanks to the venue sponsors and the event’s premier sponsor, local law firm Maney Gordon, the festival is reasonably priced and accessible – with professionally taught workshops priced at $10, or $45 gets you into all of them throughout the weekend with discounts for other activities (the Lennix master class is charged separately). Several events are free of charge. 

In addition to the workshops and networking, there will be short- and long-form playwriting contests taking place as well as a monologue contest. Five full-length original plays written by local playwrights will be presented over the course of the weekend. Winners will be announced at the concluding awards ceremony, which is already sold out, though Lawrence may open more seats closer to the event. 

Advance tickets to the festival may be purchased through its website

St. Pete startup aims to save lives with surfboard leash tourniquet

Save a limb for around $50.

That’s the idea behind OMNA Inc, a St. Pete-based startup company that has developed water-friendly tourniquets, which can be used in a sticky situation.

OMNA Inc. Founder and CEO Carson Henderson devised the combination product as a way to help safeguard surfers and swimmers against bleeding injuries from shark attacks or other water hazards.

The idea of an amphibious tourniquet leash, or tourniquet leg rope, came to Henderson after a close encounter with crocodiles and other predators during a 2012 Costa Rican vacation.

Henderson, who was working as a security contractor for the U.S. military in Iraq at the time, explains, “I went surfing with some friends I made there, and we took a boat across a river to get to a surf break. The surf ended up being so good that day that we surfed until it was dark out. When we got back to the river to take a boat back, all the boats were gone.”

No problem – except for the sharks and crocodiles that are known to linger near the mouth of the river. So the group took a chance, gathered their boards into a tight formation, and paddled to safety as quickly as possible.

Although nothing happened, it got Henderson thinking: How many people in the water had run into trouble due to shark attacks or other hazards that cause massive bleeding injuries? As it turned out, enough to warrant a fresh new solution: a surfboard leash with a built-in tourniquet.

“I started researching and identified a recurring problem of people in the water needing tourniquets. I subsequently sketched, filed patents, and began prototyping,” Henderson says.

Along with a tourniquet leash aimed at surfers, Henderson devised an amphibious tourniquet leg rope, which could be used for water-related activities from diving and spear fishing to performing lifeguard or first responder duties.

OMNA “is in the business of saving lives,” Henderson says.

A former recon Marine who was selected as the June Commander’s Call award recipient from veteran business funding organization Street Shares, Henderson earned an AA from Florida State College in Jacksonville and a BS in Organizational Leadership online course work from National University of La Jolla, CA.

“I did the majority of my online coursework from Iraq and Afghanistan in my off-times, when I was not running missions,” he explains. “I was doing coursework chipping away at my BS degree.”

After completing a Certificate in Business Administration from Bond University, Gold Coast in Australia, Henderson left his MBA studies to pursue business fulltime.

The term OMNA comes from Henderson’s days as a recon Marine; it stands for “One Man National Asset” and refers to “people who could do everything. Recon Marines also identify with the jack-of-all-trades slogan, and the company name pays homage to that heritage.”

The startup company has a Prefundia page and may launch a Kickstater campaign. Currently, the bootstrapped company consists solely of Henderson and the occasional freelancer.

Pricing for the Omna Tourniquet leash ranges from $34.99-$59.99. Pre-orders for the leash are now available, with general sales set to begin in fall 2015.

“Our pricing strategy is by price and not volume,” Henderson says. “We are offering two products for one, so we believe this price is fair for the value and quality we provide for our customers.”

Henderson anticipates that product delivery to customers who pre-order will begin in September. Post-general sales launch, Henderson plans to develop partnerships with retailers and wholesalers to sell the leash in stores.

While the tourniquet leash fulfills a niche market role for water board sports, Henderson would like to see OMNA’s amphibious tourniquet stocked by “traditional sporting goods and hunting stores.”

“We want to get these products to people to help enhance life-saving capabilities, in and out of the water,” Henderson says. “A person can bleed out in as little as three minutes. A tourniquet can be worn for roughly one to three hours without the loss of limb. You will not lose a limb if you use a tourniquet.”

Eckerd College alum launches eco-friendly sunscreen, cosmetics line

Each summer, boatloads of sunscreen are sold to beach-goers throughout the country. But where do the contents end up? Often, in the oceans.

Studies have shown that the chemicals found in many sunscreens or skin care products that contain sunscreen can contaminate, and even kill coral reefs (some can also cause problems for humans).

Enter Stream2Sea, a St. Petersburg, Florida-based startup company that aims to revolutionize the way we swim with eco-friendly sunscreen and skin care products that have been deemed safe for marine life.

Entrepreneur Autumn Bloom, who received a chemistry honors B.S. from Eckerd College in 1997, founded Stream2Sea. After starting and later selling off specialty cosmetics company Organix South, the Eckerd alum dove into the idea of protecting endangered ecosystems from human activities.

“Over 6,000 tons of skin care products enter coral reefs from tourist activities alone,” Blum explains in a blog post on the Stream2Sea website, adding that additional contamination products entering waters through runoff or sewage are not included in that statistic.

And even though other sunscreen brands on the market today may call themselves " 'ocean friendly,' many contain ingredients that are known to harm the fragile ecosystems and marine life of our waters,” Blum writes.

After developing Stream2Sea’s initial line of eco-friendly sunscreens and body care products, Blum, with the help of the Eckerd College Alumni Relations department and her mentor, Dr. David Grove, selected a team of scientists and students at Eckerd to conduct testing and research.

The research team, which included Assistant Professor of Biology Denise Flaherty and Assistant Professor of Biology and Marine Science Koty Sharp, along with several of their students, worked with Blum on scientific trials refine her products.

“It was wonderful working with the knowledgeable professors and students at my alma mater,” Blum writes. “Watching the students apply their lab skills and education to my ‘real world’ requirements, proving the safety of Stream2Sea products, was an incredible feeling.”

Flaherty, who tested the products on fish with her students, says in a news release that the opportunity to work on applied research in the field and in the lab was a special one for students.

“Being able to see a project like this all the way through was very meaningful,’’ she notes.

Sharp’s team, which included Eckerd College marine science seniors Takoda Edlund and Samantha Fortin, spent a week in the Florida Keys collecting coral larvae samples to use for testing the Stream2Sea products. While sunscreen had been tested before on living corals, tests had never been done on coral larvae, Sharp says.

Stream2Sea products were tested on coral larvae and fish at the Mote Marine Laboratory’s Tropical Research Laboratory in Sarasota. Tests concluded that the Stream2Sea products showed no evidence of harm to fish or to corals.

Participating students were so excited to see the positive results that “they actually cheered when every single fish was still alive after 96 hours of swimming in the shampoo-laced foamy water,” Blum writes.

Stream2Sea has identified a list of ingredients to avoid, such as nano particles that can flake off of skin as we swim as well as an ingredients dictionary to help consumers make sense of biodegradable cosmetics that are eco-friendly. 

Moving forward, the company will continue to invest significant funding into testing, Blum writes, “so that we can state, with complete confidence, that we are the safest product on the shelves.”

Stream2Sea sunscreen, shampoo, conditioner and lotion are in stock on the company website. Prices range from $3.95-$16.95.

Women's tech group to host August meetup at Cooper's Hawk Winery

Women with a professional or personal interest in technology are invited to join the Tampa chapter of Girls in Tech (GIT), a global networking group for professional women, at their 2015 kickoff event: Vino Night at Cooper's Hawk Winery.

"This is a great opportunity to be a part of an awesome movement," says Sylvia Martinez, Collaborative Technologies of Tampa Bay founder and CEO, and one of GIT's chapter organizers.

Girls in Tech is a global nonprofit with chapters in tech hubs like Tampa Bay spread across five continents. 

The group works to advance the “engagement, education and empowerment of influential women in technology and entrepreneurship,” Martinez explains. “We focus on the promotion, growth and success of entrepreneurial and innovative women in the technology space."

During the Girls in Tech Vino Night on Thursday, Aug. 13, the group will discuss "what types of events the chapter wants to see moving forward," Martinez says. After a hiatus following the 2014 death of Tampa GIT chapter leader Susie Steiner, the group is reorganizing for the 2015 kickoff event. 

"Unfortunately, our chapter hibernated after the loss of our former Girls in Tech leader," Martinez says. "We are excited to revive the group, and we know that's what Susie would want."

Martinez and Victoria Edwards, a digital content strategist for Florida Blue, served on the GIT board over the past two years and will stay on as group leaders moving forward; New Market Partners CEO and Startup Grind Tampa Bay chapter Director Joy Randels has also taken on a leadership role. All three women are key players in the Tampa Bay tech scene.  

The Tampa Bay Girls in Tech 2015 kickoff event will begin at 5:30 p.m. on August 13 at Cooper's Hawk Winery and restaurant, located at 4110 W Boy Scout Blvd in Tampa. 

The casual networking get together will offer attendees the chance to mingle over wine and cocktails and to meet the women in the growing tech community of Tampa Bay.

Martinez encourages "anyone interested in our mission of supporting and empowering women in the tech and entrepreneur space in Tampa Bay" to attend the GIT kickoff.

Tampa Bay 'best choice' for Accusoft expansion; IT company to create 125 high-wage jobs

Accusoft, a leading global software and imaging solutions provider, is expanding its Tampa Bay headquarters with 125 new high-wage jobs in fields like software development and engineering. The positions will pay an average annual wage of $75,000.

Partnerships between Enterprise Florida, the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity, CareerSource Florida, the City of Tampa, Hillsborough County and the Tampa Hillsborough Economic Development Corporation helped to make the Accusoft expansion possible.

A combined incentives package totaling $750,000 was offered to the company through the state of Florida’s Qualified Target Industry (QTI) program, the Hillsborough County Board of County Commissioners and the Tampa City Council. As long as the promised jobs are created, the funds will be allocated over the course of eight years.

"This partnership and support will help us attain our company's goals while also benefiting the local economy,” Accusoft President Jack Berlin says. “It means a lot to Accusoft to be given an opportunity to create meaningful, high-paying jobs in the Tampa Bay area.”

Berlin, who received an MBA from Duke University's Fuqua School of Business, set his sights on Tampa as a business base after successfully selling a startup company in Atlanta.

He and wife Leslie were seeking a “better place to raise a family; a place to live before a place to work,” Berlin explains. “Having grown up in Savannah, I love the beach and salt water. Florida was very appealing. Tampa, we felt, was the best choice of all the Florida cities.”

Today, the feeling remains.

“The company stays where I want to live, and I love the area,” Berlin says, praising the Tampa Bay area for “plenty of big city amenities, a great airport, the bonus of great weather and beautiful beaches, and no personal income tax.”

A little history: Accusoft began as Pegasus Imaging Corporation in Tampa in 1991. Over the next two decades, Pegasus acquired several companies in the imaging and software development sectors; developed a medical imaging division; and in 2012 rebranded as Accusoft.

While the company never aimed to relocate, expansion outside of Tampa was briefly considered, Berlin says. The company opened a development office in Atlanta, but found that remote work caused problems, so they closed up shop. Accusoft’s Boston office was already established and running efficiently when Pegasus acquired it in 2008.

“Talent is more expensive up there, but we don’t shy away from hiring in Boston if we find the right person,” Berlin says, citing as an example a long-term development manager who speaks fluent Russian and runs much of the company’s outsourced activities.

Berlin hopes to attract a similar caliber of employee in Tampa with the creation of 125 new jobs that will pay a minimum average wage of $75,000. Hiring has already begun; most of the new positions require advanced degrees (B.S. or higher).  

“We continue to attract great talent from Tampa or to Tampa, and hope that continues,” Berlin says. “We will grow, but with continued hiring standards."

Accusoft joins several high-profile companies headquartered in Tampa and Hillsborough County that have expanded locally rather than relocating, including Bristol-Myers SquibbInspirataReliaQuestTribridge and Laser Spine Institute.

During a news conference announcing the company’s expansion, Florida Gov. Rick Scott said that 879,700 private-sector jobs have been created in Florida since December 2010. Hillsborough is the fourth largest county in Florida, which is ranked third in the nation for high-tech companies.

“Companies like Accusoft know Florida’s pro-business climate is the best place to grow and create jobs,” Scott says.

Accusoft is headquartered at 4001 N. Riverside Drive and currently has 131 employees. Expansion will allow the company to grow its existing space by up to 25,000 square feet.

Interested in working for Accusoft? Proficient in C++, Node JS, JAVA, HTML5, CSS, .NET skills? Berlin encourages interested parties to connect on Linkedin or visit the Accusoft website

Upcoming Tampa Bay tech events focus on community, collaboration

Summer is here, temperatures are high and tech-centric events are happening all around Tampa Bay. Technology-driven meetups and innovation-fueled gatherings in Tampa Bay during summer 2015 all seem to share a common theme: cooperation and collaboration with other members of the local tech community. 

83 Degrees Media has the scoop on which tech-oriented events are happening when, so settle in with your desktop screen or smart device and start scrolling -- summer in Tampa Bay has a lot of tech to offer!
 
Saturday, July 25: Tech Community Night at the Rays Game
6 p.m.-10 pm.
Tropicana Field
1 Tropicana Drive

Join fellow techies, community leaders and friends as the Tampa Bay Rays take on the Baltimore Orioles during a baseball game at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg. Discounted tickets at $30/person include a baseline box seat in section 134, and access to the on-field Casey Musgraves concert post-game.
 
For more information, visit the Tech Community Night Eventjoy website.

Tuesday, July 29: Startup Grind
6:30 p.m.-9 p.m.
CoWork Ybor
1901 E. 7th Ave.

Each month, Startup Grind events around the country unfold as fireside chats between moderators and guest speakers, who share stories of their successes – and failures – as entrepreneurs. Tampa Bay moderator Joy Randels brings speakers from a variety of industries to join chats at locally owned venues around Tampa Bay, including well-known thought leaders and entrepreneurs.

To get a feel for the meetup style, see the above video of a June 2014 Startup Grind event featuring Tampa native Joey Redner, the founder of Tampa's well-known craft brewery Cigar City

Join Startup Grind Tampa Bay in July 2015 at CoWork Ybor Blind Tiger Cafe to hear from Jeff Gigante, founder of Ciccio Restaurant Group, the company behind The Lodge, Green Lemon, Ciccio’s/Water and other well-known South Tampa eateries.

For more information visit the Startup Grind Tampa Bay website.
 
Friday, July 31: Homebrew Hillsborough
8:30 a.m.
Tampa Club
101 E. Kennedy Blvd., Suite 4200

Homebrew Hillsborough is an innovation of Hillsborough County Economic Development. Monthly meetups take place at coffee shops around the county, and local business owners, tech enthusiasts and community members are encouraged to attend, network and enjoy local coffee as they discuss ways to make a “Homegrown Hillsborough.”

During July’s event, attendees will enjoy a visit to the Tampa Club, a private dining club situated high above the streets of downtown Tampa in the Bank of America plaza. For more information, visit Homebrew Hillsborough's website.
 
Wednesday, August 26: Startup Grind will host patent and intellectual property attorney Christ Tanner, of Tanner Law. To register, click here.

Thursday, August 27: Ignite Tampa Bay 
6:30 p.m.
Cuban Club
2010 Avenida Republica De Cuba

Ignite events have a simple request: “Entertain us, but make it fast.” During each Ignite events in cities across the country and world, speakers have five minutes to discuss a topic of their choice, aided by slides and whatever props they carry to the podium. In Tampa Bay alone, speakers at annual Ignite events have covered topics that range from extreme sports to inventions to politics. The only thing that’s discouraged is a direct sales pitch.

Interested in speaking at the next Ignite Tampa Bay, hosted at the historic Cuban Club in Ybor City? Learn more here. For more information about volunteering at or attending Ignite Tampa Bay, visit IgniteTampa's website.

Friday, August 28: Homebrew Hillsborough
8:30 a.m.
The monthly coffee networking meetup for members of the Hillsborough County community will be hosted at Tampa's Museum of Science and Industry (MOSI), located at 4801 E. Fowler Ave.
 
Saturday, August 29: TEDxTampaRiverwalk
1 p.m.
John F. Germany Library Auditorium
900 N. Ashley Drive

TEDx events are independently organized talks, modeled after TED talks, that communities can create around topics of their choice. The theme for the 2015 TEDxTampaRiverwalk is "Going Places!" Potential speakers should consider applying that theme to their speeches: scientifically, socially, economically, geographically, artistically and philosophically. The event will be held at downtown Tampa's John F. Germany library auditorium.

Visit the TEDxTampaRiverwalk website for more more information.
 
Thursday, September 3: #Collabtb Q3 Tech and Entrepreneur Peer Networking 
5 p.m.-8 p.m.
The Hyde Out
1809 W. Platt St.

Collabtb quarterly techie and entrepreneur peer networking events bring together several hundred members of the Tampa Bay technology community in low-key environments where appetizers, specialty drinks and networking are the main attractions. Bonus: The first 200 guests receive a free T-shirt. Raffle items will also be given away to a few lucky winners.

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

Friday, September 25: Homebrew Hillsborough
8:30 a.m.
The monthly coffee networking meetup for members of the Hillsborough County community will be hosted at Tre Amici at The Bunker, located at 1907 N. 19th St. in Ybor City.
 
Saturday, October 10- Sunday, Oct. 11: ROBOTICON Tampa Bay 2015
9 a.m.
University of Tampa Bob Martinez Athletics Center 
401 W. Kennedy Blvd

ROBOTICON Tampa Bay 2015 presents a variety of engaging and innovative activities for teams of students from around Florida, grades K-12, to compete in a fun robots-oriented event. ROBOTICON will host events like the FIRST Robotics Competition and FIRST Tech Challenge scrimmage and build day; FIRST LEGO League practice and training as well as a Jr. FIRST LEGO League mini-Expo; a vendor hall, career expo, and more. Join other teams at the University of Tampa campus Bob Martinez Athletics Center, across the Hillsborough River from downtown Tampa, for the two-day special event.

For more information, visit the ROBOTICON website.

Are you, or an organization you know, hosting a tech-oriented event in the Tampa Bay area in 2015? Email the info here to have your activity included in a future 83 Degrees newsletter!
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