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Air taxi service takes off from Sarasota-Bradenton airport

Statewide travel from the Sarasota area just got a little easier with the emergence of Lift Air, a new air charter and taxi service that elevates intra-state travel above the cloud of rush hour traffic congestion on Florida’s notoriously busy highways.

Based out of the Rectrix Aerodome at the Sarasota International Airport (KSRQ), Lift Air is an outgrowth of SRQ Aviation, a Cirrus Aircraft Training Center that expanded from a pilot’s training facility into a fully-operational air charter service this year. Lift Air currently flies in and out of every airport in the state, offering affordable air travel from Tallahassee to Key West.

“Simply put, air charter is the business of renting the entire aircraft to our customers and their itinerary, as opposed to purchasing individual seats through a traditional airline. Air taxi is air charter operating on an on­-demand basis,” explains Lift Air Consultant Bill Russini.  

Russini says that the air charter and taxi service was created to fill a need that emerged in the wake of the recession, when Census reports documented a nearly 2 percent growth in the populations of Sarasota, Manatee and Charlotte counties. 

“The demographic potential of offering Florida's Gulf Coast an alternative means of personal air travel gave birth to Lift Air. … The economic impact is immediate in Sarasota and Manatee counties, and extends further to our main maintainence facility located at the Tampa Executive Airport in Hillsborough County,”  Russini says. 

Lift Air currently consists of seven full and part-time employees who maintain operations at the Rectrix Aerodome at KSRQ, as well as in Lift Air’s Hillsborough-based maintenance facility.

The fleet consists of new 2014 Cirrus SR20 and SR22 aircrafts. These lightweight, single engine piston aircrafts provide a convenient, cost-efficient alternative to jet travel, and are equipped with state-of-the-art emergency technology. Each Lift Air aircraft is equipped with Cirrus Airframe Parachute System (CAPS) technology, a system that launches a 55-foot diameter parachute that lowers the plane to the ground when activated in the instance of in-flight emergency. 

Although Lift Air currently operates solely within the state lines of Florida, Russin says that the company its working to expand its operations in the near future. 

“As to our future, Lift Air plans further inter­state and international (Bahama) certification next year,” Russini says. “One only needs to contemplate the domino effect we have in advertising and destination service support to Florida's economy.”

Hillsborough County's economic initiative, entrepreneurial center shine spotlight on startups

Hillsborough County is betting on small business. Back in Feb 2013, the Economic Development Council announced the Economic Development Innovation Initiative (EDI2), a measure to nurture the startup community and kickstart industry innovation. The aim? To support small business, build entrepreneurship, and grow technology in Tampa Bay.

Now in its fifth round of funding, the EDI2 program has received local accolades like the recent “TiETan of Entrepreneurship” award from TiE Tampa Bay, along with national recognition from tech leaders like Guy Kawasaki for its support of the local Startup Bus.

From support of small, grassroots initiatives to a well-developed board review and application process, Hillsborough County Economic Development Manager Jennifer Whelihan says the EDI2 program “is a model of transparency for its taxpayers,” and it could serve as a national model for County engagement with local business communities.

Whelihan credits the County Commissioners who created the EDI2 program for their leadership and dedication to technology and innovation. 

“They have assisted our community with the emergence of our next tech generation to help Hillsborough County grow on the tech map,” she says.

In the past year, organizations that the EDI2 has supported have created and retained a total of 168.5 jobs. An additional 1,366.75 intern hours worked at 127 events with over 2,565 attendees.

“Through the program, we are driving opportunities, growing a community of technology entrepreneurs and facilitating collaboration among existing organizations,” explains Whelihan. “Our collaborative efforts are truly growing our community’s entrepreneurial resources.”

After one year, four rounds, and close to $600,000 in support to entrepreneurial events and programs in Hillsborough County, the EDI2 program has developed new roots in the Entrepreneur Collaborative Center.

The rebranding of the former Small Business Information Center into the new, more tech-friendly Entrepreneur Collaborative Center (ECC) goes hand in hand with the very heart of the EDI2 program –- to serve as a hub for a growing entrepreneurial ecosystem, to encourage connections within the community, and to provide resources to startups and small business owners alike.
 
The new location in a yet-to-be-determined space in Ybor City will move County business initiatives closer to the growing downtown hub, catering to the many local entrepreneurs who operate from home offices or shared workspaces like the new CoWork Ybor. The ECC is set to open in Nov 2014.

“Business incubation and acceleration programs play a vital role in the quest to improve our community by evolving our entrepreneurial, technology and innovation ecosystem,” says Lindsey Kimball, Hillsborough County Economic Development Director. “Through the EDI2 program, we are driving opportunities, growing a community of technology entrepreneurs, and facilitating collaboration among existing organizations.”
 
The fifth EDI2 funding cycle application deadline is Oct. 31, 2014. Full program and application information is available online at the County website.

Canine Ranch Country Club offers full service amenities for dogs, dog lovers

Most dog owners are aware of the benefits of exercising their pet, from fewer behavior problems to less obesity and even a longer life. But, sometimes schedules get in the way and exercise takes a back seat to work and other priorities.

Canine Ranch Country Club  in Bradenton brings together dogs and their owners to not only provide a place for dogs to exercise and play, but owners can participate in activities with their dogs and even meet other like-minded individuals. K-9 coaches provide structured exercise activities that can be done with or without the owner. While dogs are being exercised, groomed or even enjoying time in the therapeutic Jacuzzi tub, owners can relax in a lounge with couches, a large screen TV and juice bar or even pull out their laptop and get some work done.

"I did some research and found that dogs live an average of two years longer when they’re well exercised," says Heather Perry, the club’s owner. "I wanted to get the word out that dogs need to be exercised."

Perry has a background in membership-based organizations and recently owned a personal development and sales training center in D.C. From these experiences, she learned how much people like being around those of like minds, which helped inspire the club's design.
 
She moved to Bradenton initially to purchase land for her horse, and realized that the land was also a dog’s paradise. Combining her membership management experience with her love of canines, the concept of Canine Ranch Country Club was born.

In addition to the focus on exercise, the club’s Ranch Manager, a veterinary technician, provides seminars on topics such as dog nutrition. A resource library provides books on pet-related topics. Other services include obedience courses, an agility area, dog yoga, winding trails with running creeks, doggy day care, birthday parties and arts and crafts. Future plans include a putting green for owners to enjoy while dogs are being exercised.

The club opened by appointment on October 1 and will have a grand opening October 30 complete with a Halloween costume contest.

Eckerd College focuses on climate science solutions

A summit held at Eckerd College on October 6th aimed to not only educate about climate science but also focus on tangible solutions.

The event grew out of a conversation with Governor Rick Scott in which he indicated that as a non-scientist he could not understand the dynamics of climate science. Rather, he urged scientists to focus on solutions. Knowing how important the topic is, faculty members at Eckerd decided to organize an event to explain it in a way that both scientists and non-scientists can rally behind.

In Florida especially, issues like rising sea level and a predicted increase in the severity and frequency of hurricanes pose real threats to health and safety.

"We’re really the ground zero for the impacts of climate change," says David Hastings, Ph.D. professor of marine science and chemistry at Eckerd College. "As scientists, we’re not just interested in focusing on the science but also in identifying the solutions that will mitigate the worst impact."

Solutions include both short and long term changes that will not only create new business opportunities but jobs as well. Entrepreneurs can explore innovative ways to use solar power as an alternative energy source. Another opportunity lies with using algae to create biofuels.

Eckerd hopes to bring forth the message that not only is an enhanced focus on climate change needed at the policy and business level, but there are also things individuals can be doing to reduce energy consumption such as installing more energy efficient windows and roofs.

The summit was hosted in partnership with the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy and the Natural Resources Defense Council.

Local ad agency sees growth, adds jobs in Tampa

Schifino Lee recently added five new hires and plans to look for more creative talent in the near future.

The Tampa-based media and communications agency was founded in 1993 by Ben Lee and Paola Schifino. The firm specializes in integrated communications, including digital, experiential and traditional media. Services include market strategy and planning, creative work and media buying.

The company has experienced recent growth, leading to the addition of five new hires -- four in the creative realm and one account executive, bringing them to 22 employees in all. They are currently hiring a Copywriter and hope to bring in additional account managers in the near future.

The growth is attributed to the economic climate and client demand.

"The economic climate is good in the Tampa Bay area," says co-founder and principal Ben Lee, noting that clients don’t need to go to Chicago or Los Angeles for good quality advertising work. The Tampa Bay advertising market is on the same level playing field as anywhere in the country.

A native of Tampa, Lee returned to the area to start Schifino Lee after living in New York and the Netherlands and receiving an MBA at Northwestern University in Chicago.

Tampa has gained national recognition for being a good place to be, a good place to do business." says Lee. "Clients are coming here expecting great work out of the area."

Schifino Lee’s local clients include Alessi, Wellcare Health Plans, Gerdau and Lowry Park Zoo as well as pro-bono clients the Tampa Bay Partnership, Tampa Museum of Art and the Shelton Quarles Foundation.

Cowork Ybor provides space for local creatives, plans open house Oct. 9

CoWork Ybor plans an open house on Oct. 9th from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. to share the vision for the coworking space with Tampa residents. That vision? A creative community.

CoWork Ybor Founder Roberto Torres hopes to see the space at 1903 E. 7th Ave become ''an informal incubator/accelerator for the other industries in Tampa -- besides tech -- that don't always get the mention or the attention that they should.''

Torres envisions CoWork Ybor as a ''community storefront for creatives only. We want to be a space that fosters and grows industries like food and beverage, retail and hospitality.''

The emphasis at CoWork Ybor is placed on creative jobs, he says, because startup entrepreneurs in these industries might not know much about the tech world – or about being an entrepreneur.

"We really want this space to be about the people who are going to be in it,'' Torres says. "Their work is going to be better, because they are going to be in a community that fosters and brings creativity and knowledge to them.''

To that end, the space may play host to exhibits from local artists in the future. Torres also plans to develop "curated experiences'' each month, by bringing in lunchtime speakers through a partnership with the Visit Tampa Bay program Unlock Tampa Bay.

Torres cites Brooklyn-based Hyper Akt as an inspiration for the concept he would like to bring to Tampa. "There's really nothing like that in Tampa. We're like a band of outsiders trying to bring creatives together,'' he says.

Along with freelancers and entrepreneurial creatives, Torres also hopes to attract young members from Entreprenuership programs at nearby schools like the University of Tampa and St. Petersburg College.

Torres is in talks with Verizon to donate the Internet for CoWork Ybor, which will be open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. every day. The space will have seating for about 40: two conference rooms, a handful of communal tables, and a more relaxed lounge space with couches in the area facing 7th Ave.

CoWork Ybor will host a membership drive from Oct. 27-31st before formally opening Nov 1st, 2014. Membership, which will be capped at 75, is $100/month. Click this link to email for more information.

Next door, the Blind Tiger Cafe is the result of a partnership between Torres' men's apparel company Black & Denim and local businesses Buddy Brew Coffee, TeBella Tea Company and Piquant, along with Tricycle Studios.

The Blind Tiger Cafe will feature fresh tea and coffee drinks along with pastries like German chocolate cake and guava and cheese croissants, but it will not have wifi; instead, customers can pay $5 for a pass to gain access to the coworking space for the whole day. The mixed-use storefront at 1901 W. 7th Ave in Tampa's historic Ybor City is set to open on Nov. 5th, 2014.

UT speaker series focuses on crowdfunding for start-ups

A panel discussion September 24 at the University of Tampa aims to help students and the community better understand microfunding for entrepreneurial ventures.  

The sixth installment of the MainStreet Speaker Series at the University of Tampa (UT)'s Entrepreneurship Center will allow students to network and connect with business leaders in Tampa Bay, as well as hear from a panel about crowdfunding for their business.

The Speaker Series originally began in 2012 as a way to provide information and inspiration to UT entrepreneurship students from local business leaders. Past speakers have included Jeff Stevenson, founder and CEO of VinoPro and Bonnie Harvey and Michael Houlihan, co-founders of Barefoot Cellars.

This fall, the focus will be on crowdfunding. The topic was selected strategically, to help give students a deeper look into non-traditional ways to fund their business. Often, students’ entrepreneurial plans come to a halt when they realize the amount of capital needed to make them a reality. The event’s goal is to help these students understand funding mechanisms as well as encourage the community to support Tampa Bay-based start-ups.

"We’re trying to pinpoint those burning topics for entrepreueurs and connect our students with this amazing entrepreneurship community that we have in Tampa," says James Zebrowski, program assistant for the UT Entrepreneurship Center and recent UT graduate.

The panel is moderated by Reid Haney of Hill Ward Henderson, P.A. and will include Roland Chase, Hill Ward Henderson, Roberto Torres, Black and Denim and David Chitester, Florida Funders.

Tampa startup offers combination personal and professional social network

With the myriad of social networks available for personal and professional use, it can sometimes become confusing and cumbersome to manage everything. A new startup in Tampa hopes to ease this burden by creating a combination personal and professional network, with an added job search component.

Founded in November of 2013, Flipsetter provides an online tool that meets several goals. At the basic level, it operates as a social network similar to LinkedIn or Facebook, allowing users to share news, photos, links and videos. Addressing a common concern with other networks, Flipsetter provides users with ultimate control of privacy settings, allowing them to choose which of their networks can see which information.   

A user can create one or more of three profile types: business, organization or individual. Each type has their own tools, and all can be used within the same login or profile.

An added benefit is a feature similar to a virtual resume or portfolio where users can list their academic history, work history and other accomplishments. Businesses and other organizations can also use the service to set up a page for promotional and organizational purposes, and to post jobs.

"We call it one stop shopping," says founder Sabaresh Krishnan, USF graduate and current MBA student.

Krishnan thought of the name when hearing about the frustrations involved with having multiple networks and resources to manage profiles, time and organizations. Wanting to find a way to resolve this, he thought "let me flip that around and come up with a way to make it happen."

The service currently has approximately 300 users in beta phase, including several student groups at USF, and plans to go live by October.

Bar Camp Tampa Bay: all tech, all kinds of tech

Bar Camp Tampa Bay once again brings together the local tech scene October 18.

Often described as an "unconference," the event is a learning opportunity, networking venue and convergence of all things technology – everything from big data to digital media to the Internet of things. But, you won’t find any keynote speakers or traditional lectures. In fact, you won’t even know who the speakers are or what the topics will be until you arrive at the event.

People who are passionate about a technology-related topic, project or idea show up the day of the event and add their name to an open slot on the master schedule. The unplanned, flexible nature lends itself to networking in its rawest, most natural form, attracting freelancers and lifelong learners who thrive in the open sharing environment.

"Fantastic presentations come out of nowhere," says Ken Evans of Startup Monkey, lead organizer for Bar Camp Tampa Bay. "You just don’t know what’s going to be there, but you don’t want to miss it." Evans has been volunteering with Bar Camp since its inception.

Hosted by the University of South Florida Colllege of Business, the event is coordinated by a team of volunteers operating under the name TechNova. The group also hosts Ignite Tampa Bay, as well as smaller events throughout the year. In addition to the core organizing group, 30 – 40 volunteers are expected the day of the event.  

Now in its seventh year, the agenda and audience continues to grow, from 150 the first year to an anticipated over 900 this year.

"Barcamp, to me, represents a cultural shift in Tampa Bay in the way new companies and new tech happen," says Evans. Bar Camp is one of many events that have fueled a stronger focus on early or seed stage companies that need help getting ideas off the ground. Organizers estimate over 30 companies have been formed out of relationships made at previous Bar Camps.

Event sponsors include Forex Factory, Hillsborough County EDI2 and the University of South Florida.

Alakai Defense Systems' Mission Fuels Growth, Creates Jobs

"We were soldiers. Our children are soldiers. Our mission is to protect the soldier."

That’s the motto of Alakai Defense Systems. It drives who they are and what they do. It’s that kind of determination that helped them achieve compounded annual growth of 60 percent since the company’s restructure in 2009, bringing them to a current sales revenue on order of $8 million.

The Largo-based company provides explosive detection systems using laser and electro-optic sensing technology to ensure the utmost accuracy and reliability. Products include sensors that detect explosives in excess of 100 meters away, as well as vehicle-mounted systems for use at checkpoint gates.

Its flagship product is the Standoff Covert Eyesafe Explosives Detection System (SCEEDS). About the size of a large footlocker, the SCEEDS is mounted on vehicles.

With explosives being the number one killer of soldiers on the battlefield, Alakai’s mission cannot be underemphasized. With key staff having served in the military, many of whom have children who are currently serving, the company is intimately familiar with end user needs. "We want to make a contribution and protect the solders, bring our kids home," says Ed Dottery, president of Alakai Defense Systems.

Dottery has a background in special operations and Special Forces. After doing army reserve tours at MacDill, he decided to make Tampa Bay his home.

The company is a graduate of the Tampa Bay Innovation Center, which nurtures early stage ventures to help them grow and launch products. "It’s a great incubator," says Ed Dottery. "It helped me both as a small business and a second stage growth company."

Dottery attributes the company’s growth to a combination of factors, including the programs at the Innovation Center and other local economic development efforts, state tax incentives and its proximity to MacDill Airforce Base.

Alakai partners with universities such as University of South Florida and Florida A&M University on research and grant opportunities. Graduate students are able to obtain real-world experience and contribute their knowledge and research through industry practicum experiences. They also teamed up with USF recently to seek matching funds from the I-4 Corridor.

The company has 25 employees worldwide and is currently expanding its workforce to include 10 additional hires including a Senior Scientist, Electrical and Mechanical Engineers and Software Developers.

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Ed Dottery, Alakai Defense Systems

Tampa startup uses crowdsourcing for innovative package delivery

A new company based out of Tampa plans to revolutionize the way packages are delivered by turning regular commuters into couriers.

Titled HITCH, the company is the brainchild of Chuck Pasquotto, an entrepreneur who runs several transportation-related companies. Seeing the success of companies like Uber and Air BnB, Pasquotto wanted to use the power of crowd sourcing to help streamline the package delivery process. The idea is to find someone who is traveling daily to a destination and ask them to deliver someone else’s package. The network is connected through a mobile app.

"Think of us as a marketplace," says Eric Torres, USF graduate and VP of Marketing for HITCH. "We’re giving the crowd an opportunity to earn extra money via the shared economy."

Those who want to deliver packages (called travelers) sign up on the site and provide their origin and destination information. They can then see a list of deliveries on their intended route. Travelers receive a payment upon successful package delivery.

A shipper enters information about the item needing to be delivered, along with a picture and description. They can then see the fee and accept or decline the delivery. The pick-up location is determined by the shipper and can be a home, office or other public place. Once the transaction is complete, the shipper can request a signature. The traveler is also required to take a picture of where the item was delivered, and it can also be tracked with a gps.

The benefits are lower costs than a typical courier service, environmental benefits and an opportunity for the travelers to earn extra money.

The community is monitored, and users get ratings based on their reliability and effectiveness. For example, users can request to work with only five star rated travelers or shippers. Users also have to become verified by providing a bank account or credit card information.

HITCH recently partnered with Tampa-based creative agency PP+K to help launch the app. The app is currently in beta mode and aims for a soft launch in October in the I-4 corridor area. The company plans to expand nationwide after the launch.

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Eric Torres, HITCH

Carrollwood Day School Hosts Startup Weekend For Youth Entrepreneurs

Pitch an idea, form a team and become part of the world’s largest entrepreneurial community in 54 hours. That’s the strategy behind every Startup Weekend around the globe – and it’s the mission for the first ever Startup Weekend Tampa Youth on September 12-14, 2014.
 
The intensive, team-based concept at the backbone of the global Startup Weekend movement has gained steam in Tampa Bay over several years of biannual events.

Growing, innovative local startups such as Wazinit, and breakout success stories like Eventjoy (formerly EXMO), are the result of previous Tampa Bay Startup Weekends.
 
Ryan Sullivan, a “Global Facilitator” and local organizer for Startup Weekend Tampa Bay and Startup Weekend Tampa Youth, says that the goal for the events in over 200 cities worldwide “is to educate and inspire people in the community to take action in entrepreneurship.”

Startup Weekend Youth is specifically geared toward 5th–8th graders - “the next generation’s entrepreneurs.” Sullivan notes that the event will look and feel a little different this time around. Participants will still pitch ideas and work in teams, but with a focus on teaching and inspiring young thinkers. Attendees will also have the opportunity to interact with coaches who are experts in their field and successful entrepreneurs.

“This is something special,” Sullivan says. “We will create an atmosphere of exercises and experiences that will inspire creative ideas in young minds and help kids to learn how to move those ideas forward towards action, and in the process, collaborate with their peers.”
 
Students are encouraged to register under one of three categories (Creative/Design, Coding/Programming, Business/Finance) based on their interests. Hands-on activities will be geared toward helping students identify a challenge to solve, learn to understand potential customers or users, work effectively with others, “and in the end, build something they are proud of as a team,” says Sullivan.

“Today’s youth are full of creative ideas for how to make lives and the world a better place. This will be a place for them to take those ideas and move them towards reality,” he explains. “This event will also help build confidence in creating and sharing ideas for those that tend to keep them inward.” 

Along with Sullivan, Nicholas Catania, Deborah Neff and Todd Broyles are co-organizers of the event. They expect more than 50 students to attend and participate in Startup Weekend Tampa Youth.
 
“We like to say that it is the least expensive babysitter at $25 for the weekend,” Sullivan says.

Startup Weekend Tampa Youth starts Friday, Sept. 12, at 6 p.m. and concludes on Sunday, Sept. 14, at 4 p.m. The event will take place at Carrollwood Day School, 1515 W. Bearss Ave. in Tampa. Tickets can be purchased by clicking here for $25.00. 

Writer: Justine Benstead
Source: Ryan Sullivan, Startup Weekend Tampa Bay

Business Incubator Brings Coworking Space To Bradenton

A new “innovation center” for entrepreneurs and small business owners is unofficially open in Bradenton. 

Collaborative coworking, along with an incubation program to provide formal education and mentoring for client companies, is the focus of the space. The Innovation Center will also house a cafe, training areas, open workspaces, and several dedicated workstations for regular visitors. Offices for incubator clients are currently being built out. 

The space may be rebranded from Bradenton Innovation Center in the future, but “we know that the name of the incubator lies in the history of the firehouse and area of town we're located in -- the historic Village of Manatee, now part of the City of Bradenton,” explains cofounder Stan Schulte.

Bike racks, lockers, mail facilities and free parking in a historic downtown setting round out the amenities that will be offered to community members.

Fundraising and architectural renovations are currently underway. Applications for client companies will be accepted in late fall 2014, and programs should begin in early 2015.

Currently, meetings are being held with community supporters and potential partners for the Bradenton Innovation Center, says Schulte.

The incubator will be organized as a 501(c)3, Schulte explains. “The building is city-owned, and support will come from both the city and county,” he says. “Grants and sponsorships will be utilized for build-out and programs, but the majority of sustainable funding will come from coworking memberships, office rentals and incubator program fees.“ 

In order to qualify for the incubator program, companies will have to complete an application process along with a prerequisite 4-week Excellence in Entrepreneurship course. 

They will be evaluated quarterly for suitability to the program based on growth and meeting plan objectives, says Schulte. Mentors and partner businesses in the community will also have to apply.

Goals of the incubator include creating “sustainable, knowledge-based, high wage jobs that will stay in the local area, and to help to mitigate the “brain drain” from local universities & companies,” says Schulte. 
 
The programs at the Innovation center will be geared toward companies that have already launched and are seeking sustainable, rapid expansion. 

“There will not initially be any lab or industrial space available, so it will be most suitable to knowledge-based companies not needing specialized facilities,” says Schulte.

“It will serve as a catalyst for development of an entrepreneurial ecosystem for creation of new companies in high-growth strategic industry sectors,” he explains.

“Communities today need innovative companies and strong entrepreneurial networks to link and leverage assets to boost productivity and convert 21st Century brainpower into wealth through innovation.”

Schulte and Sara Hand, founder of SP Hand and Associates, are cofounders of Spark Growth in Sarasota and jointly back the BIC project.

The Bradenton Innovation Center is located at 912 7th Ave. E. Photos of progress can be found on the center’s Facebook page.

Writer: Justine Benstead
Source: Stan Schulte, Bradenton Innovation Center

Hillsborough's EDI2 Program Celebrates Successes

Hugs, handshakes and a bit of humor keep the energy level high at Tampa Bay WaVE as a growing number of technology entrepreneurs leading the local startup community and public officials celebrate the 1st anniversary of Hillsborough County’s Economic Development Innovation Initiative (EDI2) program. 

Hillsborough County commissioners led by Mark Sharpe, who will join the Tampa Bay Innovation Alliance after he leaves office in November due to term limits, set aside $2 million to provide financial support for growing the startup community. The Alliance includes USF, University Community Hospital, H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center and Busch Gardens.  

Setting aside funding for EDI2 is a recognition by Hillsborough that future economic and job growth, particularly in the Tampa Bay region, is much more likely to result from the cumulative effect of nurturing innovative startups than by investing the bulk of additional resources into attracting giant corporate headquarters.

So far, since its launch in June 2013, 55 applicants have received $598,583 to support networking and educational events, industry promotions and service providers. Additional program and application information is available online.

Some of the programs funded include:
  • East Tampa Business and Civic Association for the 2014 MLK Technology Business Expo
  • Hillsborough Community College Foundation for the Veterans Entrepreneurial Symposium
  • Learning is for Everyone, Inc. for the Robocon Tampa Bay 2013
  • Moffitt Cancer Center for the Business of Biotech 2014
  • Startup Bus for the Startup Bus Tampa Bay
  • Startup Grind, Inc. for eight monthly meetings
  • Tampa Bay Technology Forum for the Tech Trek 2014, Engine Peer Network Event, and Entrepreneur Network
  • Technova Florida, Inc. for the Tampa Code Camp and Ignite Tampa Bay
  • TiE Tampa Bay for the TiE Breaker III and TiE Angel Forum
  • University of Tampa for the Southeast Entrepreneurship Conference 2014
For more information about EDI2, contact Economic Development Manager Jennifer Whelihan with Hillsborough County’s Economic Development Department at 813.272.6217.

Writer: Diane Egner
Source: Jennifer Whelihan, Hillsborough County’s EDI2

SMARTstart Business Incubator In Pasco Expands Services, Space

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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