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Google For Entrepreneurs Powers Startup Weekend Tampa Bay 2014

What makes Tampa's upcoming Startup Weekend distinctive? 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stonehenge Growth Equity Partners Invests In Mobile Medical Help System

Stonehenge Growth Equity Partners (SGEP) recently invested in MobileHelp, a leading provider of M-PERS, or Mobile-Personal Emergency Response System, technology based in Boca Raton.

A Tampa-based investment firm, SGEP focuses on growth stage companies that use technology to solve a business problem, concentrating on the Southeastern United States. The company typically invests $1M to $5M per company, allowing them to assist growing companies that might not meet the minimum funding requirements of larger investors.

SGEP Managing Partner Steven Lux moved to Tampa in 1999 to open an investment office of Bank One, which later became Stonehenge Capital Company and then SCEP. Lux and his team were looking for Florida-based companies to invest in, and chose Tampa because of the ease of travel to major cities across the state. Current investments include Dixie Southern, a custom steel fabricator in Bradenton, Health Integrated, a medical care management company in Tampa and Ottlite, a lighting company in Tampa.

MobileHelp was a natural fit for the firm’s focus on companies that use technology to meet a need or improve a product. The personal response system, which enables someone to contact a call center in the event medical assistance is needed, has been around for a long time. What differentiates MobileHelp’s product is the wireless component, allowing people to take the device anywhere they go. The device also has a GPS component which allows for constant tracking of the individual, as well as fall detection technology.

"We’re seeing a lot of companies that are able to advance and progress much further with lower amounts of capital than they would have five or six years ago because of the use of technology," says Lux. "It’s exciting to be in the Tampa Bay area. We continue to see good growth opportunities here."

Stonehenge currently has $40 million in capital under management and is looking to expand that to $65 - $70 million within the next 4 – 5 years.

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Steven Lux, Stonehenge Growth Equity Partners

Tampa To Host National Small Business Entrepreneurship Conference In 2015

The U.S. Association of Small Business and Entrepreneurship (USASBE) will host a major event in Tampa in 2015. The group's Annual Conference is expected to draw more than 500 attendees from around the United States and the world in the field of entrepreneurship education for a three-day symposium at the downtown Tampa Hilton.

The conference ("Sun, Fun & Innovation: Advancing Entrepreneurship Teaching and Research'') will draw "tremendous attendees,'' says Hillsborough County Economic Development Manager Stephanie Ashley.

"What's so exciting, when you think about the EDI2  program, is that our community wants to be a model for how the government helps drive ecosystems,'' says Ashley. "So what is this event going to do? This is going to put a national spotlight on Hillsborough County in supporting our entrepreneurial ecosystem.''

USASBE was awarded $25,000 from the county's Economic Development Innovation Initiative (EDI2) fund to help bring entrepreneurship educators to Tampa. The event's activities aim to highlight Hillsborough County as a place to launch entrepreneurial startups through workshops, panels featuring local high-profile speakers and recent graduates, and proposed visits to innovation hubs like Tampa Bay WaVE and CAMLS in downtown Tampa.

Amy Brownlee, an Assistant Professor of Management at the University of Tampa, is the current VP of Conferences for USASBE and is the primary event organizer. Rebecca White, Director of Entrepreneurship at the University of Tampa, previously served as president of USASBE. White will organize a consortium of local area universities for a "collaborative and synergistic approach'' in showcasing Hillsborough County to attendees.

Richard Gonzmart, president of Columbia Restaurant Group, will be the conference's keynote speaker for the event's welcome reception.

The United States Association of Small Business and Entrepreneurship Annual Conference will take place January 22-25, 2015 at the downtown Tampa Hilton, 211 N Tampa St.

USASBE will accept submissions for competitive papers from June 9, 2014 until August 31, 2014. Visit USASBE online for more information about attending, presenting, sponsoring, exhibiting, or volunteering at the conference.
 
Writer: Justine Benstead
Source: Stephanie Ashley, Hillsborough County Economic Development Manager

Ignite! Tampa Bay Announces Speakers For 4th Annual Event

Notable names in the growing Tampa entrepreneurship scene will take the stage at the Cuban Club on May 22, 2014. Doors open at 6 p.m. for the fourth annual Ignite! Tampa Bay, an event billed with the phrase "Enlighten us, but make it quick!''

Speakers will cover a range of topics from local politics to TED-like inspirational talks. Armed with slides that auto-advance every 15 seconds and whatever props they can carry, presenters take the podium for exactly five minutes to inspire and "ignite'' the audience. 

Ignite! Tampa Bay 2014 presenters include local Tampa and St. Petersburg residents who are active members of the startup community: USFSP Entrepreneurship program co-Founder Nathan Schwagler will discuss his love for Tampa Bay with a talk titled "On Gratitude''; Software Engineer and Technologist Aubrey Goodman is tackling "Active Vulnerability''; and Launchtrack Founder Jonathan Cordeau is talking about "How NO Empowers.'' A complete list of speakers will be released in coming weeks. 

Chris Krimitsos, founder and CEO of the Tampa Bay Business Owners, will be the evening's emcee.

Held at the historic Cuban Club in Ybor City, the 2014 Ignite! will strive to find a balance between inspiring and overwhelming the audience, says Joy Randels, one of the event's organizers.
 
The national movement (founded in Seattle in 2006 through O'Reilly Media) launched in Tampa in 2011. Some might say that Ignite! Tampa Bay has found footing after three years of trial and error.

Almost four years ago, Ignite! was one of the first entrepreneurial showcases to step into the Tampa limelight. The event moved from the former Wyndham Tampa Westshore (now Holiday Inn Tampa) in summer 2011 to the Glazer Children's Museum in January 2012, doubling in audience size. By 2013, the evening was staged at the Tampa Theatre in downtown Tampa, where over 800 attendees heard from more than 30 speakers.
 
"It was too much,'' Randels says of the 2013 event, which ran long. "This year, we will be done on time so that people can go out and connect afterward, and the number of presenters will be limited to 20.''

Randels spoke at the 2013 event, challenging local entrepreneurs to work together to change the status quo and be supportive of each other's endeavors.
 
Ignite! Tampa is subsidized by the Hillsborough County EDI2 fund through Technova, Florida Inc., a nonprofit that produces entrepreneurial events like Ignite! and Barcamp Tampa Bay throughout the year, along with supporting independent events like Startup Weekend, Startup Bus, Tampa Hackerspace, FIRST Robotics and Robocon.

Join the Ignite Tampa Bay Meetup group for event updates or visit the website to purchase tickets.

Writer: Justine Benstead
Source: Joy Randels, Ignite! Tampa Bay

Global Business Forum Discusses Indo-U.S. Partnership, Economic Growth

As actors, actresses and film fans converge in Tampa for the International Indian Film Acacemy’s (IIFA) Bollywood awards, the FICCI-IIFA Global Business Forum focuses on the business side of the relationship between the U.S. and India.

A joint initiative of the IIFA and the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry, the Forum takes place at the Tampa Convention Center April 24 – 25.

The theme: "Indo-U.S. Partnership: A Catalyst for Economic Growth'' focuses on the trade relationship between India and America, bringing in change makers, thought leaders and business owners to discuss new and existing business opportunities.

Speakers will represent government, education and industry, and will include Consul General of India Ajit Kumar, Dr. RK Pachauri, who leads the Nobel prize winning UN Intergovernmental panel on Climate change, Raj Biyani, managing director of Microsoft IT-India and N.R. Narayana Murthy, executive chairman of Infosys Limited.

Prominent women leaders will speak about issues particularly relevant to women. Speakers include Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi; Nisha Desai Biswal, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs; Judy Genshaft, president of the University of South Florida; and Renu Khator, president of the University of Houston and former USF Provost. Actress and former Miss World Priyanka Chopera and actress Tara Abrahams will present the Girl Rising Project, a global campaign for girls’ education.

The Indian economy is currently the 10th largest in the world, with trade between India and the U.S. reaching the $60 billion level in 2012.  

The event is the 10th of its kind, and the first time in the United States, indicating a strong interest in developing relationships and strengthening ties between the two countries. With close to 30,000 people of Indian descent, the Tampa Bay region was a natural fit for the forum’s U.S. debut.

The event will increase the visibility of local brands on an international scale. "It’s a recognition of Tampa Bay to the world," says Kunal Jain of TiE Tampa Bay, an event partner.

The event is led by the University of South Florida College of Business and Tampa Bay Trade and Protocol Council, among others. Partners include Enterprise Florida, Tampa Hillsborough Economic Development Corporation, Visit Tampa Bay and TiE Tampa Bay.

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Kunal Jain, TiE Tampa Bay

USFSP Student Entrepreneurs Win 3rd National Startup Competition

On a whim, Lazar Anderson enrolled in a 'Creativity in Entrepreneurship' course at the University of South Florida in St. Petersburg a few years ago. It quickly became his favorite class.

Anderson's impulse paid off. In April, he and four team members from the USFSP Entrepreneurship Club took home top honors from a national business competition for the third consecutive time.

"Each year it's an intense challenge, working for weeks against some of the best entrepreneurship students in the country,'' Anderson says. "The strength of our team is what pulls us through every year. There's so many amazing minds at USFSP  that putting five of them in the same room has incredible potential.''

In the Collegiate Entrepreneurs' Organization's Startup Simulation Challenge, student competitors worked on business simulators with a team of 3-5 of their peers. Participating USFSP Entrepreneurship Club team members included Anderson, Andrew DeFraties, Christa Hegedus, Kevin Mircovich and Liz Powers.

Startup Simulation Challenge gameplay lasted from March 1-31, over six virtual quarters. Teams competed at their own pace to make decisions about a simulated startup business using the Marketplace Business Simulation platform.

Awards included a $500 first place cash prize for USFSP and $250 to the second and third place teams, Willow International Center and Brigham Young University-Idaho.

The three top teams will be acknowledged at the 2014 CEO National Conference Oct. 30 – Nov. 1 at the Hyatt Regency in Orlando, FL. The event is expected to draw over 1,000 students and entrepreneurs and will include a National Elevator Pitch Competition, CEO Chapter Awards, and Young Entrepreneur of the Year Awards.

"Winning this competition demonstrates that our entrepreneurship program is competitive on a national level,'' says Anderson. "We've consistently beaten top tier universities across the country. Although we're a young program, we're dominant.''

The USFSP Entrepreneurship Program has received national recognition as an outstanding emerging entrepreneurship program in the United States.

Writer: Justine Benstead
Source: Lazar Anderson, USFSP Entrepreneurship Club

Tampa Startups Shine At Jacksonville Crowd-Funding Festival

The second annual One Spark crowd funding festival in downtown Jacksonville, FL, drew a mass of more than 260,000 attendees April 9-13, 2014. Over 600 creators pitched products and projects to the crowds during the five-day event.
 
“It’s kind of like a Bonnaroo for entrepreneurs,” says Tampa Bay WaVe marketing manager Gracie Stemmer.
 
Tampa Bay area startups that pitched at One Spark include Drawer; Marbel; MamaBear App; PledgeYourBets; WeVue and Wazinit?; all are housed in the First WaVe Venture Center
 
Startup Weekend Tampa Bay 2013 winner Wazinit, an app for scanning food labels and comparing ingredients, took the second place finish as a Top Tech creator at One Spark. The beta-stage startup received a check for $980.79.
 
Local clothier Black & Denim was also selected from more than 20,000 applicants to present at One Spark. The clothing company received over $7,000 in funds directly through contributions from attendees, says founder Roberto Torres. 
 
“Something remarkable is happening in our state,” says Torres, “and we got to represent Tampa and show them what we are all about!”
 
The Florida NEXT Foundation partnered with Tampa Bay WaVE to sponsor and curate a venue on the sixth floor of the Sun Trust building in Jacksonville during One Spark.
  
The space hosted 40 creators from Tampa and Jacksonville, making it the largest venue at the festival. Public attendees visited venues to see creator pitches, enticed by DJs, food, free beer, games, and other events to drive traffic to the creators.
 
Pitches and projects ranged from apps to stores to art galleries to summer learning camps. By using the One Spark mobile application, attendees voted for the startups that they liked best. Based on the popular vote, $310,000 in crowd funding and cash awards was divvied up amongst winners in the juried categories of Art, Innovation, Science, Technology and Music. 
 
One Spark itself began as a project on crowdsourcing platform Kickstarter in 2013
 
“WaVe has a great relationship with OneSpark,” says Stemmer. “We’re really trying to facilitate entrepreneurship in all of Florida.”
 
Sources: Gracie Stemmer, Tampa Bay WaVe marketing manager; Roberto Torres, Black & Denim founder

Startup Grind Tampa Bay Hosts Citizinvestor, StatWeather Founders For Fireside Chats

Local networking group Startup Grind Tampa Bay will host Citizinvestor founders Tony DeSisto and Jordan Raynor as featured speakers on Thursday, April 17, at a monthly meetup for area entrepreneurs.
 
Tampa-based startup company Citizinvestor is modeled on the principle of ‘crowdfunding for the people.’
 
“A lot of what they’ll talk about, I think, is quitting their full time jobs, jumping in with two feet to risk everything on it,” says Startup Grind Tampa chapter director Joy Randels. “They’ve completely bootstrapped their company from the beginning, have found office space with little more than ‘friends and family money’ and are growing with real revenue. I think that’s a pretty inspiring story.”
 
Citizinvestor has established itself in the crowdfunding arena as a distinctive player by partnering exclusively with government officials or partners. The startup has over 150 government accounts registered to date.
 
“I love the fact that they’re giving citizens the ability to make decisions about how they want to see money used,” says Randels. “Whether it’s a public event, or building a park in your neighborhood, it’s a way for the government and the citizens to work together to get projects and programs funded that citizens of that community feel are valuable.” 
 
Startup Grind aims to make events diverse to appeal to a wide range of attendees, offering smaller group meetings to interested entrepreneurs and aspiring entrepreneurs alike. Visit the Startup Grind Tampa Bay website or Youtube channel to learn more.
 
At the following month’s meeting on May 15, Scientist, Mathematician and Entrepreneur Ria Persad Carlo will speak at Startup Grind Tampa Bay as part of the Google for Entrepreneurs “#40forward” initiative. Every Startup Grind chapter around the world will feature a female entrepreneur in the month of May, says Randels.
 
Persad is the founder of StatWeather, a company that has created an enterprise software application which allows them to determine predictable weather streams. StatWeather then sells weather predictability to risk management companies.  
 
“She’s had an amazing, inspiring life,” Randels says of Persad, who studied mathematics and physics and was also a child piano prodigy.
 
The next meeting of Startup Grind Tampa Bay will take place at 6:30 p.m. on April 17, 2014 at the Oxford Exchange Commerce Club. Tickets are $20 at the door.
 
Source: Joy Randels, Startup Grind Tampa Bay

Find Your Next Startup Investment Through This New Website

Florida Funders, LLC, a conduit for connecting investors with startups seeking funding, launches in Tampa Bay.

The latest innovation out of Tampa Bay's growing tech scene was inspired by personal experience. Florida Funders co-founders David and Kathleen Chitester, who have started and sold two companies together, know the difficulty of getting funding for a startup firsthand.

After doing some research for their next venture, Tampa -- their own backyard -- caught the couple's eyes.

"We noticed that the Tampa Bay community was starting to embrace entrepreneurs with accelerators and incubators, but financing was not following along,'' David Chitester explains. "We saw a huge gap between 'family and friends financing' and venture capital.''

Florida Funders was created to fill that gap.

The company's main mission: to keep entrepreneurs from leaving the state to find capital.
 
"We are losing too many young, promising entrepreneurs to places like Silicon Valley and Austin,'' Chitester says. "If we can fund some of these firms, they can grow here, and the local community will benefit.''
 
The initial Florida Funders launch rolled out in late March with two established Tampa area startup companies open for financing: SavvyCard and Carvoyant. A third local venture, Alorum, is in "preview'' mode.

Carvoyant was previously accepted into the Gazelle Lab accelerator program at USFSP, while SavvyCard was among the first group of startups accepted into the FirstWaVE Accelerator Program in spring 2013 in Tampa.
 
So how does Florida Funders work?

The company curates early stage ventures and startups seeking investment and lists them online for SEC-accredited investors to review. This part is free. If there is a match, Florida Funders then creates a single purpose fund, or LLC, for the startup company, to be distributed for investment by a third party agent. This LLC is now the "investor'' in the company, and the individual investors/funders are members of the LLC. Investment increments begin at $1,000.

Companies like California-based AngelList and FundersClub have employed this business model, known as online venture capital, successfully.

Florida Funders is self-funded by Chitester and a few angel investors, including partners Randy Greene and Lance Raab. The company operates under a business model of carried interest, based on the success of the investments Florida Funders make in the startup companies it accepts.
 
Florida Funders plans to list 20 to 30 companies in its first year, funding 12-20 of them.

"That said,'' he notes, "we also have to make money ourselves. We have to not only find and fund companies, but they have to be successful for us to get paid.''

Chitester acknowledges that early stage ventures are "always a high risk for investors.''

Florida Funders is less risky, he says, because backers can put smaller investments toward multiple companies. Investors can take advantage of backing several startup companies for the same "$50,000 minimum some venture capital companies require,'' Chitester suggests, "which actually reduces their risk versus one $50,000 investment. If some of those companies are successful, they have a better chance of overall profit.''
 
David Chitester holds a degree in Civil Engineering from the University of Pittsburgh and an MBA from Northern Michigan University. A serial entrepreneur, he has created and subsequently sold several companies including Red Vector, Spanish language social network Questamente, and Pay Per Visit Email, an email service provider. His latest venture, Florida Funders, intends to provide seed money to Florida startups, enticing them to set up shop, create jobs, and pay taxes in state.

Kathleen Chitester attended Rutgers College in New Brunswick and Rutgers College of Arts and Sciences in Camden, NJ. She has more than 30 years of experience in marketing and over 15 years of experience starting companies, including cofounding Red Vector, Pay Per Visit Email, and Latin social network Questamente with her husband. She also cofounded Vetrack, an online continuing education portal for veterinarians, and previously managed Chitester Management Systems, a professional consultancy firm that David Chitester began in 1995 and the couple sold in 2008.

Write: Justine Benstead
Source: David Chitester, Florida Funders

Startup Aims To Improve Your Shopping Experience With One Simple App

Almost every product you purchase in day-to-day life has one thing in common: a paper receipt.

For flexReceipts, that's a problem. What's their solution? Going paperless.

Backed by an investment from TiE Tampa's Angel Network in late March 2014, the startup company is poised to enter the national market with a tech-savvy answer to traditional paper receipts.

Customizable digital receipts tie in modern tech trends such as recommendations from retailers, social media, tailored special offers and more. flexReceipts intends to simultaneously solve a pain point for consumers and provide an enhanced marketing platform for businesses.

"flexReceipts has great growth potential,'' says TiE Tampa Charter Member Ashok Kartham. "I think it can be a success story that the area needs, to showcase tech startups from the Florida region.''

Tomas Diaz, flexReceipts founder and CEO, was a sales executive at Whirlpool for more than a decade before developing the startup company in 2011. Diaz and other management team members "bring deep retail experience'' to the startup, says Kartham.

flexReceipts has received several previous rounds of funding, including an investment by The Florida Technology Seed Capital Fund, LLC (FTSCF), a subsidiary of the Institute for Commercialization of Public Research, in March 2014, and an investment from Winter Park venture fund and business accelerator venVelo in August 2012. The company is also active on AngelList.

Four investors from the TiE Tampa Angel Network -- Kartham, Prashanth Rajendran, Seema Jain and Dr. Rajan Naik -- invested in the Orlando-based startup. The company, which has already partnered with some major retailers, plans to bring new technology jobs to Florida over the next few years.

TiE Tampa's goal is to expand angel investors beyond charter members and commit $1 million in angel capital in 2014. To this end, Rajendran is assembling a structured, experienced team and due diligence processes as part of an Angel Forum initiative to help lower the risk associated with angel investment and enable more syndicated deals, Kartham says.

"TiE is uniquely positioned to make a difference to the growing startup ecosystem in the Tampa Bay area and Florida,'' Kartham says. "We hope to invest in innovative startups in Tampa in coming months.''

This is the second angel investment out of TiE Tampa. The first was awarded to mobile conference app Feathr, which "has made significant progress and grown revenues since receiving TiE angel funding more than a year ago,'' Kartham says.

Writer: Justine Benstead
Source: Ashok Kartham, TiE Tampa

'Shark Tank' Entrepreneur To Headline Book Launch At CoCreativ in South Tampa

You many know him from "As Seen On TV'' or ABC's "Shark Tank.'' On April 8, Kevin Harrington will be just one of the Florida entrepreneurs to launch a new book at CoCreativ in South Tampa.

CoCreativ CEO Joseph Warren invites "entrepreneurs, small business owners, freelancers, and business professionals who could benefit from hearing the stories, struggles and triumphs of local business authors'' to attend the free evening event.

Hosted at the startup's co-working space on Henderson Boulevard in South Tampa, the book launch is expected to draw prominent local entrepreneurs.

Clearwater resident Harrington and co-author Anthony Amos will promote their new book, "How to Catch A Shark.'' Along with Harrington and Tampa-based entrepreneur Amos, local authors who will launch books at the event include:

·      Pierce Brunson, entrepreneur and owner of Firefly Event Photography: "Learning Curve"
·      Artist and Answered Prayers Cross founder Elizabeth Bunbury: "On the Road"
·      James Chittenden, founder of Triumph Business Communications: "The Public Triumph: Public Relations for the Strong, and Those Who Want to Be"
·      Degrees of Success President Gen Dobson: "Failing Successfully: Life After Debt"
·      Meredith Rodgers, president and owner of Mere's One More Time, Inc.: "What You Don't Know... Just Might Hurt You"
·      CoCreativ CEO Joseph Warren: "What’s In It For Me?"

The book launch and cocktail party will take place from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Tuesday, April 8, at CoCreativ, 3902 Henderson Blvd, Ste 208. Meet and greet the authors, get your favorite book signed, and enjoy complimentary wine and music from Tampa resident and saxophonist Marlon Boone.

Each of the six books that will launch on April 8 was published by Tampa-based Richter Publishing.

"In the past 90 days, Tara Richter has published Kevin Harrington's latest book and helped seven local business owners to become published authors!'' Warren shares. "She made it possible for each of them to share their story with a wider audience, as well as acquire national attention for their brands.''

CoCreativ, a flexible workspace for small businesses, recently moved across the Bay from downtown St. Petersburg to a second-story suite in the Bay Cities Bank Building in South Tampa.

Writer: Justine Benstead
Source: Joseph Warren, CoCreativ CEO

Aqua Mizer Launches New Water-Saving Technology

A Sarasota-based company is launching a product that will significantly decrease residential water use.

Aqua Mizer's flagship product, the Adjustable Flush System, is a retrofit toilet tank flush system that replaces components inside a residential toilet tank to reduce leaking. A major feature is a flapper that allows the toilet to be flushed with more velocity and less water, saving a quarter to a gallon of water with each flush. The system was first patented and brought to market in 2010, when the current owners took over an invention originally created in 2008.

The company estimates that if a toilet is leaking, installing the system will save 75,000 to 200,000 gallons of water per year. The average return on investment is three to six months.

"If just leaky toilets in Florida were replaced, it would reduce consumption by 275 billion gallons of water per year," says Michael Sisti, VP of Sales and Marketing for Aqua Mizer.

Aqua Mizer is currently rolling out a new product that does everything the current flush system does, with an added feature. In the event of a catastrophic leak where water starts running full force, it shuts off the toilet within 30 seconds.
The company recently launched a campaign on Indiegogo to help fund the product’s launch. The campaign will allow the public to acquire the product, which is not normally available in retail establishments.

The company plans to sell The Protector through wholesale distribution channels, primarily to property managers and plumbing contractors.

The Rivo at Ringling, a high-rise condo in downtown Sarasota, recently installed the Aqua Mizer system in all toilets in the 106 building unit (235 in all). The first month’s water bill following installation showed a reduction of close to 110,000 gallons of water compare with the same month the previous year.

The Protector was recently submitted to an innovation contest through the Cade Museum for Innovation in Gainesville, FL and was selected in the final 16 semi-finalists for a potential $50,000 prize.

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Michael Sisti, Aqua Mizer

Startup Surge Aims To Deliver 'Action-Oriented Event' For Entrepreneurs

Tampa Bay area startup founders will have the opportunity to hear from and pitch to local entrepreneurial experts on Friday, March 28, during Startup Surge, an event aimed at helping individuals launch and grow their businesses.

Tampa Bay WaVE, a sizable presence in Tampa's active tech scene, is inviting entrepreneurs to attend Startup Surge events, which include open office hours, workshops, featured speakers, networking and a startup showcase competition for more than $1,000 in cash and prizes.

Startup Surge is an action-oriented event, says Gracie Stemmer, marketing manager at Tampa Bay WaVE.

"The goal is for attendees to get answers to tough questions, create a strategy, move forward and become one of Tampa's success stories,'' Stemmer says.

Who should consider attending?

Stemmer recommends the events to supporters of Tampa's entrepreneurial community, prospective entrepreneurs with an idea or current entrepreneurs who have questions about their companies.
 
In the evening, the Startup Surge Showcase will be held at the Firestick Grill at the Tampa Bay Times Forum. Startups, including several developed as the result of past Startup Weekend or Startup Bus events, will compete for more than $1,000 in cash and other prizes. Drawer, LilyPad, MamaBear App, SavvyCard, Shootrac, WeVue and others have signed on to present.

"The showcase is the icing on the cake,'' Stemmer says. "It shows attendees how the community has fostered the current successes who are presenting at the event.''

Featured speakers include Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn and Dr. Peter Mansoor, a retired U.S. Army Colonel and former executive officer to General David Petraeus.

Bright House Networks Business Solutions is the title sponsor for Startup Surge Day, while the Tampa Bay Lightning is the title sponsor for the Surge Showcase.

Tampa Bay WaVE is a nonprofit organization and home to a venture center and coworking space in the Sykes building in downtown Tampa. WaVE's programs are supported in part by Hillsborough County Economic Development's Innovation Initiative called EDI2.

"We are looking to put Tampa Bay on the map as a home to successful tech companies and a vibrant tech startup community,'' Stemmer says.

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

First Fit Provides Community Approach To Health, Fitness

A new model for getting fit has arrived in the Tampa Bay region that combines a small group feel with high-intensity exercises for maximum impact.

Founded in 2013, Tampa-based First Fit Health and Fitness Studio was created by Co-Owners Jim White and Joey Graham.

A lifetime fitness buff, White worked at several big box fitness studios before realizing he wanted to provide something different. At most larger studios, customers are given an initial orientation and then left on their own. Some may hire a private trainer, but for others affordability and the intimidation factor make this out of reach. White wanted to provide a community feeling, taking the quality of functional training and coupling it with equipment that’s easy to operate. A mutual friend introduced White to Tampa native and NBA professional Graham, and the two took the concept to market.

First Fit delivers high intensity interval training, or HIIT. Customers perform a specific exercise at a high intensity for 30 seconds. They then take a short 15 – 25 second break and then start another exercise. This process drives up metabolic rates and keeps them higher for approximately 12 hours after completing the workout, allowing for more calorie burning. Customers work out in groups of 14 people, providing a community effect.

"When people are in a group setting, they’re much more supportive, much more secure and have a whole lot more fun," says White.

Graham has a particular interest in using the gyms for summer camps for youth. Having done several camps in the Tampa Bay area, Graham always found it difficult to find gym space. He also has an interest in the nutrition side, which goes hand in hand with fitness.  

"We want to promote health and wellness for all the young kids in the Hillsborough area, and everywhere." says Graham.

Another unique aspect of the studio is its location. The first branch of First Fit opened February15 inside Westfield Citrus Park in Tampa. The mall location provides convenience as well as ample parking.

The company hopes to open more mall-based locations in the near future. They intend to hire Fitness Instructors and Assistant Management positions within the next 60 days.

A grand opening will be held March 29 from 11 am to 3 pm.

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Jim White, Joey Graham, First Fit Health and Fitness Studio

Social Mobile Conference Embraces Branding In New Economy

As consumers move beyond traditional ways of finding information, purchase decisions are made based on sharing, comparing and rating experiences using social media. Real-time information through a mobile device is becoming an expectation. In light of this, brands are continuously looking for new and meaningful ways to connect with customers.

The Social Mobile Engagement Conference & Code Challenge, September 4-5, 2014 at the Tampa Marriott Waterside Hotel and Marina, is designed to be an outlet for this kind of information while highlighting local talent and organizations to senior tech leaders from across the nation.  

The event is an expansion of the Social Mobile Payments Conference, which took place twice since 2011 and focused on social media and mobile commerce. After the last event in 2013, organizer Bruce Burke started looking at the thought process leading up to the transaction of buying a good or service. By focusing on just the payment aspect he felt he was missing part of the story. By widening the scope and audience, Burks hopes to appeal to an even broader audience that is interested in learning more about the customer journey, including the user and social experience. "Engagement starts when the product is first discovered by the consumer," says Burke.

Burke’s company, Gulf Bay Consulting, is organizing the event but his motivation behind it is a sense of purpose and wanting to see the Tampa Bay community help create the next big thing.

The first day will consist of workshops on topics such as user experience, social communities, mobile engagement, big data and gamification. The second day will be a code challenge, sponsored in part by the Hillsborough County Economic Development Innovative Initiative (EDI2). Coders will hack, explore and create. The afternoon will be open to the public, where people can vote for and cheer on their favorite teams and coders.

Abstracts are being accepted until March 28 for individuals and companies interested in presenting at the event.  

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Bruce Burke, Gulf Bay Consulting
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