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IRISS Creates 25 Manufacturing Jobs In Bradenton

Electrical maintenance safety solutions manufacturer IRISS is doing big business, expanding their Bradenton headquarters and creating 25 new high-wage jobs in engineering, accounting, sales, project assembly, welding, and machinery. Hiring will begin the first quarter of 2014.

In 2007, IRISS relocated to Bradenton and made the decision to consolidate its U.S. and UK operations. The firm eventually expanded from a 4000-square-foot space in a strip mall office center, investing $1.5 million in new equipment and opening a new $5.7 million 33,000 square-foot global headquarters in Bradenton in April 2013.

"As we researched our marketplace and looked at our industry and realized the magnitude of our growth as a result of the regulatory compliance safety laws, we realized we needed to have a facility of our own," says Karen Wells, VP of global business development.

Throughout the year, the firm has continued to grow significantly, acquiring a high-tech company from New Jersey that offers customers another safety solution as well as launching three new significantly large projects in 2014.

"Our growth has been to the point where we have to expand 50 percent more of our operations, and that is a result of three research and development projects that we’re getting ready to launch that are extremely sizable," says Wells.

IRISS will announce the details of the new projects in early 2014.

The firm is also expanding their new facility by 15,000 square feet which will feature a new 2-story warehousing facility to add equipment operations as well as the expansion of the manufacturing center.

The expansion project will allow IRISS to accommodate a sizable new client as well as having safety solutions immediately available for other clients.

IRISS has qualified to receive up to $28,196 in performance-based initiatives from Manatee County Government. The jobs created must have an average wage at least 15 percent higher than the current local average wage of $35,633. The company's facility also qualified for the county's rapid response permitting program.

The company’s site also features an 80-room state of the art training center that offers specialized industry training as well as "traincation" packages that promote local business development and tourism in Bradenton.

The company also works with Community Haven to employ disabled adults and additionally focuses on actively hiring disabled veterans.

For more information on career opportunities, visit IRISS online.

Writer: Kaye Brown
Source: Karen Wells, IRISS

WaZINIT App Wins Startup Weekend Tampa Bay With Focus On Food Allergies

A mobile app that identifies food ingredients and allergens has won Tampa Bay's fifth Startup Weekend. WaZINIT is designed to help consumers with allergies and specific preferences compare products directly from their smartphones.

WaZINIT President and St. Petersburg native Brian DiVito has lived with Crohn's disease for over half of his life. For 16 years, he navigated a cycle of flare-ups, hospital stays, abdominal surgery and recovery related to the condition.

Along the way, DiVito learned that he had about 30 food allergies. He developed a new diet that avoided trigger foods. Today, he experiences virtually no Crohn's-related issues.

"With 30 allergies, I kept thinking, 'There's got to be a better way','' DiVito explains. "I spend a ridiculous amount of time reading ingredient labels in the store.''

Multiple food allergies also kept DiVito from trying new things. "Once I found a food product that worked, I'd stick with it,'' he says. "Current solutions that are out there limit you, many times, to the eight FDA allergies. They also charge a super-high premium.''

The eight major food allergens identified by the Food and Drug Administration include: milk, eggs, fish, crustacean shellfish, tree nuts, peanuts, wheat and soybeans.

"Our app will allow you to focus on many more specific ingredients: Do you want to eat this, or avoid it?'' says DiVito, who attended the University of South Florida, where he studied Architecture and Civil/Structural Engineering.

As a "hobbyist'' front-end developer, DiVito had been "kicking around'' the idea of an app that could help consumers search a large database for specific products or ingredients. Smartphone and tablet users will be able to scan products and identify ingredients from the app's directory.

Enter Startup Weekend Tampa Bay. The team included DiVito and his wife, Christina DiVito, along with Gregg Hilferding, Zach Kanzler, Todd Broyles, Adriane Jacobsen, Collete Lawson and Elizabeth Rugg. WaZINIT won.

"Our pitch for the judges was focused on how we could monetize the app -- but for me, the most important thing is to keep it free,'' DiVito explains. "Whatever their reasons, I want people to be able to use it and share it with family and friends for free.''

Now that Startup Weekend is over, the team is back down to a skeleton crew as they work to develop a beta version, market the app and source funding. They applied to the First WaVe Accelerator program, and competed in the Global Startup Battle, which is sponsored by Coca-Cola. DiVito hopes to "attract the attention and support'' of manufacturers like the brand.

"Ultimately, the goal is to keep the mobile app free of charge for the user,'' Di Vito says.

WaZINIT will be released in 2014 for mobile devices.

Writer: Justine Benstead
Source: Brian DiVito, WaZINIT

Verizon Wireless Recognizes Tampa Bay Companies For Innovation

Tampa Bay companies were recognized recently for using Verizon Wireless technology to improve efficiency and operations.

Now in its second year, the Verizon Wireless Technology Innovation Awards are hosted in various communities across the U.S. – this year in Arkansas, Central Alabama, Southeast Louisiana, Central Texas, the Carolinas and Tampa Bay. A winner is selected in each community to receive a $10,000 prize.

"We're looking to foster innovation, and specifically acknowledge and recognize our customers who are using our technology to innovate in the way they do business," says Chuck Hamby, Florida Region Public Relations Manager for Verizon Wireless.

The Tampa Bay competition was open to small to mid-size businesses with up to 500 employees. Companies submitted entries that explained how they use Verizon Wireless solutions to solve business challenges.

The overall winner was TransCare, a nonprofit division of the Crisis Center of Tampa Bay that responds to non-emergency 911 calls. The company operates 19 ambulances and 10 other transit vehicles, responding to over 40,000 calls per year in Tampa.

In 2009, the company noticed a significant increase in call volume. Looking for a way to keep up and maintain operational efficiency, they implemented Verizon’s WiFi technology to equip each ambulance with internet capability, allowing for continuous communication between the vehicles and the dispatch center. Doing so reduced average response times from 15 minutes to 10, increasing monthly patient services by 40 percent.

"It really got us to a place of efficiency," says Terence Romatar, VP for TransCare. "Verizon stepped up to the plate and offered a solution. They’re not a vendor, they’re a partner."

The company also improved billing processes by transmitting data wirelessly.

"Tampa is a technology incubator," says Hamby. "This area in Florida is business savvy, tech savvy -- an early adoptive area."

Caldeco, a heating and air conditioning company, received the runner-up award. Other finalists in Tampa Bay included Creative Sign Designs and Freedom Boat Club.

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Chuck Hamby, Verizon Wireless; Terence Romatar, TransCare

Tampa Native Opens Online Vintage Thrift Store

Maegan Hayward has always been both a thrift store and a fashion junkie. She says her sense of style gives her the unique ability to throw together trendy looks using what is already available.  

Growing up in Tampa, her passion for vintage thrift store finds started when her father, also an entrepreneur, took her to her first thrift store. As an adult, she started selling vintage finds on eBay and has now turned her hobby into an entrepreneurial venture with a website called Red’s Vintage Threads.

Affectionately named after Hayward’s red hair, the site features items she finds at thrift stores across the country, ranging from styles popular in the 1940s through the 1990s. There are close to 300 pieces of clothing for sale, in addition to shoes and accessories. You’ll find everything from a leopard coat to a Metallica T-shirt to a New Kids on the Block hat.

"It’s fashion forward, which really doesn’t make sense because it’s really fashion backward," says Hayward while laughing.

The site can be searched by size, price, color and era.

Hayward also runs a recording studio in New York, doing film and TV work while spending her free time thrifting for the store. She enjoys scouting a vareity of thrift stores to put together unique looks for the site. "It’s kind of neat to see the stuff that people have discarded," says Hayward.

Another motivator for her is the sustainability and environmental factor of reusing things.

Future plans include expanding online sales and eventually opening a store front.

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Maegan Hayward, Red's Vintage Threads

Angelo's Invests $50 Million in Florida, 120+ Jobs In Pinellas

A national pioneer in recycled building materials, Angelo’s Recycled Materials, is expanding rapidly, recently selecting St. Petersburg, as its national headquarters and creating more than 120 new green jobs by the end December 2013.

Angelo’s, which has already created more than 100 jobs locally in 2013, recently added a new container division for construction and demolition job sites and currently operates six active recycling facilities.

As Angelo’s continues to expand through the addition of new recycling operations centers, the company also plans to add more than 200 jobs over the next few years.

"The company saw a real need for this kind of business in St. Petersburg. The entire area and the building has been repurposed to make the property more attractive. It is the perfect place to invest their future," says Mario Farias, public relations manager.

Founded by Angelo Iafrate in 1960, the company originally recycled reclaimed concrete into aggregate and road-base products. Realizing the opportunity to reuse many of the materials that were originally discarded during the demolition process, Angelo & his brother designed a machine to crush the concrete while extracting metals, sand, wood, plastics and other particles in order to avoid unnecessary landfilling and reduce costs on construction projects as they reuse materials.

In addition to the 13-acre site at its new St. Petersburg headquarters, the firm has invested more than $13 million in Pinellas County and over $50 million in the state of Florida, and is committed to continuing its investment in the Tampa Bay region.

"We are committed to investing in the greater St. Petersburg area and all of Florida by building upon our existing locations and developing new locations," says Angelo’s Principal Dominic Iafrate, Jr.

Angelo's recycling rate is over 80 percent in its St. Petersburg and Largo materials processing facilities, which is critical to helping city, county, and commercial clients reach the state's 75 percent recycling goal

The company is also in the permitting process to add four additional yards in Florida in 2014: one in Brandon, one in Tampa, and two in Orlando.

For more information on career opportunities, visit Angelo’s online.

Writer: Kaye Brown
Source: Dominic Iafrate and Mario Farias, Angelo's

TEDxTampaRiverwalkWomen Celebrates Women's Ingenuity

TED first began in 1984 as a national conference that highlighted technology, entertainment and design, and has since become the go-to place for creativity, inspiration and new ideas. Local communities across the world host TEDx events, with the “x” indicating they are independently organized but still follow the TED structure.

For the first time in Tampa Bay, TEDxTampaRiverwalkWomen will highlight and celebrate creativity, innovation and insight from inspirational women across the world. The event will be held Thursday, December 5, at the John F. Germany Library in downtown Tampa, in conjunction with the TEDWomen event in San Francisco. Over 150 communities will be hosting TEDxWomen events on the same day.

A live webcast of Session I of TEDWomen will be shown, along with three local speakers. The global theme is: Invented Here, and celebrates invention in all forms, whether it be inventing a new product or service, creating solutions to world issues such as poverty or inventing yourself through creative expression.

"TEDxWomen is a great way to bring women together to celebrate the wonderful innovations we have come up with and continue to develop," says Jamie Klingman, VP of Learning is For Everyone, the event's host organization.

Local speakers include Loran Tripp and Lisa Demmi of Lab3 Marketing, who will talk about embracing differences to make an impact on our communities and the world as a whole. Monica Stynchula will discuss her entrepreneurial venture, Dovetail Care, which provides innovative approaches to healthcare management for seniors through the use of technology and database management tools.
 
Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Jamie Klingman, Learning is for Everyone

LumaStream Donates Lighting To Tampa Coworking Space

A new partnership provides eco-friendly and highly efficient lighting for over 100 technology start-ups at Tampa Bay WaVE, a nonprofit organization that provides mentoring and support to growing ventures.

The lighting was donated by St. Petersburg-based LumaStream, a digital lighting distributor. The company’s product converts high voltage lighting to low voltage and then sends it long distances in a more controlled way than traditional lighting systems. The result is a more efficient and longer lasting system, reducing lighting usage in commercial buildings by as much as 80%.

"The program that Tampa Bay WaVE has going is supporting hundreds of entrepreneurs every month," says Kelly Bousman, VP of marketing for LumaStream and advisor to WaVE. "To be able to donate the lighting that lightens the space and is part of where the bright ideas are hatched is a natural fit."

The lighting was installed at Tampa Bay WaVE’s FirstWaVE Venture Center in the Rivergate Tower in downtown Tampa.  The 16,000 square foot space houses over 100 local start-ups and entrepreneurial support organizations such as Startup Bus Southeast and Florida Next.

The new lighting will not only reduce energy consumption but will also allow WaVE to fully use its event space to support more evening events. It will also assist the Venture Center, which was originally started through a grant from the U.S. Department of Commerce and support from the University of South Florida, with becoming self-supporting.

"We know the struggles that other tech companies go through, and it’s kind of our way of giving back," says Bousman.

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Kelly Bousman, LumaStream

Pecha Kucha Tampa Bay V13: Making You Think Differently

Pronounced "pech chak cha," Pecha Kucha Tampa Bay is a combination open mike, happy hour and forum for creative people to share what they are passionate about.

The term is Japanese for chit chat, and the event was started by a pair of architects in Tokyo in 2003. The idea was to provide a way for young architects and designers to network and show their work. It has grown to include talks about a wide range of topics and now takes place in 700 cities around the world.

The format, 20 slides per presenter that run 20 seconds each, help the presenters stay concise and to the point and keep the audience engaged.

The November 22 event at the Tampa Museum of Art is the 13th of its kind in Tampa Bay. The concept was brought to the region by Kenneth Cowart, architect at ASD. The first event in 2009 came about from Cowart’s desire for an artistic outlet and a way to meet new and interesting people. Originally hosted by the Tampa chapter of the American Institute of Architects, the events quickly grew to become “the” event for creatives in the region.

Speakers at V13 will share about tactical urbanism, driverless transportation, a water park in Bradenton and arts in education, among other things. Attendees will walk away with a unique way of seeing things, a different perspective about ideas and an understanding about what others in Tampa Bay are doing.

"It’s about the sharing of ideas, inspiration, and things that you’re passionate about," says Cowart. "Events like this are critical to stirring up creative juices and having people engage with their city.

Admission is $5, and the event is open to the public.

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Kenneth Cowart, Pecha Kucha Tampa Bay

Teen Business Challenge Builds Creativity, Collaboration

Next February, 20 entrepreneurial-minded teens in Tampa Bay will have an opportunity to hone their business skills and bring a new idea to life.

The first ever Teen Business Challenge, February 21 – 23 at FirstWaVE Venture Center in Tampa, allows selected teens to participate in workshops and activities to hone their entrepreneurial skills, creativity and perhaps even create a new business.

The event takes place over a three days. Participants start by learning basic concepts such as creative problem solving, concept modeling and marketing. They then gather in teams of five to create a business model, taking it into the community to identify potential customers. The final step is a Shark Tank-style pitch competition to an audience of local business leaders, venture capitalists and investors.

"I know that if kids could be a part of this somehow, they would love it," says David Harris, executive director for Teen Business Challenge and graduate of the University of South Florida.

The inspiration for the program came when Harris saw a 10-year-old boy begging on a street corner. "We’ve got to be able to reach these kids, let them know there are alternatives," thought Harris. The group is targeting those in low-income neighborhoods that might not otherwise have access to this kind of opportunity, but anyone can be nominated.

A gamification component provides additional motivation by awarding points at different times during the event.

All participants receive an iPad mini, with the winner receiving additional prizes. But, the ultimate win is the skills gained by everyone involved. "I like to feel like everybody leaves a winner," says Harris.

Teen Business Challenge is partnering with Computer Mentors Group and 100 Black Men of Tampa Bay on the first event.

The event will take place annually in Tampa, and will eventually be expanded on the global level.

"We want to show kids how to uplift themselves, and leverage their awesomeness to come up with new products and ideas," says Harris.

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: David Harris, Teen Business Challenge

HealthPlan Services Expands, 1,000+ Jobs In Tampa

HealthPlan Services is expanding its Tampa offices to make room for the 1,000 jobs the company will add by 2018. The company has made a $34 million capital investment toward infrastructure and new facilities to accommodate the firm’s growth in Hillsborough County.

HealthPlan Services currently employs more than 650 employees in Hillsborough County and provides sales, benefits administration, retention, reform and technology solutions to the insurance and managed care industries.

HealthPlan's new site will feature an operations center that will house all employees in IT, sales, customer services, human resources, and finance. The newly created positions will focus on building new platforms as well as helping to maintain existing client platforms.

"This expansion strengthens our commitment to provide our clients with the innovative services and high-quality customer support they need to succeed in the evolving post-reform insurance landscape," says CEO Jeffrey Bak.

With the influx of the new federal healthcare law, the client base of HealthPlan naturally grew to include clients who needed assistance to connect and participate in Obamacare.

As the company considered the amount of staff needed to handle the increased operations, Bak alternatively considered Ohio and Nevada for expansion sites, ultimately choosing Florida for its talented workforce and lower taxes.

"We have more than 40 locations, and we looked at all of our main hubs. We chose to expand here in Tampa," says CFO Steve Saft.

The firm will also receive state-based incentives worth several million dollars for each job created in addition to grants toward worker training programs.

Enterprise Florida, Hillsborough County, City of Tampa and the Tampa Hillsborough EDC were involved in facilitating the company's expansion in Tampa Bay.

"We are glad that the Tampa Hillsborough EDC and the governor made a compelling offer. So far, we’re happy," says Saft.

For more information on career opportunities, visit HealthPlan Services online.

Writer: Kaye Brown
Source: Jeffrey Bak and Steve Saft, HealthPlan Services

Dart Container Corporation Invests $14 Million, 24 Jobs In Tampa

Dart Container Corporation, the world’s largest manufacturer of foam cups, is expanding its east Hillsborough County operations in Plant City, investing $14 million in a new 400,000-square-foot facility and adding up to 24 new jobs in the process.

"This is incredible news for the residents of Plant City, and we thank Dart Container for its continued commitment to our community. As we work to bring more quality jobs and investment to Plant City, Dart Container stands out as a true story of partnership and success. We expect this to be the first of many announcements as we grow our business base," says Plant City Mayor Mary Thomas Mathis.

Based in Michigan, Dart Container has 45 locations in eight countries, and more than 14,000 employees, including 230 at its existing 480,000-square-foot plant in Hillsborough County.

The company’s 2012 purchase of Solo Cups increased production volume, prompting the need of additional warehouse space. Many Solo Cups brand products will be distributed from the company’s new Plant City site. The facility is expected to be complete by mid-2014.

In 2012, in an effort to increase the community’s competitive advantage in high-impact economic development projects, the City of Plant City approved a moratorium on the collection of transportation mobility fees.

Dart Container received a fee waiver of $139,200, further solidifying additional market productivity, regional economic growth and job creation for the Tampa Bay region.

Tampa Hillsborough Economic Development Corporation, the Tampa Bay Workforce Alliance, the City of Plant City, and Tampa Electric Company & Peoples Gas (TECO) all played critical roles in the project to impact the region’s development.

"We’ve committed dedicated resources to identifying new opportunities for the attraction, expansion and retention of jobs in this area. The exciting announcement by Dart Container reinforces the success of that initiative and serves as a milestone for future efforts," says David Pizzo, Tampa Hillsborough EDC Chair.

For more information on career opportunities, visit Dart Container’s website.

Writer: Kaye Brown
Sources: Mary Thomas Mathis, City of Plant City; David Pizzo, Tampa Hillsborough EDC

Innovation Incubator Brings New Business Potential To USF Students

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

TEDxYouth@TampaBay Celebrates Local Youth

What do a conservationist, a scientist and the youngest solo hiker on the Appalachian Trail have in common? They’re all Tampa Bay residents under the age of 18. They’re also all speakers at TEDxYouth@TampaBay.

The fourth annual event, November 16 at the John F. Germany Library in Tampa, brings the community together to celebrate the unsung heroes among Tampa Bay youth. The 18-minute "TED talks" are modeled after the larger TED organization, which originally stood for technology, entertainment and design but now includes any topic that is encouraging and inspiring.

This year's event is being held in conjunction with over 70 events across the globe during the weekend-long TEDxYouthDay

"We have a fantastic slate of presenters who are inspired by something and then go out and act on it," says Terri Willingham, the event’s organizer. "They’re not just thinkers, they’re doers."

The theme is "Spark of Inspiration." The six presenters, all from Tampa Bay, plan to exemplify the theme, each in their own way. For example:
  • 15-year old Neva “chipmunk” Warren is the youngest person to do a solo 1,700 mile hike on the Appalachian Trail. Her focus is encouraging people to move away from body image issues and focus on what your body can do.
  • Carrie Boucher takes art on the road to serve youth through the NOMADStudio (Neighborhood-Oriented Mobile Art & Design Studio) and the belief that art is for everyone.
  • James Geiger, a recent Masters’ degree graduate from the University of South Florida, is a multidimensional artist. Complications at birth left him with Cerebral Palsy, but that hasn’t slowed him down or stifled his ability to inspire and encourage others. His message is that there aren’t any disabilities. It’s all about what you can do with what you’re given.
  • At the age of 12, Avalon Theisen is this year's youngest presenter. When she was nine, she founded a nonprofit, Conserve It Forward, which promotes environmental awareness and action, especially among youth.
"We don’t always take a lot of time to listen to one another," says Willingham. "This is an opportunity for these young people to be heard, and for us to listen. It gives me reassurance and hope for the future."

The event is sold out, but can be viewed via live stream.

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Terri Willingham, Learning is for Everyone

Sarasota Company Designs Innovative, Customizable Electric Scooter

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Rob Brady, ROBRADY

New App Captures Real-Life Recommendations From Friends

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Justin Davis, Madera Labs
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