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Need A Ride? RideCommand App Promises To Get You Where You Need To Go

A new partnership makes it easier to find a taxi service when you need it within the Tampa Bay region.

Tampa-based Cab Plus, an upscale taxi service in the Tampa Bay region recently partnered with mobile app RideCommand  to provide a way to book transportation on demand or up to three months in the future through the web or a mobile phone.

The "ride now" feature lets you request an immediate pick-up from the location of your choice, including airports or places of business. The network identifies the closest car who will get to you in the shortest amount of time. A countdown clock displays within the app, and after 90 seconds if no car is available a message displays to please try again.

The "ride later" feature allows car services to compete for business by placing bids that you can choose from. You can pick the type of car and desired fare from those presented. The information provided also includes the company’s customer rating.

"We call it 'RideCommand' because we’re putting the passenger in command of their fate," says Alan Stapleton, founder and CEO of RideCommand.

The idea came about when Stapleton had a bad car service experience while trying to attend a wedding a few hours away from the airport. Having no idea where to start or what competitive prices should be, he went through a frustrating experience only to end up stranded at the airport. Although the company is based in Maryland, the app launched recently in Tampa based on connections made at a recent limo show in Atlantic City.

"We’re in Tampa because it’s innovation-friendly," says Stapleton.

The app is free and available on Android and iPhone.

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Alan Stapleton, RideCommand

TBTF Honors USFSP Technology Thought Leaders

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

New Website Uses Gamification To Increase Online Giving

Charities typically rely on core donors over the age of 49 for charitable giving. But a new online platform uses gaming in an effort to expand their reach to a younger demographic.

Please Your Bets is the brainchild of Michael Lindemuth, a St. Petersburg native and University of South Florida graduate, who currently works as a Research Engineer at the USF College of Marine Science. He got the idea when someone used Reddit to bet $100 on a football game, with the money going to whatever charity got the most upvotes from readers.

Users visit the site and place a "bet" on a challenge, which can be anything from an upcoming football game or local charity golf tournament to the outcome of an awards ceremony. Others place their bets on the same challenge, with each player selecting a charity from a defined list that will receive a portion of the total pool if they win.

Lindemuth brought the idea to Startup Weekend Tampa Bay, where he found his business partner, Ken Klatt. The company took second place in the Startup Weekend competition. Lindemuth credits the condensed timeframe of the event for helping them refine the pitch and the concept.

"The goal is to keep people engaged with charities. It’s not just to raise more money, but keep people constantly thinking about donating and pledging and playing," says Lindemuth.

The site also features a leaderboard system and will eventually have badges and other incentives for wins and donations.

Pledge Your Bets used Tampa Bay WaVE, which provides mentors and other help for technology start-ups, to conduct initial user testing.

The site went live on Monday. Future plans include using the site as an add-on to existing charity events. For example, a theater or concert venue might use the site to increase attendance by having people bet on which concert will be the best attended during the season.

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Michael Lindemuth, Pledge Your Bets

St. Petersburg Technology Companies Celebrate Art Of Collaboration

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bristol-Myers Squibb Brings 579 Jobs To Tampa Bay

Bristol-Myers Squibb is moving forward on development plans to open its new North America Capability Center in Hillsborough County. The expansion project will bring 579 highly skilled jobs in life sciences to the Tampa Bay region.

"We are pleased to locate our North America Capability Center in Hillsborough County. We evaluated many locations and considered many factors before deciding that Florida was the best state for our new facility," says Senior VP Gareth Morgan.

Bristol-Myers Squibb, a BioPharma leader in the research, development and manufacture of therapeutic prescription medicines, specifically selected Hillsborough County for several reasons: talented work force, strong university presence, the Tampa Bay region’s business climate, economy and quality of life, and availability of the necessary logistics and office facilities.

Set to open in January 2014, the new 70,000-square-foot center located at 5104 Eisenhower Boulevard South in northwest Hillsborough County will begin staffing in the first quarter.

The company will focus on hiring 250 knowledge workers having an expertise in information technology, marketing services, business and finance, and other functions supporting the company’s biopharmaceutical business in the United States.

The 10-year lease agreement includes an option to lease an additional 60,000 square feet. The firm also plans to locate and add 325 more jobs supporting scientific and technical activities by 2017.

"We are seeking people in the Tampa area who are looking for an opportunity to change lives, including their own," says Morgan.

The company has a large focus on a culture of innovation that translates to the delivery of high-quality services.

The new center will help the company improve overall quality, efficiency and productivity while increasing competitiveness by housing these services in a single location.

"Innovation and continuous improvement are hallmarks of our culture at Bristol-Myers Squibb. Our new North America Capability Center will help us build our capabilities and expertise in order to more effectively and efficiently meet the needs of our customers in an increasingly complex and competitive industry," says Morgan.

For more information on career opportunities, visit Bristol-Myers Squibb online.

Writer: Kaye Brown
Sources: Gareth Morgan and Frederick Egenolf, Bristol-Myers Squibb

Valet Boss App Among Hottest Tech Startups In Nation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Writer: Justine Benstead
Source: Susie Steiner, Valet Boss

RPE Expands to Pasco County, Adds 16 High-Tech Jobs

Retail Process Engineering made a major move to its new Devonwood office park location off State Road 54 in Pasco County, bringing 16 new high-tech jobs to the county with an average salary of $105,000 -- three times the county’s average wage.

"We recently renovated our office space to better serve our worldwide clients with the consulting and technical support they have come to expect from RPE. Shorter commute times for our corporate office staff and Pasco’s aggressive local incentives were two major reasons we chose to expand in Pasco County," says CEO Cliff Epstein.

Founded in 1999, RPE serves clients across the United States and Canada, specializing in delivering merchandising and supply chain consulting, technology and computing solutions to the needs of the retail industry.

"The retail economy is coming back. They were a little more conservative over the past few years, and now they are back to wanting to invest more on technology," says RPE’s Marketing Manager Jeanette Miller.

The company is currently hiring project managers, business development specialists and technology programmers having a significant level of experience in retail merchandising solutions, programming, technology and business consulting.

For the creation of each new job, RPE will receive a cash incentive of $5,000, payable over the next four years.

RPE has more than 100 current employees and also recently expanded its secure data center in Tampa.

Three other technology firms -- InvestCloud, Communication Concepts, Inc. and MB2x -- have moved to Pasco County over the past year.

"We’re thrilled about RPE’s decision to expand and bring high-wage jobs to Pasco County. Technology companies can operate from anywhere in the world, but thanks to Pasco’s strong sense of community and aggressive local incentives, they are choosing to do business in Pasco County,"  says John Hagen, president and CEO of Pasco Economic Development Council.

For information on career opportunities, contact RPE Solutions online.

Writer: Kaye Brown
Sources: Cliff Epstein and Jeanette Miller, RPE; John Hagen, Pasco EDC

Absolute Mobile Solutions Combines Internships With Philanthropy

Real-world experience in internships and appreticeships in addition to classroom learning can greatly increase a student’s chance of finding gainful employment upon graduation. Internships are also good for the Tampa Bay region in that they encourage students to complete their college degrees and create a sense of belonging to the area, keeping talent local.

Absolute Mobile Solutions, a Tampa-based mobile app design and development company, is furthering this mission and helping the community with an internship program that supports local nonprofits.

The 10-week, paid program allows interns to experience the entire app design process from start to finish, beginning with the first customer meeting and a needs analysis to understanding the target audience and final solution delivery. The interns work with nonprofits, which receive the services free of charge.

Interns are given guidance and mentoring from internal experts within the company. During each phase of the process, they work directly with staff members who would cover that engagement with a paying client, making sure they participate and actively engage in the experience.

“We let them venture out of the safety of the classroom experience and actually engage,” says Alfred Goldberg, president of Absolute Mobile Solutions. “You have to give the interns the freedom to make some mistakes, but also to have successes and build confidence.”

One example is a recent project that provided a website resdesign for Westchase Foundation, which gives financial assistance to those in need.

Absolute Mobile Solutions hires interns from a variety of local colleges, including Hillsborough Community College, International Academy of Design and Technology , University of South Florida and The University of Tampa.

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Alfred Goldberg, Absolute Mobile Solutions

EmbroidMe Adds 20 New Locations, 200+ Jobs in Tampa

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Amazon Deal Brings 1,000+ Jobs To Tampa Bay

Signed, sealed and delivered.

Amazon is set to open its newest fulfillment center in Ruskin, creating 375 new quality jobs having at least 115 percent of the state’s average wage. The new operation will bring more than 1,000 permanent jobs to Tampa Bay.

The expansion of Amazon into Florida will additionally create several hundred seasonal temporary employment opportunities as well as construction jobs.

"This is bigger than landing the Super Bowl, a national convention or the Olympics. It’s a mega-storm of growth that’s hitting our county with feeder bands that will create economic growth all over this area," says Commissioner Sandy Murman.

USAA Real Estate Co., a company that works with Amazon on the development of its distribution centers, and Ryan Companies US, Inc. reached an agreement late Wednesday, closing on the sale of land for the South Hillsborough County property that will house Amazon’s new distribution facility.

Amazon has signed a long-term lease with USAA for the South Shore Corporate Park property near Interstate 75 and State Road 674 in Ruskin. Construction of the fulfillment center will begin immediately.

The deal comes nearly four months after Amazon’s proposal to expand and create more than 3,000 jobs in Florida.

The company’s expansion project for the development of the center in Ruskin also includes a 3rd party investment of $200 million toward improvements and equipment, further increasing Amazon’s stock in the Tampa Bay market.

For additional information, visit Tampa Hillsborough Economic Development Corporation.

Writer: Kaye Brown
Source: Commissioner Sandy Murman, Hillsborough County

Tampa Summit To Feature Driverless Cars As Transit Option

Automated Vehicles or driverless cars are on their way to Tampa Bay as part of a future trend that will be discussed at the first Florida Automated Vehicles Summit November 14th-15th at the Marriott Tampa Waterside Hotel.
Hosted by the Florida Engineering Society, the summit is sponsored by the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT), Tampa-Hillsborough Expressway Authority (THEA) and Center for Urban Transportation Research (CUTR). FDOT Secretary Ananth Prasad and Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn are some of the dignitaries expected to attend.

"The purpose of this summit is to monitor the use of AV technology, and to identify the relevant policies that should be in place for AV technology to become mainstream,'' says Jason Bittner, Director of CUTR and a leading proponent of using AV technology to make Florida cities better.
The summit is expected to draw students, research scholars, elected officials, automobile and equipment manufacturers, transportation planners and engineers, trade and industry organizations, public agencies and consulting firms. You can RSVP here.

"The summit is going to address key institutional challenges in fully implementing the technology,'' says Bittner.

Apart from fulfilling basic human transportation needs, autonomous vehicles (AV) provide automated navigational capabilities by using advanced control systems that interpret surrounding sensory information. In the last decade, numerous breakthroughs in information technology and significant advancements in the auto sector have resulted in Google taking a lead in developing the AV technology.
In April 2012, Florida became only the second state to allow the testing of AVs on state and public roads. The first and third states were Nevada and California respectively.

The summit will be a key event to discuss the nuances of AV technology with public officials, consulting professionals and industry organizations. In addition, the event will provide Florida university students and reserachers an opportunity to showcase their work related to AV technology.

"At the end of the summit, the attendees will have a framework to set up AVs in the Tampa Bay Area and a plan to follow-up with additional meetings in spring 2014,'' says Bittner. "The summit is essentially setting up Florida to become a leader in this technology and its use in our Cities.''

Writer: Vinod Kadu
Source: Jason Bittner, Director of Center for Urban Transportation Research (CUTR)

Tampa Startups Compete For National Attention At Tech Cocktail Event

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Citizinvestor Partners With Schools To Feed Hungry Children

A partnership between Citizinvestor, Feeding America Tampa Bay and Hillsborough County Public Schools allows the community to fund meals for at-risk children in Tampa.

The effort is the first community-wide initiative for Citizinvestor, a Tampa-based crowdfunding platform that allows citizens to fund municipal projects. The platform puts decision-making in the hands of the community by allowing them to provide funding for the efforts they deem most worthwhile, with the added benefit of being able to directly see where their dollars are spent.

With the title “Weekend Food Backpacks for Kids,” the $10,800 target goal will provide 12,000 meals over the school year to students in need at Oak Park Elementary School in Tampa. 99 percent of the school’s students qualify for the county’s Free and Reduced lunch program. The students receive free breakfasts and lunches during the school week, but often go home to empty pantries on the weekends. These children are at risk for decreased educational performance, health problems and behavior issues.

"Success would be getting this funding as quickly as possible so Feeding America can pay for the meals that these children need in our community," says Jordan Raynor, co-founder and partnerships director for Citizinvestor.

The concept of crowdfunding is new to Feeding America Tampa Bay, but it seems like a logical fit because of Citizinvestor's knowledge of what the local community likes to support.

Citizinvestor recently celebrated its first anniversary, having funded 70 percent of its projects during this time. The startup’s success led to their recent opening of 550 square feet of office space in downtown Tampa. They will also be hiring a full-time Developer and Project Marketing Associate.

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Jorday Raynor, Citizinvestor

ROBOCON Tampa Bay Celebrates Technology, Learning

Elementary, middle and high school students from the Tampa Bay region and across the Southeast are coming together for the ultimate in community-based STEM collaboration.

ROBOCON Tampa Bay, a two-day event October 25 and 26 at the University of Tampa, features demonstrations, workshops, a college and career fair and robotics competitions. FIRST Robotics teams will participate in Ultimate Ascent, a high speed game of ultimate robot Frisbee. FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) is a national organization that inspires youth to discover science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) through robotics competitions.

Workshops will be taught by Tampa Bay business leaders on topics such as programming and technical skills as well as how to run a business, providing students with real-life application to accompany the educational aspect.

One unique attribute of the FIRST programs in Tampa Bay is that teams are formed across schools and even from homeschool environments, giving students a chance to interact and collaborate with people from a variety of backgrounds.

The event is produced by Learning is for Everyone, a Tampa-based nonprofit that provides creative learning opportunities for all ages. Funding was received by a matching grant from the Tampa Hillsborough Economic Development Corporation as well as from Hillsborough County's new program, EDI2. Tampa Bay Sports Commission is also an event partner.

An important goal of the event is to grow economic opportunities in Tampa Bay, particularly in technology fields, to help retain local talent.

"We want to show the connection between childhood technical hobbies and jobs in a strong economy," says Jamie Klingman, board member for Learning is for Everyone.

The event is free and open to the public, and local businesses are encouraged to attend to meet students for possible internship and apprentice programs.

"We need to highlight and celebrate our students and their achievements, especially in technology," says Klingman. "They will be the next big leaders in the technology world, and the drivers going forward."

The organizers also hope to use this event to attract the national FIRST competition to the Tampa Bay area.

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Jamie Klingman, Learning is for Everyone

Ignition Deck Offers DIY Funding For Startups

A Tampa entrepreneur and his Canadian business partner are offering individuals and companies an alternative to crowd funding that removes the middle man and provides more control over the process.

Their creation is Ignition Deck, a Wordpress plug-in that allows you to create your own crowdfunding platform and raise funds using your own website. Unlike traditional platforms, the cost is a one-time fee rather than a percentage of funds raised.

The product is the brain child of Tampa resident Nathan Hangen and Sean Christensen of Alberta, Canada. Their parent company, Virtuous Giant, also provides crowdfunding consulting as well as designs mobile and web applications.

The pair got into crowdfunding because they wanted to raise money for a project but couldn’t find the solution.

"Our philosophy is that we want to build tools that help entrepreneurs succeed," says Hangen, CEO and co-founder of Virtuous Giant. "We just love building stuff for entrepreneurs."

Bands such as A House for Lions and Big Tree Bonzai used Ignition Deck to fund their first albums. Robert Space Industries recently used the platform to raise $13 million over the course of a year to build Star Citizen, a space simulator game.

The most recent company to use the platform is Ski Nation. Developed by former Olympic ski team member Jack Turner, Ski Nation is trying to raise $300,000 to build a mobile network of skiiers that they can call their own.

Next steps for Virtuous Giant include a fully hosted crowd funding solution, allowing people to customize their own website in a Wordpress-like function to provide even more control of the end product.

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Nathan Hangen, Virtuous Giant
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