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New App Helps Parents Monitor Children Online And On The Road, Tampa

Now there’s an easy way for parents to keep track of their children and monitor their online presence regardless of their technical expertise. The recently launched MamaBear app is the first of its kind to combine location tracking with monitoring of both social network usage and driving speed.

The inspiration for MamaBear came from a conversation co-founder Stuart Kime had with a parent who described keeping up with a child as a fulltime job. The parent company, geoWaggle LLC, had already designed location-based technology through GeoMofo, a customer loyalty app. The social media piece was added, ad MamaBear was born.

“Parents don’t realize the level of importance they should put on social monitoring,” says Robyn Spoto, president of MamaBear and a graduate of the University of South Florida and the University of Tampa. “There are some pretty explicit, open, public things our children have access to.”

The app’s four founders are all parents from the Tampa Bay region. “Our passion for wanting to protect our children became a big commonality, and MamaBear just took off,” says Spoto. “We knew it was going to help other parents.”

Those parents include a single mom of a 12-year-old and a 16-year-old. She uses the app to keep an eye on her children while she’s traveling for work, and a mom with an autistic son who was hesitant to give her son a phone, but now has a level of comfort she didn’t have before.

The app was recently recognized in the “GEW 50” – a list of the 50 most innovative new companies showing high-growth potential competing in the Startup Open during Global Entrepreneurship Week – and was also selected as one of 25 highlighted by CNBC.

The founders credit the connections they made in Tampa Bay with contributing to their success. “There’s talent here,” says Spoto. “To recognize that is really important. Many times we think we need to look outside of our own backyard for talent in the tech development area, but if you look hard enough you’ll be able to find it here.”

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Robyn Spoto, MamaBear

Tampa Law Firm Uses Innovative Technology

Foley & Lardner LLP was recently recognized in the InformationWeek 500, a list of the most innovative users of technology in the nation, for the seventh year in a row.

The recognition came primarily because of the law firm's adoption of the cloud-based Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI), a software program that allows employees to access corporate systems in real time, regardless of their geographic location or device. Because files are kept on a central vs. local server, employees can access the same programs, applications and data, and perform all of the same functions from any location. They can also access files and execute applications from any type of device, such as a smartphone, iPad or laptop.

"It has drastically reduced the amount of person power we need from an information technology help desk standpoint because everything is centralized,'' says Chris Griffin, Tampa native and commercial litigator for the firm. This means problems can be solved from the central server, allowing for a quicker response in a litigation situation when time is critical.
 
Employees also have the flexibility to choose their preferred work device. The company no longer purchases computers for its employees, but instead gives them an equivalent amount of money to spend on the device they are most comfortable with. It also provides more responsiveness and timeliness to meet client needs.

"As we look to keep Tampa's business community thriving, recognition of local businesses by organizations like the InformationWeek 500 list will help enhance Tampa's reputation as a city that will welcome and support companies like Foley, that work every day to improve business performance,'' says Linda Sanders, chief information officer for Foley & Lardner.

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Sources: Chris Griffin and Linda Sanders, Foley Lardner

Tampa Healthcare Management Company Hiring Nurses, Software Engineers

INETICARE, a healthcare management company in Tampa, is currently hiring nurses, software engineers and administrative professionals. The company, which offers both care and claims administration services to employee groups, has grown steadily since its inception in 2004.

"When the company started in 2004, there were only three employees, today we have 50,'' says Ronnie Brown, VP of business development for INETICARE. "We’ve been able to grow quickly and successfully, and are very well respected in the healthcare industry, which is an industry that will continue to grow. There is a need for the technology solutions we provide.''

INETICARE was founded by CEO and President Joseph Hodges, who saw a need for innovative electronic solutions within the healthcare management industry. Today the company offers a variety of technology solutions related to claims services and care management.

There are currently two software engineering positions open at INETICARE. According to Brown, the company also plans to add to their sales staff and is currently looking for sales professionals. She goes on to say that due to the services the company provides, nursing professionals are often in demand.

"We are always looking to hire nurses because that is so much of what we do,'' Brown says. "Right now we are looking to hire two to three nurses whose function is to provide care to employees in our employee groups.''

INETICARE administrative offices are located at 400 North Ashley Drive, Suite 1550, in Tampa.

Writer: Kimberly Patterson
Source: Ronnie Brown, INETICARE

Manufacturer Moves To Pasco, Plans High-Paying Jobs

J.T.D. Enterprises, a company that makes tubular assemblies for various products, is planning to relocate from Michigan to Pasco County next year. The business will create 10 new jobs that are expected to exceed average annual salaries in Pasco County by 115 percent. The owners of J.T.D. Enterprises were drawn to Pasco County by tax incentives, weather and a significant regional customer base.
 
"My wife and I own the business, which was started by my father over 30 years ago,'' says Tom Nihra, VP of J.T.D. Enterprises. "We have a lot of customers in Florida and throughout the Southeast. Also, it's certainly a lifestyle change for us to move to a warm climate year round.''
 
J.T.D. Enterprises is unique from other manufacturers in that they have proprietary technology, which enables them to manufacture tubular assemblies used in golf ball accessories, flagpoles and defense technologies. With a growing customer base, the company will be able to expand as it relocates.

"The relocation is scheduled for the middle of next year,'' says Nihra. "We are looking at starting the first phase of hiring in April of 2013, which will be five or six positions. The balance of the jobs will be filled by September 1, 2013.''

Nihra says he plans to hire a couple customer service representatives, who will be expected to perform administrative support duties as well as sales. He will also be looking for qualified candidates who are skilled in machinery.

"For the skilled manufacturing positions, candidates will need to bring an applicable skills set, however, there will still be some training on the proprietary technology we use to make our products.''

Writer: Kimberly Patterson
Source: Tom Nihra, J.T.D. Enterprises

Tampa Bay Startups Vet Ideas At Startup Weekend

Tampa Bay culminates Global Entrepreneurship Week with Startup Weekend Tampa, beginning November 16 at 6 pm at Keiser University.

The 54-hour event allows Tampa Bay entrepreneurs to pitch their startup ideas and receive feedback from peers, mentors, coaches and other experts. Participants select the top ideas, and teams are formed to create business models and take the concepts to the next level. 

The third of its kind in Tampa, the Startup Weekend Tampa event is part of a global grassroots movement, which has inspired more than 400 events in 100 countries around the world.  This fall's event is part of a larger competition, providing the winning team with an invitation to participate in the Global Entrepreneurship Congress in Brazil in March 2013. There, they will give a 90-second pitch in a live competition featuring investors, government officials and policymakers from around the world.

Startup Weekend brings together developers, designers, marketers, business people and entrepreneurs to form a community network that is focused on action.

"It's very powerful to have these interconnections and opportunities so we're not just meeting up for a casual conversation,'' says Ryan Sullivan, brand manager for TVGoods and co-organizer of Startup Weekend.  "We say, 'think of a concept, build a product'.'' Eighty percent of participants globally have continued to work on their startups after the weekend concluded.

Past winners of the Tampa event include Trivia Wars (now Trivia Bash), a gaming platform that allows people to play trivia games with different partners on mobile devices, and Checkout My URL, which rates websites on usability and feasibility.

Ultimately, events like this produce more centered businesses that help the Tampa Bay region grow.

Cost for Startup Weekend Tampa at Keiser University is $99 for general admission; $49 for students.

For more information or to register, visit: Startup Weekend Tampa.

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Ryan Sullivan, Startup Weekend Tampa

Plasma-Therm Continues Hiring Through 2013

Rev-Tech Manufacturing Solutions, a division of Plasma-Therm in St. Petersburg, plans to add 10-15 manufacturing jobs in 2013.

Rev-Tech manufactures semiconductor chips that are used in many retail products, including LED televisions, cell phones and hard drives. With the growing popularity of smart phones, Plasma-Therm is seeing their product sales soar.

"With the rapid penetration of smart phones such as the Galaxy S3 and iPhone 5, we see an increase in demand for our products,'' says Abdul Lateef, CEO of Plasma-Therm. "With a combination of increased focus on the customer, and the expansion of our distribution worldwide, we have been able to capture a larger market share.''

Since 2011, the company has added 16 new employees to its Rev-Tech subsidiary, and close to 50 people to the Plasma-Therm parent company.

"We anticipate the business to continue on a growth trajectory, and as such we expect to add another 10-15 people to the Rev-Tech team, and an even higher number to the overall company,'' Lateef says.

The company is looking for CNC programmers and operators, mechanical workers, welders and sheet metal fabricators.

Qualified candidates can apply for open positions here through the company’s website.

Writer: Kimberly Patterson
Source: Abdul Lateef, Plasma-Therm

IDEA Camp Helps Launch Entrepreneurs, St. Pete

Are you an entrepreneur or small business with an idea, but aren’t sure about next steps to get it off the ground?

Tampa Bay Innovation Center hosts its Fall 2012 IDEA Camp Wednesday, November 14, 8 am - 2:30 pm at Collaborative Labs, St. Petersburg College. The goal of the collaborative event is to help Tampa Bay businesses and individuals in technology fields create a winning pitch and add value to their concept, positioning them to move their idea forward.

The full day workshop provides advice, direction and one-on-one assistance from volunteer business consultants, investors, lawyers and entrepreneurs to help participants refine an idea into a 60-second pitch.

“Often someone who is deep into their idea can’t look at it from the 60,000-foot level,” says Danielle Weitlauf, New Venture Manager for the Tampa Bay Innovation Center. “The event helps open the door to whatever type of partnership they are trying to get.”

IDEA Camp participants will leave with a refined business model, credibility for their product or idea, confidence to deliver an effective value proposition, new contacts and a plan for next steps.

The event has taken place since 2009 and has assisted many companies with getting their ideas off the ground. One such idea is Head of Lettuce Media, this year’s social media sponsor. The company was launched at IDEA Camp in 2009 and is now growing and thriving in the Tampa Bay area. 

“The event is part of supporting the full entrepreneurship ecosystem in Tampa Bay,” says Weitlauf. “It could be a launch pad to getting a great idea off the ground.”

The event is open to 15 concepts, with one to two attendees per concept. If selected, the cost to attend is $99. The deadline to apply is Friday, October 26. Click here for more information, and to apply.

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Danielle Weitlauf, Tampa Bay Innovation Center

IT Workforce Initiative Aims For Qualified Workers, Tampa Bay

Leaders of the local technology community have come together to create a task force that will target qualified IT professionals. The task force recently held in-depth interviews with business and academic leaders, sent out surveys to IT professionals in the local workforce, in addition to conducting focus groups with students, executives, HR professionals and educational institutions. The purpose of their research was to discover what challenges the IT community faces both now and in the future in regards to ensuring a steady flow of qualified workers for future economic growth.

The task force discovered several areas for improvement, including making the Tampa Bay area more marketable to IT professionals, ensuring students receive the necessary education and training needed to succeed in the field, and bridging the gap between educational institutions and local businesses.

Heather Kenyon, CEO of the Tampa Bay Technology Forum (TBTF), is on the task force and will be taking the lead on the action plan set forth by the task force to resolve the issues that were raised in the report.

"The TBTF has taken the lead on the recommendations because this issue affects all of our members, particularly the small- and medium-sized companies that comprise the majority of the area’s businesses,'' Kenyon says.

TBTF has already embarked on various initiatives such as student chapters at local colleges and intern fairs, in addition to working with the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce on a strategy to help veterans get the training needed for a career in IT. She has also been given a secured commitment from industry partners to take on interns and newly graduated college students.

Writer: Kimberly Patterson
Source: Heather Kenyon, TBTF

Novation: Two New Startups, 200 New Jobs In Tampa

Novation Companies, Inc., which acquires and operates technology-based startups, plans to create 200 local jobs in the Tampa Bay region through two new small businesses.
 
Novation’s startups are Mango Moving, a residential and corporate mover, and Advent Financial, which provides prepaid credit cards for those without bank accounts. New jobs will be created in both.

"We expect to add approximately 100 employees to Advent Financial, and another 100 or so employees to Mango Moving over the next year,'' says Steve  Haslam, COO of Novation.

Haslam says a majority of the approximate 200 positions will be in the areas of sales, quality control and customer service.

Novation currently operates a home appraisal management company known as StreetLinks, which arrived in Tampa last year and has 200 employees. Haslam expects StreetLinks to expand as well as the housing market rebounds

While Novation is headquartered in Kansas City, MO, the company has two Tampa locations: 9314 E. Broadway Ave. and its most recent addition at NetPark office complex on East Hillsborough Avenue. Haslam credits the area’s pro-business climate for Novation’s expansion in Tampa.

"We chose a present and future expansion strategy in Tampa because of the positive hiring environment, positive facilities pricing and availability,'' Haslam says. "The Florida Economic Development folks worked with us closely as well, and we felt very welcome here by Governor Scott and his economic team.''

Writer: Kimberly Patterson
Source: Steve Haslam, Novation

$1M Grant Bolsters Tampa Bay Startups, 245 New Jobs

A $1 million dollar federal grant has been awarded to USF and its regional partners as part of the U.S. Commerce Department’s i6 challenge. The purpose of the grant is to support new web and mobile app startups, with the goal of creating high-wage jobs.

USF along with Tampa Bay WaVE, the Florida High Tech Corridor Council, the Tampa Bay Technology Forum, the City of Tampa, Hillsborough County, the University of Tampa and other private companies have come together in a partnership to support local tech entrepreneurs in their efforts to get their ideas and products to market.

"We are partnering with Tampa Bay WaVE and working with them to provide participants of our program with educational workshops, mentoring and access to existing programs here at USF,'' says Tracey Swartz, assistant director of the innovation and incubation program of USF Connect. "We will also be working with Tampa Bay WaVE to develop educational content for the program.''

With the money from the i6 Challenge grant, the partnership expects to help at least 50 Florida-based startups secure funding and grow into viable tech companies, creating an estimated 245 high-wage jobs. The grant money will also be used to open and operate the FirstWaVE Venture Center, which will be an innovation and incubation facility headquartered in downtown Tampa.

The next step for the partnership is to attend a one-day conference for all i6 Challenge winners in Washington D.C. on Oct. 2. USF President Judy Genshaft has also been invited to participate in a panel discussion hosted by the Department of Commerce at the White House the day before. President Genshaft will be a panelist discussing student and faculty innovation and entrepreneurship.

Writer: Kimberly Patterson
Source: Tracey Swartz, USF Connect

Florida Lt. Gov. To Speak At Reverse Trade Show, Clearwater Beach

Florida Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll will be the featured luncheon speaker today [Tuesday, Sept. 18] at the Federal Defense & Technology Showcase presented by Tampa Bay Innovation Center. She will speak on the defense industry in Florida, its importance and what the state is doing in terms of support.

The Tampa Bay Innovation Center’s (TBIC) annual reverse trade show event runs through Wednesday [Sept. 19] at the Sheraton Sand Key on Clearwater Beach. The event is in its sixth year, and is presented by TBIC along with the Florida Federal Contractors Association.

“This event has been very successful in the past,” says Danielle Weitlauf, manager of TBIC. “We have moved to a new location this year, which enables us to accommodate a larger audience.”

The annual three-day event includes a reverse trade show, a luncheon featuring Carroll and a golf tournament. The trade show is the most unique aspect of the event in that the exhibitors are defense subcontractors presenting their products and services to industry contractors looking for suppliers.  

Weitlauf says U.S. Congressman C.W. Bill Young is very involved in the event, and plays a vital role in showing contractors the capabilities of defense companies in Florida. She explains that the event is great for local suppliers in the defense sector to get exposure to various contractors and federal officials, regardless of their current size.

“About 80 percent of the exhibitors are local,” Weitlauf says. “Exhibitors range from early stage companies to large contractors within the defense sector.”

 In addition to the reverse trade show, there is a matchmaking event that matches contractors with specific suppliers.
 
“Attendees fill out a matchmaking form in advance of the event and then we are able to set up appointments based on the information provided,” Weitlauf says. “Local companies have increased their sales as a result of the trade show and matchmaking event.”

Click here for more information on the 2012 Florida Defense and Technology Showcase.

Writer: Kimberly Patterson
Source: Danielle Weitlauf, Tampa Bay Innovation Center

Shark Tank Contestant Opens Five Local Stores

New York City Entrepreneur Frank Scozzafava found success on the reality TV show, Shark Tank, and is now seeking further success in the Tampa Bay market as he opens new stores selling his innovative bikinis. MiX Bikini offers customers the unique opportunity to create their own bathing suits online, assembling the pieces themselves to become their own fashion designers.

While customers can access the website from home to design and purchase their swimsuits, the stores offer shoppers the ability to try on their creations and purchase them on the spot.

"Coming off of Shark Tank I was itching to get into malls,'' says Scozzafava. "When I was on Shark Tank I said that my plan was to open up at malls, franchise and license the product. The Westfield Mall chain made me an offer I couldn’t refuse, and we are opening up five stores in Florida.''

There is already one MiX Bikini store at Westfield Brandon Mall in a kiosk out front of Abercrombie and Fitch. Later this year stores will open in Westfield Countryside and Citrus Park Mall. Plans are also underway to open additional stores in Sarasota and Broward.

In addition to creating quite a buzz at local malls, the stores will also create jobs.

"Right off the bat I hired a regional manager to oversee all of the stores in Florida,'' Scozzafava says. "At each location we will have six part-time sales positions as well, creating approximately 30 jobs in the area.''

Writer: Kimberly Patterson
Source: Frank Scozzafava, MiX Bikini

Insurance Company Expanding In Pasco, 200 Jobs

1Brick, LLC, an insurance and financial services customer relationship management company, is opening a new office in Pasco County creating an estimated 200 jobs. The company, which is a virtual insurance agency and financial consulting firm, is licensed to operate in multiple states servicing mobile consumers over the phone and through mobile apps.
 
1Brick, LLC, recently received county tax incentives, which helped seal the deal for the company’s expansion in Pasco. While the company did look at other U.S. locations in the Midwest and on the West Coast, Florida seemed to be the best fit.
 
“We felt Florida was very competitive, not only from a tax perspective, but for its location and workforce as well,'' says Sam Bloomfield, executive VP of 1Brick, LLC. "We attended a local job fair last week and were very impressed by the resumes we received.''
 
Bloomfield says the company will be filling various positions including licensed insurance agents, IT professionals, quality assurance and supervisory managers. The salaries associated with the new jobs are expected to exceed current average wages in Pasco by as much as 115 percent.
 
"We could be hiring up to 40 people in the next 30 days,'' Bloomfield says. "We have a number of clients and relationships built that need us to get going, so we have a good reason to start hiring very soon.''
 
Writer: Kimberly Patterson
Source: Sam Bloomfield, 1Brick, LLC

Growing Sarasota Communications Company To Add 100+ Jobs

Star2Star Communications in Sarasota, one of six local companies featured on Fortune Inc.’s 500 List of Fastest Growing Companies, plans to add more than 100 jobs by September 2013.

The IT company that provides phone over the internet services to businesses has had tremendous success including growing sales, which boosted revenues to $18.2 million in 2011.  The company plans on continued growth, including hiring additional staff.

“We’ve doubled our revenues every year since we started, and we intend to continue on the same course,” says Les Freed of Star2Star Communications. “We expect to roughly double our employee count over the next 12 months.”

The company currently employs approximately 110 employees and is actively recruiting new talent.

“We have several openings in our sales, development and operations departments,” Freed says. “A list of openings can be found on our website.”

Star2Star Communications, which was founded in 2006, sells its integrated communication solutions through various distributors and dealers. Its internet communication systems are available and installed in both small and large businesses across North America.

 The company’s headquarters is located at 600 Tallevast Rd., Suite 202, in Sarasota, near the Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport. The headquarters, which are housed in a state-of-the-art building constructed to withstand a category five hurricane, is quite large with several areas including development and testing, order fulfillment, a customer support floor and a training facility.

Writer: Kimberly Patterson
Source: Les Freed, Star2Star Communications

TEDxTampaBay: The Future Of Stories At MOSI

With the motto "ideas worth spreading,'' TED (technology, entertainment, design) events bring together inspiring thought leaders with fascinating and motivating messages. The mission is to use ideas to change attitudes, lives and ultimately the world.

TEDxTampaBay, taking place September 21 at MOSI in Tampa, connects local people who have big ideas and want to create change. "It brings people together at a very human level, which is a powerful force for change of any kind,'' says Gina Clifford, co-founder and organizer. "It's kind of an organic entrepreneurial experience.''

Now in its third year, the 2012 theme "The Future of Stories'' explores the past, present and future of storytelling, particularly in an age of digital media. Storytellers include Sidney Pierce, a professor at the University of South Florida Tampa, who will share his research on an animal that steals chlorophyll from plants and then uses it to make energy. And Jayme Cellitioci, whose B.S. in psychobiology and M.S. in creativity help her explore the power of storytelling through free-choice learning platforms such as science museums and zoos.

Last year's event inspired meaningful connections that span beyond the event. Stanford University student Vineet Singal spoke about nonprofit health organizations he founded. As a result of his talk, he met a local woman who started a nonprofit to honor her daughter, who died from multiple sclerosis. Vineet now serves as her adviser and is helping her get the organization off the ground. 

Innovators, creatives, entrepreneurs, scientists, technologists and anyone open to new ideas is encouraged to attend -- especially those who believe they can and will change the world. The cost is $40 and includes admission to MOSI, free parking, a catered lunch, various activities during breaks and a full day of inspiring TED-style talks.

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Gina Clifford, TEDxTampaBay
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