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Tech Bytes: Property management platform caters to independent owners

Property management may be a side gig for some real estate agents, who are limited in how much property they can manage by time constraints and third-party services. But a new property management company, which recently opened a Tampa office, is changing the game.

Originally founded on the historic Great Jones Street in New York City in January 2017, Great Jones is now expanding in Florida. “We’ve got a lot of runway and are growing,” says Dave Diaz, Co-Founder and Head of Operations, who started the company with Co-Founders Jay Goldklang, CEO, and Abigail Besdin.

The company, which has moved its New York office to Chinatown, opened in its first Florida market in Fort Myers late last year. Then it opened in Tampa earlier this year -- and in Orlando a month ago. Its goal is to bring cutting-edge technology to mom-and-pop-styled property owners, who may lease one or a dozen properties.

Great Jones brings them volume discounts on repair and maintenance, an owner’s online portal where they can monitor their properties, and the potential to set notifications on issues that concern them (and turn them off when they don’t).

“We saw what could be on the institutional side. We saw how cost-effective an individual home could be operated if it is aggregated in a portfolio of thousands of homes,” says John Rapisarda, VP of New Market Development, who is overseeing the office at 442 W. Kennedy Blvd., Suite 280.

Great Jones just does property management, focusing on rental properties such as single-family homes, townhomes, condos and small multi-family complexes. It handles rentals, rent collection, upkeep and eviction should it become necessary, charging placement and monthly management fees.

What sets them apart from others in this market is the technology. “To benefit the owners, one of the things we’re delivering to them is transparency,” Rapisarda says.

The owner portal allows them to see when the rent is paid, when the plumbing repair bill arrives, the name of the resident, and how many people are living on the property.

“It’s unique in this space. It’s just not something you can get from a local property management operation,” he adds.

It also gives individual property owners the advantage of scale that institutional owners enjoy, such as price discounts on refrigerators or plumbing repairs, for example.

“We’ve got some negotiating power and we leverage that to save our owners money,” Rapisarda explains.

He adds that property management has remained static in many ways. “Property management has been around since the first caveman let the other caveman stay in his cave,” he says. “It really hasn’t changed a whole lot since then. With the trend toward consolidation in just about every industry in the world, somehow third-party property management is still massively fragmented.”

Property management firms have been limited by the platforms they rely on, and humans who track everything, Diaz says.

Great Jones is poised to open in two more markets later this year. “We are not sure where yet,” he says.

Tampa is one of its fastest-growing, with “well over a hundred units in three months,” says the former resident. He cites as reasons its “great market” and “thriving investment community.”

Business opportunities make Florida a logical place to grow. “Florida was home for me. I live in Fort Myers,” he says. “It just seems like a logical place to start.”

He adds that he’s “bullish” on Florida’s economy, with its growth potential and “great vendor network.”

Despite their emphasis on technology, people are an important part of their endeavor -- and a specialized staff helps set it apart. “I don’t believe an app will ever completely replace the full-service business,” he says. “You have to have people on the ground. You just have to.”

Read on for more tech news in Tampa Bay.

• SOFWERX, a Tampa organization collecting and encouraging the development of ideas that might help Special Operations Forces, is advertising some job openings at 1925 E. 2nd Ave. It is currently listing three full-time job openings – one each for a web developer/designer, program manager, and contract specialist. Learn more at Indeedjobs.

• Pitch Night is coming up for Tampa Bay Wave’s TechDiversity Accelerator companies, whose cohort is being financed by the Nielsen Foundation. It’s scheduled at 6 p.m., Thursday, July 12, at Station House, 260 1st Ave. S., St. Petersburg. Sign up for Pitch Night here.

In other Wave news, tech executives and entrepreneurs Tony DiBenedetto and Steven MacDonald are now the Wave’s first Executive Entrepreneurs-in-Residence. Their goal is to mentor Wave companies in the Grow category, who are focusing on fundraising and scaling up.

Wave was given a Technology Impact Award by InBIA, a global nonprofit that supports entrepreneurial development programs. InBIA recognizes high-impact organizations worldwide on a monthly basis in six categories: Technology, Mixed Use, University, Biotech/Cleantech, Rural, and Specialty.

• The nonprofit Synapse’s first innovation challenge, which has the goal of developing an application to gather wellness data and create wellness promotion profiles, is now underway. Learn more.

• Want to learn more about intellectual property rights? Attorney Brent Britton, a managing partner with de la Peña & Holiday, LLP in Tampa, will talk about “Ownability -- How Intellectual Property Works” from 2:30 p.m. to 4 p.m. Thursday, June 21, at USF Connect, Oak View Room, 3802 Spectrum Blvd., Tampa. Learn more.

• Tour Florida Funders with Homebrew Hillsborough, Hillsborough County’s monthly collaborative coffee for techies and entrepreneurs. This month’s gathering is at 8:30 a.m. Friday, June 29, at 1311 N. Westshore Blvd., Suite 101, Tampa. Florida Funders is a venture capital fund/crowdfunding platform that invests in early-stage technology companies. Check it out.

• Nonprofits and social enterprises will have a chance to pitch their organizations at Fast Pitch, an event similar to the TV show Shark Tank. The event by Social Venture Partners Tampa Bay is set for 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 25, at The Palladium Theatre in St. Petersburg. The application period, which opened June 1, closes on Sunday, July 15.

• Florida Polytechnic University in Lakeland will be hosting the Green Chemistry, Engineering and Technologies Conference July 18 and 19 in partnership with Panjab University of India and Molekule, Inc. The event will enable leaders of academia, industry, and government to come together and discuss advanced research and the development of next-generation green chemistry, engineering and technologies. It also will potentially further the advancement of an international curriculum and graduate studies on the topic. The first international GCET conference was held last year in Chandigarh, India.

In other Florida Poly news, the university is hosting a week-long Florida Poly Executive Leadership Course August 5 though 10. Florida business executives are invited to participate in the course designed by Harvard University professors for mid-career executives who want to improve their leadership skills. The registration deadline is July 22. To learn more, email Florida Poly or call 863-874-8614.

Some 30 underprivileged high school students attended Florida Poly’s first Summer STEAM Boot Camp. The week-long camp began May 29 and included instruction in science, engineering, mathematics, arts and technology. The pilot program was held in partnership with Polk State College.

Transit conference focuses on technology, future trends

Some 1,500 transit leaders from around the world, along with transit workers, vendors and manufacturers from across the country, will converge on downtown Tampa starting Friday, May 4, to talk about new transit technologies and hot topics like automated buses.

Ultimately, the nearly week-long event is about sharing what works and what doesn’t -- and showcasing what we have in the Tampa Bay Area to others in the transit industry.

"This conference means a big win for the local Tampa economy since conference attendees will be spending money at Tampa-area hotels, bars and restaurants thus boosting the monetary impact within the city," says Kenyatta Lee, Chief Administrative Officer/Interim Chief of Staff for the Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority (HART). “This particular conference is their second largest, behind their annual conference. It kind of moves across the nation.”

Ticket prices ranged from $825 to $1,375 per person, depending on when they ordered and whether they’re a member of the Washington, D.C.-based American Public Transportation Association.  

The main event -- in the works for two years -- is at Tampa Marriott Waterside May 6th to 9th. Guests are expected to arrive on May 4th to participate in committee meetings, a welcome reception, and the International Bus Roadeo (yep, as in road) at the Hilton Tampa Downtown. Educational sessions and workshops begin Monday.

It consists of APTA’s Bus and Paratransit Conference and the Roadeo, a day-long competition of driving and maintenance skills which will take place Sunday at the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority in St. Petersburg.

In Tampa, there are sessions on topics such as "Next Stop: The Future,” ''Automated Buses in Transit,” “Automated and Connected Vehicles,'' “It’s All About the Ride: Strategies for Sustaining and Building Ridership,” and “Zero-Emission Buses Are Ready. ... Are You Ready for Them?” They’ll also be looking at shared challenges such as recruiting and retaining bus operators and dealing with distraction and driver fatigue.

HART will be giving technical tours to show its Compressed Natural Gas Facility, Hyperlink service connecting riders to regular routes and Streetcar Barn.

While in town, conference visitors will be able to use a new Tampa Bay transit innovation, the regional Flamingo Fare, for free. When the pilot program goes into effect on a limited basis this summer, Tampa Bay area riders will pay with Account Based Smart Card or Smartphone Application accepted across multiple jurisdictions.

Tampa Bay is holding its own in the transit arena, according to Lee. HART ranks 68 among 822 transport agencies in APTA, based on the numbers of rides not involving transfers. PSTA ranks 72.

“We have been recognized for being very creative and innovative with what we have,” she explains.

So what else is happening? After a misstart with a contractor that didn’t keep on schedule, HART will again be seeking proposals for driverless services downtown. It’s looking to get proposals in June and get the vehicles on the road by December.

Since it will be in a formal submittal process, it’s up to the vendors to propose what they can offer, and discussions are precluded. “We can’t have a lot of conversation with them,” she says. “We can look from afar to see what they have available.”


Commuting without a car: Tampa ridesharing aggregator offers cost-saving option

Users of ridesharing apps like Uber or Lyft can find prices surging after a Tampa Bay Lightning, Bucs or Rays game. With prices potentially more than double, it’s a good time to shop for the best price. But who wants to stand on the sidewalk thumbing through a bunch of apps to find a bargain?

With the ridesharing aggregator Whipster, you don’t have to. The free, Tampa-based app enables ridesharing customers to find the service that offers the best service in real time.

“Our revenues are generated on the backend with those business relationships,” explains Founder and CEO Russel Olinger.

Whipster was officially incorporated in January 2017. Since then, it’s expanded to 400 U.S. and Canadian cities. It also operates overseas when a vendor services that area.

Olinger says the aggregator used on Androids and iPhones is needed because there are simply too many ridesharing apps, some 40 across North America.

“The single biggest response we get [to our app] is ‘I had no idea that there were so many rideshare companies out there,” he says.

In Tampa Bay, Whipster gives riders a variety of options. Besides Uber and Lyft, it includes taxis, bike share, and public transit. Curb, a taxi app, appears to be pushing into the Tampa market, he says.

Whipster helps smaller vendors to compete with more established providers, especially in new markets, Olinger says.

Its next goal is “telling the world we exist,” he adds.

With the cost of a car at about $750 a month, millennials and other cost-conscious commuters in urban areas are ditching the car to get around at a fraction of the cost, Olinger says.

“They’re looking to urban transportation options,” he adds.

Bike sharing is an option available in downtown Tampa and St. Petersburg and other neighborhoods, as well as at the University of South Florida, through the Coast Bikes brand.

Some 600,000 bike miles have been logged since 2014 when Coast Bikes first came to downtown Tampa, says Eric Trull, Regional Director-Florida for the provider, Cycle Hop.

Pay-as-you-go pricing at $8 an hour, along with membership rates, are even attracting bike owners for one-way trips. Computers mounted on the bikes and GPS systems are a deterrent for bike thieves.

Trull says the response to bike sharing has been tremendous.

These bikes are getting a ton of use,” he says.

Started in Tampa, Coast Bikes is now offering bike sharing in the United States and Canada. 

The Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority offers yet another sustainable option through its 50 Compressed Natural Gas buses, 46 HARTPlus vans and eight HARTFlex vans. Together they remove nearly 580 cars worth of carbon dioxide emissions from the road annually, according to Sandra Morrison, HART Deputy Press Secretary. 

HART called attention to its effort to go green by handing out plant kits on April 17 in honor of Earth Week.


New Orleans-bound StartupBus rolls out of Tampa on Friday

The Florida StartupBus -- packed with 30 entrepreneurial-minded people who may be strangers to each other -- is set to roll out of downtown Tampa at 8 a.m. Friday, April 27. The bus embarks on a 72-hour journey of more than 650 miles to New Orleans, stopping at Atlanta, Nashville, and cultural and entrepreneurial hotspots.

Along the way, participants can create a product and business, take risks without consequences, and connect with mentors and collaborators who can help make their venture a success.

For some, it may be a life changer. “StartupBus is about experiencing, essentially, the first year of a startup,” explains Robert Blacklidge, the Lead Conductor. “We compress it into a short amount of time.”

Ultimately, the StartupBus is not about churning out a bunch of businesses, however. “Our goal is not to create companies,” he says. “It’s to give people the experience of creating a company in a short amount of time.”

The route the bus will take wasn’t disclosed.

“When you’re starting an entrepreneurial experience, you don’t know what the road is ahead of you,” Blacklidge says. “We like to keep the experience that way too.”

About a third of this year’s participants are veterans, like Blacklidge, who served in the U.S. Air Force. He describes the StartupBus as a boot camp that puts together hackers, or the creators, with hipsters, the designers, and hustlers, the marketers.

They’re in for a grueling experience: 15- to 18-hour workdays where they rely on Red Bull and coffee to function. “It’s not a cakewalk,” he points out.

In the end, it’s about opportunity rather than “creature comforts,” or “habit,” he says.

“We’re showing them a mountain that they don’t have a choice but to climb,” he explains. “All the time, people will rise to the challenge.”

Bus riders with be in the Big Easy on Monday, April 30, and Tuesday, May 1, along with the big Collision tech conference April 30-May 3.

Some 30 teams from eight buses, including a bus from New York City with women interested in block chain, the technology used to build crytocurrency, will be presenting their businesses before industry leaders.

The prize is the experience, the people you meet and the bragging rights,” Blacklidge says.

This trip’s sponsors include Veterans Florida, Hillsborough County’s Economic Development Innovation Initiative EDi2, and the technology consulting and software development firm, Sourcetoad.

Nine years ago, the first StartupBus wasn’t planned. Some entreprenuers were headed across the country to a conference, when they decided to challenge themselves to create a company along the way. Since then the idea has been growing, turning into an international challenge that spurs inventiveness and creativity.

“You would be amazed what gets created in a short amount of time,” Blacklidge says. “It’s truly an incredible experience.”

In 2017, two Florida teams were among the five finalists: Course Align and DropIn Pedals.

Blacklidge came up with the idea for his company, Course Align, while on the bus. The company, designed to help universities develop curriculum that meets evolving business needs, is in the seed-funding stage with 14 employees, most of them unpaid interns.

Conductors Morgan Thacker and Tyler Baumgardner, a 2017 team out of Dunedin, placed second with DropIn Pedals, an adapter transforming clipless bike pedals into flat pedals that can be used with casual shoes.

A limited number of seats are available on the bus for latecomers this year. “Every year we get one or two people that just found out about it,” Blacklidge says.

Potential participants can sign up at http://Startupbus.com/florida using the invite code 83Degrees.

“They will need to fill out the application and schedule an interview when they sign up,” Blacklidge says. “The time line will be tight to get them through the process and on the bus.”

Participants need to pay for a $399 ticket, plus food, hotels and airfare.


Tech Bytes: Competitions spur tech innovation

A woman-owned business, VRenewables LLC of Tampa, claimed a $3,500 cash prize March 29 for its design for a hybrid, standalone streetlight independent of the electric grid.

Led by Vrinda Vairagi and Shesh Narayan Vaishnav, the company has a vision to work toward a better future. Its streetlight, which uses solar power, took the Social Entrepreneur Student Pitch Award, sponsored by local companies Connectwise and Sourcetoad.

Vairagi has experience in business relations and HR management while Vaishnav is in photovoltaic research industry, says Vaishnav, CEO. 

The award was given at the 2018 Innovation Summit organized by the nonprofit Synapse. “I am planning to invest this money towards the research and development of the hybrid street light which will be powered by both Solar Module and Wind Turbine,” Vaishnav says. 

“I think Innovation Challenges are the single most effective way to catalyze innovation and spur collaboration in a very organic, tangible way,” says Trey Steinhoff, Lead Designer and Challenge Organizer at the Summit. There truly is nothing more inspiring than having groups of passionate, talented people put their heart into building something on a tight deadline.”

Other award winners were Tracy Ingram, owner of Dade City's Intention Technology, in a Connectwise challenge; and Matt Spaulding, in the Metropolitan Ministries Hackathon for Social Good. Both also won $3,500 each.

Connectwise was looking for an inclusive interface for employees and other users. “I built a [mobile-friendly] bot that could be put on any existing site with a few lines of code,” Ingram says.

Metropolitan Ministries sought digital solutions to help those in crisis, so it can operate more effectively. Details were not immediately available.

These awards were sponsored by Connectwise, Sourcetoad and Metropolitan Ministries. 

The creative problem solving that is required to compete in these events forces competitors to push their assumptions and come up with solutions that no one saw coming, not even the partner companies,” Steinhoff says. “The cherry on top is seeing these competitors working together with each other and the partner companies at and after the event. I have been to a lot of tech and entrepreneurial events in Tampa Bay and have yet to see another event that molds deep, genuine relationships quite like a hackathon or pitch competition.

Read on for more local tech news.

Thomas Wallace, managing partner of Florida Funders, will be featured at the April Diary of an Entrepreneur program. Wallace, an active angel tech investor for 25 years, co-founded his first business at the age of 23. His talk, "Startups and Raising Capital," will include insights from his career as a tech entrepreneur, executive, investor and more. The presentation by TEC Garage is scheduled from 8:30 a.m. to 10 a.m. Tuesday, April 10, at Microsoft, 5426 Bay Center Dr., Suite 700, Tampa. The event is free, but reservations are requested because of limited seating. Learn more and/or register here.

• A panel discussion entitled “Cybesecurity – Skills, Trends and Industry” is planned at the next Trep Talks gathering for entrepreneurs at Hillsborough County’s Entrepreneur Collaborative Center in Ybor City. The event is planned at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, April 24, at 2101 E. Palm Ave. Sign up online here.

• Florida Venture Forum is hosting the 11th Annual Florida Early Stage Capital Conference and the 8th Annual Statewide Collegiate Business Plan Competition Friday, May 18, at The Westshore Grand in Tampa. Described as one of the largest angel and early-stage-investors’ gatherings in the Southeast, the event features pitches from dynamic Florida-based ventures, along with panel discussions, speakers and presentations. The deadline for presenter applications is Wednesday, April 18. Presenters are required to pay conference registration fees. Learn more here. At the event there will be two, $25,000 cash prizes to Accelerating Innovation Award winners from Space Florida.

• The U.S. Air Force is looking for help closing the science and technology gap, so it’s hosting a workshop Thursday, April 26, at the University of South Florida in Tampa. The workshop for the scientific community, academia, and business professionals will include ideas about how to facilitate a conversation about Air Force technological advances. The deadline to submit ideas is Friday, April 13. Learn more about the 8 a.m. event at CW Bill Young Hall.

• If you’re looking for recognition for your business, consider TechCo.’s Startup of the Year competition. It’ll give you the opportunity to expand your startup by providing opportunities to meet investors, gain insight, get funding and win prizes. Startups need to be innovative and have a live, viable product. Candidates must submit their applications before Monday, April 30. Check it out here.

• Florida Polytechnic University students in Lakeland have joined the quest for biofuel. Using algae from Polk County lakes, they are working with a professor of biology, Dr. Melba Horton, to find a renewable energy source. While algae already is being used for biofuel, this source would be cheaper. The research is being funded by Florida Industrial and Phosphate Research Institute.

In other Florida Poly news, Dr. Kanwalinderjit K. Gagneja, a computer science professor, has won a $44,000 grant from the Florida Center for Cybersecurity at the University of South Florida to develop a new Digital Forensics course. Through hands-on training, the class would help address a shortage of cybersecurity experts.

The university drew a record crowd of 300 to its third annual Women in STEM Summit March 14, to hear a panel of successful individuals talk about how they applied science, technology, engineering and math to their careers.

• Knack, a Tampa-based peer-to-peer tutoring service, was as finalist in the 2018 Challenge Cup contest in Washington D.C. March 22. Tampa’s Preferhired was a semi-finalist in the contest hosted by 1776. The winning company was Caribu in Miami.


Tampa Innovation Summit features Hyperloop, Tesla, IBM, Water Street Tampa, and more

Imagine traveling from Tampa to Tallahassee or from Tampa to Miami in 20 minutes or so? Or zipping across the continent from Florida to California on the ground, at airplane speeds, safely and securely? It may sound like a science fiction plot, but it isn’t.

It’s a revolutionary, tube-based transport system capable of speeds of 700 miles per hour, which has been under development since 2013 by Hyperloop Transportation Technologies, a California-based company.

Hyperloop has put together a team of more than 800 on six continents to work on the system powered by magnets and sunlight. There’s still a lot of work to be done, but it’s already attracting plenty of interest. A Cleveland-to-Chicago run could well be the first in the United States. And it has already passed the muster of a major reinsurer, Munich RE.

So where does Tampa Bay fit into this, you might ask? Hyperloop’s CEO Dirk Ahlborn will be a featured speaker at the 2018 Innovation Summit March 28 and 29 at the Amalie Arena in downtown Tampa. The event organized by the nonprofit Synapse is part of an effort to unify the community to make Tampa Bay a “very welcoming and easy place to do business,” says Marc Blumenthal, a Founding Partner of Synapse. 

What Hyperloop is developing has the potential to change the way people think and operate as well as where they can live,” he says.

They’re designing this thing to be far more affordable than ... most rail,” he adds.

Ahlborn’s talk, part of a segment on the future of mobility after lunch on the 29th, is expected to lead to further meetings among community leaders. “Clearly Hyperloop is something that can be considered to move people around the region and the state,” Blumenthal says.

The summit is expected to include 257 exhibitors, more than 70 pavilions and 55 breakout sessions. It also has at least a couple of more items of special interest on transportation. Kasra Moshkani, a General Manager for Uber in the southeastern U.S., is expected to share Uber’s vision for the future in that segment on mobility. 

“It’s not going to be whatever they do today. It’s going to be what they do tomorrow," explains Blumenthal. “Somebody’s got to move you the last mile.”

Tesla will have a number of vehicles on hand on the 28th to give people rides around the arena and downtown.

Look who else is talking

Other key speakers include Jeff Vinik, Tampa Bay Lightning owner and part owner of Strategic Property Partners, the real estate entity which has embarked on the $3 billion Water Street Tampa project; Dr. Bernard Meyerson, Chief Innovation Officer of IBM; Lakshmi Shenoy, CEO of the Innovation Hub started by Vinik; Arnie Bellini, CEO of the Tampa-based Connectwise; Dr. A.J. Seth, CEO of Bionic Miracle; Col. Josh Potter of the U.S. Special Operations Command’s Transnational Threats Division; and Blaire Martin, Executive Director of Florida Angel Nexus.

There will be sessions for folks of varying interests, allowing them to focus on topics like financial tech and blockchain, artificial intelligence and the Internet of Things, biotech and healthcare, defense and cybersecurity, building a business, urban tech, software, coding and more.

Participants also can take in exhibits like On Med, a telemedicine booth facilitating physical examination and treatment without the doctor or pharmacist being physically present. Or from Marxent, a St. Petersburg software company which has developed View In Room Augmented Reality for furniture retail. Or the Tampa-based Flymotion Unmanned Systems, a veteran-owned small business utilizing drones for public safety purposes.

Signups for the summit have already far surpassed last year’s 600. We anticipate no less than 2500. We can probably support 4,000. They should hurry up and get their tickets,” Blumenthal says. “We just want people to participate. It’s for everyone. It’s not just for people involved in tech.”

Reservations for breakout sessions are encouraged but not required. A mobile app will enable users to sign up on their Smart phones or on the web.

At the event, Synapse is rolling out its digital platform to help businesses make those all-important connections required to further their endeavors. “Tampa’s success is the state’s success,” he says. “We believe it’s important to nurture those relationships, those connections across the entire state.”

Momentum is building for the Tampa Bay Area’s entrepreneurial ecosystem. “You can sense that this is the moment. This is the crescendo, where we bring all the great members of this community together and we start working for a common vision,” Blumenthal says.

Learn more or signup on the Synapse website here.


Tech Bytes: A modern business matchmaking service prepares to go live

Singles often go online to numerous dating sites in hopes of meeting that special someone. Making business connections, especially for busy entrepreneurs who must stay laser focused to keep moving forward but need the help of other specialists, isn't as easy.  

Now a Tampa nonprofit is preparing to launch a digital platform to help businesses make meaningful connections that can mean the difference between going nowhere and getting ahead.

“There’s a lot of customers here. There’s a lot of talent,” says Brian Kornfeld, a founding partner at Synapse. “There’s also a lot of money. ... The connections aren’t taking place.”

The platform, slated to go live March 29, is “slick,” “easy to use” and capable of digitally pairing Tampa Bay businesses better than regular search engines, he says. Whether people want to know how to invest in a startup or real estate, learn about blockchain, build a business or host an event, or simply need to work with a specialist such as an accountant, an attorney or a success coach.

Signup is free for most users, such as entrepreneurs, inventors, mentors, jobseekers, employers, entrepreneurial service organizations and government workers. Those considered innovation enablers, like patent attorneys, bankers, accountants, software developers and marketers, would pay a small fee.

Kornfeld, Marc Blumenthal and Andy Hafer are founding partners in the effort underway since last year. The platform's launch is anticipated during Innovation Summit 2018, the second summit in Tampa Bay connecting innovators, entrepreneurs, corporations and community leaders.

The summit will be held March 28 and 29 at Amalie Arena in Tampa, and will feature Tampa Bay Lightning Owner Jeff Vinik as the keynote speaker during the kickoff at 9 a.m. He will share updates since the event last year as well as future plans.

Also slated to speak are IBM Chief Innovation Officer Bernard Meyerson, Henry Ford Health System Vice President and Chief Innovation Officer Mark Coticchia, Water Street Tampa’s Innovation Hub CEO Lakshmi Shenoy, and Dr. Ajay Seth, who is famous for his bionic work advancing treatment prospects for prosthetic patients.

Multiple innovation hubs, focusing on defense technology, Internet of things, blockchain, cryptocurrency, wearables, robotics, 3D printing, renewables, energy, augmented reality, virtual reality, artificial intelligence, machine learning, digital health, urban tech, and financial tech, will feature product demonstrations and speakers from companies in the region.

To buy tickets, visit the Synapse website.

Read on to learn more about what’s happening in the Tampa Bay tech scene.

Tampa Bay WaVE has launched a new TechDiversity Accelerator Program funded by a $100,000 grant from The Nielsen Foundation. The 90-day program is for early-stage technology firms with a majority ownership by a minority, woman, veteran, lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender person or combination of these.

The WaVE is currently accepting applications for the program to run this summer. The application period closes March 31.

• 1 Million Cups Tampa, a free national program to engage, educate and connect entrepreneurs, is scheduled from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. Wednesday, Feb. 21, at Entrepreneur Collaborative Center, 2101 E. Palm Ave., Tampa. The event is free and registration isn’t necessary.

Homebrew Hillsborough is meeting at 8:30 a.m. Friday, Feb. 23, for a visit and tour of AVI/SPL, an audio video technology company, at 6301 Benjamin Rd., Suite 101, Tampa. Homebrew is held monthly at different locations for techies and entrepreneurs to network.

Sixteen-year-old Abby Forman has developed an app for fellow Berkeley Prep students named Flower Sale – and it has been accepted into the App Store. An alumna of Tampa’s Hillel Academy, Forman created the app so students can buy flowers for one another. Funds raised are designated for the Students Helping Students Scholarship program through the school’s French Club.

• Four companies in the Tampa Bay region made G2 Crowd’s list of the top 25 companies in Florida’s business-to-business tech scene. They include Qgiv of Lakeland, ranked 7th place, followed by VIPRE Security of Clearwater, 17th; Connectwise of Tampa, 19th; and SunView Software of Tampa, 24th. The top ranking company was Goverlan of Coral Gables.

• Florida ranks third in the nation for cybercrime and losses reported to the FBI, according to a report, The State of Cybersecurity in Florida, released Feb. 8 by The Florida Center for Cybersecurity (FC2) at USF. On the plus side, the report done with Gartner Consulting says “Florida is well positioned to develop a strong workforce, with nearly 100 cybersecurity certificate and degree programs offered by institutions of higher education across the state.”

• At Florida Polytechnic University in Lakeland, faculty members are working on next-generation spacesuits to make astronauts happier, more comfortable, and efficient. Because astronauts can be adversely affected by lack of exercise, excessive light and lack of sleep, professors Dr. Arman Sargolzaei and Dr. Melba Horton, together with Computer Science student James Holland, are developing Smart Sensory Skin to detect deficiencies through wireless sensors. The sensors can initiate changes in temperature, light exposure, light color, and oxygen levels.

In related news, seven of 10 science and engineering students chosen for the Hays Travel Award from the Florida Academy of Sciences Council are from Florida Polytechnic. Students will be presenting their research projects March 9 at Barry University in Miami Shores, during the FAS Annual Conference. The winners were Mechanical Engineering student Brian Gray of Tampa, Mechanical Engineering student Sean Cloud of Brandon, Mechanical Engineering student Geoffrey Doback of Brandon and Computer Science student Nathaniel Florer of Kissimmee, Mechanical Engineering student Ecieno Carmona from Summerfield, Innovation and Technology graduate student Jephté Douyon of Haiti, and Innovation and Technology graduate student Mohammad Bharmal of Pakistan.

• Digital currency: risky business or a big moneymaker? Bitcoin Pioneer Charlie Shrem can help you decide what to believe. Shrem will be speaking on “Bitcoin, Blockchain, and the Future of Finance” from 5:30 p.m. to 8 p.m., Thursday, March 1, at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg’s College of Business. The event is open to the public. Register by Feb. 28 here.

• Students at USF St. Pete are participating in 2018 Ex Labs, a competitive Accelerator Lab involving the latest technology. Teams will be creating new products, business plans and marketing strategies March 12 through 16. One team will win a training package from Cisco valued at $2,300.

• In Manatee County, the Clerk of the Circuit Court and Comptroller Angel Colonneso has begun offer e-filing through Simplifile. The office now is able to electronically receive, stamp, record and return documents in minutes with less error and cost.

• A licensed and registered Microsoft refurbisher, Goodwill Manasota’s Tech Connection program kept more than 208,000 pounds of e-waste from the area’s landfills last year. It raised nearly $71,000 last year, plus more than $17,000 in January. The program to refurbish and resell computers and accessories, headquartered at Goodwill’s Ranch Lake store at 8750 E. State Road 70, Bradenton, installs the Microsoft Digital Literacy Program, helping to improve basic computer skills.

• The Mulberry-based ArrMaz has opened a new, state of the art Innovation Center at the company’s headquarters. Designed for its research and development team, the center features a modern work environment with cutting-edge laboratory equipment for analytical and synthetic chemistry. Its open layout facilitates collaboration, team-based research and innovation. A 50-year-old company, ArrMaz is a global producer of specialty chemicals for the mining, fertilizer, asphalt, industrial ammonium nitrate, and oil and gas industries.


Top educators to provide free training to inner city businesses

Businesses in or near urban or economically underserved areas in the Tampa Bay region can receive free training from top name educators beginning Feb. 28.

The Inner City Capital Connections program, rescheduled from Sept. 12 as a result of Hurricane Irma, will kick off with a conference at University of South Florida’s Center for Advanced Medical Learning and Simulation (CAMLS) in downtown Tampa.

This is a really awesome opportunity for businesses to get the tools that they need to achieve the success that they desire,” says Hyacinth Vassell, director of the program.

The goal is to help businesses overcome obstacles to growth, such as lack of capital. “It’s an opportunity to work on their business while they are being guided by the most brilliant minds in the U.S.,” she says.

To be eligible, businesses must be in or near a depressed area or have 40 percent or more of their employees living in a distressed area. That’s broadly defined to include “parts of the city that have had little investment or disinvestment” as well as major population centers, adds Jeremy King, VP of Corporate Communications for Regions Bank, an ICCC partner.

“That’s almost everywhere in Hillsborough and Pinellas counties. We don’t want anyone to feel limited,” King says.

The company must be at least two years old and have $500,000 or more in revenue.

What ICCC primarily looks for is “readiness to participate,” Vassell says, “readiness for growth.”

“This is about helping each business take stock where it is now, identify where it wants to be in the future and identify a path how to get there,” King adds.

Founded in 2005, the program is ICCC’s first in 2018 and first in Florida, unless you count last year’s training relegated to webinars after Irma.

The ICCC training consists of modules on growth strategies, including talent management, entrepreneurial finance, marketing and sales, and access to capital. Among the experts involved are:

Dobbin Bookman, an adjunct lecturer from Harvard University who holds dual master’s degrees from Harvard and who works with MBA students and the Harvard Business School’s Career Services program to assist businesses;

• Gail Taylor, a professor of Business Administration at Dartmouth College, who is an expert in marketing communications, retail promotions and services marketing; and

• Susan Perkins, an Associate Professor of Strategic Management at University of Illinois-Chicago, whose specialties include business strategy, corporate governance, and organizational learning.

The deadline, originally set for Feb. 9, has been extended to Feb. 16. Interested companies, which can send one representative in a senior leadership role, can apply at www.iccapitalconnections.org. Click on “Tampa Bay” and “application page” to access the form.

Run by the Roxbury, MA-based Initiative for a Competitive Inner City, a nonprofit, ICCC is offered free because of partnerships with Regions Bank and other regional sponsors including Florida Blue, Carlton Fields, the Community Foundation of Tampa Bay, Ernst and Young, United Way Suncoast, the University of South Florida St. Petersburg and Valpak. ICIC was started by Michael Porter, a Harvard Business School Professor, to build communities through education and investments from the private sector.

“Our goal as we sponsor ICCC is to connect with the small business communities in various markets that we serve, and work with them hand in hand,” King says.

The Birmingham, AL-based Regions will be providing coaching, expertise, and information. “This is about beginning a relationship and providing access to opportunities for these businesses long term,” he explains.

According to its preliminary 2017 report, the ICCC has trained 1,659 businesses and created 15,946 jobs. Average revenue grew 172 percent while raising capital of more than $1.47 billion.

ICCC is heading for 14 cities where they will hold executive education seminars in 2018, including Atlanta, Memphis, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, Washington D.C. and Baltimore. The program also includes webinars and a live meeting at the conclusion.

It hasn’t been decided if, or when, the ICCC program will be offered again in Tampa.


World IA Day: Walking tour of downtown highlights information architecture event

Local residents are familiar with parking in the Poe Garage in downtown Tampa to get to the Straz Center by crossing West Cass Street through the glass-encased walkway next to the John F. Germany Public Library. But are they acquainted with the library's auditorium? Not so much.

Downtown drivers have probably noticed the tall Sam M. Gibbons U.S. Courthouse on District Court on North Florida Avenue. But have they paid much attention to the Robert L.Timberlake Jr. Federal Building at 500 Zack Street? Probably not.

And when some come to The Portico at North Florida Avenue and East Tyler Street for open mike night, or youth activities, they might notice the old pipe organ. Yet they probably don’t remember the old church steeple that was a downtown landmark before the old Methodist Church building was demolished there in the 1960s.

Similarly, Tampa Bay residents are familiar with architecture and even landscape architecture. But they may have not heard of Information Architecture, an information age term first introduced in 1975 by Richard Saul Wurman, the founder of the TED Conference.

The Internet made information architecture more relevant -- and it garnered more of a following with Peter Morville’s book Information Architecture for the World Wide Web, which he co-authored with Louis Rosenfeld and Jorge Arango. It’s now the focus of World Information Architecture Day, a global event which began seven years ago in 14 cities including Ann Arbor, MI; Los Angeles, Paris, Tokyo, Vancouver, Sao Paolo, Bucharest and Johannesburg.

The free event, held in conjunction with the Grand Rapids, MI-based Information Architect Institute, first came to Tampa four years ago. A Tampa team led by Amy Espinosa and Carlisle Stoup has been preparing the next program to be held Saturday, Feb. 24, at the downtown library’s auditorium at 900 N. Ashley St. Featured are Dan Klyn, president of IAI; Gus Paras, one of the library auditorium’s architects; and Arango, a partner in the Oakland, CA. consultancy Futuredraft.

“Now that technology has progressed so rapidly, and we have information being consumed all the time, there’s more of a need than ever to recognize it [information architecture],” Espinosa says.

Although the late 1990s book was launched for the digital age, the concept has evolved since then. “Digital and physical worlds are merging -- machine learning, artificial intelligence, augmented virtual reality. Now we are organized,” explains Espinosa, a Tampa consultant and self-taught information architect. “Information architecture is in a new space.”

The Tampa Bay program, which kicks off with registration at 10:30 a.m., features a two-mile walking tour including the riverfront and some of downtown Tampa’s less talked about sites like Franklin Exchange block, Tampa Police Department block, and Tampa municipal building block. Participants are encouraged to bring a water bottle and comfortable shoes for the walk from 1:15 p.m. to 3:15 p.m.

While there’s concern for older buildings like the Tampa Theatre, built in 1926, which is being refurbished, newer buildings may be torn down or drastically altered to meet current needs. Concern about the future of the library buildings helped prompt the tour in an attempt to bring awareness to structures built between 1940 and 1989. It’s also an opportunity to share stories about the people and culture of Tampa, as well as buildings that existed downtown at some point.

“We wanted to do something a little unique this year,” Espinosa adds. “That’s why we decided to focus on preservation and do a walking tour.”

She’s been interviewing people to put together a book about the city’s history as well.

Part of the goal of the day is to teach others what information architecture is. “We want people to be interested in information architecture,” says Espinosa, who has a background in digital and software design.

IA involves organizing information by location, alphabet, time, category, and hierarchy, according to IA expert Chris How, in his video “Yippee-IA: All You Need To Know About Information Architecture In 10 Minutes.” It’s useful in different professions because they involve information being shared with students or customers.

Espinosa says the day’s theme this year is “IA for good.” “The question is how can IA help protect people from misinformation?” she continues. “Cities around the world will be tackling this topic in their own way.”

Tampa’s goal is to stress the importance of learning and researching to find the truth. “That is what we feel will help people protect themselves from misinformation,” she explains.

WIA Day is for those who are interested in learning about Tampa and about information architecture. Interested parties can register online; the event ends with a 5 p.m. Happy Hour.

In case you’re wondering, information architecture is a “high-paying” career, Espinosa says. But it’s not widely known. The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Outlook Handbook refers to the field of Information Architect Librarians under the category Librarians; in fact, there aren’t many colleges with an information architect degree, although there are information and library science and design curriculums.

“The educational system hasn’t caught up,” she says.

Read about the Tampa Theatre renovation project.


Tampa Bay Startup Week: Bigger, better than ever

Tampa Bay Startup Week is growing -- and expecting to double attendance with this year’s diverse program spanning both sides of Tampa Bay. This year’s calendar, which attempts to weave diversity into the events, features a panel of female leaders who, collectively, have experience raising $500 million in capital.

“It’s going to be really cool. We’re really excited about it,” says Lead Organizer Gracie Leigh Stemmer.

“Gender dynamics in the workplace” will be discussed, she says. “Men and women both were highly recommended to come to the talk. We want it to be a conversation.”

The event is called “Fullstack Pancake Breakfast + Boost Your Business with the $500M All-Star Panel,” and it starts at 8:30 a.m. Tuesday, Feb. 13, with a pancake breakfast sponsored by Full Stack Talent. Stefanie Jewett, Founder and CEO of Activvely, will moderate the panel including Chitra Kanagaraj, COO of Pikmykid; Susan O'Neal, CEO and CTO of Dabbl; Joy Randels, serial entrepreneur and CEO; and Jamie SewellCMO of Washlava.

The program, which lasts until 10 a.m., is being sponsored by Startup Sisters. It will be held at CAVU, 1601 N. Franklin St, Tampa.

Startup Week 2018, scheduled from Monday, Feb. 12, through Friday, Feb. 16, is expected to draw some 3,400 attendees, double the number who participated in 2017. Early registrations were brisk, with about 1,300 registered by Friday, Jan. 26, Stemmer says.

Keynote speaker is serial entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuk, co-Founder of the full-service digital agency VaynerMedia. Most known for helping his father grow one of the first e-commerce wine sites, WineLibrary, into a multi-million dollar business, Vaynerchuk is a New York City venture capitalist and New York Times best-selling author. He is expected to talk about marketing, media and his new book, Crushing It!: How Great Entrepreneurs Build Their Business and Influence - and How You Can, Too.

His 30-minute talk, followed by a question-and-answer session, is slated at 5:45 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 13, at Tampa Theatre, 711 N. Franklin St. Seating is limited and an RSVP does not guarantee a seat, so interested parties are advised to arrive early.

The free event is intended to help people with business ideas, people trying to network, people trying to raise capital, and people developing new ideas/products within larger corporations.

Organized by the nonprofit Startup Tampa Bay, the event is presented in conjunction with Tech Stars, a global network that helps entrepreneurs be successful.

The program in its fourth year features 14 tracks on a wide variety of topics including education and health technologies, cybersecurity, legal, veterans, food and beverage and fashion. Some tracks will have limited seating because of the size of the venue.

Here are some other highlights.

• Q&A with Tampa Bay’s Talent Leaders, “Learn from the Pros and hear their successes and failures!” The event is scheduled from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m., Monday, Feb. 12, Redeemer, 1602 N Florida Ave, Tampa.

• “How to Build a Multi-Million Dollar Business from Home,” slated from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. Monday, Feb. 12, also at Redeemer, 1602 N Florida Ave, Tampa.

• “Pitch the Press,” with members of the local media giving their ideas about to effectively work with journalists, scheduled from 4 p.m. to 5 p.m. Monday, Feb. 12, at CAVU, 1601 N. Franklin St, Tampa.

• “Startup Surge,” hosted by Tampa Bay WaVE, an accelerator for Tampa Bay’s tech community, is scheduled from 9 a.m. until noon on Wednesday, Feb. 14, at CAVU, 1601 N. Franklin St, Tampa. Seating is limited at the program bringing together regional tech advisors.

• “How to fund your TB startup using Bootstrapping, Internet, Blockchain and ICO” features high-tech from artificial intelligence and Blockchain, which powers Bitcoin, to the Internet of Things, smart homes and cars. The class kicks off at 2 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 14, at 2 p.m. and lasts an hour. It’s at CAVU, 1601 N. Franklin St, Tampa.

• “How to Build an E-Commerce Empire from Scratch (using Amazon and Shopify)” is planned from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m., Thursday, Feb. 15, at Station House - 4th Floor, 260 1st Ave. S., St. Petersburg.

• If you’re seeking the ear of startup health and technology CEOs, this is the event for you. A CEO Roundtable, with limited seating, is scheduled from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m., Station House - 4th Floor, 260 1st Ave. S., St. Petersburg. The CEOs will be meeting with attendees in small groups. The event is suited for investors, plus collaborative individuals in healthcare, research and the community.

Check out the full program and register here. Registration is recommended.


Tech Bytes: Tampa Bay WaVE joins Global Accelerator Network

The Tampa Bay WaVE, downtown Tampa’s tech accelerator, has become the first in Florida to join the Global Accelerator Network, a move expected to create new international opportunities for Tampa Bay’s tech community.

It adds credibility, its adds visibility and basically collaboration with the worldwide tech community,” explains Rich Heruska, Interim Accelerator Director. “It further puts the Tampa Bay and Florida tech system on the map.”

The Global Accelerator Network, which includes 90 top accelerators in more than 120 cities globally, can advertise the WaVE’s programs, giving it international exposure in its efforts to attract tech companies to Tampa Bay. It also will create new potential funding opportunities for WaVE companies, provide access to discounts, and enable free shared workspace opportunities in other cities, he says.

The WaVE has been interested in joining the network, which charges an annual fee of more than $10,000, for five years. “They don’t accept everybody,” he points out.

The nonprofit also has added three new board members: Joe Hodges, Stewart Kelly and Kailah Matyas. Alfred Goldberg of Absolute Marketing Solutions will continue to serve as board chair.

A pioneer in the healthcare field, Hodges’ latest venture is the Tampa-based CareValet, which helps to solve the healthcare access maze for consumers. Kelly is a sales account executive at Florida Blue with more than nine years of experience in the healthcare insurance industry. Matyas, managing partner at Redwood Partners, is expert at finding the best people to build successful businesses and accomplish their goals.

Additionally, Avril Stinson, a seasoned investor relations manager, has joined The WaVE as its new director of development. Her duties include community support and strategic leadership. Stinson previously worked as investor relations director for the Tampa Hillsborough Economic Development Corporation.

In other tech news, Penny Hoarder Founder and CEO Kyle Taylor is scheduled to speak at the Tampa Bay Innovation Center’s quarterly Diary of an Entrepreneur program at 8:30 a.m. Tuesday, Feb. 13, at Microsoft Headquarter offices, 5426 Bay Center Dr., Suite 700, Tampa. His talk will share how he grew his blog on personal student loan and credit card debt into a thriving website with millions of readers monthly.

When I first racked up all this debt I was afraid to tell anybody about it,” Taylor admits. “What I learned was that all that hiding was making the situation even more shameful for me. When I started to own it, and started telling people about it, is when I started making a difference.”

He’s developed a brand that shares stories from people who have accomplished their financial goals. “We really try to stay focused on our mission, which is to us money in people’s pockets. It really drives every decision that we make,” he explains.

That means turning away half of the advertisers, and passing on story ideas that would attract web traffic, whenever they don’t stay true to its mission, he says.

The event is free, but registration is recommended.

Read on for more tech happenings in Tampa Bay.

SOFWERX, a U.S. Special Operations Command-funded agency that works with the community to meet military and civilian needs, will be awarding six $50,000 prizes for passive infrared projects. Its Passsive IR Rapid Prototyping Event kicks off with an information session today, Jan. 16, and runs through Friday, Jan. 19. Winners will be announced after pitches are made Sunday, Jan. 28, and Monday, Jan. 29; they have two to four weeks to complete their prototypes. A second ThunderDrone Rapid Prototyping Event Tech Expo is planned Monday, Jan. 29 through Wednesday, Jan. 31, with more than $600,000 in prize money available.

• The survey deadline is Wednesday, Jan. 17, for the Startup Genome Project 2018. The group surveys 100+ local startups from assorted industries to support emerging startup hubs and produce a Global Startup Ecosystem Report.  It takes about 15 minutes to fill out; you’ll find the survey here.

Homebrew Hillsborough, a free monthly networking meeting, features a tour of the advertising firm Adjoy at 8:30 a.m. Friday, Jan. 26, at 1906 N. Armenia Ave., Tampa.

• Geeks are gathering for their monthly Geek Breakfast at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 25, at Jimbo’s Pit Bar-B-Q, 4103 W. Kennedy Blvd., Tampa. The event is held regularly on the last Thursday of the month. Learn more.

Computer Mentors, an East Tampa nonprofit that helps youths build self esteem by teaching them computer skills, has launched a fundraiser to buy 100 computers for seven schools: Foster, Mort, Oak Park, Potter, Sheehy, and Booker T. Washington elementaries and Memorial Middle School. The computers will be used in classrooms or to create computer labs. Computer Mentors is trying to raise $210 for each computer by the end of January. More information is available at 813-236-1191.

• Interested in networking with the Tampa Bay tech community? The national nonprofit Launchcode is holding a Tampa Bay Networking Open House from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 1, at Entrepreneur Collaborative Center, 2101 East Palm Ave., Tampa. The free event is an opportunity for recent graduates of Launchcode’s LC101, as well as newcomers to the local tech scene, to hang out with potential employers in an informal setting. Free parking is available across Palm Avenue. Online registration is available.

• Ken Countess, managing director of the Countess Group, is featured at “Linkedin for Business: How to Get More Out of Linkedin,” from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 8, at USF Connect’s Oak View Room, 3802 Spectrum Blvd., Tampa. You can register online.
 

• The career site Zippia has recognized the “10 Best Startups to Work for in Tampa”: Whooshfly, SavvyCard, LumaStream, Fair Warning Inc, Therapist Assisted Online, Nitro Solutions, Priatek, Washlava, Peerfit, and PikMyKid!

 


Looking for a job? Habitat, Sprouts, Penny Hoarder, FEMA hiring

Growth is bringing new jobs to Tampa Bay -- and two examples are expansions planned at Habitat for Humanity of Pinellas County and Sprout’s Farmers Market in Valrico.

The Clearwater-based Habitat, which has been working in south St. Petersburg on and off for 32 years, invested $1.8 million in the community this year, building 15 homes.

“We decided to go one extra step and purchase an office presence,” says CEO Mike Sutton.

Habitat purchased an existing building on 22nd Street South, directly south of St. Petersburg College’s midtown campus, for $165,000. It is expecting to move in by February or March.

“Our plan now is to have about 5-6 staff members that will work out of that office,” Sutton explains. “It will also be a hub for us to do education classes for our [Habitat] families and the community.”

Habitat is actively seeking a Director of Community Relations that will serve as the organization’s “face” in the community, Sutton says. Candidates should have a bachelor’s degree and be people-oriented. The job includes building one-on-one relationships in the community, serving on Habitat’s leadership team and ensuring the organization’s mission in South St. Pete is being fulfilled.

It also is a hiring program coordinator, who will be in charge of recruiting partner families, and an office/information specialist who will work with walk-ins to provide resources and troubleshoot problems. Additionally, two new site supervisors will oversee volunteers and homeowners with construction.

Habitat would like to fill the jobs by Jan. 1, 2018.

The underserved midtown area, which is directly south of Tropicana Field, includes properties between 9th Avenue South, 30th Avenue South, 4th Street South and 49th Street South.

“It [the new office and staff] is an investment outside of our normal budget,” Sutton says. “We do anticipate, as we move forward, it will be a regular piece to our program and our operations,”

Many of the existing homes in the area are in need of repair; others have been condemned. “A lot of the homes in the area are generational housing, so they are pieces of property or homes that have been passed down generation to generation. One of the biggest problems we see is finding clear title,” he explains.

The nonprofit builds new homes on property they’ve invested in, then sells them to qualified families with zero-percent mortgage rates. It also works with families to repair dilapidated homes.

Meanwhile the fast-growing retailer Sprouts has been expanding in Florida. “The local interest in health and value makes Valrico a natural fit for a Sprouts store,” says spokesperson Kalia Pang. “We’ve ramped up our expansion in Florida after the positive customer response and strong performance of our Tampa and Sarasota stores that opened earlier this year.”

The fifth in Florida, the Valrico store is scheduled to open at 7 a.m. Wednesday, Feb. 21, in 30,000 square feet of leased space at 3315 Lithia Pinecrest Road. Sprouts is planning to hire 120 or more full- and part-time staffers, including department managers, assistant department managers, clerks, cashiers, a backup receiver, administrative coordinator and scan coordinator.

Sprouts is all about healthy living for less, so potential team members should share a passion for healthy eating and the fresh, natural and organic products offered throughout the store,” Pang says.

Interested persons can learn more at the company website.

The Phoenix-based Sprouts carries a full line of groceries.

Here are more job opportunities.

  • Interested in being an art instructor? There’s a Dec. 15 deadline to apply for Art Studio instructor positions with the Tampa Museum of Art. The museum is looking for teachers in beginning jewelry, electronic sculpture with batteries, lights, and small modules, and other fine art media. Candidates must have at least a bachelor’s degree in Fine Arts with a specialty in Studio Art, or an equivalent degree, plus images of work and at least two years of experience teaching in public or private settings. Instructors are paid $20 an hour. Apply online.
  • The Penny Hoarder, owned by Taylor Media Inc., announced in November that it has expanded its St. Petersburg offices and will be hiring 165 new employees by 2020. It currently employs 80, and will be adding video editors, writers, data journalists, media analysts, developers and account managers. The publication shares real stories about how people make and save money.
  • The Federal Emergency Management Agency is looking to hire civil engineers, flood plain managers, site inspectors and casualty insurance workers to help Florida recover from hurricane Irma. Florida residents who are interested should visit employflorida.com and search for Federal Emergency Management Agency.
  • The Minneapolis-based Sleep Number Corp., a mattress company that offers individualized, innovative solutions to improve sleep, has an opening for a sales professional in Clearwater. The position requires prior experience with face-to-face sales, preferably high-end sales.
  • The Nashville-based Correct Care Solutions is looking for healthcare professionals for the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office Detention Center at Land O’ Lakes. It has openings for a mental health professional, which requires a master’s degree in behavioral/social science, plus a registered nurse and licensed practical or vocational nurse.

If you are hiring skilled workers with five or less years of experience, drop us a line.

Exclusive dating app launches in Tampa, Orlando

An exclusive group of 507 in the Tampa Bay Area will gain access to an invitation-only dating app called The League today, Tuesday, Dec. 12. The app’s goal is to connect ambitious high achievers who are career focused -- and want partners to balance them.

“We weren’t planning to do this until spring 2018,” says Meredith Davis, head of Communications for the San Francisco-based company. “Once we launched Miami, we saw numbers in Tampa and Orlando skyrocket.”

The League had 2,524 in Tampa sign up, but pared that down for the initial class. Five percent are teachers, 3 percent are lawyers and 3 percent are founders. They live primarily in South Tampa, downtown Tampa, and northwest Tampa, representing 7, 5 and 3 percent of the class, respectively.

The League’s goal is to curate its membership much like universities do its students, using data from applicants’ Facebook and Linkedin accounts. It blocks colleagues and first-degree connections so users can keep their dating profiles and professional lives separate.

Users need clear photos, including face and full-body shots, of themselves alone rather than in groups.

Each week, a team at The League will sort through the wait list and invite more members, with the goal of having a diverse group in terms of race, ethnicity, religion, education, profession, and more.

The wait is intended to vet members and make sure they are interested in regular rather than casual dating.

The League profiles become live at noon. At 5 p.m. every day, dubbed Happy Hour, members will receive three potential matches. There also are groups similar to those on social media sites; groups might be for dog owners, or hikers, or people who like to eat brunch.  Members also can meet at special events, either The League events (such as a launch bash for Valentine’s Day) or community events like a parade.

“We’re really building a community,” Davis says. “It’s not just about dating. It’s about meeting other singles in your area.”

The app, which is free to download, can be used on iphones, Androids and tablets, but users pay for upgrades like additional matches or expedited review. It is different from apps like Tinder or Bumble because it is invitation only, she says.

“Not everyone gets in and the reason for that is this is a curated community,” Davis explains. “There are dating apps for everyone. Those are a great platform when you are looking for that.”

Members for the Tampa dating community will come from a 100-mile radius of the city. So far, the group includes women 22-32 and men 23-33, but later on The League will broaden the pool to include older adults. Their core demographic is for 28 to 35 year olds, she says.

Founded by its CEO Amanda Bradford, The League launches in Orlando Dec. 12 as well. Other cities may go live when they reach 2,500 applicants. “We wouldn’t open a city until we hit that number,” she says.

Davis is a success story for the app operating in New York City, Los Angeles, Boston, Washington D.C., Chicago, San Francisco and other areas across the United States; she currently is dating someone she met in The League. “We’ve seen tons of success stories form it,” she says. “We even have a few league babies right now.”


Tampa Bay job fairs match people with jobs; one caters to veterans

In honor of Veterans Day, CareerSource is holding its annual Florida Paychecks for Patriots Career Fair from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 8, at The EpiCenter at St. Petersburg College, 13805 58th St. N., St. Petersburg.

“Paychecks for Patriots has made a difference in the lives and careers of thousands of veteran candidates and military family members in the past four years," says CEO Ed Peachey of CareerSource Tampa Bay and CareerSource Pinellas, which are hosting the event. "We expect the fifth year to continue that tradition, so Florida can continue to be the most military and veteran-friendly state in the nation.”

For the first hour, the fair will be open exclusively for the military transitioning to civilian life, veterans, and their families, giving them the first opportunity to meet with potential employers. The event opens for the general public at 11 a.m.

At the event, information also will be provided on training and development programs available through CareerSource centers, such as the TechHire, CyberSecurity, CareerReady, and Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act programs.

Over 30 employers will be present at the event seeking to fill over 200 positions,” Peachey adds.

Among the job openings are positions for bus driver, caregiver, customer service representatives, fulltime sales, housekeepers, insurance agents, line cooks, mechanic, respite and servers.

The annual event is hosted by many of Regional Workforce Boards across the state.

Job candidates who want help preparing for the event can contact their local job center. Assistance is available with job applications and resumes. There also are Employability Skills Workshops (including Resume Development and Interviewing Skills Training).

Walk-ins are welcome to this free event, but attendees are encouraged to register in advance at either CareerSource Tampa Bay or CareerSource Pinellas.  Click on Career Seekers and then Career Fairs to access the webpage. Jobseekers also can also visit the CareerSource websites for more information on employers attending the opportunities available.

Here are some other career fairs you may want to check out soon.

  • Biz Bulls Connect gives students at USF St. Petersburg an opportunity to connect with potential employers from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 9, at Lynn Pippenger Hall Atrium. Learn more on Handshake.
  • The Fall Instructional Job Fair, an event for teachers interested in working for Pasco County Schools, is slated from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 9, at J. W. Mitchell High School, 2323 Little Rd., New Port Richey. Attendees can meet with principals, attend information sessions on certification, learn about the district’s benefits, and be hired for substitute or permanent positions. The event is free. Learn more and/or register here.
  • The Black Excellence Business Expo and Job Fair is scheduled from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 11, at Pinellas Technical College, St. Petersburg Campus, 3548 11th Ave. S. General admission to the event, organized by The Community Development And Training Center Inc., is free. Register online here.
  • The Tampa Bay Job and Career Fair held by The Tampa Bay Times is slated from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday, Nov. 13, at Holiday Inn Tampa Westshore, 700 N. Westshore Blvd. Tampa. Admission and parking are free; no pre-registration is required. More than 50 local employers will be there. More information and online registration is available by visiting here.
  • The JobNewsUSA.com Job Fair will be held from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 14, at St. Petersburg Marriott Clearwater, 12600 Roosevelt Blvd. N., St. Petersburg. There are hundreds of job opportunities in various fields. The event is free and job candidates are encouraged to register online. Click on Search Career Fairs.
  • Interested in a job with a cruise line? Norwegian Cruise Line is holding a Cruise Ship Job Fair in Tampa. It’s looking to hire for a variety of positions, including assistant chief butcher, assistant cook, assistant waiter, broadcast technician, restaurant steward, stateroom steward and more. Bring your resume! There are two information sessions, one at 10 a.m. and one at 3 p.m., on Tuesday, Nov. 14, at Hilton Tampa Downtown, 211 N. Tampa St., Tampa. On-site registration is held one hour beforehand; the doors close at 10 a.m. and 3 p.m., respectively. Interviews follow the sessions. More information and online registration are available here.
  • The Florida Joblink 2017 Career Fair is slated from 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Tuesday, Nov 16, at Clarion Inn and Suites Conference Center, 9331 E. Adamo Dr., Tampa. The fair, which serves jobseekers in Tampa, Brandon, Lakeland and the surrounding communities, is free. Career advice and resume assistance are available at the fair. Learn more and/or register here.

Innovative Smart Lab to open in Tampa in 2018

The innovative builder Suffolk is planning to open a Smart Lab in Tampa that will help clients visualize construction projects using virtual reality. The construction firm, which already has opened a similar lab in New York City and San Francisco, currently is building the Tampa Smart Lab adjacent to its Channelside office.

“We are looking to open early in 2018, hopefully in January or February,” says Josh Christensen, VP for the Suffolk’s West Coast Operations in Florida.

The Smart Lab features a virtual reality cave, which simulates what it will be like inside a building that has not been constructed yet. “We call it a lab for a reason. We’re testing things,” he says. “You don’t have to go build in the field to see if you like it.”

Models will be technically accurate. “It’s a working model, not just a cartoon,” Christensen says.

A whole wall will be a touch screen for interactive planning and collaboration. “We used to do with sticky notes back in the day,” Christensen explains. “Now you do it all virtually, and all by touching.”

Another wall, for data, includes live camera feeds of the jobs.

The company has been relying upon virtual reality goggles, which limits the experience to one or two people instead of about six to a room. “Most people don’t love putting the goggles on,” he says.

Suffolk is adding an additional 2,200 square feet, 1,500 for the lab, to its office at 615 Channelside Drive, Suite 102. The office, which opened last spring, will now be 6,600 square feet. Cost figures weren’t released.

We’re in an existing building, We just took it back to the studs,” he explains.

The Smart Lab will primarily be staffed with existing workers.

Suffolk’s Smart Labs are expected to facilitate brainstorming in ways that can significantly alter project designs. For the industry, it may mean changing the way buildings are designed and built.

Its emphasis on innovation meshes well with the “entrepreneurial spirit” in Tampa, Christensen says.

“We have some challenging, logistically complex jobs, and it will really help us,” he adds.

More Smart Labs are to open in Boston, Miami and Los Angeles on varying schedules.

The national building contractor generates some $2.9 billion in revenue annually serving clients in healthcare, science and technology, education, federal government, gaming, aviation and commercial sectors.

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