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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.


Next for travelers? Ridesharing app for charter flights

A Jacksonville company is test marketing a ridesharing program for air travelers which would enable them to split the cost of chartering small planes with others. Called Whooshfly, the company -- currently in the Tampa Bay WaVE early launch program -- is making plans to move to Tampa next year, potentially in the spring.

“This is not for everyone pricewise. If you were to share the flight ... with a bunch of people, it would still cost you a little bit more than a first class ticket, but it’s not going to cost you an arm and a leg,” explains Joel Relova, Founder and CEO.

The service, being tested in Florida, Georgia and Utah, relies on smaller aircraft with 3 to 12 seats. It is available in beta as an Apple iphone app, with Android and web-based apps anticipated later. “You can fly anywhere as long as you can afford it,” he says.

People can defray the cost of a chartered plane by sharing a flight with friends, relatives and co-workers attending the same event, or with other people in their network. Or they can open the flight up to others who are flying to the same destination. They also could choose to book a private flight.

People download the app from the Apple Store and make a request for service, which is submitted to operators who respond with price quotes. The users can then choose a veted provider and book their flights.

Co-founded with Wendell Chindra, Whooshfly currently has about 400 users and 12 operators, who have access to 60 airplanes in the Florida/Georgia region. Users pay a service fee in addition to fares. “Once you use it, you don’t want to go back to any other means,” Relova says. “The value there is really the experience.”

He explains users can avoid lines while enjoying the perks of a small airport, like having the airplane parked 50 feet from the door or being greeted by a pilot who knows them by name.

“That’s what people love,” he says.

The idea started about 10 years ago when Relova noticed a smaller jet at an airport, and learned it cost less than a million, far less than other jets. Things took off about two years ago after a presentation on the concept in Jacksonville. Since being admitted to the WaVE program last spring, Whooshfly has been utilizing the co-work space at the WaVE periodically.

“The WaVE has been very good to us. I love the people there. I love the energy. I love their passion for startups,” he says. “They’ve opened a lot of doors for us.”

What sets Whooshfly apart is travelers’ ability to pay as they go, without encountering membership/subscription fees or having to become one of the plane’s owners.

Moving to Tampa is part of their plan once the platform passes the market-testing phase. “We believe Tampa is the right fit for us. They have the environment, the ecosystem, that would support a tech startup like us,” Relova explains. “I understand there’s a lot of things going on from a tech and from a startup business perspective. We want to be part of that."


Author proposes pilot education project for adult learners

A Tampa author is gaining traction with an idea for a pilot education project to enable adults to attend college without encumbering a lot of debt. Vinny Tafuro, an economist and author of Unlocking the Labor Cage, appeared on the Tampa Bay Arts and Education Network last week and expounded upon his idea.

In a studio fireside chat with Debbi Stone, VP of Education for The Florida Aquarium, he continued to build on his proposal to fund adult learners through reserves corporations may have routed overseas to avoid taxes.

“Now it’s been broadcast on somebody else’s channel, not my own,” he quips.

What Tafuro is proposing is a pilot project that could mitigate the risk for adults who want to return to school in their 30s, 40s, or 50s. At that point, they’re likely giving up a salary they need to pay bills.

A college-educated, employed individual is more likely to make money for companies like Facebook, he says. Those students may even be inspired to become an entrepreneur -- and an advertiser. They also might be more likely to leave reviews, which is critical to Amazon’s sales model.

Instead of competing with a bunch of other cities offering similar amenities for Amazon’s new headquarters, Tafuro believes this pilot project is something unique Tampa Bay can bring to the table -- while skirting the competition from other cities. It could potentially fund 49,200 students nationwide.

It could appeal to Amazon, Facebook, Google or Microsoft, enabling them to boost their earning potential by increasing the education level of their users and bettering society.

“We’re the only community making the proposition,” he points out.

By convincing businesses to invest their reserves, or repatriate the money as Tafuro says, the pilot project might even help make things easier for former college students saddled with debt. “Right now there’s no incentive for the college loan industry to soften its edge,” he says.

Originally from Long Island, Tafuro has lived in the Tampa Bay area for nearly 26 years. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Communications from the University of Tampa.

His book, released on Amazon in July 2016, introduces the concept of using cash reserves to fund education. Read an excerpt here.


A force for healing through the arts in Tampa

Those who have found creative passions know how uplifting and soul-nourishing the arts can be, even in rough times. For military veterans, simply returning to civilian life can be difficult and painful on many levels.
 
Enter: Creative Forces.

In a joint project between Florida’s Division of Cultural Affairs, the NEA, and Americans for the Arts, Creative Forces Summit will be honing in on Tampa for panel discussions revolving around military healing arts and community collaboration at the Straz Center on Oct. 23 & 24.
 
Panel discussions range from types of creative art therapies to building a more collaborative union between the arts and military communities, with performances and open mic sessions interspersed throughout the two-day event.
 
Art therapists who work closely with veterans see the progress of their work, albeit anecdotally. One of the highlights of this event will be talks by Andrea Assaf, artistic director of Art2Action -- which has been working closely with veterans since 2011. She will discuss her role in leading the program design for creating a clinical study to measure tangible success with military healing arts.
 
“We spent a year doing this study, which was designed by a collaborative process. In order to measure impact, we had to come up with a mixed-methods approach where the USF Psychology Department leads a quantitative process while the VA works on qualitative process,” Assaf says.
 
She has been running volunteer workshops at a branch of the VA, the Psychosocial Rehabilitation and Recovery Center, for over 4 years. While Assaf’s strengths rest in theatre, poetry and creative writing, she brings in guest artists to open up veterans to other artistic mediums.

The James A. Haley Veterans' Hospital is already a Creative Forces clinical site, with Tampa working on a Telehealth Pilot Program for veterans in rural areas. Being nearby, the MacDill Air Force Base doesn't hurt either. Their approach to art therapy is simple: Treat it as a need, just like any other treatment.

“I see the arts change and move people. Artistic expression is an important component in the healing and recovering process. What the government wants to see in terms of funding is data. The intention of this study is to document what we know intuitively into usable data to inspire further study and investment both from private and public funds in supporting this kind of work,” Assaf says.

For more information about arts programs and events in Hillsborough County and the Tampa Bay region, visit The Arts Council website.

To suggest additional story ideas, email 83 Degrees.

To subscribe to our free weekly e-magazine, follow this link.

Dreamit’s UrbanTech program launches in Tampa

The New York City-based Dreamit, a top-10 ranked global accelerator and venture capital firm, has chosen eight companies for its first UrbanTech accelerator program, which it is holding in Tampa. One of the companies, Raxar Technology Corp., is Tampa-based.

“We’re really hoping to be able to contribute to the progress that is happening in Tampa Bay,” says Kurt Akman, who heads the company’s growth and marketing division.

Raxar, founded by Akman’s brother Peter, helps companies go mobile with its platform of tools that facilitate data collection and background analytics. The tools are especially helpful in any industry where people manage complex physical assets.

Dreamit received more than 300 completed applications for its first accelerator program focusing on technological solutions for real estate, city infrastructure and urban living. The selection process looked at the company’s idea, its potential in the market, the competitive landscape and the company founders.

It became interested in Tampa through a Dreamit alumni, Gainesville resident Bharani Rajakumar, an advocate of keeping Florida talent in the state. Rajakumar connected Dreamit with Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik, who is partnering in a massive $3 billion, 53-acre project downtown called Water Street Tampa.

The accelerator program had been scheduled to officially kick off September 11 in Tampa, but the Tampa component is being rescheduled because of Hurricane Irma.

“We didn’t allow it to put a hindrance on what we were doing. We did things virtually rather than in person in Tampa,” says Seth Berk, Dreamit’s Chief Marketing Officer. “We’re going to be spending a few weeks in Tampa for sure as part of the cycle.”

The accelerator is placing the startups at CoWorkTampa offices within close proximity to the Water Street Tampa project, facilitating collaboration and instruction.

The UrbanTech program includes two, two-week road shows, one focusing on potential customers and the other one on investors. “Our hope is always that these customer meetings result in business relationships, a pilot program or full-fledge contracts,” Berk says.

The program includes a December 5 summit at downtown’s Marriott Waterside, which is expected to draw some 200 to 250 for a program including guest speakers and workshops.

Here are the other seven companies chosen for the cohort.

• Bignay Inc. is the developer of Gi Fly, a foldable, electric bike commanded by a mobile app. The bile can ride 40 miles on a single charge and is intended to facilitate urban commutes.

Cityzenith helps builders aggregate and analyze data sources involved with construction. Its InstaBIM tool offers easy drag-and-drop assistance with designing, building, and operating complex projects.

Ecomedes simplifies the buying process with a digital data management program. It helps users find the best products for their projects and simplifies the analysis of economic and environmental impacts.

• The wind turbine manufacturer Flower Turbines, which creates small and quiet turbines to be used near buildings and people, offers turbines ideal for urban settings.

Knowify, which offers a software platform for commercial subcontractors, assists users with bidding, tracking, and invoicing jobs. The platform increases efficiency, decreases mistakes and sets the stage for growth.

Lotik uses wireless sensors in its water monitoring service. The sensors clamp onto pipes to recognize water flow, find leaks and send the data in for analysis.

Twist Homes offers a turnkey lighting control system that includes wireless speakers, wifi repeaters and a platform for sensor modules.  It adapts easily to changes in building codes.


BizConnect@Platt: Business owners learn, network at public library

Business people like networking, and often meet and greet at Tampa Bay Area hotel conference rooms. But now they have a new venue: the public library.

“We’re making an effort to reach out to kind of a non-traditional library population,” explains Business Librarian Chris Sturgeon, who founded BizConnect@Platt, a program attracting business owners to the Jan Kaminis Platt Regional Library at 3910 S. Manhattan Ave., Tampa. “They don’t think it’s a place to work on their business. ... We try to dispel that myth.”

He’s one of five business librarians in Tampa-Hillsborough County Public Library system. Hired last year, Sturgeon’s job is to reach out to businesses and let them know the library is a free resource to them.

“The whole idea as to open up the doors,” he says. “There’s a demand here [for networking]. Let’s try it. Let’s just make it open to everyone.”

The library offers free digital access with a public library card to business owners’ databases like that offered by Reference USA, or to the training website Lynda.com. Readers also can access free digital subscriptions to magazines like Forbes.

Out-of-county residents can enjoy services by paying $100 annually for a library card.

“A lot of information is available online, but it’s not all quality information,” he explains. “That’s where we try to come in.”

Changes were precipitated by the digital revolution. “Our circulation numbers are still very high for books. The digital content is almost equally as popular,” he says, adding the Tampa-Hillsborough libraries have a “pretty sizable” ebook collection for businesses.

Part of the draw is the option of using the library as a temporary working space. “They can come in on a walk-in basis and reserve one of the private study rooms,” he continues. “There are plenty of places for them to plug in. ... They can’t book it in advance.”

Every first Friday at 8 a.m., about 25 business owners meet at the Jan Platt Library to hear a speaker and network. “We get a different crowd almost every time,” he says. “Our speakers have all been very generous with their time.”

At the September 1 meeting, Gary LoDuca, Founder of Thoughtful Wealth Management and Tax Advisors, a certified financial planner, will be providing tips on businesses taxes. In August Mike Harting, owner/operator of St. Petersburg’s 3 Daughters Brewing, told his business story.     

The events are free and open to the public. No registration is required. Check the calendar for upcoming events here.


British group taps Tampa man for playable city program

Tampa’s Ryan Swanson, Founder and CEO of The Urban Conga design firm, will be representing the United States in England as part of a program aimed at making cities fun places to live and work.

Swanson was one of 15 chosen from a field of 544 candidates across the globe for Creative Producers International’s 2 1/2-year empowerment program starting in October in Bristol, England. The goal is to enable creative producers to learn from each other what makes cities “more playable, more activated at that street level,” Swanson explains.

“I’m excited to go and learn ... and see how we can integrate our work,” he says.

Swanson originally became connected to CPI through social media, and actually was a finalist in the competition for the last two years. “The reason I got selected is because of what I’m doing with The Urban Conga,” he says.

Swanson, who holds a master’s degree in architecture from the University of South Florida in Tampa, initially founded the firm three years ago with a couple of colleagues. Funding for projects usually comes through the cities, private organizations or a grant.

As one of the 15 creative chosen after Skype interviews, Swanson will participate in a three-week lab, participate in the Making The City Playable Conference in October in Bristol, produce a project, and meet for another conference in Japan. The group includes several from the United Kingdom, as well as representatives from Japan, Mexico, Nigeria, Ireland, Australia, South Africa and Denmark.

“They fund me going out there,” Swanson says. “We get paid a small stipend to come back and implement a project.”

Creative Producers International is a talent development program led by Watershed, a Bristol-based organization enabling artistic vision and creative collaboration worldwide.

On the home front, Swanson built ping pong tables in Lykes Gaslight Park and a musical bench, which can be played similar to a marimba or xylophone, near the Straz Center for the Performing Arts. Another project was a dominos/chess table for Ybor City. Additionally, he has worked in areas such as New Orleans and Fort Lauderdale.

His innovation has captured a lot of media attention from news outlets like PBS, The Atlantic and Fast Company.

A 29-year-old, he strives to help people engage with one another in the simpler ways they did as children, instead of spending their time eyeing their cellphones.

“No one really talks to people. No one really physically engages with people in pubic spaces,” he says.

The young and the seniors seem the most receptive to playing, the middle agers more hesitant. But when the middle-aged decide to play, they linger the longest, he says.


Online storytelling platform moves home base to Tampa

A Oviedo startup company, TSOLife, has relocated to downtown Tampa for support from Tampa Bay Wave and the area’s entrepreneurial ecosystem. “Tampa almost is unrivaled in Florida,” says Founder and CEO David Sawyer. “Everyone just seems to embrace the startups.”

Located at the Wave, Sawyer says it was a “driving force” in his decision to move the company here. He says he looks forward to participate in events are helpful.

Tampa Bay Wave gets it, and they offer the best of the best,” he says.

Started in 2014, TSOLife won the University Stage business competition in June at eMerge America’s Startup Competition in Miami, which drew some 13,000 people from across the world to network, compete and learn about the latest technology.

“We beat out 24 other university teams that were there for exhibiting. It was a pretty cool event,” he says.

Sawyer got the idea for the business after his grandmother, Muriel Sawyer, died. She lived in Gloucester, MA, and visited for four months in the winter, which never gave them much time to talk about how she met his grandfather, how she raised his dad, or what college was like.

“We never got to have those conversations,” he explains.

So he founded a business with Stella Parris, COO, to share family legacies online. “We really wanted to create a way to better personalize and pass down these stories,” Sawyer says, “so that no grandchild should ever wonder what their grandparent was like.”

He had help from an entrepreneurial club at Stetson University in Deland, where he was studying finance.

While many people like to write a book, or track down family genealogy on Ancestry.com, TSOLife offers people an opportunity to share their stories online and in a documentary. In a way young people can relate to them.

When was the last time you saw a 13 year read an actual book?” he asks. “When was the last time you saw them pick up an iPad? Literally two seconds ago.”

Trial memberships are free for 30 days, allowing people to post their stories. “We like to run the company with a conscience and a heart. We keep everything and do not delete,” he adds.

After that, if they want to continue adding stories, it’s $14.99 monthly or $275 for life. Documentaries start at $1500.

Each story has its own privacy setting, so the contributor can make it public or allow only his or her descendants access.

TSOLife, which serves North America, already has done a documentary on former U.S. Senator and Stetson University alumnus Max Cleland, which is in the Library of Congress.

The company is in the midst of its second round of $200,000 funding. It’s already raised $95,000 of that, which will be used for future development.

What’s next? They’ll be hiring two or three people for high-tech development within the next four months and following up with another $200,000 capital campaign.


June job fairs seek employees for construction, healthcare, hospitality and government

June job fairs in the Tampa Bay area offer job seekers potential opportunities to work in construction, healthcare, hospitality, government and other fields.

The Southwest Florida Construction Careers Fair in Sarasota June 20 seeks to place minorities, women, veterans and others in transportation construction jobs. As a part of a three-year-old initiative with the Florida Department of Transportation and Federal Highway Administration, local prime contractors and subcontractors will be meeting with potential job candidates from 9:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. at Knights of Columbus, 4880 Fruitville Road.

Immediate jobs are available in Sarasota and Manatee counties, and in the Bartow area of Polk County, plus other locations statewide.

“We want to help the contractors. We want to help the community,” says Megan Olivera, Senior Communications Manager for Quest Corp. of America, an FDOT consultant. “Our focus is to recruit a viable construction work force.”

A goal of the OnBoard4Jobs program is to increase minority and women hired for federal- and state-funded road construction projects. “If you’re looking for a job right now, this is the place to look for it,” she says.

The industry employs heavy equipment operators, carpenters, welders, concrete finishers, foremen, truck drivers, asphalt workers, flaggers, pipe fitters and general laborers.

The free career fair is intended for job candidates 18 and older, with or without experience.

OnBoard4Jobs maintains a database of employers. Candidates can visit the website or call 866onboard for more information. 

In Tampa, Humana Inc. is holding a two-day Job Fair June 8 and 9 at its Direct Marketing Services call center at NetPark, 5701 E. Hillsborough Ave. Humana announced May 24th that it will be adding more than 200 telesales specialists to its Tampa Bay workforce. About 20 of the positions are permanent and include comprehensive benefits; the others are seasonal.

Interviews will be conducted at the job fairs from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. June 8 and from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. June 9. Starting dates are in June through August.

Telesales workers are being hired for national phone sales and enrollment assistance for Humana’s Medicare benefit plans, senior products, and specialty products. They will handle inquiries and assist Humana Medicare Advantage members nationwide, providing guidance and locating benefit solutions.

More than 200 are seasonal workers for the annual Medicare open enrollment period from Oct. 15 to Dec. 7. These seasonal jobs may be full-time for up to six months.

Applicants must have or be able to obtain a health insurance license, be familiar with Windows personal computer applications, possess strong communications skills and hold a high school or GED diploma, says Humana spokesman Mitch Lubitz. An associate’s or bachelor’s degree, sales and/or customer service experience, bilingual or multilingual skills, and a background in healthcare is preferred.

For more information, visit Humana careers online. Use requisition number 175136 for full-time, or requisition number 175134 for seasonal.

Here are some other job fairs scheduled in the Tampa Bay area.

The Tampa Bay Times is holding its Tampa Bay Job Fair from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. June 13 at Holiday Inn Westshore in Tampa. Admission and parking are free. More than 50 local employers are anticipated, along with representatives of higher education and technical training schools.

• The Hyatt Regency Sarasota has scheduled a job fair from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. June 15 at the hotel at 1000 Boulevard of the Arts in Sarasota. It offers career opportunities in culinary, engineering/maintenance, event services/setup, food and beverage, front office and guest services.

• Tampa Job Fair, a one-day hiring event by Coast-to-Coast Career Fairs, is planned from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. June 19 at Holiday Inn Tampa Westshore Airport. Job candidates are advised to arrive at the career fair at 11 a.m. wearing professional business clothing, with at least 10 copies of their updated resumes. Hiring managers from a variety of companies will be there. Professionals with all skills levels are encouraged to attend.

• Jobseekers in sales, business development, marketing, customer service, and retail and sales management can connect with potential employers at the Tampa Career Fair by United Career Fairs June 28. The free event runs from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at Doubletree by Hilton Tampa Westshore Airport. Applicants are advised to arrive at 6 p.m. in business attire with at least 10 up-to-date resumes.

• The third annual Pasco Community Job Fair, hosted by Pasco County schools, is slated from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. June 29 at River Ridge High School in New Port Richey. Job applicants can meet with hiring managers from local governmental agencies. There will be job opportunities for kindergarten through 12th grade teachers, mechanics, bus drivers, information services/help desk workers, food service assistants, child care assistants, custodians, skilled trades workers, financial services personnel and customer service employees. The event is free.

JobNewsUSA is holding its Job News Tampa Job Fair from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. July 11 at George M. Steinbrenner Field in Tampa. Admission and parking are free.


Greek, Caribbean music highlight heritage festivals in Tampa Bay Area in June

Tarpon Springs merchants are planning their inaugural Opa! Palooza, a celebration of their Greek heritage, June 9-11. The event features authentic Greek music and up to 90 vendors of arts and crafts.

And in Tampa, Caribbean music is featured at Tampa Bay Caribbean Heritage Festival on June 3 at the University Area CDC.

The Tarpon Springs Merchant Association is hosting Opa! Palooza, being organized by SIK Promotions of St. Petersburg. It hopes to attract visitors to the community known for its sponge docks in the off season, says Suzanne King, SIK’s Owner.

“We want to do cooking demonstrations, other kinds of authentic talks, workshops. We’re talking with the guy that designs and makes the diving helmet,” King says.

The free event runs from noon to 9 p.m. on June 9, from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. on June 10, and from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on June 11 on Dodecanese Boulevard.

The itinerary includes a Battle of the Bands Saturday night, with the winner being chosen to perform at Tarpon’s Seafood Festival, also organized by SIK, in November. Odyssey and Ellada will perform and author Demetra Tsavaris-Lecourezos will be on hand for storytelling. A petting zoo also is planned.

Also in Tarpon Springs, the One Act Plays Festival runs from June 8 to 11 at the Tarpon Springs Performing Arts Center, 324 Pine St. General admission is $18 for a performance of 10 plays by 10 playwrights, with shows at 7:30 p.m. June 8, 9 and 10. The curtain rises at 2 p.m. June 11.

In Tampa, the Caribbean festival is scheduled from 4 to 8 p.m. at 14013 N. 22nd St. Performances by Jah Movement, Teddyson John, Fete Fit/Get Moving, DJ Spice, Voz y Accion de Puerto Rico and Tropical Groove Jazz are planned. Tickets are $10, with children 10 and under free.

The event, hosted by CANDO-Caribbean American National Development Organization, Inc., features food trucks and children’s activities.

Here are some other events planned in June.

Rock the Park is slated at 6:30 p.m. June 1 at Tampa’s Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park downtown. This free monthly music series concert, which is for all age groups, features Zigtebra, Luxury Mane and Ari Chi.

St. Petersburg Opera Company is featuring The Tales of Hoffmann at 7:30 p.m. June 2, 2 p.m. June 4, and 7:30 p.m. June 6 at the Palladium Theatre, 235 Fifth Ave N.

• The 24th Annual St. Pete Beach Corey Area Craft Festival runs from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. June 3 and 4 at 595 Corey Ave. The free event includes handmade pottery, jewelry, paintings and more.

• Clearwater Spring Concert Series: Third Eye Blind -- Take a trip back in time with this alternative rock band along the water at Coachman Park in downtown Clearwater. Show begins at 8 p.m. and tickets start at $31.

• The 16th Annual St. Armands Circle Craft Festival kicks off June 10 at 411 St. Armands Circle, Sarasota. The free event runs from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. June 10 and 11. Learn more here.

• Carrollwood Cultural Center has a number of events planned for June, including an outdoor market with crafts from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. June 10 and Cypress Creek Dixieland Jazz Band at 8 p.m. June 10. Get the details on these and other events here.

• Independent film buffs, music lovers and foodies gather from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. every third Thursday (June 15th, July 20, etc.) for Flicks And Food Trucks at The Grand Central at Kennedy at 1208 E. Kennedy Blvd., in Tampa’s Channel District. The event is free.

• Travel vicariously at the Florida Museum of Photographic Arts in Tampa. Its International Photography 2017 Exhibition showcases winners from June 23 to August 18.

• The 15th Annual Downtown Dunedin Craft Festival is scheduled from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. June 24 and 25 at 271 Main St., Dunedin. The event is free.

Learn more about the June art scene in Tampa Bay at Arts Tampa Bay and at Creative Pinellas.


Tampa staffing startup chosen for global tech showcase

A Tampa Bay staffing startup company, patterned after online matchmaking services, has been chosen to participate in Emerge Americas Startup Showcase in Miami, a major global business-to-business tech event featuring entrepreneurs from Latin America, North America and Europe.

Monikl was one of 125 companies selected in three categories for the June 12-13 business-to-business tech conference. It will have a booth at the event and the opportunity to participate in a pitch competition for up to $100,000.

The company, launched in January, is intended to save users time and money by matching job candidates and employers. What makes it different is its ability to perform like a full-time staff company from an Internet platform. It uses a quiz, that can be filled out in five to 10 minutes, to match applicants with companies that are suited to them.

“Instead of looking through thousands of resumes, you’re basically getting five to 10 high quality matches,” says Monikl CEO and Co-Founder Zachary Senz Kamler. “Our aim is to produce quality not quantity.”

Using an app for Android and Apple phones or the web, users sign up for free. The employer pays 7.5 percent of a direct hire’s salary, for the first year. It also works with temporaries and contract hires.

Monikl is generally targeting the tech and healthcare fields in the Tampa Bay area, or basically 50 miles from Tampa’s downtown. It already has some 1,000 job seekers and several companies -- and is growing steadily.

“In general our goal is to reach 10,000 users in the Tampa Bay area by the end of the year. Once we reach that, we’ll be able to acquire more capital and expand out to other cities,” he says.

Senz-Kamler, who has a background in staffing and a bachelor’s degree in Business and Entrepreneurship from the University of South Florida, is partnering with CTO Jonathan Antoneli.

“We’re clearing up the path to finding a job,” Senz-Kamler explains.

In Tampa Bay WaVE’s Build program, Monikl uses WaVE co-working space. “We have been setting them up with mentors, goals and connections. Monikl has some great leadership and hunger to grow and we love having them in our program,” says Daniel McDonald, Accelerator Manager.

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