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Clearwater company develops revolutionary wireless technology

An electrical engineer, Christopher Anderson had been working on the team that brought the communications systems on NASA’s Mars Exploration Program to life. He realized technology could do much more to connect people here on Earth. So he developed BRIDGE, a low-cost wireless switch capable of tapping into unused and under-used fiber optic networks, boosting the speed of communication and enabling augmented realities like holograms.

More than seven years in development, the device is smaller than a shoebox and can be installed on a light pole, building or other structure. It offers secure and reliable connections.

He and Program Director Zach Howe set up shop in Clearwater about six months ago as Connected Revolution, a for-profit company looking to enlist 100 communities across the nation to become the first to use the BRIDGE. It has set up a contest, with the goal of raising $500,000 per community to implement the technology.

“We’re hoping over time everybody is going to be [connected].” Howe says.

What BRIDGE does is bring the high-speed connectivity existing on Main Street to the last mile, where it can reach more users. “We eliminate those bottlenecks. We deliver the same speed fiber has down to the end point,” explains Anderson, President and Founder.

“It’s very much like having the fiber routed to your home or routed to your cellphone, but without the wire,” he adds.

With its contest launched July 4, Connected Revolution seeks to democratize connectivity and enlist the involvement of individuals, civic leaders and entrepreneurs, who can make money deploying the system.

“BRIDGE is not putting itself in the middle of this like a gatekeeper would, like a normal corporation would,” Anderson explains. “BRIDGE is facilitating open access to everything in this process.”

People can become involved by buying a T-shirt at the company’s website, or by donating, or by getting in touch.

“We’d like to see people get involved in whatever way they’d like to get involved,” Howe says.

What are the benefits to a community? According to its website, early adopters:
• have better, faster and more reliable service;
• can attract more technology-minded people limited by their current Internet providers;
• can scale it affordably;
• will be pioneers in the new ecosystem; and
• will be able to use augmented reality and artificial intelligence systems well.

Fiber networks are already in place to serve about 90 percent of the country. It exists within at least 10,000 feet even in rural areas. Connections to this fiber can be leased and its power can be harnessed, Anderson says.

“The possibilities, once you’ve gotten connected, are kind of endless,” Howe adds.

People who want their communities to be among the first adopters of the technology can generate funds by purchasing “Take the Internet Back!” T-shirts and Connected Revolution stickers. Funds also can be donated by individuals or local government, or even loaned to the community.

The BRIDGE will get things rolling as a facilitator, but ultimately others will be manufacturing equipment. Entrepreneur operators could make money as a service provider, or may even opt to offer it free.

“It could be that the Netflix of the world and the Amazon of the world, other media could be sharing their revenues with the switch operators,” Anderson says.

The Clearwater-based Redstone Technologies holds the BRIDGE patents and intellectual property rights. It also will be issuing licenses to switch operators.

Howe says they’ve been reaching out to Tampa Bay Area business and civic leaders about being part of the initial group. Thus far, five communities nationwide are participating in the contest, including an unidentified one in Florida, in addition to two communities in California and two in Colorado. There also was interest from other states.

An inaugural event is planned in the Tampa Bay Area in the fall to demonstrate the technology; details have not yet been firmed up. The program will begin rolling out to the first 100 communities in early 2019.

To spur augmented reality applications in the initial communities, Connected Revolution will launch a Million Dollar Developers Contest. Fifty projects will be awarded $20,000 in prizes through a hackathon.

“Whatever we do we try to do in the form of a contest,” Anderson adds.

Tampa grads develop expedited student loan repayment app

A Fast Company article about the shifting definition of The American Dream, published in July, reminds us that student loan debt repayment, as a hurdle to every other major life goal, is omnipresent for many people.

How can young graduates entering the workforce, or post-graduates aiming to give their career a boost, expect to build wealth if they have an average of $37,000 in student loan debt?

Two Tampa natives with their own challenging student loan debt situations have developed an innovative tool to help their colleagues, friends, and fellow borrowers. Spared.com is an app with a simple but powerful function: For everyday purchases, it rounds the total up to the next whole dollar and applies the change to a user’s student loan principal.

Spared also allows family members and those connected with users to match their repayment contributions, for even faster debt elimination.

On average, Spared will make additional payments of $30 to $50 on loans each month, above and beyond any payment already being made by the borrower. In the end, this process reduces the interest owed and lowers total repayment costs.

It sounds straightforward enough, but the app also integrates with users’ checking accounts and numerous loan providers, in order to automatically round up and make payments with the change.

CEO Ryan Lockwood (Jesuit High School class of 2006) says he long ago lost count of the hours used to develop Spared. A graduate of the University of South Florida with a BA in Marketing, Lockwood completed his MBA in entrepreneurship studies at the University of Tampa in 2017. 

“We founded the company in late 2016, brought on our CTO Kenny McGarvey [of Houston TX] shortly thereafter, and were lucky enough to snag Kathryn [Reina, Academy of the Holy Names class of 2006, now living in Los Angeles] in May of last year. We’ve all put in 100s of hours. Plus, buckets of metaphorical sweat, a few actual tears, and small amounts of blood commuting to/from the office by bicycle.”

Once the app is beta tested, the team will do a hard launch.

“Down the road, we’d like to expand into other forms of debt (credit, auto, mortgage). We really want to drill down on student debt first, though. Much of the team working on Spared labors under its yoke, but, more importantly, our entire generation is struggling with this. 

"We’re all extremely motivated by the opportunity to alleviate that burden for so many of our friends and family.”

Two things the team is watching closely are H.R. 795 and risk-sharing proposals for higher education. 

H.R. 795, or the Employer Participation in Student Loan Assistance Act, would allow employers to make up to $5,250 in tax-free contributions toward employees’ student loans. The bill also proposes to make this benefit pre-tax. Currently, employer contributions to student loans are considered post-tax, so aren’t particularly advantageous for either party. 

If it passes, companies get a great employee attraction/retention tool, borrowers can get some much-needed assistance from their employers. And, it presents a good opportunity for Spared to be a part of that solution.

There are also several risk-sharing in higher education proposals in front of Congress. 

Their intent is put institutions of higher education partly on the hook for the success or failure of their students. Not only does this stand to increase the quality of education, but it also represents an opportunity for tools like Spared. 

Many of the proposals suggest using either the repayment rate or default rate as the measure of institutional performance in this matter. Spared can help institutions of higher education remain below these thresholds for “punishment.”

Visit the Spared website to sign up for beta testing ahead of its official release on iOS and Android platforms.

NASA awards seed grant to USF for wastewater research

NASA has awarded a one-year seed grant to the University of South Florida to research a sewage waste recycling system and energy/nutrient extraction system for potential use in space and on Mars explorations.

“Being able to grow food in places like Mars is really critical,” says Daniel Yeh, an associate professor in the College of Engineering, whose focus is environmental engineering. “NASA has made it a priority that they are going to have to develop technology to grow food on Mars.”

Yeh points out NASA already has proven technologies it is using at the International Space Station to recycle urine and sweat for drinking water.

“NASA already has within its portfolio many technologies for water treatment, including that for water recycling aboard the International Space Station (ISS), which has been running successfully for almost a decade,” he explains. “The NEWgenerator is being evaluated as a potential technology due to new desires and commitments by NASA and private companies for exploring deep space, including putting humans on Mars within the next 15-20 years.”

Starting this month, USF is working with the Kennedy Space Center to see if its NEWgenerator, which it’s been working on for the last decade, can be adapted for space. The amount of the grant wasn’t available.

“New technologies will be needed for new methods to grow food and the complete recycling of all wastes. This is why NASA is taking a look at our technology as a potential candidate,” he says. “This is a rigorous multi-year process with a lot of evaluations and tests along the way, to ensure that, whatever technologies are chosen, they will be high-performing, reliable and safe.”

While sewage treatment plants typically are large, and take up a lot of space, the new prototype must be compact. “Think of it as a very efficient sewage treatment plant in a small box,” he says.

The system uses a filtration membrane and microorganisms to break down the waste. The Earth’s elements are building blocks that are stored, used, pulled apart, and used again, similar to Lego parts stored in bins, he explains.

“Our first priority is to get rid of them [germs] so it will be completely sanitary,” he continues. “That’s something we can’t compromise on.”

They’ve done the groundwork in India and South Africa, where they’ve been treating toilet waste and testing it. “We’re getting really good,” he says.

For space use, the USF research will endeavor to make the system smaller, so it will serve four to six people.

“We need to make it appropriate for zero gravity applications,” he says.

An environmental engineering student starting his master’s studies, Talon Bullard, will be developing the prototype of a NEWgenerator for space as his thesis.

After the initial year, they hopefully can get another grant to further the research, he says. Eventually, it will need to be tested in space.

“You can only test it so far on Earth,” he says, explaining zero gravity “is difficult to mimic.”

A prototype also needs to be maintained in space. “You need to design the system so that undesirable failure will not happen,” he says.

That might involve changing parts during regular maintenance, before they actually break. “What’s exciting for us is learning about how they [NASA] handle risk and how they deal with failure, so we can actually engineer our system so that it’s incredibly reliable,” he adds.

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.

Young inventors represent Tampa Bay at national convention

Cambria Pryor, a gifted 9-year-old home-schooled student from St. Petersburg, invented “Reminder Switch,” a colorful device to encourage and remind people to turn off their lights. Katrina Halpern, a Tampa sixth-grader, created Zip It, an affordable backpack to deter thefts.

Pryor and Halpern were among eight Tampa Bay students who traveled to Dearborn, MI, to participate in the third annual National Invention Convention and Entrepreneurship Expo. The event by the STEMIE Coalition, a nonprofit promoting Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math instruction in kindergarten through 12th grade, was held at The Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation on June 1.

Tracy Zuluaga, STEMIE’s affiliate in Florida and executive director of the Valrico-based Bright Young Minds Coalition, called it a “landmark year” for the students, who exhibited “next to world innovators.”

“That’s never happened before,” she explains. “Many parents referred to it as a life-changing event.”

Pryor claimed first place among fourth-graders at the Florida Invention Convention in May, along with a ribbon for Best Research, earning her an invitation to the national competition. There was little time to prepare, but her grandmother Marianne Lazzara did some quick fundraising through her home business Dish-a-licious Kitchen, which sells desserts and Lazzara’s sauce and meatballs.

“I’m still making the food,” she reports after their return. “Some people just donated. They just wanted to contribute to a wonderful opportunity.”

Pryor came up with her project through the gifted program at Azalea Elementary, which she attends part-time as part of her curriculum. A school project on simple machines initially propelled her into the state competition.

She says she saw people forgetting to turn off the lights, so she came up with the idea. “It’s good for the electricity and for the Earth and it saves money,” she explains.

Along with attraction-getting colors, she’s added a pulley and wedge to help handicapped people in a wheelchair reach the light. She’s got three more ideas -- and says she thinks she’ll be inventing for her “whole life.”

What does she like about inventing? “That I get to make different things and make the world a better place,” she says.

Halpern, a student at Academy at the Lakes in Land O’ Lakes who placed third in her grade level at state, developed a backpack that is inherently secure, says her father, Peter Halpern. Instead of relying on locks, the design features no zippers in accessible areas, restricting access even to recess pockets.

She learned about the need for the backpack through her school’s sister school in Nepal, where theft of notebooks, pens, and paper from backpacks is a problem.

She’s been entrepreneurially minded since age 5, when she made lemonade, brownies, and cookies (with help) to sell to neighbors mowing their lawns, cleaning their cars, or working in their yards on Saturdays.

Here are the other students who attended the national convention.

• Nate Smith, a Land O’Lakes sixth-grader from Academy at the Lakes, invented a battery-operated cooling device for collapsible sports chairs that relies on a block of ice and fan. It’s called Air Chair.

• Chloe Kamat, a fifth-grader from Odessa, created a solution for falling and bunched-up bed blankets: Snuggle Sides. It relies on velcro to hold the blankets in place. Kamat also is a student at Academy at the Lakes.

• Sky Smatsky, a Tampa sixth-grader from Academy at the Lakes, invented Cool Canine to keep dogs comfortable while in bed. It turns on a fan automatically when the temperature gets hot, preventing overheating.

• Stella Curry, a Tampa eighth-grader from Academy at the Lakes, created a stuffed bear to help refugees called Bear of My Heart. It comes with pouches for food and water, plus a flashlight, and can trigger a solar-powered GPS tracker.

• Annalisa Ureña, a Tampa seventh-grader who attends Family Christ School in Tampa Palms, designed a band to help the visually and hearing impaired navigate streets by replacing visible direction with vibration.

• Luke Magnusson, a 5th-grader from Wesley Chapel, and the son of Academy at the Lakes teacher, Elizabeth Magnusson, invented Safe Nail. The device can hold any size nail in place while you hammer it in, so your fingers are safe.

The national convention furthers invention education, which stimulates STEM and entrepreneurial ideas. Bright Young Minds already is working with school districts in Hillsborough, Pinellas, and Pasco counties to further invention education -- and expects to expand to 10 other districts statewide in the fall. Among them are Sarasota, Manatee and Polk.

It also will be adding an entrepreneurial curriculum developed by a student, Emily Stein of Potomac, MD, which has become a year-long elective course. “We are releasing that curriculum in Florida,” Zuluaga says. “My goal is for kids to understand what their options are when they graduate high school.”

Innovation Fusion: Wix and Waze leaders to share journey at Tampa event

Innovation Fusion, the signature event for The Florida-Israel Business Accelerator (FIBA), is expected to draw 500 people to hear top tech executives and meet representatives of the accelerator’s latest eight-member cohort.

Danny Brigido, Director of Customer Solutions in Miami for the Tel Aviv-based Wix website development platform, will be talking about the challenge of hiring tech employees in Florida. Aron DiCastro, Waze Head of Global Partnerships and Business Development, will be sharing about Waze’s integration into Google and plans for growth.

Brigido, who developed Miami’s Wix office, will be speaking about how he hired more than 100 Floridians for the operation, which provides support to users of the platform. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Communications from the University of Tampa and a master’s degree in Animation from The Savannah College of Arts and Design.

A GPS navigation app, Waze was built by an Israeli startup acquired by Google for $1.3 billion in 2013. DiCastro, who has relocated from Tel Aviv to Google headquarters in Silicon Valley, has been heading global business development and partnerships at Waze for more than a year. In the past, he led the Google 'Startup Nation' Department involving international business.

The event presented by Valley National Bank culminates the introductory portion of the cohort program for companies interested in doing business in the U.S. market. “The purpose of Innovation Fusion is to bring together the Tampa Bay community around exciting innovation happening in our area,” says Rachel Marks Feinman, FIBA’s Executive Director. 

It attempts to build a bridge between the Israeli innovation ecosystem and what is happening in the Tampa Bay community, she says.

“The companies that we’re serving really have no connection or tie to Tampa Bay other than through FIBA,” she says.

The event, scheduled from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Wednesday, June 13, at Bryan Glazer Family JCC, 522 N. Howard Ave., Tampa, is expected to attract about 200 more people than the inaugural Innovation Fusion event last year. At that time a member of the 2017 cohort, Tomobox, announced it was opening its U.S. headquarters in Tampa.

Another cohort company, Stemrad, has also chosen to open a U.S. subsidiary in Tampa -- and hired former FIBA Executive Director Jack Ross.

More accomplishments are anticipated through FIBA. “We expect similar successes from our 2018 cohort. It’s a little early to make any announcements,” Feinman says.

Founded by the Tampa Jewish Community Centers and Federation, in late 2016, FIBA is working closely with community partners such as Synapse, a Tampa nonprofit working to better connect members of the area’s entrepreneurial ecosystem, and Tampa Bay Wave, a nonprofit accelerator for tech businesses.

It also recently worked with a University of Tampa public relations class to craft media plans for the organization.

“We’re all working together as a community to make sure that we have all the necessary tools in the toolkit, if you will, for our growing companies to be successful,” Feinman says.

She adds that Tampa Bay has a “well of talent” that may not necessarily be trained, or have experience in tech jobs.

“I think over the next several years we’ll see an influx of that talent grow here,” she says.

Here are the companies in the 2018 cohort:
• BetterCare, which aims to improve nursing home care by enhancing communication between caregivers, nurses and staff;
• ECOncrete, whose goal is to change the way our coastlines look and function through cost-efficient concrete solutions to rising sea levels and superstorms;
• Nucleon, the provider of an innovative cyber threat monitoring system to protect users from professional hackers, governments and other attackers;
• UC-Care, a developer and manufacturer of medical devices for urologists working with prostate cancer;
• GlobeKeeper, an encrypted communication platform designed to keep security personnel safe, saves money and improves decision-making;
• Intervyo, an advanced interview simulation engine able to screen job applicants and accurately gauge their suitability for the position;
• Say, which enables you to wear your display on clothes or accessories and control it with your smartphone; and
• WiseShelf, which offers dynamic inventory management to retailers through low-cost hardware and sophisticated software. It also helps businesses fill online orders.

To register, or get more information about the companies, visit the FIBA website.

USF to host Young Universities Summit in Tampa

In the world of education, a university that is less than 50-years-old is considered young. It may compete with older, more established universities with centuries of history and global reputations.

So young universities have been meeting annually in places like Barcelona, Spain, and Brisbane, Australia, to talk about common challenges. Organized by the U.K.-based Times Higher Education (THE), the Young Universities Summit has never been held in North America. Until now.

Nearly 200 presidents and other education leaders from across the globe are expected to converge on Tampa June 5-7 to attend the summit hosted by the University of South Florida.

“We were deeply honored to be asked to host,” says Ralph Wilcox, USF Provost and Executive Vice President. “We’re just immensely proud that THE recognized the great strides that the University of South Florida has made in partnership with the Tampa Bay community.

He notes USF cannot become a “world powerhouse in education” without the community, nor can the community achieve its goals without a powerful foundation in higher education.

The summit will be an opportunity for education leaders to learn from each other.
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“The University of South Florida found ways to overcome those [higher education] challenges, and they wanted to be sure other universities, young universities from across the United States and around the world, have the opportunity to visit Tampa and to visit the University of South Florida,” says Wilcox, who holds a doctorate in Global Studies from the University of Alberta, Canada.

Founded in 1956, USF falls into Times Higher Education’s category of Golden Age universities opened to meet the demand of service members returning from World War II. Nine of Florida’s 12 public universities fall into the Golden Age or young university categories being served by the summit.

Times Higher Education ranked USF seventh among public U.S. universities in the Golden Age category in April 2017.   

Whether the university is 50 or 70, they share common challenges largely associated with competing against institutions with reputations dating back as much as 900 years.

“One identifies those universities that have a brand that’s been established,” Wilcox says. “That doesn’t necessarily mean that they are better than. They are more recognized than the younger universities.”

Younger institutions tend to be more ambitious, dynamic and agile. Sometimes they possess a greater ability to be relevant in the areas of entrepreneurship and innovation, he says.

“There are advantages with being young, and those advantages tend to rest around our sense of agility and nimbleness to respond to change, to respond to the needs of the marketplace,” he says.

Younger universities tend to focus on research that has a high impact. “We’re looking to improve the well-being of the community we serve,” he explains.

At USF, much of the $550 million dedicated to research is focused on improving health, the environment or the needs of financial institutions, business and industry in the region and beyond.

“We tend to embrace innovation and entrepreneurship in ways that older universities tend not to -- and arguably have no need for,” he adds. “All too often they are quite comfortable.”

The summit features keynote speaker Andrew Hamilton, president of New York University and former vice-chancellor of the University of Oxford, who will talk about his experiences in higher education. Other dignitaries are coming to speak from Israel, Scotland, France, England and Finland.


Tech Bytes: PikMyKid ramps up school safety efforts

With recent school shootings and other tragedies elevating concerns about the safety of students in schools, a Tampa company – through its use of technology -- is positioned to help make a difference.

Founded in 2015 after a mistake in a school pickup line resulted in retrieving the wrong child, PikMyKid is gaining attention as a problem solver. Its founders are headed for San Francisco to participate as a finalist in an international software-and-information-industry competition June 13.

We’ve always been seen as a startup so far,” says Chitra Kanagaraj, Co-Founder and Chief Operations Officer. “This is the award that is beyond startup.”

The company was named a finalist in the 2018 SIIA CODiE Award contest, Best Emerging Education Technology Solution for Administrators category, after virtual presentations. It was one of 152 finalists in 39 education technology categories.

 

PikMyKid, which now operates in public and private schools in 27 states, began rolling out a school-safety training program in Florida this month. That follows the release of its panic-button alert system being offered free while schools test the program and plan next year’s budget. The company's goal is to get initial responders to schools faster when there are intruders.

“We are giving schools one product that they can just focus on if there is a safety issue,” Kanagaraj says.

The company got off the ground with help from the Tampa Bay Technology Incubator at USF Connect and the Startup Scholars at the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce. Now part of the Tampa Bay WAVE program, it also works with the TEC Garage in downtown St. Petersburg.

The mixup that inspired the company occurred when her husband, Pat Bhava, now Co-Founder and CEO of PikMyKid, went to pick up their fifth-grader and ended up with another girl in the backseat. The error was swiftly corrected, but it did trigger concern.

“It was really something we could change, rather than blaming the school or blaming ourselves,” she says.

When teachers are standing in the sun after a full day of class, facing a line of cars, things may not always go as planned. “It’s not their intent to mess up, but it does happen,” she says.

The app, licensed for use by the school or school district, is downloaded free by parents. It facilitates the pickup process by consolidating pickup changes and authorizations, improving safety and saving staff time.


Through a dashboard, parents have real-time communication with the school and are alerted as soon as the child leaves campus. “If there is anything wrong, the parents are able to fix the issue immediately,” she says.

PikMyKid, located at 5115 Memorial Highway, currently employs 10 and some part-time consultants. But it expects to add another four employees during its peak time in July and August, as schools gear up for the 2018-19 year. They are hoping to keep these full-time.


Company officials are looking for people with teaching backgrounds to work in customer service. “We think we’re competitive with what they’re getting from the public school system,” she says.

Read on for more news about Tampa Bay’s tech scene.

•  Monikl, which works similar to a dating service for jobseekers, has received a $25,000 Bizpark Grant from Microsoft and a Google Cloud for Startups Grant of $20,000, says spokesman Zachary Wright. The 1-year-old company now has some 25,000 active job candidates in its system. The company uses an algorithm to assess experience, skills, workplace preferences and personality.

Join Working Women of Tampa Bay and Tampa Bay WAVE for a morning of networking Wednesday, May 23. The event runs from 8 a.m. to 9 a.m. at the Entrepreneur Collaborative Center, 2101 E. Palm Ave., Tampa. It’s followed by 1 Million Cups of Coffee, which is featuring two women-owned businesses as presenters.

• Homebrew Hillsborough, a networking group for techies and entrepreneurs in Hillsborough County, will be meeting at 8:30 a.m. Friday, May 25, at SecureSet Tampa Campus, 1403 E 9th Ave., Tampa. The group will be touring SecureSet, which offers comprehensive training for those interested in careers in cybersecurity. Sign up online.

• The Clearwater-based Digital Media Solutions, a digital marketing company, has acquired Avenue100 Media Solutions, LLC, a specialist in performance-based marketing and analytics in education. Avenue100 Media Solutions will join DMS’s education division, but operate as a separate subsidiary based in Massachusetts. DMS, which provides end-to-end customer acquisition solutions, has been recognized as one of America’s “Best Places to Work” in 2017 by Inc. magazine.

• TeamWerx, a platform designed to find innovative solutions to warfighter problems, has announced two challenges with cash prizes totaling $25,000. The submission deadline is Thursday, May 31, for help expanding the TeamWerx ecosystem, with a $2,000 prize. The deadline is Saturday, June 30, to enter a contest to figure out how to retrieve data from mobile locations using a mobile device but without revealing the locations of sensors. That prize is $23,000. Learn more.

Florida Polytechnic University graduated its first class of 220 May 4 in Lakeland. The group included most of the students who enrolled when the university opened in fall 2014. Dedicated to science, technology, engineering and math, Florida Polytechnic is located on Interstate 4’s high-tech corridor between Tampa and Orlando.

The university’s robotics team, Purple Fire, earned the Judges Award recently at the VEX Robotics World Championship. The team of eight students won half of its matches and ranked 22nd internationally out of 45 teams.

And Florida Poly is attracting attention in Mexico for its bookless, digital library. The university’s Vice Provost of Academic Support Services, Dr. Kathryn Miller, was a guest speaker at the first International Colloquium on Library Architecture and Environments, hosted by the National Autonomous University of Mexico earlier this month.


Opioid Update: Sarasota firm working on Smart pill dispenser

A Sarasota design firm is working to curb opioid addiction -- and save lives -- with a Smart container that dispenses pills at pre-configured time intervals.

Called PILL, the product in development by ROBRADY design is packaged similar to a Z-Pak of antibiotics. “It just happens to be Smart,” explains Rob Brady, CEO and Design Director.

The design has developed over the last six years, ever since physician assistant Afton Heitzenrater observed opioid prescriptions were being filled too quickly. Her husband Jeff and Jeff’s uncle, Joseph Bujalski, were on board to help develop a solution. Bujalski came up with the idea of controlling the timing between doses, obtained the first patent, and brought the idea to ROBRADY.

During the last 18 months, ROBRADY has invested “hundreds of thousands of dollars” to develop the concept into what it is today, Brady says. It has a broader patent pending and, through consultant and team member Rob Hartwell, is reaching out to governmental leaders and potential industry partners.

With recycled parts and a projected cost of $2 per unit, the PILL is seen as a low-cost means of controlling opioid prescriptions and discouraging unauthorized use. The prescribed pills are locked into the device until pre-set times, after which the user can remove them from the foil blister pack. The dispenser and unused pills are returned to the pharmacist, keeping them out of the hands of the black market, those who would abuse them and potentially become addicted, and community water supplies. If it's been tampered with, it's noted through the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program, along with pharmacists' comments.

The white computer chip and battery that power the device can be removed, checked, scrubbed of data and re-used. Pharmacists can retrieve usage data which can help future studies about how opioids are being used.

“In talking with physicians about this idea, they really like it,” Brady says.

Clinical trials could begin in six to nine months, but it’s uncertain when it might be commercially available to physicians and their patients. “Obviously, we wanted this thing available yesterday,” he adds. “We’re looking for a couple million more to take it across the finish line.”

Opioid addiction and overdoses have reached epidemic proportions in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, emergency department visits for suspected opioid overdoses rose 30 percent from July 2016 through September 2017, based on data from 52 jurisdictions in 45 states.

ROBRADY received positive feedback when it took a team to Washington, D.C. in April to promote PILL, and fight the epidemic claiming more than 120 lives every day. The group met with representatives of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the Food and Drug Administration, the Drug Enforcement Agency and the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, along with U.S. Senators Marco Rubio, R-FL, and Lamar Alexander, R-TN.

The Opioid Crisis Response Act of 2018, which has passed unanimously out of committee, calls for package design to help prevent abuse and overdose.

“We think we have a real shot of getting this to market,” Brady says. “We’re lacking a few more partners.”

While the initial user is an individual prescribed opioids for pain, Brady doesn’t discount it may potentially have other roles. “I would love to see this thing help people that are already addicted,” he says.

But the device isn’t tamper proof, just tamper evident, which means it flags problems early. “If you smash it, if you break it, if you ‘lose it,’ you don’t get more,” he says. “Our position is we’d like to find that information out in the first 15 pills -- and not with the first overdose.”

So their initial focus is on those who potentially may become addicted. "We greatly reduce the people that we’re treating [for opioid addiction and overdoses,]” he says.

Keeping focused can help them do the job right. “We know that opioids are a huge problem,” he says. “We’ve got all kinds of things to tackle.”

Florida StartupBus team runner-up in national contest

For the second year in a row, Florida’s StartupBus has claimed a top prize in the national competition that enables teams of potential strangers to start businesses in about three and a half days.

This year dadSAK, a team which created a versatile backpack enabling dads to tote infants, baby gear and other stuff, was runner-up in the New Orleans competition.

“It was really an amazing experience,” says Robert Blacklidge, Conductor. “We grew those individuals extensively in three days. They went out into the world. This is what’s really amazing about it.”

The Florida StartupBus rolled out of Tampa Friday, April 27, bound for New Orleans, where teams from eight different buses presented their businesses conceived and developed on the journey. Three teams were created on the bus that headed north from Tampa into Georgia, where riders stayed two nights in Helen while enjoying side trips to Nashville and Atlanta. Riders also stayed overnight in Biloxi.

The StartupBus was in New Orleans at the same time as the big Collision tech conference, where riders were able to share what they’d just learned with others.

DadSAK, a patent pending baby carrier/diaper bag/backpack, was the brainchild of Lance Robinson. Other members of the team, with representatives of Tampa Bay, Atlanta, and Charlotte N.C., included Walter Mathews, Jeremy Losaw, Vanel Marc, and Geovanni Suplee.

The team put together a protype and website in the allotted time, advertising the dadSAK as a solution by dads, for dads from SAK LABS. It can be used separately as a infant carrier or backpack, or combined into a single unit. The website indicates dadSAK is taking pre-orders, with shipments starting in November.

Other teams were Buddy Bunker, designed to help people find a suitable golfing partner, and PolitiTrust, a functioning chatbot to help people find politicians that share their values.

Buddy Bunker team members were Edward Sanchez, Kyle Sasser, Kim Mohr, and Tatyanna Cobb. On the PolitiTrust team were Richard Kim, Rosmarie Morales, Adam Cummings and Jahtia Haynes.

Mentors on the bus were Brent Henderson, Chris Mcelveen and Prateek Gupta.

After the demanding schedule of the trip, Blacklidge advises teams to take a break rather than forging ahead immediately with business plans. “My methodology is to tell them to take a month out,” Blacklidge says.

The StartupBus began nine years ago after the first participants decided to challenge themselves to create a company as they traveled across the country to a conference.

Last year two Florida teams made it to the finals, with DropIn Pedals claiming second place for an adapter that converts clipless bike pedals into flat pedals that can be used with casual shoes. That team from Dunedin included Morgan Thacker and Tyler Baumgardner.

Now Blacklidge, whose team Course Align made it to the finals in 2017, is planning to independently expand upon the StartupBus concept. He’s making plans to offer a similar entrepreneurial experience aboard a cruise ship, and may partner with an airline on an entrepreneurial program as well.

“It teaches people what they’re capable of,” he says of the StartupBus concept.

Blacklidge is not a newcomer to hackathons. He already has experience organizing events like 2017’s BizSprint, designed to help veterans develop their businesses.

“I’ve always known the power of hackathons,” he says. “What I want to do is really take it to a larger scale and grow it across the world.”


New service arms parents in battle against cyberbullying

Bullying is bad, but at least children can escape it when they are safe at home. With cyberbullying, not so much.

“Bullying no longer ends when the child goes home from school. It follows them home because it’s social media,” explains Allison Mook, Vice President of Client Services for a new Tampa-based service, BulliPatrol.

The company is trying to address the cyberbullying problem by raising parental awareness of their children's online activity. Its goal is to reach the most vulnerable with the message that they are not alone and can get help.

“Bullying now is different,” asserts Andrew Grubbs, Founder and President, a programmer who came up with the idea. “It’s always a threat. That’s where we need to accept that the genie is out of the bottle. Social media is here to stay. Kids are going to use it.”

The service works by analyzing phrases in online messages. “Once the child starts receiving messages that are negative, the parent receives an alert,” explains Mook, who is handling marketing.

The service, which costs $5.99 a month, has launched in Tampa Bay, with plans to expand nationally. It already is generating a fair amount of interest in the TV media locally and in North Carolina and Indiana.

It’s hard to say exactly what BulliPatrol’s staffing needs will be just yet. But Grubbs expects hires to be in Tampa Bay.

“We aren't hiring currently, but have identified our personnel needs and will be able to fill them as we gain momentum,” Mook adds.

In the meantime, they are reaching out to moms, mom and dad blogs and websites, schools, libraries and churches, even the Crisis Center of Tampa Bay. “We feel like this is something we can actually make an impact with on a national level,” she says.

What’s next? “We’re always looking at how do we help the kids escape from the problem they’re experiencing,” Grubbs says.

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.”


Tech Bytes: TiE recognizes area business leaders

At its annual TiECON Florida, the nonprofit TiE Tampa Bay did what it does best: It connected businesses and investors to help them achieve success. The result was raising awareness about some of the region’s successful companies.

Three “Present Your Startup” competitors, culled from 42 submissions, were recognized. Five other companies were chosen for special awards.

“There are much larger competitions in terms of prize money. What is far more important is the visibility that these entrepreneurs get on a national and global stage,” says Kannan Sreedhar, TiECON Florida’s program chair. “That is one of the unique things that we do as TiE.

The event on March 31 drew nearly 250 to the Sam and Martha Gibbons Alumni Center at the University of South Florida, where they heard presentations from Arnie Bellini, Co-Founder and CEO of the Tampa-based IT firm Connectwise; Steve Raymund, Founder and Former Chairman/CEO of Clearwater’s Tech Data; and others.

“Present Your Startup” winners were Prefer Hired, a Tampa-based company for online recruitment, first place, $1500; Simpleshowing, a real estate brokerage firm operating in Tampa, second place, $750; and Russellville, TN-based Shockwave Motors, the designer of a three-passenger electric roadster that recharges in eight hours from a standard wall outlet, third place, which did not come with a cash prize.

“All three winners have the opportunity to present to the local TiE angel community," he says. “Top winners will also have the opportunity to present at TiE Global.”

Other winners, who received crystal globes, included Tony DiBenedetto, Co-Founder of Tampa's Tribridge, who claimed the Super Entrepeneur Award for having a significant positive economic impact on Florida through job creation and for leading a profitable enterprise with at least $25 million in annual revenues.

The Social Entrepreneurship Award went to MacDonald Training Centers for its positive social impact, while the Angel Investor Award was awarded to Dr. Vijay Patel for investing in Tampa-based startups in 2017. Paul R. Sanberg, Senior VP for Research, Innovation and Knowledge Enterprise at USF, was given the Community Champion Award for backing the community in 2017. The Startup of the Year Award went to Pik-My-Kid, which provides a tool to make school dismissals safer and more efficient. It made a profit within one year.

Nominations came from the greater Tampa Bay Area.

TiE was founded in Silicon Valley in 1992 by successful people with roots in the Indus Region. It has grown into a global organization with 11,000 members and 60 chapters in 17 countries. The Tampa Bay chapter, started in 2012, is now setting its sights on hosting a global conference in the future.

A charter member of TiE Tampa Bay, Liberty Group Hotels Executive Chairman Raxit Shah will be featured in TiE's Entrepreneurship Series later this month. He will share his journey and provide information about the establishment of Liberty Group, with current investments of more than $450 million in 55 hotels. The event, free to TiE members, is slated at 7 p.m. Thursday, May 24, at USF Connect, Oakview Room, 3802 Spectrum Blvd., Tampa. Registration is scheduled at 6:30 p.m.; dinner is at 8 p.m. after the presentation. Non-members and guests pay $10. Learn more by visiting the Events page and searching for the TiE Tampa Bay chapter.

Read on for more Tampa Bay Area tech news.

• If you need help defining your target business market, check out the free “Tools to Find Your Target Market” class at Entrepreneur Collaborative Center, 2101 E. Palm Ave., Tampa. The event is scheduled from 10:30 a.m. until noon Wednesday, May 2. The class by the Hillsborough County Public Library Cooperative will include information about free electronic resources you can use to conduct demographic research and define your target market. The event is free. No registration is required.

The event follows 1 Million Cups of Coffee, a regular weekly program to educate, engage and connect business owners.  That free event runs from 8 a.m. until 10 a.m. Wednesday, May 2, at the ECC. You can just show up.

• CEO and Co-Founder of Next Machine. Phillipa Greenberg, will be speaking on “How to Lead with Grit and Grace” from noon to 1:30 p.m. Thursday, May 3, at USF CONNECT, Oak View Room, 3802 Spectrum Blvd., Tampa. Hosted by the USF Student Innovation Incubator, the event is free for Tampa Bay Technology and Student Innovation Incubator companies. Others pay $10 at the door. Lunch is  included. Register online.

Also at USF Connect, The CEO Forum: Tampa Bay featuring DiBenedetto is slated from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday, May 8, at Oak View Room. The event is co-sponsored by GrowFL. General admission is $15. Register online.

• Have you been wondering how business analytics can help you make strategic decisions? Then the Florida Business Analytics Forum is for you. Designed for mid- and senior-level executives across various industries, the free event offers a program with important insights on topics like machine learning, artificial intelligence, blockchain, algorithmic fairness, health-care analytics and various ways to interpret big data. The event is scheduled Tuesday, May 15, at USF’s Marshall Student Center Ballroom in Tampa. Check-in starts at 11 a.m. The forum is presented by Suntrust Foundation, the USF Muma College of Business, and the Center for Analytics and Creativity. Register here.

• The countdown is on for poweredUP, the Tampa Bay Tech Festival, on Wednesday, May 23, at Mahaffey Theater, 400 1st St. S., St. Petersburg. Doors open at 12:30 a.m. for the 1 p.m. event highlighting people and projects in Tampa Bay’s tech ecosystem. “Last year we had 650 registrations and more than 500 attend. This year we anticipate doubling last year’s numbers,” says Daniel James Scott, Co-Executive Director of Tampa Bay Tech.

On the calendar this year is a panel of CIOs talking about the future of technology and our workforce: Sigal Zarmi, PwC; Andrew Wilson, Accenture; John Tonnison, Tech Data; and Kim Anstett, Nielsen. Also featured is CEO2CEO, with David Romine, CEO of AgileThought; and Tom Wallace, CEO of Florida Funders; and Otto Berkes, Co-founder of Xbox, developer of HBO Go and CTO of CA Technologies. Tech tracks are planned on cybersecurity, data science and innovation.

Tickets are free for members, which includes employees of member companies. Non-members pay $100. Learn more.

• Six Florida Polytechnic University students have been interning at the Winter Haven Economic Development Council this semester with the goal of helping Winter Haven become a smart community. The plan is to build on the city’s fiber optic network and expand residential and business markets. Students have been interviewing residents, businesses and government leaders to determine how different sectors can benefit from being a smart city, a move that uses technology to prepare for the future.

• Mark your calendars for Ignite Tampa Bay, where some of the area’s most talented people share their stories. Ignite 2018 is slated Wednesday, June 13, at Palladium Theater, 253 5th Ave. N., St. Petersburg. The evening features five-minute presentations intended to teach, enlighten, or inspire. Topics vary. The event by the Tampa-based nonprofit Technova Florida, Inc., which is dedicated to creating tech and maker communities empowering positive change, came to Tampa Bay in 2011. Learn more.

• President/CEO Linda Olson of Tampa Bay Wave, a Tampa-based nonprofit growing tech-based companies in the region, has been named to Rays 100. The group is advocating for the Rays’ move from St. Petersburg to Ybor City and increasing business support for it. The Wave also has announced support for Tampa Bay Rays 2020, the nonprofit securing community support for the move. The Rays announced they were all in for a new Tampa stadium in February.


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.

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