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Tampa Startups Shine At Jacksonville Crowd-Funding Festival

The second annual One Spark crowd funding festival in downtown Jacksonville, FL, drew a mass of more than 260,000 attendees April 9-13, 2014. Over 600 creators pitched products and projects to the crowds during the five-day event.
 
“It’s kind of like a Bonnaroo for entrepreneurs,” says Tampa Bay WaVe marketing manager Gracie Stemmer.
 
Tampa Bay area startups that pitched at One Spark include Drawer; Marbel; MamaBear App; PledgeYourBets; WeVue and Wazinit?; all are housed in the First WaVe Venture Center
 
Startup Weekend Tampa Bay 2013 winner Wazinit, an app for scanning food labels and comparing ingredients, took the second place finish as a Top Tech creator at One Spark. The beta-stage startup received a check for $980.79.
 
Local clothier Black & Denim was also selected from more than 20,000 applicants to present at One Spark. The clothing company received over $7,000 in funds directly through contributions from attendees, says founder Roberto Torres. 
 
“Something remarkable is happening in our state,” says Torres, “and we got to represent Tampa and show them what we are all about!”
 
The Florida NEXT Foundation partnered with Tampa Bay WaVE to sponsor and curate a venue on the sixth floor of the Sun Trust building in Jacksonville during One Spark.
  
The space hosted 40 creators from Tampa and Jacksonville, making it the largest venue at the festival. Public attendees visited venues to see creator pitches, enticed by DJs, food, free beer, games, and other events to drive traffic to the creators.
 
Pitches and projects ranged from apps to stores to art galleries to summer learning camps. By using the One Spark mobile application, attendees voted for the startups that they liked best. Based on the popular vote, $310,000 in crowd funding and cash awards was divvied up amongst winners in the juried categories of Art, Innovation, Science, Technology and Music. 
 
One Spark itself began as a project on crowdsourcing platform Kickstarter in 2013
 
“WaVe has a great relationship with OneSpark,” says Stemmer. “We’re really trying to facilitate entrepreneurship in all of Florida.”
 
Sources: Gracie Stemmer, Tampa Bay WaVe marketing manager; Roberto Torres, Black & Denim founder

Startup Grind Tampa Bay Hosts Citizinvestor, StatWeather Founders For ‘Fireside Chats’

Local networking group Startup Grind Tampa Bay will host Citizinvestor founders Tony DeSisto and Jordan Raynor as featured speakers on Thursday, April 17, at a monthly meetup for area entrepreneurs.
 
Tampa-based startup company Citizinvestor is modeled on the principle of ‘crowdfunding for the people.’
 
“A lot of what they’ll talk about, I think, is quitting their full time jobs, jumping in with two feet to risk everything on it,” says Startup Grind Tampa chapter director Joy Randels. “They’ve completely bootstrapped their company from the beginning, have found office space with little more than ‘friends and family money’ and are growing with real revenue. I think that’s a pretty inspiring story.”
 
Citizinvestor has established itself in the crowdfunding arena as a distinctive player by partnering exclusively with government officials or partners. The startup has over 150 government accounts registered to date.
 
“I love the fact that they’re giving citizens the ability to make decisions about how they want to see money used,” says Randels. “Whether it’s a public event, or building a park in your neighborhood, it’s a way for the government and the citizens to work together to get projects and programs funded that citizens of that community feel are valuable.” 
 
Startup Grind aims to make events diverse to appeal to a wide range of attendees, offering smaller group meetings to interested entrepreneurs and aspiring entrepreneurs alike. Visit the Startup Grind Tampa Bay website or Youtube channel to learn more.
 
At the following month’s meeting on May 15, Scientist, Mathematician and Entrepreneur Ria Persad Carlo will speak at Startup Grind Tampa Bay as part of the Google for Entrepreneurs “#40forward” initiative. Every Startup Grind chapter around the world will feature a female entrepreneur in the month of May, says Randels.
 
Persad is the founder of StatWeather, a company that has created an enterprise software application which allows them to determine predictable weather streams. StatWeather then sells weather predictability to risk management companies.  
 
“She’s had an amazing, inspiring life,” Randels says of Persad, who studied mathematics and physics and was also a child piano prodigy.
 
The next meeting of Startup Grind Tampa Bay will take place at 6:30 p.m. on April 17, 2014 at the Oxford Exchange Commerce Club. Tickets are $20 at the door.
 
Source: Joy Randels, Startup Grind Tampa Bay

'This Is Big': TEDxTampaBay Gears Up For Fifth Year

Do you enjoy learning about big ideas? Are you interested in hearing about the human brain from a neurobiologist's perspective? How about an award-winning journalist's thoughts on media and psychology?

These, and other innovative ideas, will be at the forefront of the fifth annual TEDxTampaBay conference.

The theme for 2014 is "This is big,'' and TEDxTampaBay plans to deliver.

"We want to explore an expansive topic, and chose an eclectic mix of presenters that will explore a truly 'big' idea-- our brain, our minds and our selves,'' explains founder Gina Clifford. "The energy that builds during TEDx events is incredible, and we hope to inspire that level of engagement again this year.''

The half-day event in May will showcase speeches and presentations from several Tampa Bay area innovators and thought leaders. TEDxTampaBay 2014 presenters include:

·      USF Health neurobiologist Dr. Edwin Weeber: "What we know about the human brain.''

·      President Emeritus of The Poynter Institute Karen B. Dunlap: "Is media shaping our psychological development?''

·      Root Learning CEO Jim Haudan: "Why does authenticity matter?''

·      Latin-inspired Jazz Musicians La Lucha: "Eclectic musicians challenge our thinking about music.''

TEDxTampaBay is based on the popular international TED conference model -- community talks where presenters discuss "ideas worth spreading'' for inspired audiences. Subsequently formed independent TEDx events have evolved in cities worldwide.

TED and TEDx are often marginalized as tech-centric events, but Clifford says the experience is much more diverse. She notes that TED, a nonprofit organization that first appeared on the scene in 1984, stands for Technology, Entertainment and Design (TED) talks.

"Over the years, we've hosted poets, scientists, social activists, journalists, artists, musicians and entrepreneurs,'' Clifford explains. "Furthermore, TEDx presenters strive to connect with our humanity -- so, you could say that TEDx presenters are part performer and part presenter.''

Clifford founded TEDxTampaBay in 2009 "to inspire, energize and build a critical mass of people who enjoy sharing truly big ideas.''

TEDxTampaBay is completely run by a volunteer crew and made possible through ticket sales and sponsors like IBM, ThinkTank, Industrial Strength, Studio@620, ClearpH and Creative Loafing.

"Because TEDxTampaBay is not a money-making endeavor, we couldn't produce an event of this magnitude without generous sponsorship support,'' Clifford says.

500 attendees are expected at TEDxTampaBay 2014, which takes place on Thursday, May 15, from noon to 4 p.m. at the Tampa Convention Center. General admission tickets to TEDxTampaBay 2014 are now available for $30.00, including lunch; or $75 for lunch, premium seating and a TEDxTampaBay T-shirt.
 
Writer: Justine Benstead
Source, Gina Clifford, TEDxTampaBay founder

Pecha Kucha Tampa Bay V14 Focuses On Community Spirit

Attendees at the 14th installment of Pecha Kucha Tampa Bay will meet new people and discover new things and happenings in the Tampa Bay region.  

Pronounced "pech chak cha," the event on April 11 is a place for the community to network, share stories and open their minds. Speakers will share 20 slides that run 20 seconds each in an effort to keep their talks precise and keep the audience engaged.

The events typically don't have a pre-determined theme, but rather seem to evolve based on the speaker lineup. V14 carries the theme of cool and interesting things groups are working on in the city. You’ll hear about a bike sharing program called Coastbike, as well as Tampa Hackerspace, a community space in downtown Tampa where members share equipment and projects.

City of Tampa Councilwoman Lisa Montelione will talk about the importance of open lines of communication both inside and outside of local government.  Montelione attended one of the first Pecha Kucha Tampa Bay events and was blown away by the atmosphere and the topics. "There’s something for everybody," says Montelione."Often times there’s something being presented that you've never heard of before."

Other speakers include:
    •    Angelo Nales - Tattoo Artist
    •    Bill Shaw - Tampa Hackerspace
    •    Brandon Murphy - Ad guy
    •    Eric Trull - Coastbike
    •    Noel Smith - GraphicStudio
    •    Noelle Mason - Skydiver
    •    Steven Fage - Robotics

The event takes place at the Tampa Museum of Art. Admission is $5 and includes access to the Museum’s exhibits. This is the second event at the Museum, and plans are to continue to host future events there.  

"Besides being a phenomenal space, there’s a good synergy between the Museum, which presents national works, and what individuals are doing on a local level," says Ken Cowart, Pecha Kucha Tampa Bay founder and organizer.

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Ken Cowart, Pecha Kucha; Lisa Montelione, City of Tampa Council

Find Your Next Startup Investment Through This New Website

Florida Funders, LLC, a conduit for connecting investors with startups seeking funding, launches in Tampa Bay.

The latest innovation out of Tampa Bay's growing tech scene was inspired by personal experience. Florida Funders co-founders David and Kathleen Chitester, who have started and sold two companies together, know the difficulty of getting funding for a startup firsthand.

After doing some research for their next venture, Tampa -- their own backyard -- caught the couple's eyes.

"We noticed that the Tampa Bay community was starting to embrace entrepreneurs with accelerators and incubators, but financing was not following along,'' David Chitester explains. "We saw a huge gap between 'family and friends financing' and venture capital.''

Florida Funders was created to fill that gap.

The company's main mission: to keep entrepreneurs from leaving the state to find capital.
 
"We are losing too many young, promising entrepreneurs to places like Silicon Valley and Austin,'' Chitester says. "If we can fund some of these firms, they can grow here, and the local community will benefit.''
 
The initial Florida Funders launch rolled out in late March with two established Tampa area startup companies open for financing: SavvyCard and Carvoyant. A third local venture, Alorum, is in "preview'' mode.

Carvoyant was previously accepted into the Gazelle Lab accelerator program at USFSP, while SavvyCard was among the first group of startups accepted into the FirstWaVE Accelerator Program in spring 2013 in Tampa.
 
So how does Florida Funders work?

The company curates early stage ventures and startups seeking investment and lists them online for SEC-accredited investors to review. This part is free. If there is a match, Florida Funders then creates a single purpose fund, or LLC, for the startup company, to be distributed for investment by a third party agent. This LLC is now the "investor'' in the company, and the individual investors/funders are members of the LLC. Investment increments begin at $1,000.

Companies like California-based AngelList and FundersClub have employed this business model, known as online venture capital, successfully.

Florida Funders is self-funded by Chitester and a few angel investors, including partners Randy Greene and Lance Raab. The company operates under a business model of carried interest, based on the success of the investments Florida Funders make in the startup companies it accepts.
 
Florida Funders plans to list 20 to 30 companies in its first year, funding 12-20 of them.

"That said,'' he notes, "we also have to make money ourselves. We have to not only find and fund companies, but they have to be successful for us to get paid.''

Chitester acknowledges that early stage ventures are "always a high risk for investors.''

Florida Funders is less risky, he says, because backers can put smaller investments toward multiple companies. Investors can take advantage of backing several startup companies for the same "$50,000 minimum some venture capital companies require,'' Chitester suggests, "which actually reduces their risk versus one $50,000 investment. If some of those companies are successful, they have a better chance of overall profit.''
 
David Chitester holds a degree in Civil Engineering from the University of Pittsburgh and an MBA from Northern Michigan University. A serial entrepreneur, he has created and subsequently sold several companies including Red Vector, Spanish language social network Questamente, and Pay Per Visit Email, an email service provider. His latest venture, Florida Funders, intends to provide seed money to Florida startups, enticing them to set up shop, create jobs, and pay taxes in state.

Kathleen Chitester attended Rutgers College in New Brunswick and Rutgers College of Arts and Sciences in Camden, NJ. She has more than 30 years of experience in marketing and over 15 years of experience starting companies, including cofounding Red Vector, Pay Per Visit Email, and Latin social network Questamente with her husband. She also cofounded Vetrack, an online continuing education portal for veterinarians, and previously managed Chitester Management Systems, a professional consultancy firm that David Chitester began in 1995 and the couple sold in 2008.

Write: Justine Benstead
Source: David Chitester, Florida Funders

Startup Aims To Improve Your Shopping Experience With One Simple App

Almost every product you purchase in day-to-day life has one thing in common: a paper receipt.

For flexReceipts, that's a problem. What's their solution? Going paperless.

Backed by an investment from TiE Tampa's Angel Network in late March 2014, the startup company is poised to enter the national market with a tech-savvy answer to traditional paper receipts.

Customizable digital receipts tie in modern tech trends such as recommendations from retailers, social media, tailored special offers and more. flexReceipts intends to simultaneously solve a pain point for consumers and provide an enhanced marketing platform for businesses.

"flexReceipts has great growth potential,'' says TiE Tampa Charter Member Ashok Kartham. "I think it can be a success story that the area needs, to showcase tech startups from the Florida region.''

Tomas Diaz, flexReceipts founder and CEO, was a sales executive at Whirlpool for more than a decade before developing the startup company in 2011. Diaz and other management team members "bring deep retail experience'' to the startup, says Kartham.

flexReceipts has received several previous rounds of funding, including an investment by The Florida Technology Seed Capital Fund, LLC (FTSCF), a subsidiary of the Institute for Commercialization of Public Research, in March 2014, and an investment from Winter Park venture fund and business accelerator venVelo in August 2012. The company is also active on AngelList.

Four investors from the TiE Tampa Angel Network -- Kartham, Prashanth Rajendran, Seema Jain and Dr. Rajan Naik -- invested in the Orlando-based startup. The company, which has already partnered with some major retailers, plans to bring new technology jobs to Florida over the next few years.

TiE Tampa's goal is to expand angel investors beyond charter members and commit $1 million in angel capital in 2014. To this end, Rajendran is assembling a structured, experienced team and due diligence processes as part of an Angel Forum initiative to help lower the risk associated with angel investment and enable more syndicated deals, Kartham says.

"TiE is uniquely positioned to make a difference to the growing startup ecosystem in the Tampa Bay area and Florida,'' Kartham says. "We hope to invest in innovative startups in Tampa in coming months.''

This is the second angel investment out of TiE Tampa. The first was awarded to mobile conference app Feathr, which "has made significant progress and grown revenues since receiving TiE angel funding more than a year ago,'' Kartham says.

Writer: Justine Benstead
Source: Ashok Kartham, TiE Tampa

'Shark Tank' Entrepreneur To Headline Book Launch At CoCreativ in South Tampa

You many know him from "As Seen On TV'' or ABC's "Shark Tank.'' On April 8, Kevin Harrington will be just one of the Florida entrepreneurs to launch a new book at CoCreativ in South Tampa.

CoCreativ CEO Joseph Warren invites "entrepreneurs, small business owners, freelancers, and business professionals who could benefit from hearing the stories, struggles and triumphs of local business authors'' to attend the free evening event.

Hosted at the startup's co-working space on Henderson Boulevard in South Tampa, the book launch is expected to draw prominent local entrepreneurs.

Clearwater resident Harrington and co-author Anthony Amos will promote their new book, "How to Catch A Shark.'' Along with Harrington and Tampa-based entrepreneur Amos, local authors who will launch books at the event include:

·      Pierce Brunson, entrepreneur and owner of Firefly Event Photography: "Learning Curve"
·      Artist and Answered Prayers Cross founder Elizabeth Bunbury: "On the Road"
·      James Chittenden, founder of Triumph Business Communications: "The Public Triumph: Public Relations for the Strong, and Those Who Want to Be"
·      Degrees of Success President Gen Dobson: "Failing Successfully: Life After Debt"
·      Meredith Rodgers, president and owner of Mere's One More Time, Inc.: "What You Don't Know... Just Might Hurt You"
·      CoCreativ CEO Joseph Warren: "What’s In It For Me?"

The book launch and cocktail party will take place from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Tuesday, April 8, at CoCreativ, 3902 Henderson Blvd, Ste 208. Meet and greet the authors, get your favorite book signed, and enjoy complimentary wine and music from Tampa resident and saxophonist Marlon Boone.

Each of the six books that will launch on April 8 was published by Tampa-based Richter Publishing.

"In the past 90 days, Tara Richter has published Kevin Harrington's latest book and helped seven local business owners to become published authors!'' Warren shares. "She made it possible for each of them to share their story with a wider audience, as well as acquire national attention for their brands.''

CoCreativ, a flexible workspace for small businesses, recently moved across the Bay from downtown St. Petersburg to a second-story suite in the Bay Cities Bank Building in South Tampa.

Writer: Justine Benstead
Source: Joseph Warren, CoCreativ CEO

Aqua Mizer Launches New Water-Saving Technology

A Sarasota-based company is launching a product that will significantly decrease residential water use.

Aqua Mizer's flagship product, the Adjustable Flush System, is a retrofit toilet tank flush system that replaces components inside a residential toilet tank to reduce leaking. A major feature is a flapper that allows the toilet to be flushed with more velocity and less water, saving a quarter to a gallon of water with each flush. The system was first patented and brought to market in 2010, when the current owners took over an invention originally created in 2008.

The company estimates that if a toilet is leaking, installing the system will save 75,000 to 200,000 gallons of water per year. The average return on investment is three to six months.

"If just leaky toilets in Florida were replaced, it would reduce consumption by 275 billion gallons of water per year," says Michael Sisti, VP of Sales and Marketing for Aqua Mizer.

Aqua Mizer is currently rolling out a new product that does everything the current flush system does, with an added feature. In the event of a catastrophic leak where water starts running full force, it shuts off the toilet within 30 seconds.
The company recently launched a campaign on Indiegogo to help fund the product’s launch. The campaign will allow the public to acquire the product, which is not normally available in retail establishments.

The company plans to sell The Protector through wholesale distribution channels, primarily to property managers and plumbing contractors.

The Rivo at Ringling, a high-rise condo in downtown Sarasota, recently installed the Aqua Mizer system in all toilets in the 106 building unit (235 in all). The first month’s water bill following installation showed a reduction of close to 110,000 gallons of water compare with the same month the previous year.

The Protector was recently submitted to an innovation contest through the Cade Museum for Innovation in Gainesville, FL and was selected in the final 16 semi-finalists for a potential $50,000 prize.

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Michael Sisti, Aqua Mizer

Startup Surge Aims To Deliver 'Action-Oriented Event' For Entrepreneurs

Tampa Bay area startup founders will have the opportunity to hear from and pitch to local entrepreneurial experts on Friday, March 28, during Startup Surge, an event aimed at helping individuals launch and grow their businesses.

Tampa Bay WaVE, a sizable presence in Tampa's active tech scene, is inviting entrepreneurs to attend Startup Surge events, which include open office hours, workshops, featured speakers, networking and a startup showcase competition for more than $1,000 in cash and prizes.

Startup Surge is an action-oriented event, says Gracie Stemmer, marketing manager at Tampa Bay WaVE.

"The goal is for attendees to get answers to tough questions, create a strategy, move forward and become one of Tampa's success stories,'' Stemmer says.

Who should consider attending?

Stemmer recommends the events to supporters of Tampa's entrepreneurial community, prospective entrepreneurs with an idea or current entrepreneurs who have questions about their companies.
 
In the evening, the Startup Surge Showcase will be held at the Firestick Grill at the Tampa Bay Times Forum. Startups, including several developed as the result of past Startup Weekend or Startup Bus events, will compete for more than $1,000 in cash and other prizes. Drawer, LilyPad, MamaBear App, SavvyCard, Shootrac, WeVue and others have signed on to present.

"The showcase is the icing on the cake,'' Stemmer says. "It shows attendees how the community has fostered the current successes who are presenting at the event.''

Featured speakers include Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn and Dr. Peter Mansoor, a retired U.S. Army Colonel and former executive officer to General David Petraeus.

Bright House Networks Business Solutions is the title sponsor for Startup Surge Day, while the Tampa Bay Lightning is the title sponsor for the Surge Showcase.

Tampa Bay WaVE is a nonprofit organization and home to a venture center and coworking space in the Sykes building in downtown Tampa. WaVE's programs are supported in part by Hillsborough County Economic Development's Innovation Initiative called EDI2.

"We are looking to put Tampa Bay on the map as a home to successful tech companies and a vibrant tech startup community,'' Stemmer says.

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

Hillsborough County Grants More Than $200K To Local Tech Events

Hillsborough County has awarded $230,000 in funding to 31 local applicants through its flagship tech-centric program, the Economic Development Innovation Initiative (EDI2).

The EDI2 program is the first of its kind of Florida. Established in June 2013, the program aims to bring innovation, job creation, technology and new business to the Tampa Bay region. In an effort to lead this movement, the Hillsborough County Economic Development department set aside $2 million in funding to award to events and programs that are centered around technology and innovation. Led by County Commissioner Mark Sharpe, EDI2 awarded $307,000 to applicants in the first round of funding in fall 2013.

Some of the latest round of funding will go toward programs and events already well-established within the Tampa Bay community, such as Startup Weekend Tampa Bay 2014 in March, monthly StartupGrind events, and the Moffitt Cancer Center's Business of BioTech 2014.

The bulk of the funding was awarded to one-off conferences like Gulf Bay Consulting's Social Media Engagement event in September 2014, which received $12,375. Girls in Tech Tampa Bay, meanwhile, was awarded $12,500 for outreach and an event in December 2014, and TiE Tampa Bay's TiE Breaker III 2014, which took place in January, received $19,000. The University of Tampa's Entrepreneurs Student Organization was awarded $14,500 for its Southeast Entrepreneurial Conference in February 2014.

Other funded programs include the Computer Mentors Group, Inc., which was awarded $25,000 for the 2014 STEM Education Showcase Tampa, and Nuturism Media Group, Inc., awarded $25,000 for Running Lean Bootcamp. Both are in May 2014.

To view a full listing of funded projects and applications, visit the Hillsborough County website.

Events and programs must meet several stages of criteria before they are awarded funding, including the ability to measure event metrics and a way to clearly identify the economic development impact of each project.

EDI2 is "focused on building a vibrant and sustainable startup community and is centered on the use of technology and innovation,'' according to a news release from Hillsborough County.

Hillsborough County is currently accepting applications for its third cycle of EDI2 funding. Applications and additional information can be found at the EDI2 website. The deadline to apply for the third round of EDI2 funding is April 1, 2013.

Writer: Justine Benstead
Source: Annette Spina, Hillsborough County

Tampa Entrepreneurs Create Innovative Solution To Noise Disturbance

Three entrepreneurs in Tampa have created the solution for noise disturbance for both commercial businesses and residents with a product that goes beyond absorbing noise to keep the noise from entering in the first place.

Founded in 2013, Residential Acoustics’ signature product is the AcoustiCurtain, a soundproof curtain designed to make life quieter for urban businesses and residents.

The inspiration for the product came from partner Walker Peek’s personal experience. Living near the Selmon Expressway, Peek experienced a lot of noise outside his residence from airplanes, construction, traffic and other things. Peek discussed his frustrations with business partners Dylan McCandless and Zach Levine, and the team constructed a curtain to help reduce the noise. The product worked so well, they decided to mass produce. A company in Odessa now manages the production process, and the team works from home on the marketing and sales, when not involved with their fulltime jobs.

The curtain is made out of a mass loaded vinyl material in between two pieces of cloth, giving it sound blocking characteristics. Supported by grommets at the top, it is also visually appealing and available in a variety of patterns and colors. The curtains are customized to exact dimensions to provide the best coverage for the space needed. They can be retracted to let in light, sound and air if desired. They are currently being sold in Los Angeles, New York and Chicago.

The company just started utilizing the mentoring services provided by the Tampa Bay Technology Incubator for assistance with marketing, sales and legal advice.

They plan to remain in the Tampa Bay region in the long term. "There is a big need for new companies where you can have employees that are local," says McCandless. "Lots of manufacturing happens here. We’re excited to bring more to the area."

The company plans to expand the product line and partner with large retail outlets in the near future.

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Dylan McCandless, Residential Acoustics

New Partnership Makes Digital Signage More Accessible, User-Friendly

Wondersign and IAdea recently announced a partnership that will enhance the flexibility and user-friendliness of the digital signage world.

Wondersign is a cloud-based content delivery system for digital signage. Customers purchase the signage hardware for restaurants, stores or other areas and use Wondersign’s product to manage the content design and development. The drag and drop interface works with any web browser and doesn’t require advanced technical knowledge. Based out of Switzerland, Wondersign runs its North American operations from its Tampa office.

Taiwan-based IAdea provides media players and sign boards to power large-scale, commercial grade digital signage projects. The partnership offers customers a way to manage their devices out of the box, simplifying their deployment and operation.

"The fact that [IAdea] has identified a cloud-based software-as-a-service like Wondersign as a strategic partner for the future shows where the industry is going,” says Casper Fopp, director of marketing and public relations for Wondersign.

The partnership is particularly useful for small- to medium-sized businesses that may be new to the world of digital signage and overwhelmed with the prospect of managing multiple signage locations. The cloud-based nature of the software is attractive to businesses that have different locations and are not able to have a physical presence everywhere their signage is placed.

"The partnership helps a lot of people get into the digital signage world with easier access," says Alvin Kuo, senior sales manager for IAdea.

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Sources: Casper Fopp, Wondersign; Alvin Luo, IAdea

Brickmania Brings STEM, LEGO Together In Tampa Bay

A family-friendly event with a focus on building blocks and building bonds is coming to Tampa Bay on March 22, 2014. Brickmania, a STEM education program founded in South Florida, will take place at 2 p.m. on the Carrollwood Day School campus.

Open to all families with students in kindergarten -- eighth grades, Brickmania will feature STEM-centric exhibits, interactive activities, and a LEGO contest.

Brickmania Founder Jennifer Weinman describes the event as "an opportunity for Bay Area students to try out their communication skills and build bonds within our community.''

Through interactive "Brick and Mortar'' STEM-centered activities, kids will be expected to mingle with other students in a fun-filled environment.

"Each year, students can go through an anxious transition time as they enter new situations. Much of this stress and anxiety is caused by unknown social concerns of 'Will I know anyone, and will I fit in?' '' Weinman explains.

She notes that "building bonds'' is an important theme.

"Most STEM careers require team collaboration, where good communication skills are a must. We are giving students a chance to practice this skill in a fun, safe environment,'' says Weinman. "They will build their confidence.''

The event aims to help students learn more about STEM education and careers as they get to know each other. Professors and other professionals will be available to talk with kids about their work in the STEM fields of science, technology, engineering, and math.

Event exhibitors already lined up include Microsoft, Syndaver, USF College of Engineering, and USF College of Marine Science. USF professor Dr. Yu Sun and his students from the USF Robotic Perception Action Lab will be exhibiting their "On-Body'' Learning System, a projection game for students to learn about basic anatomy.

"The projection images will move and turn with the student's moving body, creating fun spatial 3D learning,'' says Weinman.

The display highlights anatomy and healthcare careers, "but also promotes engineering ideas that are used in game and medical equipment development,'' she explains.

The day's flagship event will be the LEGO contest.

"Students have amazing imaginations, and the Brickmania LEGO contest is all about imagination,'' says Weinman.

Contestants will be asked to create their entries at home using LEGO blocks and bring them in the day of the event for judging. LEGO creations should be a student’s original design. 

Contest divisions and themes in 2014 include: "How Does Your Garden Grow'' for grades K-2; "Florida'' for grades 3-5; and “The Ultimate Theme Park” for grades 6-8.

To reserve a space in the LEGO contest, forms and fees are due by Tuesday, March 18th, 2014. Forms may be submitted online, mailed, or dropped off in person at Carrollwood Day School. Questions? Email Event Chair Jennifer Weinman.

Brickmania will donate a portion of its proceeds to USF Center for Autism and Related Disabilities, a local comprehensive outreach and support program.

Writer: Justine Benstead
Source: Jennifer Weinman, Brickmania

Sarasota Mobile Healthcare App Voalte Receives $36 Million In Funding

Voalte, a Sarasota-based leader in healthcare communication technology, has announced $36 million in Series C funding, led by private equity firm Bedford Funding.

Healthcare communication technology in your hands, or mHealth, will only become a bigger market in coming years, predicts Voalte founder and President Trey Lauderdale.

"The mobile health industry is poised to grow to 10.2 billion by 2018, according to some reports. We believe that the industry will be as large as the electronic medical record (EMR) industry within five years,'' Lauderdale says.

The company, which launched as a startup at HIMSS in 2009, aims to simplify healthcare communication.

Voalte One, the company's primary mobile solution, is a shared smartphone alternative that offers tailored voice calls, alarm and alert notification, and text messaging on one device. It is also HIPAA-compliant. The Voalte Me application allows caregivers outside of the hospital to connect with Voalte One users inside.

"Voalte applications help connect caregivers both inside and outside the hospital, and integrate with other hospital technologies to maximize workflow efficiency,'' Lauderdale says. "The two apps facilitate seamless communication between caregivers and improve care coordination.''

Voalte's applications are used in over 100 leading healthcare facilities like Massachusetts General Hospital, Sarasota Memorial Health Care System, and Cedars-Sinai Medical Center.

Smartphone use at the point of care is a growing trend.

"There is an increasing demand for smartphones in healthcare due to the functionality of smartphones compared to legacy devices or pagers. Voalte is the only company in the industry to provide a fully integrated mobile communication strategy,'' Lauderdale explains.

He notes that the investment funds will provide Voalte with "the resources to grow the company, further expand our engineering team, and build out our services and support department.''

The company currently has 130 employees.

"Voalte nearly tripled in size in 2013, and expects significant growth in 2014,'' Lauderdale says.
 
Writer: Justine Benstead
Source: Trey Lauderdale, founder and President of Voalte

USF, Hillsborough County Recognized For Excellence In Teacher Education

The Association of Teacher Educators, a national organization that focuses on high quality teacher preparation, recently recognized education partners in Tampa Bay for their role in preparing teachers to educate the next generation.

The 2014 Distinguished Program in Teacher Education award was given to the innovative partnership between the University of South Florida (USF) Department of Childhood Education and Literacy Studies and Hillsborough County Public Schools.

The award criteria included: collaborative development, research-based principles, data-based decision making and demonstrative positive impact on students.

"Today, high quality teacher education requires intense collaboration with school-based partners," says Diane Yendol-Hoppey, Ph.D., chair of childhood education/literacy studies at the USF College of Education.

The strong partnership is the pinnacle of USF’s success, allowing teachers coming out of the program to receive many hands-on hours in the field and make instructional decisions specific to individual student needs.

The program is unique in that students work directly in classrooms throughout their studies rather than a traditional internship during the last semester. Rather than designing coursework based on theoretical ideas, the program links research-based practice with student learning. These initiatives help provide conclusive data about the positive impact on students.

Another unique aspect is the Partnership Resource Teachers -- Hillsborough County public school teachers on leave who work at USF. These shared positions, funded jointly by USF and the school district, help create strong curriculum links between the university and the field. Every USF faculty member also spends at least one day per week in the field, understanding the challenges the teachers face.

USF’s elementary education degree has 450 students within its two distinct programs: the Urban Teacher Residency Partnership Program and the Elementary Cohort Program. 80 percent of graduates teach in Hillsborough County after graduation, making it an important pipeline for talent.  

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Diane Yendol-Hoppey, USF
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