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'Shark Tank'-style competition invites companies to compete for $1,000 prize

Tampa Bay area companies are invited to participate in a business competition that will award the winning idea with $1,000. ThinkPitch Tampa Bay is a first-time “Shark Tank” style tech event that will take place at TEC Garage in downtown St. Petersburg on Jan 27. 

Following the competition, a free Happy Hour Networking event will be held at Central Avenue Sports Bar in DTSP from 4:00 pm-6:00 pm.

IT professionals and companies who can provide innovative technology solutions, as well as “’out of the box’ thinkers,” are encouraged to participate, says Kristin Jackson, an account executive with event sponsor AC4S Consulting.

Jackson anticipates around 20 presenters in the free pitch competition, which will be held in a closed conference room at TEC Garage, the Tampa Bay Innovation Center’s incubator space. Each participating company will have 10 minutes to pitch ideas that would help solve problems for a Fortune 100 retailer, followed by a five-minute Q&A session.

Judges for ThinkPitch Tampa Bay include Martin Davis, a former Chief Technology Officer with Wells Fargo; Joanne Isham, a former Deputy Director for Science and Technology for the CIA; and Hugh Campbell, the CEO and president of AC4S and AC4S Consulting, Inc.

The ThinkPitch challenge: Solve problems for a Fortune 100 retailer.

The categories:
  • “Barcode Replacement: How can a retailer connect physical products to their digital identities, providing valuable information to both retailer and customers regarding the product that will help enable better decision making?
  • Next Generation Wearable Technology: How will wearable technology influence the way in which retailers operate their business today? What are the form factors around ways to make associates more ‘hands free’ while improving productivity, and what is the look and feel of that user interface?
  • Modular Integrity: How can a retailer stay in stock at the right place at the right time for customers on an ongoing basis?
  • Open: How can a large retail chain improve any aspect of their business with innovative technology solutions?”
Sponsored by AC4S Consulting and the Tampa Bay Innovation Center, ThinkPitch Tampa Bay will be held from 1:00 pm until 4:00 pm at TEC Garage, located at 244 2nd Avenue N. in St. Petersburg.

The First Prize for ThinkPitch is $1,000, while Second Prize is $500. Winners will be announced January 28.

For more information about the event, call (813) 609-4320 or find tickets.

Tech startup KiteDesk expands, adds 2 jobs in Tampa

A Tampa-born startup business is adding jobs as the company expands its presence both locally in the Tampa Bay area and in Silicon Valley during 2015.

KiteDesk, a cloud-based social sales platform, “will be hiring in all areas of our business,” says CEO Sean Burke. “Sales, marketing, product, development; as well as building a data science team.”

With the rapidly growing popularity of social media, platforms like Facebook, LinkedIn and KiteDesk provide ample opportunity for “social selling,” says Burke.

“Access to decision-makers through social channels has become a smarter option then trying to cold call them,” he explains.
Social selling is a form of modern sales that takes advantage of social platforms to find new clients.

By harnessing data from email, calendars and other sources, KiteDesk aims to facilitate the sales process by helping clients learn who to sell to and how to sell it. From platform customization to lead-generating criteria, the platform is geared toward increasing sales productivity for clients.

Social selling allows businesses to “grow their networks, listen and learn about (customer) interests, engage in meaningful dialogue with them, share valuable content with them, and guide them through the buying process,” Burke says. 

KiteDesk is currently hiring for an Operations Manager and Director of Marketing.

KiteDesk “takes culture seriously. It's an integral part of our hiring process,” Burke says. “We want people to challenge themselves and others to put out the best work possible, but balance that with enjoying the challenge and each other in the process.“ 

At the core of the company’s culture, says Burke, are shared values: individual responsibility, collaboration, creativity, transparency and humor.

“Each one of these values helps to guide us as we make important decisions - but humor allows us the freedom to be ourselves and to enjoy the journey.” 

The Tampa startup company, which was launched in 2011 by co-founders Jack Kennedy and Jared Rodriguez, was a part of the inaugural class of startups in the Tampa Bay WaVE FirstWaVE Accelerator program. KiteDesk is currently a coworking tenant at Tampa Bay WaVE, located at 400 North Ashley Drive, Suite 1500, in Tampa.

St. Petersburg Chamber announces $3,000 scholarship for Iron Yard student developers

The St. Petersburg Chamber of Commerce will provide one student with a $3,000 scholarship toward tuition for an upcoming course at The Iron Yard, an intensive 12-week coding class for developers.

“The Iron Yard has become another destination attractor for our community,” says the St. Pete Chamber’s president and CEO Chris Steinocher. “Talent from around the country are coming to St. Pete for this type of training, and it changes the paradigm of how we think about ourselves and our ability to compete for talent.”
 
The St. Pete Chamber is partnering with The Iron Yard to provide a scholarship to a student in part because The Iron Yard “fits so well in our community,” explains Steinocher. “Their unique and powerful model for cutting edge skill development is empowering for those seeking to pursue their passions.”

A $3,000 scholarship will be awarded to one student in The Iron Yard’s upcoming Tampa Bay - St. Petersburg Front End Engineering course, which begins on Jan 26.

The scholarship is centered on an innovative topic: “What would you build?”

Developers and interested students with little technical experience alike are invited to apply for the scholarship. Interested parties should apply for The Iron Yard’s Tampa Bay class starting on January 26th and include a 250 word essay explaining what kind of app or website you would build after graduating from The Iron Yard’s course. 

St. Pete has a sincere focus on nurturing a life-long learner -- and providing the lift for anyone wanting to work hard to pursue their dreams,” Steinocher says. ”This scholarship is just a symbol -- a welcome mat for Iron Yard and for those wanting to grow smarter in St Pete.”

The St. Petersburg Chamber of Commerce and The Iron Yard will jointly judge submissions and select one winner.

Applicants “should be energized by this new opportunity, need an intense interest in wanting to learn, and a willingness to make their dreams come true,” says Steinocher.

They should also “be willing to sleep a little less for the next 12 weeks,” he explains, “because it is an ‘all-in’ proposition.”

To learn more about The Iron Yard, visit their website.

Local library Venture Club introduces Tampa Bay area kids to entrepreneurship

Tampa-Hillsborough County Public Libraries has taken another step toward embracing modern technology and innovation with a new five-month program aimed at elementary-school children: the Venture Club. 

Venture Club begins with students brainstorming to identify a need that they see either in their home or their school communities. Then, with the help of volunteer speakers and mentors, students will attempt to develop ideas for something that can help solve that issue. 

“It’s more about the process than the product,” Senior Librarian Laura Doyle emphasizes. “We want to help students figure out the skills that entrepreneurs use to recognize an audience, evaluate the resources around them and information in front of them, and how to make decisions based on that.”
 
Venture Club is based on curriculum provided to the library by Venture Lab, a group that has developed several successful programs geared toward teaching children how to innovate. Venture Club has been implemented as an after-school program in other areas of the country, but Tampa’s is the only club based in a library. 

The club, open to students in grades 3-5, will meet two Saturdays per month from January through May in The Hive at John F. Germany Library. Classes will run through May to coincide with the academic school year. The Friends of the John F. Germany Public Library subsidize program materials and costs.

Bimonthly sessions include topics like, “What is Entrepreneurship?” and “Prototyping” and “Practicing/Preparing Pitches,” which will be presented by volunteers who are well-versed in the subject matter.
 
Current volunteer speakers and mentors come from a wide range of skills, backgrounds and experience levels, from a high school student who runs his own successful photography business to community leaders like Daniel James Scott, the new Executive Director of the Tampa Bay Technology Forum.
 
Good mentors are “people who can share their experiences, encourage kids, challenge them, empower them, ask questions and help guide them to resources to develop their ideas,” Doyle says.

Venture Club first met on Jan. 10, but several seats are still available for interested students. Doyle plans to offer a recap of previous sessions to new students. 

HCPL introduced programs like volunteer-run CoderDojo (where mentors teach children to code) in 2013, along with Alligator Zone (a family-friendly ‘Shark Tank’-like pitching event) and the revamping a large area in the John F. Germany Library into The Hive, a mixed-use maker space, in 2014.

The library is aligned with Hillsborough County’s efforts toward building up the entrepreneurial ecosystem in the area, says Doyle. 

“We’re trying to get to know the entrepreneurial community better, to serve them better,” Doyle explains. “Starting with the kids and getting them to see that they can solve problems right here in their community is very important.”

1 Million Cups comes to Tampa, Hillsborough County

Entrepreneurs and startup founders in Tampa will soon have a new platform for sharing their visions with the local community. 

1 Million Cups, a Kauffman Foundation program that operates in cities across the country, is set to launch at the Hillsborough County Mark Sharpe Entrepreneur Collaborative Center in Ybor City. Tampa’s inaugural 1MC Cups will take place on Wednesday, Feb. 4, 8-10 a.m. at the ECC.

Those 1 million cups? That’s the amount of coffee 1 Million Cups hopes to serve during weekly meetups. Each week, two startup founders present their companies to local leaders, entrepreneurs and students. Presentations are followed by Q&A sessions with audience members.

While a coffee sponsor for Tampa’s location has not yet been announced, Kahwa Coffee has served 1 Million Cups at its St. Petersburg location The Greenhouse since that program launched in Oct 2013.

Some of the many startup companies that have presented at the 1MC St. Petersburg location include SavvyCard, a web-based business card; Florida Funders, a crowd-funding portal for entrepreneurs; WazInIt, a mobile application that won Startup Weekend Tampa Bay in Nov 2013; and Venture House, an effort to turn vacant houses into housing and job sites for local entrepreneurs and artists.

The ECC, located at 2101 E. Palm Ave. in Ybor City, celebrated their grand opening in Dec 2014.

The ECC serves as a small business services center, as well as a meeting place for community partners and local businesses. Entrepreneurs and “wannapreneurs” alike can use the center’s resources, all of which are at little or no cost, says the county’s Economic Development Manager Lindsey Kimball. Those resources include conference space, free classes, business training, and workshops aimed at helping startup founders build their businesses.
 
Headquartering 1 Million Cups in Tampa at Hillsborough County’s new entrepreneurial space is the latest in a series of efforts to bring a focus on local business to the community, from the upcoming Startup Week Tampa Bay to Venture Club, a meetup for entrepreneurial children that lauched in Jan 2015 at the county’s flagship library. 

Meanwhile, north of Ybor City, near the University of South Florida, Busch Gardens and Moffitt Cancer Center, steps are being taken to revitalize the area into an “innovation district,” led by former Hillsborough County Commissioner Sharpe, for whom the ECC is named. Sharpe stepped into the role of executive director for the Tampa Innovation Alliance in late 2014.

Chase, UpGlobal select Tampa to host pilot Startup Week in February

Tampa has hosted its share of startup-related events, from pitch contests to networking groups, and in 2015, entrepreneurs are taking center stage for the area’s first Startup Week.

During the five days of Startup Week festivities, Feb 2-6, 2015, attendees can choose among 50 unique events that fall under one of 10 “tracks,” from the startup tried-and-true (Developer) to the unique (The History of Tampa Bay) to the innovative (Craft Beer Entrepreneurship).

Startup Week events will be hosted at spaces like Tampa Bay WaVE in downtown Tampa and The Greenhouse in downtown St. Petersburg, as well as smaller venues such as The Blind Tiger Café in Ybor City. Tampa Startup Week partners USF Connect and the University of Tampa will also host industry experts at events in which attendees can discuss entrepreneurship.
 
The week’s sessions will culminate at Amalie Arena with a special skate night for attendees on Friday, Feb. 6.

Tampa Bay was selected by the event’s premiere sponsor, Chase, and by Startup Weekend founding group UpGlobal, as one of seven cities across the country to host a Startup Week in 2015.

“When we found out that they picked us, we were elated. They could have picked any number of cities, and they saw lots of potential in the Tampa Bay area,” says Gracie Stemmer, one of Startup Week’s co-organizers.
 
Tracks were inspired by previous Startup Week models, but developed around the local entrepreneurs who will lead them, making the event uniquely Tampa-oriented with topics like “Playable Cities,” which will be run by Tampa group Urban Conga.

Lead Organizer Ryan Sullivan “saw this as an opportunity to bring the different aspects of the entrepreneurial community together with the goal of changing the conversation.” 

Sullivan, who previously organized Tampa Bay Startup Week Youth, hopes to see Startup Week create momentum for entrepreneurs and bystanders.

The Startup Week organizing team anticipates 3,000-4,000 attendees across all of the events.
 
What is Sullivan most excited about? Well, there’s the Tampa Bay launch of Plum Alley, a crowd-funding site for women; the craft brewing entrepreneurs track, “something unique that highlights why Tampa is a top five best beer city”; the youth events (“very exciting because the community is demanding more and more of these”); as well as the maker track, which Sullivan hopes to see elevate the maker movement in the community. 

“Our main goal for Startup Week is to let all of Tampa Bay know the entrepreneurial things that are going on in our city,” says Stemmer. “We want to change the discussion from ‘There’s not much going on here’ to ‘Wow, there’s so much going on here.’”

For more information during Startup Week, visit Chase Basecamp, located at 1930 7th Ave in Ybor City, Feb 2-6. The base camp will host breakfasts, daily Happy Hours, speaker panels and mentor hours.

Innovation Alliance invites businesses to help transform University area of north Tampa

The Tampa Innovation Alliance aims to transform almost 15,000 acres of commerce, housing and retail surrounding the University of South Florida and affiliate hospitals into a revitalized “Innovation District” that will attract local visitors and tourists.

After a 10-year stint as a Hillsborough County commissioner, Mark Sharpe has stepped into the role of executive director for the Tampa Innovation Alliance. The group formed in 2011 with intentions to redevelop the university area as a premiere destination, but focused too much on a “master plan,” Sharpe says. “I want to make sure that we focus on our key mission: to create this ‘Innovation District’ core.”

The area, which stretches from I-75 on the east to I-275 on the west; north to the Bearss/Bruce B Downs intersection; and south to Busch Blvd, is comprised of thousands of acres in which run-down retail and residential blocks co-mingle with specialized hospitals like Moffitt and the VA center, the University of South Florida’s campus, and popular entertainment destinations like Busch Gardens and MOSI Tampa, the Museum of Science and Industry.

“I think there is a way to capture some of the market that is driving past or through, not stopping, at the local businesses that abut these major anchors,” Sharpe explains. “We’re going to focus on outreach and bring in members, large and small, who will all partner together.”
 
A kick-off luncheon on Friday, Jan. 9, serves as the group’s first outreach to the broader community, Sharpe says. Local businesses both inside and outside the future Innovation District are invited to join Sharpe and other Tampa Innovation Alliance members, such as USF President Judy Genshaft, at the USF Connect Building to discuss the group’s next steps and ideas for area branding.

Businesses are invited to provide feedback at Friday’s meeting, along with a series of monthly meetings Sharpe plans to host, similar to those he conducted at Buddy Brew during his run as a county commissioner. The first of these meetings, open to the public, is scheduled for Jan 23.

The first focus is getting organized, Sharpe says. “I’m doing it all right now – I’m approving colors of the logo, and spellchecking things, and calling people to encourage them to come.”

The group’s current members and partners include Fifth Third Bank, the Tampa Bay Lightning, Brighthouse, Tampa International Airport, EWI Construction, and more. Tampa Innovation Alliance’s Kickoff Luncheon will be held 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 9, 2015, at USF Connect, 3802 Spectrum Boulevard in Tampa.

Valpak ventures to St. Pete, adds jobs and an app

If you’ve saved money recently by using a coupon from one of the seemingly ubiquitous blue envelopes that appear in your mailbox monthly, it’s thanks to Valpak. But did you know that you could get the same coupons for local and national businesses online -- and even through your smartphone?

For modern shoppers, the company has developed an array of up-to-the-minute digital advertising products and online services to complement its traditional direct mail campaigns. 

Most innovative is Valpak’s Local Savings smartphone app, where customers can search for coupons for local businesses like restaurants, spa services and auto care. Those coupons can then be automatically integrated into the Samsung Wallet, iOS Passbook, Google Wallet and Windows Phone Wallet. 

“We are in an exciting time here!” says Valpak’s PR Manager Marsha Strickhouser.

The company is currently hiring for a number of new jobs in the Tampa Bay area, including positions like Senior Computer Operator and Digital Process Planner. A complete list of current job openings can be found here.

At Valpak’s new North St. Pete offices, collaboration and a fun atmosphere -- with perks like ping-pong tables, cushy beanbag chairs and even scooters -- are all part of the design.

Strickhouser credits Valpak president Michael Vivio for the changing company culture, which includes a focus on community. An emphasis on volunteering through the employee-led “Blue Crew” has helped Valpak sponsor volunteer activities like the United Way Day of Caring, Habitat for Humanity, PACE, Big Brothers/Big Sisters, and Boys and Girls Club. 

Valpak was listed #37 on United Way Suncoast’s 2014 list of Tampa Bay’s most generous workplaces.

In Dec. 2014, the coupon aggregator moved to new corporate offices located at 805 Executive Center Drive West in St. Petersburg, Fl. The move places the company’s headquarters closer to their manufacturing center, an automated facility that prints Valpak coupons and envelopes for the almost 170 Valpak franchises around North America. Between the two facilities, Valpak has around 700 local employees, along with another 1,000 franchise employees throughout the US and Canada.  

Valpak is owned by Cox Target Media, whose parent company, Cox Enterprises, is based in Atlanta.

USF teams receive grants to develop socially beneficial products

Five teams at the University of South Florida in Tampa were recently selected as part of the National Science Foundation’s Innovation Corps (I-Corps) program.

The program is designed to foster an environment within the science community that encourages the development of innovations that benefit society. Each I-Corps team receives a $50,000 grant designed to help determine the viability of their technology, product or process and, if viable, help transition them to the next level. Teams are developed from previously or currently funded NSF projects.

Five teams were selected from the University of South Florida, making it the largest grant receiver in Florida and ranking them third in the nation out of 153 total teams representing 91 universities.

One of the USF teams created software designed to increase quality control in the use of nanotechnology, or the act of manipulating atomic particles that leads to new discoveries in areas such as medicine and energy production. The software suite provides engineers with the ability to more easily identify defects, saving time and resources and improving quality.

The team wrote the software and enlisted the assistance of the USF Patent and Licensing office to receive a provisional patent. The next step is to use the grant funding to see if there a market for the tool as well as investigate its social impact.

"One of the goals is not to focus on your patent or technology, but where is the pain point? Why are people struggling?" says Sanjukta Bhanja, associate professor, Electrical Engineering at USF and principal investigator for the team.

The teams consist of USF faculty, researchers, graduate students and a mentor with entrepreneurial experience. NSH provides additional mentoring assistance as well as an immersive learning experience to help transition the research into feasible products or processes.

Other projects include a walking crutch/cane and a mobile health network.

Aqua Marketing positions Bradenton as top travel destination for sports enthusiasts, pet owners

St. Petersburg-based Aqua Marketing & Communications recently received international recognition for promoting unique aspects of the Bradenton area for tourists.

Founded in 2011, the company is a full service firm specializing in the tourism and economic development industries within the State of Florida. Current and past clients include Collier County, the City of Dunedin, Manatee County and the St. Petersburg/Clearwater Convention & Visitors Bureau.

The company’s recent projects for the Bradenton area helped them win international recognition from the Hospitality Sales & Marketing International (HSMAI), the lead international association for the hospitality industry.  

The company put together a sports marketing campaign to position the area as a destination for athletes, coaches and tournament directors to come for training and competitions. The campaign included a virtual “Sports Playbook,” which provided highlights of the region as a destination, facilities available for tournaments and other events, and resources such as medical rehab and therapy, dining and entertainment.

The second piece targeted men’s travel, an often untapped market for the tourism and travel industry, where marketing if often focused on women. They offered a 3-night, 4-day “guys’ getaway,” which included boating, fishing and cigar bars. The promotion is believed to be the first of its kind in the travel and hospitality industry.

A third piece for the Bradenton area was a sweepstakes targeting pet travel. Bradenton is already well-positioned in this area, with several beaches, cafes and restaurants that allow dogs, as well as a high percentage of pet-friendly accommodations. Aqua Marketing created a Pet Owners’ guide to the Bradenton area, which included a list of all of pet-friendly hotels and resorts, activities that can be done with dogs and dog boutiques and bakeries.  

The judges were impressed with the innovation displayed in the campaigns, as well as the results achieved.

The company has nine full-time employees, in addition to part-time employees and freelancers and recently hired several new employees to meet demand. They intend to remain in St Petersburg for the long term.

"Downtown St. Petersburg is a very robust, great place to have a business," says Dave Di Maggio, the company’s Founder and President, noting the central location, robust restaurants and events and the accessibility and attractiveness for clients.

8-Count Studios adds new twist to urban dance battles

Downtown Tampa’s newest renovated theater space turned dance studio hopes to revolutionize the way dance battles are run.

Traditionally, a ballroom or swing dance studio will host a recital to allow its students to show off their work, sometimes with a competition element. In the urban and hip hop scene, their version of a recital is referred to as a battle or jam. Jamming originated as an informal show-off of dance moves in a social circle, where dancers would clear a circle and then take turns displaying their best moves. In a battle, the circle becomes more formal and individuals or pairs of dancers pair off against each other in a competition-style event.

Most battles lack an element of formality, with different dance styles competing against each other. In a desire to formalize these events, 8-Count Studios on North Franklin Street in Tampa is hosting a Layer Cake Battle on January 3.

"We want to revolutionize how battles are run," says Hope Donnelly, co-owner of 8-Count Studios.

The event is named Layer Cake Battle because of the layered judging that will be done in rounds. Using Donnelly’s sports dance background, the studio will introduce a bracket system that will list names of dancers on a board. Dance brackets include: popping and locking, wacking and voguing, breaking, and krumping. Each winner will progress to the next level with prizes awarded in each bracket until an ultimate Best of Show winner is announced.

"Dancing is a sport, so we’re treating it like a sport," says Donnelly. "Dancers are athletes; they are competitors."

Well-known choreographers and judges will be flown in from across the country. The event will also include workshops, vendors and a concert. Cash and other prizes will be given to the winners, as well as a private brunch session with the judges.

The event is open to the public. The price of admission is $20 per person.

Air Animal Pet Movers helps ease stress of relocation

A Tampa-based company that built its reputation around transporting pets -- from tiny birds to giant horses -- across country when families move is adding jobs and expanding services due to growing demand.

Air Animal Pet Movers transports an average of 2,000 pets, mostly dogs and cats, each year. The company currently employs 15 staff, including two added recently. They also are outgrowing their 3,600-square-foot location on W. Cypress Street on Tampa and are looking for a new location.

Founded in 1969 by practicing veterinarian Walter Woolf and his late wife, Millie, Air Animal thrives by providing peace of mind while managing the moving process from start to finish. Moving anytime anywhere with a pet can be stressful, Woolf says, from researching the safest travel option to booking the actual accommodations. 

In the beginning, as part of his veterinary practice, Woolf worked with local airlines to provide services for pets arriving at night. In 1977, the company incorporated as a full service pet travel agency.

The company organizes pick-up of a pet at a residence or airport, handles all of the associated airline reservations and required paperwork, and ultimately delivers the pet to the final destination – whether it be a residence or an airport pick-up. They have transported pets to and from destinations across the world, from Lima, Peru to San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Woolf’s experience with and knowledge about the relationship between pets and family members was the basis for getting into the business. He wanted to provide the safest, most humane way to minimize stress on families during relocation. "Today, the pet is a very, very cherished member of the family," says Woolf, Founder and Managing Director.

The company recently received the 2014 Impact Award from CARTUS, a relocation network they have been working with since 1994. The honor recognizes innovation and outstanding customer service.

Tampa Water Taxi adds Riverwalk ferry service

Tampa Water Taxi Company, LLC plans to add a continuous loop through the Tampa Riverwalk to its transportation lineup.  

Now going into its seventh year of operation, the company was founded by Capt. Laurence (Larry) Salkin, who was shocked when he moved to Tampa and found a city with a large amount of area surrounded by water that had very little water-based activities. Salkin wanted to show off the city from a different vantage point, to residents and visitors alike.

"Our water is a diamond. It’s a gem," says Salkin. "The views of Tampa from the water are like no views you can get from anywhere on land."

The biggest compliment during his tenure with the company was from a 96-year-old seventh generation Tampa resident, stating that he never knew the city looked this beautiful.

The company offers regular public tours of the water surrounding Tampa’s downtown, including a city overview called "The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of Tampa," history tours, and year-round dolphin tours.There are also sunset and nightlife tours, featuring the lighted bridges.

They also provide private charters for parties and weddings, and transportation to and from Davis and Harbour Islands to Amelia Arena for Tampa Bay Lightning games and concerts. The four boats seating 30 people each have transported as many as 400 people during a single event, lightning the traffic congestion.

The company is planning a new ferry service for the Tampa Riverwalk, which is scheduled for completion by the end of November. The ferry will run a continuous loop along the Riverwalk Friday afternoon through the weekend, with the ability to get on and off at stops along the way. The goal is to charge a minimal cost for riders and obtain sponsorship to cover expenses.

LabTech Software expands Tampa operations, adds jobs

LabTech Software, provider of a remote monitoring and management (RMM) solution, is adding over 100 jobs to its Tampa headquarters.

The company was founded in 2004 by six individuals in Toledo, OH with a managed services provider (MSP) business looking for a way to become more efficient in their business practice through automation. The RMM tool allows companies to automate IT tasks, such as work on multiple machines at the same time, manage billable hours for client projects and solve client issues remotely. The product is unique in that it was built and designed by and for MSP providers, allowing for a high level of detail in meeting client needs.

Tampa-based ConnectWise, an IT automation company that also provides MSP services, took an interest in LabTech and provided the capital needed to take them to the next level. In 2010, LabTech’s headquarters was relocated to ConnectWise’s offices in Tampa. Since then, the company has gone from $1 million to over $50 million in sales revenue.

"Technology companies are starting to grow and find that Florida and the Tampa Bay area are great opportunities for growth," says John Timko, director of marketing for LabTech, noting that the Tampa Bay job market is well positioned to meet that growth.

Now with 325 employees, the company shares both facilitates and staffing resources with Connectwise, creating a mutually beneficial partnership.

The company is currently hiring in the areas of marketing, sales, development, support, product management, consulting and training. "Every department within our organization is growing and scaling, not just to accommodate the present but the future as well," says Timko.

LabTech attributes their growth to the strength of the product as well as the company culture and values, which focus on commitment, integrity and service

Canine Ranch Country Club offers full service amenities for dogs, dog lovers

Most dog owners are aware of the benefits of exercising their pet, from fewer behavior problems to less obesity and even a longer life. But, sometimes schedules get in the way and exercise takes a back seat to work and other priorities.

Canine Ranch Country Club  in Bradenton brings together dogs and their owners to not only provide a place for dogs to exercise and play, but owners can participate in activities with their dogs and even meet other like-minded individuals. K-9 coaches provide structured exercise activities that can be done with or without the owner. While dogs are being exercised, groomed or even enjoying time in the therapeutic Jacuzzi tub, owners can relax in a lounge with couches, a large screen TV and juice bar or even pull out their laptop and get some work done.

"I did some research and found that dogs live an average of two years longer when they’re well exercised," says Heather Perry, the club’s owner. "I wanted to get the word out that dogs need to be exercised."

Perry has a background in membership-based organizations and recently owned a personal development and sales training center in D.C. From these experiences, she learned how much people like being around those of like minds, which helped inspire the club's design.
 
She moved to Bradenton initially to purchase land for her horse, and realized that the land was also a dog’s paradise. Combining her membership management experience with her love of canines, the concept of Canine Ranch Country Club was born.

In addition to the focus on exercise, the club’s Ranch Manager, a veterinary technician, provides seminars on topics such as dog nutrition. A resource library provides books on pet-related topics. Other services include obedience courses, an agility area, dog yoga, winding trails with running creeks, doggy day care, birthday parties and arts and crafts. Future plans include a putting green for owners to enjoy while dogs are being exercised.

The club opened by appointment on October 1 and will have a grand opening October 30 complete with a Halloween costume contest.
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