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Innovation : Innovation + Job News

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Startup Bros adds 7 tech, marketing jobs in Pinellas County

Does helping others achieve what they want in business sound like your dream job? Are the ideas of marketing, design and creating custom content to share with entrepreneurs around the world appealing to you? If so, StartupBros might be the right fit.

The Palm Harbor-based company, whose cheeky slogan is "You don't need a job," is hiring for several new full-time job roles in the Tampa Bay area. Most intriguing: an invitation to create your own position.

StartupBros is primarily a website that offers business resources for entrepreneurs, but for cofounders Kyle Eschenroeder and Will Mitchell, the rapidly growing company is anything but a "typical" business.

For one thing, Mitchell says, "you need to thrive in chaos."

A serial entrepreneur who launched multiple companies before creating StartupBros at the age of 22, Mitchell explains that chaos "is the DNA of a rapidly growing startup. This won't be for everybody, but for certain people, this is a dream. If you're attracted by our company and the way we do things, don't hesitate to apply."

StartupBros helps aspiring entrepreneurs create successful businesses through training programs, engaging client communities, and producing live events.

The company is currently hiring for a community manager, a content marketer, front-end designer, a "growth hacker" in marketing, an affiliate marketing manager; a web developer/engineer; and a video producer. 

Flexibility and a non-traditional work environment mean that while the positions are primarily in-house, telecommuting is possible for the right candidate.

And while programming, marketing and business positions are available, expect to wear many hats: “Nobody on our team is assigned a 'job' -- we work extremely hard to enable people to work on what they do best,” Mitchell says. 

As for that possibility to create your own position, it's all about being what Mitchell calls an "A-player."

“A-players can't be defined by a job role, and we don't want to force them in a box," Mitchell explains. "We want people who can create their own position and effectively grow that position and their 'chunk' of StartupBros.”

Not sure if you fit the criteria, but interested in applying? StartupBros rarely relies on resumes; instead, Mitchell suggests, "let's get to know each other and see if we're a perfect fit.”

Most importantly, the right candidates for the roles “need to be an extremely passionate and hard workers," Mitchell says. "We're looking for a core team to grow this company around - the DNA of our company."

At the rapidly growing startup, things move quickly -- but there is calm within the chaos. The company culture encourages a laid-back working environment, with no dress codes, set hours or even set schedules. StartupBros currently operates from a large home-office in Palm Harbor, with plans to expand to an office location by late 2015.

Along with cofounders Eschenroeder and Mitchell, the StartupBros team includes Kayleigh Devlin, Google Glass explorer Ashley Mooney, Steve Stalma and Laura Stromber. The team will head to destinations in China, Las Vegas and the Caribbean islands to execute various events in coming months.

To learn more about StartupBros or to apply, visit the company website.

Who's hiring in Tampa Bay? Media outlet, design business, marketing firm, and more

Did you know? 83 Degrees Media searches for growing companies to bring you exciting job opportunities in the Tampa Bay region. Here's who's hiring in the Tampa, St. Pete, and Clearwater area in July 2015:
 
Catalina Marketing

Full service advertising and marketing agency Catalina Marketing is hiring for a number of full-time positions in St. Petersburg, Florida, including:
 
Account Manager, Campaign; Account Manager, Content; Accountant; Accounts Payable Clerk; Accounts Payable Supervisor; Contract Specialist; Director of Business Process Innovation; Director, Data Science; Enterprise Solutions Architect; HR Service Center Representative; Senior Java Developer; Senior Project Manager, Technology; and Staff Attorney.

To learn more about job requirements or to apply for these positions, visit the Catalina Marketing website.

KAX Media

KAX Media is hiring an Accountant

Job responsibilities include: record, upload and reconcile all financial transactions into electronic database; maintain trial balances and ledgers; manage sales invoicing system, accounts receivable and accounts payable; file digital receipts; and more. 

The successful applicant will have at least two years of direct bookkeeping experience and advanced proficiency in accounting software programs as well as in Microsoft Excel. Position requires a bachelor’s degree or higher for consideration.

To learn more or apply, visit the KAX Media job listing on LinkedIn.

Laicos

Tampa-based startup Laicos is hiring for two full-time roles: an Executive Administrative Assistant and a Senior iOS Developer.

The Executive Assistant will coordinate meetings and schedules, manage calendars, plan events, manage social media and more. Room for growth within the company. Preferred requirements for a successful applicant include a bachelor's degree and 2-3 years of executive support experience, preferably in a startup environment.

The Senior iOS Developer Senior iOS Engineer will manage a team of Full Stack Engineers, Architects, Project Managers, and interns, working under the leadership of the CTO. Requirements include a BS or MS in computer science; two or more years of experience in iOS development; four or more years of SDLC experience; expertise with Objective-C, Swift and Xcode; and more. 

To learn more about job requirements or to apply for these positions, visit the startup company's website.

MediaLab 3D Solutions 

Local graphic design company MediaLab 3D Solutions is hiring for three full-time jobs in Tampa Bay, including an Account Manager, an Animation Sales Professional and a 3D Artist / Motion Graphics Artist.

The Account Manager role will primarily be responsible for preparation and information collection for client projects, creating and negotiating proposals, managing projects, and ensuring client satisfaction. The successful applicant will also work with the Builder Sales team to help grow accounts through sales.

The Animation Sales Professional role includes selling Media Lab 3D and 2D imagery and animation services, contacting and securing new business accounts, and growing sales within an assigned territory or market segment. A successful applicant will have at least four years of experience in digital media sales, advertising sales or a related field, and a bachelor’s degree in business, communication, marketing or a related field. Knowledge of 3D / 2D animation, digital imagery, movie making and the visual effects industry preferred.

The 3D Artist / Motion Graphics Artist should have previous professional and team industry experience, be comfortable with industry standard 3D software, processes and techniques, and possess a knowledge of photo-real lighting, material application, optimized modeling, and texturing.

To learn more about job requirements or to apply for these positions, visit the company website.

Tampa Bay Times

The award-winning newspaper the Tampa Bay Times is hiring for multiple positions, including:

Business ReporterCity of Clearwater ReporterCourts ReporterEpilogue Feature WriterFeatures Page DesignerHealth and Medicine ReporterSports Editor; and Enterprise/Narrative Editor.

To learn more about job requirements or to apply for these positions, visit the Tampa Bay Times jobs website.
 
Tampa Hillsborough EDC

Tampa Hillsborough EDC, whose goal is to recruit high wage jobs and capital investment in Hillsborough County, is hiring a Market Research Analyst and an Associate Project Manager to work with the growing Business Recruitment and Business Retention and Expansion team. Both position require occasional travel. 

The Market Research Analyst is the EDC’s local market expert and primary resource for data collection and analysis; responsibilities will include researching and producing monthly economic indicators reports; making efforts to attract and retain jobs and capital; market research identification and data collection analysis; and more. A bachelor’s degree in Economics, Business, Statistics, Marketing or similar field and professional experience in managing research projects are required.

The Associate Project Manager, Business Development/Business Retention role will primarily provide professional support to the business recruitment team, working with the Director, Business Recruitment, and the Associate Project Manager. Duties will include providing responses to prospect inquiries; assisting in prospect site visits, sales, and trade shows; and assisting with project management and marketing as necessary. A bachelor’s degree in Business, Economic Development, Public Administration or a related field is required.

To learn more about the roles or apply, click here to send an e-mail including a resume and cover letter.

Employers, if you have a career opportunity you would like to promote, please email the 83 Degrees Innovation & Job News editor with "Hiring" in the subject line. Reach out over on Twitter @83degreesmedia if our job listings put you on the path to success.

Study finds Tampa Bay seagrass growth, bottom health improving

In any body of water, the benthic zone, or bottom layer, can be considered a good indicator of the water body’s overall health.

A 20-year study of Tampa Bay’s benthic ecological region shows that as a whole, Tampa Bay's waters are in fair-to-good condition. 

Middle and Lower Tampa Bay, which comprise over 50 percent of Tampa Bay’s surface area, were rated “Good.”

Hillsborough Bay and some of the smaller or more heavily urbanized bodies of water within Tampa Bay (including Boca Ciega Bay, Terra Ceia Bay and Manatee River) were ranked “Poor.” Old Tampa Bay was rated “Fair.”

The 20-Year Tampa Bay Benthic Community Trends Study, released by the Environmental Protection Commission of Hillsborough County, was conducted from 1993-2012. Ratings were determined using criteria from the EPA’s National Coastal Assessment program and the Tampa Bay Benthic Index.

For two decades, random samples were collected at more than 1,500 sites across Tampa Bay’s main segments, which total just shy of 400 square miles. The samples were taken in late summer and then processed in the EPC’s labs.

Sampling data monitored animal communities in the Bay (over 1,500 invertebrate animal species were identified); sediment composition and contaminants (heavy metals, pesticides, etc.); salinity; temperature; pH levels, and more.

The study found that the majority of Tampa Bay sediments at the bottom layer do not contain high levels of contaminants; exceptional sites with higher contaminant levels were primarily found in Hillsborough Bay. 

The collection and processing of data for the study was initiated two decades ago by the Tampa Bay National Estuary Program (TBEP), and continues today as a cooperative effort between Hillsborough, Manatee and Pinellas counties.

Study results reveal continued improvement in Tampa Bay’s “fair to good” regions, Dr. David Karlen, the EPC Chief Environmental Scientist who authored the report, explained in a news release.

“Baywide, we’ve seen improvement in the benthic index, which is an overall summary of all species,” Karlen says.

Along with Karlen, report authors include Kevin W. Campbell; Dr. Thomas L. Dix; Barbara K. Goetting; Joette M. Jernigan; and Sara E. Markham.

The report includes recommendations for the future monitoring of benthic communities in Tampa Bay, although additional funding is required to support continued analysis and monitoring programs.

Recommendations include:
  • Special study of some sites within Tampa Bay, including Port Tampa Bay (which contains Ybor and Sparkman Channels and Garrison Channel), East Bay, Clam Bayou and Bayboro Harbor.
  • Increased monitoring of river and tidal tributary systems, low salinity areas that serve as nursery areas for many species. These include the Hillsborough, Palm, Alafia and Little Manatee Rivers. Known high sediment contaminants in several rivers could have potential impacts.
  • Expanding lab analysis to include newer sediment contaminants, such as microplastics.
"The benthic report gives us insight into the legacy (longterm) contaminants that can be found in the sediment," TBEP senior scientist Ed Sherwood says in a news release.

Problem areas indicated by the benthic report will help to guide the estuary program, determine the next step in special studies, track long-term trends in the benthic community and form management policy, Sherwood says.

Another indicator that Tampa Bay is in good shape: seagrass is flourishing. Like a benthic ecological region, seagrasses can be a good measure of a body of water’s overall health. In the case of Tampa Bay, it's on the rise.

Tampa grandmother designs ergonomic holder for easily gripping smart devices

When Rosanne Clementi of Tampa won a Kindle e-reader in a raffle, she planned to regift it. Instead, she “got hooked” on using the device for casual reading.

There was only one problem.

Clementi has arthritis in her hands, which made holding up her new device difficult. It was painful, and, she adds, “My thumbs kept hitting the screen and changing the page before I wanted to.”

An Internet search for a product that could ease her pain – some kind of handle for the e-reader – turned up empty. A folio cover served as a temporary solution, but it didn’t solve the problem.

“It became my mission to develop a product that would make it easier to get a good, comfortable grip on an electronic tablet,” says Clementi.

The Pad Go Round, an ergonomic tablet holder with handles, is Clementi’s solution.

Clementi designed and developed the Pad Go Round for people who have difficulty with gripping tablets. The device, which can be used for various sizes of tablets and e-readers, has a sturdy base on which four handles or clamps slide. Handles can be adjusted for various brands of tablets and can be used for activities from casual reading to video or photography. Four legs on the bottom of the base elevate the tablet slightly, reducing the risk of damage from spills.

“We have such a versatile design for the Pad Go Round that it has multiple applications for various markets,” Clementi says.

Clementi, who is a successful business owner in the field of environmental consulting, attended the University of South Florida for undergraduate studies before earning an MS from Clemson University. The grandmother of two has also formed a corporation to develop products that help make daily life activities, such as yoga, more accessible to people with arthritis.

The Pad Go Round is patented, but Clementi is still seeking the necessary funding to make the device a reality.

With over 50 backers and $5,000 pledged to the Kickstarter campaign for the device, the project has a long way to go to reach the funding goal of $22,000 by June 22. Regardless of whether the Kickstarter campaign is successful, Clementi says, “My plans are to continue to move forward and hit the street to market the product.”

”Every day I meet someone who has not seen the Pad Go Round and falls in love with it,” Clementi says. “The testimonial in my Kickstarter video from Rob [see above], the gentleman who is a quadriplegic, is my inspiration to keep going. Failure is not an option.” 

To contribute to the Pad Go Round Kickstarter campaign, click here.

Mobile app for multicultural visitor's guide wins HIllsborough County hack-a-thon

The 2015 Code for Hillsborough hack-a-thon brought more than 100 presenters, programmers and community leaders in economic development together to create potential solutions to existing real-world problems in local communities.

The team that created a “Multi-Cultural Visitor's Guide” won top honors at the Sunday, June 7, awards ceremony.

The mobile app multicultural guide to the Tampa Bay area was created following county guidelines, such as: including links to Visit Tampa Bay and the state tourism office, Visit Florida; a Google-interfaced map with prominent venues highlighted, a background history or photo of the venues; a walking trail or driving route; and more desired criteria.

Code for Tampa Bay Brigade and Hillsborough County worked together to present the 3rd Annual National Day (in this case, weekend) of Civic Hacking. County commissioner Sandy Murman praised Code for Tampa Bay's efforts to "provide a creative environment where innovation thrives."

Civic collaboration in the community, networking among local government and technologists, programmers and developers, and encouraging “civic hacking” are all part of the goals of the Hillsborough County EDI2-funded event.

During the two-day hack-a-thon, event participants were challenged to create useful resources that addressed community needs identified by data supplied from the county government. Challenges included:
  • Dig through thousands of lines of raw data to make Florida Vendor Payment information accessible, useful and understandable for your application
  • Use multiple sources of information to develop a way to help the county understand inmate populations and how jail systems are being used
  • Map out a shuttle transportation system for downtown Tampa
  • Create a web application that provides international matchmaking between foreign companies and Hillsborough County 
  • Develop a multicultural visitor guide using basic tools like a jpeg image and a brochure
Presenters discussed best practices in tech hot topics like mobile app development or transparency for vendors, as well as community-centered issues like the challenges that government agencies and citizens alike can face when it comes to providing or accessing services or resources.

Runners up included a team that created an Emergency Preparedness Interactive Map and the Tampa Bay Trade and Protocol Council app.

2015 Code for Hillsborough partners in civic engagement include: MicrosoftForex FactoryTekBankEureka! Factory,  The Iron YardAbsolute Mobile SolutionsCastleRoc Information ServicesRedHatLaicosThe Grind Coffee BarKahwa Coffee Roasters,  Tampa Innovation Alliance and Busch Gardens.

Designing Tampa as a smarter city

Tampa is about to become a smarter city, thanks to Verizon Enterprise Solutions.

At a free seminar on June 12, local community leaders will have the opportunity to join national experts, such as noted futurist Daniel Burrus, in a discussion about technology-based solutions for cities.

The “Internet of Things: Smart Cities” seminar series will bring smart city experts to eight communities across the United States, including Tampa, where they will meet with local leaders to showcase the ways that the “Internet of Things” (machine-to-machine communication) can help cities increase economic growth, enhance safety, create more security and become more efficient.

The goal of the IoT Smart Cities seminars is to create cities that exemplify three distinct qualities: livability, workability and sustainability.

Discussion will likely include topics such as transportation and parking solutions, energy conservation, increasing citizen engagement, and how community leaders can redistribute available resources.

“With limited resources, municipal leaders are being tasked with finding ways to make their communities more efficient,” Dan Feldman, director of IoT Smart Cities at Verizon, says in a news release.

“Towns and cities can start with projects like energy-efficient smart streetlights, car sharing and smart parking,” Feldman explains. Then, by creating more energy-efficient or technologically advanced projects, cities can begin to save revenue that can be applied toward bigger investments, such as “tackling pollution and upgrading transit infrastructure."
 
Burrus, the New York Times bestselling author and technology futurist, entrepreneur and innovation expert, will be the keynote speaker at the Tampa IoT Smart Cities seminar. Burrus developed the “Hard Trend Methodology,” which has been adopted by city planners, government agencies and leading corporations as a method of connecting cities through technology.

A name familiar to many in the Tampa Bay area, Jim Shimberg, will be the event's guest speaker. Shimberg is the EVP and general counsel of Tampa Bay Sports and Entertainment (which owns the Tampa Bay Lightning, who are currently competing in the Stanley Cup playoffs), as well as the company representative to the Tampa Bay Partnership and the Tampa Hillsborough County Economic Development Corporation. Shimberg, who has over 30 years of experience practicing law in the Tampa Bay area, is also the COO of Strategic Property Partners LLC, Lightning owner Jeff Vinik’s real estate company (in late 2014, Vinik and his investment partners announced a plan to invest more $1 billion into 25 acres of land in downtown Tampa’s Channelside region).

The IoT Smart Cities tour is sponsored by Verizon Enterprise Solutions, a division of communications giant Verizon, in partnership with the Smart Cities Council. Along with Tampa, stops include Boston, New York, Chicago, Indianapolis, Phoenix and San Jose.

Tampa’s IoT Smart Cities seminar will take place from 8:30 a.m. to noon on Friday, June 12, at the Tampa Marriott Westshore, 1001 N. Westshore Blvd. To register or learn more about the event, click here.

June women's networking events include baseball game, bathroom businesswoman

Those familiar with the Tampa Bay tech scene already know that June is a busy month for startup and networking events. For one, Startup Weekend Tampa Bay: Design Edition and Hillsborough County’s hackathon both take place during the first weekend of the month.

Also in June, three networking events will bring members of the entrepreneurial business and tech crowds together, but with a specific spin: they’re all geared toward women.

Mingle with local tech titans

What: Professional Women’s Network Luncheon
When: 11 a.m., June 9
Where: Hilton Carillon, 950 Lake Carillon Dr, St. Petersburg

Join the Tampa Bay Technology Forum (TBTF) at its annual Professional Women’s Network (PWN) luncheon on Tuesday, June 9. The luncheon was created for a dual purpose: to encourage more women to pursue a career in a STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) field, and to provide mentorship for women and girls wishing to enter those fields.
 
During the luncheon, a panel of top female tech professionals will discuss their career paths as well as the mentors who helped shape their own experiences.

“Both community and careers are built with mentorship -- both are solidified by showcasing successes,” TBTF executive director Daniel James Scott says in a news release.
 
PWN luncheon panelists include: Staci Cross, Enterprise Project Management Office VP at WellCare; Lauren Deren, Raymond James manager of Information Security Operations; Rini Fredette, SVP and Enterprise Risk Officer at PSCU; and Lieutenant Colonel Clorinda Trujillo, Chief of Enterprise Operations at USCENTCOM. The discussion will be moderated by Angela Beltz, VP of Cisco Solutions Group at event presenter Tech Data.
 
The luncheon allows TBTF "to actively connect hand-selected female college students with Tampa Bay’s top leadership, while also sharing the outstanding success of our distinguished panel,” Scott says.

Cost is $75 per person. To register for the event, click here.
 
Meet the mastermind behind Poo-pouri

What:
 InnovatHer Sip, Tip, and Talk
When: 6 p.m., June 16
Where: Westin Tampa Bay’s BluVu Rooftop Event Venue, 7627 Courtney Campbell Causeway

The Business Centre at the Helen Gordon Davis Centre for Women is bringing the businesswoman who made millions by becoming “the Queen of the Can” to Tampa Bay.

On Tuesday, June 16, join special guest Suzy Batiz at the InnovatHer Sip, Tip, and Talk event to learn “how your stinkin’ idea could make millions.” That’s the idea behind Poo-pouri, a fresh scent product for the bathroom.

Curious about how Batiz earned the nickname “Queen of the Can”? Take a peek at one of the commercials promoting her product

Join local professional women and members of the Centre at the Westin Tampa Bay’s BluVu Rooftop Event Venue for light drinks and a cash bar during the event.

Cost is $30 paid in advance; $40 at the door. Register online by clicking here.

Can’t make it to this event, but are interested in learning more about The Helen Gordon Davis Centre for Women? Visit the nonprofit’s website to learn more about membership.
 
Mix business and baseball at the ball game

What: 
Rays Professional Women’s Night
When: 4:30 p.m., June 15
Where: Ricky P's Orleans Bistro, 1113 Central Ave in St. Pete

Combine business and baseball during the Working Women of Tampa Bay Rays Professional Women’s Night!
Bring colleagues or friends along for the women’s night at Ricky P’s Bistro and the home of the Tampa Bay Rays, Tropicana Field, as the home team takes on the Nationals. WWoTB seats are located in the lower reserved section.

Tailgate on the Ricky P's patio from 4:30-5:30 p.m., where light food and drink specials will be offered. Then head over to the game seating, where a pre-game Q&A session with Rays VP of Business Development Melanie Lenz and other female leaders will take place. 

Cost is $30 for members, $40 for non-members. The last day to register for the event is Sunday, June 7. Register online by clicking here.

Can’t make it to this event, but interested in learning more about the networking group? Visit the Working Women of Tampa Bay website for complete listings of local events and to learn more about membership.

Hillsborough County hackathon takes on community concerns

Can coding offer a cure for community problems? Hillsborough County is betting that it can.

Code for Hillsborough, a three-day hackathon in June, could yield real-world solutions to community problems from safety to sanitation. The event, a part of the National Day of Civic Hacking on June 6, aims to bring UX experts, developers and “civic hackers” together with residents, designers and community organizers. The goal: Develop a solution to local civic issues via coding.

“This is a unique opportunity to bring together some of the best and brightest minds in the technology community to push forward civic innovation and open idea-sharing,” says Lindsey Kimball, Hillsborough County Economic Development Director.

National Day of Civic Hacking events bring together participants in cities across the United States each year to build technological solutions that improve local communities.

The county has been a host of the annual hackathon event since 2013 “in order to highlight the growing technology community,” Kimball says.

Hillsborough County has placed an emphasis on bolstering the local tech scene in recent years, from the expansion of its Small Business Information Center into the Mark Sharpe Entrepreneur Collaborative Center to the $2 million it set aside for economic development in the tech and startup community.

In the days before the competition, participating local governments will release data to the public that programmers or “hackers” can then use to develop apps or websites that address community concerns.

Hillsborough County’s team is working on identifying the final datasets, Kimball says. One possible project that Kimball says has been identified as a focus for the hackathon is “the development of an application for children to learn about 9-1-1, and what to do in emergency situations to stay safe.”

Interested in participating in Code for Hillsborough, but not technologically savvy? That’s OK, Kimball says. “Anyone with the passion to make the community better” is welcome to attend and participate.

Tampa Bay event partners for Code for Hillsborough include: Code for Tampa Bay, Hillsborough County's EDI2 programMicrosoft, Laicos, Forex Factory, TekBank, The Iron YardCastleRoc Information Services, Collaborative Technologies of Tampa Bay, The Grind Coffee Bar and Kahwa Coffee.

“Working with volunteer community event partners has been a wonderful partnership,” Kimball says, noting Code for Hillsborough’s “dedicated co-chairs” Terri Willingham, Eureka Factory president, and John Punzak, Sr., National Sales Director for Red Hat.

Code for Hillsborough will begin at 4 p.m. on Friday, June 5; the hackathon culminates on Sunday, June 7, with final presentations beginning at 3 p.m.

Code for Hillsborough will take place at Microsoft’s Tampa offices, 5426 Bay Center Drive, Suite 700. The event is free and open to the public.

Tampa startup aims to soundproof your sleep with noise-, light-blocking curtains

The sound of silence.

That’s what Tampa-based startup company Residential Acoustics promises with their patented soundproof curtains and doors.

The AcoustiDoor and AcoustiCurtains aim to block unpleasant sounds from invading your home: trucks roaring down the road; noise from nearby establishments; train whistles; loud neighbors; construction; even the sound of a roommate watching late-night TV.

Initially, Walker Peek developed and designed the AcoustiDoor to give his now-wife a quieter place to sleep or study, while Peek, a night owl, watched movies or sports in the next room.

After searching for a solution in stores, Peek turned up empty-handed. He decided to create his own version of a noise-blocking apparatus: the AcoustiDoor, which keeps sound from traveling from room to room within a home. A sample of his sound-proofing scientific research and resources can be found on the company website.

The original AcoustiDoor ($139-$199 for standard sizes) is still being used in the Peeks’ home today.

The AcoustiDoor was soon followed by soundproof, light-blocking thermal curtains.

“Many people struggle with unwanted noise in their home or business and are looking for a well-made solution,” Peek explains, especially apartment residents in urban markets like New York, Chicago and Atlanta, who consistently purchase AcoustiCurtains.

Most sound-blocking curtains on the market work by absorbing noise, but Peek says that AcoustiCurtains work by deflecting sound waves. “Sound deflection makes the AcoustiCurtain the most effective sound-blocking curtain on the market.”

AcoustiCurtains also aim to block out almost all traces of external light, making them “perfect for new mothers, night nurses or anyone on an irregular sleeping schedule," Peek says, by "transforming a daytime bedroom into a sleep sanctuary.”

In addition to keeping noise and light out, AcoustiCurtains are designed to keep heat (or cool air) in. The thermal curtain’s insulating properties have helped homeowners see a reduction in heating and cooling costs, Peek says.

AcoustiCurtains range in price from $99 to $189; custom design and sizing is also available.

Along with private homes, AcoustiCurtains can be found in property management firms, construction companies and hotels throughout the United States. And as for future endeavors, Peek says the sky’s the limit.

“Our team is constantly learning, innovating and improving,” Peek says. “Our mindset has always been, ‘What problem can we solve next?’ ”

With 13 employees and plans to hire several more over the summer, Peek says that Residential Acoustics is “looking to expand our manufacturing footprint.”

The company takes pride in manufacturing in the U.S. using locally sourced materials. Peek calls the choice “one of the best decisions for our business. The quality, detail and workmanship of our products is something I’m extremely proud to stand behind.”

Residential Acoustics plans to remain in Tampa, but move into a larger warehouse space.

“It’s a very exciting time,” Peek says. “The jobs added to the economy and the team we’ve created is empowering. I’m grateful for it everyday.”

Buy a pair (or a mat), plant a tree: Tampa company seeks crowdfunding

Two new must-have meditation accessories for yogis are being developed in Tampa, Florida.

Gurus sandals, inspired by “an ancient wooden sandal” that Prem Thomas bought in India around 2011, have resonated among yogis online, Thomas says.

“Mainly on Instagram."

Thomas and his Gurus cofounder, Joe Choorapuzha, loved the sleek, simple design of the wooden sandals, their place in Indian history and the story that Mahatma Gandhi wore them.

The duo set out to build upon the minimal sandal and “make a product that is superior to flip-flops, but still retains the design of the original Indian version,” Thomas explains.

The result is a natural rubber sandal, sustainably sourced and hand-processed from rubber trees -- a practice that can continue for up to 25 years without harming the tree. 

The $30 sandal comes in a variety of colors, accompanied by a natural-fiber jute bag that features a Gandhi quote. Currently, Gurus sandals can be found online or at retailers such as surf shops, theme parks, salons, yoga studios and boutiques.

The cofounders place emphasis on producing and packaging products sustainably. The Guru sandal is biodegradable, making it a more environmentally friendly alternative to traditional plastic or foam flip-flops and sandals. To help promote the pair’s commitment to sustainability, a tree is planted in the developing world each time a product is sold.

“At the end of the day, a lot of companies can make new products and sell thousands or millions of sandals,” Thomas says. “We think if we can plant thousands or millions of trees, that’s a little more special.”

A successfully funded Kickstarter campaign ($16,236 pledged) helped bring Gurus to life. After the success of the sandal, brand ambassadors for the company wondered whether the cofounders could develop a yoga mat using the same type of natural rubber.

Thomas and Choorapuzha developed a solution: natural rubber topped with a layer of cork. A Kickstarter campaign for the cork yoga mat ends on Friday, May 22, at 1 p.m.

Click here to back this project.

At prices that range from $80 to $115 (up to half off for pledge backers), the campaign slogan reads, “Experience a no-slip, natural yoga mat that costs less than your yoga pants!”

“The mat is pretty amazing,” Thomas says, “and will even work when it is drenched with water or sweat, allowing yoga practitioners to do hot bikram yoga without a towel.”

If the Kickstarter goal is met, backers can expect to receive their mats in August 2015.

Thomas and Choorapuzha are “pretty confident” that the Kickstarter goal of $20,000 for the Gurus cork yoga mat will be met. But even if the crowdfunding target is not met, “we will most likely end up producing it in some form,” Thomas says.

“We think it’s an amazing product, and there is a market need from consumers and studios.”

Thomas, who grew up in Tampa, has worked in finance in the Philippines and with a civic venture capital fund in New York City. He attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill before working as an investment banker for Bank of America, where he met Choorapuzha.

Choorapuzha, an MBA student at the University of Pennsylvania, grew up in Pittsburgh, PA before attending Columbia University. Prior to cofounding Gurus, Choorapuzha worked with an investment fund in NYC.

Along with CEO Thomas and president Choorapuzha, Gurus employs six independent sales representatives and a distributor in Australia and Canada. The company plans to hire another employee in the field of marketing or design, and is seeking interns in Tampa beginning in summer 2015.

“As our company grows, it will be great to build a larger team locally to support that growth,” Thomas says.

Hillsborough teacher wins national award for student achievements

Last year Hillsborough County Public Schools piloted a new way to engage middle school students struggling with math through a dynamic intervention system designed by Scholastic called MATH 180™ -- complete with videos and computer lessons.

This school year, the program was available to eligible sixth graders throughout the county and is being used in all 50 states by 400 districts.  A Tampa educator using the program, Joel Leventhal of Webb Middle School, stood out nationally and was the sole winner of Scholastic’s Math 180 Educator Award for 2015.  

Margery Mayer, President of Scholastic Educational Technology and Services, says Leventhal won for “harnessing the power of the MATH 180 to rebuild his students confidence in math and accelerate them toward algebra-readiness,” and that he “empowers his students to take risks, embrace a growth mindset about their intelligence and guides them toward understanding, fluency and mastery.”

“I feel really fortunate,” says Leventhal who received $1,200 in prize money and will also be flown to Atlanta for Model Schools Conference in late June. “I tried to build a classroom where kids aren’t afraid to take risks and they really bought into it. I think the kids are really making me look good!”  He also credits his math coaches and Webb principal, Frank Diaz, who he says has been “extremely supportive.”

Leventhal says the curriculum provides intensive support and is geared toward kids who have struggled with math throughout elementary school. He is impressed with the Math 180 program and says it clearly illustrates through videos and other exercises “how math is important in their daily lives and real world scenarios.” He cites a video in the program that shows the example of a global soap delivery project for Africa -- “it showed division in real life,” said Leventhal. “How many boxes could fit in a package?” 

Half of the work is done on the computer, which Leventhal says provides “a lot of encouragement and positivity,” is something the kids enjoy, and allows them to work at their own pace. The rest is work in the classroom, together, supported by a workbook.

The students take benchmark and progress tests throughout the year. By midyear, Leventhal’s students had already achieved 70 percent of what they needed for the entire year -- well ahead of schedule. 

Leventhal has a degree in exceptional student education from the University of South Florida. This is Leventhal’s first year teaching math and first year at Webb, having taught science for the three years prior at Buchanan Middle School. In addition to regular math and PE classes, he teaches a total 90 Math 180 students, divided by four classes. You do the math.

$1.1M grant boosts employment services at Helen Gordon Davis Centre for Women in Tampa

The Helen Gordon Davis Centre for Women has championed employment service efforts in the Tampa community for nearly four decades. In May 2015, the Centre announced that a new $1.137 million grant from the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity will help to substantially expand its Employment Services Program.

Grant funding will enable the Centre to broaden employment programs in Hillsborough County, and executive director Ann W. Madsen says that the Centre might provide future services in Pinellas County, as well.

The new grant will be dispersed to the nonprofit organization over a five-year period, and will help to fund training and placement programs for men and women the Centre identifies as displaced homemakers.

The programs at the Centre are distinct from more general training and job search programs, Madsen explains in a news release, because their primary goal is to “assist women and men in their efforts to achieve lasting economic self-sufficiency. The program helps them to focus on careers that can provide a realistic, livable income for families.”

The JobSync program provides displaced homemakers with one-on-one counseling to help individuals address emotional issues before seeking employment and to develop career plans. It also provides resources to help individuals learn to navigate job applications, computer training, interview techniques and other skills essential to transitioning into a new role -– and economic stability -- successfully.

JobSync aims to “help people, both men and women, to get connected to the right job,” says Madsen.

The original profile of a displaced homemaker when the Centre first began offering services in the late 1970s was “a woman in her mid-thirties or older who had lost her source of income due to divorce, separation, death, disability or unemployment,” explains Alice Thompson, director of the Centre’s Employment Services Program.

Today, Thompson says, “there are many types of individuals and situations that would qualify.”

Now, the displaced homemaker program provides services for both men and women, as long as they meet certain criteria: ages 35 or older; have relied on federal aid or unemployment; are not employed (to learn more about The Centre’s Displaced Homemakers Program and how to qualify, email Alice Thompson or call 813-251-8437.

“Helping displaced homemakers has been one of our core programs,” Madsen says. “Through the years, the Displaced Homemakers Program has provided the opportunity for hundreds of people in our community to lead financially independent lives and find careers that truly support their families.”

The Centre for Women provides many programs and services that help local women and men, including workforce development, entrepreneurial and employment strategies, individual and family counseling, substance abuse treatment and services for girls and senior citizens.

Creativity takes center stage at June startup event

Up Global’s Startup Weekend events often bring together a city’s brightest techies, entrepreneurs and advocates for innovation. In June, for the first time in Tampa, entrepreneurs and artists will have the chance to create, invent and innovate during Startup Weekend Design Edition, Tampa Bay.

The new event is the result of the strong showing of the creative community during Tampa’s inaugural Startup Week in February 2015, event co-organizer Ryan Sullivan explains.

“Creatives, just like everyone else, experience challenges on a daily basis, and we wanted to provide them with a platform to solve those problems,” Sullivan says.

The three-day event will follow the traditional Startup Weekend format – over the course of 54 hours, Tampa Bay designers, developers, entrepreneurs and experts from all domains will come together to create an innovative solution to a real-world problem.

This time, the focus is on the challenges faced by those in the creative industry. Local fashion entrepreneurs, interior designers, architects, graphic artists and other creatives are invited to join in on the collaborative event.

Anyone can pitch an idea; teams form around the most popular ones. Over the next few days, teams work to develop a product and a business model to bring their idea to life – this time, with creativity in mind. On the last night, teams will present their visions to local entrepreneurial leaders from creative or design industries and one team will be named the winner.

The goals of a Startup Weekend event in any community are to educate people about entrepreneurship and to encourage networking, says Sullivan, who has organized multiple Up Global events including Startup Week and Startup Weekend Youth Tampa Bay. He anticipates around 50 attendees for the region’s first design-focused startup weekend. 

Lisa Gilmore, founder and lead interior designer at Lisa Gilmore Design, anticipates networking with members of the local creative community during the upcoming Startup Weekend Design event.

“As a creative myself, I know that we can run a bit wild with our ideas,” Gilmore says, “and collaborating with other professionals during Startup Weekend will be beneficial in bringing some of those ideas and dreams to life!”

Startup Weekend Design Edition co-organizer Nancy Vaughn has previously participated in and sponsored Startup Weekend events, and “experienced first-hand the impact that Startup Weekend has on the community,” she explains. As for potential outcomes of the event, Vaughn, principal at White Book Agency, hopes to see “some cool creative businesses started.”

Vaughn, creator of Tampa Bay Fashion Week, suggests examples including “an app that takes everyday colors for use in textiles or wallpaper, or maybe a new runway show seating platform, or wearable technology that allows for automatic VIP check-in. Can someone make that, please?”

“More importantly, I hope that great connections are formed, new ideas are sparked and launched, and everyone has a good time working together,” Vaughn says. 

Startup Weekend Design Edition, Tampa Bay will begin at 6:30 pm on June 5 and conclude in the late evening hours of June 7. The 54-hour make-fest will unfold at CoWork Tampa, 3104 North Armenia Ave. Ste 2.

To register, or learn more about the weekend’s schedule, visit the Startup Weekend Design Edition, Tampa Bay website. Be sure to use the code "83D'' for $25 off. 

Discover more upcoming entrepreneurially minded events in the Tampa Bay area, like Startup Weekend Tampa Bay Youth (May 15-17), in the 83 Degrees Spring/Summer 2015 startup events guide.

With $1 million at stake, UT students take on urban slums

A student team has earned the University of Tampa the distinction of being the only university in the United States to secure a spot in the final round of competition for the 2015 Hult Prize. Up for grabs: $1 million in seed funding to the winning team.

The Hult Prize Foundation is a nonprofit that focuses its efforts on solving world issues through challenging young, social and eco-conscious entrepreneurs to come up with innovative ideas.  The challenge, this year, was to develop an idea that would meet the goal of educating 10 million children in urban slums by 2020.

UT’s student team, Athollo, joined other competitors from across the globe, including another team from UT, to address the issue of early childhood education – or lack thereof - in urban slums. The team aims to use mobile phones as the key component in providing top quality early childhood education to children from the ages of 0-6 who are living in the urban slums of developing nations.

Inspired by the educational theme, the team name derives from the Greek god of wisdom, Athena, combined with the Greek god of knowledge, Apollo. Founder and Chief Visionary Officer Phil Michaels explains that the team’s mission is to ”endeavor to alleviate the inaccessibility of education around the world.”

Athollo won first place in the San Francisco regional competition, one of six Hult Prize regional locations around the world. Along with the other regional winners, the team will attend a 6-week accelerator over the summer. In September, the teams will then head to NYC to present in front of President Clinton at the Clinton Global Initiative Annual meeting.

One team will be named winner, and earn $1M in seed capital funding.

If Athollo wins the Hult Prize competition, Michaels says, the team will “funnel the seed capital funding into providing salaries for their employees, developing an app, subsidizing marketing efforts and other operating expenses.”

“Tampa is the next wave of social entrepreneurs!” says Michaels, who also serves as the UT campus director for the Hult Prize. “I never doubted the ability of our university’s young social entrepreneurs to address this pressing challenge intelligently and thoughtfully.”

Athollo is comprised of six enterprising UT students:
  • Michaels, a dual degree-seeking student (MBA in Entrepreneurship and MS in Marketing) at UT and self-described serial entrepreneur.
  • Chief Social Capital Marketing Officer Sercan Topcu is an MS (Marketing) student at UT. Chief Education Officer Brittany Brescia is a dual-degree seeking student in Education and English at UT.
  • CFO Ulixes Hawili is an honors student at UT pursuing a dual degree in Mathematics and Economics.
  • COO Ravi Goldberg is an honors student at UT who is majoring in Entrepreneurship and minoring in Leadership and Business Analytics.
  • Akingbolahan Akinwumi, Chief Cultural Officer, M.D. is pursuing an MBA.
A second UT team, BamBoost, came in second at the Boston regional competition, but they aren’t out of the running for the $1 million yet.

This year, any participating teams can compete for a wild card spot in the final competition by earning the most money in an Indiegogo crowd-funding campaign. To date, BamBoost has earned about 60 percent of their goal of $20,000. Click here to learn more or to donate to their crowd-funding campaign.

Athollo is also seeking donations via crowdfunding website GoFundMe; the team hopes to raise $53,000 to implement a pilot study in sub-Saharan Africa. Click here to learn more or to donate to their crowd-funding campaign

“I am incredibly proud of the hard work that both teams have put into their efforts to educate impoverished children in urban slums that need it most,” Michaels says. “It is a humbling experience to watch them grow into the business pioneers they were destined to become while changing the lives of millions of people in the process.”

Casting call: Musicians, show how 'St. Pete Shines' in the city's new national ad campaign

The City of St. Petersburg will place local singers and bands on the national stage in an upcoming advertising campaign.

During a live competition on Saturday, May 9, musicians who are based in the St. Pete community will have the chance to publicly perform a rendition of the classic song “You Are My Sunshine” at a live, battle-of-the-bands style competition.

Four winners will be selected, and the winning performances of the song will be featured in the city’s first national ad campaign.

Nina Mahmoudi, Creative Services Manager for the City, describes St. Pete as “a city filled with talented people, from artists and musicians to technology innovators and food and brewing connoisseurs.”

"We are a community known for our growing arts and culture,” Mahmoudi says. The casting call is “just one way we are engaging the community to show how ‘St. Pete Shines’.”

Bands and artists who are interested in competing in the “You Are My Sunshine” Music Contest must submit an entry to the contest website by Friday, May 1, 2015. Entry submissions should include a link to your website or reel (new recordings are not required from musicians, as long as a video of the artist performing is submitted).

Finalists will be notified and invited to play their version of “You Are My Sunshine” before a live audience.

The promotional campaign will “highlight our city's greatness," Mahmoudi explains, “and we decided using local talent was the best way” to do that.

Interesting in putting your own twist on the song, but don’t have much experience? That’s OK, says CLEAR Labs executive director Jenn Greacen. Interested parties who have never performed before are invited to submit a pitch video explaining why they should be selected as finalists.

“Anyone who would like to share their love for St. Pete should send in an audition," explains Greacen, whose St. Pete-based marketing agency is partnering with the City of St. Petersburg for the "Casting Sunshine" campaign. "You don't have to be a professional singer, you just have to have love for St. Pete!” 

Fans of the Sunshine City's local music scene are invited to attend the free public concert/competition, which will be held from 4-10 pm on May 9 at Sly Bar in DTSP.

“Even if you are not a performer, the entire community is welcome at the event to cheer on the finalists, help us in our selections, and, just in general, to come out and have a good time,” says Greacen.

Along with the chance to be featured in the campaign, contest winners will receive a $500 cash prize and a recording studio session, and will retain master publishing rights on their rendition of “You Are My Sunshine.”

Visit the City of St. Petersburg's "Casting Sunshine" website to learn more or refer to the contest’s rules of entry for details.

“You Are My Sunshine” Music Contest sponsors include local Sly Bar, The Hideaway Café & Recording Studio, and Urban Brew and BBQ.
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