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Tampa Innovation Summit to boost local startup ecosystem

Twentieth century entrepreneurs are working hard to make the Tampa Bay region a place that attracts -- and keeps -- 21st Century businesses. Among their goals is helping young business minds recognize what they did: the Tampa Bay area is business friendly, has great weather (especially in the winter) and is an all-around beautiful place to live.

“We want the Tampa Bay region to be one of the best places in the country to build a company,” says Marc Blumenthal, CEO of Florida Funders, which looks to invest in between 12 and 25 companies annually. “We want people to seek us out, to stay here to build their companies.”
 
A Jan. 24 Innovation Summit, organized by The Tampa Bay Business Journal and sponsored by Florida Funders, is bringing together people who can participate in building the region into a major entrepreneurial ecosystem similar in reputation to that experienced by Austin TX, Boulder CO, Raleigh-Durham NC or Atlanta GA.
 
“Jan. 24, 2017, really marks the point in time in which Tampa Bay celebrates the successes that it already has,” Blumenthal says.
 
The summit will be inspiring people about ways to become involved. “You need all the ingredients in the recipe to work. We want to activate people,” Blumenthal explains.
 
The Innovation Summit, scheduled from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. at Tampa Marriott Waterside, is a showcase event featuring Jeff Vinik, Chairman and Governor of Tampa Bay Lightning; and Chris Sullivan, Chairman of Omnivore and MenuPad.
 
“Chris Sullivan is one of the gems of the Tampa Bay area,” Blumenthal says. “He and his partners built Outback [Steakhouse] many many years ago. They chose Tampa as the base. They got the time and the energy and the capital and the support that they needed.”
 
The slate of speakers and panelists also includes Mindy Grossman, CEO and Director of HSN Inc.; innovator Ron Klein; Bill Edwards, CEO of The Edwards Group and Chairman, CEO and Governor of Tampa Bay Rowdies; and governmental representatives.
 
The summit is preceded by an 8:15 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. Entrepreneurial Ecosystem Workshop Action Meeting at the same facility to discuss findings of a Tampa Bay Ecosystem Study conducted through the University of Tampa. The study, which Blumenthal describes as “a bit of a prescription,” recommends the community build an entrepreneurial mindset and address its vision and collaborative efforts.
 
An Investor Lunch from 11:45 a.m. to 1 p.m. will bring together accredited investors and early stage companies. Those who wish to attend can e-mail Florida Funders.
 
The Summit will help attract attention to what the Tampa Bay area has to offer to business. “I think that the visibility of our region, nationally and internationally, has really gone up significantly,” Blumenthal says. “Now’s the time. Now’s always the time. You can’t do it tomorrow, you can’t do it yesterday.”
 
The Summit aims to draw 400-500 people. Tickets are $90 each, with reservations available by following this link

At least 64 entrepreneurial support organizations have been training, mentoring and investing in new businesses in the area. "There is no shortage [of support] ... no shortage of passion and willingness to help build companies" Blumenthal says.

Wifi Waiter makes debut in Downtown Tampa

It’s lunch break and you’re on a tight schedule. You don’t want to spend your time waiting in line to order. No problem. Wifi Waiter has you covered.

Without an app, you can take a seat and order.

“What we’ve done is basically brought in tableside ordering,” explains Anup Balagopal, Founder and CEO of Tampa-based Torchfi.
 
Using the restaurant’s Internet service, Wifi Waiter levels the playing field for brick-and-mortar businesses that, ordinarily, don’t have the ability to recognize repeat customers when they walk in the door. “They faced a significant challenge when competing with online services. The one thing we wanted to do was bring in technology for offline business, and help them do the same things that online does.”
 
Wifi Waiter is live in two locations in downtown Tampa: The Attic and Moxies Cafe and Caterer. “We are always looking to improve the customer experience, and saw this as a unique opportunity for our customers to be able to 'skip the line' in our fast casual restaurant,” says Moxies’ co-owner Bob Carr. “It’s a great fit since we already deliver the food to the table, so the impact to operations is minimal to gain a near full-service experience.” 
 
Torchfi is targeting fast casual restaurants that, by definition, don’t have servers to take your order. Restaurants pay for a monthly subscription with little, upfront cost. “Once we have proven this product here in the Tampa Bay region, I believe we will be able to scale this across the country with the same chains,” Balagopal says.
 
Starting this week, Torchfi is expected to facilitate the ordering process for those who typically order the same, or similar, menu items. “We make it easier for the customer to actually place an order by recording their ordering history,” Balagopal says.
 
Torchfi’s engineering and backup operations are in India, but its headquarters moved to Tampa four months ago after being chosen to participate in Tampa Bay Wave, a non-profit to help entrepreneurs grow tech businesses. 
 
“They have been our angel in Tampa,” Balagopal says. “What Wave brings is an amazing network of mentors and industry experts who help identify what the market actually requires.”
 
Allen Clary, a Tampa Bay Wave Mentor and Entrepreneur in Residence, calls Torchfi “one of our shooting stars.” “It’s absolutely one of the most innovative company products we have in the Wave right now,” he says.
 
He notes Torchfi has made the cut for the Investor Pitch Day Jan. 27, meaning it has passed rigorous review and will be able to pitch to qualified investors in Tampa Bay.
 
Balagopal has his eyes fixed on even greater opportunities beyond the restaurant industry. He’s thinking about malls, stadiums and airports.

With a small Torchfi device connecting customers to an Internet router and  enabling free access, it doesn’t matter if you’re working on a laptop, or using a tablet or phone. “It’s simple and quick,” he says.

Checkers rolls out new look, expands in Tampa Bay Area in new year

Shaji Joseph is a man of firsts. He owns the oldest Checkers in Tampa and the first Checkers in a Walmart in the Tampa area, which is in Oldsmar. Now he is now making plans to open the first updated modular Checkers in Tampa.
 
For all appearances, this Indian immigrant is living the American dream. “I am so proud and happy to cherish what this great nation has offered me and my family,” the 46-year-old entrepreneur says. “[I] will forever be in debt to this great organization [Checkers] that believed in me and gave me such an awesome avenue.” 
 
Joseph attended business school in India, then became an assistant manager for Checkers in Pennsylvania. Fast forward 19 years, and Joseph owns eight franchises, with a commitment to build five more. His eighth location, in Spring Hill, is scheduled to open this month. The modular restaurant on Busch Boulevard is slated to open in the second quarter of 2017.
 
“I hit the ground running. I never stop. I never look back. I just keep going,” he says.
 
Formerly the corporation’s Director of Operations, Joseph is excited about the new design options, which enables him to save money and time. Each restaurant with a new modular design costs approximately $250,000 to build, which is $100,000 less than the traditional option.
 
The new modular restaurant features structural steel, which enhances sturdiness. It will have one instead of two drive-thru lanes plus a covered, outdoor seating area and a walk-up window.
 
His new Busch Boulevard location, which is currently awaiting city approval, is right by his franchise office, Wow Burgers LLC.
 
The new restaurants will incorporate the company’s traditional red, black and white colors. “There’s a lot of excitement and how it’s convenient,” he says. “We’re not losing our charm.”
 
Joseph’s Busch Boulevard location will be one of more than 50 in the nation with the Tampa-based Checkers & Rally’s Restaurants' updated designs. The new design is rolling out in key markets in Tampa, South Florida, Los Angeles, Nashville, Columbus and Houston.
 
Its Model 4.0 design gives franchise holders three options: traditional, modular and hybrid.
 
Jennifer Durham, Checkers & Rally’s Senior VP, says both the modular and hybrid designs are built offsite and feature structural steel. The hybrid design includes structural steel recycled from shipping boxes from overseas.
 
“It’s actually cheaper for manufacturers overseas to leave them behind than to ship them back empty,” Durham says. “We’re working through a third party to acquire the used shipping containers and remanufacture them into our buildings.”
 
Reusing the boxes isn’t quite as cost effective as she initially thought. “The more people that go after them, the price goes up,” she explains. “We weren’t the first or the last one to think of this design concept.”
 
She became interested in the concept after reading about them in architectural and design magazines. “To me, it was worth exploring. Given the size of our restaurant, its seemed like there was a natural fit,” she says.
 
With transport costs at $10 to $15 a mile for the pre-fabricated buildings, Checkers & Rally’s is considering multiple manufacturers across the country. It has more than 840 locations in the United States, and more than 250 more in the works.

Online fitness company helps people get off the couch

Ed Buckley has found an innovative way to make money by encouraging people to exercise. Through Peerfit, a company he founded with Scott Peeples, he is working with insurers and employers to provide exercise credits at fitness centers across the nation.
 
“The idea is that we should give you an array of options, whatever is going to motivate you to get out of the couch,” says Buckley, Peerfit’s CEO. “You have the availability to do it, and you have no barriers to stop you.”
 
Buckley was studying group fitness at the University of Florida when he had an idea to start a fitness company. In 2010, when he met Peeples, another student, he pitched him the idea. By 2011, Peerfit was a reality.
 
“We’re pretty satisfied with the diversity of high-quality options we've put inside the [fitness] network, says Buckley, who holds a PhD from UF in Health Behavior, with a focus on Digital Health and Wellness.
 
A digital company based in Tampa, Peerfit works directly with insurance carriers and employers with wellness budgets. The companies buy credits that clients or employees can use at a variety of fitness studios such as CAMP, Soho Cycling and Epic Boxing in Tampa, or the national Lifetime Fitness.
 
The companies fund a certain number of credits every month. “It’s all about personalization and flexibility. That’s what we built the model for,” he explains.
 
The company was developed with capital from friends and family. In the summer of 2016, Peerfit raised $1.5 million, including some $400,000 through Florida Funders, a company developed in 2014 to help investors fund Florida businesses.
 
“Some of my friends like to call us the 20th century entrepreneurs,” quips Marc Blumenthal, Florida Funders’ CEO.
 
Florida Funders ferrets through 70 to 100 companies a month to find those one, two or three they will try to help financially. “We’re actually focused on tech-enabled companies,” he explains.
 
Florida Funders’ website serves as a platform to connect businesses with investors. In addition to making a profit through shares in the companies, its goal is to help make Florida a place where investors’ children and grandchildren can find good jobs.
 
“Peerfit is a very exciting company,” Blumenthal says. “We ... want to make sure they don’t leave to go somewhere else.”
 
Peerfit is already making its mark. During 2016, it helped 10,000 people.
 
After you find your footing, things move and they move fast,” Buckley says.

Restaurateur encourages patrons to skip the straw

Drinking straws are standard fare at most restaurants. Whenever we order a cold beverage, it usually comes with a straw, and we use it to slurp our water, teas or sodas in a matter of minutes. Afterwards, the straws end up littering our beaches and landfills.
 
“We see those [straws] out on the beach everywhere, those and cracker wrappers,” says Ed Chiles, owner of Chiles Restaurant Group.
 
So Chiles decided to do something about it. He has quit serving “old-style,” non-biodegradable plastic beverage straws.
 
“If they want a straw they’re going to get a straw. We’ve got a good [biodegradable] backup,” says Chiles, who owns Ana Maria’s Sandbar, Bradenton Beach’s Beach House and Longboat Key’s Mar Vista Dockside restaurants.
 
Chiles is partnering with the Washington, D.C.-based Ocean Conservancy to educate the public about the single-use plastic straws and protect our oceans. According to the Conservancy, straws are one of the top 10 items collected during cleanups.
 
Chiles’ campaign includes green messages encouraging customers to “Skip the Straw.”  So far, it has been working.
 
“I think it has gone very well overall. I think people understand. At first, there’s that little pause. They think about it and they get it,” Chiles says.
 
His servers are on board. “Our people have embraced it. If your servers aren’t behind it, you’ve got a problem,” he explains.
 
Chiles calls removing the plastic beverage straw “one small step.” He’s already ditched plastic cups and individually wrapped crackers, opting for glasses and sleeves of crackers. Plans include a complete line of eco-friendly “to go” containers and reusable packing crates.
 
He has gardens to grow their own herbs and spices. “The kitchen guys go out and work it,” says Chiles, an honorary faculty member of the University of South Florida’s Patel College of Global Sustainability. “We are all about local sustainable.”
 
Although his menus feature seafood, you also may find wild boar, considered an invasive species. “We take lemons and make limoncello,” he quips. “People think they [wild boars] are not any good, but they’re wrong. It’s fabulous. It’s one of my favorite meats.”
 
Even his parking lots are environmentally friendly. For the last decade, he has been a leader in pervious or porous parking lots, setting an example about how to deal with stormwater on commercial properties.
 
Chiles isn’t stopping with the beverage straw. Now he’s looking for a bio-degradable cocktail straw.

USF students, alumni offered free training in software coding

University of South Florida students and alumni can begin training now for lucrative software development jobs through an online training program by Reston, VA-based Revature, a technology talent development company.
 
The program paves the way for a free on-the-ground bootcamp and contract jobs in the field.
 
“We’re addressing the technology skills gap, as well as just the struggle of corporations to really find tech and software engineers for specific types of skillsets,” says Joe Vacca, Revature’s Chief Marketing Officer.
 
RevaturePro online training is ideal for those who are seeking a career in software development, whether they have liberal arts, business or computer backgrounds. It helps build the skills necessary for the Revature Coding Bootcamp, an intense 10- to 12-week program that builds skills needed to launch their careers.
 
Students must apply for the bootcamp, which requires a bachelor’s degree. When accepted into the bootcamp, housing and a weekly living allowance are provided.
 
“The companies in the Tampa area, Florida as well as the rest of the United States, are struggling to find software developers to fill the openings they have,” Vacca explains.
 
The bootcamp gives participants the equivalent of one to two years of experience, fast-tracking their career. “Many of these individuals within four years will be making six figure salaries given the demand,” he continues.
 
USF students and alumni can access the RevaturePro online program at revature.com/usf. The self-paced learning program can take from a month to a year to complete. Mentors are available to work with students.
 
“We’re very excited about our partnership with USF. We want to provide the pathway to their graduates. We feel like we’re going to get some of the top talent in the country,” Vacca says.
 
Joe Mitchell, Senior VP of University Partnerships with Revature, says they are in contact with area businesses about providing tech talent. “We’re looking forward to stimulating economic growth,” he says.
 
Revature is offering training in Java, .NET and SDET. Careers in software development involve backend codes that make company systems work, whether they involve a customer service program, managing a database, developing a website, or creating a mobile application.
 
Peter Thorsett, Communications and Marketing Officer for USF’s Department of Career Services, says the online program is ideal for sophomore, junior or even senior students who want to explore coding and software development. The exposure is good for students even if they don’t decide to pursue a software career. “We’re living in an era where technology permeates everything we do,” he says.
 
The bootcamp is an opportunity to pursue a software career, change careers or meld current experience with coding experience to qualify for tech-related jobs. “That leveraging of past experience is huge,” he says. “It’s a great way to get into a pipeline very quickly.”

For Good: Classes on human trafficking offered in South Hillsborough County

To read this story in Spanish, please follow this link.

Seeking to educate the community in Hillsborough County about how to effectively combat human trafficking in the area, the Campaign Against Human Trafficking-Sun City Center/South Shore is offering two free four-hour courses on Jan. 11, 2017
 
Florida is one of the leading states in the nation for human trafficking activity and Tampa Bay is a hub for child sex trafficking and Internet pornography, according to a documentary aired by PBS in 2013 titled “Too Close to Home: Human Trafficking in Tampa Bay.”

Children may have been picked up in malls, off the streets or from connections on the Internet. They may believe they are headed for a fun afternoon, a cute date, or maybe they run away and are found by a pimp (usually within 48 hours of being on the street). Some have been labeled as “throw-away” children, those whose parents have kicked them out or sold them off. The average age of a trafficked child is 12, and many will never live past their 19th birthday, according to data posted on the CAHT Website.
 
The stories are heartbreaking. Hoping to combat this phenomena, the Campaign Against Human Trafficking-Sun City Center/ South Shore founded by June M. Wallace works to bring awareness about this criminal activity and educate the community on how they can actively work to put an end to human trafficking.
 
“The Many Faces of Human Trafficking” from 8 a.m. to noon is open to all community members, and will focus on providing an understanding of the origins, methods of operation, and indicators of trafficking along with an understanding of the unique victimization process. An emphasis will be placed on the importance of building alliances and coalitions as part of a coordinated community response to human trafficking using case studies as examples.
 
“Introduction to Human Trafficking,” from 1-5 p.m. is exclusively for law enforcement and victim services. This course will focus on an overview of best practices for investigating cases, legal remedies for trafficking victims, and interviewing victims. Special attention will be placed on human trafficking being a victim-centered crime.
 
Both courses are sponsored by the Florida Regional Community Policing Institute, which is part of St. Petersburg College’s Center for Public Safety Innovation, and will take place at SCC United Methodist Church, 1210 Del Webb Boulevard West, Sun City Center. 

“Human trafficking educational opportunities of this caliber are becoming difficult to find,” Wallace says. 

To register for the “The Many Faces of Human Trafficking” training, click on this link.  

To register for the “Introduction to Human Trafficking” training, click on this link.

For questions about these courses, please contact Laura Heisler at 727-341-4437. 

The Campaign Against Human Trafficking fosters community and faith-integrated actions to end Human Trafficking in Hillsborough County by providing support to the Tampa Bay Task Force on Human Trafficking. The organization also focuses on raising awareness, education, victim services, and fundraising.

White House recognizes Tampa Bay as TechHire Community

Tampa Bay is now officially a TechHire community, which is pretty good news for jobseekers here between 17 and 29. That is if they’re willing to learn new computer skills like java programming, mobile applications or web development.
 
White House officials and community leaders announced Tampa Bay’s TechHire designation last Thursday in separate events. Tampa Bay is now one of more than 70 such areas nationwide.
 
The designation indicates Tampa’s Innovation District, which includes the University of South Florida, Busch Gardens and Moffitt Cancer Center, has met White House TechHire standards. It bolsters the area’s opportunities to achieve job-training goals.
 
Mark Sharpe, CEO of Tampa Innovation Alliance, says the designation “cements you in the [TechHire] club.”
 
“The whole point of bringing the public and private institutions together is to create opportunities for everyone,” Sharpe adds. “There is a sense that not everyone has benefited from trade and from the emerging tech economy. When people don’t have that opportunity, it creates frustration and, in many instances, struggle.”
 
“It [the designation] identifies us as a community that is working towards improving our IT industry sector, that we’re looking for ways to make opportunities available -- for people, for companies,” adds Edward Peachey, President and CEO of CareerSource Tampa Bay, which is partnering in the initiative.
 
Tampa Bay received a $3.8 million federal grant last summer to fund technical training in the community and connect people with jobs. Some $150 million in grants were awarded to 39 TechHire communities, with the communities kicking in nearly $50 million in additional philanthropic, private and other funding.
 
Nationwide, more than 4,000 people have been trained and connected to higher-paying job opportunities.
 
Peachey notes the TechHire designation is distinct from the funding, which lasts for three years. “Being a TechHire community has a longer life to it,” he explains. “What really stands out is the partnership that it creates between employers and community-based organizations and government. And the recognition that we’re all working together to improve our community for the tech companies and tech employees.”
 
The designation also facilitates information sharing about developing a tech workforce, he adds.
 
The TechHire initiative, launched by President Barack Obama in March, 2015, is building a pipeline of tech talent to local communities across the nation, creating jobs and facilitating business growth.
 
Tampa Bay was one of 20 communities added to the initiative Thursday. Three others were in Florida: Central Florida, including Sumter, Lake, Orange, Osceola and Seminole counties; Alachua and Bradford counties; and Pensacola.
 
CareerSource Tampa Bay is fast-tracking IT training and employment opportunities for more than 1,000 out-of-school youth and young adults through 2020. Some jobs are in health care. Employers such as BayCare Health Systems and Cognizant Technology Solutions are working to advance the community’s economic health and technology industry.
 
The training program is short, and can take about four months, Sharpe says.
 
Those who are interested in free training can apply online at http://www.careersourcetampabay.com or visit one of the CareerSource Tampa Bay offices.
 
The alliance and other initiative leaders will be meeting with the business community Dec. 15 as part of its effort to develop its employment base – which already numbers more than 200.
 
Unemployment rates for IT jobs in the Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater area were greater than one percent in August, 2015, compared to 5.2 percent overall, according to a CareerSource workforce analysis.

Study shows USF has $400M impact through innovation efforts

University of South Florida’s efforts to encourage innovation and economic development are paying off. A Washington Economics Group study shows USF’s innovation and economic development efforts have a statewide economic impact of more than $400 million annually.
 
The bulk of the money, $395 million, stays in the Tampa Bay region, where some 1,550 people are directly employed, the study reveals. An additional 1,467 people work for partner organizations and businesses that serve USF innovation operations, resulting in a combined household income of $149 million.
 
The study was commissioned by USF and the Florida High Tech Corridor, a partnership of more than 25 local and regional Economic Development Organizations and 14 state and community colleges. It focused on the impact of USF Research Park, Tampa Bay Technology Incubator, which hatches new businesses; and Technology Transfer Office, which handles patents, copyrights and other intellectual property rights issues.
 
“This helps us understand ourselves and how we can contribute to the rest of the community and business in the area,” says Paul Sanberg, USF’s Senior VP for Research, Innovation and Economic Development. “I thought it was important to do. ... We work so hard on the invention part and the education part that we don’t really see the bigger picture.”
 
About 80 percent of the jobs are in Knowledge-Based Services, including life sciences, information technology, financial services, professional and administrative services. This sector also effects tourism, real estate, transportation and other key areas of the economy, the report says.
 
The report asserts USF support efforts are “critical” to the economy in Florida and the Tampa region. “USF’s Innovation Enterprise’s commercialization activities add significantly to the high-wage job creation in targeted State industries such as life sciences,” it says.
 
The USF System has a $4.4 billion annual economic impact on the Tampa Bay Region, with 15,243 employees in Tampa, St. Petersburg and Sarasota-Manatee, says Vickie Chachere, Director of Strategic Communications for USF Research and Innovation.
 
Universities have fostered innovation as corporate-funded research has declined. “At USF, leading edge research and entrepreneurship are ingrained in its culture. USF’s TBTI is currently home to over 60 resident and affiliate companies, with 58 percent of these companies directly coming from the USF’s TTO as spinouts,” the study notes. “The mentorship and resources from the TTO and the TBTI are key to the success of many of these startups.”
 
The report is “a pretty significant recruitment tool,” says Chachere. “This is everybody’s success story.”

HART begins innovative rideshare program in Tampa

The Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority wants to meet you where you are. Its new HyperLINK system, believed to be the first of its kind in the nation, allows customers to book a ride -- with a smartphone app -- to and from bus stops in designated areas.
 
“Transit is really effective at taking people down dense corridors. There’s no more efficient way to move people,” explains Sean Quigley, Project Manager for HyperLINK. “Transit isn’t very good at getting you from your door to your door, from one specific address to another.”
 
HyperLINK aims to change that with a new app, which allows customers to arrange service on demand through their Apple and Android phones. Apps can be downloaded at the iTunes store or Google Play online.
 
HART has contracted the services from Transdev, a Chicago area private-sector transit provider that created the HyperLINK platform.
 
“We're developed this as a first mile, last mile [service],” says Quigley, Transdev’s Business Development Manager. “ We’re looking at doing the same platform in Denver, New Orleans, Nassau County, NY, San Diego.”
 
 They would like to grow the service all over the country.
 
“The unique component with this is there is an app to it,” explains Sandra Morrison, HART’s Public Information Officer. “The fact that there’s this app connected with this service hasn’t been done anywhere else. Hopefully this will catch on.”
 
Apps are free. Alternatively, riders can book by calling 813-298-0455. 
 
Service is currently available within a three-mile radius north of University Area Transit Center at 13110 N. 27th St. (near Veterans Hospital) and north and south of Carrollwood at 10108 W. Fletcher Avenue (where Fletcher intersects with Dale Mabry Highway). There is no HyperLINK service to the University of South Florida south of Fletcher. Vehicles with wheelchair access are available.
 
Service at Brandon Mall and Brandon Hospital is anticipated in mid- to late December.
 
HART is funding the project through a $200,000 Florida of Department of Transportation grant, provided over two years, Morrison says.
 
“We’re hoping and seeking to extend the footprint ... that HART has in the community,” she says. “It exposes them to the transit system. They’ll be able to try it and hopefully like it.”
 
HyperLINK passengers receive five free rides with a promotional code available on social media or through HART literature. Then the cost is $3 per ride; riders can pay by cash or credit. For more details as the service expands, call customer service at 813-254-4278 or visit ww.gohart.org.
 
“Anytime the HART buses are running, we are running too,” Quigley says.
 
 They are hoping to serve 60,000 riders in the first year. The service may create 200 driving jobs during the next two years, he adds.
 
“The idea here is to create a service that is personalized,” Quigley explains. “You can still take the bus. You can get that really cheap fare. ... You don’t have to walk half a mile in the baking heat or in the rain.”

Skyway: Open call to local artists for collaborative exhibit at Tampa Bay Area museums

A new collaborative project between the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art, the Museum of Fine Arts (MFA), St. Petersburg and the Tampa Museum of Art will bridge the selected works of local artists in a joint, simultaneous exhibit called Skyway in June 2017.  

An open call to artists is currently underway to artists from Hillsborough, Pinellas, Manatee and Sarasota counties. There is no entry fee for submissions and the online call closes Dec. 15, 2016.

“One of the great powers of art is in bringing people together and stimulating dialogue -- do you like it, do you hate it, what would you have done differently, and so on,” says Seth Pevnick, Chief Curator at the Tampa Museum of Art. “Too often with exhibitions, the dialogue can go no further than that. But with this exhibition, many of the artists in our community will have the opportunity to display their art on a bigger stage and join in the conversation in that way.”

The exhibit will be juried by six curators, two from each participating museum and a visiting juror. Any original artwork, including paintings, drawings, prints, sculpture, photography, video, performance and site-specific installations completed after January 2016 are eligible for submission.

“Our main goal will be to highlight what we feel is the most important and interesting visual art being created in the region,” says Pevnick. “It will be exciting to see how everything balances out in terms of media, themes, approaches and home counties.”
  
“We also aim to provide context for the work of area artists -- our goal is to give a sense of the selected artists’ overall oeuvre as opposed to a single perspective through one or two works,” notes Katherine Pill, Curator of Contemporary Art at the MFA. 

This isn’t the first time the Tampa and St. Pete museums have collaborated. The much celebrated My Generation: Young Chinese Artists, the contemporary Chinese art exhibition was co-organized and co-hosted for the first time in the United States simultaneously at both museums in 2014. The two museums also hold a shared patron event called Bridging the Bay each fall.  

Pevnick says the exhibition builds on this partnership, but that he believes the idea for this show came about at the director level after Michael Tomor took the helm as Executive Director of the Tampa Museum of Art in 2015. He says Tomor had done a similar collaborative exhibition at the El Paso Museum of Art, collaborating with the Museo de Arte de Ciudad Juárez and talked with his colleagues at the MFA and the Ringling shortly after his arrival in Tampa. 

“And then he brought the idea to me, suggesting that we do something similar in Tampa,” says Pevnick.  “Our curatorial colleagues at the MFA and the Ringling were also excited about the idea, and it has been fun to work with them in the planning stages thus far.”

Pevnick says they hope they will receive many submissions and that the exhibit “will allow us to get to know many more of the artists in the region, and also to raise the profile of selected artists, both locally and beyond.”

For more information on the call to artists, click on this link.

Want to make a partial payment on a loan? New app developed by Tampa brothers may help

A flexible payment plan app invented by two brothers may soon bring new jobs to the Tampa Bay Area. 

Partial.ly is an innovative software program that allows businesses of any size to offer flexible payment plans to its customers. Partial.ly, ranked as one of the 10 best Quickbooks apps by Intuit, integrates with third-party retail software such as ShopifyWooCommerce, FreshBooks, Harvest and Quickbooks Online

Andrew Schmid, who founded the company with his brother Ben in fall 2015, says Partial.ly has grown exponentially over the past year. 

“We started developing the app in in September 2015 and had the official launch in November 2015,” recalls Andrew. “We’ve processed $1.3 million in payments.” 

Companies from all over the English-speaking world are using the payment processing system, including those in Great Britain, Canada and Australia. 

Partial.ly offers several user-friendly features, including the ability for the business to control the payment plan fee, down payment, terms and payment frequency, and it also makes it easy for companies to choose automated or manual payments, and for customers to adjust down payment amount and tweak the terms. 

What’s the big benefit for businesses? “It helps businesses improve payment processing.” It can also help boost sales figures and overall revenue, since customers are more likely to buy a product they can pay for over the course of time. 

Partial.ly generates legally binding contracts, facilitates transactions through eCommerce retail tool Stripe and can charge customers in a variety of currencies, including U.S. dollars, British pounds, and European euros. Businesses are charged a 5 percent fee per transaction plus 30 cents. Payments are SSL protected.  

The Schmids’ software program has gained plenty of steam in the one year since its launch. Its first moments in the spotlight were in the heart of Silicon Valley at the QuickBooks Connect 2016 Conference in San Jose, California, where the brothers were invited to spend three days pitching their product to competition judges and convention goers. 

The Schmids, who knew the way to San Jose is paved with hard work and dedication, have to this point managed to build their startup brand with only their own funds. 

“We bootstrapped it all ourselves,” says Andrew. “Maybe it was a gamble, but we think the product can prove itself better if we show the faith we have in it.” 

A lot of folks have faith in Partial.ly. So much so the company is expanding by leaps and bounds with every passing day. 

Right now, Andrew, a 2004 Tulane University computer science graduate, handles the technical development side. His brother, Ben, is a University of Tampa MBA graduate who spends much of his time reaching out to potential customers and handling the business end of the operation. The self-reliant brothers know there will soon come a time when they can no longer manage the growing Partial.ly brand all on their own. 

“We want to hire people in customer support,” he says. “We are also going to want a software developer.” 

Hiring hasn’t begun quite yet at Partial.ly, but those who do become new employees for the growing brand may be on the ground floor of the next big thing in eCommerce. Meanwhile, those who want to learn more about the software or download it for their businesses can find it on apps portals such as Shopify.

Looking to make a fresh start in the new year? Upcoming job fairs may provide your chance

Looking for a new job for the new year? With 2017 just around the corner, if a new job is part of your new year's resolution better start looking now. Job fairs are a great way for job seekers to get their foot in the door with a potential future employer.

If you are in the market for a new job pull up your calendars, and get ready to mark down these upcoming job fairs for Winter 2016:

Wednesday, November 16: Sarasota Memorial Health Care RN Career Fair
Sarasota Memorial Health Care
1700 South Tamiami Trail, Sarasota

This growing health care system is in need of registered nurses (RN) for a variety of departments. On-site interviews will be given for experienced registered nurses, so make sure to have several updated resumes on hand. The company is hiring in the following areas:
  • Cardiac Progressive
  • Case Management
  • Cath and EP Lab
  • Critical Care
  • Float Team
  • Internships - GN, OR, ICU
  • MedSurg
  • Neuro
  • Operating Room
  • Ortho Surgical
  • Outpatient Oncology
  • Psych
  • Rehab
  • Risk Management
  • Trauma
To RSVP for this event, click here.

Saturday, December 1: Florida Joblink Career Expo
10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.
Holiday Inn Tampa Westshore
700 North Westshore Boulevard, Tampa

DiversiFair™ the producer of the Florida Joblink Career Expo has been hosting career fairs for over 20 years. With its strong focus on diversity, the event encourages career candidates of all races, creeds, spiritual beliefs and lifestyles.

For more information on this hiring event, click here.

Tuesday, December 6: Job News Job Fairs
10 a..m. to 2 p.m.
Holiday Inn-Clearwater
2580 Gulf to Bay Bloulevard, Clearwater

Since 2006, Job News Job Fairs have been connecting job seekers and employers. Past employer attendees include Target, GC Services, HSS Security and Express Scripts. A list of employers attending the event will be posted on the Job News website on December 2nd.

To register, click here.

Tuesday, January 17: Tampa Bay Job & Career Fair
10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
The Coliseum
535 4th Avenue South, St. Petersburg

One of the biggest annual hiring events in the area with over 50 employers in attendance, the Tampa Bay Job & Career Fair is held shortly after the new year. The free event features some of the largest area companies, as well as representatives from colleges and universities for those looking to further their education. Presented by the Tampa Bay Times, a special feature of the newspaper will come out the Sunday before the event listing all of the employers who will be in attendance. No advance registration required.

To see more details, click here.

Wednesday, February 1: USF Career Fair
10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Marshall Student Center Ballroom, USF campus
4103 USF Cedar Cir, Tampa

While this annual job fair is on the college campus, it is open not only to students, but alumni as well. Students and alumni must have a valid USF ID in order to attend. This event brings in local and national recruiters looking for fresh talent for their respective companies. If you plan on attending, make sure to bring plenty of resumes, and be prepared to interview on the spot.

For more information, click here

USF celebrates record year for cultivating startups, new products

USF’s success with transferring ideas and patents into products results in a record year.
 
With nine startups and 113 license and option agreements executed this fiscal year, the university is celebrating a 12-percent increase over fiscal year 2015. This success brings USF in the top 10 nationally among public universities for generating new inventions, according to the annual ranking by the Intellectual Property Owners/National Academy of Inventors.
 
“We are one of the nation’s largest public research universities and we play a leading role in growing and elevating the Tampa Bay Region’s economy through our discoveries,” USF System President Judy Genshaft states in a news release. “Through innovation and invention, our talented faculty and students are at the forefront of projects that are producing new technologies, developing new cures, and making life better for others.”
 
There is a common thread of making life better for others that is woven among all of the startups coming out of USF this year. Moterum is one of those new companies. With its clinical grade MTip Crutch Tip, the startup hopes to improve walking assistance, gait and control of post-stroke patients. Another startup, Depression Army, is working to remove the stigma revolved around depression through its sale of T-shirts and other merchandise. Meanwhile, Culture Biosystems is an innovative concept that reduces the cost of harvesting algae with the use of technology to enable large-scale production for biofuels, aviation fuels, proteins and nutraceuticals.
 
“At the end of the day, we are passionate about helping create products and businesses that will help people,” says Valerie McDevitt, Associate VP for Technology Transfer and Business Principles at USF.
 
Many of the startups created at USF get help from the university’s Seed Capital Accelerator Program, which was founded in 2013. The program helps startups launch their businesses from the university to the marketplace. Earlier this year, USF created another program to help innovators and inventors earlier on in the start up phase. The Bull Ring Accelerator Grant Program (BRAG) provides $25,000 of grant funding to early stage companies, providing infrastructure, training and resources to entrepreneurial teams helping them translate their ideas into viable products and companies.
 
“We have had great success this year due to our focus and prioritization on cultivating startups,” McDevitt says. “With the increased amount of license and option agreements we had this year over last, I know if we continue that focus we will have an even better year ahead.”

USF's mobile Alzheimer's unit brings trials, medications to community

An innovative service from USF Health will bring help to those suffering from memory loss in their own neighborhoods.

The USF Health Byrd Alzheimer's Mobile Research Suite is a clinic on wheels that is able to bring clinical trials and medications to those showing signs of the deadly disease. The idea behind the concept came after researchers discovered the need for outreach to the community.

“The mobile unit idea stemmed from our knowledge that it can take years and millions of dollars for pharmaceutical companies to recruit subjects into clinical trials, and to get new drugs approved for treatment of Alzheimer’s disease," says Dr. Amanda Smith, Medical Director at USF Health. “Part of the reason is that many people do not live near centers that are conducting the trials. By bringing research trials to their communities and making it convenient for them to participate, we can fill studies faster with the ultimate goal of bringing new treatments to the market sooner.”

The mobile service, which started in August, goes into neighborhoods around the region.

“We have visited The Villages and St. Petersburg, with plans to bring it to New Port Richey, Sun City Center, Bradenton, Clearwater, Lakeland, and beyond.”

There is no charge to participants, and they do not need an appointment to be seen. If a patient does show signs of Alzheimer's Disease, they can enroll in trials for new medications.

“We are currently using the mobile unit to screen people in the community for memory problems, whom we can then refer for further evaluation,” Smith says. “More importantly, we are using it to recruit subjects for participation in clinical trials so ultimately we can bring new treatments to market sooner.”

For more information, visit USF Health.
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