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Synthetic body manufacturer grows in Tampa

The Tampa manufacturer of synthetic bodies for medical testing and training is in a growth streak. SynDaver, located near Tampa International Airport, has acquired the London area-based Lifecast Body Simulation, which specializes in making life-like mannequins, and a $186 million contract from the U.S. Department of the Army.

“Our bodies are made of a proprietary mix of water, salt and fiber,” explains Kevin King, the company’s VP of marketing. “It’s the closet thing ... to a real human for the medical training market.”

SynDaver, which handles management and assembly in Tampa, expects to merge the companies’ capabilities to create ultra-realistic, next-generation synthetic human and animal bodies. The models will include fully functioning anatomy and life-like tissues; humans will appear realistic enough to replace stuntmen in films.

“We’ve been making such great tissues from the skeleton on up,” King says. “Lifecast we thought was the world leader in the exterior.”

SynDaver did not release details about the acquisition made Sunday, Jan. 14.

Its models, distinguishable from cadavers because they don’t have a grayish cast caused by preservatives, are designed for use in anatomy and funeral science instruction, surgery simulation, clinical training, consumer product testing, automobile crash testing, TV and movie production, medical device testing and military product development. They are replacing live animals and cadavers.

“We want to continue driving the notion of patient safety and patient care as far as we can take it,” King says. “It’s all about the patient. As long as the focus remains there, we believe we are going to be successful.”

The company, which derived its name from the words synthetic and cadaver, is expected to supply both virtual patient simulation systems and whole body patient simulators for human medical and veterinarian training through its new government contract. Mark Owens, head of the company’s new Global Government Business Unit charged with overseeing the Army contract, described the deal as the "largest single award from DOD [the Department of Defense] that SynDaver has received."

Under the five-year contract with the Department of the Army’s Joint Project Management Office for Medical Modeling and Simulation, SynDaver is expected to deliver an indefinite number of simulators inside and outside of the United States for the training, evaluation and certification of medical personnel. The models will be used to train surgical personnel for both humans and canines.

Owens is one of seven recent hires in leadership roles, according to its website. "We are hiring nonstop right now for production and sales and also hiring in engineering," Founder Christopher Sakezles says.

Started in 2004, the company is experiencing rapid growth. “We’re growing at multiples of the compound annual growth rate of the industry,” King explains.

Among its clientele are industrial clients like Apple and Google, educational clients like the University of Florida and University of Saskatchewan, government customers like the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission and media customers like CBS, NBC and PBS.

The company’s models range in cost from $8,000 to $100,000 depending on the features sought.

SynDaver also is screening potential investors of $100,000 or more for its next private offering.

The technology used in the synthetic bodies dates back to 1993, when UF was involved in initial studies to create synthetic tracheas to replace live animals when testing airway devices. The materials developed are now used in the industry to mimic simple veins and arteries.

Sakezles, the president, chief technology officer, and chairman of the Board of Directors for SynDaver, is a Tampa native who earned a master’s in Materials Science and Engineering and a Ph.D. in Polymer Science from UF. He earned a bachelor’s in Mechanical Engineering from the University of South Florida.

Sakezles is expected to investigate live tissue replacement such as artificial hips or knees in the future. “We believe can play a role in the medical device and replacement arena,” King says.

For now, the company with strategic national and international flight access is working on new animals; a cat is coming out in the spring. They’re also working with a horse model. “We are driving toward rats and mice as well. They are being used so prevalently in testing,” he explains.

While the synthetic bodies are expected to replace real animals in surgeries like gastropexy, used to treat a life-threatening condition involving the stomach, they aren’t life-like enough to use in movies because they have no fur.

But Lifecast already has supplied human synthetic bodies for films like Saving Private Ryan and Gladiator, for which it won an Academy Award.

There are no plans for SynDaver models to be paired with robotics to do mundane tasks like clean house or pick fruit. “It’s just not something that’s in our wheelhouse, nor is it in our short term roadmap,” King says.

If something like that becomes a reality, he says, “it won’t be our stuff.”

Tech Bytes: Tampa Bay WaVE joins Global Accelerator Network

The Tampa Bay WaVE, downtown Tampa’s tech accelerator, has become the first in Florida to join the Global Accelerator Network, a move expected to create new international opportunities for Tampa Bay’s tech community.

It adds credibility, its adds visibility and basically collaboration with the worldwide tech community,” explains Rich Heruska, Interim Accelerator Director. “It further puts the Tampa Bay and Florida tech system on the map.”

The Global Accelerator Network, which includes 90 top accelerators in more than 120 cities globally, can advertise the WaVE’s programs, giving it international exposure in its efforts to attract tech companies to Tampa Bay. It also will create new potential funding opportunities for WaVE companies, provide access to discounts, and enable free shared workspace opportunities in other cities, he says.

The WaVE has been interested in joining the network, which charges an annual fee of more than $10,000, for five years. “They don’t accept everybody,” he points out.

The nonprofit also has added three new board members: Joe Hodges, Stewart Kelly and Kailah Matyas. Alfred Goldberg of Absolute Marketing Solutions will continue to serve as board chair.

A pioneer in the healthcare field, Hodges’ latest venture is the Tampa-based CareValet, which helps to solve the healthcare access maze for consumers. Kelly is a sales account executive at Florida Blue with more than nine years of experience in the healthcare insurance industry. Matyas, managing partner at Redwood Partners, is expert at finding the best people to build successful businesses and accomplish their goals.

Additionally, Avril Stinson, a seasoned investor relations manager, has joined The WaVE as its new director of development. Her duties include community support and strategic leadership. Stinson previously worked as investor relations director for the Tampa Hillsborough Economic Development Corporation.

In other tech news, Penny Hoarder Founder and CEO Kyle Taylor is scheduled to speak at the Tampa Bay Innovation Center’s quarterly Diary of an Entrepreneur program at 8:30 a.m. Tuesday, Feb. 13, at Microsoft Headquarter offices, 5426 Bay Center Dr., Suite 700, Tampa. His talk will share how he grew his blog on personal student loan and credit card debt into a thriving website with millions of readers monthly.

When I first racked up all this debt I was afraid to tell anybody about it,” Taylor admits. “What I learned was that all that hiding was making the situation even more shameful for me. When I started to own it, and started telling people about it, is when I started making a difference.”

He’s developed a brand that shares stories from people who have accomplished their financial goals. “We really try to stay focused on our mission, which is to us money in people’s pockets. It really drives every decision that we make,” he explains.

That means turning away half of the advertisers, and passing on story ideas that would attract web traffic, whenever they don’t stay true to its mission, he says.

The event is free, but registration is recommended.

Read on for more tech happenings in Tampa Bay.

SOFWERX, a U.S. Special Operations Command-funded agency that works with the community to meet military and civilian needs, will be awarding six $50,000 prizes for passive infrared projects. Its Passsive IR Rapid Prototyping Event kicks off with an information session today, Jan. 16, and runs through Friday, Jan. 19. Winners will be announced after pitches are made Sunday, Jan. 28, and Monday, Jan. 29; they have two to four weeks to complete their prototypes. A second ThunderDrone Rapid Prototyping Event Tech Expo is planned Monday, Jan. 29 through Wednesday, Jan. 31, with more than $600,000 in prize money available.

• The survey deadline is Wednesday, Jan. 17, for the Startup Genome Project 2018. The group surveys 100+ local startups from assorted industries to support emerging startup hubs and produce a Global Startup Ecosystem Report.  It takes about 15 minutes to fill out; you’ll find the survey here.

Homebrew Hillsborough, a free monthly networking meeting, features a tour of the advertising firm Adjoy at 8:30 a.m. Friday, Jan. 26, at 1906 N. Armenia Ave., Tampa.

• Geeks are gathering for their monthly Geek Breakfast at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 25, at Jimbo’s Pit Bar-B-Q, 4103 W. Kennedy Blvd., Tampa. The event is held regularly on the last Thursday of the month. Learn more.

Computer Mentors, an East Tampa nonprofit that helps youths build self esteem by teaching them computer skills, has launched a fundraiser to buy 100 computers for seven schools: Foster, Mort, Oak Park, Potter, Sheehy, and Booker T. Washington elementaries and Memorial Middle School. The computers will be used in classrooms or to create computer labs. Computer Mentors is trying to raise $210 for each computer by the end of January. More information is available at 813-236-1191.

• Interested in networking with the Tampa Bay tech community? The national nonprofit Launchcode is holding a Tampa Bay Networking Open House from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 1, at Entrepreneur Collaborative Center, 2101 East Palm Ave., Tampa. The free event is an opportunity for recent graduates of Launchcode’s LC101, as well as newcomers to the local tech scene, to hang out with potential employers in an informal setting. Free parking is available across Palm Avenue. Online registration is available.

• Ken Countess, managing director of the Countess Group, is featured at “Linkedin for Business: How to Get More Out of Linkedin,” from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 8, at USF Connect’s Oak View Room, 3802 Spectrum Blvd., Tampa. You can register online.

• The career site Zippia has recognized the “10 Best Startups to Work for in Tampa”: Whooshfly, SavvyCard, LumaStream, Fair Warning Inc, Therapist Assisted Online, Nitro Solutions, Priatek, Washlava, Peerfit, and PikMyKid!


Florida trade mission to Israel solidifies local economic development efforts

Dr. Vicki Rabenou was an OB-GYN juggling motherhood in the 1990s and her very demanding profession. One day she got a life-changing wakeup call: Her two young children were talking to her in the native language of their nanny, a Filipino.

“I felt so guilty,” she recalls. “I took one year leave of absence.”

That was the end of her career as a physician. Instead the Jerusalem native discovered her love of helping entrepreneurs. She migrated from Israel to the United States, and eventually landed in Tampa.

I really fell in love with Tampa. This is a great place,” she says. “Everybody is so welcoming and happy to work with you.”

Today Rabenou is co-Founder, President and CEO of StartUp Nation Ventures, an Orlando-based company with offices in Tampa and Tel Aviv. She is positioned to change attitudes when Israeli companies view Florida as a place for tourism and agriculture, not tech.

“I believe that our solution is a complete solution that really takes care of 360 degrees of the needs of companies that are looking to reach out to the U.S. market,” she says. “It’s for the long run.”

SUNV is partnering with the Israel Innovation Authority to spur the growth of Israeli companies that want to locate their U.S. headquarters in Florida. It will be investing up to $500,000 in select, innovative Israeli companies -- who are eligible for a 50 percent match from the Israeli government -- through the Israel-Florida Innovation Alliance, a cooperative initiative, says SUNV co-Founder A.J. Ripin.

The government money is a loan to be repaid when a company has sales.

“Startup nation is a nickname that Israel has been called in the business marketplace, because of the success that Israeli companies have had,” he explains.

“Memorializing” the SUNV agreement was part of a Florida trade mission to Israel earlier this month that included Florida Gov. Rick Scott and an entourage of nearly 70, he says.

This collaboration that I’ve signed with the Israeli Innovation Authority is all about going to market,” Rabenou explains. “Most times Israeli Innovation will only finance research and development that is done, and stays in, Israel.”

“The idea is that we will do it by [industrial] cluster. We will choose clusters that we have strength with here in Florida,” she adds.

Israeli companies are interested in economic opportunities abroad because of limited opportunities at home in the state about the size of New Jersey, Ripin points out.

“The Israeli companies are really advanced. They just don’t have the opportunities because of the small size of the state,” he explains. “Their natural place for that is the U.S. ... Once their product and solution work in the U.S. market, then they’re able to compete in the global market.”

The initiative gives Florida access to a pipeline of innovation for industry clusters throughout the state. It will focus on two to four areas in 2018; possible areas include cybersecurity, hotel technology, agriculture technology, automated vehicles, smart city, smart city innovation, and medical technology.

SUNV leaders point out Israeli innovation already is having a positive impact in the United States. A 2016 economic impact study shows Israeli innovation is a major driver of the Massachusetts economy. It indicates more 200 Israeli businesses made the greater Boston area home in 2015, bringing in more than $9 billion that year.

“This is the right time to reach out to these Israeli startups,” Rabenou asserts. “I believe we can duplicate what they have in Massachusetts. This is the first step.”

During the trade mission to strengthen its economic development/trading partnership with Israel, Gov. Scott also recognized the first class of graduates from the Tampa-based Florida-Israel Business Accelerator. In addition, FIBA attracted the attention of the Israeli media.

Rachel Marks Feinman, FIBA’s executive director, who made the trip, says the mission gave FIBA an opportunity to cultivate both relationships with Florida leaders as well as people in the Israeli startup community. “If we can have a critical mass of Israeli companies that call Florida their U.S. home, or even their international headquarters, that can really set Florida apart,” she says.

“I’m pleased that there is this effort to support Israeli companies,” she says of SUNV. “I think the FIBA program has its own way of achieving its goals.”

FIBA, a technology accelerator launched in 2016 by the Tampa Jewish Community Centers and Federation, is preparing for another cohort of eight companies to begin arriving by mid-February. It will be choosing from a pool of at least 40 applicants.

“There’s a lot of work to do in a short period of time,” she says.

Tampa attorney heads Israeli business accelerator

Rachel Marks Feinman, the new Executive Director of the Florida-Israel Business Accelerator, believes bringing innovative Israeli ideas and products to Tampa can help set it apart in the competitive entrepreneurial tech scene.

My hope is that people understand that this is not a Jewish cause. This is an economic development effort that the [Tampa Jewish Community Centers and Federation] has really undertaken, and to a certain degree, is underwriting,” she explains. “My hope is that we really can engage the entire business community, and that they understand the value of attracting these companies here.”

Feinman, who succeeds Jack Ross at FIBA’s helm, brings to the organization her expertise in law and business as it prepares its second cohort.

“We’re definitely in a growth mode,” says Feinman, who was raised in the Tampa area.

Ross has taken a job with StemRad, a participant in the FIBA’s first cohort, that has decided to open its U.S. subsidiary in Tampa.

Feiman has been working closely with many investors and businesses in the community as a corporate partner with the Tampa-based Hill Ward Henderson law firm. While President of the Gasparilla International Film Festival, she gained experience in fundraising, cultivating relationships, and overseeing development.

Founded by the Federation in 2016, FIBA has had eight companies complete its program, and is planning a second cohort of eight between February and June. It will be split into two groups of four each, with each spending six to eight weeks of intensive training in Tampa. That’s up from one week, with the goal of enhancing their successes.

One of our key focuses is on customer generation for these companies,” she says.

The Israeli companies that work with FIBA are established businesses that can benefit from its help acculturating into U.S. society. “These companies all have a product that’s ready for market -- and ideally have customer traction in Israel or another market,” she says.

The goal also is to bring innovative ideas and products that can help solve local problems and build the local economy, distinguishing it from medium-sized cities looking to attract tech companies.

“We’re on our way to doing that,” she says.

Since she assumed her new job earlier his month, Feiman has been meeting with people. “Our plans really for now are to grow organically and work on successes for the companies that will translate into success for our community,” she adds.

There’s a long history of innovation in Israel that a lot of people are unaware of, she says. An example is an Intel chip which our computers rely upon.

Israel’s compulsive military service program, for Jews and those from the ethnic Druze community, puts lots of its workers in desk jobs using computers to solve problems. “A lot of them come out of the Army with ideas for businesses,” she says.

British group taps Tampa man for playable city program

Tampa’s Ryan Swanson, Founder and CEO of The Urban Conga design firm, will be representing the United States in England as part of a program aimed at making cities fun places to live and work.

Swanson was one of 15 chosen from a field of 544 candidates across the globe for Creative Producers International’s 2 1/2-year empowerment program starting in October in Bristol, England. The goal is to enable creative producers to learn from each other what makes cities “more playable, more activated at that street level,” Swanson explains.

“I’m excited to go and learn ... and see how we can integrate our work,” he says.

Swanson originally became connected to CPI through social media, and actually was a finalist in the competition for the last two years. “The reason I got selected is because of what I’m doing with The Urban Conga,” he says.

Swanson, who holds a master’s degree in architecture from the University of South Florida in Tampa, initially founded the firm three years ago with a couple of colleagues. Funding for projects usually comes through the cities, private organizations or a grant.

As one of the 15 creative chosen after Skype interviews, Swanson will participate in a three-week lab, participate in the Making The City Playable Conference in October in Bristol, produce a project, and meet for another conference in Japan. The group includes several from the United Kingdom, as well as representatives from Japan, Mexico, Nigeria, Ireland, Australia, South Africa and Denmark.

“They fund me going out there,” Swanson says. “We get paid a small stipend to come back and implement a project.”

Creative Producers International is a talent development program led by Watershed, a Bristol-based organization enabling artistic vision and creative collaboration worldwide.

On the home front, Swanson built ping pong tables in Lykes Gaslight Park and a musical bench, which can be played similar to a marimba or xylophone, near the Straz Center for the Performing Arts. Another project was a dominos/chess table for Ybor City. Additionally, he has worked in areas such as New Orleans and Fort Lauderdale.

His innovation has captured a lot of media attention from news outlets like PBS, The Atlantic and Fast Company.

A 29-year-old, he strives to help people engage with one another in the simpler ways they did as children, instead of spending their time eyeing their cellphones.

“No one really talks to people. No one really physically engages with people in pubic spaces,” he says.

The young and the seniors seem the most receptive to playing, the middle agers more hesitant. But when the middle-aged decide to play, they linger the longest, he says.

Tampa tech firm, Hivelocity, expanding data services

Hivelocity opened for business as a shared web hosting company in 2002. Its founders, Steve Eschweiler, Mike Architetto and Ben Linton, were looking to run a tech business on a budget.

Their philosophy? To help customers succeed.

“We have a vested interest in all of our customers being wildly successful,” explains Eschweiler, COO.

It has paid off.

Today Hivelocity has an international customer base and is expanding its footprint with its third data center, its second in Tampa. The data centers house servers clients essentially rent to store their data to customers here and in faraway places like Africa, Brazil, the Middle East and Japan.

“We have customers from about 134 different countries," says Rick Nicholas, VP of Colocation and Managed Services. “These people just go on our website, click and buy the use of our server.”

Hivelocity held a grand opening at its data center June 22 at Hampton Oaks Business Park on U.S. Highway 301 near Interstate 4. “We rebuilt and retrofitted it for our purposes,” Nicholas explains. “It’s got great bones, fiber connectivity to it.”

It invested in the “eight figures,” he says, but would not provide a specific number. 

Hivelocity is occupying 30,000 of the 90,000 square feet in the center and plans to open up the rest as the company grows. The center, that doubles the company’s capacity, opened in March. Construction took a year to complete.

The company, which employs 60, offers a broad range of services including backup, management, performance and security services. Some nine employees were added for the new data center and more will be hired as the company grows.

One of its more recent endeavors is offering colocation services, or the ability to place clients’ servers in Hivelocity’s facilities. “We’re the only large and locally owned colocation option in the [Tampa] market,” Nicholas says. “Customers value knowing who's running the company they’re trusting with their critical data and equipment.”

Hivelocity knows firsthand how important colocation services can be. “We’re a very large consumer of colocation space ourselves,” he explains. “We needed to expand our footprint due to growth, regardless of whether or not we offered colocation to other customers, and it's a business we like very much.”

What lies ahead? More organic growth, Eschweiler says.

We are actively seeking acquisition opportunities,” he says. “We are currently looking at several that will either give us a new service or fill an area of service where we may have a gap.”

With offices already in Tampa, Miami, Atlanta and Los Angeles, it hopes to open offices in the Midwest and in Europe.

Tampa tech company helping brewery sales reps do their jobs

Much like a lily pad offers strategic help to frogs leaping across a pond, the Tampa company Lilypad is assisting brewery sales reps on their daily routes.

And it’s growing in leaps and bounds.

“We’re all about keeping these reps moving and executing in the field,” explains Eric Rabinovitz, CEO, who co-founded the company with Peter Ladis about five years ago.

Lilypad has grown more than 1,200 percent since January, 2016, and now logs 107 clients, all in the alcoholic beverage industry.

Rabinovitz was working as Executive Vice President for Actsoft, a Tampa company providing mobile solutions for field workers, when he came up with the idea.

Actsoft is serving the blue-collar worker; he saw a need for help with sales. So Actsoft CEO and Founder, Tom Mitchell, helped them get started with a “strategic investment,” Rabinovitz  says.

Although they initially served sales people in different industries, Lilypad settled into the alcoholic beverage industry about three years ago. There they allow brewery sales reps, who work through distributors to sell their products, to sidestep more time-consuming sales methods involving spreadsheets, text messages and email.

“Lilypad enables the supplier sales team to execute more efficiently in the field and communicate more efficiently with their distributors,” he says.

The mobile- and web-based platform costs $50 per user per month; volume discounts are available.

Lilypad makes it fun for sales reps by enabling them to score points for performing sales activities. Much like a Fitbit makes users more conscious of the steps they log every day, Lilypad makes sales reps more conscious of their efforts.

A majority of distillery reps are millennials, and it works well, he says.

“Technology made you more aware, which made you change your behavior,” he says. “We’ve added that element to the business world.”

Being in the niche beverage market allows Lilypad to address needs specific to the industry, some through ancillary services, he says.

Lilypad currently employs 10 at its location at Waters Avenue and Anderson Road. It likely will hire five more staffers within the next six months, three in customer service/implementation and two in product development.

It is serving customers in more than 35 states, including Florida, California, Texas, Georgia, and in the northeastern United States. It recently signed up its first international customer, from Australia.

Lilypad is part of the Tampa Bay WaVE Launch program. “We love what they’re doing,” Rabinovitz  says.  “It really does open up a lot of doors.”

Gourmet flavoring company claims marketing award

The Clearwater-based Monin Americas has claimed a Marketing of the Year Award for its research process directing the marketing of its flavorings for coffee, tea, lemonade and cocktails.

Its eight-step, Flavor Forward Process involves online surveys and actual taste tests to determine which flavors are most worthy, says Cassie Kane, Brand Marketing Director in Clearwater.

“We develop a ton of flavors, that’s really what we are,” Kane says. “Years ago we didn’t have an organized way of really collecting our research and determining what we were going to produce.”

The Flavor Forward Process includes taking inventory, global insights, online databases that track menu offerings, demographics, other research sources, and input from its global Beverage Innovation Directors, she says.

“We ... take all of these trends, all of those things we see in the market,” she says.

The hand-blown glass award was given by Tampa Bay Chapter of the American Marketing Association for Market Research in March.

Monin Americas is a division of Monin Gourmet Flavorings, which opened in 1912 in Bourges, France. It offers more than 200 gourmet flavors in more than 145 countries.

Monin also ranked in the top 30 in the Tampa Bay Times’ 2017 Top Work Places.

Monin Americas, which oversees operations in North America, South America and the Caribbean, is located near Hercules Avenue and Drew Street in Clearwater. It employs more than 100.

In addition to their offices, there is a production facility that makes syrups for the Americas and an innovation center with a commercial kitchen, bar and cafe. Monin also has a new 100,000-square-foot warehouse in Largo, which is double the size of the warehouse it replaces, she says.

Monin offers a mix of flavors from the more traditional to innovative, including vanilla, caramel and hazelnut for coffee, and mango, raspberry and peach flavorings for tea and other beverages. Its Hawaiian island blend features yellow passion fruit, orange and guava.

SunView Software of Tampa wins innovation award

A Tampa software company has won a coveted Gold Award for its IT platform enabling the use of artificial intelligence.

SunView Software, a leading provider of IT Service Management software, claimed the Innovation Of The Year Award at the annual IT Service Management Conference and Exhibition, Pink 17, in Las Vegas.

Its ChangeGear 7 Service Manager with Service Smart Technology beat out Silver Award winner CA Technologies’ CA Service Management – xFlow User Experience at the industry’s No. 1 event in February.

SunView’s flagship platform, ChangeGear is an enterprise-grade IT Service Management platform with a full suite of services including Help Desk, Change Management, Incident Management, Problem Management, Configuration Management and more.

The latest release, ChangeGear 7, is a first-to-market platform delivering artificial intelligence to the service desk.

The conference, organized by global training, consulting and conference service provider Pink Elephant, was the 21st annual international event. Pink Elephant also gave top Project Of The Year and Practitioner Of The Year awards.

Sunview Software helps companies deliver, manage and monitor IT services. It has invested $1 million into expanding its headquarters – and added more than 45 employees since early 2016.

Growth is ongoing.

SunView Software is part of a growing Tampa Bay tech community that is gaining traction. “Over the last few years, we’ve seen an increasing number of new venture-funded technology startups form in and around the Bay area, making Tampa a competitive hub for software development jobs in the marketplace,” says Seng Sun, SunView’s CEO. “Being a Tampa-based company ourselves, we recognize the tremendous potential in the community we have here. That’s why we’ve teamed up with the USF Computer Science Department and the Tampa Hillsborough Economic Development Corporation to help us to discover, recruit and retain local talent. Last month’s award win is indicative our initiative’s success.”

Now the privately-held company is gearing up for HDI 2017 Conference & Expo on May 9-12 in Washington D.C. At the showcase, it will be giving people a look at ChangeGear’s new mobile experience, plus enhancements to its AI technology and self-service capabilities, including a chatbot virtual support agent.

3.0 Leaders innovation, investment conference returns to Bradenton

The fourth annual 3.0 Leaders Innovation and Investment Convergence Conference is slated Feb. 22 and 23 in Bradenton. The event by the consultancy firm, Spark Growth, endeavors to connect people to innovators, bringing focus and enhancing their skills.
“What one thing that makes our conference different… is the focus on takeaways,” says Sarah Hand, conference Founder. “Our big takeaway this year is the 2018 food innovation event.”
Action sessions at the end of the conference give speakers, panelists and others in attendance an opportunity to break into work groups. “With seed funding already in place, one group will begin laying the foundation for the inaugural 2018 International Food Innovators Conference in the Bradenton/Sarasota area. Another will be identifying assets and resources to move forward with an Impact Investment education initiative for deploying capital more effectively,” she says.
Sessions also revolve around Startup Florida Rocks, which is launching a multi-city tour for entrepreneurial pitch events across Florida, and global entrepreneurial networks. The global group assists international companies expanding into the U.S. market, as well as Florida businesses expanding globally.
The conference’s itinerary includes a keynote address from Sandy Carter, former Fortune 25 Business Executive Leader, who will talk about “Innovation Revisited” Feb. 22. Her presentation will focus on how technology is changing how we live, how we conduct business and how we connect with one another.
Also that morning Carlos Garcia, a leader in digital marketing, driving traffic and sales conversions, will talk about companies growing their businesses online through the use of social media.
An afternoon session by Bonny Moellenbrock, Executive Director for Investors’ Circle, is “It’s All About the Money – or Is it?” Moellenbrock, leader of the largest impact investor organization in the world, will talk about how impact investing is affecting communities and businesses. Ashwin Sanzgiri, VP of Scaale Group Global Operations: Capital, Sales and Advisory, will talk about how cross border investment is empowering entrepreneurs and diversifying investor portfolios.
The program continues Feb. 23 with “Innovation Knows No Borders” featuring Kaushal Chokshi, President of Scaale Group and Founder Cross Border Angels, talking about how technology is transforming business growth. Celena Aponte, Director of Strategic Initiatives, Nasdaq Entrepreneurial Center, speaks on “Entrepreneurs and Investment in a Global Market.”
To sign up for the conference at Manatee Performing Arts Center, visit the 3.0 Leaders website.
3.0 Leaders is working to cultivate a network of thought leaders globally, with the goal of sharing and learning best practices.
3.0, a term associated with web development, reflects today’s dynamic Internet environment that has evolved beyond the first, static read-only experience and the second-stage interactive experience. At the third level, information is collected and delivered to us.

Swiss-owned SpecPage moves its North American operations to Manatee County

SpecPage, Inc., a Switzerland-based technology company that develops software solutions for the food manufacturing industry, has relocated its North American branch offices from Warwick, Rhode Island to Bradenton, FL with support from the Bradenton Area Economic Development Corporation (EDC). 

The EDC assisted the Swiss company in site selection and in applying for a performance-based economic development incentive grant from the Manatee County government. The Manatee County Board of Commissioners approved the incentive, based on SpecPage’s plan to add 15 jobs in Bradenton over the next five years. 

SpecPage now occupies 1,100 square feet with options to expand at Wildwood Office Park, 3645 Cortez Road, Suite 100, in west Bradenton.

“We are a global company and plan to strengthen our position in the North American market. The growing, yet affordable area of Bradenton provides good opportunities for future hiring as well as convenient access to several airports for national and international travel,” says SpecPage North America VP Paul Meunier. 

Meunier says that SpecPage plans to create up to 15 jobs based in its new Bradenton offices over the next three years, primarily in sales and support roles. The growing company’s clients currently include global brands such as Campbell Soup Company, Kellogg’s, Mondelez and Nestlé Wagner. 

Sharon Hillstrom, President and CEO of the Bradenton EDC, views the Swiss company’s relocation of its North American offices to Manatee County as a valuable step in a multi-pronged effort to retain the talent emerging in record numbers from area colleges and universities. 

“One of the things we’re really focused on at the EDC, as well as the Chamber of Commerce and Realize Bradenton, is [the young professional] demographic. Each organization is addressing some component of how we can attract and retain talent here. It is of prime interest, and our belief is that the more companies we have coming here, the more opportunities will present themselves to graduates,” Hillstrom says.

Hillstrom notes that there are currently five institutions of higher learning in Manatee and Sarasota County that are working in collaboration as the ‘Consortium of Colleges on the Creative Coast’ to attract students and strengthen the Tampa Bay area’s economy. Bringing global and IT-based companies like SpecPage into the area, Hillstrom says, confirms Bradenton’s value as a destination for other businesses to base their operations. 

“This area provides a great business climate. We are a business-friendly government, labor costs are somewhat lower here, and the quality of life obviously speaks for itself. … Bringing in companies like SpecPage is the best advertisement we have in that sense. We plan to use those types of wins to recruit other companies to the area,” Hillstrom says. 

USF Tampa, Patel College host global ecotourism conference in January

The inaugural Ecotourism and Sustainable Tourism Conference (ESTC), which is organized by The International Ecotourism Society (TIES), will be hosted by the University of South Florida Patel College of Global Sustainability in Tampa January 25-27, 2016. TIES is an internationally recognized nonprofit organization that seeks solutions for more environmentally sustainable tourism options, including ecotourism. 

The ESTC conference will draw many notable tourism industry experts, including representatives from TIES, National Geographic Explorer, United Nations World Tourism Organization, the Walt Disney Company, and many others from the United States and around the world.

Hosting the conference in Tampa is seen as a natural fit because much of the Tampa Bay area’s economy is based around tourism, and the state of Florida as a whole saw 97.3 million visitors in 2014. For those reasons and others, David Randle, Director of Sustainable Tourism at the USF Patel College of Global Sustainability, says the ESTC conference should matter to locals. 

“The world is facing increasing challenges from issues such as climate change, ocean acidification, nitrogen and phosphorous overload, changing land use patterns, threats to our water supply, chemical pollution, and more,” says Randle. “These changes, while not always on the radar of the average Tampa resident, are changes that will impact us all.” 

He says tourism accounts for 9 percent of the world’s gross domestic product and 11.5 percent of the globe’s workforce, making it one of the world’s largest industries. “It is also the fastest-growing industry in the world, and the sustainable tourism sector is the fastest-growing sector within tourism. It is perhaps the best opportunity for humans to leverage needed change in our world.” 

The theme of the 2016 Ecotourism and Sustainable Tourism Conference is “Transforming Our World Through Sustainable Solutions” and will discuss solutions to global challenges that can be found in the local setting. On the docket are presentations about international sustainable tourism opportunities, a look at ecotourism options in Florida, dinner at Busch Gardens and a sustainable meal by the Chiles Group

Those interested in learning more information about the 2016 ESTC Conference, which will be held at the Patel Center for Global Solutions at USF Tampa, can check out the conference’s website

Tampa Bay 'best choice' for Accusoft expansion; IT company to create 125 high-wage jobs

Accusoft, a leading global software and imaging solutions provider, is expanding its Tampa Bay headquarters with 125 new high-wage jobs in fields like software development and engineering. The positions will pay an average annual wage of $75,000.

Partnerships between Enterprise Florida, the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity, CareerSource Florida, the City of Tampa, Hillsborough County and the Tampa Hillsborough Economic Development Corporation helped to make the Accusoft expansion possible.

A combined incentives package totaling $750,000 was offered to the company through the state of Florida’s Qualified Target Industry (QTI) program, the Hillsborough County Board of County Commissioners and the Tampa City Council. As long as the promised jobs are created, the funds will be allocated over the course of eight years.

"This partnership and support will help us attain our company's goals while also benefiting the local economy,” Accusoft President Jack Berlin says. “It means a lot to Accusoft to be given an opportunity to create meaningful, high-paying jobs in the Tampa Bay area.”

Berlin, who received an MBA from Duke University's Fuqua School of Business, set his sights on Tampa as a business base after successfully selling a startup company in Atlanta.

He and wife Leslie were seeking a “better place to raise a family; a place to live before a place to work,” Berlin explains. “Having grown up in Savannah, I love the beach and salt water. Florida was very appealing. Tampa, we felt, was the best choice of all the Florida cities.”

Today, the feeling remains.

“The company stays where I want to live, and I love the area,” Berlin says, praising the Tampa Bay area for “plenty of big city amenities, a great airport, the bonus of great weather and beautiful beaches, and no personal income tax.”

A little history: Accusoft began as Pegasus Imaging Corporation in Tampa in 1991. Over the next two decades, Pegasus acquired several companies in the imaging and software development sectors; developed a medical imaging division; and in 2012 rebranded as Accusoft.

While the company never aimed to relocate, expansion outside of Tampa was briefly considered, Berlin says. The company opened a development office in Atlanta, but found that remote work caused problems, so they closed up shop. Accusoft’s Boston office was already established and running efficiently when Pegasus acquired it in 2008.

“Talent is more expensive up there, but we don’t shy away from hiring in Boston if we find the right person,” Berlin says, citing as an example a long-term development manager who speaks fluent Russian and runs much of the company’s outsourced activities.

Berlin hopes to attract a similar caliber of employee in Tampa with the creation of 125 new jobs that will pay a minimum average wage of $75,000. Hiring has already begun; most of the new positions require advanced degrees (B.S. or higher).  

“We continue to attract great talent from Tampa or to Tampa, and hope that continues,” Berlin says. “We will grow, but with continued hiring standards."

Accusoft joins several high-profile companies headquartered in Tampa and Hillsborough County that have expanded locally rather than relocating, including Bristol-Myers SquibbInspirataReliaQuestTribridge and Laser Spine Institute.

During a news conference announcing the company’s expansion, Florida Gov. Rick Scott said that 879,700 private-sector jobs have been created in Florida since December 2010. Hillsborough is the fourth largest county in Florida, which is ranked third in the nation for high-tech companies.

“Companies like Accusoft know Florida’s pro-business climate is the best place to grow and create jobs,” Scott says.

Accusoft is headquartered at 4001 N. Riverside Drive and currently has 131 employees. Expansion will allow the company to grow its existing space by up to 25,000 square feet.

Interested in working for Accusoft? Proficient in C++, Node JS, JAVA, HTML5, CSS, .NET skills? Berlin encourages interested parties to connect on Linkedin or visit the Accusoft website

Who's hiring in Tampa Bay? Booz Allen, Lowry Park Zoo, 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 May 2015:
The strategy and tech-consulting firm Booz Allen is hiring for an Assistant Editor to work under a senior editor in the company’s Tampa offices. The position requires a bachelor’s degree in Journalism, Communications or a related field; three or more years of experience writing and editing long-form journalism, including working with an online publication; knowledge of AP style; and the ability to obtain a security clearance.

Experience as a magazine or newspaper reporter, knowledge of the Middle East, Central Asia and South Asia region and/or experience with Arabic, Russian or Dari languages preferred. The position includes developing, writing and editing original online magazine content and proofreading.

To learn more, visit the Booz Allen website

Computer Mentors, a nonprofit tech service organization that helps kids develop skills for careers in the computer industry, is hiring for a full-time Programming Coordinator. The program includes serving as lead instructor for students in grades 4-8 basic computer programming skills and helping high school students build mobile apps for other local nonprofits through the STEM Corps program.

The successful applicant will have experience working with youth; experience programming, including knowledge of Android and iOS app development, graphical interface programming tools and programming robots.

Health Hero, a St. Pete-based startup company that is gaining traction with the idea of reinventing healthcare plans through increased engagement, is hiring for multiple roles in St. Petersburg, including: Director of Sales, Growth Engineer, UX Designer, Ruby on Rails Developer, Native iOS Developer and Native Android Developer.

Do you love to volunteer, get involved in big events, and coordinate complex logistics? Oh, and a love of animals would be a bonus.

Lowry Park Zoo is hiring for a full-time Events/Volunteer Coordinator at the zoo’s central Tampa location. The successful applicant will have a bachelor’s degree in hospitality, communications, marketing, business or a related field. Experience in special events, fundraising, development or hospitality management is also preferred. 

The Events/Volunteer Coordinator will work under the direction of the Events Manager to plan and support zoo events (new animal exhibits, baby reveals, animal birthdays, for example) and volunteer projects. Duties will include organizing and implementing rental events; planning and implementing fundraising events (Zoo Zoom, the Charity Golf Classic, Zoominations, for example); cultivating in-kind donors; and offering other assistance as needed. Holiday and weekend availability required. 

Lowry Park Zoo is also hiring for a Director of Finance, Chief Development Officer, Education Instructor, Staff Accountant, and part-time, seasonal Summer Camp Instructors, among other roles. For a complete listing of available roles, visit the zoo website.

Florida Blue is hiring for several positions in the Tampa Bay area, including: Retail Center Navigation Nurse ARNP, Sr Mgr Medical Review, Senior Media Relations Consultant, Web Designer and Sr. Consultant Leadership Development.
Florida Blue offers private health insurance through Blue Cross Blue Shield of Florida, Inc. 

To learn more about the  available job opportunities with Florida Blue in the Tampa bay area, visit the Florida Blue website.

Tech Data is hiring for multiple positions in the Clearwater area, including a senior financial analyst, a systems engineer and a senior copywriter. An applicant for the entry-level Financial Analyst position must have an AS or higher in Accounting, Finance, or Accounting Systems, along with 0-3 years of work experience 

The role will include data compilation, maintaining and distributing management reports, analyzing new business opportunities, efficiency initiatives, or other business issues. and maintaining systems applications, among other tasks.

The global technology distribution company headquartered in Clearwater is also seeking a Marketing Strategist. The position will act as Marketing Consultant for vendor partners and will be responsible for developing and executing marketing campaigns for clients, working together with business development representatives and project managers.

Requirements include a BA in Marketing or Communications and a minimum of two years (five years preferred) of previous marketing strategy development and/or IT channel vendor/reseller marketing experience. 

For complete descriptions and a complete listing of available jobs with Tech Data, visit the company's website.

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.

Tampa Tank expands to Hillsborough County, adds 108 jobs

A new headquarters for Tampa Tank, Inc. & Florida Structural Steel in Ybor City could spell up to 24 new jobs at the company’s main offices. A refurbished manufacturing facility in Port Redwing at the Port of Tampa will create as many as 84 new jobs.

Altogether, the company’s expansion into Hillsborough County is anticipated to generate more than $18 million in capital investment and up to 108 new jobs. New positions will pay nearly 150 percent of the state’s average wage.

To learn more about open job opportunities, refer to the company’s website.

“Tampa Tank has long been a supporter of the Tampa community and Port Tampa Bay,” said Paul Anderson, Port Tampa Bay’s President and CEO, at the annual State of the Port luncheon in late January 2015. “We are excited for their growth and expansion. We look forward to supporting them for years to come.”

Tampa Tank, which has been in business since 1953, and Florida Structural Steel, which was acquired by the company in 1984, provide custom designs and repair steel products for customers around the world.

The company considered going outside the United States to other locations, but a hefty incentives package from the Hillsborough Economic Development Corporation, the City of Tampa, and Hillsborough County kept them close to home. Tampa Tank was provided with a competitive package of state and local incentives totaling $2,080,795. 

Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn commended the move, saying at the luncheon, “This project is a big win for Tampa, for Port Tampa Bay, and for our local residents who will secure high-wage jobs. Tampa Tank’s expansion will kick off an historic revitalization of this important industrial asset, and fuel greater economic growth for our port community.” 

The company will lease two buildings at the port to fabricate steel and iron structures for export, and will invest some $18 million  into the expansion at Port Redwing. 

The Tampa Hillsborough Economic Development Corporation works to develop and sustain a thriving local economy through the attraction, retention and expansion of high wage jobs and capital investment within targeted industry sectors. Locally, the EDC helps existing businesses access the tools and resources they need to succeed, now and in the future.
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