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Job News: The Mad Botter hires in aerospace tech, plus more

Michael Dominick, who holds a bachelor’s degree in English Literature from Rider University in Lawrenceville, N.J., has parlayed his tech skills and humanities’ focus into a successful Plant City business that is ramping up.

Called The Mad Botter, the 2-year-old company was named after Lewis Carroll’s fictional character Mad Hatter, from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Its back-of-office automation bot, which handles inventory and invoices among other things, was named Alice.

“From my perspective, tech is a tool,” says Dominick, who took AP Computer Science in high school and worked in tech throughout college. “At the end of the day, the tech has to be useful and has to serve people trying to do their job.”

An aerospace software development company, The Mad Botter works primarily with military contractors. It specializes in customizing familiar out-of-the-box solutions for its clients, saving them money and aggravation.

“In a lot of ways our approach definitely simplifies the operations of the app for the end users,” says Dominick, the company’s Founder. “When they see our software, it’s immediately familiar to them.”

The Mad Botter got rolling when Dominick mounted a cellphone in an airplane – and connected it with the radar system.

“We bought an iPhone right off the shelf, wrote some software for it and we were good to go,” he recalls.

On September 12, the company launched an upgrade that works with Microsoft Surface Tablets.

The company also is sponsoring Avalonia, an open source project to enable apps to be utilized on multiple platforms, assisting with its testing and development.

Located in a Plant City office at 607 S. Alexander St., The Mad Botter employs five. Its staff has the flexibility to decide when they’ll show up at the office -- and most opt to come in a day or two a week.

“The metric we measure by is pure productivity,” he explains.

While he acknowledges he was a bit reluctant about remote employment at first, he’s discovered it allows for a more rested crew because it cuts the commute. He experiences that first-hand, as he lives in Riverview and it’s a 35- to 40-minute drive.

“I’ve seen productivity actually go up by embracing a remote group,” he says.

Dominick plans to more than double the company’s current staff, with the addition of five developers and one “customer champion” handling accounts and software testing. He’s currently hiring for an intermediate developer and customer champion, with the remaining positions likely to be filled within six months.

Salaries, which start around $53,000 for junior developer and customer champion openings, average in the $60,000s and are based on experience. He considers degrees, but that’s secondary to a candidate’s love of technology and interest in how things work.

What else is planned? Dominick wants to become more involved in the Tampa Bay entrepreneurial community because he believes his firm will benefit as the ecosystem grows. He would like to potentially become involved as a speaker, a hackathon host and the like.

“There’s just a lot going on in this great pipeline,” he says.

Read on to learn about other career opportunities in the Tampa Bay Area.

• The Chicago area-based Automated Industrial Machinery, Inc. announced plans earlier this month to relocate its headquarters to 14101 McCormick Dr., Tampa. It expects to invest $4 million and hire 45 local employees.

A wire-bending machinery manufacturer, AIM serves customers the automotive, aerospace, military, medical, point-of-purchase display, refrigeration, food service, agricultural and storage industries in 58 countries.

AIM also plans to enter the orthodontic appliance market through a new company, Advanced Orthodontic Solutions, Inc., which will make micro-wire bending machines for orthodontic appliances and the sleep apnea industry.

Both companies will be hiring for those positions; and salaries will average $58,000. The company’s website currently lists three openings including senior mechanical engineer, engineering technician 1, and software engineer and programmer. Learn more.

• The online restaurant supply firm WebstaurantStore, Inc. announced plans last month to expand into Tampa, where it will create more than 300 IT and customer solutions jobs. It will be investing $1 million.

The Lancaster, PA-based company provides direct-to-door service to restaurants globally.

At its new location at 7702 and 7802-50 Woodland Center Blvd., WebstaurantStore planned to hire 155 for its IT division, with salaries estimated at above $75,000.

Positions are expected to involve database administration, software engineering, Quality Assurance engineering, systems engineering, application security, network security, and site-reliability engineering.

Another 150 jobs will be in the customer support division, where salaries are starting at $45,000.

Want to learn more? Visit the company’s website here.

ROBOTICON brings together students for space-themed event in Tampa

Interested in carbon dioxide cars? Or 120-pound robots? You can check them out at ROBOTICON, expected to draw nearly 1,000 high school students to the University of South Florida’s Yuengling Center Saturday and Sunday, September 29 and 30.

“It’s like a big sporting event, except the sport is robotics,” says Robert Bishop, Dean of USF’s College of Engineering, which is co-hosting the event on the Tampa campus.

“We want people to understand science is fun,” explains Terri Willingham, Executive Director of the Foundation for Community Driven Innovation, a not-for-profit organizing and co-hosting ROBOTICON. “It’s within the reach of every child.”

ROBOTICON gives students as young as 6 an opportunity to engage in educational activities in the areas of science, technology, engineering, arts, and math, also known as STEAM. 

This year’s event, which is space-themed, features Kurt Leucht, who works in the electronics and circuits group at Kennedy Space Center. Leucht will be talking about what it’s like to work for NASA and visiting with guests during the day Saturday.

ROBOTICON, in its sixth year, will give visitors a chance to test carbon dioxide cars in a Jet Stream 500 wind tunnel to discover the vehicles with the best aerodynamics, and what feature is behind it. That event is hosted by STEMWERX, a mobile STEM lab encouraging young people to pursue careers in motorsports and the automotive industry.

The event includes an Innovation Fair with commercial and industrial robotics, plus educational exhibits. Visitors will be able to tour Team Pits, where members work on robots, and talk to students, view demos and exhibits, and learn more about long-range plans for an advanced manufacturing and robotics center.

Students will be competing in the robotics offseason in four categories: the FIRST Robotics contest for high schoolers with up to 120-pound robots; the FIRST Tech Challenge for 7th through 12th grade teams; the FIRST Lego League for 4th through 8th grade team scrimmages and practice games; and FIRST LEGO League Jr. Expo for roboticists 6 to 9.

This year they’ll be using their new Tampa Bay field, a portable field the size of a volleyball court built by Electro Mechanical Solutions of Odessa FL.

The event, slated from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. both days, is free, although there is a $10 fee for parking outside the Yuengling Center, formerly known as the USF Sun Dome. Reservations are recommended

To learn more or participate as a volunteer, exhibitor, sponsor or donor, visit ROBOTICON.net, where details will be posted closer to the event.

Sponsors include USF, Hillsborough County, Lockheed Martin, Jabil, JPMorgan Chase, USF Connect and the Florida High Tech Corridor, the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association, Women in Defense, SourceToad, Visit Tampa Bay and the Tampa Bay Sports Commission.

All the fun not only trains students in robotics and tech but also in life skills.

“I’ve always been fascinated in the last three years by the level of teamwork. It’s clearly one of the strengths of FIRST Robotics programs,” Bishop says. “I think it’s really an exercise that broadens their understanding of what does it take to be in the STEM field. You don’t invent devices all by yourself.”

The event is part of a burgeoning Tampa Bay tech community.

“There’s a growing sense of, I think, excitement, as Tampa moves more and more being into being considered a high tech innovative district,” says Bishop, who earned a Ph.D. in Electrical and Computer engineering at the Houston-based Rice University. “I see this as part of an ecosystem being developed in Tampa around a notion of tech and innovation.”

He sees USF, which has its own Center for Assistive, Rehabilitation and Robotics Technologies, playing a central role.

“These students are the next generation of explorers. Engineering is key to the solution of many of the problems that face us today in the world,” he adds. “But engineering cannot solve those problems alone. Those problems have to be solved by teams.”

Learn more about FIRST Robotics here.


Clearwater company develops revolutionary wireless technology

An electrical engineer, Christopher Anderson had been working on the team that brought the communications systems on NASA’s Mars Exploration Program to life. He realized technology could do much more to connect people here on Earth. So he developed BRIDGE, a low-cost wireless switch capable of tapping into unused and under-used fiber optic networks, boosting the speed of communication and enabling augmented realities like holograms.

More than seven years in development, the device is smaller than a shoebox and can be installed on a light pole, building or other structure. It offers secure and reliable connections.

He and Program Director Zach Howe set up shop in Clearwater about six months ago as Connected Revolution, a for-profit company looking to enlist 100 communities across the nation to become the first to use the BRIDGE. It has set up a contest, with the goal of raising $500,000 per community to implement the technology.

“We’re hoping over time everybody is going to be [connected].” Howe says.

What BRIDGE does is bring the high-speed connectivity existing on Main Street to the last mile, where it can reach more users. “We eliminate those bottlenecks. We deliver the same speed fiber has down to the end point,” explains Anderson, President and Founder.

“It’s very much like having the fiber routed to your home or routed to your cellphone, but without the wire,” he adds.

With its contest launched July 4, Connected Revolution seeks to democratize connectivity and enlist the involvement of individuals, civic leaders and entrepreneurs, who can make money deploying the system.

“BRIDGE is not putting itself in the middle of this like a gatekeeper would, like a normal corporation would,” Anderson explains. “BRIDGE is facilitating open access to everything in this process.”

People can become involved by buying a T-shirt at the company’s website, or by donating, or by getting in touch.

“We’d like to see people get involved in whatever way they’d like to get involved,” Howe says.

What are the benefits to a community? According to its website, early adopters:
• have better, faster and more reliable service;
• can attract more technology-minded people limited by their current Internet providers;
• can scale it affordably;
• will be pioneers in the new ecosystem; and
• will be able to use augmented reality and artificial intelligence systems well.

Fiber networks are already in place to serve about 90 percent of the country. It exists within at least 10,000 feet even in rural areas. Connections to this fiber can be leased and its power can be harnessed, Anderson says.

“The possibilities, once you’ve gotten connected, are kind of endless,” Howe adds.

People who want their communities to be among the first adopters of the technology can generate funds by purchasing “Take the Internet Back!” T-shirts and Connected Revolution stickers. Funds also can be donated by individuals or local government, or even loaned to the community.

The BRIDGE will get things rolling as a facilitator, but ultimately others will be manufacturing equipment. Entrepreneur operators could make money as a service provider, or may even opt to offer it free.

“It could be that the Netflix of the world and the Amazon of the world, other media could be sharing their revenues with the switch operators,” Anderson says.

The Clearwater-based Redstone Technologies holds the BRIDGE patents and intellectual property rights. It also will be issuing licenses to switch operators.

Howe says they’ve been reaching out to Tampa Bay Area business and civic leaders about being part of the initial group. Thus far, five communities nationwide are participating in the contest, including an unidentified one in Florida, in addition to two communities in California and two in Colorado. There also was interest from other states.

An inaugural event is planned in the Tampa Bay Area in the fall to demonstrate the technology; details have not yet been firmed up. The program will begin rolling out to the first 100 communities in early 2019.

To spur augmented reality applications in the initial communities, Connected Revolution will launch a Million Dollar Developers Contest. Fifty projects will be awarded $20,000 in prizes through a hackathon.

“Whatever we do we try to do in the form of a contest,” Anderson adds.

NASA awards seed grant to USF for wastewater research

NASA has awarded a one-year seed grant to the University of South Florida to research a sewage waste recycling system and energy/nutrient extraction system for potential use in space and on Mars explorations.

“Being able to grow food in places like Mars is really critical,” says Daniel Yeh, an associate professor in the College of Engineering, whose focus is environmental engineering. “NASA has made it a priority that they are going to have to develop technology to grow food on Mars.”

Yeh points out NASA already has proven technologies it is using at the International Space Station to recycle urine and sweat for drinking water.

“NASA already has within its portfolio many technologies for water treatment, including that for water recycling aboard the International Space Station (ISS), which has been running successfully for almost a decade,” he explains. “The NEWgenerator is being evaluated as a potential technology due to new desires and commitments by NASA and private companies for exploring deep space, including putting humans on Mars within the next 15-20 years.”

Starting this month, USF is working with the Kennedy Space Center to see if its NEWgenerator, which it’s been working on for the last decade, can be adapted for space. The amount of the grant wasn’t available.

“New technologies will be needed for new methods to grow food and the complete recycling of all wastes. This is why NASA is taking a look at our technology as a potential candidate,” he says. “This is a rigorous multi-year process with a lot of evaluations and tests along the way, to ensure that, whatever technologies are chosen, they will be high-performing, reliable and safe.”

While sewage treatment plants typically are large, and take up a lot of space, the new prototype must be compact. “Think of it as a very efficient sewage treatment plant in a small box,” he says.

The system uses a filtration membrane and microorganisms to break down the waste. The Earth’s elements are building blocks that are stored, used, pulled apart, and used again, similar to Lego parts stored in bins, he explains.

“Our first priority is to get rid of them [germs] so it will be completely sanitary,” he continues. “That’s something we can’t compromise on.”

They’ve done the groundwork in India and South Africa, where they’ve been treating toilet waste and testing it. “We’re getting really good,” he says.

For space use, the USF research will endeavor to make the system smaller, so it will serve four to six people.

“We need to make it appropriate for zero gravity applications,” he says.

An environmental engineering student starting his master’s studies, Talon Bullard, will be developing the prototype of a NEWgenerator for space as his thesis.

After the initial year, they hopefully can get another grant to further the research, he says. Eventually, it will need to be tested in space.

“You can only test it so far on Earth,” he says, explaining zero gravity “is difficult to mimic.”

A prototype also needs to be maintained in space. “You need to design the system so that undesirable failure will not happen,” he says.

That might involve changing parts during regular maintenance, before they actually break. “What’s exciting for us is learning about how they [NASA] handle risk and how they deal with failure, so we can actually engineer our system so that it’s incredibly reliable,” he adds.

Job News: TCS expanding into Tampa Bay Area; Mosaic move anticipated

Tata Consultancy Services has become the third-party administrator of Transamerica’s insurance and annuity products, a move that has resulted in the transfer of more than 430 former Transamerica employees to TCS in St. Petersburg.

“This enables Transamerica to rapidly enhance its digital capabilities, simplify the service of more than 10 million policies into a single integrated modern platform, and drive greater sustainable growth opportunities through superior customer experiences,” says Balaji Ganapathy, TCS’s Head of HR Workforce Effectiveness.

TCS, a major creator of U.S. IT services jobs, has invested nearly $3 billion in the United States in the last three years.

“Hiring has been happening since April for several technology and operations roles. As and when new positions open up, we will continue to hire,” Ganapathy says.

Plans call for expanding the company's educational programs in the area. “As part of TCS's ongoing investment in the region, we plan to expand our flagship goIT education program, which launched successfully last year in St. Petersburg,” Ganapathy says. “The program has been inspiring underserved youth to explore app development, design thinking, and technology careers since 2009.”

The company will be partnering with local schools and youth-serving organizations to encourage tech-related careers.

It also will be starting its Ignite My Future in School program in the area soon, although a timeline wasn’t available. Discovery Education in Florida provides free professional development and digital resources to educators. The goal is to integrate computational thinking into all subjects to build that foundational skill.

“Even though we have not yet formally launched the Ignite My Future in Schools program in Florida, local teachers are already downloading and implementing the program into their classrooms,” Ganapathy says. “In fact, Florida is in the top 10 states (#7) for downloading the curriculum, helping to achieve the program’s goal of reaching 20,000 educators and 1 million students over a five-year period.”

The agreement comes at a time when company expansions and relocations are bringing a substantial number of new jobs to the Tampa Bay market. The Tampa area added 33,300 new jobs in the private sector during the last year, making it second to Orlando as the highest metro area statewide for job creation, according to a May 18 announcement by Florida Gov. Rick Scott. The highest number of jobs were in leisure and hospitality, with 9,300, followed by education and health services, 6,300, and financial activities, 6,200.

Here’s a look at some other opportunities in Tampa Bay.

The Mosaic Company, a Fortune 500 company based in Plymouth, MN, has decided to move its headquarters to Hillsborough County. The company announced in May that it would move its headquarters, senior executives and related functions to Hillsborough to improve access to its new acquisition, the Brazilian fertilizer company Vale Fertilizantes. Among the anticipated benefits are cost savings and the ability to magnify its presence in Central Florida, where it is a large employer with a significant economic impact. Details of the move still were under consideration. Follow Innovation & Job News in 83 Degrees for future career possibilities.

• A custom battery firm, Resistacap Energy Products, will be moving its headquarters from Huntsville, AL, to Hillsborough County. The company announced in May it will hire 100 local employees for a variety of positions including assembly, soldering, welding and accounting and invest up to $500,000 in equipment and building renovation. Resistacap provides custom batteries, battery packs, and chargers, including leading-edge products to the medical, military and aerospace, safety and hand-held electronics industries. The new headquarters will be at 12180 Race Track Road.

• A U.K.-based recruiting company, which specializes in the technology sector, has chosen Tampa for a new office, with plans to hire 100 employees, according to a May announcement. Frank Recruitment Group, which chose Tampa because of its fast-growing technology labor pool, provides full training to its sales associates. The office is in downtown Tampa at 501 E. Kennedy Blvd.

Lockheed Martin has opened a new manufacturing facility in Pinellas Park and is expected to hire more than 80 by mid-2019. The move follows the addition of 30 jobs late last year for increased F-35 production. The company has added an additional 65,500 square feet of manufacturing and office space. The Bethesda, MD-based security and aerospace company employs about 14,400 in Florida; the new jobs will boost Pinellas Park’s numbers from 270 to 350.

• An innovative Danish designer and manufacturer has chosen Tampa for its first U.S. subsidiary. The company Liftup USA, which helps the disabled, injured and elderly achieve greater mobility, announced in May that it would hire 20 people to fill a variety of positions. Liftup, which will be investing up to $350,000, was expecting to hire regional distribution managers, logistics managers, sales professionals, and production and warehouse associates. The parent corporation, Liftup A/S, is based in Stoevring, Denmark.

Innovation Fusion: Wix and Waze leaders to share journey at Tampa event

Innovation Fusion, the signature event for The Florida-Israel Business Accelerator (FIBA), is expected to draw 500 people to hear top tech executives and meet representatives of the accelerator’s latest eight-member cohort.

Danny Brigido, Director of Customer Solutions in Miami for the Tel Aviv-based Wix website development platform, will be talking about the challenge of hiring tech employees in Florida. Aron DiCastro, Waze Head of Global Partnerships and Business Development, will be sharing about Waze’s integration into Google and plans for growth.

Brigido, who developed Miami’s Wix office, will be speaking about how he hired more than 100 Floridians for the operation, which provides support to users of the platform. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Communications from the University of Tampa and a master’s degree in Animation from The Savannah College of Arts and Design.

A GPS navigation app, Waze was built by an Israeli startup acquired by Google for $1.3 billion in 2013. DiCastro, who has relocated from Tel Aviv to Google headquarters in Silicon Valley, has been heading global business development and partnerships at Waze for more than a year. In the past, he led the Google 'Startup Nation' Department involving international business.

The event presented by Valley National Bank culminates the introductory portion of the cohort program for companies interested in doing business in the U.S. market. “The purpose of Innovation Fusion is to bring together the Tampa Bay community around exciting innovation happening in our area,” says Rachel Marks Feinman, FIBA’s Executive Director. 

It attempts to build a bridge between the Israeli innovation ecosystem and what is happening in the Tampa Bay community, she says.

“The companies that we’re serving really have no connection or tie to Tampa Bay other than through FIBA,” she says.

The event, scheduled from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Wednesday, June 13, at Bryan Glazer Family JCC, 522 N. Howard Ave., Tampa, is expected to attract about 200 more people than the inaugural Innovation Fusion event last year. At that time a member of the 2017 cohort, Tomobox, announced it was opening its U.S. headquarters in Tampa.

Another cohort company, Stemrad, has also chosen to open a U.S. subsidiary in Tampa -- and hired former FIBA Executive Director Jack Ross.

More accomplishments are anticipated through FIBA. “We expect similar successes from our 2018 cohort. It’s a little early to make any announcements,” Feinman says.

Founded by the Tampa Jewish Community Centers and Federation, in late 2016, FIBA is working closely with community partners such as Synapse, a Tampa nonprofit working to better connect members of the area’s entrepreneurial ecosystem, and Tampa Bay Wave, a nonprofit accelerator for tech businesses.

It also recently worked with a University of Tampa public relations class to craft media plans for the organization.

“We’re all working together as a community to make sure that we have all the necessary tools in the toolkit, if you will, for our growing companies to be successful,” Feinman says.

She adds that Tampa Bay has a “well of talent” that may not necessarily be trained, or have experience in tech jobs.

“I think over the next several years we’ll see an influx of that talent grow here,” she says.

Here are the companies in the 2018 cohort:
• BetterCare, which aims to improve nursing home care by enhancing communication between caregivers, nurses and staff;
• ECOncrete, whose goal is to change the way our coastlines look and function through cost-efficient concrete solutions to rising sea levels and superstorms;
• Nucleon, the provider of an innovative cyber threat monitoring system to protect users from professional hackers, governments and other attackers;
• UC-Care, a developer and manufacturer of medical devices for urologists working with prostate cancer;
• GlobeKeeper, an encrypted communication platform designed to keep security personnel safe, saves money and improves decision-making;
• Intervyo, an advanced interview simulation engine able to screen job applicants and accurately gauge their suitability for the position;
• Say, which enables you to wear your display on clothes or accessories and control it with your smartphone; and
• WiseShelf, which offers dynamic inventory management to retailers through low-cost hardware and sophisticated software. It also helps businesses fill online orders.

To register, or get more information about the companies, visit the FIBA website.

New Orleans-bound StartupBus rolls out of Tampa on Friday

The Florida StartupBus -- packed with 30 entrepreneurial-minded people who may be strangers to each other -- is set to roll out of downtown Tampa at 8 a.m. Friday, April 27. The bus embarks on a 72-hour journey of more than 650 miles to New Orleans, stopping at Atlanta, Nashville, and cultural and entrepreneurial hotspots.

Along the way, participants can create a product and business, take risks without consequences, and connect with mentors and collaborators who can help make their venture a success.

For some, it may be a life changer. “StartupBus is about experiencing, essentially, the first year of a startup,” explains Robert Blacklidge, the Lead Conductor. “We compress it into a short amount of time.”

Ultimately, the StartupBus is not about churning out a bunch of businesses, however. “Our goal is not to create companies,” he says. “It’s to give people the experience of creating a company in a short amount of time.”

The route the bus will take wasn’t disclosed.

“When you’re starting an entrepreneurial experience, you don’t know what the road is ahead of you,” Blacklidge says. “We like to keep the experience that way too.”

About a third of this year’s participants are veterans, like Blacklidge, who served in the U.S. Air Force. He describes the StartupBus as a boot camp that puts together hackers, or the creators, with hipsters, the designers, and hustlers, the marketers.

They’re in for a grueling experience: 15- to 18-hour workdays where they rely on Red Bull and coffee to function. “It’s not a cakewalk,” he points out.

In the end, it’s about opportunity rather than “creature comforts,” or “habit,” he says.

“We’re showing them a mountain that they don’t have a choice but to climb,” he explains. “All the time, people will rise to the challenge.”

Bus riders with be in the Big Easy on Monday, April 30, and Tuesday, May 1, along with the big Collision tech conference April 30-May 3.

Some 30 teams from eight buses, including a bus from New York City with women interested in block chain, the technology used to build crytocurrency, will be presenting their businesses before industry leaders.

The prize is the experience, the people you meet and the bragging rights,” Blacklidge says.

This trip’s sponsors include Veterans Florida, Hillsborough County’s Economic Development Innovation Initiative EDi2, and the technology consulting and software development firm, Sourcetoad.

Nine years ago, the first StartupBus wasn’t planned. Some entreprenuers were headed across the country to a conference, when they decided to challenge themselves to create a company along the way. Since then the idea has been growing, turning into an international challenge that spurs inventiveness and creativity.

“You would be amazed what gets created in a short amount of time,” Blacklidge says. “It’s truly an incredible experience.”

In 2017, two Florida teams were among the five finalists: Course Align and DropIn Pedals.

Blacklidge came up with the idea for his company, Course Align, while on the bus. The company, designed to help universities develop curriculum that meets evolving business needs, is in the seed-funding stage with 14 employees, most of them unpaid interns.

Conductors Morgan Thacker and Tyler Baumgardner, a 2017 team out of Dunedin, placed second with DropIn Pedals, an adapter transforming clipless bike pedals into flat pedals that can be used with casual shoes.

A limited number of seats are available on the bus for latecomers this year. “Every year we get one or two people that just found out about it,” Blacklidge says.

Potential participants can sign up at http://Startupbus.com/florida using the invite code 83Degrees.

“They will need to fill out the application and schedule an interview when they sign up,” Blacklidge says. “The time line will be tight to get them through the process and on the bus.”

Participants need to pay for a $399 ticket, plus food, hotels and airfare.


Career Readiness: USF pilots program to digitally demonstrate skills

If you’re a jobseeker, there’s something you really ought to know: more than likely, your resume will have to pass the muster of a machine before you’re given an interview. It works very much like search engines when they rank websites, except it’s your resume that is ranked by keyword.

“It’s just easier to let computers make the first pass,” explains Peter Thorsett, Communications and Marketing Officer for Career Services at the University of South Florida in Tampa.

That is not to say you should stuff your resume with keywords so it’s nonsensical. After all, humans are behind the machinery. Still, it can help to know how your resume is being screened.

Networking is advised to help you build your skills and connect you to potential employers. “It’s best not to go it alone,” advises Lynn Chisholm, USF’s Director of Internships and Career Readiness. “So much of it is based on who you know and whether you are branded effectively for the company.”

Keeping current also is important. “I have not seen a lot of success in individuals who think what they did 15 years ago will help them get a job now,” she adds. “The whole process has changed.”

USF is helping students compete in an increasingly automated job market through its new Career Readiness Badging program, now in pilot mode on the main campus. It works pretty similar to the Scout badges system, except students don’t wear the badges on a sash. Instead, they post digital badges on resumes or electronic job boards, helping students rank higher on applicant tracking systems.

“The more we can have a student showcase those skills ... The more likely it is that they are going to be called in for an interview,” Thorsett says.  “We also empower them with the right language to be able to talk to an employer.”

The pilot began last fall and is expected to roll out across the Tampa campus next fall.

USF recognizes students may not be able to articulate their academic experiences effectively, or in ways employers expect. So the badging program helps by building and demonstrating eight key skills including communication, leadership, critical thinking technology, global citizenship, career management, professionalism and teamwork.

Through various partners on campus, even more badges are offered. For example, USF Libraries are offering workshops to build skills in Adobe Creative Cloud, Photoshop, Indesign, Illustrator and Premiere. The workshops, which are one and half hours long, are in the afternoons and evenings, says Barbara Lewis, USF’s Digital Learning Librarian.

More workshops are planned, and students can also use the school’s subscription to Lynda.com for online tutorials, she adds.

The program helps prepare students for broader, open learning sources in the future. “It is exciting for our students. They’re learning how to do something they’re gong to use their entire career,” Chisholm says. “It’s going to set them up for career success beyond USF.”

Students on the Tampa campus can enroll in the program through the online job platform Handshake or through Career Services. Professors can involve students through their department or individual coursework. There is no charge to participate.

There are lots of opportunities for jobseekers in Tampa Bay, if the numbers of recruiters on campus are any indication. Top career fields are healthcare, tech, sales, and financial services.

Internships are being used to recruit new talent. “We find that there is a very healthy market for internships in the Tampa Bay area,” Chisholm says. “There are likely more internships than there are students to fill them.”

Read on to learn more about the local job scene.

• Two of the 2018 FORTUNE “100 Best Companies to Work For are based in the Tampa Bay region, including the Lakeland-based Publix Super Markets ranked 47th, and the Clearwater-based Baycare Health System ranked 65th. Power Home Remodeling, which ranked 87th on the list, has a Tampa Bay office at 4135 Crescent Park Drive in Riverview. It is based in the Philadelphia region.

Publix hires for a wide variety of careers in the region, including corporate and administrative, real estate, quality assurance, marketing, pharmacy, distribution, manufacturing and human resources. It likes to promote its associates. An online search tool lets potential employees track opportunities that suit their particular interests and qualifications.

Baycare operates 15 hospitals in the Tampa Bay region, including St. Joseph's Hospital in West Tampa, and has openings listed for medical technologists, registered nurses, clinical nurses, patient support technicians, histologists, pharmacy technicians, cooks, medical office reps, environmental services techs, home health clinicians and more.

Power Home Remodeling currently lists openings for sales representatives in Riverview. Learn more.

• Interested in a career in Finance? Raymond James lists a wide variety of openings in St. Petersburg, including summer internships, a staff accountant’s position for a new graduate, a number of analyst positions, a reconciliation specialist, a portfolio reviewer, and a marketing associate for investment products.

Headquartered in Herndon, VA, Indexcel, a technology provider specializing in Cloud Services, Application Modernization, and Data Analytics is looking for a Tableau Developer/Data Reporting Analyst in Tampa. The job requires the ability to act as a data storyteller and liaison between tech and non-tech workers. The position requires one to three years in reporting and analytics.


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.”


DOD courts local innovators for MD5 accelerator

Business accelerators and hackathons are all the rage these days. Even the federal government is getting in on the act: its MD5 is on the local tech scene to help innovators create new products.

“We reach out to innovators that typically would not be working with the DOD [Department of Defense],” explains William Kernick Ph.D., a principal in the MD5 national security technology accelerator, which is part of the DOD. “We want to make these communities of innovators aware of very interesting and challenging problems. ... Part of what we’re doing is building those connections.”

MD5 held its first event in the Tampa Bay area in December in partnership with the Ybor City-based SOFWERX, an organization formed to facilitate collaboration between innovators and the U.S. Special Operations Command, or SOCOM. Called Hacking the Human Element, the three-day hackathon brought together participants from across the United States to develop prototypes using wearable technology to boost productivity in austere environments.

Squad Dr. Bones McCoy claimed a prize worth up to $15,000 to work on a prototype that monitors vital signs through wearable technology, helping first responders to more easily assess the urgency of medical treatment.

 

“What we focused on was the telemedicine aspect,” says team spokesperson Tracy Ingram, CEO of Intention Technology based in Dade City, which is building non-invasive medical diagnostic tools.

In a combat situation, Squad Dr. Bones McCoy’s automated alert system would enable medics to identify stable patients from those whose conditions are rapidly deteriorating, or who are deceased. It relies on off-the-shelf technology that is commercially viable.

 

A member of Pasco Economic Development Council’s SMARTstart Incubator, Ingram recruited a seasoned team after showing up at the event's trade show. “We had this perfect mix of all these people that kind of came together to make this happen,” he says.

Members of the large team included David Hirschberg, Natalie Concors, Asia Hall, Alec Thurman, Brian Meredith, Steve McCalmont, Yves St Laurent and Terry Shaw.

The team expects to use the money to seek a Small Business Innovation Research grant for $200,000 to further the technology, with the goal of making it available to the military and commercial markets.


“Really what you are doing is extending telemedicine from the hospital room to potentially the home or wherever that patient would be,” says Ingram, co-Founder of the nonprofit Healthcamp Florida, which identifies innovative medical technologies.

The other teams receiving up to $15,000 were:

• Squad Smart Tourniquets, which showed how tourniquets embedded in undergarments could stop bleeding in extremities;

• Squad Blood Suckers, which demonstrated how an intravenous diagnostic probe can provide real-time and continuous blood analysis; and

• Squad Fabric Communications, which showed how fabric could be used to ensure communication in austere environments.


In addition to the money and mentoring, teams were recognized by Manufacturing USA at the Defense Manufacturing Conference (DMC 2017) in Tampa in December.

While MD5 is working to improve the national security, its efforts are not solely to assist warfighters. “When we work with entities on these ideas, we like to focus on something called dual use,” Kernick says, adding it should be aimed at national defense and commercial markets. “Just doing a national security application is not sufficient for a company to be successful. You also want them to make sure they’re looking at dual use.”

 

A good example of why this is important is GPS, which was military technology 40 years ago. Commercializing the product advanced the product and reduced its cost.

 

The prize money will be awarded to teams for follow through on product development, with installments given at designated milestones. “We give them the freedom to put their plan in place,” he says. “We’re very flexible about how they deploy the funds. They have to keep it going.”

MD5’s customized approach doesn’t include a physical cohort, application process, or set program. Instead, the hackathon is the “lead-in,” Kernick says.

“It’s more like they’re now in the fold, so we continue to work with them,” he explains.

Kernick says discussions are underway about another event with SOFWERX. “We want to keep going and figure out another way to do a collaboration,” he says.

Interested in learning more about SOFWERX? Check out this article in 83 Degrees Media.


Tampa Bay job fairs match people with jobs; one caters to veterans

In honor of Veterans Day, CareerSource is holding its annual Florida Paychecks for Patriots Career Fair from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 8, at The EpiCenter at St. Petersburg College, 13805 58th St. N., St. Petersburg.

“Paychecks for Patriots has made a difference in the lives and careers of thousands of veteran candidates and military family members in the past four years," says CEO Ed Peachey of CareerSource Tampa Bay and CareerSource Pinellas, which are hosting the event. "We expect the fifth year to continue that tradition, so Florida can continue to be the most military and veteran-friendly state in the nation.”

For the first hour, the fair will be open exclusively for the military transitioning to civilian life, veterans, and their families, giving them the first opportunity to meet with potential employers. The event opens for the general public at 11 a.m.

At the event, information also will be provided on training and development programs available through CareerSource centers, such as the TechHire, CyberSecurity, CareerReady, and Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act programs.

Over 30 employers will be present at the event seeking to fill over 200 positions,” Peachey adds.

Among the job openings are positions for bus driver, caregiver, customer service representatives, fulltime sales, housekeepers, insurance agents, line cooks, mechanic, respite and servers.

The annual event is hosted by many of Regional Workforce Boards across the state.

Job candidates who want help preparing for the event can contact their local job center. Assistance is available with job applications and resumes. There also are Employability Skills Workshops (including Resume Development and Interviewing Skills Training).

Walk-ins are welcome to this free event, but attendees are encouraged to register in advance at either CareerSource Tampa Bay or CareerSource Pinellas.  Click on Career Seekers and then Career Fairs to access the webpage. Jobseekers also can also visit the CareerSource websites for more information on employers attending the opportunities available.

Here are some other career fairs you may want to check out soon.

  • Biz Bulls Connect gives students at USF St. Petersburg an opportunity to connect with potential employers from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 9, at Lynn Pippenger Hall Atrium. Learn more on Handshake.
  • The Fall Instructional Job Fair, an event for teachers interested in working for Pasco County Schools, is slated from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 9, at J. W. Mitchell High School, 2323 Little Rd., New Port Richey. Attendees can meet with principals, attend information sessions on certification, learn about the district’s benefits, and be hired for substitute or permanent positions. The event is free. Learn more and/or register here.
  • The Black Excellence Business Expo and Job Fair is scheduled from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 11, at Pinellas Technical College, St. Petersburg Campus, 3548 11th Ave. S. General admission to the event, organized by The Community Development And Training Center Inc., is free. Register online here.
  • The Tampa Bay Job and Career Fair held by The Tampa Bay Times is slated from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday, Nov. 13, at Holiday Inn Tampa Westshore, 700 N. Westshore Blvd. Tampa. Admission and parking are free; no pre-registration is required. More than 50 local employers will be there. More information and online registration is available by visiting here.
  • The JobNewsUSA.com Job Fair will be held from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 14, at St. Petersburg Marriott Clearwater, 12600 Roosevelt Blvd. N., St. Petersburg. There are hundreds of job opportunities in various fields. The event is free and job candidates are encouraged to register online. Click on Search Career Fairs.
  • Interested in a job with a cruise line? Norwegian Cruise Line is holding a Cruise Ship Job Fair in Tampa. It’s looking to hire for a variety of positions, including assistant chief butcher, assistant cook, assistant waiter, broadcast technician, restaurant steward, stateroom steward and more. Bring your resume! There are two information sessions, one at 10 a.m. and one at 3 p.m., on Tuesday, Nov. 14, at Hilton Tampa Downtown, 211 N. Tampa St., Tampa. On-site registration is held one hour beforehand; the doors close at 10 a.m. and 3 p.m., respectively. Interviews follow the sessions. More information and online registration are available here.
  • The Florida Joblink 2017 Career Fair is slated from 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Tuesday, Nov 16, at Clarion Inn and Suites Conference Center, 9331 E. Adamo Dr., Tampa. The fair, which serves jobseekers in Tampa, Brandon, Lakeland and the surrounding communities, is free. Career advice and resume assistance are available at the fair. Learn more and/or register here.

Natural skin care company grows with help from black business development initiatives

Renee Edwards didn’t set out to start a business. She was a mom with a problem: Her daughter was suffering from acne -- and she wanted to help.

So Edwards, who works in clinical research at St. Petersburg’s Hill Top Research, began experimenting with essential oils and exfoliation.

“It worked for my daughter [Jakara Fitzpatrick],” she says. “I thought I could sell it.”

And sell it she has. Her Skin Kandii products are available in nine retail outlets in St. Petersburg and Clearwater, including the St. Pete Store and Visitor’s Center.

A ceremonial ribbon-cutting was held last Thursday at the Second Avenue North store to mark the occasion.

“I think the real root of cleaning the skin, and relieving acne, is exfoliation,” she asserts. “I think the vitamins that are added to the scrub, and the essential oils ... aid in the healing.”

Edwards, Skin Kandii’s CEO, participated in two Foundation for a Healthy St. Petersburg-funded initiatives designed to help black businesses open and grow: Community Business Development Initiative and CATCH.

“It [the Community Business Development Initiative] has resulted in the creation of 27 new businesses,” says Sean Kennedy, Manager of The Greenhouse, which created the program. “Twenty existing businesses have seen revenue growth.”

The initiative was designed to encourage black-owned businesses, which are under-represented in the community, Kennedy says.

“The point of the program was to eliminate the barriers to entrepreneurship and entrepreneurial growth,” he explains.

Skin Kandii became the first African American-manufactured product line sold in The St Pete Store, a retail showcase backed by the City of St. Petersburg and the St. Petersburg Area Chamber of Commerce.

Fitzpatrick was about 13 when she was experiencing severe skin issues, Edwards recalls. “She wouldn’t wear shorts or skirt in her early middle school and high school years,” she continues.

It took three years of testing, but Edwards eventually discovered sugar and essential oils could be used to exfoliate two or three times a week -- and get that problem under control.

“Once you exfoliate your skin, you also need to use a sunscreen,” she adds. “The fresh skin was turning darker.”

Along the way, with feedback from family and friends, Edwards learned enough to develop eight different scrubs she’s priced at $12.99 each. She’s also developed a lotion bar, lip balms and bath balms.

She has a stress reliever, a skin replenisher, a relaxing anti-inflammatory scrub, and even an Island blend to boost energy. Edwards’ best-selling product is a dry skin formula that has become popular as a foot scrub. It also can help with eczema.

Skin Kandii got is name as Edwards developed the dry skin formula to help her nephew, Jeremieco Robinson, with eczema. She enticed him by saying the product was candy for his skin.

Edwards also offers create-your-own formulas made with the essential oils the user prefers and containers labeled with a distributor’s name. In addition to being available in stores, Skin Kandii is sold at house parties.

Edwards would like to have a TV commercial in six months and eventually sell on St. Pete’s Home Shopping Network.

While Skin Kandii currently is run by a staff of three, she hopes to expand to hire “a whole lot of people,” she says.

She’s working on soy candles, to go on sale in December, and all natural soaps, to sell in the summer of 2018.

The Greenhouse is looking at funding options to continue the initiative, which offered training and business financing. The program already has assisted 60 businesses, among them the affordable housing firm Sago House, the youth employment company I Support Youth, the educational consulting company Global Intelligences and Brea’s Coffee, which also held a ribbon-cutting in October.

Meanwhile Tahisia Scantling, a consultant working with the Tampa Bay Black Business Investment Corporation, which now is backing the other program Edwards participated in, says the community development financial institution holds two cohorts of CATCH per year. It offers training and financing to help businesses.

Although a $100 application fee is charged, the fee is returned to the 10 businesses selected for the 15-week training program.

The CATCH acronym stands for coachable, action-oriented, timely, collaboration help. The program now is also being offered in Hillsborough County, with sponsorship by Wells Fargo.


Clearwater advertising firm grows, new manufacturing jobs come to Pasco County

The 45-year-old Our Town America, an advertising firm that targets new residents, has moved its headquarters into 44,000-square-feet of office space in Clearwater -- and is making plans to hire 15 to 20 additional staffers.

I’m anxious to get them in here and give them an opportunity to grow with our company,” says CEO Michael Plummer Jr.

The company in a growth mode by working with businesses that want to advertise to new residents. Such businesses are often grocery stories, restaurants, hair salons and auto repair shops, or doctors and dentists who want to develop new business relationships. Businesses pay on average $200 a month to target potential customers by things like age, size of household, income, and other demographics.

About two to six weeks after move-in, residents receive an envelope offering “housewarming gifts” such as gift certificates for a free pizza or haircut to entice them to drop by and check out the neighborhood businesses.

When people move in, they’re still searching for those business,” Plummer explains. “They want to know where to go.”

Our Town America disseminates about half a million envelopes every month -- or more than 8 million each year. With some 63 franchises nationwide, they focus primarily on neighborhoods rather than zipcodes.

A lot of it is designed ... to get you off the couch and into those locations,” he says.

Once the initial contact is made, businesses may choose to follow up with another offer, a simple thank you, or a request for feedback.

Our Town America moved last week from smaller rented space in Pinellas Park to its own headquarters at 13900 U.S. Highway 19 N. Clearwater. Built by local contractor Mike Sinwelski, the facility features a 2,700-square-foot, high-tech conference room, a huge breakroom, and LED lights, plus a roof with solar power options.

The company, which employees about 58 locally, was founded by Plummer’s father in Des Moines, IA. After relocating to Omaha and Houston, the company moved to the Tampa Bay Area in 1990. It began selling franchises in 2005, and sold a record-breaking 12 this year. Despite its growth, it continues to be a family-based business with a welcoming atmosphere, which includes catered lunches, potluck dinners, company cruises and other perks.

“The vast majority of our folks have been here for a very long time,” he adds.

Our Town America is hiring for both part-time and full-time positions, with openings in customer service, appointment setting, inside sales and possibly production help for mailouts. Learn more by visiting the OTA website or calling 1-800-497-8360.

Here are more job opportunities in the Tampa Bay area.

Meopta U.S.A. will be opening a new facility in western Pasco County and hiring for 47 new advanced manufacturing positions. Headquartered in Hauppauge, NY, Meopta U.S.A. specializes in the manufacture of and distribution of precision optics such as binoculars and spotting and rifle scopes. It also makes prisms, optical mirrors, aerospace and medical assemblies, and tank periscopes. The jobs will be in the Trinity area and pay an average of about $49,000 annually.

• With all the jockeying by communities seeking Amazon’s second headquarters, the major online retailer is certainly on people’s minds. If you’re wondering about job prospects, read on. Brenda Alfred, Amazon’s Regional Operations PR Manager, says the retailers will be hiring 5,000 employees in Florida, most of them for the holiday season. She did not provide specifics for the Tampa Bay region.

“We employ temporary employees as a way of finding high-quality talent while managing variation in customer demand,” she says. “Following last year’s holiday season, thousands of seasonal employees found regular, full-time roles with Amazon.”

Interested individuals should visit the Amazon website.

Heart Gallery of Pinellas & Pasco, an agency working to increase the number of foster children who are successfully adopted, is looking for an Executive Director in St. Petersburg.


Startup Week 2018 recruits volunteers, planning kicks off now

Organizers of the fourth annual Tampa Bay Startup Week are recruiting volunteers for the 2018 event that will again span both sides of the bay, offering presentations and mentoring for budding entrepreneurs.

“We really try to have a wide range of industries and topics for anyone,” says Gracie Stemmer, President of Startup Tampa Bay and Co-Leader of the event.

The event, organized by the nonprofit Startup Tampa Bay, is scheduled Feb. 12-16, 2018.  A kickoff, scheduled from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 17, at The Franklin Manor, 912 N. Franklin St., Tampa, gives interested individuals a chance to learn more about the event and how they can become involved. Those who can't make it can get in touch with organizers through Facebook or the Startup website.

Stemmer says they are trying to tap into the community’s top talent to speak and run workshops, in addition to reaching out to experts regionally and nationally.

Co-Leader JR Griggs, President of Tampa’s Red Wall Marketing, says volunteers are needed to run industry or topic tracks. These track captains will line up speakers and help locate sponsors. There’s also a need for help with sponsorships, marketing, public relations, the street team, check-in, customer service, and cleanup.

“We’re just eager to work with anyone and everyone that wants to be a part of this,” Stemmer says.

Startup Week is designed to help people vet a business idea, get one-on-one mentoring to launch or grow their business, showcase their businesses, develop their professional networks, or expand their knowledge base. Businesses can be tech related, or traditional brick and mortar.

This year’s Startup Week, which might be starting in St. Petersburg and finishing in Tampa, is expected to feature some tried-and-true topics like design, veteran-owned, PR and marketing, hospitality, women-owned, robotics, cybersecurity and possibly a social entrepreneur track.

Mentors will be on hand throughout the week – and individuals can book a time slot with someone with expertise in their industry, Griggs says.

The current plan is to hold the event at the same venues as last year, Station House in St. Pete and Realto Theatre in Tampa.

“Our biggest goal right now is to get as many volunteers as possible,” Griggs says. “The goal is to make this bigger and better.”


Dreamit’s UrbanTech program launches in Tampa

The New York City-based Dreamit, a top-10 ranked global accelerator and venture capital firm, has chosen eight companies for its first UrbanTech accelerator program, which it is holding in Tampa. One of the companies, Raxar Technology Corp., is Tampa-based.

“We’re really hoping to be able to contribute to the progress that is happening in Tampa Bay,” says Kurt Akman, who heads the company’s growth and marketing division.

Raxar, founded by Akman’s brother Peter, helps companies go mobile with its platform of tools that facilitate data collection and background analytics. The tools are especially helpful in any industry where people manage complex physical assets.

Dreamit received more than 300 completed applications for its first accelerator program focusing on technological solutions for real estate, city infrastructure and urban living. The selection process looked at the company’s idea, its potential in the market, the competitive landscape and the company founders.

It became interested in Tampa through a Dreamit alumni, Gainesville resident Bharani Rajakumar, an advocate of keeping Florida talent in the state. Rajakumar connected Dreamit with Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik, who is partnering in a massive $3 billion, 53-acre project downtown called Water Street Tampa.

The accelerator program had been scheduled to officially kick off September 11 in Tampa, but the Tampa component is being rescheduled because of Hurricane Irma.

“We didn’t allow it to put a hindrance on what we were doing. We did things virtually rather than in person in Tampa,” says Seth Berk, Dreamit’s Chief Marketing Officer. “We’re going to be spending a few weeks in Tampa for sure as part of the cycle.”

The accelerator is placing the startups at CoWorkTampa offices within close proximity to the Water Street Tampa project, facilitating collaboration and instruction.

The UrbanTech program includes two, two-week road shows, one focusing on potential customers and the other one on investors. “Our hope is always that these customer meetings result in business relationships, a pilot program or full-fledge contracts,” Berk says.

The program includes a December 5 summit at downtown’s Marriott Waterside, which is expected to draw some 200 to 250 for a program including guest speakers and workshops.

Here are the other seven companies chosen for the cohort.

• Bignay Inc. is the developer of Gi Fly, a foldable, electric bike commanded by a mobile app. The bile can ride 40 miles on a single charge and is intended to facilitate urban commutes.

Cityzenith helps builders aggregate and analyze data sources involved with construction. Its InstaBIM tool offers easy drag-and-drop assistance with designing, building, and operating complex projects.

Ecomedes simplifies the buying process with a digital data management program. It helps users find the best products for their projects and simplifies the analysis of economic and environmental impacts.

• The wind turbine manufacturer Flower Turbines, which creates small and quiet turbines to be used near buildings and people, offers turbines ideal for urban settings.

Knowify, which offers a software platform for commercial subcontractors, assists users with bidding, tracking, and invoicing jobs. The platform increases efficiency, decreases mistakes and sets the stage for growth.

Lotik uses wireless sensors in its water monitoring service. The sensors clamp onto pipes to recognize water flow, find leaks and send the data in for analysis.

Twist Homes offers a turnkey lighting control system that includes wireless speakers, wifi repeaters and a platform for sensor modules.  It adapts easily to changes in building codes.

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