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Jobs News: Connecting to employers in Plant City, Tampa Bay Area

Graduating seniors need jobs. Employers need employees. But sometimes there is a failure to connect -- and both sides may flounder.

In Plant City, they’re trying to do something about that. A grass roots movement, of sorts, has been growing. “We’re wanting to make those connections so we just continue to prosper,” explains Yvonne Fry, Chief Fry Cook at Fryed Egg Productions, a Plant City marketing firm.

A revised website, Plant City Jobs recently had a soft launch, and the third annual Future Fair is scheduled Thursday, April 26, at the Trinkle Center on Hillsborough Community College’s Plant City campus.

The event kicks off at 9 a.m. with Florida Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam addressing several hundred students from Durant High School, Plant City High School and Simmons Career Center.

“I’ve been asked by so many people in the community, “Can I come?’ ” she says. “The companies of course want to meet as many people as they can.”

So the event, with approximately 50 businesses, apprenticeship programs, technical schools, and the military, includes a community component for the first time this year. Members of the community can meet with decision makers from noon until 2 p.m.

The Future Fair additionally includes a panel of business leaders who will share their own career paths and discuss opportunities for high school graduates. Moderated by Danny McIntyre of The Improvement League of Plant City, the panel includes Gilbert Esparza of Star Distribution Systems, Michelle Valdes of Tint Plus, and Matt Stone of A Stepping Stone Air Conditioning and Heating.

Fry, who describes herself as a serial volunteer, has been observing the situation as a parent and business owner. “I think that Plant City is the most special place in the whole world,” she continues. “I really believe that there is so much opportunity here. We are on the cusp of a whole next generation of what’s coming.”

Plant City has a strong sense of community, and people are rallying together. From the nonprofit Raiders Champion Foundation, to the Hillsborough County public schools, to Hillsborough Community College, to the Improvement League of Plant City and Safe and Sound of Hillsborough County, they are partnering. The Plant City Economic Development Corporation and business sponsors like The Mosaic Company, Hillsborough Education Foundation, Stingray Chevrolet, Florida Public Utilities, Star Distribution Systems, Suncoast Credit Union have been involved.

Among the advocates is Plant City Mayor Rick Lott, a member of the PCHS Business Advisory Board, and a proponent of economic development.

“What’s unique in Plant City is that the owners of our businesses, the C-level folks, are in the room,” she says. “The magic happens whenever somebody looks at you and says, ‘I believe in you.’ That’s a big part of what we’ve done.”

Ultimately, it’s more than about jobs. It’s about building a future for young people. “If people have jobs, they’re purposeful. They’re able to be altruistic and help with other things. They stay out of trouble,” Fry asserts.

The movement began at Plant City High School and has grown to include the year-round, 1-year-old Plant City Career Academy that prepares select students, who are not college bound, for the workforce. “It’s amazing the jobs that we have here in Plant City,” she says.

Below are other job opportunities in the Tampa Bay Area:

• The Tampa-based Greenway Health, a health information technology and services provider, has announced plans to add 104 positions through December as part of a $1.8 million expansion. The new hires at its Westshore location, which will be paid an average annual wage of more than $57,000, will fill positions in software development and training, legal, cybersecurity, and marketing. Greenway Health offers integrated electronic health records, practice management solutions and other tools to help improve care coordination, profitability and efficiency for ambulatory healthcare practices nationwide. Learn more.

• The global endurance sports firm IRONMAN announced in March that it was creating 70 new jobs and expanding its Tampa headquarters. The company is hiring for new jobs in a variety of areas. To check out the openings, visit Teamwork Online and search for IRONMAN.

• Currently in a growth mode, the Clearwater-based KnowBe4 is hiring. The IT security firm lists 26 positions on its website (some out of town) and invites interested applicants to submit a resume for future openings. Among them are software sales representative, which requires at least two years of experience, and a human relations generalist which requires at least one year of related experience. Learn more.

• The UK-based global design firm Atkins is seeking an architect intern in Tampa. The temporary part-time position may include developing models and drawings, along with construction and design budgets and schedules. For more information, visit the Atkins website and search for Tampa.


Career Cafe: Workshop helps girls land the jobs of their dreams

A Pinellas County high school student has created a career program that teaches the job-hunting skills girls need to land their dream jobs. Called The Career Cafe, it's intended to help girls compete more favorably in the marketplace.

Anne Bauer, a 17-year-old senior at East Lake High School in north Pinellas County, developed the program after recognizing two years ago that women face wage discrimination in the workplace. She’d attended a Women’s Conference of Florida, where she learned of the problem.

“My eyes were opened to the gender wage gap between male and females in the workforce,” she says. “I realized I was going to be entering the workforce soon. I did not want that to be prevalent at all.”  

So Bauer, a Girl Scout since kindergarten, created The Career Cafe, where girls can practice interviewing and hone resume-writing skills before they actually have an interview. The first Career Cafe was held in October; a second cafe is scheduled in May.

“The goal of The Career Cafe is to prepare the girls when they are looking for a job,” explains Clara Moll, VP of Membership Innovation for Girl Scouts of West Central Florida. “It [the interview] is very daunting. Some of them have never attempted to look for a job for themselves.”

A cafe, open to girls in high school and above, up to 23 years of age, is scheduled from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, May 12, at The Kaizen Collaborative, 5215 W. Laurel St., Ste. 110, Tampa. Check-in begins at 8:30 a.m.

Girl Scout membership is not required.

The program teaches job-hunting skills like networking, personal branding, and interview dos and don’ts. It features opening remarks by Jamie Klingman, a Lightning Community Hero of the Year in 2014, and speakers Debbie Lundberg of Presenting Powerfully, along with Robin Kraemer and Ronda Clement of My Matrixx.

Coaches and volunteers include Camie Gibertini, Valley National Bank; Holly Donaldson, Holly Donaldson Financial Planning; Stephanie Gaines, Citi; Juliann Nichols, Julo Strategy; Adeola Shabiyi, Citigroup; and Jennifer McVan, Florida Hospital.

Bauer’s efforts have been recognized by the 2018 Tampa Bay Lightning Foundation’s Community Heroes of Tomorrow program, which awarded her a $25,000 college scholarship. She plans to attend the University of South Florida in Tampa next fall and double major in biomedical engineering and finance.

Another $25,000 was awarded to the Girl Scouts to continue the program.

“We hope to keep it going,” says Nicole Gonzalez, Public Relations and Media Manager for Girl Scouts of West Central Florida. “It’s definitely a great opportunity for high school.”

While the Scouts do offer other career-related programs like Camp CEO, The Career Cafe is open to the general public and gives girls a good career overview. “This is really more about envisioning their lives and where they see themselves,” Gonzalez says. “You’re going to leave here with the tools that you need.”

The Girl Scouts are looking for volunteers for the event, especially to help with resume writing and mock interviews. “It’s a good way to bridge the gap between women who are older that have more experience and the younger girls that are just starting their professional life,” Moll says.

To register or volunteer, visit the Girl Scouts website and search for The Career Cafe. For more information, email careercafe@gswcf.org.

Bauer will be receiving the Girl Scouts’ highest accolade, the Gold Award pin, for her efforts Saturday, June 9.

Women in Florida earn an average 87.5 cents for every $1 a man earns, according to The Status of Women in Florida by County: Employment and Earnings, a report by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, in partnership with Florida Philanthropic Network and Florida Women’s Funding Alliance.

That’s up from 79.9 cents in 2004.

The report released April 9 shows the Sunshine State receives a D+, ranking 36th in its Employment and Earnings Index based on the number of women in the workplace, women’s median annual earnings, the gender wage gap and women in professional or managerial positions. The grade dropped from C- in 2004.

Learn about upcoming job fairs in the Tampa Bay area.

Hillsborough Community College is holding a free job fair Tuesday, April 17, from 9:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the gym on the Dale Mabry Campus, 4001 W. Tampa Bay Blvd., Tampa.

• ECHO, the Emergency Care Help Organization, has scheduled its Spring Job Fair from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Thursday, April 19, at Brandon Boys and Girls Club, 213 N. Knights Ave., Brandon. The event is free. Learn more.

• Career Showcase is holding a Tampa Job Fair from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Thursday, April 19, at Tampa Marriott Westshore, 1001 N. Westshore Blvd., Tampa. The event specializes in careers in sales, particularly pharmaceutical, medical, IT, inside and outside, as well as business development, financial services, customer service/call center and marketing recruiting. It is free and open to recent college graduates through executive candidates. Pre-registration is required.

JobNewsUSA.com’s Tampa Job Fair is planned from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Wednesday, April 25, at George M. Steinbrenner Field, 1 Steinbrenner Dr. The free event caters to all jobseekers. Recruiters will be available.

• A free job fair for Registered nurses and Certified Nursing Assistants is slated from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday, April 28, at Kindred Hospital Bay Area St. Petersburg, 3030 6th St. S., St. Petersburg.
Learn more.

• Nations Joblink is targeting jobseekers from the Bradenton, Sarasota and Lakewood Ranch areas with its Tampa Bay Career Fair from 10:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Thursday, May 10, at Homewood Suites Conference Center -- Sarasota Lakewood Ranch, 305 N. Cattlemen Dr., Sarasota. The event is for career seekers from a wide variety of industries. It’s free -- and hiring will be done on the spot. Register online.


Tampa Innovation Summit features Hyperloop, Tesla, IBM, Water Street Tampa, and more

Imagine traveling from Tampa to Tallahassee or from Tampa to Miami in 20 minutes or so? Or zipping across the continent from Florida to California on the ground, at airplane speeds, safely and securely? It may sound like a science fiction plot, but it isn’t.

It’s a revolutionary, tube-based transport system capable of speeds of 700 miles per hour, which has been under development since 2013 by Hyperloop Transportation Technologies, a California-based company.

Hyperloop has put together a team of more than 800 on six continents to work on the system powered by magnets and sunlight. There’s still a lot of work to be done, but it’s already attracting plenty of interest. A Cleveland-to-Chicago run could well be the first in the United States. And it has already passed the muster of a major reinsurer, Munich RE.

So where does Tampa Bay fit into this, you might ask? Hyperloop’s CEO Dirk Ahlborn will be a featured speaker at the 2018 Innovation Summit March 28 and 29 at the Amalie Arena in downtown Tampa. The event organized by the nonprofit Synapse is part of an effort to unify the community to make Tampa Bay a “very welcoming and easy place to do business,” says Marc Blumenthal, a Founding Partner of Synapse. 

What Hyperloop is developing has the potential to change the way people think and operate as well as where they can live,” he says.

They’re designing this thing to be far more affordable than ... most rail,” he adds.

Ahlborn’s talk, part of a segment on the future of mobility after lunch on the 29th, is expected to lead to further meetings among community leaders. “Clearly Hyperloop is something that can be considered to move people around the region and the state,” Blumenthal says.

The summit is expected to include 257 exhibitors, more than 70 pavilions and 55 breakout sessions. It also has at least a couple of more items of special interest on transportation. Kasra Moshkani, a General Manager for Uber in the southeastern U.S., is expected to share Uber’s vision for the future in that segment on mobility. 

“It’s not going to be whatever they do today. It’s going to be what they do tomorrow," explains Blumenthal. “Somebody’s got to move you the last mile.”

Tesla will have a number of vehicles on hand on the 28th to give people rides around the arena and downtown.

Look who else is talking

Other key speakers include Jeff Vinik, Tampa Bay Lightning owner and part owner of Strategic Property Partners, the real estate entity which has embarked on the $3 billion Water Street Tampa project; Dr. Bernard Meyerson, Chief Innovation Officer of IBM; Lakshmi Shenoy, CEO of the Innovation Hub started by Vinik; Arnie Bellini, CEO of the Tampa-based Connectwise; Dr. A.J. Seth, CEO of Bionic Miracle; Col. Josh Potter of the U.S. Special Operations Command’s Transnational Threats Division; and Blaire Martin, Executive Director of Florida Angel Nexus.

There will be sessions for folks of varying interests, allowing them to focus on topics like financial tech and blockchain, artificial intelligence and the Internet of Things, biotech and healthcare, defense and cybersecurity, building a business, urban tech, software, coding and more.

Participants also can take in exhibits like On Med, a telemedicine booth facilitating physical examination and treatment without the doctor or pharmacist being physically present. Or from Marxent, a St. Petersburg software company which has developed View In Room Augmented Reality for furniture retail. Or the Tampa-based Flymotion Unmanned Systems, a veteran-owned small business utilizing drones for public safety purposes.

Signups for the summit have already far surpassed last year’s 600. We anticipate no less than 2500. We can probably support 4,000. They should hurry up and get their tickets,” Blumenthal says. “We just want people to participate. It’s for everyone. It’s not just for people involved in tech.”

Reservations for breakout sessions are encouraged but not required. A mobile app will enable users to sign up on their Smart phones or on the web.

At the event, Synapse is rolling out its digital platform to help businesses make those all-important connections required to further their endeavors. “Tampa’s success is the state’s success,” he says. “We believe it’s important to nurture those relationships, those connections across the entire state.”

Momentum is building for the Tampa Bay Area’s entrepreneurial ecosystem. “You can sense that this is the moment. This is the crescendo, where we bring all the great members of this community together and we start working for a common vision,” Blumenthal says.

Learn more or signup on the Synapse website here.


Tech Bytes: TiE looking for novel tech startups for pitch opportunity

The deadline is fast approaching for entrepreneurs who want to pitch their startups at TiECON Florida 2018, an annual conference by the nonprofit TiE Tampa Bay to foster entrepreneurship.

“We are looking for entrepreneurs who have an idea in terms of digital transformation across any and all industries,” explains Kannan Sreedhar, program chair for the conference. “It could be in the areas of social, mobile and cloud services. They could be leveraging artificial intelligence, virtual reality or augmented reality and Iot, Internet of Things.”

Applicants have until March 12 to apply for “Present Your Startup,” which will give about 10 startups the platform for seven-minute pitches to a panel of judges and angel investors.

The top three finalists will have an opportunity to pitch to the national or global TIE organization as well,” Sreedhar adds.

The emphasis is on opportunity and exposure. “People recognize the TIE brand,” Sreedhar says. “We will help you build your brand. We will help you get recognized. What we are not is a foundation.”

TiECON 2018 offers a day packed with activities starting with registration at 8 a.m. and lasting through 10 p.m. March 31 at the University of South Florida’s Sam and Martha Gibbons Alumni Center on the Tampa campus. This year the program includes three featured speakers, instead of one keynote speaker, and has a more enterprise rather than consumer feel, Sreedhar says.

Featured speakers are: Arnie Bellini, Co-Founder and CEO of Connectwise, a Tampa-based IT firm, who’s having a question-and-answer session on entrepreneurial life lessons; Steve Raymund, Founder and Former Chairman/CEO of Clearwater’s Tech Data, who’s speaking on the challenges of growing an organization organically over a long period of time; and Sarvajna Dwivedi, Co-Founder and Chief Scientific Officer of the Redwood City, CA-based Pearl Therapeutics, now a division of United Kingdom-based Astra Zeneca, who’s sharing about why he became an entrepreneur.

Other highlights include sessions by Apparsamy Balaji, Director of Enterprise Data Management and Web Applications for BayCare Health System, on analytics in healthcare; and Theodora Lau, Director of Market Innovation for AARP, on caring for the aged at home. Other sessions focus on financial, urban and government technology, angel investing, and patents.

Awards also will be given, including the Super Entrepreneur Award, Social Entrepreneurship Award, Angel Investor Award, Community Champion Award and Startup of the Year Award. Winners will receive crystal globes. 

The event is free to TiE members; non-members pay $100, the regular annual membership fee. “We are not looking for one time participation,” he says. “The more you participate, the greater the value you get.”

Learn more and register here.

TiE, short for The Indus Entrepreneurs, was started in Silicon Valley in 1992 by successful people with roots in the region. The global organization has 11,000 members and 60 chapters in 17 countries. The Tampa Bay chapter was founded in 2012.

Read more about what’s happening in the hot Tampa Bay tech scene.

• Hillsborough County Community College has received a $250,000 grant from the Everyday Entrepreneur Venture Fund in Norwalk, CT, as a seed fund for students. The fund is to help launch community college students into business; matching funds will be sought from area businesses.

•  Tampa is getting closer to having driver-less cars. As part of a demonstration for transit experts and local leaders Feb. 27, the Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority, city of Tampa, and the Michigan-based May Mobility arranged for a May Mobility fleet to carry passengers on the city streets and Marion Transit Way corridor. HART is hoping to implement the driver-less vehicles in this same area by the end of this year – and May Mobility is being considered as a potential partner.

• Clients at the Florida Israel Business Accelerator (FIBA) are featured at the 1 Million Cups Tampa networking event from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. Wednesday, March 7, at Entrepreneur Collaborative Center, 2101 E. Palm Ave., Tampa. 1 Million Cups is hosted weekly and it’s free. Registration is not required.

• Artificial intelligence will be the focus of a meetup from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. Wednesday, March 7, at Entrepreneur Collaborative Center, 2101 E. Palm Ave., Tampa. The monthly event is open to anyone interested in artificial intelligence, robotics, and machine learning. It’s free and registration is not required.

• If you are a Latino tech entrepreneur, check out the free co-working space at Tampa Bay WaVE in downtown Tampa. Its FirstWAVE Venture Center at 500 E. Kennedy Blvd., Suite 300, is open to Latino founders and cofounders on the first Wednesday of the month – March 7, etc. at 8 a.m. Not Latino? Women entrepreneurs can come free on the second Wednesday of the month starting at 9 a.m. Veteran businessmen and businesswomen can come at 9 a.m. on the third Wednesday of the month. Learn more and sign up here.

• “What’s the Buzz about Blockchain?” is the topic at the next meeting of Tampa Bay Women in Technology International scheduled from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday, March 15, at Girl Scouts of West Central Florida, 4610 Eisenhower Blvd., Tampa. The event costs $25 for non-members; members are free. Register online here.

• The St. Petersburg-based InformedDNA, a large independent supplier of genetics services, has been expanding its counseling services into 14 major health systems nationwide. InformedDNA services include a variety of specialty markets including oncology, ophthalmology, maternal and fetal medicine, pediatrics, and cardiology.

Sabal Smart Homes, a new townhome development at 532 Fourth Avenue South in downtown St. Petersburg, is offering high-tech options like an electric car charger, and a connected-home “Einstein Package,” a rooftop alfresco kitchen and in-home private elevator. The home automation system includes technology from companies like Sonos, Nest, Lutron and Alarm.com. Developed by Salt Palm Development, the initial eight units start at $740,000 and feature three bedrooms, multiple baths and a one-car garage. Construction already has begun on a second building expected to open by the end of the year.

• Payton Barnwell of Tampa was one of 41 globally to receive the 2018 Brooke Owens Fellowship, which ensures her a paid summer internship at one of the nation’s leading aviation companies. A junior at Florida Polytechnic University in Lakeland, Barnwell will be interning at Generation Orbit, an Atlanta aviation firm that builds launch systems. Barnwell also will be mentored by a senior aviation professional.

In other Poly news, a new 8,600-square-foot Student Development Center featuring geothermal heating technology opened Wednesday, Feb. 28. Relying on the Earth’s heat, the competition-sized, eight-lane pool is kept at near-constant temperature. The building was designed by Straughn Trout Architects LLC in Lakeland and utilizes natural lighting in the interior. It features a strength and cardio training area, plus office space and a multi-purpose room.

ª TeamWERX, a prize challenge program to help warfighters, has released two new challenges. It’s looking for a light-weight and rugged hose storage and delivery system compatible with Air Force Special Operations’ hose lengths and sizes, by March 31. The deadline is April 15 for augmented reality navigation assistance using GeoPackage. Learn more.

• It’s almost time for WAMICON. The 19th annual IEEE Wireless and Microwave Technology Conference is planned April 8 and 9 at Sheraton Sand Key. The theme is "mm-Waves and Internet of Things (IoT) for Commercial and Defense." Learn more.


Tech Bytes: A modern business matchmaking service prepares to go live

Singles often go online to numerous dating sites in hopes of meeting that special someone. Making business connections, especially for busy entrepreneurs who must stay laser focused to keep moving forward but need the help of other specialists, isn't as easy.  

Now a Tampa nonprofit is preparing to launch a digital platform to help businesses make meaningful connections that can mean the difference between going nowhere and getting ahead.

“There’s a lot of customers here. There’s a lot of talent,” says Brian Kornfeld, a founding partner at Synapse. “There’s also a lot of money. ... The connections aren’t taking place.”

The platform, slated to go live March 29, is “slick,” “easy to use” and capable of digitally pairing Tampa Bay businesses better than regular search engines, he says. Whether people want to know how to invest in a startup or real estate, learn about blockchain, build a business or host an event, or simply need to work with a specialist such as an accountant, an attorney or a success coach.

Signup is free for most users, such as entrepreneurs, inventors, mentors, jobseekers, employers, entrepreneurial service organizations and government workers. Those considered innovation enablers, like patent attorneys, bankers, accountants, software developers and marketers, would pay a small fee.

Kornfeld, Marc Blumenthal and Andy Hafer are founding partners in the effort underway since last year. The platform's launch is anticipated during Innovation Summit 2018, the second summit in Tampa Bay connecting innovators, entrepreneurs, corporations and community leaders.

The summit will be held March 28 and 29 at Amalie Arena in Tampa, and will feature Tampa Bay Lightning Owner Jeff Vinik as the keynote speaker during the kickoff at 9 a.m. He will share updates since the event last year as well as future plans.

Also slated to speak are IBM Chief Innovation Officer Bernard Meyerson, Henry Ford Health System Vice President and Chief Innovation Officer Mark Coticchia, Water Street Tampa’s Innovation Hub CEO Lakshmi Shenoy, and Dr. Ajay Seth, who is famous for his bionic work advancing treatment prospects for prosthetic patients.

Multiple innovation hubs, focusing on defense technology, Internet of things, blockchain, cryptocurrency, wearables, robotics, 3D printing, renewables, energy, augmented reality, virtual reality, artificial intelligence, machine learning, digital health, urban tech, and financial tech, will feature product demonstrations and speakers from companies in the region.

To buy tickets, visit the Synapse website.

Read on to learn more about what’s happening in the Tampa Bay tech scene.

Tampa Bay WaVE has launched a new TechDiversity Accelerator Program funded by a $100,000 grant from The Nielsen Foundation. The 90-day program is for early-stage technology firms with a majority ownership by a minority, woman, veteran, lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender person or combination of these.

The WaVE is currently accepting applications for the program to run this summer. The application period closes March 31.

• 1 Million Cups Tampa, a free national program to engage, educate and connect entrepreneurs, is scheduled from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. Wednesday, Feb. 21, at Entrepreneur Collaborative Center, 2101 E. Palm Ave., Tampa. The event is free and registration isn’t necessary.

Homebrew Hillsborough is meeting at 8:30 a.m. Friday, Feb. 23, for a visit and tour of AVI/SPL, an audio video technology company, at 6301 Benjamin Rd., Suite 101, Tampa. Homebrew is held monthly at different locations for techies and entrepreneurs to network.

Sixteen-year-old Abby Forman has developed an app for fellow Berkeley Prep students named Flower Sale – and it has been accepted into the App Store. An alumna of Tampa’s Hillel Academy, Forman created the app so students can buy flowers for one another. Funds raised are designated for the Students Helping Students Scholarship program through the school’s French Club.

• Four companies in the Tampa Bay region made G2 Crowd’s list of the top 25 companies in Florida’s business-to-business tech scene. They include Qgiv of Lakeland, ranked 7th place, followed by VIPRE Security of Clearwater, 17th; Connectwise of Tampa, 19th; and SunView Software of Tampa, 24th. The top ranking company was Goverlan of Coral Gables.

• Florida ranks third in the nation for cybercrime and losses reported to the FBI, according to a report, The State of Cybersecurity in Florida, released Feb. 8 by The Florida Center for Cybersecurity (FC2) at USF. On the plus side, the report done with Gartner Consulting says “Florida is well positioned to develop a strong workforce, with nearly 100 cybersecurity certificate and degree programs offered by institutions of higher education across the state.”

• At Florida Polytechnic University in Lakeland, faculty members are working on next-generation spacesuits to make astronauts happier, more comfortable, and efficient. Because astronauts can be adversely affected by lack of exercise, excessive light and lack of sleep, professors Dr. Arman Sargolzaei and Dr. Melba Horton, together with Computer Science student James Holland, are developing Smart Sensory Skin to detect deficiencies through wireless sensors. The sensors can initiate changes in temperature, light exposure, light color, and oxygen levels.

In related news, seven of 10 science and engineering students chosen for the Hays Travel Award from the Florida Academy of Sciences Council are from Florida Polytechnic. Students will be presenting their research projects March 9 at Barry University in Miami Shores, during the FAS Annual Conference. The winners were Mechanical Engineering student Brian Gray of Tampa, Mechanical Engineering student Sean Cloud of Brandon, Mechanical Engineering student Geoffrey Doback of Brandon and Computer Science student Nathaniel Florer of Kissimmee, Mechanical Engineering student Ecieno Carmona from Summerfield, Innovation and Technology graduate student Jephté Douyon of Haiti, and Innovation and Technology graduate student Mohammad Bharmal of Pakistan.

• Digital currency: risky business or a big moneymaker? Bitcoin Pioneer Charlie Shrem can help you decide what to believe. Shrem will be speaking on “Bitcoin, Blockchain, and the Future of Finance” from 5:30 p.m. to 8 p.m., Thursday, March 1, at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg’s College of Business. The event is open to the public. Register by Feb. 28 here.

• Students at USF St. Pete are participating in 2018 Ex Labs, a competitive Accelerator Lab involving the latest technology. Teams will be creating new products, business plans and marketing strategies March 12 through 16. One team will win a training package from Cisco valued at $2,300.

• In Manatee County, the Clerk of the Circuit Court and Comptroller Angel Colonneso has begun offer e-filing through Simplifile. The office now is able to electronically receive, stamp, record and return documents in minutes with less error and cost.

• A licensed and registered Microsoft refurbisher, Goodwill Manasota’s Tech Connection program kept more than 208,000 pounds of e-waste from the area’s landfills last year. It raised nearly $71,000 last year, plus more than $17,000 in January. The program to refurbish and resell computers and accessories, headquartered at Goodwill’s Ranch Lake store at 8750 E. State Road 70, Bradenton, installs the Microsoft Digital Literacy Program, helping to improve basic computer skills.

• The Mulberry-based ArrMaz has opened a new, state of the art Innovation Center at the company’s headquarters. Designed for its research and development team, the center features a modern work environment with cutting-edge laboratory equipment for analytical and synthetic chemistry. Its open layout facilitates collaboration, team-based research and innovation. A 50-year-old company, ArrMaz is a global producer of specialty chemicals for the mining, fertilizer, asphalt, industrial ammonium nitrate, and oil and gas industries.


Top educators to provide free training to inner city businesses

Businesses in or near urban or economically underserved areas in the Tampa Bay region can receive free training from top name educators beginning Feb. 28.

The Inner City Capital Connections program, rescheduled from Sept. 12 as a result of Hurricane Irma, will kick off with a conference at University of South Florida’s Center for Advanced Medical Learning and Simulation (CAMLS) in downtown Tampa.

This is a really awesome opportunity for businesses to get the tools that they need to achieve the success that they desire,” says Hyacinth Vassell, director of the program.

The goal is to help businesses overcome obstacles to growth, such as lack of capital. “It’s an opportunity to work on their business while they are being guided by the most brilliant minds in the U.S.,” she says.

To be eligible, businesses must be in or near a depressed area or have 40 percent or more of their employees living in a distressed area. That’s broadly defined to include “parts of the city that have had little investment or disinvestment” as well as major population centers, adds Jeremy King, VP of Corporate Communications for Regions Bank, an ICCC partner.

“That’s almost everywhere in Hillsborough and Pinellas counties. We don’t want anyone to feel limited,” King says.

The company must be at least two years old and have $500,000 or more in revenue.

What ICCC primarily looks for is “readiness to participate,” Vassell says, “readiness for growth.”

“This is about helping each business take stock where it is now, identify where it wants to be in the future and identify a path how to get there,” King adds.

Founded in 2005, the program is ICCC’s first in 2018 and first in Florida, unless you count last year’s training relegated to webinars after Irma.

The ICCC training consists of modules on growth strategies, including talent management, entrepreneurial finance, marketing and sales, and access to capital. Among the experts involved are:

Dobbin Bookman, an adjunct lecturer from Harvard University who holds dual master’s degrees from Harvard and who works with MBA students and the Harvard Business School’s Career Services program to assist businesses;

• Gail Taylor, a professor of Business Administration at Dartmouth College, who is an expert in marketing communications, retail promotions and services marketing; and

• Susan Perkins, an Associate Professor of Strategic Management at University of Illinois-Chicago, whose specialties include business strategy, corporate governance, and organizational learning.

The deadline, originally set for Feb. 9, has been extended to Feb. 16. Interested companies, which can send one representative in a senior leadership role, can apply at www.iccapitalconnections.org. Click on “Tampa Bay” and “application page” to access the form.

Run by the Roxbury, MA-based Initiative for a Competitive Inner City, a nonprofit, ICCC is offered free because of partnerships with Regions Bank and other regional sponsors including Florida Blue, Carlton Fields, the Community Foundation of Tampa Bay, Ernst and Young, United Way Suncoast, the University of South Florida St. Petersburg and Valpak. ICIC was started by Michael Porter, a Harvard Business School Professor, to build communities through education and investments from the private sector.

“Our goal as we sponsor ICCC is to connect with the small business communities in various markets that we serve, and work with them hand in hand,” King says.

The Birmingham, AL-based Regions will be providing coaching, expertise, and information. “This is about beginning a relationship and providing access to opportunities for these businesses long term,” he explains.

According to its preliminary 2017 report, the ICCC has trained 1,659 businesses and created 15,946 jobs. Average revenue grew 172 percent while raising capital of more than $1.47 billion.

ICCC is heading for 14 cities where they will hold executive education seminars in 2018, including Atlanta, Memphis, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, Washington D.C. and Baltimore. The program also includes webinars and a live meeting at the conclusion.

It hasn’t been decided if, or when, the ICCC program will be offered again in Tampa.


World IA Day: Walking tour of downtown highlights information architecture event

Local residents are familiar with parking in the Poe Garage in downtown Tampa to get to the Straz Center by crossing West Cass Street through the glass-encased walkway next to the John F. Germany Public Library. But are they acquainted with the library's auditorium? Not so much.

Downtown drivers have probably noticed the tall Sam M. Gibbons U.S. Courthouse on District Court on North Florida Avenue. But have they paid much attention to the Robert L.Timberlake Jr. Federal Building at 500 Zack Street? Probably not.

And when some come to The Portico at North Florida Avenue and East Tyler Street for open mike night, or youth activities, they might notice the old pipe organ. Yet they probably don’t remember the old church steeple that was a downtown landmark before the old Methodist Church building was demolished there in the 1960s.

Similarly, Tampa Bay residents are familiar with architecture and even landscape architecture. But they may have not heard of Information Architecture, an information age term first introduced in 1975 by Richard Saul Wurman, the founder of the TED Conference.

The Internet made information architecture more relevant -- and it garnered more of a following with Peter Morville’s book Information Architecture for the World Wide Web, which he co-authored with Louis Rosenfeld and Jorge Arango. It’s now the focus of World Information Architecture Day, a global event which began seven years ago in 14 cities including Ann Arbor, MI; Los Angeles, Paris, Tokyo, Vancouver, Sao Paolo, Bucharest and Johannesburg.

The free event, held in conjunction with the Grand Rapids, MI-based Information Architect Institute, first came to Tampa four years ago. A Tampa team led by Amy Espinosa and Carlisle Stoup has been preparing the next program to be held Saturday, Feb. 24, at the downtown library’s auditorium at 900 N. Ashley St. Featured are Dan Klyn, president of IAI; Gus Paras, one of the library auditorium’s architects; and Arango, a partner in the Oakland, CA. consultancy Futuredraft.

“Now that technology has progressed so rapidly, and we have information being consumed all the time, there’s more of a need than ever to recognize it [information architecture],” Espinosa says.

Although the late 1990s book was launched for the digital age, the concept has evolved since then. “Digital and physical worlds are merging -- machine learning, artificial intelligence, augmented virtual reality. Now we are organized,” explains Espinosa, a Tampa consultant and self-taught information architect. “Information architecture is in a new space.”

The Tampa Bay program, which kicks off with registration at 10:30 a.m., features a two-mile walking tour including the riverfront and some of downtown Tampa’s less talked about sites like Franklin Exchange block, Tampa Police Department block, and Tampa municipal building block. Participants are encouraged to bring a water bottle and comfortable shoes for the walk from 1:15 p.m. to 3:15 p.m.

While there’s concern for older buildings like the Tampa Theatre, built in 1926, which is being refurbished, newer buildings may be torn down or drastically altered to meet current needs. Concern about the future of the library buildings helped prompt the tour in an attempt to bring awareness to structures built between 1940 and 1989. It’s also an opportunity to share stories about the people and culture of Tampa, as well as buildings that existed downtown at some point.

“We wanted to do something a little unique this year,” Espinosa adds. “That’s why we decided to focus on preservation and do a walking tour.”

She’s been interviewing people to put together a book about the city’s history as well.

Part of the goal of the day is to teach others what information architecture is. “We want people to be interested in information architecture,” says Espinosa, who has a background in digital and software design.

IA involves organizing information by location, alphabet, time, category, and hierarchy, according to IA expert Chris How, in his video “Yippee-IA: All You Need To Know About Information Architecture In 10 Minutes.” It’s useful in different professions because they involve information being shared with students or customers.

Espinosa says the day’s theme this year is “IA for good.” “The question is how can IA help protect people from misinformation?” she continues. “Cities around the world will be tackling this topic in their own way.”

Tampa’s goal is to stress the importance of learning and researching to find the truth. “That is what we feel will help people protect themselves from misinformation,” she explains.

WIA Day is for those who are interested in learning about Tampa and about information architecture. Interested parties can register online; the event ends with a 5 p.m. Happy Hour.

In case you’re wondering, information architecture is a “high-paying” career, Espinosa says. But it’s not widely known. The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Outlook Handbook refers to the field of Information Architect Librarians under the category Librarians; in fact, there aren’t many colleges with an information architect degree, although there are information and library science and design curriculums.

“The educational system hasn’t caught up,” she says.

Read about the Tampa Theatre renovation project.


Tampa Bay Startup Week: Bigger, better than ever

Tampa Bay Startup Week is growing -- and expecting to double attendance with this year’s diverse program spanning both sides of Tampa Bay. This year’s calendar, which attempts to weave diversity into the events, features a panel of female leaders who, collectively, have experience raising $500 million in capital.

“It’s going to be really cool. We’re really excited about it,” says Lead Organizer Gracie Leigh Stemmer.

“Gender dynamics in the workplace” will be discussed, she says. “Men and women both were highly recommended to come to the talk. We want it to be a conversation.”

The event is called “Fullstack Pancake Breakfast + Boost Your Business with the $500M All-Star Panel,” and it starts at 8:30 a.m. Tuesday, Feb. 13, with a pancake breakfast sponsored by Full Stack Talent. Stefanie Jewett, Founder and CEO of Activvely, will moderate the panel including Chitra Kanagaraj, COO of Pikmykid; Susan O'Neal, CEO and CTO of Dabbl; Joy Randels, serial entrepreneur and CEO; and Jamie SewellCMO of Washlava.

The program, which lasts until 10 a.m., is being sponsored by Startup Sisters. It will be held at CAVU, 1601 N. Franklin St, Tampa.

Startup Week 2018, scheduled from Monday, Feb. 12, through Friday, Feb. 16, is expected to draw some 3,400 attendees, double the number who participated in 2017. Early registrations were brisk, with about 1,300 registered by Friday, Jan. 26, Stemmer says.

Keynote speaker is serial entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuk, co-Founder of the full-service digital agency VaynerMedia. Most known for helping his father grow one of the first e-commerce wine sites, WineLibrary, into a multi-million dollar business, Vaynerchuk is a New York City venture capitalist and New York Times best-selling author. He is expected to talk about marketing, media and his new book, Crushing It!: How Great Entrepreneurs Build Their Business and Influence - and How You Can, Too.

His 30-minute talk, followed by a question-and-answer session, is slated at 5:45 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 13, at Tampa Theatre, 711 N. Franklin St. Seating is limited and an RSVP does not guarantee a seat, so interested parties are advised to arrive early.

The free event is intended to help people with business ideas, people trying to network, people trying to raise capital, and people developing new ideas/products within larger corporations.

Organized by the nonprofit Startup Tampa Bay, the event is presented in conjunction with Tech Stars, a global network that helps entrepreneurs be successful.

The program in its fourth year features 14 tracks on a wide variety of topics including education and health technologies, cybersecurity, legal, veterans, food and beverage and fashion. Some tracks will have limited seating because of the size of the venue.

Here are some other highlights.

• Q&A with Tampa Bay’s Talent Leaders, “Learn from the Pros and hear their successes and failures!” The event is scheduled from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m., Monday, Feb. 12, Redeemer, 1602 N Florida Ave, Tampa.

• “How to Build a Multi-Million Dollar Business from Home,” slated from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. Monday, Feb. 12, also at Redeemer, 1602 N Florida Ave, Tampa.

• “Pitch the Press,” with members of the local media giving their ideas about to effectively work with journalists, scheduled from 4 p.m. to 5 p.m. Monday, Feb. 12, at CAVU, 1601 N. Franklin St, Tampa.

• “Startup Surge,” hosted by Tampa Bay WaVE, an accelerator for Tampa Bay’s tech community, is scheduled from 9 a.m. until noon on Wednesday, Feb. 14, at CAVU, 1601 N. Franklin St, Tampa. Seating is limited at the program bringing together regional tech advisors.

• “How to fund your TB startup using Bootstrapping, Internet, Blockchain and ICO” features high-tech from artificial intelligence and Blockchain, which powers Bitcoin, to the Internet of Things, smart homes and cars. The class kicks off at 2 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 14, at 2 p.m. and lasts an hour. It’s at CAVU, 1601 N. Franklin St, Tampa.

• “How to Build an E-Commerce Empire from Scratch (using Amazon and Shopify)” is planned from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m., Thursday, Feb. 15, at Station House - 4th Floor, 260 1st Ave. S., St. Petersburg.

• If you’re seeking the ear of startup health and technology CEOs, this is the event for you. A CEO Roundtable, with limited seating, is scheduled from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m., Station House - 4th Floor, 260 1st Ave. S., St. Petersburg. The CEOs will be meeting with attendees in small groups. The event is suited for investors, plus collaborative individuals in healthcare, research and the community.

Check out the full program and register here. Registration is recommended.


Tech Bytes: Tech-related events look at success, failure

Starting a new business can be challenging, but it’s a whole lot easier with help from a friend. That’s the idea behind this December’s Trep Talks, which is all about startups. Whatever you consider them to be.

“We want to celebrate our startups in Tampa and the progress they’ve made,” says Jennifer Whelihan, manager of Hillsborough County’s Development Department, the event’s organizer.

The event features a panel discussion on what is a startup, how panel members funded their businesses, and how they define startup success. The audience will have an opportunity to ask questions as well.

“We want to always, of course, include tech because that’s important, but also be inclusive of other successful startups in our community that we can learn from as well,” she says.

On the panel are Todd Belveal, founder and CEO of Washlava; Marvin Scaff, co-founder of Adjoy; Jacqueline Darna, founder and CEO of NoMo Nausea; Brent Kraus, CEO of Ella Bing; and Tracy Povolny, co-founder of Fresco Foods. Carlton Fields is partnering in the program.

The free event is scheduled at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 19, at the Entrepreneur Collaborative Center at 2101 E. Palm Ave. in Ybor City. Reservations, which are encouraged, can be made online. Free parking is across the street.

The quarterly Trep Talk meetings give people a chance to connect with key businessmen and businesswomen in a friendly environment. The meetings are usually held the third Tuesday of the month.

“Our economy is growing here,” she adds. “The startup growth is a big part of that.”

Read on for more tech-related events in Tampa Bay.

  • Latino/Hispanic tech business founders and co-founders are invited to co-work for free on the first Wednesday of the month with Tampa Bay WaVE, a tech incubator in downtown Tampa where tech businesses can build, launch and grow. The next opportunity is from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. (or later if you get in before the doors close) on Wednesday, Dec. 6, at FirstWaVE Venture Center, 500 E Kennedy, Suite 300. Check it out.
  • Failure can be part of your business’ success story. That’s the message of Chad Nuss, founder and chief revenue officer of InsideOut, a sales innovation lab, who is featured at the December Diary of an Entrepreneur program. Part of the Tech Talk series by the Tampa Bay Innovation Center, the free program will be held at 8:30 a.m. Tuesday, Dec. 12, at Microsoft Headquarter offices, 5426 Bay Center Dr., Suite 700, Tampa. Reservations are encouraged.
  • Code for Tampa Bay is holding Open Hack Saturday! from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 16, at Tampa Bay WaVE, 500 E. Kennedy Blvd. #300, Tampa. Group meetings are open to people who are interested in making government services and information more user friendly. Get the lowdown here.
  • Code Katas, a monthly get-together to do code challenges, is scheduled at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 12, at Bank of the Ozarks' Innovation Lab, 100 5th St. S., St. Petersburg. Reserve a place.
  • If you run an innovative growth company, this may be your big chance. Florida Venture Forum is seeking applications for a $100,000 Accelerating Innovation Grand Prize Award to be given in late January. The application deadline is Wednesday, Dec. 20. Entrepreneurs will be applying to compete at the 2018 Florida Venture Capital Conference in Fort Lauderdale, where they will make presentations before equity investors. Eligible companies will be considered for the $100,000 cash prize given by Space Florida. Conference fees apply. Learn more.
  • It’s time to mark your calendars, Apple fans. Apple computer inventor Steve Wozniak is part of the University of South Florida’s Muma College of Business Thought Leader series. He’ll be featured at 2 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 20, at the USF Sun Dome Arena on the Tampa Campus. The event is free and open to the public, but seating is limited. Register here

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.”


Tech Bytes: BarCamp planned at USF, other events in Tampa Bay Area

Artificial intelligence. Wearable technology. Robots and drones. These topics -- and a whole lot more -- will likely be topics of discussion at the 10th BarCamp in Tampa Bay Saturday, October 21. Dubbed the unconference, BarCamp is about anything tech. Those who attend sign up to give classes in their areas of expertise.

“The best presentations are not prepared,” says Ken Evans, a board member for organizer Technova Florida Inc.  “PowerPoint loses its passion.”

One of the more “famous” presentations was about how to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, from a techie/engineer point of view, he says.

“We love narrow topics because that’s where you get the real in-depth discussion around solving problems,” he explains.

BarCamp will be at the University of South Florida’s Muma College of Business, 4202 E. Fowler Ave., Tampa. Guests may park nearby at the SunDome.

The fun officially begins at 8 a.m. with breakfast. Speaker signups are open until 8:45 a.m., with sessions running from 9 a.m. to noon and 1 p.m. until 5 p.m. Lunch is at noon.

General admission to the event, expected to attract some 700 to 800 people, is free. “You can just show up. We really appreciate it if people register,” he adds.

Technova is building the tech community through events that help people learn, share, connect, and collaborate with peers.

Check out more Tampa Bay Area tech news below.

  • Applications are open for the Tampa Bay WaVE accelerator program. You’ve got until November 1 to apply to build, launch or grow your company and tap into the WaVE’s bank of 100+ mentors.
  • “Accounting for Success” is the topic of October’s Tech Talk by Tampa Bay Innovation Center. Paul Hays, Ginny Veit and Gretchen Whalen of CliftonLarsonAllen will hold an interactive roundtable discussion for the tech and startup communities. The program is slated at 8:30 a.m. Tuesday, October 10, at Microsoft Headquarters offices, 5426 Bay Center Dr., Suite 700, Tampa. The event is free, but registration is advised because of limited seating.
  • Learn how digital media can help you grow your business from 3 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday, October 16, at USF Connect, Oak View Room, 3802 Spectrum Blvd., Tampa. The program looks at the shift from Search Engine Optimization to Paid Advertising -- and how to position yourself for success. Featured are USF alumni: Eric Ortiz,
  • Executive Director of Sales and Acquisition, and Alex Andrews, Director of Content and Creative Strategy, both from McKay Advertising + Activation in Tampa.
  • • October 21 is Computer and Electronics Shred Day. If you have old hard drives, cell phones, tablets and other electronic devices, and you’d like to be sure the data on them is obliterated, bring them to Tampa’s Jan Kaminis Platt Regional Library at 3910 S Manhattan Ave. between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. It’s free – and you can even get a Certificate of Destruction. Just ask. The event is part of national Cyber Awareness Month.
  • The Collegiate Entrepreneurs’ Organization is holding its 2017 Global Conference and Pitch Competition, “Stop Dreaming, Start Doing,” October 26 through 28 at Hilton Tampa Downtown. The event, which kicks off at 11 a.m., gives collegiates an opportunity to network with entrepreneurially-minded students and hear presentations from seasoned entrepreneurs. and other experts.
  • Potential Unleashed is holding Innovation Gathering 2017 from 6 to 7:30 p.m. Thursday, October 26, at USF Connect Galleria, 3720 Spectrum Blvd. Attendees will find out what’s happening in the Innovation District. Tickets are $50 for adults and $15 for students.
  • Tour the Florida-Israel Business Accelerator with the local area networking group, HomeBrew Hillsborough.  Mark your calendars for 8 a.m. Friday, October 27 at 522 N. Howard Ave., Tampa. FIBA helps develop successful Israeli tech companies in Tampa Bay.
  • Knack, a South Tampa tutoring service using an app to match students with tutors who have aced the class they need help with, was the winning startup at Challenge Cup Tampa Bay.  The event, hosted by Tampa Bay WaVE in Sepember, featured 20 firms who competed in a two-minute pitch for a cash prize and a chance to proceed to nationals.

BizConnect@Platt: Business owners learn, network at public library

Business people like networking, and often meet and greet at Tampa Bay Area hotel conference rooms. But now they have a new venue: the public library.

“We’re making an effort to reach out to kind of a non-traditional library population,” explains Business Librarian Chris Sturgeon, who founded BizConnect@Platt, a program attracting business owners to the Jan Kaminis Platt Regional Library at 3910 S. Manhattan Ave., Tampa. “They don’t think it’s a place to work on their business. ... We try to dispel that myth.”

He’s one of five business librarians in Tampa-Hillsborough County Public Library system. Hired last year, Sturgeon’s job is to reach out to businesses and let them know the library is a free resource to them.

“The whole idea as to open up the doors,” he says. “There’s a demand here [for networking]. Let’s try it. Let’s just make it open to everyone.”

The library offers free digital access with a public library card to business owners’ databases like that offered by Reference USA, or to the training website Lynda.com. Readers also can access free digital subscriptions to magazines like Forbes.

Out-of-county residents can enjoy services by paying $100 annually for a library card.

“A lot of information is available online, but it’s not all quality information,” he explains. “That’s where we try to come in.”

Changes were precipitated by the digital revolution. “Our circulation numbers are still very high for books. The digital content is almost equally as popular,” he says, adding the Tampa-Hillsborough libraries have a “pretty sizable” ebook collection for businesses.

Part of the draw is the option of using the library as a temporary working space. “They can come in on a walk-in basis and reserve one of the private study rooms,” he continues. “There are plenty of places for them to plug in. ... They can’t book it in advance.”

Every first Friday at 8 a.m., about 25 business owners meet at the Jan Platt Library to hear a speaker and network. “We get a different crowd almost every time,” he says. “Our speakers have all been very generous with their time.”

At the September 1 meeting, Gary LoDuca, Founder of Thoughtful Wealth Management and Tax Advisors, a certified financial planner, will be providing tips on businesses taxes. In August Mike Harting, owner/operator of St. Petersburg’s 3 Daughters Brewing, told his business story.     

The events are free and open to the public. No registration is required. Check the calendar for upcoming events here.


Florida tech startups compete for cash, exposure at USF Connect event in Tampa

Twenty Florida tech startups will have a chance to give 60-second elevator pitches May 30 to a three-judge panel including Dr. Kanwal Rekhi, a Silicon Valley venture capitalist meeting at USF Connect in Tampa.

Start-ups have until noon on Friday, May 26th, to submit their entries for the Start-up Shuffle, a Start-up Elevator-Pitch Competition by TiE Tampa Bay Chapter and USF Connect, says Ramesh Sambasivan, President of TiE Tampa Bay.

The Shuffle will provide a “scenic drive of Tampa Bay and the Florida entrepreneurial ecosystem,” he explains. A pre-screening committee will review all submissions.

“This is a place to pitch real start-up companies, not for vetting,” Sambasivan says. “If they want to vet their idea, there are already enough mentors in town to do that.”

Start-up companies should have a product or offering that has launched, although it could still be in beta, he says.

On the panel of judges with Rekhi of Inventus Capital Partners, is Matt Rice, a Partner in Ballast Point Ventures, and Sid White, Co-Founder of Chemical Angel Network.

TiE and USF Connect decided to hold the contest earlier this month. Rekhi already had been scheduled to talk about the challenges for technology start-ups that are disrupting highly regulated industries.

“We were trying to come up with a way that would be a little different than just having five companies pitch,” says Valerie McDevitt, Associate VP for Tech Transfer and Business Partnerships at USF. “You do literally find your self in a cab or elevator with just a few minutes with someone.”

The Start-up Shuffle kicks off at 6 p.m., followed by networking, a Start-up Expo and Dinner from 7:15 p.m. to 8 p.m. A fireside chat with Rekhi is slated from 8 p.m. to 9 p.m.

His talk is to include an in-person case study of Alok Jha, Founder/CEO of Assured Risk Cover, an innovator in the insurance industry.

The event also includes a “living history” of Storm Peace, a hurricane insurance provider and the dinner’s sponsor, Sambasivan says.

The Start-up Shuffle winner will be announced later in the evening, probably before the fireside chat. The winner will receive a $1,001 cash prize, a breakfast meeting with Dr. Rekhi the following morning, and a chance to pitch to TiE Tampa Bay angel investors. The runner-up wins a 30-minute one-on-one mentoring session with a TiE Tampa Bay Charter Member and a chance to pitch to TiE Tampa Bay angel investors.

The 20 finalists win one complimentary ticket to the entire program or a discounted annual membership to TiE Tampa Bay.

The event at USF Connect’s Galleria on the Tampa Campus is open to the public. Enter the free contest or register for the event here.

TiE events typically attract “undercover investors” who really are actively looking for investments, Sambasivan says. As a result, conversations may become serious.

“You never know where that diamond in the rough is,” he adds. “That’s what we are trying to uncover with these types of events.


St. Pete investor, USFSP create forum for OPEN learning, sharing ideas

Much like open source software transformed the software industry, a St. Petersburg-based thought cooperative is poised to change people's lives through intellectual exchanges and collaborations in the greater Tampa Bay Area.

The cooperative is aptly called OPEN, the Open Partnership Education Network. It will be encouraging open sharing and innovation, while providing the tools that make it possible.

“In our current paradigm, the philosophy is closed and you work within your silos,” explains Walter Fernando Balser, OPEN’s Founding Director.

Similar to the collaboration spawned in the software industry by open collaboration on software like Wordpress, an open source publishing platform, OPEN looks to bring together people to share ideas. Some themes they are working with include seeds, future cities and radical schools.

“It’s revolutionary for the city of St. Petersburg, but it’s not revolutionary for other cities like Austin, Texas,” Balser asserts.

Themed events are more than interesting meetings where people can network, talk about interesting ideas and then go home and forget about it. “You have a framework in place that allows those thought leaders to continue to collaborate on the next experiences,” he explains.

The open framework for St. Petersburg could be shared very easily with any community, he adds.

OPEN evolved from an idea by Jim Aresty, a St. Petersburg transplant, who enjoyed the intellectual stimulation offered by the nonpartisan forum, the Aspen Institute in Colorado. A retired women’s clothing manufacturer, Aresty was a long-time resident there and frequent summertime visitor of the institute.

After he began spending the winter’s in St. Petersburg about three years ago, he became captivated. “I absolutely just fell in love with the city. First and foremost, I just love the people,” Aresty says. “It feels really Midwest to me, very uncompetitive, friendly.”

But he missed the institute while here.

“I want the community to be invigorated and enlivened and educated, in the hopes that it will improve people lives,” Aresty says.

He now splits his time between St. Petersburg and Aspen, spending seven months in St. Pete. And OPEN is off and running, expected to officially start themed discussions in November in connection with the city’s Et Cultura Festival featuring music, film and interactive culture. All thanks to contributions from Aresty.

Initially, he provided enough funds for a staff director for one year, expected to expire in July, with office space and administration provided by USFSP. Now he’s providing significant funding that can continue the endeavor for five years, after which it’s intended to be self-supporting.

OPEN is partnering with the USF College of Marine Science, St. Petersburg College’s Institute for Strategic Policy Solutions, Poynter Institute for Media Studies, Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital and Et CulturaIt plans to continue to grow its network.

Ultimately, Aresty believes St. Pete will be attracting more people like him: middle-aged and older folks with part-time residences here who want “to be inspired and to be invigorated intellectually, to be involved and to have ways to learn and to grow,” he says.

“I just thought it was a great way to give to my new city that I love,” he says.


CO.STARTERS program targets creatives, health professionals, techies

TEC Garage will be offering a nine-week program to help aspiring entrepreneurs in the creative arts, healthcare and technology industries beginning March 28. Called CO.STARTERS, the program will help prospective entrepreneurs test their ideas and potentially launch their businesses.

“This program is being sponsored in part by Creative Pinellas. We are asking the other tech companies to pay their portion of the fees,” says Tonya Elmore, CEO of Tampa Bay Innovation Center.

TEC Garage was developed by the TBIC to support entrepreneurs. It typically works with tech businesses, not artists. But they started receiving inquiries from local artists interested in starting businesses, so the TEC Garage pilot tested the program with creative types last year. 

“We wanted to see if they played well in the sandbox together and they did,” she says.

CO.STARTERS will be held on Tuesdays from 6-9 p.m. at TEC Garage, 244 2nd Ave. North, St. Petersburg. During the series, J.J. Roberts, director of TEC Garage, and other business professionals from the Tampa Bay area will be featured as guest speakers.

More information is available on the classes here.

The CO.STARTERS program normally costs $275. The fee includes two months of co-working space at the TEC Garage upon graduation, which is usually priced at $150. More information is available at 727-547-7340.

Scholarships are available through Creative Pinellas, an organization dedicated to fostering the Pinellas County arts community. They are offered to artists, those who are part of artists’ organizations, and entrepreneurs in creative industries, says Barbara St. Clair, Executive Director of Creative Pinellas.

“If you’re a professional artist, you are a business,” she explains. “All of those things that a business knows ...  are really relevant to you.”

Attendees may have more in common than the obvious tie-ins between art and technology in careers such as graphic arts. The separation has become “very porous,” St. Clair says.

There are more subtle connections between art in healing and though collaborations between the technological and the creative. “There are some exciting ways in which the two cross over and meet with each other,” St. Clair says.

The pilot program apparently had a big impact. “We sold out the first one in like 48 hours, which is why we are doing it again. People are very excited.”

Some said the course changed their lives. “It really did seem to have a significant impact on the individuals who participated,” she adds.

The Company Lab, a Chattanooga, TN organization, developed CO.STARTERS, which is available to startups nationwide.

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