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USFSP Student Entrepreneurs Win 3rd National Startup Competition

On a whim, Lazar Anderson enrolled in a 'Creativity in Entrepreneurship' course at the University of South Florida in St. Petersburg a few years ago. It quickly became his favorite class.

Anderson's impulse paid off. In April, he and four team members from the USFSP Entrepreneurship Club took home top honors from a national business competition for the third consecutive time.

"Each year it's an intense challenge, working for weeks against some of the best entrepreneurship students in the country,'' Anderson says. "The strength of our team is what pulls us through every year. There's so many amazing minds at USFSP  that putting five of them in the same room has incredible potential.''

In the Collegiate Entrepreneurs' Organization's Startup Simulation Challenge, student competitors worked on business simulators with a team of 3-5 of their peers. Participating USFSP Entrepreneurship Club team members included Anderson, Andrew DeFraties, Christa Hegedus, Kevin Mircovich and Liz Powers.

Startup Simulation Challenge gameplay lasted from March 1-31, over six virtual quarters. Teams competed at their own pace to make decisions about a simulated startup business using the Marketplace Business Simulation platform.

Awards included a $500 first place cash prize for USFSP and $250 to the second and third place teams, Willow International Center and Brigham Young University-Idaho.

The three top teams will be acknowledged at the 2014 CEO National Conference Oct. 30 – Nov. 1 at the Hyatt Regency in Orlando, FL. The event is expected to draw over 1,000 students and entrepreneurs and will include a National Elevator Pitch Competition, CEO Chapter Awards, and Young Entrepreneur of the Year Awards.

"Winning this competition demonstrates that our entrepreneurship program is competitive on a national level,'' says Anderson. "We've consistently beaten top tier universities across the country. Although we're a young program, we're dominant.''

The USFSP Entrepreneurship Program has received national recognition as an outstanding emerging entrepreneurship program in the United States.

Writer: Justine Benstead
Source: Lazar Anderson, USFSP Entrepreneurship Club

Tampa Startups Shine At Jacksonville Crowd-Funding Festival

The second annual One Spark crowd funding festival in downtown Jacksonville, FL, drew a mass of more than 260,000 attendees April 9-13, 2014. Over 600 creators pitched products and projects to the crowds during the five-day event.
 
“It’s kind of like a Bonnaroo for entrepreneurs,” says Tampa Bay WaVe marketing manager Gracie Stemmer.
 
Tampa Bay area startups that pitched at One Spark include Drawer; Marbel; MamaBear App; PledgeYourBets; WeVue and Wazinit?; all are housed in the First WaVe Venture Center
 
Startup Weekend Tampa Bay 2013 winner Wazinit, an app for scanning food labels and comparing ingredients, took the second place finish as a Top Tech creator at One Spark. The beta-stage startup received a check for $980.79.
 
Local clothier Black & Denim was also selected from more than 20,000 applicants to present at One Spark. The clothing company received over $7,000 in funds directly through contributions from attendees, says founder Roberto Torres. 
 
“Something remarkable is happening in our state,” says Torres, “and we got to represent Tampa and show them what we are all about!”
 
The Florida NEXT Foundation partnered with Tampa Bay WaVE to sponsor and curate a venue on the sixth floor of the Sun Trust building in Jacksonville during One Spark.
  
The space hosted 40 creators from Tampa and Jacksonville, making it the largest venue at the festival. Public attendees visited venues to see creator pitches, enticed by DJs, food, free beer, games, and other events to drive traffic to the creators.
 
Pitches and projects ranged from apps to stores to art galleries to summer learning camps. By using the One Spark mobile application, attendees voted for the startups that they liked best. Based on the popular vote, $310,000 in crowd funding and cash awards was divvied up amongst winners in the juried categories of Art, Innovation, Science, Technology and Music. 
 
One Spark itself began as a project on crowdsourcing platform Kickstarter in 2013
 
“WaVe has a great relationship with OneSpark,” says Stemmer. “We’re really trying to facilitate entrepreneurship in all of Florida.”
 
Sources: Gracie Stemmer, Tampa Bay WaVe marketing manager; Roberto Torres, Black & Denim founder

Startup Grind Tampa Bay Hosts Citizinvestor, StatWeather Founders For ‘Fireside Chats’

Local networking group Startup Grind Tampa Bay will host Citizinvestor founders Tony DeSisto and Jordan Raynor as featured speakers on Thursday, April 17, at a monthly meetup for area entrepreneurs.
 
Tampa-based startup company Citizinvestor is modeled on the principle of ‘crowdfunding for the people.’
 
“A lot of what they’ll talk about, I think, is quitting their full time jobs, jumping in with two feet to risk everything on it,” says Startup Grind Tampa chapter director Joy Randels. “They’ve completely bootstrapped their company from the beginning, have found office space with little more than ‘friends and family money’ and are growing with real revenue. I think that’s a pretty inspiring story.”
 
Citizinvestor has established itself in the crowdfunding arena as a distinctive player by partnering exclusively with government officials or partners. The startup has over 150 government accounts registered to date.
 
“I love the fact that they’re giving citizens the ability to make decisions about how they want to see money used,” says Randels. “Whether it’s a public event, or building a park in your neighborhood, it’s a way for the government and the citizens to work together to get projects and programs funded that citizens of that community feel are valuable.” 
 
Startup Grind aims to make events diverse to appeal to a wide range of attendees, offering smaller group meetings to interested entrepreneurs and aspiring entrepreneurs alike. Visit the Startup Grind Tampa Bay website or Youtube channel to learn more.
 
At the following month’s meeting on May 15, Scientist, Mathematician and Entrepreneur Ria Persad Carlo will speak at Startup Grind Tampa Bay as part of the Google for Entrepreneurs “#40forward” initiative. Every Startup Grind chapter around the world will feature a female entrepreneur in the month of May, says Randels.
 
Persad is the founder of StatWeather, a company that has created an enterprise software application which allows them to determine predictable weather streams. StatWeather then sells weather predictability to risk management companies.  
 
“She’s had an amazing, inspiring life,” Randels says of Persad, who studied mathematics and physics and was also a child piano prodigy.
 
The next meeting of Startup Grind Tampa Bay will take place at 6:30 p.m. on April 17, 2014 at the Oxford Exchange Commerce Club. Tickets are $20 at the door.
 
Source: Joy Randels, Startup Grind Tampa Bay

Pinellas Tech Company Adds Local Jobs, Expands In California

A Tampa Bay area company and major player in the technology solutions provider market is expanding its West Coast presence while adding jobs locally.

Oldsmar-based Vology in Pinellas County has acquired a California division of Govplace, a value added reseller (VAR) to the federal government.

With the acquisition, Vology will need to create additional sales and engineering resources in Irvine, CA, along with additional back office staff in the Tampa Bay region to support them.

Vology will likely add between 100 to 120 "really good'' jobs in Florida over the next three years, says CEO Barry Shevlin.

The majority of the positions will likely be technical resources, with the average Vology employee earning "a bit over $75,000 per year,'' Shevlin says.

The company currently employs approximately 200 people in the Tampa Bay region, with plans to double its Florida business over the next three years.

"We're committed to the Tampa Bay area,'' says Shevlin. "It's a great place to work and live.''

Vology launched in Oldsmar in 2002 as Network Liquidators before rebranding in 2010. The company offers services like IT consulting and engineering, virtualization and storage, and end-to-end technological solutions. Vology has been ranked in the Inc. 500/5000 list of fastest growing private companies in the U.S. for eight consecutive years, beginning in 2006.

California is Vology's second largest market. Acquiring Govplace allows Vology to bring in the company's 18 years of experience exclusively serving state, local government and education (SLED) customers in California through enterprise IT solutions.

The Govplace acquisition also gives Vology a second physical location in California to support a growing customer base. Vology is headquartered in the Tampa Bay region, with current offices in Irvine, Sacramento, Syracuse, New York City, Denver, Austin, and Oklahoma City.

Writer: Justine Benstead
Source: Barry Shevlin, Vology CEO

'This Is Big': TEDxTampaBay Gears Up For Fifth Year

Do you enjoy learning about big ideas? Are you interested in hearing about the human brain from a neurobiologist's perspective? How about an award-winning journalist's thoughts on media and psychology?

These, and other innovative ideas, will be at the forefront of the fifth annual TEDxTampaBay conference.

The theme for 2014 is "This is big,'' and TEDxTampaBay plans to deliver.

"We want to explore an expansive topic, and chose an eclectic mix of presenters that will explore a truly 'big' idea-- our brain, our minds and our selves,'' explains founder Gina Clifford. "The energy that builds during TEDx events is incredible, and we hope to inspire that level of engagement again this year.''

The half-day event in May will showcase speeches and presentations from several Tampa Bay area innovators and thought leaders. TEDxTampaBay 2014 presenters include:

·      USF Health neurobiologist Dr. Edwin Weeber: "What we know about the human brain.''

·      President Emeritus of The Poynter Institute Karen B. Dunlap: "Is media shaping our psychological development?''

·      Root Learning CEO Jim Haudan: "Why does authenticity matter?''

·      Latin-inspired Jazz Musicians La Lucha: "Eclectic musicians challenge our thinking about music.''

TEDxTampaBay is based on the popular international TED conference model -- community talks where presenters discuss "ideas worth spreading'' for inspired audiences. Subsequently formed independent TEDx events have evolved in cities worldwide.

TED and TEDx are often marginalized as tech-centric events, but Clifford says the experience is much more diverse. She notes that TED, a nonprofit organization that first appeared on the scene in 1984, stands for Technology, Entertainment and Design (TED) talks.

"Over the years, we've hosted poets, scientists, social activists, journalists, artists, musicians and entrepreneurs,'' Clifford explains. "Furthermore, TEDx presenters strive to connect with our humanity -- so, you could say that TEDx presenters are part performer and part presenter.''

Clifford founded TEDxTampaBay in 2009 "to inspire, energize and build a critical mass of people who enjoy sharing truly big ideas.''

TEDxTampaBay is completely run by a volunteer crew and made possible through ticket sales and sponsors like IBM, ThinkTank, Industrial Strength, Studio@620, ClearpH and Creative Loafing.

"Because TEDxTampaBay is not a money-making endeavor, we couldn't produce an event of this magnitude without generous sponsorship support,'' Clifford says.

500 attendees are expected at TEDxTampaBay 2014, which takes place on Thursday, May 15, from noon to 4 p.m. at the Tampa Convention Center. General admission tickets to TEDxTampaBay 2014 are now available for $30.00, including lunch; or $75 for lunch, premium seating and a TEDxTampaBay T-shirt.
 
Writer: Justine Benstead
Source, Gina Clifford, TEDxTampaBay founder

Pecha Kucha Tampa Bay V14 Focuses On Community Spirit

Attendees at the 14th installment of Pecha Kucha Tampa Bay will meet new people and discover new things and happenings in the Tampa Bay region.  

Pronounced "pech chak cha," the event on April 11 is a place for the community to network, share stories and open their minds. Speakers will share 20 slides that run 20 seconds each in an effort to keep their talks precise and keep the audience engaged.

The events typically don't have a pre-determined theme, but rather seem to evolve based on the speaker lineup. V14 carries the theme of cool and interesting things groups are working on in the city. You’ll hear about a bike sharing program called Coastbike, as well as Tampa Hackerspace, a community space in downtown Tampa where members share equipment and projects.

City of Tampa Councilwoman Lisa Montelione will talk about the importance of open lines of communication both inside and outside of local government.  Montelione attended one of the first Pecha Kucha Tampa Bay events and was blown away by the atmosphere and the topics. "There’s something for everybody," says Montelione."Often times there’s something being presented that you've never heard of before."

Other speakers include:
    •    Angelo Nales - Tattoo Artist
    •    Bill Shaw - Tampa Hackerspace
    •    Brandon Murphy - Ad guy
    •    Eric Trull - Coastbike
    •    Noel Smith - GraphicStudio
    •    Noelle Mason - Skydiver
    •    Steven Fage - Robotics

The event takes place at the Tampa Museum of Art. Admission is $5 and includes access to the Museum’s exhibits. This is the second event at the Museum, and plans are to continue to host future events there.  

"Besides being a phenomenal space, there’s a good synergy between the Museum, which presents national works, and what individuals are doing on a local level," says Ken Cowart, Pecha Kucha Tampa Bay founder and organizer.

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Ken Cowart, Pecha Kucha; Lisa Montelione, City of Tampa Council

Find Your Next Startup Investment Through This New Website

Florida Funders, LLC, a conduit for connecting investors with startups seeking funding, launches in Tampa Bay.

The latest innovation out of Tampa Bay's growing tech scene was inspired by personal experience. Florida Funders co-founders David and Kathleen Chitester, who have started and sold two companies together, know the difficulty of getting funding for a startup firsthand.

After doing some research for their next venture, Tampa -- their own backyard -- caught the couple's eyes.

"We noticed that the Tampa Bay community was starting to embrace entrepreneurs with accelerators and incubators, but financing was not following along,'' David Chitester explains. "We saw a huge gap between 'family and friends financing' and venture capital.''

Florida Funders was created to fill that gap.

The company's main mission: to keep entrepreneurs from leaving the state to find capital.
 
"We are losing too many young, promising entrepreneurs to places like Silicon Valley and Austin,'' Chitester says. "If we can fund some of these firms, they can grow here, and the local community will benefit.''
 
The initial Florida Funders launch rolled out in late March with two established Tampa area startup companies open for financing: SavvyCard and Carvoyant. A third local venture, Alorum, is in "preview'' mode.

Carvoyant was previously accepted into the Gazelle Lab accelerator program at USFSP, while SavvyCard was among the first group of startups accepted into the FirstWaVE Accelerator Program in spring 2013 in Tampa.
 
So how does Florida Funders work?

The company curates early stage ventures and startups seeking investment and lists them online for SEC-accredited investors to review. This part is free. If there is a match, Florida Funders then creates a single purpose fund, or LLC, for the startup company, to be distributed for investment by a third party agent. This LLC is now the "investor'' in the company, and the individual investors/funders are members of the LLC. Investment increments begin at $1,000.

Companies like California-based AngelList and FundersClub have employed this business model, known as online venture capital, successfully.

Florida Funders is self-funded by Chitester and a few angel investors, including partners Randy Greene and Lance Raab. The company operates under a business model of carried interest, based on the success of the investments Florida Funders make in the startup companies it accepts.
 
Florida Funders plans to list 20 to 30 companies in its first year, funding 12-20 of them.

"That said,'' he notes, "we also have to make money ourselves. We have to not only find and fund companies, but they have to be successful for us to get paid.''

Chitester acknowledges that early stage ventures are "always a high risk for investors.''

Florida Funders is less risky, he says, because backers can put smaller investments toward multiple companies. Investors can take advantage of backing several startup companies for the same "$50,000 minimum some venture capital companies require,'' Chitester suggests, "which actually reduces their risk versus one $50,000 investment. If some of those companies are successful, they have a better chance of overall profit.''
 
David Chitester holds a degree in Civil Engineering from the University of Pittsburgh and an MBA from Northern Michigan University. A serial entrepreneur, he has created and subsequently sold several companies including Red Vector, Spanish language social network Questamente, and Pay Per Visit Email, an email service provider. His latest venture, Florida Funders, intends to provide seed money to Florida startups, enticing them to set up shop, create jobs, and pay taxes in state.

Kathleen Chitester attended Rutgers College in New Brunswick and Rutgers College of Arts and Sciences in Camden, NJ. She has more than 30 years of experience in marketing and over 15 years of experience starting companies, including cofounding Red Vector, Pay Per Visit Email, and Latin social network Questamente with her husband. She also cofounded Vetrack, an online continuing education portal for veterinarians, and previously managed Chitester Management Systems, a professional consultancy firm that David Chitester began in 1995 and the couple sold in 2008.

Write: Justine Benstead
Source: David Chitester, Florida Funders

Startup Aims To Improve Your Shopping Experience With One Simple App

Almost every product you purchase in day-to-day life has one thing in common: a paper receipt.

For flexReceipts, that's a problem. What's their solution? Going paperless.

Backed by an investment from TiE Tampa's Angel Network in late March 2014, the startup company is poised to enter the national market with a tech-savvy answer to traditional paper receipts.

Customizable digital receipts tie in modern tech trends such as recommendations from retailers, social media, tailored special offers and more. flexReceipts intends to simultaneously solve a pain point for consumers and provide an enhanced marketing platform for businesses.

"flexReceipts has great growth potential,'' says TiE Tampa Charter Member Ashok Kartham. "I think it can be a success story that the area needs, to showcase tech startups from the Florida region.''

Tomas Diaz, flexReceipts founder and CEO, was a sales executive at Whirlpool for more than a decade before developing the startup company in 2011. Diaz and other management team members "bring deep retail experience'' to the startup, says Kartham.

flexReceipts has received several previous rounds of funding, including an investment by The Florida Technology Seed Capital Fund, LLC (FTSCF), a subsidiary of the Institute for Commercialization of Public Research, in March 2014, and an investment from Winter Park venture fund and business accelerator venVelo in August 2012. The company is also active on AngelList.

Four investors from the TiE Tampa Angel Network -- Kartham, Prashanth Rajendran, Seema Jain and Dr. Rajan Naik -- invested in the Orlando-based startup. The company, which has already partnered with some major retailers, plans to bring new technology jobs to Florida over the next few years.

TiE Tampa's goal is to expand angel investors beyond charter members and commit $1 million in angel capital in 2014. To this end, Rajendran is assembling a structured, experienced team and due diligence processes as part of an Angel Forum initiative to help lower the risk associated with angel investment and enable more syndicated deals, Kartham says.

"TiE is uniquely positioned to make a difference to the growing startup ecosystem in the Tampa Bay area and Florida,'' Kartham says. "We hope to invest in innovative startups in Tampa in coming months.''

This is the second angel investment out of TiE Tampa. The first was awarded to mobile conference app Feathr, which "has made significant progress and grown revenues since receiving TiE angel funding more than a year ago,'' Kartham says.

Writer: Justine Benstead
Source: Ashok Kartham, TiE Tampa

'Shark Tank' Entrepreneur To Headline Book Launch At CoCreativ in South Tampa

You many know him from "As Seen On TV'' or ABC's "Shark Tank.'' On April 8, Kevin Harrington will be just one of the Florida entrepreneurs to launch a new book at CoCreativ in South Tampa.

CoCreativ CEO Joseph Warren invites "entrepreneurs, small business owners, freelancers, and business professionals who could benefit from hearing the stories, struggles and triumphs of local business authors'' to attend the free evening event.

Hosted at the startup's co-working space on Henderson Boulevard in South Tampa, the book launch is expected to draw prominent local entrepreneurs.

Clearwater resident Harrington and co-author Anthony Amos will promote their new book, "How to Catch A Shark.'' Along with Harrington and Tampa-based entrepreneur Amos, local authors who will launch books at the event include:

·      Pierce Brunson, entrepreneur and owner of Firefly Event Photography: "Learning Curve"
·      Artist and Answered Prayers Cross founder Elizabeth Bunbury: "On the Road"
·      James Chittenden, founder of Triumph Business Communications: "The Public Triumph: Public Relations for the Strong, and Those Who Want to Be"
·      Degrees of Success President Gen Dobson: "Failing Successfully: Life After Debt"
·      Meredith Rodgers, president and owner of Mere's One More Time, Inc.: "What You Don't Know... Just Might Hurt You"
·      CoCreativ CEO Joseph Warren: "What’s In It For Me?"

The book launch and cocktail party will take place from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Tuesday, April 8, at CoCreativ, 3902 Henderson Blvd, Ste 208. Meet and greet the authors, get your favorite book signed, and enjoy complimentary wine and music from Tampa resident and saxophonist Marlon Boone.

Each of the six books that will launch on April 8 was published by Tampa-based Richter Publishing.

"In the past 90 days, Tara Richter has published Kevin Harrington's latest book and helped seven local business owners to become published authors!'' Warren shares. "She made it possible for each of them to share their story with a wider audience, as well as acquire national attention for their brands.''

CoCreativ, a flexible workspace for small businesses, recently moved across the Bay from downtown St. Petersburg to a second-story suite in the Bay Cities Bank Building in South Tampa.

Writer: Justine Benstead
Source: Joseph Warren, CoCreativ CEO

Hillsborough Community College Hosts April Job Fairs

Students and alumni from Hillsborough Community College (HCC) as well as the general public can meet local employers at one of three upcoming job fairs.

The job fair series begins with the HCC Brandon Campus fair April 2, continuing with the Ybor City Campus April 7 and ending with the Dale Mabry Campus April 15.

"We are proud to serve the Tampa Bay area and want to help individuals succeed in their professional and academic life," says Gianna Nicholas, job placement assistant at HCC’s Dale Mabry Campus.

Companies in attendance will discuss current position openings in the Tampa Bay region. A wide range of industries and companies will be represented. Participants include Busch Gardens, Moffitt Cancer Center, Tampa Electric Company, Grow Financial Federal Credit Union, Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office, Early Autism Project, Randstad, Hilton Worldwide and USAA.

Position openings will be both part-time and full-time, and include: research analysts, therapists, customer service associates, retail sales associates, benefits consultants, law enforcement officers, engineers, information technology professionals and accountants.

The job fairs are marketed for HCC students, but are open to anyone in the Tampa Bay community who is seeking a new position.

"Our Career Center’s mission is to assist anyone in the community, not just our students," says Randy Disks, manager of the Career Resource Center at HCC’s Brandon Campus. "Our philosophy as a community college is that we are part of the [larger] community."

Disks noted that the job market seems to have steady growth in recent years, as is demonstrated by the strong employer interest in the upcoming career fairs. The fairs are a good way to gauge the companies that are hiring in the Tampa Bay area.

Workshops will also be held leading up to the job fair on topics such as resume writing and how to prepare for the fair.

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Sources: Randy Disks, Gianna Nicholas, HCC

Gasparilla Fringe Festival Features Uncommon Arts To Make You Gasp!

As the 2014 Gasparilla festivities wind down, there’s one more opportunity to experience the arts Gasparilla style, but not in the traditional realm.

Gasp! The Gasparilla Fringe Festival presented by Creative Loafing and Tampa Museum of Art promises to enlighten and indulge attendees with multidisciplinary arts experiences not to be found elsewhere.

On March 28 from 6 to 10 p.m., the Museum will be transformed into a performing arts mecca with performances from over 30 local visual and performing artists, including both emerging and established.

"The event speaks to the vibrancy of the culture here, that so many different kinds of performing arts are thriving," says David Warner, editor-in-chief for Creative Loafing. "This is a way to support them and also get a taste of all of them.”

Actors and actresses will perform short plays inside Mini Coopers, affectionately referred to as "Mini Plays."

Post Dinner Conversation will perform improv, while letting the audience call the shots.

Musician Acho Brother will collaborate with a live action artist painting an oil canvas in reaction to the music.  

Graphicstudio will bring a printing press, and Creative Loafing’s Peter Meinke and Erica Dawson will create "chat books" called cordelistas. The studio’s exhibition, Graphicstudio: Uncommon Practices at USF, will also be open exclusively for attendees.

Lynn Waddell, author of Fringe Florida, will present in collaboration with Ward Hall, legendary carnival talker.

The event is designed to be a true reflection of the vitality and diversity of the arts community in Tampa Bay.

"They’re very talented people, making this work here," says Warner. "It reflects the community in ways the community doesn’t always get reflected."

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: David Warner, Creative Loafing

Startup Surge Aims To Deliver 'Action-Oriented Event' For Entrepreneurs

Tampa Bay area startup founders will have the opportunity to hear from and pitch to local entrepreneurial experts on Friday, March 28, during Startup Surge, an event aimed at helping individuals launch and grow their businesses.

Tampa Bay WaVE, a sizable presence in Tampa's active tech scene, is inviting entrepreneurs to attend Startup Surge events, which include open office hours, workshops, featured speakers, networking and a startup showcase competition for more than $1,000 in cash and prizes.

Startup Surge is an action-oriented event, says Gracie Stemmer, marketing manager at Tampa Bay WaVE.

"The goal is for attendees to get answers to tough questions, create a strategy, move forward and become one of Tampa's success stories,'' Stemmer says.

Who should consider attending?

Stemmer recommends the events to supporters of Tampa's entrepreneurial community, prospective entrepreneurs with an idea or current entrepreneurs who have questions about their companies.
 
In the evening, the Startup Surge Showcase will be held at the Firestick Grill at the Tampa Bay Times Forum. Startups, including several developed as the result of past Startup Weekend or Startup Bus events, will compete for more than $1,000 in cash and other prizes. Drawer, LilyPad, MamaBear App, SavvyCard, Shootrac, WeVue and others have signed on to present.

"The showcase is the icing on the cake,'' Stemmer says. "It shows attendees how the community has fostered the current successes who are presenting at the event.''

Featured speakers include Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn and Dr. Peter Mansoor, a retired U.S. Army Colonel and former executive officer to General David Petraeus.

Bright House Networks Business Solutions is the title sponsor for Startup Surge Day, while the Tampa Bay Lightning is the title sponsor for the Surge Showcase.

Tampa Bay WaVE is a nonprofit organization and home to a venture center and coworking space in the Sykes building in downtown Tampa. WaVE's programs are supported in part by Hillsborough County Economic Development's Innovation Initiative called EDI2.

"We are looking to put Tampa Bay on the map as a home to successful tech companies and a vibrant tech startup community,'' Stemmer says.

Writer: Justine Benstead
Source: Gracie Stemmer, Tampa Bay WaVE

USF Researchers Discover Potential New Therapy For Psychological Disorders

Researchers at USF Health may have found a more viable treatment for patients with neuropsychiatric illnesses, such as bipolar disorder.

Currently, FDA-approved lithium carbonate is one of the oldest and most widely used drugs to treat these illnesses. The drug, however, comes with a major drawback -- toxicity. There are alternatives on the market, but none have the same efficacy without the side effects, which include hand tremors, vomiting, diarrhea, weight gain and thyroid problems.

A team of researchers at the University of South Florida recently discovered a previously untested lithium salicylate (an alternative salt form) while working on a collaborative endeavor with a chemistry professor. The group used crystal engineering techniques to change the component of the new solid forms of lithium and published a salicylate containing co-crystal. This prompted researcher Adam Smith to wonder what other lithium salts could do.

The downside to current lithium therapy is that it’s eliminated very rapidly from the body. Therefore, patients have to take it once or twice daily to achieve optimum absorption levels, leading to potential toxicity. The new therapy has the potential to stay in the body for up to 48 hours, leading to a decrease in the number of pills taken. By modifying the dosing regiment, researchers hope to improve patient compliance and reduce the potential for side effects.

"We hope that these findings lead to a more effective lithium therapy,"says Adam Smith, Ph.D., postdoctoral fellow at the Center of Excellence for Aging and Brain Repair at USF Health.

Animals trials have shown promise thus far. Next steps are to conduct additional animal trials that more closely mimic reality with multiple doses and then begin human trials.  

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Adam Smith, PhD., USF Health

Stonegate Mortgage Expands in Pinellas, Adds Jobs

Stonegate Mortgage Corporation, a publicly traded mortgage company that finances and services residential mortgages, plans to expand its Pinellas County operations to the Cardinal Point area in St. Petersburg. The move will mean the addition of 139 new employees by 2016.

The business climate and quality of workforce in Pinellas are part of what fueled the company's expansion. Previous successful hiring at their existing location was a big part of their decision to stay and expand here. Stonegate will also receive a Qualified Target Industry Tax Refund from the State of Florida and Pinellas County, which provides a rebate of up to $5,000 for each new job created and verified.

The expanded offices will be part of the company’s headquarters and back office operations for the company. The new positions are expected to pay over $47,500 (115 percent of the State of Florida’s average annual wage) and focus on underwriting, clerical, legal and other administrative functions.

"We have a strong financial services sector throughout the Tampa Bay area, which is why they chose to expand here," says Mike Meidel, Director of Pinellas County Economic Development. "The quality of life [in Tampa Bay] makes it easy to attract people from elsewhere in the country, but they should find everything they need here in the local labor force."

The capital investment for the new space is estimated at $920,000. Projected salaries could mean an economic impact of $10.5 million on the local community, resulting in more money spent locally.

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Mike Meidel, Pinellas County Economic Development

Hillsborough County Grants More Than $200K To Local Tech Events

Hillsborough County has awarded $230,000 in funding to 31 local applicants through its flagship tech-centric program, the Economic Development Innovation Initiative (EDI2).

The EDI2 program is the first of its kind of Florida. Established in June 2013, the program aims to bring innovation, job creation, technology and new business to the Tampa Bay region. In an effort to lead this movement, the Hillsborough County Economic Development department set aside $2 million in funding to award to events and programs that are centered around technology and innovation. Led by County Commissioner Mark Sharpe, EDI2 awarded $307,000 to applicants in the first round of funding in fall 2013.

Some of the latest round of funding will go toward programs and events already well-established within the Tampa Bay community, such as Startup Weekend Tampa Bay 2014 in March, monthly StartupGrind events, and the Moffitt Cancer Center's Business of BioTech 2014.

The bulk of the funding was awarded to one-off conferences like Gulf Bay Consulting's Social Media Engagement event in September 2014, which received $12,375. Girls in Tech Tampa Bay, meanwhile, was awarded $12,500 for outreach and an event in December 2014, and TiE Tampa Bay's TiE Breaker III 2014, which took place in January, received $19,000. The University of Tampa's Entrepreneurs Student Organization was awarded $14,500 for its Southeast Entrepreneurial Conference in February 2014.

Other funded programs include the Computer Mentors Group, Inc., which was awarded $25,000 for the 2014 STEM Education Showcase Tampa, and Nuturism Media Group, Inc., awarded $25,000 for Running Lean Bootcamp. Both are in May 2014.

To view a full listing of funded projects and applications, visit the Hillsborough County website.

Events and programs must meet several stages of criteria before they are awarded funding, including the ability to measure event metrics and a way to clearly identify the economic development impact of each project.

EDI2 is "focused on building a vibrant and sustainable startup community and is centered on the use of technology and innovation,'' according to a news release from Hillsborough County.

Hillsborough County is currently accepting applications for its third cycle of EDI2 funding. Applications and additional information can be found at the EDI2 website. The deadline to apply for the third round of EDI2 funding is April 1, 2013.

Writer: Justine Benstead
Source: Annette Spina, Hillsborough County
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