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Exclusive dating app launches in Tampa, Orlando

An exclusive group of 507 in the Tampa Bay Area will gain access to an invitation-only dating app called The League today, Tuesday, Dec. 12. The app’s goal is to connect ambitious high achievers who are career focused -- and want partners to balance them.

“We weren’t planning to do this until spring 2018,” says Meredith Davis, head of Communications for the San Francisco-based company. “Once we launched Miami, we saw numbers in Tampa and Orlando skyrocket.”

The League had 2,524 in Tampa sign up, but pared that down for the initial class. Five percent are teachers, 3 percent are lawyers and 3 percent are founders. They live primarily in South Tampa, downtown Tampa, and northwest Tampa, representing 7, 5 and 3 percent of the class, respectively.

The League’s goal is to curate its membership much like universities do its students, using data from applicants’ Facebook and Linkedin accounts. It blocks colleagues and first-degree connections so users can keep their dating profiles and professional lives separate.

Users need clear photos, including face and full-body shots, of themselves alone rather than in groups.

Each week, a team at The League will sort through the wait list and invite more members, with the goal of having a diverse group in terms of race, ethnicity, religion, education, profession, and more.

The wait is intended to vet members and make sure they are interested in regular rather than casual dating.

The League profiles become live at noon. At 5 p.m. every day, dubbed Happy Hour, members will receive three potential matches. There also are groups similar to those on social media sites; groups might be for dog owners, or hikers, or people who like to eat brunch.  Members also can meet at special events, either The League events (such as a launch bash for Valentine’s Day) or community events like a parade.

“We’re really building a community,” Davis says. “It’s not just about dating. It’s about meeting other singles in your area.”

The app, which is free to download, can be used on iphones, Androids and tablets, but users pay for upgrades like additional matches or expedited review. It is different from apps like Tinder or Bumble because it is invitation only, she says.

“Not everyone gets in and the reason for that is this is a curated community,” Davis explains. “There are dating apps for everyone. Those are a great platform when you are looking for that.”

Members for the Tampa dating community will come from a 100-mile radius of the city. So far, the group includes women 22-32 and men 23-33, but later on The League will broaden the pool to include older adults. Their core demographic is for 28 to 35 year olds, she says.

Founded by its CEO Amanda Bradford, The League launches in Orlando Dec. 12 as well. Other cities may go live when they reach 2,500 applicants. “We wouldn’t open a city until we hit that number,” she says.

Davis is a success story for the app operating in New York City, Los Angeles, Boston, Washington D.C., Chicago, San Francisco and other areas across the United States; she currently is dating someone she met in The League. “We’ve seen tons of success stories form it,” she says. “We even have a few league babies right now.”


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

SavvyCard, MetLife, other growing companies hiring in Tampa Bay Area

Two new partnerships with publicly traded companies are propelling SavvyCard, the St. Petersburg-based digital advertising platform, into the national marketplace. As it gears up for more growth, SavvyCard is planning to expand its staff and open new offices in New York City and San Francisco.

New partnerships with the Irvine, CA-based CoreLogic and the Annandale, N.J.-based Verify Smart Corp. will help SavvyCard more effectively penetrate the real estate market.

CoreLogic’s Multi-Listing Service software serves 70 percent of the U.S. real estate market, allowing Savvycard to tap into that client base when they’re engaging in regular business activities.

“Our partnership with them means they are gong to be selling our product,” says David Etheredge, CEO, who co-founded the company with Daud Power, Lisa Nalewak and John-David Sims in 2011. “For a small startup, this is a huge benefit.”

Verify Smart Corp. is partnering with SavvyCard to jointly develop proximity services, enabling users to learn more about a listed property while they are nearby.

Verify Smart has made a “substantial” investment in SavvyCard and intends to use it as a “landing platform” for its “proximity solutions,” says Lou Pingitore, Verify Smart Corp.’s CEO.

“We’re very excited about the partnership,” Pingitore says. “What we want to do is really provide proximity marketing solutions to the industry.”

Real estate is one of its first proximity markets, he says.

SavvyCard automates marketing by integrating marketing tools like a business card, brochure, website and social media presence. It targets the real estate industry, business/membership organizations and individuals.

“It’s not just a digital business card,” Etheredge explains. “It’s a mobile marketing tool for people, for businesses, and for products.”

When networking, instead of handing someone a printed business card, SavvyCard users can email or text their new contacts, instantly connecting them to information they normally would have to visit a company website to get.

“You can share your card directly, you can link your card to any type of digital advertisement that you are doing, or you can post your card to social media,” Etheredge explains.

Currently free for individual users, SavvyCard is expected to begin charging $9 per month for individuals and $29 for businesses in early 2018. Large organizations pay a rate based on the number of users.

SavvyCard currently has about 144,000 users, mostly in Florida. About half are in the real estate sector. It employs 12 full-time employees and an additional four are either contract workers or part-time.

Plans call for the addition of four more staffers, probably early next year. “As we begin to scale the business, we’ll be looking to hire [even] more,” Etheredge says. “We’re currently looking for two product managers or product directors, a graphic designer and ... an office manager/operational manager.”

Those who are interested in apply can call 727-502-6012 or visit the company website and use the Contact Us form.

The new offices likely will be co-working or business accelerator-type space, and are intended to facilitate the negotiation of contracts in the Northeast and West, Etheredge says.

SavvyCard is currently in a funding round to raise capital for the expansion. It already has raised some $2.1 million out of its $3.5 million goal.

Read on for more information about opportunities in the Tampa Bay job market.

  • MetLife Inc., which currently employs more than 1500 in Tampa, will be adding another 430 jobs as part of a $25 million Tampa expansion, the Tampa Hillsborough Economic Development Corporation announced earlier this month. A leading financial services company, MetLife will be paying on average more than 150 percent of Hillsborough County’s private sector wage. The company provides insurance, annuities, employee benefits and asset management to individuals and organizations. For more information, follow this link.
  • Home Buyers Marketing II is looking for real estate brokers in Tampa with two or more years of experience and an active real estate license.
  • The non-profit Ultimate Medical Academy, which trains healthcare workers, has several career opportunities in Tampa. Among them are an Admissions Representative, Senior Operations Analyst and Software Engineer II. Learn more.
  • The St. Petersburg-based Triad Retail Media, a global leader in digital media, is hiring a Director of Sales, Sales Manager, Account Manager and Accounting Manager. Learn more about these fulltime jobs here.
  • Davidson Hotels and Resorts, a large hotel management company, has several openings at Don Cesar Resort Hotel on St. Petersburg Beach. It’s seeking an Assistant Controller, Receiving Clerk and some cooks. Check it out here.


If you are hiring skilled workers with five or less years of experience, drop us a line.


Tech Bytes: Tech awards, new funding for tech programs highlight tech scene

Ray Carr, chief technology officer of Tampa’s Occam Technology Group, was named Technology Executive of the Year at an energy-charged tech gathering Friday, Nov. 10. At the gathering the organizer, Tampa Bay Technology Forum, officially announced its new name, Tampa Bay Tech.

Usually a traditional black-tie affair, the 14th Annual Tampa Bay Tech Award show reflected the growth and excitement of the developing Tampa Bay tech community. “The energy was quite palpable,” says Jill St. Thomas, the organization’s director of Partnerships and Engagement.

The group also exhibited a team spirit, reflective of the collaboration in Tampa Bay. “Working together gets us a lot further than standing in our own spots, our own lanes,” St. Thomas explains. “We wanted our organization to really be at the front of that.”

Nextech, a healthcare technology company in Tampa, was named Technology Company of the Year. Other winners were Michelle Curtis, senior manager of IoT Solutions Group, Americas, at Tech Data Corp. in Clearwater; Emerging Technology Leader of Year; Harness of Tampa, Emerging Technology Company of the Year; Jeremy Rasmussen, chief technology officer of Tampa’s Abacode, Technology Leader of the Year; Valpak in St. Petersburg, Technology Project of the Year; Vology of Largo, Excellence in Service; and Fintech of Tampa, Workplace Culture Program of the Year.

Tampa Bay Tech members represent more than 2 million employees, $300+ million in venture capital, and $500+ billion in annual revenue.

“We really are significant nationally and, for those of us that have been in the Tampa Bay market for along time, this is where we want to be,” St. Thomas says.

The organization’s new name was an attempt to rebrand and update. “We wanted our brand to feel a bit more reflective of the strength that we’re seeing in this market,” she adds.

At the event, Tampa Bay Tech also announced it would be holding its poweredUP Technology Festival May 8 at the Mahaffey Theater in St. Petersburg.

Here’s more techology news.

  • St. Petersburg College has landed a $250,000 grant to help build the Tampa Bay tech talent pipeline. JPMorgan Chase awarded the grant to fund a new program to help residents be hired by employers needing skilled tech workers. Working with TBT, the college will provide classroom and online training, plus provide a website where employers can connect with students and faculty. Funds also are expected to support the expansion of a boot camp developed by companies to give students real-world experience.
  • Tampa Bay WaVE , a tech industry accelerator in downtown Tampa , has snagged a $50,000 prize from the U.S. Small Business Administration. A three-time winner, it was one of 20 in SBA’s fourth Growth Accelerator Fund competition. The WaVE is looking to beef up services to women entrepreneurs in the tech sector; it offers open and free co-working for women tech entrepreneurs on the second Wednesday of every month. The intent of the SBA contest is meet needs for attention and funding in parts of the country where gaps exist in the entrepreneurial ecosystem. The WaVE also is holding its Pitch Night at the Attic at 6 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 30. It is accepting applications its accelerator program through March 9, 2018.
  • Interested in personal watercraft? SOFWERX is having a collaborative event with a Nov. 17 RSVP deadline. It’s looking for partners to develop a functional prototype to assist warfighters. The event is planned Wednesday, Nov. 29. To RSVP or get more information, visit the SOFWERX’s Event Calendar.
  • Code for Tampa Bay is having an Open Hack at 3 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 18, at Tampa Bay WaVE, 500 E Kennedy Blvd #300, Tampa. The group is trying to use technology to make government information and services easier to use. The meeting is open to anyone interested. A Code for America Brigade, Code for Tampa Bay typically meets at 6:30 p.m. on the first Monday of the month, but is beginning to meet on a Saturday to involve those unable to attend during the week.
  • Building Cities of the Future, a Commercial Real Estate and UrbanTech Summit, is being held Tuesday, Dec. 5, at  Tampa Marriott Waterside Hotel and Marina. The event, by Bisnow and Dreamit, features Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik as an opening keynote speaker. The first-ever event, slated from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m., is intended to drive commercial real estate through innovation. Bisnow is a commercial real estate news and events platform. Dreamit Ventures is a New York City-based global accelerator holding its first UrbanTech accelerator in Tampa. For more information or to register, visit Bisnow, click on Events and choose Tampa.
  •  Celebrate the holidays in Ybor with Tampa Bay Agile, Tampa Java User Group, Tampa Bay UX, and Front End Design communities. A celebration is planned from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 7, at Tampa Bay Brewing Company, 1600 E. 9th Ave., Tampa. To RSVP, go here.
  • Steve Parker, an entrepreneur, executive and mentor, has been chosen as Director of TEC Garage, an incubator and co-working space run by the Tampa Bay Innovation Center. TEC Garage fosters the creation of high-tech jobs by nurturing early-stage ventures.

WURK: Community radio for East and West Tampa

When Dee Jackson was growing up in the 1970s and '80s in West Tampa, his neighbors helped keep him in line when he became too curious. They were quick to reprimand him -- all over the neighborhood -- before he even got home.

But many people are reluctant to discipline another’s child these days, which empowers them to do wrong things, he says.

“That village concept, we have to get that back,” Jackson asserts.

That’s the idea behind 96.3 low-power FM station WURK, a community radio station serving East and West Tampa and a diverse audience of 460,000 potential listeners 24 hours a day in Hillsborough County. Its broadcast area extends from Mango on the east to the Howard Frankland Bridge on the west, Lutz on the north and MacDill Air Force Base on the south.

Other platforms, such as the Internet, expand the 100-watt station’s listening area to the entire globe.

WURK is intended to be a positive voice in the East and West Tampa neighborhoods, reporting the good news instead of the bad. It will be working to boost literacy and reduce high school dropout rates through job training.

“I know we will utilize radio as a tool to get the village back in shape,” says Jackson, who co-founded WURK with Horace Bailey.

The nonprofit, locally programmed station was made possible by the Local Community Radio Act, signed into law by former President Barack Obama. It was about five years in the making.

As a music producer, recording engineer and graphic designer, Jackson had been interested in doing radio programming as an outlet for musicians for a long time. He was inspired to actually start one while volunteering as an after-school youth arts coordinator in Brooksville.

WURK, owned and run by Rainbow Heights Neighborhood Association and Crime Watch Inc., offers music in a wide range of styles including Hip Hop, Folk, Latino, Jazz, Blues, Rhythm and Blues, Classical and Reggae. It is intended to appeal to African American, Carribean, Irish, Scottish, Italian, Latino, Indian, Jewish, Chinese, and other local groups.

“Our goal is to eliminate the division and create unity,” Jackson says.

Jackson, WURK’s General Manager, wants the station to serve as an outlet for musicians, but it also is intended to be a training ground for journalists, producers and graphic artists. The process has begun with two youths reading public service announcements. Later on trainees could cover high school football games.

In the future, he would like to partner with other media, training broadcast trainees by having them read on the air news stories written by the partners. Attributing the stories to the original news outlets would help them gain potential new readers.

Those who are trained may find jobs at the station as it grows. Job and business opportunity announcements by the station are intended to help others find success.

WURK also intends to help bridge a generation gap by reaching out to seniors and young people. “There was a communication breakdown,” he explains.

Now the radio station is focusing its attention on recruiting advisory board members; it currently has five including Dr. Carolyn Collins, former NAACP Tampa Chapter President; businessman Willie Anderson; James Green, who retired from United Parcel Services; Ralph Smith of Computer Mentors of Tampa; and Benjamin Baisden of West Tampa Alliance.

It's also soliciting funds to better help what he calls the “underserved,” in Tampa. “Funding is the key to be able to initiate those programs,” he says.

WURK, which has been on the air since April 2, already has raised some $25,000 for the endeavor. “I think the market is watching,” he says. “Participation is coming, and we’re growing with the help of a lot of our volunteers ... sharing our info on social media.”

While the station’s name is in line with its mission to train youths for jobs, it was actually inspired by all the work required into getting its call letters approved, Jackson says.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Innovative Smart Lab to open in Tampa in 2018

The innovative builder Suffolk is planning to open a Smart Lab in Tampa that will help clients visualize construction projects using virtual reality. The construction firm, which already has opened a similar lab in New York City and San Francisco, currently is building the Tampa Smart Lab adjacent to its Channelside office.

“We are looking to open early in 2018, hopefully in January or February,” says Josh Christensen, VP for the Suffolk’s West Coast Operations in Florida.

The Smart Lab features a virtual reality cave, which simulates what it will be like inside a building that has not been constructed yet. “We call it a lab for a reason. We’re testing things,” he says. “You don’t have to go build in the field to see if you like it.”

Models will be technically accurate. “It’s a working model, not just a cartoon,” Christensen says.

A whole wall will be a touch screen for interactive planning and collaboration. “We used to do with sticky notes back in the day,” Christensen explains. “Now you do it all virtually, and all by touching.”

Another wall, for data, includes live camera feeds of the jobs.

The company has been relying upon virtual reality goggles, which limits the experience to one or two people instead of about six to a room. “Most people don’t love putting the goggles on,” he says.

Suffolk is adding an additional 2,200 square feet, 1,500 for the lab, to its office at 615 Channelside Drive, Suite 102. The office, which opened last spring, will now be 6,600 square feet. Cost figures weren’t released.

We’re in an existing building, We just took it back to the studs,” he explains.

The Smart Lab will primarily be staffed with existing workers.

Suffolk’s Smart Labs are expected to facilitate brainstorming in ways that can significantly alter project designs. For the industry, it may mean changing the way buildings are designed and built.

Its emphasis on innovation meshes well with the “entrepreneurial spirit” in Tampa, Christensen says.

“We have some challenging, logistically complex jobs, and it will really help us,” he adds.

More Smart Labs are to open in Boston, Miami and Los Angeles on varying schedules.

The national building contractor generates some $2.9 billion in revenue annually serving clients in healthcare, science and technology, education, federal government, gaming, aviation and commercial sectors.


Next for travelers? Ridesharing app for charter flights

A Jacksonville company is test marketing a ridesharing program for air travelers which would enable them to split the cost of chartering small planes with others. Called Whooshfly, the company -- currently in the Tampa Bay WaVE early launch program -- is making plans to move to Tampa next year, potentially in the spring.

“This is not for everyone pricewise. If you were to share the flight ... with a bunch of people, it would still cost you a little bit more than a first class ticket, but it’s not going to cost you an arm and a leg,” explains Joel Relova, Founder and CEO.

The service, being tested in Florida, Georgia and Utah, relies on smaller aircraft with 3 to 12 seats. It is available in beta as an Apple iphone app, with Android and web-based apps anticipated later. “You can fly anywhere as long as you can afford it,” he says.

People can defray the cost of a chartered plane by sharing a flight with friends, relatives and co-workers attending the same event, or with other people in their network. Or they can open the flight up to others who are flying to the same destination. They also could choose to book a private flight.

People download the app from the Apple Store and make a request for service, which is submitted to operators who respond with price quotes. The users can then choose a veted provider and book their flights.

Co-founded with Wendell Chindra, Whooshfly currently has about 400 users and 12 operators, who have access to 60 airplanes in the Florida/Georgia region. Users pay a service fee in addition to fares. “Once you use it, you don’t want to go back to any other means,” Relova says. “The value there is really the experience.”

He explains users can avoid lines while enjoying the perks of a small airport, like having the airplane parked 50 feet from the door or being greeted by a pilot who knows them by name.

“That’s what people love,” he says.

The idea started about 10 years ago when Relova noticed a smaller jet at an airport, and learned it cost less than a million, far less than other jets. Things took off about two years ago after a presentation on the concept in Jacksonville. Since being admitted to the WaVE program last spring, Whooshfly has been utilizing the co-work space at the WaVE periodically.

“The WaVE has been very good to us. I love the people there. I love the energy. I love their passion for startups,” he says. “They’ve opened a lot of doors for us.”

What sets Whooshfly apart is travelers’ ability to pay as they go, without encountering membership/subscription fees or having to become one of the plane’s owners.

Moving to Tampa is part of their plan once the platform passes the market-testing phase. “We believe Tampa is the right fit for us. They have the environment, the ecosystem, that would support a tech startup like us,” Relova explains. “I understand there’s a lot of things going on from a tech and from a startup business perspective. We want to be part of that."


Tampa attorney heads Israeli business accelerator

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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.

Hiring event targets paid interns; St. Pete career fair showcases services

Tampa Bay Intern is holding its twice-a-year hiring event in Tampa on Wednesday, Oct. 11, for students and recent graduates.

And, across Tampa Bay, organizers are preparing for the 2017 Community Redevelopment Area Career Fair and Showcase of Services scheduled Monday, Oct. 16, in St. Petersburg.

“Often we find that the internship turns into a regular, part-time opportunity, and they get extended or they turn into a fulltime opportunity,” says Jason Druding, Special Projects Coordinator for CareerSource Tampa Bay and CareerSource Pinellas, which runs the intern-hiring event.

Paid internships typically last from 13 weeks to six months -- and It is possible to arrange for school credit.

About 60 percent of the opportunities are internships, with the remaining 40 percent being entry level jobs. “There’s a big focus and draw for heathcare, IT and programming as well as marketing and sales. In addition, we do have some unique opportunities which we haven’t had before which focus on the construction, engineering type opportunities,” he adds.

Resume review and assistance will be available at the event, which is free and open to the public. More than 30 employers have signed up.

Pre-register to avoid the line and access the employer lineup in advance. Or just show up. Employer lists are available through CareerSource staffers and on social media channels.

The event is scheduled from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. at the CareerSource Tampa Bay Career Center at 9215 N. Florida Ave., Tampa.

Tampa Bay Intern connects employers with students looking for internships. It is run by CareerSource Tampa Bay and CareerSource Pinellas.

Meanwhile, St. Petersburg is partnering with Pinellas Technical College and the Pinellas Ex-Offender Re-Entry Coalition on its Career Fair and Showcase of Services. Nikki Capehart, St. Pete’s Urban Affairs Director, says this is the career fair’s second year and Showcase of Services’ 21st year.

“We wanted to join forces with them [PERC],” Capehart says. “They have an amazing built-in event.”

The event, which is free and open to the general public, features a wide variety of employment readiness help, potentially even a clothes closet for those who lack professional attire. More than 60 social service agencies are anticipated, offering resume help, educational assistance, employment assistance, information on expunging a criminal record, and more.

The event runs from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Pinellas Technical College Campus, 901 34th St. S. Pre-registration is encouraged, but walk-ins are welcome.

Crowds are expected to exceed 500, with varying degrees of education. Attendees should come prepared and ready to interview.

“We are still looking for employers,” Capehart adds.

Among the employers to be represented is the city of Petersburg, which currently lists a number of vacancies in a variety of career fields. Included are a Complaint Writer and an Information Specialist 1 with the Police Department, Pension Supervisor with Human Resources, Senior Plans Examiner for the Fire Department, Senior Professional Engineer for the Engineering Department, and Water Resources Director for the Water Resources Department


Co-ops to help homeowners save money on rooftop solar panels

Tampa Bay Area property owners have yet another incentive to go solar: the solar co-op. By banding together to buy rooftop solar systems, landowners can save up to 20 percent.

“We’re hoping that we get more than 100 signed up that would be interested in pursuing rooftop solar,” says Dr. Rick Garrity, a Volunteer Coordinator with Hillsborough League of Women Voters, a partner in the co-op project.

The nonprofit Florida Solar United Neighborhoods is collaborating with the League of Women Voters, Hillsborough County, the Environmental Protection Commission of Hillsborough County and others to spread the word about co-ops. It held a meeting at the University of South Florida in Tampa September 25 to explain more about the opportunity to purchase discounted solar photovoltaic (PV) systems.

“There’s never been a better time to go solar. Prices came down 65 percent in the last five years,” explains Garrity, who retired two years ago as Director of the county’s Environmental Protection Commission. “You get a 30 percent tax credit from the federal government, right off the income tax bill.”

Here’s how the program works. When about 40 sign up, Florida Sun puts out the specifications to vendors, who submit bids. “Florida Sun will then evaluate the bids, rank them and provide that ranking to the homeowners,” he explains.

Homeowners form a committee that decides which installer to use.

Members of the co-op don’t need to live in the same neighborhood, but they need to live in the designated city or county. The co-op remains open for about three months to sign up any additional members.

Folks who are interested in going solar can sign up at the Florida Sun website, without obligating themselves to buy a system. They also can RSVP for area information meetings at the website.

Three informational meetings are scheduled in Hillsborough County, the first one from 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Monday, October 9, at South Shore Regional Library, Community Rooms 1 and 2, 15816 Beth Shields Way, Ruskin. Additional meetings are planned from 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Wednesday, November 8, at Jimmie B. Keel Regional Library, Community Rooms C and D, 2902 West Bearss Ave., Tampa; and from 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., Tuesday, December 5, at Seminole Heights Branch Library, Community Rooms A and B, 4711 Central Ave., Tampa.

Pinellas County residents living north of State Road 60 can also sign up for a co-op. Informational meetings are scheduled from 5:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday, October 10, at the Clearwater Library, 100 North Osceola Ave.; from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday, November 9, at the Tarpon City Government Office, 324 East Pine St.; and from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., Monday, December 4, at the Safety Harbor Library, 101 2nd St. N.

A home solar system can cut your monthly power bill to $5 a month, but reducing the carbon footprint is important too, Garrity says.

“You’re doing your own little bit to decrease the amount of fossil fuels that are being burned,” he says.


Transit companies using new technologies to lower emissions, improve efficiency

The Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority has been awarded $1 million in federal funding earmarked for an all-electric bus and/or charging equipment. The allotment from the U.S. Department of Transportation, Federal Transit Administration comes from $55 million disbursed through its Low or No Emission (Low-No) Vehicle program.

The grant money was awarded to 51 projects in 39 states in September. PSTA was one of five transit authorities in Florida to receive an award.

“It’s a competitive grant.” says Henry Lukasik, PSTA Director of Maintenance. “We’re very thankful that we did receive it.”

We’re looking at all ways [of spending it] to really make sure that every dollar is maximized,” he adds.

Joe Cheney, PSTA’s Deputy Director of Fleet Operations, says PSTA has been moving toward all-electric buses for nearly 10 years. It already has some 70 hybrid electric buses, which make up about 36 percent of its fleet.

One of the big advantages we’re anticipating, obviously, are zero tailpipe emissions," Cheney says. “The overall life cycle costs would be lower over the course of 12 years.”

Two electric buses priced at $800,000 each are on order, and likely will be delivered in May or June 2018. PSTA will be installing overnight, plug-in chargers as well as a charging plate to partially recharge the battery while buses are on their newly designed route in downtown St. Petersburg.

Buses will pull over and recharge for about three to five minutes. “While it won’t recharge the entire bus,” Lukasik says, “it will keep it maintained at a level of charge where it can continue out there all day long.”

Ashlie Handy, PSTA’s Media Liaison/Public Information Officer, says PSTA also has secured nearly $600,000 through the British Petroleum settlement fund to reimburse victims of the massive Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill. “We are actively seeklng partners and grant opportunities,” she says.

“We’re finding ways to bring money from other places. We’re not tapping into our reserves,” she explains. “These are monies we are bringing to Pinellas County.”

Riders will find the buses similar in layout to its other buses, but much quieter. “Because there’s not an engine, it will be very quiet on the bus, probably to the point where people can carry on a conversation,” Lukasik says.

Across Tampa Bay, the Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority is awaiting the delivery of 15 compressed natural gas buses by the end of the year. It acquired 35 CNG buses in 2015-16, and 10 of its 25 additional buses earlier this year.

These new buses will be put into service in fall/winter 2017-2018, giving HART one of the youngest fleets in the state,” says HART’s Public Information Officer Sandra Morrison.

“Since 2015 we’ve saved approximately $720,000 using our natural gas compared to the cost of diesel fuel,” she says.

HART plans to transition the entire fleet of some 187 buses by 2025 as part of its move to cleaner, alternative fuel. The CNG buses cost approximately $300,000 less per vehicle than electric and have the ability to operate when the power is out, Morrison says.

Since 2014, the HART fleet has used the equivalent of 1 million gallons of diesel fuel.


Free computer class can launch your coding career

Have you ever wished you could write code for an app? This may be your chance! A national nonprofit organization, LaunchCode, is offering a free, 23-week computer training course in Tampa Bay.

“This is the first time we’re giving the class in Tampa,” says Matt Mawhinney, LaunchCode’s Florida Program Director.

The opportunity is made possible by the Florida Legislature, which earmarked some $400,000 in funds through the efforts of state Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, and state Rep. James Grant, R-Tampa.

The goal is to create a career path for people interested in tech-related jobs. “We don’t just say ‘take this class and good luck, get a job,’ ” he explains. “We form hiring relationships with employers.”

So for up to 120 who get into the class, there’s the chance of landing a $15-an-hour apprenticeship for up to six months -- and eventually a full-time job that might pay an average of $51,000 annually.

“We remove as many of the barriers as we can to acquiring the skills,” he continues. “We try to get you across the goal line into a good-paying career.”

The LC 101 Tampa Bay class focuses on computer science fundamentals and web development, which prepares students for careers in web and mobile software development. It attracts people with high school or GED diplomas or even advanced college degrees. Candidates must be at least 18.

It is being held at CareerSource’s Career Center on 9215 N. Florida Ave., Suite 101. Interested parties can apply here.  While no previous coding experience is required, applicants will need to complete the online application, aptitude test and beginning coding assignment. Applicants should allot 45 minutes for the process.

In the selection process, they look at test scores, the answers to questions, and prior interest in technology. They also consider race and sex in attempt to ensure classes are diversified.

Classes meet from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays from October 17 through March 22. Information sessions on the class are scheduled at 6 p.m. on Thursday, September 28, and Tuesday, October 3, at the center.  Interested parties are asked to reserve a place.

CareerSource Tampa Bay is working with LaunchCode as part of its effort to beef up tech talent in the community, designated as a TechHire community in December. TechHire communities throughout the nation are intended to build a pipeline of tech talent. 

It’s unclear when another class might be offered in Tampa. “We have long-term plans, but we want to be smart about how we do this,” he says.

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