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Shiftgig hiring for hourly, Tampa Bay jobs

A Chicago-based company is acting like a matchmaker for Tampa Bay employers and employees looking for shift-based, or hourly, gigs. Called Shiftgig, the company uses apps to sign up individuals for work in a variety of career fields.

“There’s a lot of hospitality, a lot of sports and entertainment [jobs]. Those work very well in the app because there are a lot of one-off shifts,” explains Laura Turner, Managing Director of Shiftgig’s Tampa office.

The 6-year-old company operates in 15 cities nationwide, and is growing. An Orlando office is expected to open within two months.

It developed from of a Chicago job board for the hospitality sector, as the need to fill shifts grew.

Tampa’s office, which opened in February 2016, typically fills some 100 to 200 gigs from about 200 employers a day.  Some 1500 have signed up as “specialists,” or employees, Turner says.

“Typically they work as much as they want to work. We have some specialists that piece together a 40- hour work week,” she says.

About 65 percent of its employees have full-time jobs and are looking to supplement their income. “The other 35 percent are people that are looking for full-time jobs but don’t necessarily want to work at the same place all the time,” Turner says.

About half of the workforce in Tampa are millennials. “The technology is attractive to them,” she says.

Shift jobs are available in warehousing and logistics, hotels, food and beverage, and general labor.

Jobseekers can apply online in about two minutes, Turner says. They receive an email in 48 hours inviting them to a group interview session. “Everyone goes through a criminal background screen,” she says.

Applicants can opt into a drug screen, which is required by some employers.

Shiftgig’s employees have varying education and experience levels. Sometimes they’re recruited on their college campuses when the colleges partner with Shiftgig. E-learning is available to enhance their skills.

Workers usually are paid weekly by direct deposit or a pay card functioning like a debit card. “We’ve actually just implemented an option that, if they want to be paid after each shift they work, they are able to opt into that,” she adds.

Employers can get the word out about openings quickly to a pool of qualified individuals. “Those shifts are picked up really quickly,” she says.

The company's Tampa office serves the greater Tampa Bay area including Hillsborough, Pinellas, Sarasota, Manatee, Pasco and Polk counties.

Shiftgig was recognized in May by the Spend Matters website as one of 50 Providers to Watch, for the Contingent Workforce category.


Mall goers to play Wheel of Fortune, JEOPARDY!, other game shows in kiosks

Tampa Bay mall goers will soon be able to play the popular game shows Wheel of Fortune, JEOPARDY!, Family Feud and The Price is Right at mall kiosks. As part of its in2win advertising promotions, the St. Petersburg-based Priatek is expected to launch the games June 27.

“What we’ve been able to do is connect consumers with advertising in a fun and rewarding way,” says Milind Bharvirkar, Priatek’s President.

Priatek began offering games at mall kiosks in November, but its new revised app will include the popular reality show games, plus loyalty points and gift card programs. Currently there are 80 kiosks operating in the Tampa and Orlando areas.

The goal of the Priatek program is to engage consumers when they are pre-disposed to buy. So they allow consumers to play games for free and win prizes and coupons offered by advertisers, who pay when a customer chooses their product. When consumers register during the process, they’re more likely to follow through with a purchase, Bharvirkar says.

“It doesn’t matter if you play the game or you skip the game,” he says.

Lots of people love to play though, as was evidenced in the past by McDonald’s popular Monopoly promotion. Bharvirkar saw it first hand with coin-operated games for a San Jose, CA, business he founded, Global VR.

“The game element is simply about putting you in a positive state of mind. The games in general are an escape for people,” he explains. “... Just the anticipation of winning sets off dopamine in our brains that leads to a positive connection to that brand.”

Prizes or coupons are issued instantly; there’s a limit of 20 per day. Some people win big prizes like diamond earrings, cruises, VIP passes to the Daytona 500, and fishing trips.

Users can download the app starting June 27 from the Apple and Google app stores, enabling them to play some of the games at the mall on their cellphones and tablets, but not computers.

In July, Wheel of Fortune and JEOPARDY! will be on a mobile app as well. Priatek doesn’t have mobile rights yet for Family Feud and The Price is Right.

Kiosks are installed at Tampa Bay area malls, including Tyrone Square, University, Westfield Brandon, Westfield Citrus Park, Westfield Countryside, and Westshore Plaza. Discussions are underway regarding International Plaza.

Bharvirkar is looking to expand into sports arenas, big box retailers, hotels and large retail chains.

Advertisers small and large can link their brand with a popular game show for as little as $100 a month. “Nobody’s ever been able to do that,” he says.

Priatek is interviewing to possibly hire two advertising sales reps for the Tampa Bay area soon. They’ll be hiring elsewhere too: Priatek is expanding nationally this year, starting with New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco.


Tampa tech company helping brewery sales reps do their jobs

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

And it’s growing in leaps and bounds.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Interactive career tool helps job seekers research market

If you’re tired of competing against the masses applying for advertised jobs, meet FREIDA, the Florida Research and Economic Information Database Application.

FREIDA can help you research employers in your career field, in all 67 counties of Florida. And a whole lot more.

“FREIDA can serve as a data-rich resource for jobseekers to use in exploring career opportunities,” says Morgan McCord, Press Secretary for Florida’s Dept. of Economic Opportunity. “It can help students, veterans and jobseekers refine their career options and find the best match given their education, training or experience.”

Visitors to FREIDA’s website homepage can get a variety of customized career data on request. For jobseekers that have honed in on a specific career, “Job Seeker Services” under “Services for Individuals” is a good place to start researching employers.

After clicking “Employers,” users choose the geographic area and type in a keyword for their career. Users can choose a single county, metropolitan area, zipcode or the entire state as their area.  They also can choose a “Quick Employer Search,” an “Advanced Employer Search” with more options, or an “Employer Search by Occupation.”

“Much of the data in FREIDA is updated constantly by the Florida Bureau of Labor Market Statistics to provide timely local information about Florida’s labor market,” McCord says.

By clicking on “Labor Market Services” from the menu, then “Labor Market Facts,” visitors also can choose from a general assortment of career questions including:

• What jobs are currently listed for an area?,
• What are the highest paying jobs in an area?,
• What occupations are predicted to have the most future job openings in an area?,
• What occupations have the highest employment in an area?, and
• What are the largest employers in an area?

“FREIDA has a ‘Services for Individuals’ selection at the top of the page and can help job seekers looking to change or explore careers. This part of the system links to various functions; including ‘Career Tips’ under 'Career Services,' ” McCord says.

Some of the website’s buttons, like “Finding a Job,” will connect visitors to the Employ Florida website for more information.


Tampa tech company speeds up business site selection process

The stakes are high when a company decides to invest in a brick-and-mortar storefront. A business can spend millions, only to fail because of the wrong location.

But the Tampa-based SiteZeus® is working to boost their clients’ odds of success.

“Our software helps you determine what are the best sites,” says Chuck Cooper, Executive VP of Product Development for SiteZeus.

The company is attracting quite a bit of attention lately. On May 2, it won two bronze Stevie® Awards at the 15th Annual American Business Awards for “Best Software Product of the Year,” Data Visualization Technology, and “Tech Startup of the Year,” Software. Then it claimed the $75,000 Gold Award at the 10th Annual Florida Early Stage Capital Conference May 19.

It also was featured in Microsoft’s BizSpark Startup Stories May 23.

Last year, it racked up two awards, claiming both BIG Awards, as Startup of the Year and CIO Review’s Top 100 Big Data Solutions.

What makes SiteZeus unique is its transparency -- and its ability to do in seconds or minutes what normally could take months, explains Jorge Hermez, Director of Marketing.

There’s no curtain where all this stuff is happening behind the scenes,” he says.

It is able to process data that humans can’t.

“We’ve created a data agnostic pipeline,” Hermez says. “The more data we inject into SiteZeus, the larger variety of users we’ll get.”

“It doesn’t matter what type of business you’re in, if you’re in business to make money,” asserts Cooper.

SiteZeus’ partnerships with data set add-ons, UberMedia, Black Box Intelligence, and INRIX, have helped to fuel its success.

The cloud-based software, offered on subscription, lets users securely input data and receive predictive models without sharing it with anyone. “Once you’ve imported your data you can play around with the models. You can adjust the variables to see what kind of impact that it has on sales,” Cooper says.

SiteZeus was founded in 2013 by brothers Keenan and Hannibal Baldwin. Business climbed an average 51 percent each quarter during the last year. The number of employees rose from seven to 13 in the last year as well, and it continues its search for talent in sales, software engineering, quality assurance engineering, graphic design, web development and content creation.

The company currently serves the United States, but is planning to go global by next year. Among its clients are the Pincho Factory, a fast-casual burger and kebab chain popular in South Florida; Fitness Premier, a midwest fitness company now available for franchising in 40 states; Campers Inn RV, one of the largest U.S. RV outlets, located in 10 states; and SafeSplash Swim School, the leading swim school franchise in North America.


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.


Tampa staffing startup chosen for global tech showcase

A Tampa Bay staffing startup company, patterned after online matchmaking services, has been chosen to participate in Emerge Americas Startup Showcase in Miami, a major global business-to-business tech event featuring entrepreneurs from Latin America, North America and Europe.

Monikl was one of 125 companies selected in three categories for the June 12-13 business-to-business tech conference. It will have a booth at the event and the opportunity to participate in a pitch competition for up to $100,000.

The company, launched in January, is intended to save users time and money by matching job candidates and employers. What makes it different is its ability to perform like a full-time staff company from an Internet platform. It uses a quiz, that can be filled out in five to 10 minutes, to match applicants with companies that are suited to them.

“Instead of looking through thousands of resumes, you’re basically getting five to 10 high quality matches,” says Monikl CEO and Co-Founder Zachary Senz Kamler. “Our aim is to produce quality not quantity.”

Using an app for Android and Apple phones or the web, users sign up for free. The employer pays 7.5 percent of a direct hire’s salary, for the first year. It also works with temporaries and contract hires.

Monikl is generally targeting the tech and healthcare fields in the Tampa Bay area, or basically 50 miles from Tampa’s downtown. It already has some 1,000 job seekers and several companies -- and is growing steadily.

“In general our goal is to reach 10,000 users in the Tampa Bay area by the end of the year. Once we reach that, we’ll be able to acquire more capital and expand out to other cities,” he says.

Senz-Kamler, who has a background in staffing and a bachelor’s degree in Business and Entrepreneurship from the University of South Florida, is partnering with CTO Jonathan Antoneli.

“We’re clearing up the path to finding a job,” Senz-Kamler explains.

In Tampa Bay WaVE’s Build program, Monikl uses WaVE co-working space. “We have been setting them up with mentors, goals and connections. Monikl has some great leadership and hunger to grow and we love having them in our program,” says Daniel McDonald, Accelerator Manager.


Tampa firm trains, mentors IT sales development reps

Sales development is part of any business. Sometimes, it is the hardest. It's even harder in the tech field when there's not enough IT-trained sales representatives. So Matt Wheeler is trying to meet the need.

Wheeler is CEO of Qualified Meetings, a new Tampa company dedicated to helping tech businesses grow their customer base.

“I just saw there was a massive need,” he says.

Wheeler founded Qualified Meetings with Eric Byrd and Whitney Marshall in 2016. He is projecting about $2 million in sales and 20 employees in about three months.

The company’s sales developer program essentially white-labels Qualified Meetings' employees so they appear to be part of their clients’ sales team. Eventually, they may be.

Qualified Meetings trains and mentors, then its employee may be hired away by the client for a higher salary, with Qualified Meeting collecting a 20 percent fee. The newly trained staff can work remotely from Tampa, helping to build the tech community here while helping to keep labor costs in check for the employer.

“We work with sales. We work with marketing. We become a seamless additional team to those companies,” Wheeler explains. “We become experts in every product that we manage.”

Trained employees also may eventually work in Qualified Meetings software sales.

Qualified Meetings works with Optimizer, a web-based software that automates the sales operation and avoids cold calling. Currently in beta testing, Optimizer is expected to launch in 90 days.

The company currently employs 17 full-time employees and six summer interns. Within the next 60 days, it plans to hire nine marketing and/or sales development staffers for annual salaries between $45,000 and $65,000 each, with benefits.

The staff will grow as the company adds accounts, so Wheeler projects a staff of 30 by year’s end.

Part of the Tampa Bay WaVE program, which helps entrepreneurs launch and grow tech businesses, Qualified Meetings operates out of Channel District office space.

Wheeler, who bought his domain name more than five years ago, was living in Annapolis, MD, and visited other cities like Austin and Atlanta before deciding to move his family to Tampa about two years ago.

“I’m practically a poster child for Tampa now,” he says. “We fell in love with it.”

He describes Tampa as “big, but small,” enabling people to earn a reputation when they “maintain integrity.”


Clearwater Business SPARK celebrates one year of assisting entrepreneurs

When Clearwater SPARK launched last year, the business network targeted the needs of area entrepreneurs and start-up companies. The initiative planned to be a support system for these businesses, offering them a variety of services at all levels, from conception to operations.

At the time, the program brought together five partners: the city of Clearwater’s Economic Development and Housing Department, the Clearwater Regional Chamber of Commerce, the Florida Small Business Development Center at Pinellas County Economic Development, Florida Business Incubator (formerly known as TAFFIE) and the Clearwater Public Library System. Each partner had something different to offer small business owners and SPARK would serve as the conduit between the organizations involved and local entrepreneurs.

SPARK introduced its partners to the community at its March 2016 kick-off event at the Clearwater Main Library. Now, as SPARK partners reflect on its first year, the network will host another event at the library, Wednesday, May 24, 6 to 8 p.m.

“It really feels like we’ve come full circle,” says Audra Aja, Clearwater’s Economic Development Coordinator. “Here we are a year later bringing the community back to the library.”

The business initiative has a lot to celebrate, adds Aja, who fields calls for SPARK from her office at City Hall. In its first year, she made around 150 referrals to the initiative’s partners.

“The community has really responded to us and shown its support,” she says. “We bring a much-needed service to the community.”

SPARK has also welcomed two new partners since its launch. In January, Prospera, formerly known as the Hispanic Business Initiative Fund, joined the network as a way to reach out to Hispanic-owned businesses in Clearwater.

The latest partner to join forces with SPARK, Pinellas County SCORE, will be formally introduced at the May 24 event. SCORE, a nonprofit association with thousands of business experts worldwide, offers mentorship for small businesses and other educational resources.

The organization has been involved with SPARK from the beginning. They held business workshops at the Main Library. “They just weren’t an official partner,” Aja says.

SCORE brings new resources to the table, she adds. “They’ll be able to help those in the beginning phases of exploring their ideas and getting started. That’s something we didn’t have in our network. SCORE comes in at the entry level.”
 
In addition to accepting more referrals from SPARK, SCORE will also offer one-on-one consultations at Clearwater venues as well as more workshops.

The May 24 event will also serve as an open house for the library’s Maker Studios, Aja says. The Main Library has five studios spread throughout the building: the Creation Studio, the Discovery Studio, the Innovation Studio, the Multimedia Studio and the Heritage Studio, which will open in July. The Maker Studios launched last May.

During the open house, guests will tour the Multimedia and Innovation Studios, where they will learn about the free programs for small businesses and entrepreneurs, and view hands-on demonstrations of the equipment available in these spaces. Software, programs and equipment available for use include business databases, 3-D printers and scanners, design and production software, and audio and video equipment.

Rino Landa, Maker Studios coordinator, says not many libraries offer a makerspace. So the Clearwater Main Library stands out as a space for entrepreneurs and small businesses, he says. The wide range of offerings – from painting and sewing classes to tools for start-ups to genealogy resources – is also remarkable. “We are unique in that we have multiple spaces throughout the library and so much to offer on each floor,” he says.

Aja says the Maker Studios is the most “underutilized” aspect of SPARK, so the May 24 open house is designed to remind residents that it’s available to them. It’s also continuing to evolve, she adds, especially as new technology is developed. She says the library will add more multimedia tools and expand its workshop schedule in the coming year. “We’re really very fortunate that the library has invested in this for the community,” she says.

Register for the May 24 event at the Clearwater SPARK website or call (727) 443-0217.

Florida Funders moves into new offices in Westshore, positions for growth

Florida Funders, a company that connects early-stage Florida businesses with accredited investors, has moved into newly renovated office space in Tampa’s Westshore district, expanding its collaborative workspace.

“Our own staff is growing, our investment base is growing, the number of collaborative meetings, early stage companies are growing,” says Marc Blumenthal, CEO.

Now located on the first floor of the Austin Center in some 5,000 square feet, it is better prepared to work with companies that come to make their pitches to investors.

“They specifically built this for us not only to have a better bigger space ... but to have lots of open work space,” Blumenthal says.

The new space was “completely gutted from the floor to the deck of the ceiling” under the direction from Jonathan Levy, managing partner for Redstone Investments, the center’s owner.

It outgrew space it shared with Quantum Capital Partners at nearby Tower Place.

“We already have about 15 companies in our portfolio,” he says. “That grows by 10-20 a year.”

Florida Funders has six on its staff full-time and another two part-time. It will be creating an Ambassadors’ program to broaden its networking in other communities throughout Florida this year, he says.

The Ambassadors will be volunteers well connected in their community. “We’re going to do all the heavy lifting. They’re the eyes and ears on the ground for us,” he explains.

Additionally, Florida Funders is planning a partner’s program, which may involve a Funders’ liaison to sit on the board of a portfolio company. “Most of those opportunities will have some form of remuneration from the portfolio company,” he says.

The funding company has invested some $4 million in 17 deals in the last two years and is expecting to pump an additional $5 to $7.5 million into start-ups in the next year.

“Our business model is really associated with the success of our investment. It’s a long-term view,” he explains. “Every year we’ll be investing more capital.”

Ultimately, Florida Funders wants “to see our best and our brightest stay here,” he says, and encourage other bright people to choose to live here for the climate, ease of doing business, and accessible business capital.

“Florida Funders is priming that pump. We think we’re taking the lead on that with some other great people across the state,” he says.


Tampa Bay job news: Vology, World Wide Technology, Connectwise growing, hiring

The Largo-based Vology, a managed IT service provider, has announced it will be adding up to 200 jobs within the next two to four years. The company relocated from Oldsmar to Largo last fall, investing $3.75 million.

“We’re still adjusting to our new buildings,” says spokesman Trent Brock. “We finally have everything up and running.”

Vology renovated and upped its space from 50,000 to 60,000 square feet when it moved from Tampa Road to the Bay Vista Office Park with a Clearwater mailing address.  It opted for the Largo location to be more centrally located within the Tampa Bay area.

“It gives an opportunity to take in a new market for IT talent,” he says.

Additional details on the new jobs weren’t immediately available, but job seekers are advised to check the company’s website for the latest details.

Meanwhile World Wide Technology, a St. Louis-based innovative technology and supply chain solutions provider, has revamped its Tampa offices.

“We decided to build a virtual or remote executive briefing facility,” explains Scot Gagnon, Director of Army and Special Operations. “It kind of looks like we’re all sitting in the same room because the technology has come so far.”

The upgrade accommodates remote testing and helps clients access the newest technology, without the travel. The offices at 5426 Bay Center Drive include new collaborative work spaces.

“We’re still unpacking, We literally just moved back in,” Gagnon says.

He has plans to hire two sales engineers this year to work with customers on product design.

WWT has been in Tampa since 2007.

Here are some other job opportunities in the Tampa Bay area.

  • The software company Connectwise, which beat is first Quarter goal in 2017, is posting a 22 percent growth rate. The Tampa-based company, which employs 900 workers globally, lists on its website openings for a benefits specialist, traffic manager, system administrator, illustrator, junior developer and more.
  • Kelly Career Network is looking for two web content professionals in St. Petersburg for two-month contracts, with pay set at $20 to $24 an hour. It is looking for a high school diploma or its equivalent and at least four years of related experience; an associate’s degree and at least one year of formal education in web design, development, or computer/internet sciences is preferred.
  • Syniverse, a global leader in mobile communications, is looking for a career success specialist for its New Tampa office. The position requires an undergraduate degree in business or marketing and strong interpersonal, communication, analytical and problem-solving skills. Other openings include a customer operations specialist, level I position.


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


Peer-to-peer tutoring app gains traction on college campuses, national recognition

College students struggling with classes can face an uphill battle finding a reasonably priced tutor with up-to-date skills. But now a South Tampa-based tutoring service helps them connect to peers who have recently aced the very class they need help with.

“We’re completely peer to peer and we’re extremely course specific. It’s more relevant,” says Knack CEO Samyr Qureshi.

Knack, which originally launched its product in Gainesville in 2016, is gaining traction. It was chosen by the San Francisco-based Kairos Society, a group that finds promising entrepreneurs and connects them with potential funders and industry leaders, as one of 50 to attend a Global Summit in April in New York City.

The event was “probably one of the highlights of my year,” Qureshi remarked later. It signaled “Knack is a company that can truly make an impact on a global scale,” says Qureshi, who grew up in Palm Harbor after migrating from Dubai with his family.

Knack -- co-founded by Qureshi, Dennis Hansen, David Stoker and Shawn Doyle -- has joined the Kairos Society as a K50 Company and is discussing funding prospects. It was featured in Inc. Magazine’s article about the summit entitled “Meet 50 Young Entrepreneurs Rethinking the World's Biggest Problems.”

Knack got its start in a University of Florida incubator, then claimed the $25,000 grand prize in the 2016 Big Idea Gator Business Plan Competition upon graduation.

“We’ve been really focused on helping college students afford this service,” Qureshi says. “Ultimately we want to partner with organizations that can help us make that happen.

It already is working with the National Action Council for Minorities in Engineering, a nonprofit that sets aside a portion of scholarships to subsidize Knack tutoring. It also is partnering with UF Housing and Residence Education and UCF Student Government Association.

Through Knack apps for Apple and Android phones, students connect with some 900 tutors, for some 2,000 courses, most of them at the undergraduate level. A web app is in development. Students schedule a meeting, usually on campus, and pay with their debit card after a timed session.

Knack currently operates on six campuses including UF, the University of Central Florida in Orlando, Florida State University in Tallahassee, the University of South Florida in Tampa, North Carolina State University in Raleigh and the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill.

It has completed more than 25,000 tutoring hours and grown 143 percent, semester after semester, in revenue and completed sessions, Qureshi says.

Knack’s ultimate goals are to improve learning, help students finish college and provide flexible employment. Tutors set their own rates -- the current average is $22 -- and are paid at the end of the session. Knack keeps 20 percent of the fee.

Prospective tutors can sign up on the Knack website. The company also invites others to “Join the Knack Pack.” It is seeking a Full Stack Developer and Campus Ambassadors to help the company “knacktivate campuses across the nation,” the website says.

With some 80 percent of the tutoring market focused on kindergarten through 12th graders, “in college there’s a bit of a gap,” says Qureshi, who earned a BA in Law and Criminology.

It’s a gap Knack is working to fill, with help from Tampa Bay WaVE and the growing Tampa Bay tech community. “Knack is a Launch company in the WaVE program,” says Daniel McDonald, Accelerator Manager, Tampa Bay WaVE. “We have been helping Knack accelerate a lot with pitch coaching, community building and setting them up with local investors.”


Tampa Bay Area Job News: DAS Health, CONMED, McKinsey hiring

A national healthcare services firm, DAS Health, is expanding its headquarters in downtown Tampa, and plans to add 30 new employees here in 2018.

“Tampa’s talent pool combined with the resources and support of the city made expanding our headquarters here the perfect choice,” says David Schlaifer, CEO of DAS Health.

The company is making a $145,000 capital investment and will be hiring for a variety of jobs with an average annual salary of $55,130. It already has hired four new employees in the last two weeks, Schlaifer says.

DAS Health provides health IT, management solutions and consulting services. The expansion follows the acquisitions of ConXit Technology Group and three other companies in 2016, which doubled DAS Health's size and solidified its role in the health IT and management sector.

Here are some other job opportunities in the Tampa Bay area.

• The global medical technology company CONMED is hiring at its Largo facility. Among the openings posted on its website are: corporate recruiter, which requires a bachelor’s degree and more than two years of experience; marketing associate, which requires a bachelor’s and 0 to two years of related experience; and a buyer, which requires a bachelor’s and two years of relevant purchasing experience.

•  McKinsey and Company, a global consultant firm, has multiple positions at its St. Petersburg location. Openings posted at its website include a Spanish-speaking accountant, human resources generalist, junior graphic designer, and learning event planner.

• The high traffic website covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, The Pewter Report is looking for an advertising representative, either full-time or part-time. Applicants must live in the area and have solid business contacts; a background in advertising sales is preferred. 

• The multimedia digital company YouConnex, based in Tampa and New York City, is hiring for its creative team. Applicants need to be living in the Tampa Bay area. The company is looking for people with a portfolio highlighting web and video editing skills. Duties include graphics design and video editing.

If your company is hiring skilled workers with five or less years of experience, drop us a line.


USF ranks 19th in Milken study, seen as tech leader

The University of South Florida ranked 19th, among more than 225 universities nationwide, in a Milken Institute study about how well universities convert basic research into new technologies, products and companies.

“Concept to Commercialization: The Best Universities for Technology Transfer” notes USF jumped up from 74th place in 2006 after ramping up research and commercialization efforts.

“We really worked hard in the past 10 years in changing our culture,” acknowledges Paul Sanberg, USF’s Senior VP for Research, Innovation and Economic Development. “We want to be Tampa Bay’s corporate partner.”

USF efforts have gone beyond “great basic research which we’ve been known for,” he says, to patenting licenses, commercialization, business incubators and training programs.

“This has involved a real concerted effort to make these activities part of tenure and promotion,” Sanberg says.

Vickie Chachere, Director of Strategic Communications for USF Research and Innovation, says major companies look to be near major universities that are good at commercializing research and growing a talent pipeline. “Tampa is an emerging place if you want to have potential partners,” she says.

The rank is based on a University Technology Transfer and Commercialization Index that is derived from the four-year averages of patents and licenses issued, plus licensing income and the number of start-ups.

USF has a “diverse portfolio” spanning life sciences, engineering and other Science, Technology, Engineering and Math or STEM and the arts, Sanberg adds.

The study by Ross DeVol, Joe Lee ad Minoli Ratnatunga found all of the top 25 universities were in metropolitan areas. “Universities are a source of competitive advantage; they create a skilled workforce and through R&D and tech-transfer help create new technologies and new industries,” it asserts.

The University of Florida in Gainesville ranked third, following the University of Utah in Salt Lake City and Columbia University in New York City, in first and second place, respectively. Central Florida in Orlando ranked 22 while Florida State University in Tallahassee earned 88th place and Tampa’s H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center and Research Institute placed 95th.

“Research universities are one of the strongest assets America can use to compete in the age of innovation,” the report concludes. “Research funding should be a top priority for enhancing American economic growth.”

The Milken Institute, with offices in Washington, D.C., is a nonprofit organization working to boost global prosperity through collaboration. Its Center for Jobs and Human Capital seeks to develop innovative, doable economic solutions that facilitate job creation and enhance funding opportunities.

USF’s own study shows it ranked 10 among state universities nationwide, Sanberg notes. It ranks 9th among public universities nationally and 21st globally for the number of U.S. patents granted, according to Intellectual Property Owners Association/National Academy of Inventors (2015).


Tampa as a smart city: Local roundtable focuses on how technology will shape our future

It’s no secret automation is making some jobs obsolete. As the digital revolution evolves, we’re working differently -- and some of us will need new skills to stay in the workforce and succeed.

“The roles are changing very very very quickly,” asserts Chelsea Collier, an Austin-based consultant holding a Tampa Roundtable April 28 at the University of Tampa’s Lowth Entrepreneurship Center.

Collier is the founder of Digi.City, a web platform where she shares what she has learned as a 2016 Zhi-Xing China Eisenhower Fellowship recipient.

The roundtable will look at Tampa as a “smart city,” which by Collier’s definition is a municipality that takes an “integrated approach” to delivering services more effectively through technology.

“Smart cities are the ones that apply the right technologies that increase the effectiveness of their cities,” she says.

The roundtable is aimed at technology enthusiasts, elected officials, public policy advocates and those interested in how policies are crafted to foster innovation and smart growth. It will be held from 12:30 p.m. to 2:30 p.m.

Participants include Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, state Rep. James Grant, R-Tampa; Lucas Lindsey, Co-Founder of Launch Florida; Linda Olson, President of Tampa Bay WaVE; Ned Pope, Former President of Florida NEXT Foundation; and Dr. Rebecca White, Director of UT’s Entrepreneurship Center.

The discussion about Tampa’s smart city efforts is part of a multi-city series, Digi.City Connects. Meetings already have been held in Phoenix, San Diego, Boston and Austin.

“In three to four years, things will connect to things and humans won’t even need to be involved. It seems like the Jetsons,” Collier says, referring to the 1960s television cartoon show about a futuristic family.

In the end, services are provided more efficiently. For example, when 5G wireless technology is available, a refrigerator can connect with a delivery service to notify it that it needs eggs. It can be programmed to skip the order when the calendar shows the owner will be away.

The discussion is expected to touch on policy changes needed to prepare for the new technology, she says.

“You really have to start doing the work now to get the policies in place,” she says. “There’s a lot in play. Different cities handle this in different ways.”

The way cities and educators prepare for these changes will affect the workforce’s skillset – and ultimately the area’s economy.

Although the fellowship expires in mid-May, Collier says her work has just begun. “I’m going to ramp it up actually,” she says. “I think there’s a real need.

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