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Design-a-thon invites student innovators to pitch solutions

College students with innovative ideas, mark your calendars for April 10-11.

That’s when USF St. Petersburg’s Kate Tiedemann College of Business, along with the student chapter of the Tampa Bay Technology Forum, is hosting a first-time event: a "design-a-thon” and pitch competition, during which enterprising students will have the chance to solve a real-world problem proposed from the local business community.

One small catch? Innovation Overnight is a 20-hour long event, beginning at 3 pm on April 10 and culminating in an 11 am awards ceremony April 11. Students can leave from midnight to 7 am, but they are also welcome to stay and keep working.

During the marathon brainstorming and building session, students will work through the phases of design thinking to build a functioning prototype that solves a problem sourced from event sponsors (including Jabil Inc, Valpak and the Tampa Bay Rowdies soccer team).

Games like “Are You Smarter than a Freshman?” and a hula hoop competition will help keep things light during the long hours.

Similar to Startup Weekend events, Innovation Overnight aims to connect members of the community in an informal but inspirational environment. Unlike Startup Weekend events, only students are permitted to participate.

Jessica Chin, co-creator and Chief Innovation Officer for the event, says that Innovation Overnight was developed to help students focus on approaching a problem using “design thinking and a structured thought process.”

Design thinking refers to a process of problem solving through specific phases: “Explore, Ideate, Build and Test,” Alison Watkins, associate dean of the USFSP COB and event co-creator, explained in a news release. It is “particularly useful in terms of defining multifaceted problems and providing innovative, multidimensional solutions to complex business challenges.”

The 20-hour design-a-thon, which mixes play with problem-solving, will include time to pitch a prototype solution to judges, network with potential employers, and learn design thinking tactics from keynote speaker Michelle Royal. Judges will include representatives from several Innovation Overnight sponsors, USFSP, and the TBTF.

Royal, CEO of Royal Innovation Design Group, was selected as keynote speaker “based on her willingness to engage in higher education and her professional expertise,” Chin explains.

Students can sign up for Innovation Overnight as individual participants, but Chin recommends that interested students engage each other on social media before the event to create a team, or contact her to facilitate team creation.

“Innovation Overnight provides an opportunity for students to connect classroom learning to real world situations, demonstrating to the business community that there is high quality talent graduating from area colleges,” TBTF’s Pat Gehant noted in the release. “This program lifts the bar for developing tech talent in the Tampa Bay area.”

The event will be held at USFSP’s University Student Center, 6th Ave S., in Ball Room A. Student pitches, which are open to the public, begin at 9 am on Friday, April 10; an awards ceremony and reception begins at 11 am Saturday, April 11. 

To learn more or to register for Innovation Overnight, click here.  

Maker convention brings inventors together in the DIY spirit

Gulf Coast MakerCon just keeps growing.

This year’s Tampa Bay area community do-it-yourself celebration will be held at the Florida Living Center at the Florida State Fairgrounds on Saturday, April 18. Lead organizer Terri Willingham anticipates about 800-1,000 guests at the one-day event. 

Gulf Coast MakerCon 2015 is open to the public and covers a wide array of technical, creative and professional workshops and sessions across more than 80 anticipated indoor and outdoor exhibits, from modern tech like 3D printers to “heritage tech” that focuses on woodworking and fiber arts.

Entertainment and educational opportunities at Gulf Coast MakerCon 2015 range from the Mid-Pinellas Comic Con exhibit and Gamers on the Edge tabletop gaming area to the Tampa Amateur Radio Club and the Tampa Bay Inventors Council “Inventors Showcase” to the USF Robotics Interest Group “Fight Robots” competition and a Young Makers section.

More than 30,000 square feet of available exhibit space triples the size of last year’s MakerCon, and the “makers” who have applied more than double last year’s numbers, as well; about 60, with applications still coming in. 

“We're excited about the diversity of exhibitors and programs we have on tap,” Willingham says.

The annual springtime festival is produced by Eureka! Factory, the nonprofit that Willingham runs with her husband Steve, and is supported by a grant from Hillsborough County’s Economic Development Innovation Initiative (EDI2). 

“We believe Gulf Coast MakerCon showcases the best of our community and inspires others to try their hands, hearts and minds at making and learning new things,” Willingham says. 

The community DIY festival “fits in perfectly with our mission to help move people from passive consumption to active creation --making!” Willingham explains. “A society of capable, creative, self-reliant people is a healthy, empowered and productive society."

Making things -- "products, solutions, services, inventions, games, gadgets, industrial and commercial tools like robots, mechanical devices and assistive technologies, and resources for sustainability," she says, is good for economic development, academic enrichment and personal fulfillment.

Back in 2012, the Willinghams introduced Tampa's first and only maker festival, the Tampa Bay Mini Maker Faire. In 2014, the event expanded into Gulf Coast MakerCon. This year, big name community sponsors like USF Connect and the Florida High Tech Corridor have signed on.

“We've got some amazing collaborative partners this year,” Willingham says. “MityMo Creative in St. Petersburg has been doing all our promotional materials and graphic design; TBIC has been actively curating and providing promotional and other event support; Scrap on Spot is sponsoring the Deconstruction Zone; and the Innovation Lab at Seminole Community Library at St. Petersburg College has been organizing our ComicCon and Gaming Festival.”  

Gulf Coast MakerCon 2015 is a designated USA Science & Engineering Festival satellite event, as well as a National Robotics Week event.

Tickets, which are $10 per person ages 13-up and $8 for children ages 6-12, can be purchased online at the event website

Calling all women in tech for Tampa meetup

Local women in the technology industry will have the opportunity to meet and greet peers, mingle with local tech leaders and hear from female field experts during a free event at the Seminole Heights Library on Monday, March 30.

The Women in Tech gathering aims to highlight females in the industry, and to teach and inspire young women to pursue careers in technology through shared connections and resources.

Attendees can expect a variety of activities at the free networking event; along with a tech meet and greet and a speed networking round, Women in Tech will also include a “Learn to Code!” class and will culminate with an interactive panel.

Collaborative Technologies of Tampa Bay founder and CEO Sylvia Martinez, who will be on hand to help out with the speed networking segment, encourages women who are actively in the tech field to participate in Monday’s meetup, but also suggests that those who are not yet in the field, students motivated by technology, and “any woman looking to support the awesome ladies in tech that we have here in Tampa Bay” should attend. 

Hillsborough County Economic Development Director Lindsey Kimball will moderate the interactive panel, whose members include:“I am very much looking forward to being part of this event. It's inspiring to be surrounded by other women who want to positively impact this thriving tech ecosystem just as much as I do,” Martinez explains.

Women in Tech will be held from 1-4pm on Monday, March 30, at the Seminole Heights Library, 4711 N. Central Ave. The free networking event is part of Hillsborough County’s economic development innovation initiative, with local partners like Kahwa Coffee and Eureka Factory providing resources and sponsorship. 

To register for Hillsborough County’s Women in Tech event on March 30, click here.

Martinez, who runs a quarterly networking meetup for tech professionals through CToTB, is “a firm believer in peer events. It's fantastic when those that share common goals and interests can come together and support one another,” she says. “The synergy is incredible and it's great to have others like you that you can learn from.”

Since launching in June 2013, the $2 million in funding set aside by Hillsborough County commissioners for the EDI2 program has helped to host events from coffee shop gatherings to the weekly 1 Million Cups program to local and regional conferences. In Dec 2014, EDI2 and Small Business Information Center programs were relocated to the new Mark Sharpe Entrepreneur Collaborative Center at 2101 E. Palm Ave. in Ybor City.

Hillsborough County woos Johnson & Johnson with $2M in incentives

Health care giant Johnson & Johnson is considering a massive move to the Tampa area.

In March 2015, Hillsborough County commissioners voted unanimously to approve a $2.1 million incentive package in hopes of encouraging the Fortune 500 company to invest in Tampa Bay. If Tampa is selected, hundreds of new jobs would be relocated or created at a new “shared services” headquarters for Johnson & Johnson.

Hillsborough County economic development director Lindsey Kimball says that the move would be a good one, economically, for the community.

“If Johnson & Johnson chooses to locate in Hillsborough County, the project will potentially represent 700 new higher wage jobs in the community and a $23.5 million capital investment,” Kimball says. “These jobs are in what we call a ‘targeted industry,’ which means the primary customers for their services are outside of our market -- and that is a good thing because they expand our local economy, driving demand for local services and goods.”

By the terms of the agreement, if Tampa is selected, Johnson & Johnson would be required to create the first group of about 200 jobs by December 31, 2016.

If Johnson & Johnson does set up shop in Hillsborough, the created jobs will be “shared services” functions typical of a headquarters operation, such as accounting, marketing, human resources, IT and legal. 

The average salary for these jobs would be around $75,000.

It is likely that not every position will be relocated, meaning the potential for new hires from within the Tampa Bay community.

“I would like to add that this project, if it chooses to locate here, will strengthen the biosciences cluster within our community by adding an additional marquis company to join Bristol-Myers Squibb, Draper, and Bausch and Lomb,” Kimball says. 

The Bristol-Myers Squibb North American Capability Center opened in Hillsborough County at 5104 Eisenhower Blvd. S. in January 2014 after similar wooing efforts from dozens of cities. Draper Lab, an engineering and tech research facility from MIT, has had a presence at the University of South Florida since 2009 and in Pinellas County for years at 9900 16th St. N. in St. Petersburg. Bausch and Lomb, the pharmaceuticals company, has had a manufacturing plant presence in Tampa since 1993 at 8500 Hidden River Parkway. 

Before the deal is decided, Johnson & Johnson will continue to look to several other states for the expansion. Florida’s incentive package depends on the $2.1 million from Hillsborough County along with a state incentive package of $7 million from the state’s economic development organization, Enterprise Florida, totaling a $9.1 million overall incentive package.

TGH offers new surgical relief from sleep apnea

Tampa General is one of the first hospitals in the nation and the first in Florida to offer a new “sleep pacemaker” solution to patients who suffer from severe sleep apnea.

Clinical trials were held at 22 hospitals nationwide – including TGH, the primary teaching hospital for USF Health – with results published in the New England Journal of Medicine

Dr. Tapan Padhya, professor and vice chair of Otolaryngology, Head and Neck Surgery at the USF Health Morsani College of Medicine, was the chief investigator for Tampa General’s trials and co-authored the "sleep pacemaker" study results.

The technology in the implant is “similar to a cardiac pacemaker, re-applied for sleep apnea patients,” says Dr. Padhya. 

Sleep apnea occurs as the result of muscles in the tongue and throat relaxing, which makes breathing more difficult. As people with the condition sleep, oxygen supply runs low, which in turn causes them to wake up to take a breath, often accompanied by a snoring or gasping noise.

The disorder has typically been treated with the CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure) machine, which involves wearing a mask over the nose, and occasionally mouth, while sleeping. The mask can keep airways open by pumping pressurized air into the mouth, but for many people, it can be difficult to sleep with.

Enter the "sleep pacemaker" neurostimulation device, developed by Minnesota-based Inspire Medical Systems, which is meant to help sleep apnea patients for whom other treatments were ineffective.

Here’s how it works: an implant described as half the size of an iPhone is placed under a patient’s collarbone. It can deliver a small electrical stimulus to the base of the tongue when the patient takes a breath. 

Patients with the Inspire device can activate it with a remote control before sleeping.

“It will gently push the tongue out to help the air flow," Dr. Padhya says. "You have an open airway. You don’t have that struggle to breathe.”

Most telling, says Padhya, is the fact that there are clinical trial patients still using the device several years after the surgical procedure.

Millions of people suffer from severe sleep apnea, a disorder that causes shallow breathing while sleeping, disrupting rest periods and leading to daytime fatigue and other health issues including insomnia, behavioral changes and disruption to executive functions like decision-making, reaction time, memory, and learning.

Because other factors can cause some of these effects, people with sleep apnea can sometimes be unaware that they suffer from the condition. However, if untreated, the disorder increases the risk of heart attack, stroke, high blood pressure and other health problems.

USFSP grad's startup 'Check I'm Here' hiring lead developer, campus outreach coordinator

Reuben Pressman has had a busy start to 2015. His newest startup venture with friend Evan Brady, Stacktive, launched in St. Pete in February, with immediate plans to expand to more locations including Tampa, Orlando and Miami.

Now, the University of South Florida Saint Petersburg graduate’s successful company Check I’m Here is expanding, too. Pressman, a two-time 1 Million Cups presenter, says the startup has more than doubled in team size in recent months; they’ve also received some external funding.

Check I’m Here, a campus engagement platform, is hiring for a lead software developer and a campus outreach coordinator. 

Which skills does Pressman think are most valuable for success at Check I'm Here?

“Communication, self-direction, a fun attitude, creativity and problem solving, and a growth mindset,” he says. 

The ideal lead software developer “not only has a passion for creating new software and solving new problems” but has the leadership experience necessary for “developing and managing the processes to do these and growing a team to execute them,” Pressman explains.

Requirements include 5+ years' experience with .NET web application development as well as with Microsoft SQL development.

The campus outreach coordinator, a new position within the company, will be responsible for initiating a relationship with prospective customers in a sales development role.

A successful candidate “should be very comfortable on the phone talking with new people, inspiring and learning about others, and will have an extreme affinity for organization,” Pressman says.

Both positions are in-house, but the company is open to the possibility of some remote work. 

Back when Pressman served as VP of Student Government at USFSP, he witnessed firsthand the pain points that student government and student affairs pros encounter when it comes to “retaining students, allocating funding and assessing success.”

This experience led to the creation of a seamless online interface for engaging students at campus events.

Company culture at Check I'm Here is casual, but with a focus. Perks include an open floor plan with standup desks, flexible schedules, open vacations, major holidays off, and a day off to volunteer in the community.

“We work a block off the water in a coworking space we started, surrounded by other startups,” Pressman says.  “With all of this, we all share a mindset of working hard and constantly challenge each other and ourselves, but want to make sure this is a place that we enjoy working hard in.”

Pressman expects to hire for positions in coming weeks. More details about open positions can be found on the company’s website.

Tampa Tank expands to Hillsborough County, adds 108 jobs

A new headquarters for Tampa Tank, Inc. & Florida Structural Steel in Ybor City could spell up to 24 new jobs at the company’s main offices. A refurbished manufacturing facility in Port Redwing at the Port of Tampa will create as many as 84 new jobs.

Altogether, the company’s expansion into Hillsborough County is anticipated to generate more than $18 million in capital investment and up to 108 new jobs. New positions will pay nearly 150 percent of the state’s average wage.

To learn more about open job opportunities, refer to the company’s website.

“Tampa Tank has long been a supporter of the Tampa community and Port Tampa Bay,” said Paul Anderson, Port Tampa Bay’s President and CEO, at the annual State of the Port luncheon in late January 2015. “We are excited for their growth and expansion. We look forward to supporting them for years to come.”

Tampa Tank, which has been in business since 1953, and Florida Structural Steel, which was acquired by the company in 1984, provide custom designs and repair steel products for customers around the world.

The company considered going outside the United States to other locations, but a hefty incentives package from the Hillsborough Economic Development Corporation, the City of Tampa, and Hillsborough County kept them close to home. Tampa Tank was provided with a competitive package of state and local incentives totaling $2,080,795. 

Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn commended the move, saying at the luncheon, “This project is a big win for Tampa, for Port Tampa Bay, and for our local residents who will secure high-wage jobs. Tampa Tank’s expansion will kick off an historic revitalization of this important industrial asset, and fuel greater economic growth for our port community.” 

The company will lease two buildings at the port to fabricate steel and iron structures for export, and will invest some $18 million  into the expansion at Port Redwing. 

The Tampa Hillsborough Economic Development Corporation works to develop and sustain a thriving local economy through the attraction, retention and expansion of high wage jobs and capital investment within targeted industry sectors. Locally, the EDC helps existing businesses access the tools and resources they need to succeed, now and in the future.

Wristband developed in Tampa is designed to relieve nausea

For Jacqueline Darna, necessity truly was the mother of invention. While in the hospital for the birth of her second child, Darna felt so miserable from nausea that she couldn't even enjoy her newborn baby girl.

The only relief came when an anesthetist pressed a pair of peppermint leaves into Darna’s hands.

In the days that followed, she taped a small piece of medical gauze to the inside of her wrists, at the P6 pressure point. That, combined with smelling the peppermint leaves when a wave of nausea struck, was the best Darna could do while in the hospital.

Upon returning home, she searched for an anti-nausea product that combined these two well-documented strategies: acupressure and aromatherapy.

“None of the traditional drugs were working for me,” Darna explains. “The rest is history and the No Mo Nausea Band was born.”

The No Mo Nausea Band is the first natural oil infused acupressure and aromatherapy wristband designed to reduce nausea and vomiting from common causes like morning sickness, motion sickness, seasickness, and headaches.

“The quickest way to the brain is through the nose, so that is why I utilize aromatherapy of natural peppermint oil,” Darna explains. “Menthol is the active ingredient within peppermint oil that helps alleviate nausea and vomiting instantly. Medically, peppermint is a calcium channel blocker of the gastrointestinal tract, meaning that it relaxes an upset stomach.”

Darna was well equipped to develop the idea; she is an anesthesiologist assistant who graduated from the University of South Florida with a degree in biomedical sciences, religious studies and biomedical physics before earning dual masters degrees in health sciences & anesthesia from NOVA Southeastern.

No Mo Nausea is among the five startup businesses in the Tampa area who were selected by the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce as its 2015 class of Startup Scholars. The three-year-old Startup Scholars program engages participants in an eight-month mentorship program that focuses on providing growth and assistance in the areas of seed capital, best management practices, and sales growth.

Darna hopes to take away strategy, business knowledge and “lasting interpersonal relations with the business men and women I will meet” during the program.

She plans to use Startup Scholars seed capital for marketing to target areas: pregnant mothers, parents of children with carsickness, chemotherapy patients, and headache and migraine sufferers, to name a few.

Future goals include “becoming recognized as a leader in the Tampa business community, while associating my product, the No Mo Nausea Band, as a local household name,” Darna says.

Darna also plans to secure an office space and fulfillment center within Tampa to handle large distribution orders, which could lead to job creation down the line.

The No Mo Nausea band is endorsed by U.S. physicians and is considered the anti-nausea product of choice by NAUI licensed scuba divers, Darna says.

The band itself is slim, lightweight, waterproof and latex- and drug-free. A set of two costs $11.99 on the company’s website.

The 2015 Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce Startup Scholars class includes: No Mo Nausea, along with Arcturus Creative, a creative marketing team that builds custom visual brand strategies; Hannah’s Shoebox, a startup that specializes in custom shoes for all occasions for “tween” and preteen girls with larger shoe sizes; LilyPad, an activity management platform for professional workforces; and PikMyKid, a simple but streamlined mobile app that allows public schools in the U.S. to organize and manage the after-school dismissal process.

New St. Pete startup streamlines your workout

Reinvent the way you workout.

That’s the selling point behind Stacktive, a new St. Pete-based startup company that offers members a universal fitness membership to an array of area gyms and sports clubs.

Stacktive, founded by University of South Florida Saint Petersburg graduates Evan Brady and Reuben Pressman, launched in early February 2015 in St. Petersburg, Florida.

Stacktive aims to reduce the hassle of multiple gym memberships through a streamlined service. And like many startups, Stacktive was inspired by personal experience: at one point, CEO Brady maintained three separate memberships to a Crossfit gym, a boxing gym and a traditional gym.

“I had to pay full price at each, just to split my time between them. I definitely was not getting my money’s worth,” Brady said in a press release.

The company plans to expand to Tampa quickly, Pressman says – and to other cities in Florida throughout 2015, including Orlando and Miami.

“We've had lots of interest already and people saying they'll be signing up,” Pressman says. “We've begun discussions and have actually had partners in Tampa request to join already.”

Participating gyms can be found on the startup’s website. Stacktive has already secured partnerships with a wide range of 14 St Petersburg-area gyms and businesses. Stacktive partners specialize in crossfit, yoga, MMA, kickboxing, paddleboarding, and more.

There are multiple plans to choose from, capping out at $99 per month for unlimited access to partner gyms and studios. These include Crossfit 9, Elite Training Center, IAMFITNESS, Citygym, Elevate Fitness, YogaBlu, and others in St Petersburg. All partners are locally owned, boutique locations.

“You will never find the expertise and personal attention at a gym chain that you will at the boutique gyms and studios that Stacktive has partnered with,” says Brady.

Membership cards have been replaced with a mobile app for iOS and Android phones. Members will be able to work out at any participating gym in any city.

Stacktive is fully bootstrapped and may seek future funding.

A local perk? The startup offers unlimited kayak and paddleboard rentals in St. Petersburg to members. 

Pasco County opens its first STEAM magnet school

The nation’s best schools are places where children can grow, discover and learn in a collaborative environment, asking questions to help them gain a deeper understanding of subject matter in a way that facilitates lifelong learning.

That’s what Pasco County’s Sanders Memorial Elementary School plans to be when it opens in August, 2015. 

The county’s first magnet school for elementary students, Sanders has a unique emphasis on STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics) subjects. 

The STEAM focus is workforce-driven, with the prediction that jobs in STEM fields are increasing at double the rate of non-STEM fields. The addition of the arts exemplifies the role arts play in creative problem solving and innovative thinking critical to all careers. 

“That’s important to Pasco, when we look at college, career and life readiness,” says Jason Petry, recently appointed Principal at Sanders. “We want to start installing an excitement and curiosity about these subjects in students at a young age.”

A New Port Richey native and University of South Florida graduate, Petry has worked in Pasco County schools for all of his career. His passion and excitement about the learning environment at Sanders is evident by hearing him speak. 

“This school will look different, and it will feel different,” says Petry.

The LEED-certified buildings will feature group learning stations, where students will at times move in between classrooms during the day. The hands-on instruction will allow them to make real-world connections. To borrow from entrepreneurship education, Sanders will employ a “failing forward” philosophy, which believes that perseverance through failure is key to providing a positive learning experience. 

As a public school, Sanders will mirror other schools in the district. The curriculum will include the same core standards that other public schools adhere to, but with the addition of STEAM-focused subjects such as computer coding. Arts subjects such as design thinking, music and humanities will be integrated into the curriculum.

“Engagement is a big factor,” says Lauren Burdick, STEAM coordinator, K-12 for the Pasco County School District. “We want to create a felt need in students and relate that to concepts around STEAM.” 

With 1,699 applicants for the 762 openings at the school, the need is evident. According to Burdick, the county has implemented project-based learning and cross-curricular connections in other schools throughout the district as well. 

Pasco aims to expand the model to middle and high schools in the future.

USF Young Innovators compete for chance to appear on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon

Teams from the upcoming USF Young Innovator Competition could have the chance to appear on “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon.”
 
The University of South Florida, along with Tampa’s Museum of Science and Industry (MOSI Tampa) and Home Shopping Network (HSN), is sponsoring the contest to seek out innovative young inventors.
 
The USF Young Innovator Competition is open to students in grades K-8 in the Tampa Bay area. The top inventor will be awarded a $1,000 cash prize.

During a practice session on Feb 7 at the HSN studio in St. Petersburg, the top 10 finalists in the competition will be filmed presenting their innovative ideas. With parent permission, USF Young Innovator Competition leaders will send these videos on to "Tonight Show" producers, in hopes of helping finalists get selected to appear in an upcoming “Fallonventions” segment. 
 
Even if students don’t achieve a slot on the nationally televised show, all participants will win a day pass to MOSI. Finalists and runners-up earn additional awards, including cash prizes and annual family passes to MOSI.
 
In addition, each winner’s school receives a matching cash prize to support science and engineering programs.
 
Anton Hopen, director of the USF Young Innovator Competition, offers would-be young inventors a tip: build a model.
 
“Judges are looking for inventions that are creative, useful and could reasonably be produced,” Hopen says. “Students who actually try and build a prototype tend to have better invention descriptions, because the idea is more thought-out.”
 
The USF Young Innovator Competition is seeking ideas that identify a problem with current technology and offer a potential solution. Students will be expected to explain their invention and demonstrate how it works. Judging criteria includes creativity, persuasiveness, public benefit and marketability.
 
The top 10 finalists will present their ideas and prototypes at USF on Feb 11 (famed inventor Thomas Edison’s birthday) before a live panel of judges.
 
Several past finalists in the USF Young Innovator Competition have commercialized their inventions and secured patents, including Marissa Streng, Luke Anderson and George Seits.
 
 Interested students can now submit online or via paper copy before the entry deadline of Feb 1.
 
For full contest rules and details, visit the USF Young Innovator website or contact Anton Hopen, director of the USF Young Innovator Competition.

'Shark Tank'-style competition invites companies to compete for $1,000 prize

Tampa Bay area companies are invited to participate in a business competition that will award the winning idea with $1,000. ThinkPitch Tampa Bay is a first-time “Shark Tank” style tech event that will take place at TEC Garage in downtown St. Petersburg on Jan 27. 

Following the competition, a free Happy Hour Networking event will be held at Central Avenue Sports Bar in DTSP from 4:00 pm-6:00 pm.

IT professionals and companies who can provide innovative technology solutions, as well as “’out of the box’ thinkers,” are encouraged to participate, says Kristin Jackson, an account executive with event sponsor AC4S Consulting.

Jackson anticipates around 20 presenters in the free pitch competition, which will be held in a closed conference room at TEC Garage, the Tampa Bay Innovation Center’s incubator space. Each participating company will have 10 minutes to pitch ideas that would help solve problems for a Fortune 100 retailer, followed by a five-minute Q&A session.

Judges for ThinkPitch Tampa Bay include Martin Davis, a former Chief Technology Officer with Wells Fargo; Joanne Isham, a former Deputy Director for Science and Technology for the CIA; and Hugh Campbell, the CEO and president of AC4S and AC4S Consulting, Inc.

The ThinkPitch challenge: Solve problems for a Fortune 100 retailer.

The categories:
  • “Barcode Replacement: How can a retailer connect physical products to their digital identities, providing valuable information to both retailer and customers regarding the product that will help enable better decision making?
  • Next Generation Wearable Technology: How will wearable technology influence the way in which retailers operate their business today? What are the form factors around ways to make associates more ‘hands free’ while improving productivity, and what is the look and feel of that user interface?
  • Modular Integrity: How can a retailer stay in stock at the right place at the right time for customers on an ongoing basis?
  • Open: How can a large retail chain improve any aspect of their business with innovative technology solutions?”
Sponsored by AC4S Consulting and the Tampa Bay Innovation Center, ThinkPitch Tampa Bay will be held from 1:00 pm until 4:00 pm at TEC Garage, located at 244 2nd Avenue N. in St. Petersburg.

The First Prize for ThinkPitch is $1,000, while Second Prize is $500. Winners will be announced January 28.

For more information about the event, call (813) 609-4320 or find tickets.

Tech startup KiteDesk expands, adds 2 jobs in Tampa

A Tampa-born startup business is adding jobs as the company expands its presence both locally in the Tampa Bay area and in Silicon Valley during 2015.

KiteDesk, a cloud-based social sales platform, “will be hiring in all areas of our business,” says CEO Sean Burke. “Sales, marketing, product, development; as well as building a data science team.”

With the rapidly growing popularity of social media, platforms like Facebook, LinkedIn and KiteDesk provide ample opportunity for “social selling,” says Burke.

“Access to decision-makers through social channels has become a smarter option then trying to cold call them,” he explains.
Social selling is a form of modern sales that takes advantage of social platforms to find new clients.

By harnessing data from email, calendars and other sources, KiteDesk aims to facilitate the sales process by helping clients learn who to sell to and how to sell it. From platform customization to lead-generating criteria, the platform is geared toward increasing sales productivity for clients.

Social selling allows businesses to “grow their networks, listen and learn about (customer) interests, engage in meaningful dialogue with them, share valuable content with them, and guide them through the buying process,” Burke says. 

KiteDesk is currently hiring for an Operations Manager and Director of Marketing.

KiteDesk “takes culture seriously. It's an integral part of our hiring process,” Burke says. “We want people to challenge themselves and others to put out the best work possible, but balance that with enjoying the challenge and each other in the process.“ 

At the core of the company’s culture, says Burke, are shared values: individual responsibility, collaboration, creativity, transparency and humor.

“Each one of these values helps to guide us as we make important decisions - but humor allows us the freedom to be ourselves and to enjoy the journey.” 

The Tampa startup company, which was launched in 2011 by co-founders Jack Kennedy and Jared Rodriguez, was a part of the inaugural class of startups in the Tampa Bay WaVE FirstWaVE Accelerator program. KiteDesk is currently a coworking tenant at Tampa Bay WaVE, located at 400 North Ashley Drive, Suite 1500, in Tampa.

St. Petersburg Chamber announces $3,000 scholarship for Iron Yard student developers

The St. Petersburg Chamber of Commerce will provide one student with a $3,000 scholarship toward tuition for an upcoming course at The Iron Yard, an intensive 12-week coding class for developers.

“The Iron Yard has become another destination attractor for our community,” says the St. Pete Chamber’s president and CEO Chris Steinocher. “Talent from around the country are coming to St. Pete for this type of training, and it changes the paradigm of how we think about ourselves and our ability to compete for talent.”
 
The St. Pete Chamber is partnering with The Iron Yard to provide a scholarship to a student in part because The Iron Yard “fits so well in our community,” explains Steinocher. “Their unique and powerful model for cutting edge skill development is empowering for those seeking to pursue their passions.”

A $3,000 scholarship will be awarded to one student in The Iron Yard’s upcoming Tampa Bay - St. Petersburg Front End Engineering course, which begins on Jan 26.

The scholarship is centered on an innovative topic: “What would you build?”

Developers and interested students with little technical experience alike are invited to apply for the scholarship. Interested parties should apply for The Iron Yard’s Tampa Bay class starting on January 26th and include a 250 word essay explaining what kind of app or website you would build after graduating from The Iron Yard’s course. 

St. Pete has a sincere focus on nurturing a life-long learner -- and providing the lift for anyone wanting to work hard to pursue their dreams,” Steinocher says. ”This scholarship is just a symbol -- a welcome mat for Iron Yard and for those wanting to grow smarter in St Pete.”

The St. Petersburg Chamber of Commerce and The Iron Yard will jointly judge submissions and select one winner.

Applicants “should be energized by this new opportunity, need an intense interest in wanting to learn, and a willingness to make their dreams come true,” says Steinocher.

They should also “be willing to sleep a little less for the next 12 weeks,” he explains, “because it is an ‘all-in’ proposition.”

To learn more about The Iron Yard, visit their website.

Tampa Bay WaVE launches tech job board, seeks student interns

Tampa Bay WaVE has launched a new job board for tech-related positions with growing companies in the Tampa Bay community.
 
The board includes listing for jobs in the Tampa and St. Petersburg areas, primarily in the technology field. Typical listings include marketing or development work. 

A centralized job board for local tech positions “allows companies to pull from talent that’s in or around Tampa Bay WaVe already,” says WaVE marketing manager Gracie Stemmer.

Current listings include two positions with Tampa startup KiteDesk, a company that participated in WaVE’s Accelerator program for tech entrepreneurs. Along with the Accelerator program -- designed to help startup businesses succeed -- the Tampa Bay WaVE space in downtown Tampa’s Sykes building is also home to the First WaVE Venture Center, a coworking space for local entrepreneurs, and newly home to Gr8code, a code camp for kids and adults.

CBT Development and advertising agency 22squared are also among the small group of companies who have posted tech job listings on the Tampa Bay WaVe job board.

In addition to tech-related jobs with local Tampa companies, the Tampa Bay WaVE job board will also list in-house internship opportunities.
 
WaVE “has quite a robust internship program,” Stemmer says. “We’re always looking for interns in the fields of graphic design, writing and journalism, and business and marketing.”

Tampa Bay WaVE’s internship program is open to undergraduate and graduate students. Internships technically run for one semester, but Stemmer estimates that “90 percent of the time, our students will stay for more than two semesters.”

“Most of our students are there for more than a year,” she explains. “They get in, they love it and they don’t want to leave!”

Tampa Bay WaVE internships begin with a preliminary unpaid period, after which interns can qualify to be paid.
 
The job board is an additional amenity for current Tampa Bay WaVe members, while non-members may place job listings for a fee, or take advantage of sponsorship opportunities. To explore current listings or learn more about adding your own, visit the Tampa Bay WaVE job board or contact Gracie Stemmer.
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