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Clearwater company develops revolutionary wireless technology

An electrical engineer, Christopher Anderson had been working on the team that brought the communications systems on NASA’s Mars Exploration Program to life. He realized technology could do much more to connect people here on Earth. So he developed BRIDGE, a low-cost wireless switch capable of tapping into unused and under-used fiber optic networks, boosting the speed of communication and enabling augmented realities like holograms.

More than seven years in development, the device is smaller than a shoebox and can be installed on a light pole, building or other structure. It offers secure and reliable connections.

He and Program Director Zach Howe set up shop in Clearwater about six months ago as Connected Revolution, a for-profit company looking to enlist 100 communities across the nation to become the first to use the BRIDGE. It has set up a contest, with the goal of raising $500,000 per community to implement the technology.

“We’re hoping over time everybody is going to be [connected].” Howe says.

What BRIDGE does is bring the high-speed connectivity existing on Main Street to the last mile, where it can reach more users. “We eliminate those bottlenecks. We deliver the same speed fiber has down to the end point,” explains Anderson, President and Founder.

“It’s very much like having the fiber routed to your home or routed to your cellphone, but without the wire,” he adds.

With its contest launched July 4, Connected Revolution seeks to democratize connectivity and enlist the involvement of individuals, civic leaders and entrepreneurs, who can make money deploying the system.

“BRIDGE is not putting itself in the middle of this like a gatekeeper would, like a normal corporation would,” Anderson explains. “BRIDGE is facilitating open access to everything in this process.”

People can become involved by buying a T-shirt at the company’s website, or by donating, or by getting in touch.

“We’d like to see people get involved in whatever way they’d like to get involved,” Howe says.

What are the benefits to a community? According to its website, early adopters:
• have better, faster and more reliable service;
• can attract more technology-minded people limited by their current Internet providers;
• can scale it affordably;
• will be pioneers in the new ecosystem; and
• will be able to use augmented reality and artificial intelligence systems well.

Fiber networks are already in place to serve about 90 percent of the country. It exists within at least 10,000 feet even in rural areas. Connections to this fiber can be leased and its power can be harnessed, Anderson says.

“The possibilities, once you’ve gotten connected, are kind of endless,” Howe adds.

People who want their communities to be among the first adopters of the technology can generate funds by purchasing “Take the Internet Back!” T-shirts and Connected Revolution stickers. Funds also can be donated by individuals or local government, or even loaned to the community.

The BRIDGE will get things rolling as a facilitator, but ultimately others will be manufacturing equipment. Entrepreneur operators could make money as a service provider, or may even opt to offer it free.

“It could be that the Netflix of the world and the Amazon of the world, other media could be sharing their revenues with the switch operators,” Anderson says.

The Clearwater-based Redstone Technologies holds the BRIDGE patents and intellectual property rights. It also will be issuing licenses to switch operators.

Howe says they’ve been reaching out to Tampa Bay Area business and civic leaders about being part of the initial group. Thus far, five communities nationwide are participating in the contest, including an unidentified one in Florida, in addition to two communities in California and two in Colorado. There also was interest from other states.

An inaugural event is planned in the Tampa Bay Area in the fall to demonstrate the technology; details have not yet been firmed up. The program will begin rolling out to the first 100 communities in early 2019.

To spur augmented reality applications in the initial communities, Connected Revolution will launch a Million Dollar Developers Contest. Fifty projects will be awarded $20,000 in prizes through a hackathon.

“Whatever we do we try to do in the form of a contest,” Anderson adds.

Tampa grads develop expedited student loan repayment app

A Fast Company article about the shifting definition of The American Dream, published in July, reminds us that student loan debt repayment, as a hurdle to every other major life goal, is omnipresent for many people.

How can young graduates entering the workforce, or post-graduates aiming to give their career a boost, expect to build wealth if they have an average of $37,000 in student loan debt?

Two Tampa natives with their own challenging student loan debt situations have developed an innovative tool to help their colleagues, friends, and fellow borrowers. Spared.com is an app with a simple but powerful function: For everyday purchases, it rounds the total up to the next whole dollar and applies the change to a user’s student loan principal.

Spared also allows family members and those connected with users to match their repayment contributions, for even faster debt elimination.

On average, Spared will make additional payments of $30 to $50 on loans each month, above and beyond any payment already being made by the borrower. In the end, this process reduces the interest owed and lowers total repayment costs.

It sounds straightforward enough, but the app also integrates with users’ checking accounts and numerous loan providers, in order to automatically round up and make payments with the change.

CEO Ryan Lockwood (Jesuit High School class of 2006) says he long ago lost count of the hours used to develop Spared. A graduate of the University of South Florida with a BA in Marketing, Lockwood completed his MBA in entrepreneurship studies at the University of Tampa in 2017. 

“We founded the company in late 2016, brought on our CTO Kenny McGarvey [of Houston TX] shortly thereafter, and were lucky enough to snag Kathryn [Reina, Academy of the Holy Names class of 2006, now living in Los Angeles] in May of last year. We’ve all put in 100s of hours. Plus, buckets of metaphorical sweat, a few actual tears, and small amounts of blood commuting to/from the office by bicycle.”

Once the app is beta tested, the team will do a hard launch.

“Down the road, we’d like to expand into other forms of debt (credit, auto, mortgage). We really want to drill down on student debt first, though. Much of the team working on Spared labors under its yoke, but, more importantly, our entire generation is struggling with this. 

"We’re all extremely motivated by the opportunity to alleviate that burden for so many of our friends and family.”

Two things the team is watching closely are H.R. 795 and risk-sharing proposals for higher education. 

H.R. 795, or the Employer Participation in Student Loan Assistance Act, would allow employers to make up to $5,250 in tax-free contributions toward employees’ student loans. The bill also proposes to make this benefit pre-tax. Currently, employer contributions to student loans are considered post-tax, so aren’t particularly advantageous for either party. 

If it passes, companies get a great employee attraction/retention tool, borrowers can get some much-needed assistance from their employers. And, it presents a good opportunity for Spared to be a part of that solution.

There are also several risk-sharing in higher education proposals in front of Congress. 

Their intent is put institutions of higher education partly on the hook for the success or failure of their students. Not only does this stand to increase the quality of education, but it also represents an opportunity for tools like Spared. 

Many of the proposals suggest using either the repayment rate or default rate as the measure of institutional performance in this matter. Spared can help institutions of higher education remain below these thresholds for “punishment.”

Visit the Spared website to sign up for beta testing ahead of its official release on iOS and Android platforms.

NASA awards seed grant to USF for wastewater research

NASA has awarded a one-year seed grant to the University of South Florida to research a sewage waste recycling system and energy/nutrient extraction system for potential use in space and on Mars explorations.

“Being able to grow food in places like Mars is really critical,” says Daniel Yeh, an associate professor in the College of Engineering, whose focus is environmental engineering. “NASA has made it a priority that they are going to have to develop technology to grow food on Mars.”

Yeh points out NASA already has proven technologies it is using at the International Space Station to recycle urine and sweat for drinking water.

“NASA already has within its portfolio many technologies for water treatment, including that for water recycling aboard the International Space Station (ISS), which has been running successfully for almost a decade,” he explains. “The NEWgenerator is being evaluated as a potential technology due to new desires and commitments by NASA and private companies for exploring deep space, including putting humans on Mars within the next 15-20 years.”

Starting this month, USF is working with the Kennedy Space Center to see if its NEWgenerator, which it’s been working on for the last decade, can be adapted for space. The amount of the grant wasn’t available.

“New technologies will be needed for new methods to grow food and the complete recycling of all wastes. This is why NASA is taking a look at our technology as a potential candidate,” he says. “This is a rigorous multi-year process with a lot of evaluations and tests along the way, to ensure that, whatever technologies are chosen, they will be high-performing, reliable and safe.”

While sewage treatment plants typically are large, and take up a lot of space, the new prototype must be compact. “Think of it as a very efficient sewage treatment plant in a small box,” he says.

The system uses a filtration membrane and microorganisms to break down the waste. The Earth’s elements are building blocks that are stored, used, pulled apart, and used again, similar to Lego parts stored in bins, he explains.

“Our first priority is to get rid of them [germs] so it will be completely sanitary,” he continues. “That’s something we can’t compromise on.”

They’ve done the groundwork in India and South Africa, where they’ve been treating toilet waste and testing it. “We’re getting really good,” he says.

For space use, the USF research will endeavor to make the system smaller, so it will serve four to six people.

“We need to make it appropriate for zero gravity applications,” he says.

An environmental engineering student starting his master’s studies, Talon Bullard, will be developing the prototype of a NEWgenerator for space as his thesis.

After the initial year, they hopefully can get another grant to further the research, he says. Eventually, it will need to be tested in space.

“You can only test it so far on Earth,” he says, explaining zero gravity “is difficult to mimic.”

A prototype also needs to be maintained in space. “You need to design the system so that undesirable failure will not happen,” he says.

That might involve changing parts during regular maintenance, before they actually break. “What’s exciting for us is learning about how they [NASA] handle risk and how they deal with failure, so we can actually engineer our system so that it’s incredibly reliable,” he adds.

Tech Bytes: Property management platform caters to independent owners

Property management may be a side gig for some real estate agents, who are limited in how much property they can manage by time constraints and third-party services. But a new property management company, which recently opened a Tampa office, is changing the game.

Originally founded on the historic Great Jones Street in New York City in January 2017, Great Jones is now expanding in Florida. “We’ve got a lot of runway and are growing,” says Dave Diaz, Co-Founder and Head of Operations, who started the company with Co-Founders Jay Goldklang, CEO, and Abigail Besdin.

The company, which has moved its New York office to Chinatown, opened in its first Florida market in Fort Myers late last year. Then it opened in Tampa earlier this year -- and in Orlando a month ago. Its goal is to bring cutting-edge technology to mom-and-pop-styled property owners, who may lease one or a dozen properties.

Great Jones brings them volume discounts on repair and maintenance, an owner’s online portal where they can monitor their properties, and the potential to set notifications on issues that concern them (and turn them off when they don’t).

“We saw what could be on the institutional side. We saw how cost-effective an individual home could be operated if it is aggregated in a portfolio of thousands of homes,” says John Rapisarda, VP of New Market Development, who is overseeing the office at 442 W. Kennedy Blvd., Suite 280.

Great Jones just does property management, focusing on rental properties such as single-family homes, townhomes, condos and small multi-family complexes. It handles rentals, rent collection, upkeep and eviction should it become necessary, charging placement and monthly management fees.

What sets them apart from others in this market is the technology. “To benefit the owners, one of the things we’re delivering to them is transparency,” Rapisarda says.

The owner portal allows them to see when the rent is paid, when the plumbing repair bill arrives, the name of the resident, and how many people are living on the property.

“It’s unique in this space. It’s just not something you can get from a local property management operation,” he adds.

It also gives individual property owners the advantage of scale that institutional owners enjoy, such as price discounts on refrigerators or plumbing repairs, for example.

“We’ve got some negotiating power and we leverage that to save our owners money,” Rapisarda explains.

He adds that property management has remained static in many ways. “Property management has been around since the first caveman let the other caveman stay in his cave,” he says. “It really hasn’t changed a whole lot since then. With the trend toward consolidation in just about every industry in the world, somehow third-party property management is still massively fragmented.”

Property management firms have been limited by the platforms they rely on, and humans who track everything, Diaz says.

Great Jones is poised to open in two more markets later this year. “We are not sure where yet,” he says.

Tampa is one of its fastest-growing, with “well over a hundred units in three months,” says the former resident. He cites as reasons its “great market” and “thriving investment community.”

Business opportunities make Florida a logical place to grow. “Florida was home for me. I live in Fort Myers,” he says. “It just seems like a logical place to start.”

He adds that he’s “bullish” on Florida’s economy, with its growth potential and “great vendor network.”

Despite their emphasis on technology, people are an important part of their endeavor -- and a specialized staff helps set it apart. “I don’t believe an app will ever completely replace the full-service business,” he says. “You have to have people on the ground. You just have to.”

Read on for more tech news in Tampa Bay.

• SOFWERX, a Tampa organization collecting and encouraging the development of ideas that might help Special Operations Forces, is advertising some job openings at 1925 E. 2nd Ave. It is currently listing three full-time job openings – one each for a web developer/designer, program manager, and contract specialist. Learn more at Indeedjobs.

• Pitch Night is coming up for Tampa Bay Wave’s TechDiversity Accelerator companies, whose cohort is being financed by the Nielsen Foundation. It’s scheduled at 6 p.m., Thursday, July 12, at Station House, 260 1st Ave. S., St. Petersburg. Sign up for Pitch Night here.

In other Wave news, tech executives and entrepreneurs Tony DiBenedetto and Steven MacDonald are now the Wave’s first Executive Entrepreneurs-in-Residence. Their goal is to mentor Wave companies in the Grow category, who are focusing on fundraising and scaling up.

Wave was given a Technology Impact Award by InBIA, a global nonprofit that supports entrepreneurial development programs. InBIA recognizes high-impact organizations worldwide on a monthly basis in six categories: Technology, Mixed Use, University, Biotech/Cleantech, Rural, and Specialty.

• The nonprofit Synapse’s first innovation challenge, which has the goal of developing an application to gather wellness data and create wellness promotion profiles, is now underway. Learn more.

• Want to learn more about intellectual property rights? Attorney Brent Britton, a managing partner with de la Peña & Holiday, LLP in Tampa, will talk about “Ownability -- How Intellectual Property Works” from 2:30 p.m. to 4 p.m. Thursday, June 21, at USF Connect, Oak View Room, 3802 Spectrum Blvd., Tampa. Learn more.

• Tour Florida Funders with Homebrew Hillsborough, Hillsborough County’s monthly collaborative coffee for techies and entrepreneurs. This month’s gathering is at 8:30 a.m. Friday, June 29, at 1311 N. Westshore Blvd., Suite 101, Tampa. Florida Funders is a venture capital fund/crowdfunding platform that invests in early-stage technology companies. Check it out.

• Nonprofits and social enterprises will have a chance to pitch their organizations at Fast Pitch, an event similar to the TV show Shark Tank. The event by Social Venture Partners Tampa Bay is set for 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 25, at The Palladium Theatre in St. Petersburg. The application period, which opened June 1, closes on Sunday, July 15.

• Florida Polytechnic University in Lakeland will be hosting the Green Chemistry, Engineering and Technologies Conference July 18 and 19 in partnership with Panjab University of India and Molekule, Inc. The event will enable leaders of academia, industry, and government to come together and discuss advanced research and the development of next-generation green chemistry, engineering and technologies. It also will potentially further the advancement of an international curriculum and graduate studies on the topic. The first international GCET conference was held last year in Chandigarh, India.

In other Florida Poly news, the university is hosting a week-long Florida Poly Executive Leadership Course August 5 though 10. Florida business executives are invited to participate in the course designed by Harvard University professors for mid-career executives who want to improve their leadership skills. The registration deadline is July 22. To learn more, email Florida Poly or call 863-874-8614.

Some 30 underprivileged high school students attended Florida Poly’s first Summer STEAM Boot Camp. The week-long camp began May 29 and included instruction in science, engineering, mathematics, arts and technology. The pilot program was held in partnership with Polk State College.

Young inventors represent Tampa Bay at national convention

Cambria Pryor, a gifted 9-year-old home-schooled student from St. Petersburg, invented “Reminder Switch,” a colorful device to encourage and remind people to turn off their lights. Katrina Halpern, a Tampa sixth-grader, created Zip It, an affordable backpack to deter thefts.

Pryor and Halpern were among eight Tampa Bay students who traveled to Dearborn, MI, to participate in the third annual National Invention Convention and Entrepreneurship Expo. The event by the STEMIE Coalition, a nonprofit promoting Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math instruction in kindergarten through 12th grade, was held at The Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation on June 1.

Tracy Zuluaga, STEMIE’s affiliate in Florida and executive director of the Valrico-based Bright Young Minds Coalition, called it a “landmark year” for the students, who exhibited “next to world innovators.”

“That’s never happened before,” she explains. “Many parents referred to it as a life-changing event.”

Pryor claimed first place among fourth-graders at the Florida Invention Convention in May, along with a ribbon for Best Research, earning her an invitation to the national competition. There was little time to prepare, but her grandmother Marianne Lazzara did some quick fundraising through her home business Dish-a-licious Kitchen, which sells desserts and Lazzara’s sauce and meatballs.

“I’m still making the food,” she reports after their return. “Some people just donated. They just wanted to contribute to a wonderful opportunity.”

Pryor came up with her project through the gifted program at Azalea Elementary, which she attends part-time as part of her curriculum. A school project on simple machines initially propelled her into the state competition.

She says she saw people forgetting to turn off the lights, so she came up with the idea. “It’s good for the electricity and for the Earth and it saves money,” she explains.

Along with attraction-getting colors, she’s added a pulley and wedge to help handicapped people in a wheelchair reach the light. She’s got three more ideas -- and says she thinks she’ll be inventing for her “whole life.”

What does she like about inventing? “That I get to make different things and make the world a better place,” she says.

Halpern, a student at Academy at the Lakes in Land O’ Lakes who placed third in her grade level at state, developed a backpack that is inherently secure, says her father, Peter Halpern. Instead of relying on locks, the design features no zippers in accessible areas, restricting access even to recess pockets.

She learned about the need for the backpack through her school’s sister school in Nepal, where theft of notebooks, pens, and paper from backpacks is a problem.

She’s been entrepreneurially minded since age 5, when she made lemonade, brownies, and cookies (with help) to sell to neighbors mowing their lawns, cleaning their cars, or working in their yards on Saturdays.

Here are the other students who attended the national convention.

• Nate Smith, a Land O’Lakes sixth-grader from Academy at the Lakes, invented a battery-operated cooling device for collapsible sports chairs that relies on a block of ice and fan. It’s called Air Chair.

• Chloe Kamat, a fifth-grader from Odessa, created a solution for falling and bunched-up bed blankets: Snuggle Sides. It relies on velcro to hold the blankets in place. Kamat also is a student at Academy at the Lakes.

• Sky Smatsky, a Tampa sixth-grader from Academy at the Lakes, invented Cool Canine to keep dogs comfortable while in bed. It turns on a fan automatically when the temperature gets hot, preventing overheating.

• Stella Curry, a Tampa eighth-grader from Academy at the Lakes, created a stuffed bear to help refugees called Bear of My Heart. It comes with pouches for food and water, plus a flashlight, and can trigger a solar-powered GPS tracker.

• Annalisa Ureña, a Tampa seventh-grader who attends Family Christ School in Tampa Palms, designed a band to help the visually and hearing impaired navigate streets by replacing visible direction with vibration.

• Luke Magnusson, a 5th-grader from Wesley Chapel, and the son of Academy at the Lakes teacher, Elizabeth Magnusson, invented Safe Nail. The device can hold any size nail in place while you hammer it in, so your fingers are safe.

The national convention furthers invention education, which stimulates STEM and entrepreneurial ideas. Bright Young Minds already is working with school districts in Hillsborough, Pinellas, and Pasco counties to further invention education -- and expects to expand to 10 other districts statewide in the fall. Among them are Sarasota, Manatee and Polk.

It also will be adding an entrepreneurial curriculum developed by a student, Emily Stein of Potomac, MD, which has become a year-long elective course. “We are releasing that curriculum in Florida,” Zuluaga says. “My goal is for kids to understand what their options are when they graduate high school.”

Boys and Girls Club ramping up job path program

Hassan Lewis is an articulate, 21-year-old working as senior program specialist at Boys and Girls Clubs of Tampa Bay. A senior studying social sciences at the University of South Florida, Lewis knows what it’s like to feel the need for extra support in middle school. And he likes to give back.

“I think back to when I was in middle school,” he says. “It feels like the pressure of high school is coming.”

So Lewis, who oversees a group of fifth graders, offers coaching and mentoring to them, helping the boys and girls to have a sense of belonging. It’s all part of what the Boys and Girls Clubs have been doing to reach youths early and help them plan their career paths.

The Boys and Girls Clubs is gearing up the effort with the official launch of a program called Think Big for Kids. Led by a volunteer, Tony DiBenedetto, tech entrepreneur and former CEO of Tribridge, the program targets underprivileged students 12 to 18.

It started in 2016 after DiBenedetto recognized Boys and Girls Club students had a general lack of awareness about potential careers. He and a team created a plan including on-the-job training, trade school certification, and a two- or four-year degree, depending on the career track. DiBenedetto also recruited some businesses to help.

Chris Letsos, President and CEO of Boys and Girls Clubs of Tampa Bay, says they recognized working with high schoolers was a bit late. “We really needed to focus on career exploration activities in middle school,” he explains.

The goal is to “focus on ending generational poverty and addressing the opportunity gap and achievement gap that our kids face,” he says.

They’ve been working with some 400 to 500 youths, initially in Town ‘n’ Country and East Tampa. They are now in eight middle schools including Webb and Pierce, Town ‘n’ Country; Marshall and Tomlin, Plant City; Shields Middle, Ruskin; Greco, Temple Terrace; and Chasco, Port Richey.

“Our goal is to serve 2,000 kids through 2022 through Think Big for Kids,” he says.

Partnering on the Think Big for Kids initiative are Tribridge, Bank of America, Haneke Design, Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office, JDP Electric, Painters on Demand, ReliaQuest and Tampa General Hospital.

Letsos says they are looking for additional partners, whether they are individuals or businesses, who want to participate in the project. Interested parties should contact DiBenedetto.

“We can’t do this on our own,” he says. “This is a community problem that only the community can help us address.”

Ultimately, it’s more than just career placement, Letsos points out.

According to The Sentencing Project, a Washington-D.C.-based organization advocating for a fair and effective justice system, the United States leads the world in the number of people incarcerated, with 2.2 million in prisons and jails. In the last 40 years, there’s been a 500 percent increase -- at least in part because of harsher sentencing penalties. It also says the number incarcerated for drug offenses has skyrocketed.

“We have to do better by our kids,” Letsos says.

Learn how to write a resume, attend job fairs

When you’re jobseeking, a resume is required. But not everyone has an effective one, if they have one at all.

Ron Smalls is trying to do something about that. The owner of Paving the Way Consultancy in Lutz, he provides free resume-writing training at places like the public libraries.

“We’ve had a good number of people coming,” he says. “Our goal is to get people into jobs, and also to help them maintain jobs.”

The classes rotate among Tampa area libraries and other venues. “We keep it on the move,” he says. “It’s accessible to everyone.”

He’s holding the next workshop from 6:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, July 10, at 5508 Co-Working & Collaborative Exchange, 5508 N. 50th St., Suite 14, Tampa.

“The workshop will cover pivotal information that job seekers should be aware for their resumes,” Smalls says. “We will be covering items such as, what you should and should not include on your resume, understanding how properly formatting your resume is essential for the person reviewing it, and how to make your resume stand out among your peers.” 

Because it’s interactive, attendees will have the opportunity to ask questions.

Want a few quick tips ahead of time? “Never put your address on your resume,” Smalls says. When you do that, you risk having the employer decide for you if your commute would be too long.

He also suggests only putting “relevant” information on your resume. 

Smalls knows what it’s like to be trying to find a job without knowing the ins and outs. So he decided to help. He is partnering with the non-profit Xtreme Rise of Tampa.

As an organizational development consultant, Smalls works with businesses throughout the hiring and expansion process.

Check out some upcoming job fairs in Tampa.

• A free, construction industry job fair is slated from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the EpiCenter at St. Petersburg College, 13805 58th St. N., Clearwater. The job fair, hosted by CareerSource Pinellas and CareerSource Tampa Bay, will include 25 employers with more than 100 open positions. There are jobs for carpenters and electricians, plus heating, ventilating and air conditioning technicians and more. To avoid registration lines, jobseekers are advised to pre-register at CareerSource Pinellas, where more information is available. Uber is providing a 20 percent discount on rides to and from the event with the code CAREERSOURCEFL.

• CareerIntro has a Tampa Career Fair planned from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Thursday, June 14, at Crowne Plaza, 5303 W. Kennedy Blvd., Tampa. The event, which is free to jobseekers, brings together job candidates of varying experience levels and representatives of local, regional, and Fortune 500 Companies who have job openings. Register here.

• Coast-to-Coast Career Fairs is having a Tampa Career Fair from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday, June 18, at Holiday Inn Tampa Westshore Airport, 700 N. Westshore Blvd., Tampa. Coast-to-Coast works with employers in a wide variety of fields including accounting, advertising, banking, construction, education, electronics, green technology, health, retail, telecommunications and travel. Jobseekers can register for free here.

• If you’d like to work on a cruise ship, there’s a job fair for that. Norwegian Cruise Line has a Cruise Ship Job Fair scheduled at 9 a.m. or 2 p.m. Tuesday, June 26, at AC Hotel Tampa Airport, 4020 W. Boy Scout Blvd., Tampa. Registration begins at 9 a.m. During the session, job contenders will learn about shipboard employment. Interviews will follow. Jobseekers can apply online for a variety of positions including assistant cook, assistant waiter, butcher, restaurant steward and stateroom steward. Learn more.

• JobNewsUSA is holding a job fair from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Wednesday, June 27, at George M. Steinbrenner Field, 1 Steinbrenner Dr., Tampa. The event is free for jobseekers, who will be able to meet face-to-face with recruiters and hiring managers. Job candidates are advised to dress for an interview and bring 10 to 20 copies of an updated resume. Learn more.

• Unable to get to a job fair? Attend the Tampa Virtual Job Fair from the comfort of your own home. More than 20 companies are slated to participate in the job fair from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. Thursday, June 28, online. The free event is being held by Career Showcase, a job fair firm specializing in sales, business development, financial services, customer service/call center and marketing recruiting. Check it out here.

Ignite Tampa Bay: A night of inspiration and networking

Some 21 speakers are expected to share their creative ideas and plans at the eighth annual Ignite Tampa Bay on June 13 at Palladium Theater in St. Petersburg.

In just five minutes each, the presenters will address the crowd on a variety of thought-provoking topics.

“You’re probably going to learn something,” says Peter Radizeski, the event’s 2018 organizer.

Talks will cover cancer, blockchain and art theft, 3D surgical printing -- and more, with each speech backed by 20 slides that change every 15 seconds. An executive committee chose the speakers from some 70 submissions, with the goal of stimulating conversation and thought.

“We have some really dynamic speakers,” he adds. “It’s going to entertaining.”

Marvin Scaff will emcee the event, which includes networking. Among the presenters are Bill Carlson, whose topic is “A New Economic Model in Tampa,” and Dulani Porter, who will speak on “Going Tribal: Creating a Culture Where Creativity Thrives.”

Others include Sharon Britton, on the “Peaceful Revolution;” Monica Gray, on “I Hate Cancer;” Jordan Nickel, on “Men are Coming Home!” and Tony Francisco, on “The Best Mistake You Will Ever Make!”

The eighth annual Ignite Tampa Bay is scheduled at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, June 13, at the Palladium Theater in St. Petersburg. Doors open at 6 p.m. General admission is $25.  

The event, similar to a TED-X talk, has its roots in the Tampa Bay startup community, is being held by the nonprofit Technova Florida Inc., a volunteer organization dedicated to growing the Tampa Bay technology community. Presenting sponsor is Sourcetoad, a custom software company in Tampa.

Want to learn more? Check out some talks from prior years here.


Job News: TCS expanding into Tampa Bay Area; Mosaic move anticipated

Tata Consultancy Services has become the third-party administrator of Transamerica’s insurance and annuity products, a move that has resulted in the transfer of more than 430 former Transamerica employees to TCS in St. Petersburg.

“This enables Transamerica to rapidly enhance its digital capabilities, simplify the service of more than 10 million policies into a single integrated modern platform, and drive greater sustainable growth opportunities through superior customer experiences,” says Balaji Ganapathy, TCS’s Head of HR Workforce Effectiveness.

TCS, a major creator of U.S. IT services jobs, has invested nearly $3 billion in the United States in the last three years.

“Hiring has been happening since April for several technology and operations roles. As and when new positions open up, we will continue to hire,” Ganapathy says.

Plans call for expanding the company's educational programs in the area. “As part of TCS's ongoing investment in the region, we plan to expand our flagship goIT education program, which launched successfully last year in St. Petersburg,” Ganapathy says. “The program has been inspiring underserved youth to explore app development, design thinking, and technology careers since 2009.”

The company will be partnering with local schools and youth-serving organizations to encourage tech-related careers.

It also will be starting its Ignite My Future in School program in the area soon, although a timeline wasn’t available. Discovery Education in Florida provides free professional development and digital resources to educators. The goal is to integrate computational thinking into all subjects to build that foundational skill.

“Even though we have not yet formally launched the Ignite My Future in Schools program in Florida, local teachers are already downloading and implementing the program into their classrooms,” Ganapathy says. “In fact, Florida is in the top 10 states (#7) for downloading the curriculum, helping to achieve the program’s goal of reaching 20,000 educators and 1 million students over a five-year period.”

The agreement comes at a time when company expansions and relocations are bringing a substantial number of new jobs to the Tampa Bay market. The Tampa area added 33,300 new jobs in the private sector during the last year, making it second to Orlando as the highest metro area statewide for job creation, according to a May 18 announcement by Florida Gov. Rick Scott. The highest number of jobs were in leisure and hospitality, with 9,300, followed by education and health services, 6,300, and financial activities, 6,200.

Here’s a look at some other opportunities in Tampa Bay.

The Mosaic Company, a Fortune 500 company based in Plymouth, MN, has decided to move its headquarters to Hillsborough County. The company announced in May that it would move its headquarters, senior executives and related functions to Hillsborough to improve access to its new acquisition, the Brazilian fertilizer company Vale Fertilizantes. Among the anticipated benefits are cost savings and the ability to magnify its presence in Central Florida, where it is a large employer with a significant economic impact. Details of the move still were under consideration. Follow Innovation & Job News in 83 Degrees for future career possibilities.

• A custom battery firm, Resistacap Energy Products, will be moving its headquarters from Huntsville, AL, to Hillsborough County. The company announced in May it will hire 100 local employees for a variety of positions including assembly, soldering, welding and accounting and invest up to $500,000 in equipment and building renovation. Resistacap provides custom batteries, battery packs, and chargers, including leading-edge products to the medical, military and aerospace, safety and hand-held electronics industries. The new headquarters will be at 12180 Race Track Road.

• A U.K.-based recruiting company, which specializes in the technology sector, has chosen Tampa for a new office, with plans to hire 100 employees, according to a May announcement. Frank Recruitment Group, which chose Tampa because of its fast-growing technology labor pool, provides full training to its sales associates. The office is in downtown Tampa at 501 E. Kennedy Blvd.

Lockheed Martin has opened a new manufacturing facility in Pinellas Park and is expected to hire more than 80 by mid-2019. The move follows the addition of 30 jobs late last year for increased F-35 production. The company has added an additional 65,500 square feet of manufacturing and office space. The Bethesda, MD-based security and aerospace company employs about 14,400 in Florida; the new jobs will boost Pinellas Park’s numbers from 270 to 350.

• An innovative Danish designer and manufacturer has chosen Tampa for its first U.S. subsidiary. The company Liftup USA, which helps the disabled, injured and elderly achieve greater mobility, announced in May that it would hire 20 people to fill a variety of positions. Liftup, which will be investing up to $350,000, was expecting to hire regional distribution managers, logistics managers, sales professionals, and production and warehouse associates. The parent corporation, Liftup A/S, is based in Stoevring, Denmark.

Innovation Fusion: Wix and Waze leaders to share journey at Tampa event

Innovation Fusion, the signature event for The Florida-Israel Business Accelerator (FIBA), is expected to draw 500 people to hear top tech executives and meet representatives of the accelerator’s latest eight-member cohort.

Danny Brigido, Director of Customer Solutions in Miami for the Tel Aviv-based Wix website development platform, will be talking about the challenge of hiring tech employees in Florida. Aron DiCastro, Waze Head of Global Partnerships and Business Development, will be sharing about Waze’s integration into Google and plans for growth.

Brigido, who developed Miami’s Wix office, will be speaking about how he hired more than 100 Floridians for the operation, which provides support to users of the platform. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Communications from the University of Tampa and a master’s degree in Animation from The Savannah College of Arts and Design.

A GPS navigation app, Waze was built by an Israeli startup acquired by Google for $1.3 billion in 2013. DiCastro, who has relocated from Tel Aviv to Google headquarters in Silicon Valley, has been heading global business development and partnerships at Waze for more than a year. In the past, he led the Google 'Startup Nation' Department involving international business.

The event presented by Valley National Bank culminates the introductory portion of the cohort program for companies interested in doing business in the U.S. market. “The purpose of Innovation Fusion is to bring together the Tampa Bay community around exciting innovation happening in our area,” says Rachel Marks Feinman, FIBA’s Executive Director. 

It attempts to build a bridge between the Israeli innovation ecosystem and what is happening in the Tampa Bay community, she says.

“The companies that we’re serving really have no connection or tie to Tampa Bay other than through FIBA,” she says.

The event, scheduled from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Wednesday, June 13, at Bryan Glazer Family JCC, 522 N. Howard Ave., Tampa, is expected to attract about 200 more people than the inaugural Innovation Fusion event last year. At that time a member of the 2017 cohort, Tomobox, announced it was opening its U.S. headquarters in Tampa.

Another cohort company, Stemrad, has also chosen to open a U.S. subsidiary in Tampa -- and hired former FIBA Executive Director Jack Ross.

More accomplishments are anticipated through FIBA. “We expect similar successes from our 2018 cohort. It’s a little early to make any announcements,” Feinman says.

Founded by the Tampa Jewish Community Centers and Federation, in late 2016, FIBA is working closely with community partners such as Synapse, a Tampa nonprofit working to better connect members of the area’s entrepreneurial ecosystem, and Tampa Bay Wave, a nonprofit accelerator for tech businesses.

It also recently worked with a University of Tampa public relations class to craft media plans for the organization.

“We’re all working together as a community to make sure that we have all the necessary tools in the toolkit, if you will, for our growing companies to be successful,” Feinman says.

She adds that Tampa Bay has a “well of talent” that may not necessarily be trained, or have experience in tech jobs.

“I think over the next several years we’ll see an influx of that talent grow here,” she says.

Here are the companies in the 2018 cohort:
• BetterCare, which aims to improve nursing home care by enhancing communication between caregivers, nurses and staff;
• ECOncrete, whose goal is to change the way our coastlines look and function through cost-efficient concrete solutions to rising sea levels and superstorms;
• Nucleon, the provider of an innovative cyber threat monitoring system to protect users from professional hackers, governments and other attackers;
• UC-Care, a developer and manufacturer of medical devices for urologists working with prostate cancer;
• GlobeKeeper, an encrypted communication platform designed to keep security personnel safe, saves money and improves decision-making;
• Intervyo, an advanced interview simulation engine able to screen job applicants and accurately gauge their suitability for the position;
• Say, which enables you to wear your display on clothes or accessories and control it with your smartphone; and
• WiseShelf, which offers dynamic inventory management to retailers through low-cost hardware and sophisticated software. It also helps businesses fill online orders.

To register, or get more information about the companies, visit the FIBA website.

USF to host Young Universities Summit in Tampa

In the world of education, a university that is less than 50-years-old is considered young. It may compete with older, more established universities with centuries of history and global reputations.

So young universities have been meeting annually in places like Barcelona, Spain, and Brisbane, Australia, to talk about common challenges. Organized by the U.K.-based Times Higher Education (THE), the Young Universities Summit has never been held in North America. Until now.

Nearly 200 presidents and other education leaders from across the globe are expected to converge on Tampa June 5-7 to attend the summit hosted by the University of South Florida.

“We were deeply honored to be asked to host,” says Ralph Wilcox, USF Provost and Executive Vice President. “We’re just immensely proud that THE recognized the great strides that the University of South Florida has made in partnership with the Tampa Bay community.

He notes USF cannot become a “world powerhouse in education” without the community, nor can the community achieve its goals without a powerful foundation in higher education.

The summit will be an opportunity for education leaders to learn from each other.
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“The University of South Florida found ways to overcome those [higher education] challenges, and they wanted to be sure other universities, young universities from across the United States and around the world, have the opportunity to visit Tampa and to visit the University of South Florida,” says Wilcox, who holds a doctorate in Global Studies from the University of Alberta, Canada.

Founded in 1956, USF falls into Times Higher Education’s category of Golden Age universities opened to meet the demand of service members returning from World War II. Nine of Florida’s 12 public universities fall into the Golden Age or young university categories being served by the summit.

Times Higher Education ranked USF seventh among public U.S. universities in the Golden Age category in April 2017.   

Whether the university is 50 or 70, they share common challenges largely associated with competing against institutions with reputations dating back as much as 900 years.

“One identifies those universities that have a brand that’s been established,” Wilcox says. “That doesn’t necessarily mean that they are better than. They are more recognized than the younger universities.”

Younger institutions tend to be more ambitious, dynamic and agile. Sometimes they possess a greater ability to be relevant in the areas of entrepreneurship and innovation, he says.

“There are advantages with being young, and those advantages tend to rest around our sense of agility and nimbleness to respond to change, to respond to the needs of the marketplace,” he says.

Younger universities tend to focus on research that has a high impact. “We’re looking to improve the well-being of the community we serve,” he explains.

At USF, much of the $550 million dedicated to research is focused on improving health, the environment or the needs of financial institutions, business and industry in the region and beyond.

“We tend to embrace innovation and entrepreneurship in ways that older universities tend not to -- and arguably have no need for,” he adds. “All too often they are quite comfortable.”

The summit features keynote speaker Andrew Hamilton, president of New York University and former vice-chancellor of the University of Oxford, who will talk about his experiences in higher education. Other dignitaries are coming to speak from Israel, Scotland, France, England and Finland.


Tech Bytes: PikMyKid ramps up school safety efforts

With recent school shootings and other tragedies elevating concerns about the safety of students in schools, a Tampa company – through its use of technology -- is positioned to help make a difference.

Founded in 2015 after a mistake in a school pickup line resulted in retrieving the wrong child, PikMyKid is gaining attention as a problem solver. Its founders are headed for San Francisco to participate as a finalist in an international software-and-information-industry competition June 13.

We’ve always been seen as a startup so far,” says Chitra Kanagaraj, Co-Founder and Chief Operations Officer. “This is the award that is beyond startup.”

The company was named a finalist in the 2018 SIIA CODiE Award contest, Best Emerging Education Technology Solution for Administrators category, after virtual presentations. It was one of 152 finalists in 39 education technology categories.

 

PikMyKid, which now operates in public and private schools in 27 states, began rolling out a school-safety training program in Florida this month. That follows the release of its panic-button alert system being offered free while schools test the program and plan next year’s budget. The company's goal is to get initial responders to schools faster when there are intruders.

“We are giving schools one product that they can just focus on if there is a safety issue,” Kanagaraj says.

The company got off the ground with help from the Tampa Bay Technology Incubator at USF Connect and the Startup Scholars at the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce. Now part of the Tampa Bay WAVE program, it also works with the TEC Garage in downtown St. Petersburg.

The mixup that inspired the company occurred when her husband, Pat Bhava, now Co-Founder and CEO of PikMyKid, went to pick up their fifth-grader and ended up with another girl in the backseat. The error was swiftly corrected, but it did trigger concern.

“It was really something we could change, rather than blaming the school or blaming ourselves,” she says.

When teachers are standing in the sun after a full day of class, facing a line of cars, things may not always go as planned. “It’s not their intent to mess up, but it does happen,” she says.

The app, licensed for use by the school or school district, is downloaded free by parents. It facilitates the pickup process by consolidating pickup changes and authorizations, improving safety and saving staff time.


Through a dashboard, parents have real-time communication with the school and are alerted as soon as the child leaves campus. “If there is anything wrong, the parents are able to fix the issue immediately,” she says.

PikMyKid, located at 5115 Memorial Highway, currently employs 10 and some part-time consultants. But it expects to add another four employees during its peak time in July and August, as schools gear up for the 2018-19 year. They are hoping to keep these full-time.


Company officials are looking for people with teaching backgrounds to work in customer service. “We think we’re competitive with what they’re getting from the public school system,” she says.

Read on for more news about Tampa Bay’s tech scene.

•  Monikl, which works similar to a dating service for jobseekers, has received a $25,000 Bizpark Grant from Microsoft and a Google Cloud for Startups Grant of $20,000, says spokesman Zachary Wright. The 1-year-old company now has some 25,000 active job candidates in its system. The company uses an algorithm to assess experience, skills, workplace preferences and personality.

Join Working Women of Tampa Bay and Tampa Bay WAVE for a morning of networking Wednesday, May 23. The event runs from 8 a.m. to 9 a.m. at the Entrepreneur Collaborative Center, 2101 E. Palm Ave., Tampa. It’s followed by 1 Million Cups of Coffee, which is featuring two women-owned businesses as presenters.

• Homebrew Hillsborough, a networking group for techies and entrepreneurs in Hillsborough County, will be meeting at 8:30 a.m. Friday, May 25, at SecureSet Tampa Campus, 1403 E 9th Ave., Tampa. The group will be touring SecureSet, which offers comprehensive training for those interested in careers in cybersecurity. Sign up online.

• The Clearwater-based Digital Media Solutions, a digital marketing company, has acquired Avenue100 Media Solutions, LLC, a specialist in performance-based marketing and analytics in education. Avenue100 Media Solutions will join DMS’s education division, but operate as a separate subsidiary based in Massachusetts. DMS, which provides end-to-end customer acquisition solutions, has been recognized as one of America’s “Best Places to Work” in 2017 by Inc. magazine.

• TeamWerx, a platform designed to find innovative solutions to warfighter problems, has announced two challenges with cash prizes totaling $25,000. The submission deadline is Thursday, May 31, for help expanding the TeamWerx ecosystem, with a $2,000 prize. The deadline is Saturday, June 30, to enter a contest to figure out how to retrieve data from mobile locations using a mobile device but without revealing the locations of sensors. That prize is $23,000. Learn more.

Florida Polytechnic University graduated its first class of 220 May 4 in Lakeland. The group included most of the students who enrolled when the university opened in fall 2014. Dedicated to science, technology, engineering and math, Florida Polytechnic is located on Interstate 4’s high-tech corridor between Tampa and Orlando.

The university’s robotics team, Purple Fire, earned the Judges Award recently at the VEX Robotics World Championship. The team of eight students won half of its matches and ranked 22nd internationally out of 45 teams.

And Florida Poly is attracting attention in Mexico for its bookless, digital library. The university’s Vice Provost of Academic Support Services, Dr. Kathryn Miller, was a guest speaker at the first International Colloquium on Library Architecture and Environments, hosted by the National Autonomous University of Mexico earlier this month.


Opioid Update: Sarasota firm working on Smart pill dispenser

A Sarasota design firm is working to curb opioid addiction -- and save lives -- with a Smart container that dispenses pills at pre-configured time intervals.

Called PILL, the product in development by ROBRADY design is packaged similar to a Z-Pak of antibiotics. “It just happens to be Smart,” explains Rob Brady, CEO and Design Director.

The design has developed over the last six years, ever since physician assistant Afton Heitzenrater observed opioid prescriptions were being filled too quickly. Her husband Jeff and Jeff’s uncle, Joseph Bujalski, were on board to help develop a solution. Bujalski came up with the idea of controlling the timing between doses, obtained the first patent, and brought the idea to ROBRADY.

During the last 18 months, ROBRADY has invested “hundreds of thousands of dollars” to develop the concept into what it is today, Brady says. It has a broader patent pending and, through consultant and team member Rob Hartwell, is reaching out to governmental leaders and potential industry partners.

With recycled parts and a projected cost of $2 per unit, the PILL is seen as a low-cost means of controlling opioid prescriptions and discouraging unauthorized use. The prescribed pills are locked into the device until pre-set times, after which the user can remove them from the foil blister pack. The dispenser and unused pills are returned to the pharmacist, keeping them out of the hands of the black market, those who would abuse them and potentially become addicted, and community water supplies. If it's been tampered with, it's noted through the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program, along with pharmacists' comments.

The white computer chip and battery that power the device can be removed, checked, scrubbed of data and re-used. Pharmacists can retrieve usage data which can help future studies about how opioids are being used.

“In talking with physicians about this idea, they really like it,” Brady says.

Clinical trials could begin in six to nine months, but it’s uncertain when it might be commercially available to physicians and their patients. “Obviously, we wanted this thing available yesterday,” he adds. “We’re looking for a couple million more to take it across the finish line.”

Opioid addiction and overdoses have reached epidemic proportions in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, emergency department visits for suspected opioid overdoses rose 30 percent from July 2016 through September 2017, based on data from 52 jurisdictions in 45 states.

ROBRADY received positive feedback when it took a team to Washington, D.C. in April to promote PILL, and fight the epidemic claiming more than 120 lives every day. The group met with representatives of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the Food and Drug Administration, the Drug Enforcement Agency and the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, along with U.S. Senators Marco Rubio, R-FL, and Lamar Alexander, R-TN.

The Opioid Crisis Response Act of 2018, which has passed unanimously out of committee, calls for package design to help prevent abuse and overdose.

“We think we have a real shot of getting this to market,” Brady says. “We’re lacking a few more partners.”

While the initial user is an individual prescribed opioids for pain, Brady doesn’t discount it may potentially have other roles. “I would love to see this thing help people that are already addicted,” he says.

But the device isn’t tamper proof, just tamper evident, which means it flags problems early. “If you smash it, if you break it, if you ‘lose it,’ you don’t get more,” he says. “Our position is we’d like to find that information out in the first 15 pills -- and not with the first overdose.”

So their initial focus is on those who potentially may become addicted. "We greatly reduce the people that we’re treating [for opioid addiction and overdoses,]” he says.

Keeping focused can help them do the job right. “We know that opioids are a huge problem,” he says. “We’ve got all kinds of things to tackle.”

Hiring Heroes: New Tampa Bay Area job fair focuses on veterans

Veterans dress smart, have good skills and are reliable. Though people like to honor them, employers are not always willing to hire them. That can be a real problem, but it’s one Stephanie Sims is looking to solve.

“Veterans show up, dressed up, ready to go,” Sims says. “Sometimes a job offer is not made. The employer might think they’re too good.”

Other times veterans have problems translating military skills into civilian life. “To find and to convey transferrable skills is not always easy,” she says.

So Sims, who has witnessed the problems at national job fairs, is holding her first Tampa area job fair catering to miliary veterans: the Tampa Bay Hiring Heroes Career Fair. Their motto is: “The Best Way to Honor a Veteran is to Hire one.” The goal is to help vets meet face-to-face with employers, so hurdles can be overcome. 

“I don’t think there’s any substitute for a job candidate getting face-to-face with a prospective employer,” asserts Sims, CEO and Marketing Director of Florida JobLink, a career fair provider since 1996.

Hiring Heroes is a new initiative of the Palma Ceia-based corporation in cities with a military presence. Three or four fairs are anticipated this year in Tampa and Jacksonville, with the event expanding nationwide next year.

She explains that a resume is easily trashed when an employer believes a job candidate is expecting a higher wage than that being offered. But when the veteran and employer meet, they can discuss circumstances that make the job doable.

“Employers just love the enthusiasm and the work ethic that veterans and their spouses have,” she says.

Sims also is bringing Hiring Heroes job fairs to neighborhoods where veterans live, to make it more convenient for those employed or responsible for childcare. This event is in Wesley Chapel, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday, May 22, at 2740 Cypress Ridge Blvd.

Some 30 employers are anticipated, along with some 600 to 800 job seekers. While the free event seeks to place veterans and those transitioning to civilian life, it is open to all. Job positions include healthcare, sales, marketing, insurance, food service, technical, production, clerical, customer service, education and legal. Register online.

Learn about other upcoming job fairs in the Tampa Bay region.

• A free job fair is planned from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Wednesday, May 9, for people interested in working for Hertz. Managers will be conducting interviews for -- and hiring -- counter sales representatives at the free event at Hertz -- Rental Car Center, 5405 Airport Service Road., Tampa. A minimum of one year of experience in high volume sales or customer service in a service-oriented environment is required, along with a high school diploma or its equivalent. Learn more.

• A Young Talent Tampa Bay Career and Resource Fair is scheduled from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, May 12, at the Tampa Career Center, 9215 N. Florida Ave. The free event by CareerSource Pinellas and CareerSource Tampa Bay caters to those 18 to 24. Check out the details.

• The JobNewsUSA.com St. Petersburg/Clearwater Job Fair is slated from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Wednesday, May 16, at The Matheos Hall / Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church, 409 S. Old Coachman Road, Clearwater. Parking and admission are free. Job seekers who attend can build their professional network, meet one-on-one with recruiters and hiring managers, learn about unadvertised, upcoming job openings, be interviewed and hired. Pre-register.

National Career Fairs is holding a free recruiting/hiring event from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Wednesday, May 23, at Doubletree by Hilton Tampa Westshore Airport, 4500 W. Cypress St., Tampa. Registrants receive updates and alerts, plus the opportunity to upload a resume and search for jobs online beforehand. Candidates are advised to bring resumes to the fair and dress for success.

Florida StartupBus team runner-up in national contest

For the second year in a row, Florida’s StartupBus has claimed a top prize in the national competition that enables teams of potential strangers to start businesses in about three and a half days.

This year dadSAK, a team which created a versatile backpack enabling dads to tote infants, baby gear and other stuff, was runner-up in the New Orleans competition.

“It was really an amazing experience,” says Robert Blacklidge, Conductor. “We grew those individuals extensively in three days. They went out into the world. This is what’s really amazing about it.”

The Florida StartupBus rolled out of Tampa Friday, April 27, bound for New Orleans, where teams from eight different buses presented their businesses conceived and developed on the journey. Three teams were created on the bus that headed north from Tampa into Georgia, where riders stayed two nights in Helen while enjoying side trips to Nashville and Atlanta. Riders also stayed overnight in Biloxi.

The StartupBus was in New Orleans at the same time as the big Collision tech conference, where riders were able to share what they’d just learned with others.

DadSAK, a patent pending baby carrier/diaper bag/backpack, was the brainchild of Lance Robinson. Other members of the team, with representatives of Tampa Bay, Atlanta, and Charlotte N.C., included Walter Mathews, Jeremy Losaw, Vanel Marc, and Geovanni Suplee.

The team put together a protype and website in the allotted time, advertising the dadSAK as a solution by dads, for dads from SAK LABS. It can be used separately as a infant carrier or backpack, or combined into a single unit. The website indicates dadSAK is taking pre-orders, with shipments starting in November.

Other teams were Buddy Bunker, designed to help people find a suitable golfing partner, and PolitiTrust, a functioning chatbot to help people find politicians that share their values.

Buddy Bunker team members were Edward Sanchez, Kyle Sasser, Kim Mohr, and Tatyanna Cobb. On the PolitiTrust team were Richard Kim, Rosmarie Morales, Adam Cummings and Jahtia Haynes.

Mentors on the bus were Brent Henderson, Chris Mcelveen and Prateek Gupta.

After the demanding schedule of the trip, Blacklidge advises teams to take a break rather than forging ahead immediately with business plans. “My methodology is to tell them to take a month out,” Blacklidge says.

The StartupBus began nine years ago after the first participants decided to challenge themselves to create a company as they traveled across the country to a conference.

Last year two Florida teams made it to the finals, with DropIn Pedals claiming second place for an adapter that converts clipless bike pedals into flat pedals that can be used with casual shoes. That team from Dunedin included Morgan Thacker and Tyler Baumgardner.

Now Blacklidge, whose team Course Align made it to the finals in 2017, is planning to independently expand upon the StartupBus concept. He’s making plans to offer a similar entrepreneurial experience aboard a cruise ship, and may partner with an airline on an entrepreneurial program as well.

“It teaches people what they’re capable of,” he says of the StartupBus concept.

Blacklidge is not a newcomer to hackathons. He already has experience organizing events like 2017’s BizSprint, designed to help veterans develop their businesses.

“I’ve always known the power of hackathons,” he says. “What I want to do is really take it to a larger scale and grow it across the world.”

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