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Innovation & Job News

Online storytelling platform moves home base to Tampa

A Oviedo startup company, TSOLife, has relocated to downtown Tampa for support from Tampa Bay Wave and the area’s entrepreneurial ecosystem. “Tampa almost is unrivaled in Florida,” says Founder and CEO David Sawyer. “Everyone just seems to embrace the startups.”

Located at the Wave, Sawyer says it was a “driving force” in his decision to move the company here. He says he looks forward to participate in events are helpful.

Tampa Bay Wave gets it, and they offer the best of the best,” he says.

Started in 2014, TSOLife won the University Stage business competition in June at eMerge America’s Startup Competition in Miami, which drew some 13,000 people from across the world to network, compete and learn about the latest technology.

“We beat out 24 other university teams that were there for exhibiting. It was a pretty cool event,” he says.

Sawyer got the idea for the business after his grandmother, Muriel Sawyer, died. She lived in Gloucester, MA, and visited for four months in the winter, which never gave them much time to talk about how she met his grandfather, how she raised his dad, or what college was like.

“We never got to have those conversations,” he explains.

So he founded a business with Stella Parris, COO, to share family legacies online. “We really wanted to create a way to better personalize and pass down these stories,” Sawyer says, “so that no grandchild should ever wonder what their grandparent was like.”

He had help from an entrepreneurial club at Stetson University in Deland, where he was studying finance.

While many people like to write a book, or track down family genealogy on Ancestry.com, TSOLife offers people an opportunity to share their stories online and in a documentary. In a way young people can relate to them.

When was the last time you saw a 13 year read an actual book?” he asks. “When was the last time you saw them pick up an iPad? Literally two seconds ago.”

Trial memberships are free for 30 days, allowing people to post their stories. “We like to run the company with a conscience and a heart. We keep everything and do not delete,” he adds.

After that, if they want to continue adding stories, it’s $14.99 monthly or $275 for life. Documentaries start at $1500.

Each story has its own privacy setting, so the contributor can make it public or allow only his or her descendants access.

TSOLife, which serves North America, already has done a documentary on former U.S. Senator and Stetson University alumnus Max Cleland, which is in the Library of Congress.

The company is in the midst of its second round of $200,000 funding. It’s already raised $95,000 of that, which will be used for future development.

What’s next? They’ll be hiring two or three people for high-tech development within the next four months and following up with another $200,000 capital campaign.

Read more articles by Cheryl Rogers.

Cheryl Rogers is an editor and feature writer for 83 Degrees Media in the Tampa Bay region of Florida.
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