Bar/Code Camp Attracts Florida Entrepreneurs

The founders of most startups work in spaces that no one considered places of employment in the past. Not even as recently as a decade ago.

They work off their laptops and smart phones and create "cool stuff,'' including the programs and codes that it make it possible for everyone else to seamlessly go online to find information about whatever we want, purchase products, order event tickets and play games. 

They are people who often prefer to fly solo and love what they do. They are the folks who spend more time in wifi cafes and working out of their homes than in their cars or with co-workers and bosses. They are often -- but not always -- people who wear earbuds, earrings and tattoos as easily as traditional workers don suits and wingtips or skirts and heels.

Yes, their heads are in the cloud. Singular, not plural. An invisible virtual realm where ideas fly faster than birds and soar beyond where most people are able to think or even imagine.

Welcome to the land of Innovation in Tampa Bay.

Building An Entrepreneurial Ecosystem

At Bar/Code Camp 2012 on October 13, about 850 entrepreneurs, community leaders and university students gathered at the USF College of Business in Tampa to share ideas, make connections, consider collaborations and talk about what more is needed to nurture a vibrant yet fledgling startup community in the Tampa Bay region.

Ken Evans, one of the organizers, points to author Brad Feld's recent book, ''Startup Communities: Building an Entrepreneurial Ecosystem in Your City'' as a guide to what more is needed in Tampa and surrounding communities. Click here to view a short video that summarizes Feld's points.

Bottom line for Feld: Startups thrive in communities that successfully do four things.

    •    Foster a business environment that nurtures entrepreneurs.
    •    Design a long-term strategy for investment.
    •    Encourage and act on a willingness, particularly among community leaders, to be more inclusive.
    •    Offer multiple places, entry points and opportunities to get engaged -- engagement that fosters idea sharing and collaborations beyond cocktail parties and sit-down dinners.

The big challenge (or opportunity depending on your perspective) is how do communities do all that? How can Tampa Bay create the primordial ooze necessary for startups to survive and thrive?

Those questions and more will be discussed November 14 when 83 Degrees Media hosts the next "Not Your Average Speakers'' (NYAS) event to engage influencers and ideators in conversation about "Nurturing Innovation: Creating Primordial Ooze For Startups.'' The event at the Hillsborough Community College's Ybor City campus starts at 5:30 with mingling and making connections. The discussion starts promptly at 6 and runs till 7:30. RSVP here.

Why do such conversations matter?

"It's like two people meeting in a bar or coffee shop,'' says Bar Camp Founder Joel Lopez. "You never know where a conversation is going to come from or go to.''

Adds Evans: "Everything the community can do to grow content and encourage conversation with this constantly contracting and expanding group of technical individuals matters. It's all about engaging them on their terms with conversation about stuff they care about.''

Next chance after NYAS to engage? Startup Weekend Tampa on November 16-18, a 54-hour event where anyone interested in building a business can come together over the course of a weekend to launch a startup. The event will be at Keiser University, 5002 W Waters Avenue in Tampa. Register here.

Diane Egner is managing editor and publisher of 83 Degrees Media. Comments? Contact 83 Degrees.

Read more articles by Diane Egner.

Diane Egner is an award-winning journalist with four decades of experience writing about the Tampa Bay region. She is a member of Leadership Florida and the Athena Society, and serves on the board of The Institute for Research in Art (Graphicstudio, the Contemporary Art Museum, and USF’s Public Art Program) Community Advisory Council and the StageWorks Theatre Advisory Council. A graduate of the University of Minnesota with a BA in journalism, she won the top statewide award for editorial writing from the Florida Society of Newspaper Editors while at The Tampa Tribune and received special recognition by the Tampa Bay Association of Black Journalists for creative work as Content Director at WUSF Public Broadcasting. Past accomplishments and community service include leadership positions with Awesome Tampa Bay, Arts Council of Hillsborough County, Alpha House of Tampa Bay, Florida Kinship Center, AIA Tampa Bay, Powerstories, and the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce. She lives in South Tampa, is the mother of two adult daughters and grandmother to two amazing grandchildren, and travels whenever possible with laptop in tow.