Tampa Bay WAVE’s pitch night features top women tech entrepreneurs

A rising tide lifts all boats. … And, in Tampa Bay, a rising WAVE lifts women-founded tech startups.
Through a $500,000 two-year philanthropic grant from JP Morgan Chase, Tampa Bay WAVE, the collaborative innovation hub offering start-up support to entrepreneurs, and Embarc Collective, a “hothouse” to grow tech start-ups, created a program designed specifically to support and mentor women innovators.

On Thursday, October 29, the results of that initiative were on full virtual display as 12 of the 13 inaugural members of Tampa Bay Wave’s TechWomen Rising accelerator participated in “Pitch Night,” an online presentation in which each company’s Founder presented her innovative product or service, market analysis, growth projections, and support team. 

In her opening remarks, Linda Olson, WAVE’s Founder and President, referring to the challenges of 2020, said, “…so many businesses have been negatively impacted by the pandemic and certainly there have been some other conversations that have been happening around the country around the importance of diversity inclusion in any economic development activity including the technology sector. I’m so proud that more and more people are looking at finding really important solutions to some of the world’s biggest issues that we’re facing now and that innovation is needed now more than ever. Frankly, it’s exciting to see there are more historically unrepresented groups going into the technology space, including women, in particular women of color. I’m really happy we can do this program to try to move the needle, change some ratios, and see these companies do some great things here in Florida.”

The program initially received 500 applications from which the final 13 were chosen. Speaking to the online audience the Director of TechWomen Rising, Dr. Richard Munassi, lauded the group of “strong female founders from throughout the state of Florida.”

“Top to bottom the founders in this cohort have incredible backgrounds. We have multiple Ph.D.s, including from Oxford, we have several MBAs from the nation’s top programs including Harvard and Columbia, and founders with experience at some of the world’s top startups including Groupon, Expedia, and Open Door. These founders are solving real problems, from helping people purchase homes to assisting students in learning English, to providing a platform for caregivers to purchase much-needed services and much more.” 

The Pitch Night online audience, comprised of members of the public who had registered, was a practice session for the upcoming Demo Day in front of WAVE’s accredited investor network on November 17.

Getting women-led companies in front of qualified investors is a tremendous challenge to the economic development community.

According to Embarc Collective’s Glaring Gap Study funding for women-led startups lags far behind funding available for their male counterparts. In 2019 only 13% of total dollars raised went to firms with at least one woman founder. 

In closing the Pitch Night event, Olson said the data is undeniable that there are some major barriers to success, especially around venture capital. She continued, anything we can do as a community to help solve this disparity is only going to lift up the entire economy here as well as impact individual families and women everywhere.

In order of presentation, here are the companies that participated in TechWomen Rising Pitch Night: 

20Lighter is a unique program helping clients achieve dramatically better health through reductions of inflammation and visceral fat, the holy grail of cardiovascular and metabolic disease.
CBO: Dr. Jess Barnes PhD
Location: Boca Raton, FL

AfroCurators is a digital media & entertainment brand that connects multi-generational African creatives through multimedia products and experiences.
CEO: Skye Idehen
Location: Tampa, FL

Cumeby helps companies with custom software achieve 5x performance, 10x productivity, and 35% cost reduction by optimizing cloud infrastructure and automating workflows.
CBO: Hitomi Mizugaki
Location: Boca Raton, FL

Goldn: The Family App
Goldn is a family care management application that makes it easy for unpaid caretakers to pay bills, set reminders, and locate wanderers so that they have an inclusive way to empower loved ones while giving the caretaker the resources that they need.
CEO: Nia Jackson
Location: Tampa, FL

IVF Options
IVF Options provides fertility benefits to self-pay patients, negotiating discounted rates on fertility treatment, medication, and genetic testing to make treatment more affordable to cash patients. IVF Options has helped over 2,000 patients in their fertility journey in both the US and abroad.
CEO: Lexie Magyar
Location: Tampa, FL

Kinstak provides private cloud storage that automatically organizes photos, videos, and files into personalized categories that are easy to find and share privately with friends and family.
CEO: Carolyn Eagen
Location: Tampa, FL

Multimedia Augmented Reality Vocabulary Learning (MARVL) is an augmented reality (AR) application that teaches vocabulary in two languages simultaneously. MARVL presents dynamic, interactive vocabulary instruction using evidence-based best practices for learning new words.
CEO: Dr. Sara Smith PhD
Location: Tampa, FL

The Natural Nipple
The Natural Nipple is designed for seamless and stress-free breast and bottle feeding, with the only nipple that is researched and designed to mimic a mother’s shape, feel, and flow.
CEO: Lauren Wright PhD
Location: Tampa, FL

UBQFIT, is a two-sided marketplace where livestream fitness training sessions are organized between Trainers and Trainees with a push of a button.
CEO: Ellie Samardi
Location: Boca Raton, FL

As North America’s first aggregator of wellness, spa, and active travel, Vacayou is poised to capitalize on the fastest-growing sector of the travel industry – wellness travel.
CEO: Muirgheal (Muirelle) Montecalvo
Location: St. Petersburg, FL

Wedzee is a C2C/B2C marketplace that is designed to connect former and future brides, wedding planners, and small business owners, while providing them a safer and more secure way to buy and sell new, used, and custom wedding and event-related items online.
CEO: Jennifer Burns
Location: St. Petersburg, FL

weRise Investments
weRise Investments facilitates building wealth and revitalizing underrepresented communities by connecting friend and family groups to a technology-enabled platform to pool funds and socially invest in diversified portfolios.
CEO: Candice Bradley
Location: Tampa, FL
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Read more articles by Pamela Varkony.

Pamela Varkony’s non-fiction topics range from politics to economic development to women's empowerment. A feature writer and former columnist for Tribune Publishing, Pamela's work has appeared in newspapers, magazines, and in PBS and NPR on-air commentaries. Her poetry has been published in the New York Times. Recognized by the Pennsylvania Women's Press Association with an "Excellence in Journalism" award, Pamela often uses her writing to advocate for women's rights and empowerment both at home and abroad. She has twice traveled to Afghanistan on fact-finding missions. Pamela was named the 2017 Pearl S. Buck International Woman of Influence for her humanitarian work. Born and raised in rural Bucks County, Pennsylvania, Pamela often weaves the lessons learned on those backcountry roads throughout her stories.