TechWomen Rising Accelerator kicks off in Tampa

Fifteen women-led startups have begun Tampa Bay Wave’s business accelerator program TechWomen Rising, funded through a $500,000, two-year philanthropic grant by JP Morgan Chase.

In its second year, the applicant pool -- and the number of mentors -- has increased.

The program has acted “like a magnet” by attracting not only these women but other entrepreneurs, investors and mentors, notes Linda Olson, president and CEO of the Wave.
The accelerator, which began Sept. 15 and runs through Nov. 18, is free to the startups. A pitch program open to the public is planned November 3 and a Demo Day for investors is scheduled Nov.18.

“The goal of the program is to help our founders clear hurdles in front of them, and hit milestones they have set for their company,” says Dr. Richard Munassi, accelerator managing director for the Wave. “We want them to grow (internally and externally), and fast.”

Participants receive a dedicated experienced mentor, one-on-one feedback with tech founders, pitch coaching, investment readiness programs, and strategic introductions to investors and prospective customers.

“We continue to provide them all the same resources, all the same mentors, and the same programs at least nine more months at no cost to those women at all,” Olson says.

Munassi notes “a long term support system for the founders that will always be available to them.” 

Asked about future plans for the program, Olson says: “We certainly hope that there will be funding for year three. It seems like there’s definitely potential there.”

This is the 25th cohort run by the Wave since 2013, and the first to include a teen CEO, 14-year-old Claire Barrow, Olson says. 

Barrow’s firm, the Hillsborough County-based RareGuru LLC, connects patients, caregivers, parents, and teens living with a rare disease through a mobile app. Users are matched through a database with real-time data on more than 7,000 diseases from rare disease informational and governmental websites in the United States and Europe. 

April Caldwell, CEO of fayVen, one of the participating firms, says the “biggest takeaway” is having “14 other female founders in my space.” As a non-tech founder of a tech company, with no coding experience, she says the accelerator program is a big plus.

“For me to be able to get this type of innovation and experience, it’s a huge benefit,” adds Caldwell, whose Tampa area business sets up venues for artisans and other pop-up vendors. “It just makes me more hopeful to get in front of the right type of investors.”

Here are the other members of the cohort:

• The Sarasota-based Advasys Health and Safety System seeks to empower those with intellectual and developmental disabilities and revolutionize an unsafe system of care that leaves them vulnerable to unchecked sexual abuse. The firm is led by CEO Heidi Katz.

Archslate is a two-sided jobs marketplace for the Architecture, Engineering, and Construction industries. Based in Hillsborough County, Archslate uses its cloud and AI-based hybrid system to connect a talent pool of 400 million people to work on projects. It is led by CEO Vaishnavi More.

Barnwiz LLC, a Hillsborough County-based startup, offers a full-service web platform connecting horse service and product suppliers nationwide. The company is led by CEO Tori Sullivan.

• The Orlando-based Champion Leader Inc. seeks to reduce the rate of denial to potential homeowners during the underwriting process. It works with the HOME program/app, a customized program intended to remove barriers to home ownership. The firm is led by Viola Carmona.

• Through C-Watch Corporation, consumers can vet contractors, service providers and associates before hiring them. The Marion County-based company relies on real-time data accessible 24 hours a day, seven days a week and monitors licenses, insurance and other pertinent information. C-Watch is led by CEO Abbey Slaven.

• The Pasco County-based Gamerabble connects gamers with coaches worldwide to provide one-on-one training. It’s led by CEO Cecile Matthews.

Improving Aviation LLC works to provide solutions for next generation air transportation systems for government and private use. Under the leadership CEO Rocio Frej Vitalle, the Hillsborough County-based firm works in air traffic management, transportation systems, and emerging aviation technologies.

LexDock provides a legal concierge platform where businesses and organizations can handle legal matters in one secure location through a cloud-based subscription service. The Hillsborough County-based firm is led by CEO Abeer Abu Judeh.

ReifyResilience Inc. tackles the problem of burnout in the helping professions, with the goal of reducing turnover, increasing company revenue, and helping the organization attract the right talent at the right time. It’s led by CEO Andrena McGroarty.

SEED Classroom automates attendance taking and hall pass requests, boosting efficiency in schools and enabling teachers to focus on instruction. It helps administrators to be more proactive about student safety and behavioral trends. The Hillsborough County-based firm is led by CEO Emilia Herman.

Shamrck, an AI-powered career exploration platform, helps schools create better career and technical education programs. Based in Pinellas County, it is led by CEO Sheffie Robinson.

Shufflrr, a presentation management solution, makes presentations easier by keeping messaging, branding, images, data -- and more -- synchronized throughout a presentation library. The Hillsborough County-based company is led by CEO AlexAnndra Ontra.

Trendful offers a platform that resale businesses utilize to start, run and scale. It provides offer, customer, inventory, shipping, and payout management tools. The Hillsborough County-based firm is run by CEO Jackie de la Parte. 

Learn more about the Tampa Bay Wave program.
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Read more articles by Cheryl Rogers.

Cheryl Rogers is a freelance writer and editor who enjoys writing about careers. An ebook author, she also writes Bible Camp Mystery series that shares her faith. She is publisher of New Christian Books Online Magazine and founder of the Mentor Me Career Network, a free online community, offering career consulting, coaching and career information. Now a wife and mother, Cheryl discovered her love of writing as a child when she became enthralled with Nancy Drew mysteries. She earned her bachelor's degree in Journalism and Sociology from Loyola University in New Orleans. While working at Loyola's Personnel Office, she discovered her passion for helping others find jobs. A Miami native, Cheryl moved to the Temple Terrace area in 1985 to work for the former Tampa Tribune