St. Pete accelerator works with 7 small businesses in fall cohort

An international fraud risk management consultant, Alexis Bell was hit hard financially when COVID-19 cut off international travel. 

“We had a number of really large contracts that we won as soon as COVID hit. They were cancelled,” she recalls.

The setback, however, has given her the impetus to pursue her dream of providing software-as-a-service in her field, a dream that had been “on the back burner,” says Bell, founder and CEO of Fraud Doctor LLC and inventor of Šóta Signal Analytics, which exposes early signs of company distress and risk for fraud. 

Christopher Green, founder and CEO of GameDrive, a social media platform to help gamers boost their career opportunities, found the outbreak helped his company hit a milestone. That milestone was better understanding customers and product market fit, as well as fine tuning its business model,” Green says. 

Both are part of a seven-company cohort participating in the Tampa Bay Innovation Center’s Fall 2021 Accelerator, which offers training, mentoring in customer discovery, investor readiness and leadership.

The accelerator is sponsored by Pinellas County and TampaBay.Ventures.

As people have spent more time at home re-evaluating what they want from life, some have been generating new business ideas, explains Ken Evans, the accelerator’s managing director. He believes the 2020-21 COVID outbreak has resulted in a surge of new businesses, much like the Internet bubble of 2000 and housing crisis in 2008.

“Sometimes that happens because their job went away,” Evans explains. “You see it in every economic downtown. I think the pandemic is not going to be any different.”

The St. Petersburg-based accelerator, which began August 4, runs through October 20. Graduates participate in a showcase the week of the 20th for investors, community leaders, media and potential business partners/customers.

“We’re getting people that are more mature in their careers,” Evans says. “We’re getting people that look more like the traditional Kauffman [the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation] founder, someone that has been in industry for 10 to 15 years.”

These people understand the problem because they’ve lived it, Evans explains.

The five other companies participating in the accelerator are: 
  • Topenga, St. Petersburg, which offers decision-making tools;
  • Kandel, Marina Del Ray, CA, a human resources software;
  • iSocrates, St. Petersburg, offering planning tools for AdTech industry;
  • Phronesis Health, Seminole, developing a product to check the accuracy of medical records; and
  • Little Town Solutions, Tampa, which offers technology-based solutions.

The accelerator has been meeting virtually via Zoom.
“The enthusiasm level is very high,” Evans says. “Peers are talking back and forth. It’s not just people listening to a talking head.”

All of the companies share a love of technology.

“This program tries to marry that love of tech with a passion for solving a problem and passion for the customer that has that problem,” Evans says.

One of the goals of the program is to make founders prove there is a need for their product in the marketplace.

“When companies get into these programs, there could be dramatic changes in what they develop,” he adds. “People pivot.”

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