Tampa Bay Wave sets out to develop regional innovation clusters in three key tech industries

Tampa Bay Wave is putting federal funding to work to nurture startups and promote regional collaboration in three key tech sectors - cybersecurity, fintech and health tech.

A $2 million grant from the United States Economic Development Administration’s Build to Scale program and a required $2 million local match will fund nine 90-day accelerator cohorts over the next three years for startups in those three tech industries. The cohort programs could assist up to 180 startups with the potential to create and retain 2,730 jobs.

Tampa Bay Wave President Linda Olson says bringing together startups, established companies, the healthcare industry, mentors and academic entities such as the USF Muma College of Business, USF Health and the USF Health Center for Advanced Medical Learning and Simulation (CAMLS) will extend the initiative’s impact. Startups and larger companies will both find talent, innovative ideas and opportunities for business collaboration, she says.

“As much as this will allow us to run some programs for cyber, fintech and health tech, what we really want to accomplish over the next three years is to foster a stronger regional innovation cluster for all three industry verticals,” Olson says. “This type of grant requires a ton of regional collaboration, which we have some history with. Frankly, if we hadn’t been successful with our prior grants, we wouldn’t have even qualified for this one.”

The grant allows Tampa Bay Wave, a nonprofit accelerator and tech startup support organization, to add a health-tech accelerator program to a mix that already includes cybersecurity and fintech accelerator programs.

“We’d been saying internally that these are the three industry verticals that we have the most experience with and a greater number of resources around, including experienced mentors,” Olson says.

They are also three thriving sectors of the regional tech economy. Cybersecurity has established names like ReliaQuest and KnowBe4 as well as the presence MacDill Air Force Base and related defense firms. Fintech has a dedicated center at the Kate Tiedemann School of Business and Finance at USF St. Petersburg. Health tech is tied to the large healthcare sector.  the new center at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg, and health tech are also three thriving and vital parts of the region’s economy.  In fact, as Olson notes, the Tampa Bay Economic Development Council identified fintech, health tech and cybersecurity as three priority growth industries in the region.

Olson says partners such as USF, the healthcare industry and the “scores of businesses” who committed financial sponsorship or letters of support were invaluable in helping Tampa Bay Wave raise required local matching funds and complete a successful grant application in a tight 60-day timeline.

“It showcases what a community can achieve when they work together,” she says.

Olson says the next cybersecurity accelerator is currently taking applications until December with plans for the next cohort to begin in January. 

For more information go to Tampa Bay Wave.

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Read more articles by Christopher Curry.

Chris Curry has been a writer for the 83 Degrees Media team since 2017. Chris also served as the development editor for a time before assuming the role of managing editor in May 2022. Chris lives in Clearwater. His professional career includes more than 15 years as a newspaper reporter, primarily in Ocala and Gainesville, before moving back home to the Tampa Bay Area. He enjoys the local music scene, the warm winters and Tampa Bay's abundance of outdoor festivals and events. When he's not working or spending time with family, he can frequently be found hoofing the trails at one of Pinellas County's nature parks.