The University of South Florida has entered into a five-year collaboration agreement with TIE Tampa Bay, the local chapter of a global nonprofit dedicated to supporting entrepreneurs, to further the development of Tampa Bay’s economic ecosystem.
“We’ve seen in the small steps we’ve made ... how much that increases the startup ecosystem,” says Valerie Landrio McDevitt, USF associate VP for technology transfer and business partnerships. “My expectation is that we're going to be able to see greater interaction.”
The collaboration began informally about a year and a half ago as an experiment.
“We tested out this relationship without any paperwork,” says TIE Tampa Bay President Ramesh Sambasivan. “We wanted to make sure that we didn’t start off with things that we will not be using.”
The USF agreement involves its Tampa Bay Technology Incubator, which helps early stage technology companies succeed and grow, the incubator’s outreach arm USF Connect, and the Student Innovation Incubator. They are located in USF Research Park, which acts as a front door to the Tampa campus on Fowler Avenue.
TIE, founded in Silicon Valley in 1992, has 13,000 members in 61 chapters across the globe. It seeks to help entrepreneurs through mentoring, networking, education, incubating and funding.
Founded in 2012, TIE Tampa Bay is run by successful entrepreneurs who volunteer their time to help other entrepreneurs. In early 2017, angel investors from TIE formed the TIE Tampa Bay Angel Fund with the goal of attracting and retaining talent in the Tampa Bay and North-Central Florida region through capital and mentorship.
Sambasivan expects to see a closer collaboration now that the agreement is formalized. “What we want to see unfold is a closer collaboration in terms of bringing potential mentors to the startup companies, founders and USF incubator space,” he says. “We want to be able to give the startup companies a pathway to capital, whether it is through TIE’s network in Tampa or through TIE globally. The pathway just doesn’t happen on its own.”
He also expects TIE members who are investors to become more active in the incubators.
McDevitt credits Sambasivan for helping to bring the collaboration into being. “Ramesh is essentially one of the catalysts of it,” she says. “My group and him work very well together, that whole group.”
“The TIE group is a critical component in the ecosystem,” she explains. “The local group has tremendous talent and then they also have an international reach.”
Established in 1956, USF serves more than 49,000 students in three locations on an annual budget of $1.6 billion. In the last year, TBTI has served some 77 companies that either hired to retained 360 employees and raised more than $54 million externally.
The two groups have collaborated on six projects including the Startup Shuffle, which gave startups a chance to pitch to venture capitalists, among them Dr. Kanwal Rekhi of Silicon Valley.