Two Tampa-based innovation hubs, Embarc Collective and Synapse, are adapting to find new opportunities to thrive while supporting local startups amid the COVID-19 crisis.
The two companies provide tools, workspace, shared experiences, and organizational structure to help startups grow and expand while pursuing new ideas and innovations.
All agree that nurturing startups is needed because it's daunting to find solutions when success is not guaranteed, especially during a global pandemic.
When the pandemic hit locally and across the United States and companies were forced to re-evaluate how they operate, Embarc Collective was able to pivot more easily than some because they didn't have a physical space for most of 2019, so were used to working remotely.
"Embarc Collective has been pretty nimble with our transition to virtual support at this time," says Tyana Daley, communications manager at Embarc Collective. "We continue to offer one-on-one coaching to almost 50 tech startups, as well as weekly group programming in addition to providing other resources that are being requested by our membership at this time."
The startups that Embarc Collective
works with demonstrate resiliency, drive, and coachability; they wouldn't be part of the innovation hub if they hadn't. So, while there's uncertainty in the current climate, it's in their DNA to forge ahead.
"The companies we work with are focused on identifying the connection between their offering and their customer (product-market fit) and then how to aggressively scale their business," says Daley. "During COVID-19, we are helping member startups with not only their growth goals but also short-term imperatives, particularly related to cash flow when conditions are so uncertain."
Two resources that Embarc has developed based on the needs of its entrepreneurs are the COVID-19 Open-Source Database and Tampa Bay Eats.
The COVID-19 Open-Source Database
is a compilation of resources available to support entrepreneurs and their families. It includes professional and personal assets to help startup operators and their families stay healthy and productive during the pandemic.
Tampa Bay Eats
was born of Embarc's desire to do its part to help restaurants stay afloat while at limited dine-in capacity. Culling eateries into a single portal is a convenient way to purchase gift cards from your favorite spots.
"As a startup community, we have such pride in Tampa Bay, and these restaurants are a key source of that pride," Daley says. "Gift cards are a great way to pre-pay for a future date night or family night out while allowing the restaurant to have much-needed cash immediately."
Like Embarc, Synapse is also helping startups and entrepreneurs connect the dots.
found that a common problem for entrepreneurs, especially in this current climate, is the decrease in connectivity.
"As we were interviewing people and understanding what the true cause of their issues are in the current climate, we realized that connectivity was one we can try to help solve," says Synapse co-founder and CEO Brian Kornfeld. "There are many people who are struggling and looking for jobs; there are others who currently are hiring. We needed to help get the right arm and the left arm talking."
To get Synapse collaborators working together, Synapse Resources
was created. It's a simple yet effective site that helps people to find what they need and share what they have.
“We’re all about connectivity, so we wanted to build a site where we can help make this connectivity happen," Kornfeld says. "Helping needs and resources come together in order to support community progress is our core mission. We look forward to facilitating successful connections and supporting rapid growth between our innovation communities across the state.”
While Synapse Resources had been in the works before the pandemic, Kornfeld and his team knew this was the perfect time for its launch.
"We realized now, more than ever, it was needed, and it was our duty to help gift this to the community," says Kornfeld. "We are grateful for those who helped make this happen, such as Tracy Ingram, Alyssa Kennedy, Wes Lehman, and Shane Needham."
Synapse had another problem to solve, and that was how to best support innovators and community members -- from a distance. The nonprofit is well-known in the local innovation space for its annual Synapse Summit, which they were lucky to squeeze in before the pandemic, and they are optimistic about the 2021 summit.
In the meantime, Synapse is bringing the community together under one virtual roof via Synapse Converge
. The digital interactive conference will be June 9-11.
"We can continue to be the conduit that helps them find what they need," Kornfeld adds. "There are still investors putting money to work. I've lost count how many deals Seedfunders and Florida Funders have closed in the last month. That tells a compelling story that we are open for business!"
Kornfeld says he is thrilled to converge cities throughout Florida in an effort to share ideas and resources.
"A big part of Synapse Converge is helping people and companies who have been affected by the crisis," he says. "We have people participating from Miami, Cape Coral, Palm Beach, Orlando, Jacksonville, Tallahassee, Gainesville, Tampa Bay, and more. The energy has been contagious, and the programming will be top-notch."
"The purpose of this is to help people regrow, re-engage in the community, and build further connections for their new normal," says Kornfeld.
For those whose new normal is working remotely, Mad Botter
, a Plant City software company, has recently launched the Rabbot. This software platform integrates different and often incompatible software systems to work together to automate workflows and make remote working more effective.
The Rabbot has been up and running since November, but when COVID-19 brought in-office work to a halt, Mad Botter added features to enable remote work without compromising IT security. "The genesis of Rabbot was strongly influenced by many of our military contracting clients expressing a desire to integrate with some consumer-facing cloud automation tools but finding that untenable, given their data security concerns," Mad Botter founder Michael Dominick says.
"In terms of remote work, I think the horse has left the barn, and it's going to become increasingly common," Dominick says. "In terms of Rabbot, that's an opportunity for us to provide value, especially for medium-sized firms which might be struggling to make the transition."
"Each customer's data is completely separate from all other customer data," he adds. "Each customer has their own database and their own server, and if they want, they can host Rabbot on their own IT infrastructure."