Tampa Bay Wave seeks diverse applicants for cybertech accelerator

Cybersecurity startups have until December 1 to apply for Tampa Bay Wave’s free CyberTech|X accelerator kicking off in January.

With an injection of $50,000 from the U.S. Small Business Administration, the downtown Tampa non-profit is gearing up for its second CyberTech|X accelerator program seeking to elevate the area’s growing cybersecurity industry.

Tampa Bay Wave is earmarking the SBA money, awarded through its Growth Accelerator Fund Competition, for five to seven startups exclusively led by women. 

“We applied with the tagline Cyber has a gender issue. Women definitely are underrepresented in the tech community as a whole,” explains Linda Olson, the Wave’s president and CEO. “It’s improving, but when you look at the cyber segment ... we have a bigger issue.”

This is the fourth time the Wave has secured SBA funds; it is its second CyberTech|X accelerator. The first one, which ran virtually from January to April 2021, included 15 companies from across the United States and the United Kingdom. Although only one company was initially from Tampa, a second relocated to Lakeland during the program. Two companies were acquired.

The Wave continues to get calls from potential cybersecurity investor groups and others who would like to become involved, Olson says.

The cybersecurity career field traditionally has been male dominated, perhaps in part because of preconceived ideas that individuals “need to be very experienced on the dark web” and “need to be able to hack into the Pentagon,” she explains.

What the Wave is looking for are companies with innovative solutions that are market ready. 

“I’d love to see cutting-edge young cybersecurity companies focused on changing the world,” says Richard Munassi, MD, MBA, the Wave’s cohort director.

It also is looking for representation from a diverse group.

“We look forward again to getting diverse problem solvers that are impacting the world of cybersecurity,” he adds.

“The best candidates are going to be those folks who already have some working prototype,” Olson says, “a little bit of positive market traction.”

This second cohort runs from January 11, 2022 to March 31, 2022. The deadline to apply is December 1. 

There is no charge for the 90-day accelerator and the Wave takes no equity in the company.

Key benefits of the program are coaching from its Mentor Network, Advisory Council, and “unprecedented access” to some of the country’s top enterprise companies, Munassi says.

Other benefits include connecting with industry peers, membership in Wave’s full startup community, networking events, introductions to the Wave’s investor network, exposure to national investors through a Demo Day, pitch events and savings through GAN, a global network of accelerators, and other partners. 

A volunteer committee is expected to cull through several hundred applications and choose 10 to 12 participants, although that number isn’t fixed.

“We typically ask the companies if they are not from the region that they be on site for at least three weeks of the program,” Olson adds.

Event sponsors include A-LIGN, the non-profit Bellini Better World, EY, and KnowBe4.

Founded in 2013, the Wave has helped more than 380 startups who have raised more than $4 million dollars and created more than 2,700 jobs. 

“Tampa Bay’s tech ecosystem has certainly seen tremendous growth in the last four to five years,” Olson says. “We have so much momentum and that’s exciting.”

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
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