StartupBus Florida yields teams of winners in national competition

Tampa Bay area entrepreneurs have made another strong showing at the annual StartupBus competition in New Orleans.

Hyve, a software startup project that fights spam, phishing, and other underhanded email practices, finished in the top three nationally. HospitalFee, a platform that helps prospective patients find physicians and medical providers and compare prices, reached the national finals.
 
This year’s results follow on the heels of 2018, when a team founded on the bus from Tampa was national runner-up, and 2017, when the area produced two finalists.
 
Now in its 10th year, StartupBus is part tech boot camp and part road trip. This year, busloads of entrepreneurs converged on New Orleans from Tampa, New York, Silicon Valley, Washington D.C., and other metropolitan areas. During a 72-hour road trip, they pitch business ideas, form teams around those ideas, and launch a startup company before vying for top prizes.

Joey deVilla, a member of the team that founded Hyve, says their firm provides users with proxy email addresses for shopping and other activities online to protect their real accounts and information from hackers, spammers, and scammers. 

“These are all processes that hardcore computer people go through but they are tedious,” deVilla says. “We took that tedious process and automated it.''

The trip included the bus breaking down in the Smokey Mountains, power outages when everyone was working on their laptops, and spotty cell phone service.
 
For Hyve team members deVilla, a local techie and graduate of Queen's University in Ontario, and Tracy Ingram, a serial entrepreneur and graduate of Florida Gulf Coast University in Fort Myers, that’s all part of the trial-by-fire experience an entrepreneur faces launching a business.

“You start a company and you have a plan, then the plan goes wrong and you have to adapt,” Ingram says. “StartupBus emulates that experience in a couple of days.”

Ingram and deVilla say their team plans to keep Hyve going. Ingram points to the growing cybersecurity sector in Tampa Bay. He also sees another opportunity to pitch the company at the upcoming DEF CON hacking conference in Las Vegas next month.

Part road trip, part television show “Shark Tank,” the competition culminates with teams pitching their new companies to judges, including a panel of bankers and investors for the finals.
 
“It was amazing,” says Juan Salazar, a software developer and member of the HospitalFee team who graduated from USF St. Pete. “I learned a lot about starting a business, coming up with a plan and seeing through that plan.”

For more information about the startup companies in this story and the competition, visit the StartupBus website.

Follow this link for 83 Degrees story on Florida StartupBus 2018.

Read more articles by Christopher Curry.

Chris Curry is a freelance writer living in Clearwater. Chris spent more than 15 years as a newspaper reporter, primarily in Ocala and Gainesville, before moving back home to the Tampa Bay Area. He enjoys our local music scene, great weather and the wealth of outdoor festivals.
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