Gazelle Lab start-up crew puts Tampa Bay program on hold, embraces Orlando this spring
"Demo Day" of Gazelle Lab's first "graduating" class of six business start-ups was held at St. Petersburg's Mahaffey Theater last November when founders of six young companies pitched their business vision to potential investors and a supportive and curious Tampa Bay audience. Photo by James Borchuck of the Tampa Bay Times.
Wake up and good morning. Gazelle Lab, one of Tampa Bay's most promising elements of what many hope will be a rising regional "entrepreneurial ecosystem" to mentor and focus new business start-ups here, is putting its business accelerator on hold locally and taking its show to Orlando.
Gazelle Lab debuted last summer and created a big buzz by accepting six area business start-ups in its coveted (if new and still organizing) business accelerator. The 90-day boot camp helped start-ups get better focused and hone their pitches before culminating in a Demo Day in which they made live presentations to potential investors.
Gazelle had planned a second 90-day program here in Tampa Bay this spring, and had intended a twice-a-year schedule for assisting start-ups as part of its affiliation with the College of Business at the University of South Florida in St. Petersburg.
Now that's not happening. While Gazelle Lab had earlier indicated it was expanding its services to an enthused Orlando market, that plan was not originally intended to occur at the expense of losing a spring business accelerator program in Tampa Bay.
The decision to focus on Orlando this spring came down to two things. Orlando has backers ready to provide both the funding and the entrepreneurial expertise to kick off a Gazelle Lab Orlando program now. The program in Tampa Bay is on hiatus while its founders, including Daniel James Scott, continues to find investors to help build a fund large enough to help support a Gazelle Lab program here for several years. This update comes from John Morrow, one of the Gazelle Lab founders.
That's not what Gazelle Lab had intended. But, as Morrow notes, the Lab itself is a start-up and needs to be flexible to go where the opportunities best arise. That's perfectly understandable but it's also an unfortunate blow to the Tampa Bay area that truly has a gem in the making with Gazelle Lab and, alas, seems for now unable to sustain it here.
The Lab still aims to offer its business accelerator program here this summer, running (as it did in 2011) until a Demo Day in November. It would be a serious blow to the start-up scene in Tampa Bay if we let Gazelle Lab get away. Let's skip the "you don't know what you got til it's gone" scenario.
-- Robert Trigaux, Business Columnist, Tampa Bay Times