In race for best entrepreneurial ecosystems, other Florida metro areas accelerating their plans
How often does an entrepreneur with a start-up idea get to pitch his business to locals and potential investors from the stage of the Mahaffey Theater in St. Petersburg? Above, Sean Davis, founder of Red Hawk Interactive, explains his online concept last November at Gazelle Lab's "Demo Day." If Tampa Bay is to stay competitive with other metro regions pushing their own start-up cultures, this area needs to become more aggressive in supporting start-ups and their founders. It is, ultimately, about jobs and showing the bigger world that Tampa Bay has a creative economy. (Photo: James Borchuck, Tampa Bay Times)
Wake up and good morning. Initiatives to spur entrepreneurial activity seem to be in full bloom in Tampa Bay. In the past week or two, we've seen the announcement of plans to open the First WaVE Venture Center in downtown Tampa's Beer Can building (Rivergate Tower, 400 N. Ashley), a Tampa Chamber plan to help with a Startup Scholars Program and college programs on both sides of the bay focused specifically on honing entrepreneurship skills. And that's just a small sample of what's happening.
But we're hardly alone. Other metro areas are jumping on the "entrepreneurial ecosystem" buzzwords and launching their own programs to (1) spur start-up activity and (2) create jobs and (3) try and keep their young businesses local.
The latest example is Miami. Today's Miami Herald lays out plans for several initiatives, from the Launch Pad plan to open a "community accelerator" in downtown Miami backed by county and downtown development authority resources of some $2 million in the coming four years. It sounds very similar to what Gazelle Lab did at USF St. Petersburg in 2011, but alas did not repeat this year for lack of funding support that Gazelle founders believe is necessary to sustain an ongoing program. (Orlando, on the other hand, borrowed some of Gazelle Lab's expertise and is running its own start-up program this year.)
Miami's Florida International University, says the Herald, also wants to include a required course in entrepreneurship for every undergraduate. And Miami's Knight Foundation has jumped in the game with its own entrepreneurial projects.
Bottom line? There's little time or resource to waste in order for the Tampa Bay region to stay competitive as a provider of entrepreneur support. If we want to encourage local start-ups, attract quality entrepreneurs and keep these businesses and folks here to deepen our bench, we'd better keep the pedal to the metal. Entrepreneurial ecosystems are going to be competing against one another more and more.
So sure, pat ourselves on the back for some recent progress. Then get back to work.
-- Robert Trigaux, Business Columnist, Tampa Bay Times