Tampa Bay has a new tech leader: Kenyon named to succeed Norman as TBTF CEO
Wake up and good morning. In searching for a new president and CEO to help advance this region's tech community, the Tampa Bay Technology Forum (TBTF) today will announce that Heather Kenyon (photo, left) will assume that position on Nov. 14. Kenyon served as TBTF’s vice president of development until her departure in 2008. She will succeed Amy Norman (photo, below right), TBTF CEO for the past four years, who leaves today for a new job with Tampa's Dynamic Communities.
What exactly is Kenyon inheriting? On one level, TBTF is one of Tampa Bay's better run trade associations, providing a regional platform for a very broad and varied tech community. Herding cats is easy. TBTF must herd rhinos of strong-minded and opinionated tech leaders and entrepreneurs. TBTF runs a ton of programs, from catering to the "bigger" CEOs here and helping start-ups to showcasing "cool" technologies in the area, fundraising and helping disadvantaged youths get exposure to technology. This Friday (Nov. 4), TBTF holds its annual awards with attendance expected to top 500.
But TBTF's always had grander plans. When Norman took the TBTF reins in 2007, she said the group's goal was to "be one of the top 10 technology regions in the next 10 years."
That is a tall (if purposely vague) order. And it's still unclear if it is the role of the TBTF CEO to be The Voice of Tampa Bay Technology or really the chief of staff that keeps TBTF's many trains running on time.
The pace of tech change is, of course, savagely quick and demanding to keep under a TBTF-like umbrella. To be sure, there are enormous numbers of small tech companies around the Tampa Bay area doing fascinating things. But that's happening nationally and increasingly world-wide. By my calculation, that gives Kenyon about six years left on the goal to make us one of the 10 top tech regions -- however such a goal may be defined.
That can't happen in a vacuum. TBTF's ability to ascend as a national player in tech is inevitably tied to the larger Tampa Bay economy, one (like many metro areas our size) that lacks big corporate technology headquarters and has no equivalent of a Research Triangle (though even that may be an outdated concept).
Bottom line? Kenyon, new incoming TBTF chairman Steve Hasselbach (photo, left), senior solutions architect with Peak 10 in Tampa, and the TBTF board must keep pushing the envelope to keep the organization growing and aggressive to remain relevant and representative of the tech business here.
I do recall attending an event held up on Ulmerton Road in the mid-1990s when some techies got together to consider a "Silicon by the Bay" organization. TBTF's come a long way since then.
Most recently, Kenyon was a sales development representative at Insight, a Fortune 500 technology solutions provider. At TBTF, she will be responsible for increasing the visibility and influence of the organization, raising funds, creating value for members and sponsoring organizations, and cultivating strategic partnerships and alliances. She will also serve on the board of the TBTF Foundation, which is dedicated to enhancing educational opportunities for disadvantaged youth and preparing them for careers in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).
Other TBTF board officers named are Kathy Killingsworth, managing director, enterprise resource planning of Tribridge, who will serve a vice chair; Charlotte Baker, CEO of Digital Hands, treasurer; and Dan Rodriguez, CEO of Veredus Corp., secretary.
Photos: Kenyon and Hasselbach courtesy of TBTF, Norman by Daniel Wallace of the St. Petersburg Times.
-- Robert Trigaux, Business Columnist, St. Petersburg Times