Make us your home page
Instagram

High-level boot camp for start-ups never opens

Tall, bald and intense, master-of-tough-love Adeo Ressi visited Tampa Bay in March to test its entrepreneurial passion and help introduce his global business incubator known as Founder Institute.

Ressi took the spotlight at St. Petersburg's Studio@620 to tell a room packed with locals with startup visions that it's a wonderful but painfully competitive thing to start a business from scratch.

But that evening's promise of a big leap forward for Tampa Bay entrepreneurs became a step backward.

A college dropout, Ressi went on to start at least eight businesses, including Total New York, a regional city guide that AOL bought in 1997 and turned into AOL/Digital Cities. Since starting Founder Institute in 2009 in — of course — a Palo Alto garage, Ressi travels incessantly and globally to hear startup pitches. He is quick to interrupt, mixing a veteran's advice with sharp criticism ("I've only heard that same startup idea a hundred times this year" is a favorite) and plenty of humor.

Founder Institute was ready to claim a stake in Tampa Bay with its first boot camp. It had pitched itself as an international-caliber program for startups with strong potential, tough skin and sufficient obsession to make the cut. Area mentors from university business schools and other startup programs had been engaged and were standing by. And a Founder Institute graduate, serial entrepreneur Michael O'Donnell, already had moved here from Seattle. He was the one who liked what he saw in Tampa Bay and decided the institute could operate a local version here.

It was all systems go in March. But Founder Institute never launched.

It turns out, according to O'Donnell, that there were "not enough aspiring entrepreneurs qualified for the Founder Institute" in the Tampa Bay market. Failing to reach a minimum number of qualified candidates, the boot camp was canceled.

O'Donnell said there were too many dabbling entrepreneurs or "wannapreneurs."

Rather than waiting for the fall to try another round, O'Donnell himself has moved on as well. He's taken a job with Broward County's Workforce One organization to help startups in Fort Lauderdale.

"It is a disappointment," says one of the standby mentors, Rebecca White, a management professor who holds the James W. Walter distinguished chair of entrepreneurship at the University of Tampa. "I was very impressed with Mike and hate to see us lose him to Fort Lauderdale."

White's not sure why Founder Institute could not find enough of the kind of startups it was looking for. "I think a lot of our early-stage entrepreneurs were not clear yet on how valuable that kind of program can be so they may not have been willing to invest the time and money."

Another willing mentor and deeply involved entrepreneur here, John Morrow, says Tampa Bay has a "wide pipeline" of various startup programs under way that might have diluted the talent pool.

This is a good if harsh lesson for Tampa Bay. In the end, this region's goal is really the same as Adeo Ressi's: Creating more startup successes not only boosts economic recovery but creates more and better jobs at locally founded companies.

Contact Robert Trigaux at trigaux@tampabay.com.

High-level boot camp for start-ups never opens 05/20/13 [Last modified: Monday, May 20, 2013 10:54pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Law firm's Russia ties prove nothing about Trump

    Business

    The statement

    "Law firm @POTUS used to show he has no ties to Russia was named Russia Law Firm of the Year for their extensive ties to Russia. Unreal."

    Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., stands during a media availability on Capitol Hill, Monday, June 20, 2016 in Washington. A divided Senate blocked rival election-year plans to curb guns on Monday, eight days after the horror of Orlando's mass shooting intensified pressure on lawmakers to act but knotted them in gridlock anyway — even over restricting firearms for terrorists. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
  2. Pasco county lawyer disbarred for taking woman's money

    Real Estate

    NEW PORT RICHEY — The Florida Supreme Court on Thursday disbarred Pasco County attorney and former congressional candidate Constantine Kalogianis.

    The Florida Supreme Court on Thursday disbarred Pasco County attorney and former congressional candidate Constantine Kalogianis. 
[2016 booking photo via Pasco County Sheriff's Office]
  3. Rick Scott signs package of tax breaks

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE — Gov. Rick Scott signed a tax cut package Thursday that — while vastly scaled back from what he wanted — eliminates the so-called "tampon tax" and offers tax holidays for back-to-school shoppers and Floridians preparing for hurricane season.

    Florida Governor Rick Scott signed a tax cut package that will cost state coffers $91.6 million during the upcoming year. [Joe Raedle | Getty Images]
  4. FBI probes fraudster's alleged church scam following Tampa Bay Times report

    Real Estate

    PLANT CITY — Once again, the FBI is investigating felon fraudster Victor Thomas Clavizzao.

    The FBI is investigating convicted mortgage fraudster Victor Thomas Clavizzao on new allegations following a Tampa Bay Times report.
[TImes file photo]

  5. Tampa Bay is ground-zero for assignment of benefits cases over broken auto glass

    Banking

    When Rachel Thorpe tried to renew her auto insurance last year for her Toyta RAV4, she was stunned to see her monthly premium had nearly doubled to $600. The Sarasota driver was baffled since her only recent claim was over a broken windshield.

    Auto glass lawsuits filed by a third party (through what's known as assignment of benefits) are skyrocketing in Tampa Bay.
[Times file photo]