Make us your home page

Worry over entrepreneurial stall sparks plan to attract startup talent, capital

Tampa Bay's infrastructure for business startups and entrepreneurs still looks like a jigsaw puzzle with too many missing pieces.

A renewed effort will try to complete more of the picture.

Today, a project dubbed Tampa Bay's "6/20 Plan" will be unveiled with two key goals. First, it will seek more talent by reinvigorating the region's so-called entrepreneurial ecosystem with involvement by successful area entrepreneurs.

A second and tougher task seeks more venture capital from angel investors backing startups in their earliest days to later-stage investing in companies with real products and revenues but still in need of financing. Say the backers of the 6/20 Plan: "Florida's virtually nonexistent seed and early-stage equity capital pipeline, combined with the latest economic downturn, have caused too much local talent to leave in pursuit of greener pastures."

Longer term, the mission is to better coordinate dozens of area business startup and entrepreneur groups.

Researchers here looked at how other cities like Boulder, Colo., or Philadelphia achieved successful track records for business startups.

"To get an entrepreneurial ecosystem to flourish, we found successful area entrepreneurs have to get behind the plan," says John Morrow, who has started and sold companies of his own. Morrow serves as "entrepreneur in residence" at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg and co-founded the Gazelle Lab business accelerator to mentor area startups.

Now he is the front man for Tampa Bay's 6/20 Plan.

The plan is called 6/20 not only because of the date it is being unveiled. It also means that, to build a quality entrepreneurial ecosystem, it takes at least a half dozen entrepreneurs that are committed to provide leadership for 20 years.

So far, the 6/20 Plan has been endorsed broadly by the entrepreneurship programs at USF St. Petersburg and the University of Tampa, plus BarCamp Tampa Bay, Tampa Bay Technology Forum and more than a dozen other startup, chamber and economic development groups.

Along with Morrow, those behind the initial 6/20 Plan include Daniel James Scott, Marvin Scaff, Bill Jackson and Brent Britton — all Gazelle Lab co-founders — plus Rebecca White, head of entrepreneurship programs at the University of Tampa.

Has our entrepreneurial momentum plateaued?

"We are concerned about that," White says. "Success breeds success. We've had successes but we need to keep startups here," referring to both companies and talented entrepreneurs who end up leaving the area.

The end game is jobs and growth driven by creating more business startups here.

Morrow cautions that the 6/20 Plan is not a corporation or organization. It is just a plan — one that needs broad and energetic buy-in from veteran entrepreneurs here.

Could we eventually see some type of coordinating body to keep diverse startup groups in the loop with one another? Could we see an "entrepreneurial ecosystem" in spirit as well as name?

Morrow's okay with those ideas. But right now, all he wants is input and conversation about 6/20.

Robert Trigaux can be reached at

For more information, go to or email John Morrow at

Worry over entrepreneurial stall sparks plan to attract startup talent, capital 06/19/12 [Last modified: Tuesday, June 19, 2012 7:26pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. 'Road to Nowhere' is back: Next phase of Suncoast Parkway coming


    Despite intense public opposition and dubious traffic projections, the Florida Department of Transportation has announced that construction of the toll road known as "Suncoast 2" is expected to start in early 2018.

    The Suncoast Parkway ends at U.S. 98 just south of Citrus County. For years residents have opposed extending the toll road, a project dubbed the "Suncoast 2" into Citrus County. But state officials recently announced that the Suncoast 2 should start construction in early 2018. [Stephen J. Coddington  |  TIMES]
  2. A sports rout on Wall Street


    NEW YORK — Sporting goods retailers can't shake their losing streak.

  3. Grocery chain Aldi hosting hiring event in Brandon Aug. 24


    BRANDON — German grocery chain Aldi is holding a hiring event for its Brandon store Aug. 24. It is looking to fill store associate, shift manager and manager trainee positions.

  4. Lightning owner Jeff Vinik backs film company pursuing global blockbusters


    TAMPA — Jeff Vinik's latest investment might be coming to a theater near you.

    Jeff Vinik, Tampa Bay Lightning owner, invested in a new movie company looking to appeal to a global audience. | [Times file photo]
  5. Trigaux: Look to new Inc. 5000 rankings for Tampa Bay's future heavyweights


    There's a whole lotta fast-growing private companies here in Tampa Bay. Odds are good you have not heard of most of them.


    Kyle Taylor, CEO and founder of The Penny Hoarder, fills a glass for his employees this past Wednesday as the young St. Petersburg personal advice business celebrates its landing at No. 25 on the 2017 Inc. 5000 list of the fastest growing private companies in the country. Taylor, still in his 20s, wins kudos from executive editor Alexis Grant for keeping the firm's culture innovative. The business ranked No. 32 last year. [DIRK SHADD   |   Times]