Saturday, May 26, 2018
Business

Rising competition: It's time Tampa Bay intensifies its startup culture

What comes first: a powerful regional brand or a vibrant entrepreneurial community?

The elusive answer is proving to be a dilemma to Tampa Bay.

Startup business leaders say this metro area needs a bolder identity to attract both veteran entrepreneurs and the type of deep-pocketed investors eager to risk their money on fresh-idea businesses.

Others suggest that puts the cart before the horse. Until Tampa Bay can demonstrate it is indeed a hub of successful entrepreneurial activity, it's tough to slap a believable brand on this part of Florida.

This issue arose, briefly, at a Tuesday evening panel discussion held by 83 Degrees, the online, upbeat chronicler of regional innovation. The panel's topic: "How Do We Grow From Here? Nurturing the Tampa Bay Startup Culture.''

When asked from the audience what themes Tampa Bay should build its identity around, the panelists punted.

I don't blame them. Tampa Bay has struggled for years to tell the bigger world who it is. Most efforts have come up frustrated or vague.

Let's just say this metro area is still working on its 21st century identity. And the growing entrepreneurial community here wants a vibrant startup culture to be part of it.

Enter Miami.

Earlier this month, a billionaire entrepreneur named Manny Medina spearheaded a technology conference there called eMerge Americas Techweek. It drew 6,000 people, 150 speakers on tech innovation, eight expos, an invitation-only mayoral summit and a cool $250,000 grant from South Florida's pro-develop­ment Knight Foundation.

The event came on the heels of Microsoft announcing it will open its first U.S.-based innovation center in Miami.

Wrote the Miami Herald of eMerge: "If Medina's vision is fulfilled, eMerge Americas Techweek will grow into a South by Southwest-style annual event with Latin flair." South By Southwest is the annual and hugely hip gathering on innovation, technology, entrepreneurs and creativity that routinely draws about 70,000 to Austin, Texas.

Not to pooh-pooh Tampa Bay's ambitions. They are commendable and, if anything, should be vigorously multiplied. But there are some lessons in Miami's rapid pursuit of becoming a tech hub.

First, Miami already boasts a global brand as a Latin gateway, tropical urban center, fast-lane lifestyle and the dumping ground of Latin American flight capital (look at those pricey condos going up — again) that's always looking for viable investments.

Second, Medina — who sold his Terremark data services company in 2012 to Verizon Communications for $1.4 billion — stepped up to lead this effort with the street cred of a local entrepreneur who has hit it big. Tampa Bay's still looking for that tier of successful individuals.

And third, Miami's focusing a lot of its tech/startup firepower on one event imposing enough to get national media attention. Tampa Bay's startup efforts remain spread among its multiple counties, cities, universities and incubators. It still seeks critical mass.

Robert Trigaux can be reached at [email protected]

Comments
An American Airlines passenger was refused beer - so he screamed, fought and spit blood, FBI says

An American Airlines passenger was refused beer - so he screamed, fought and spit blood, FBI says

It began, as so many plane debacles seem to, with strange sounds in the bathroom.They were the noises of Jason Felix, one of the passengers on Wednesday’s American Airlines flight out of Saint Croix, according to a FBI affidavit recounting events lea...
Published: 05/26/18
Is the Lightning’s Jeff Vinik the best owner in professional sports?

Is the Lightning’s Jeff Vinik the best owner in professional sports?

Hope of another Stanley Cup has dissolved, and soon the ice will follow. Yet even if sorrow is the price of devotion, the true hockey fans will still buy in when the next season comes around.That concept may not be unique to Tampa Bay, but it does se...
Published: 05/26/18
Five members of 69ers motorcycle gang indicted on federal charges

Five members of 69ers motorcycle gang indicted on federal charges

Last year three members of the 69ers Motorcycle Club gang were implicated in the execution of a rival gang leader in the middle of rush hour traffic in Pasco County.Now those three and two other 69ers members have been indicted on federal charges tha...
Published: 05/25/18
With makeover, ZooTampa at Lowry Park takes a page from the theme parks

With makeover, ZooTampa at Lowry Park takes a page from the theme parks

TAMPA — Behind the construction walls near the carousel at ZooTampa at Lowry Park, hammers, saws and power drills made a racket in the blazing Friday heat. A raft full of 100-pound water jugs took test trips on the new Roaring Springs ride set ...
Published: 05/25/18
U.S. news outlets block European readers over new privacy rules

U.S. news outlets block European readers over new privacy rules

LONDON — U.S. news outlets including The Chicago Tribune, The Los Angeles Times, The Orlando Sentinel and The Arizona Daily Star abruptly blocked access to their websites from Europe on Friday, choosing to black out readers rather than comply with a ...
Published: 05/25/18
Tampa Electric appeals OSHA findings for October accident

Tampa Electric appeals OSHA findings for October accident

TAMPA — Tampa Electric Co. is appealing a recent citation by federal regulators. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration hit the utility with a $76,050 fine and a "serious" violation in April following its investigation into an accident in ...
Published: 05/25/18
Fiat Chrysler recalls 4.8 million cars, warning owners: Don’t use the cruise control

Fiat Chrysler recalls 4.8 million cars, warning owners: Don’t use the cruise control

Associated PressDETROIT — Fiat Chrysler is recalling 4.8 million vehicles in the U.S. because in rare but terrifying circumstances, drivers may not be able to turn off the cruise control. The company is warning owners not to use cruise control until...
Published: 05/25/18
Federal Reserve chairman warns his agency must be free from political pressure

Federal Reserve chairman warns his agency must be free from political pressure

Associated PressFederal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell warned Friday that the Fed’s independence from political pressure must be respected if it is to succeed in controlling inflation, maximizing employment and regulating the financial system. His re...
Published: 05/25/18
Restaurants like Ford’s Garage use the experience to get you in the door

Restaurants like Ford’s Garage use the experience to get you in the door

Tim Butler’s first car was a Ford Model A pick-up truck — a pearl fawn and cherry red pick-up he got his senior year in high school from his dad, who renovates antique cars. That’s why as Butler waited for a table at the Ford’...
Published: 05/25/18
St. Petersburg man fined $507,513 in penny stock scheme

St. Petersburg man fined $507,513 in penny stock scheme

TAMPA — A St. Petersburg man was fined $507,513 and permanently barred from participating in the offering of a penny stock in a case involving a scheme to manipulate the price of Aureus, a penny stock company incorporated in Nevada, officials said Fr...
Published: 05/25/18