Make us your home page
Instagram

Tampa Bay wins rare chance to assess health of its emerging start-up scene

Is Tampa Bay doing a good job of supporting entrepreneurship and innovative business start-ups? A new effort may shed some critical light on how the regional "entrepreneurial ecosystem" works and whether there are some key gaps that need attention.

A well-regarded Kansas City think tank for entrepreneurship, the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, is providing a $150,000 grant to the University of Tampa and a group of academic experts in entrepreneurship to assess Tampa Bay's start-up environment and better identify what's driving entrepreneurship here rather than in more established regions.

"For many years the gold standard was Silicon Valley and communities tried to emulate what they saw there and on Boston's Route 128," says Rebecca White, the University of Tampa's entrepreneurship expert who will head the research effort. "More recently there has been a shift and a greater interest in understanding communities of entrepreneurs outside of these traditional areas and a focus on what is making more mainstream cities interesting from an entrepreneur's perspective."

RELATED: Why did Google Fiber pick Tampa? Credit the area's emerging tech and startuup scene

The grant's goal, says White, is to create a model to "better understand and evaluate the health of entrepreneurial ecosystems in any city." The University of Tampa will issue an annual report on the "health of the entrepreneurial ecosystem" based on the grant's efforts.

It all sounds professorial and dry. But the grant offers an unusual opportunity to step back and critically review Tampa Bay's start-up culture. The so-called entrepreneurial ecosystem here has evolved quickly if haphazardly in the past decade with literally hundreds of business start-ups launched, many of them technology related. Most have failed for lack of money or quality of idea or lack of drive — as is the norm with all start-ups. But many others are still emerging, growing and refining their business plans, seeking venture capital, and adding jobs to the area economy.

That last benefit — jobs — is of particular regional economic significance since Tampa Bay, like most of Florida and many other states, depends excessively on growing by trying to recruit businesses based elsewhere to expand or relocate here with the lure of financial incentives. Leaders in the entrepreneurial community here argue that if incentives must be used at all, then share some of those resources to encourage local start-ups. That debate is just starting.

RELATED: Tampa start-ups to gain all-in-one website

At the Tampa Bay Technology Forum, this area's chief tech advocacy group, executive director Daniel James Scott says he is "most excited" by the study's potential because "almost all of the conversation around entrepreneurial ecosystems has been driven by anecdote." This study may offer a more quantitative view, says Scott, a veteran of the area start-up scene.

Dissecting the ecosystem to look at what works well and not so well should help this region understand how its limited resources might be best put to use. The ecosystem here is loosely defined but is a complex mix of veteran entrepreneurs and mentors, university programs that teach elements of entrepreneurship, business incubators and accelerators designed to nurture start-ups, angel investor groups willing help fund early start-ups, and dozens of formal and informal groups with names like Startup Weekend, Startup Grind, Startup Bus, Tampa Hackathon and 1 Million Cups of Coffee. And that's just scratching the surface.

Lots of very smart, very driven and, yes, very opinionated individuals help make up the Tampa Bay entrepreneurial ecosystem. But few if any folks have a broad grasp of what's making it tick — or where it really stands in the much broader entrepreneurial revolution.

Scott hopes that along with the focus on governmental and policy aspects, the effort can also look at Tampa Bay's access to venture capital and talent, private infrastructure support and finding ways to identify which entrepreneurial ventures here are most aligned for success.

In addition to White, director of UT's Lowth Entrepreneurship Center, the academic team includes University of South Florida assistant professor of entrepreneurship Diana Hechavarria, as well as researchers representing the London School of Economics and George Mason University, Indiana University and Lund University in Sweden.

Almost by definition, entrepreneurship is meant to defy convention and try something new. So assessing it will be a challenge. But an important one.

Contact Robert Trigaux at rtrigaux@tampabay.com. Follow @venturetampabay.

Tampa Bay wins rare chance to assess health of its emerging start-up scene 12/02/15 [Last modified: Wednesday, December 2, 2015 12:43pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Tampa Bay among top 25 metro areas with fastest growing economies

    Economic Development

    Tampa Bay had the 24th fastest growing economy among 382 metro areas in the country for 2016. According to an analysis by the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, Tampa Bay's gross domestic product, or GDP, increased 4.2 percent from 2015 to 2016 to hit $126.2 billion.

    Tampa Bay had the 24th fastest growing economy in the country for 2016. Rentals were one of the areas that contributed to Tampa Bay's GDP growth. Pictured is attorney David Eaton in front of his rental home. 
[SCOTT KEELER | Times]
  2. Tampa Bay cools down to more moderate home price increases

    Real Estate

    The increase in home prices throughout much of the Tampa Bay area is definitely slowing from the torrid rate a year ago.

    This home close to Bayshore Boulevard in Tampa sold for $3.055 million in August, making it Hillsborough County's top sale of the month. [Courtesy of Bredt Cobitz]
  3. With successful jewelry line, Durant High alum Carley Ochs enjoys 'incredible ride'

    Business

    BRANDON

    As a child Carley Ochs played dress up, draped in her grandmother's furs.

    Founder Carley Ochs poses for a portrait in her Ford Bronco at the Bourbon & Boweties warehouse in Brandon, Fla. on September 19, 2017. Ochs is a Durant High and Florida State University graduate.
  4. At Menorah Manor, planning paid off during Irma

    Nursing Homes

    ST. PETERSBURG — Doris Rosenblatt and her husband, Frank, have lived in Florida all of their lives, so they know about hurricanes.

    Raisa Collins, 9, far left, works on a craft project as Certified Nursing Assistant Shuntal Anthony holds Cassidy Merrill, 1, while pouring glue for Quanniyah Brownlee, 9, right, at Menorah Manor in St. Petersburg on Sept. 15. To help keep its patients safe during Hurricane Irma, Menorah Manor allowed employees to shelter their families and pets at the nursing home and also offered daycare through the week. The facility was able to accommodate and feed everyone who weathered the storm there. [LARA CERRI   |   Times]
  5. After Irma, nursing homes scramble to meet a hard deadline

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE — Florida's nursing homes and assisted-living facilities find themselves in an unfamiliar place this week — pushing back against Gov. Rick Scott's administration over new rules that require them to purchase generator capacity by Nov. 15 to keep their residents safe and comfortable in a power …

    In this Sept. 13 photo, a woman is transported from The Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills as patients are evacuated after a loss of air conditioning due to Hurricane Irma in Hollywood. Nine have died and patients had to be moved out of the facility, many of them on stretchers or in wheelchairs. Authorities have launched a criminal investigation to figure out what went wrong and who, if anyone, was to blame. [Amy Beth Bennett | South Florida Sun-Sentinel via AP]