TAMPA — A tech company that works to develop artificial intelligence-enabled systems that learn and collaborate with humans is expanding to Tampa.
TheIncLab, based near Washington D.C., has opened an “AI+X lab” — that is, artificial intelligence plus experience — at the Undercroft, a tech development center and membership guild for companies focused on cybersecurity. Along with TheIncLab, the Undercroft provides work space for local offices of BlackHorse Solutions, Sharp Decisions, @Risk Technologies and Bull Horn Communications.
The Undercroft has offices in one of Ybor City’s most historic structures, the El Pasaje building on E Ninth Avenue. Built in 1886, it originally housed the Cherokee Club, a private retreat for for wealthy cigar-makers. The building, with arched porticos reminiscent of Centro Habana in Cuba, also hosted José Martí, Theodore Roosevelt and Winston Churchill before going on to become known variously as a bordello, a speak-easy, a casino, a jazzy nightclub and a low-rent hotel.
But when TheIncLab founder and chief executive officer Adriana Avakian describes what made Tampa an attractive place to expand, she talks less about its local color and more about its "burgeoning technology and cybersecurity industry and abundance of highly qualified talent.”
"We spent a fair amount of time in the Tampa-St. Petersburg area in the past six months establishing key relationships and meeting with strategic partners to ensure the success of our expansion,” she said in an announcement released through the Tampa Bay Economic Development Council.
Since its founding in 2015, TheIncLab has signed up clients from several branches of the U.S. Department of Defense as well as from Fortune 500 companies in the health care, aerospace, manufacturing, consumer electronics and technology spaces. Its services are tailored to help clients accelerate innovation, launch new products and services, open new markets and redefine customer relationships. The firm also has a lab in Nashville.
TheIncLab anticipates hiring 15 developers and engineers in the next 12 months and partnering with bay area universities to augment its staff with student interns. Before it decided on Tampa, it talked with University of South Florida administrators about the availability of talent and research expertise.
“Artificial intelligence is one of the great frontiers in the innovation economy," USF College of Engineering professor Sudeep Sarkar, who chairs USF’s department of computer science and is co-chair of the USF Institute for AI+X, said in a statement released through the Economic Development Council. “With young companies, our students and our faculty working together, Tampa is growing to become a promising center of diverse skills and new perspectives that will shape AI’s future.”
TheIncLab was one of 10 tech companies selected out of 432 applications from across the U.S. to participate in Tampa Bay Wave’s TechDiversity program last summer, and is the second of the 10 to expand or move to the Tampa Bay area.
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Like Drift, a business-to-business marketing tech company that last month opened a Tampa office with plans to hire up to 100 employees by 2021, TheIncLab is not receiving any state or local incentives to expand here, according to Economic Development Council spokeswoman Laura Fontanills.