A linchpin of the Tampa Bay startup community is on the move.
Tampa Bay Wave, the longtime technology incubator and accelerator known for its cohorts and training programs, is moving its downtown Tampa headquarters from a century-old building at 500 E Kennedy Boulevard to a gleaming new skyscraper across the street, in the WeWork building at 501 E Kennedy.
“The space just kind of dropped in our laps not even 60 days ago,” said Tampa Bay Wave founder and CEO Linda Olson. “We’ve been as an organization evaluating our options for doing some pretty massive renovations to our current space. It would be primarily demoing walls to expand space. The largest conference room in our current space, when we had cohorts of 15 companies, that room got really tight, really fast.”
Tampa Bay Wave’s now former third-floor office took up 10,000 square feet, but that included hallway space and bathrooms. This turnkey-ready lease, for 8,000 square feet of Class A space on the sixth floor, has a more efficient layout with more meeting room.
“It’s more about the floor plan and footprint and making sure it’s a fit,” Olson said. “It really has the perfect footprint for the programming and things that we do, and it saves us I don’t know how many hundreds of thousands of dollars of renovations, not to mention the distractions that come with renovations.”
One casualty of the move: Tampa Bay Wave’s coworking facilities. The nonprofit started up in 2008, a time when coworking centers like WeWork and Industrious didn’t exist around town, to say nothing of locally focused startup and innovation hubs like Embarc Collective and St. Petersburg’s forthcoming Ark Innovation Center. Tampa Bay Wave will no longer rent out space to startups, but will instead focus on expanding its training, mentoring and investor relations services.
“As our ecosystem is growing, there’s no one hub that can be the hub for the entire community — the geographic footprint’s too large,” Olson said. “Our program has evolved to the point where we no longer have to do things that other groups are already doing. We can just focus on our core competency, and let the WeWorks, the Embarcs, the Ark Innovation Centers focus on the hubs.”
After starting as a meetup group, Tampa Bay Wave itself once worked out of coworking spaces before a federal grant allowed them to move into a downtown Tampa skyscraper in 2013. The group expanded to its current office in 2015. Over the years, it has run 28 accelerator cohorts and supported 434 startups that have raised more than $550 million in all.
The move will enable Tampa Bay Wave to add staff as it works with organizations looking to partner up from around the globe in a post-COVID world.
“There’s a part of me that feels a sigh of relief with this move, because hopefully it really helps the community see that as we grow, things evolve,” Olson said. “Our program has evolved to the point where we no longer have to do things that other groups are already doing. We can just focus on our core competency, and let the WeWorks, the Embarcs, the Ark Innovation Centers focus on the hubs.”