1. Business

Jeff Vinik: Bay area's startup ecosystem is promising, but still young

Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik says the Tampa Bay area is making progress in creating an ecosystem to nurture startups and innovation, but it's still early in the effort. BOB STASIO  |  Dreamit
Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik says the Tampa Bay area is making progress in creating an ecosystem to nurture startups and innovation, but it's still early in the effort. BOB STASIO | Dreamit
Published Nov. 6, 2018

TAMPA — It's been not quite a year since Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik outlined a multi-part plan to nurture innovation in the Tampa Bay area, and while progress since then has been promising, it's still the "second or third inning" of a long-term effort, he said Tuesday.

"We have momentum," he said after speaking to about 400 participants at an innovation summit sponsored by Dreamit Ventures, the startup accelerator in which he invested $12 million last year. "It's early stage momentum, (but) there is a detectable excitement in this region about where we can go in terms of innovation and entrepreneurship."

Over the past year, Vinik's talk about creating an innovation hub has coalesced into the Embarc Collective, a $10 million project that will move into 30,000 square feet of space in the old District 3 warehouse directly north of Amalie Arena.

Vinik said he expects one of the tenants there to be BlockSpaces, now located on Gandy Boulevard in Tampa, which offers blockchain technology education, development and support services to a collaborative community of individuals and startups.

Embarc Collective also plans to partner with other organizations working with startups: the University of South Florida, University of Tampa, Tampa Bay Wave and the Florida-Israel Business Accelerator, among them.

Vinik sees the bay area as fertile ground for startups in four areas where there's a built-in customer base here. Three are already areas of focus for Dreamit: health technology, military and security-related startups and what's known as "urban tech," which takes in technological advances in building design, construction, building materials and more.

The fourth is consumer marketing. Vinik said this is promising because, demographically, the bay area is so similar to the national economy as a whole.

That said, there's education to do in Florida because so many wealthy people here made their money in real estate or their own companies, Vinik said.

"Venture capital, startups, risk is a little bit of a new concept for them," he said.

With successful venture organizations, two or three out of 10 startups that get backing might be "pretty successful," he said, which translates to "doing pretty well."

"There are no simple answers," he said. "It's tens and dozens and hundreds and thousands of meetings and conferences and phone calls with people to educate them and teach them how the venture capital process works and equally, why it's so important."

But one of the nice things about the bay area, he said, is that venture capitalists can find some bargains among startups here.

"The same company in Tampa Bay is probably valued at 20 percent of what it would be in Silicon Valley," Vinik said, "so the prices here and the valuations of companies are much more reasonable."

MORE: Go here for more Business News

Contact Richard Danielson at or (813) 226-3403. Follow @Danielson_Times


  1. [Getty Images]
  2. Express Parcel Service says is plans to close its facilities at the Amazon flex distribution center at 9900 18th Street N in St. Petersburg, as well as in Tampa, Miami, Fort Myers and Palmetto. (Google street view)
  3. Adisa Dzudza-Sunjic, MD, (on left) and Carla J. Danesi, registered and licensed dietitian, have joined Access Health Care Physicians.
  4. The developers of Avalon Park West in Wesley Chapel are planning a $736 million downtown core to accompany nearly 2,700 residences and 355,000 square feet of commercial and office space in a walkable neighborhood. . As part of the deal, Pasco County will consider kicking  in a $33 million 30-year incentive, mostly a tax rebate to help with infrastructure costs.
  5. The ceremonial groundbreaking of Saint Leo University's Wellness Center was held Feb. 6. Pictured from left: Jon Akvan, project manager, JLL; Troy Powell, project manager, Creative Contractors; Melanie Storms, Saint Leo University senior vice president; Jose Caban, Saint Leo associate vice president of facilities management; Jeffrey D. Senese, Saint Leo president; Celine-Deon Palmer, student government union president; D. Dewey Mitchell, Saint Leo Board of Trustees chair; Alan Bomstein, CEO, Creative Contractors; and Joshua Bomstein, president, Creative Contractors.
  6. ByDesign Technologies, a Tampa-based company that provides business management tools for direct sellers, was acquired by Kansas firm Retail Success this week. Pictured is the Tampa skyline in 2019. [Times (2019)]
  7. The Related Group proposes to build two condominium towers, represented by the two buildings in the middle of this rendering, with 168 luxury condos on Bayshore Boulevard south of W Bay-to-Bay Boulevard in Tampa. In this rendering, the see-through figures represent the planned Aquatica condo project to the north and the existing Stovall on Bayshore condo tower to the south. (Rendering courtesy of the Related Group)
  8. Lumber is stacked at the Home Depot store in Londonderry, N.H. Don’t let your desire to upgrade your home downgrade your home's market value. Before you make a renovation fantasy a reality, consider whether the project will pay off when you're ready to sell. [Charles Krupa | Associated Press (2019]
  9. Amazon Prime trucks await their packages at Tampa International Airport. Times (2016)
  10. Matthew R. White, who ran a Tampa-based company, M.W. Global Futures, has pleaded guilty in federal court in the state of Washington to one count of wire fraud in connection with soliciting a total of $1.29 million from investors in Florida and Washington and misappropriating the funds from 2011 to 2018. He is scheduled to be sentenced April 10. [Dreamstime | TNS]
  11. Employees and guests of Jacobs Engineering Group take photos at the New York Stock Exchange earlier this month. [Mark Lennihan | Associated Press]
  12. Central Park Food Hall, a three-story food hall, restaurant and event space, is set to open at 551 Central Ave. in downtown St. Petersburg in 2021.