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Trigaux: In 'Shark Tank' style, five startups get six minutes to prove who's best

Published Jan. 29, 2015

Lights. Action. Pitch.

In a frenetic mix of swirling lights, rolling cameras and a DJ-inspired audience rooting from bleacher seats, five area business startups earned six minutes apiece to pitch their ideas to a four-judge panel of veteran area entrepreneurs.

Welcome to a TV-inspired shark-tank event held earlier this week at Tampa's Museum of Science and Industry. It's just the latest attempt of many to spur regional support of area entrepreneurs.

A quick vote of several hundred attendees (which included potential investors) at the close of the competition picked their favorite startup. Save On Medical offers a service that — just as hotels.com finds travelers a better deal — helps patients find the best price, location and doctor for a specific medical procedure.

But the judges' pick of the five will be named on Thursday during the Bright House Networks regional business awards at the Tampa Convention Center. The winner receives free commercial TV production, commercial airtime and $5,000 cash. Bright House values the winner's prize package at $120,000.

Of the five pitching startups, four are in the health care industry. Health Hero provides wellness programs for companies. Innovatia Medical Systems wants to miniaturize its camera to improve a surgeon's view inside the human abdomen during laparoscopic surgery. And SampalRX's online marketplace simplifies how doctors and drug companies interact with samples, coupons and vouchers.

The fifth startup, called Dock-n-Lock, offers a device that locks a mobile phone inside a secure locker while driving in order to reduce phone and texting accidents.

MOSI's "Pitch 6" event was the idea of Bright House VP and entrepreneur Mark Swanson, among others. The judges include infomercial king Kevin Harrington, Tom Cardy of Florida's New World Angels investor group; David Chitester, founder of the Florida Funders Network, and Greg Stemm, co-founder of Tampa's Odyssey Marine Exploration.

Last year's winner was Tampa's Aspiredu, run by Kim and Chris Munzo, whose software helps schools track at- risk students to reduce dropout rates.

George Gordon, who heads the business incubator Healthbox Florida, attended to watch two of his program's graduates (Save On Medical, Health Hero) compete.

"Lots of entrepreneurs are making the gutsy decision to start a company and the community is starting to rally around it," Gordon said. "Hillsborough and Pinellas counties are doing their part — with the full understanding of trying to build an ecosystem of knowledge workers and becoming less dependent on tourism and construction as economic drivers."

Are we where we want to be? No, said Gordon. "But if we keep recognizing and celebrating these entrepreneurs, showing them we respect and appreciate their efforts, then perhaps we can maintain the momentum we're building."

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Success is not a given. If you're not pitching a startup, pitch in to help those who are.

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

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