Florida Funders, SPP, Drift and others form platform to attract tech companies – St Pete Catalyst

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As Tampa Bay emerges as one of the top cities for tech talent, local economic development leaders, investors and executives have launched a tool to help recruit more tech businesses to the region. 

The coalition is made up of organizations including Embarc Collective, Strategic Property Partners (the developers of Water Street Tampa), angel investment group Florida Funders, startups Drift and AI.io in cooperation with the City of Tampa, Tampa Bay Economic Development Council, St. Petersburg Economic Development Corporation, Enterprise Florida and Synapse Florida.

The coalition recently launched the platform called HiTampaBay.com, which is meant to serve as a landing page to help interested tech companies with relocating while highlighting the area’s assets and news articles on tech-related business news. 

“The tech ecosystem has evolved and I would say in 2010 and beyond, you see more efforts – incubators started to happen and universities started entrepreneurship programs. This has been a very organic growth,” Marc Blumenthal, General Partner of Florida Funders, told the St. Pete Catalyst. 

He said the initial concept for the platform started to spark months ago. 

“David Bevirt with SPP had invited a handful of people to be his guests at the past Grand Prix event in St. Pete. I was there with Elias Torres [Tampa-born entrepreneur and founder of unicorn company Drift], Terence Mills, [CEO of artificial intelligence firm AI.io] and we started to talk,” Blumenthal said, explaining how the majority of them spoke on how large tech firms, and themselves, have relocated to Tampa from thriving metros.  

“The catalyst was the thought of why there isn’t someone in Tampa Bay who is responsible for getting the good news out, like Mayor Francis Suarez in Miami who has been doing a spectacular job and is really promoting Miami’s story,” Blumenthal said, who has been in the industry for nearly 40 years. “We kind of batted it around and realized there wasn’t really anyone who owned it. So Elias and I had a couple of calls after the Grand Prix and one thing led to another.” 

Blumenthal stated how the group then added Lakshmi Shenoy, CEO of Tampa Bay-based startup hub Embarc Collective, into the conversation as she is widely known in the startup space, and many growing tech companies are members of or are involved with Embarc. 

“All of us in Tampa Bay understand how great the region is as a hub for building innovative companies,” Shenoy said in a news release. “The challenge we’ve faced is how best to communicate that. Through the HiTampaBay initiative, we now have a real opportunity to leverage our shared strengths to demonstrate just how powerful and collaborative Tampa Bay is as a launching pad for technology companies.”

Some of the relocation tools HiTampaBay.com provides include neighborhood guides, cost of living calculators and tech industry resource directories.

“There is a need for a serious technology hub on the East Coast of the U.S., and we’re confident that Tampa, with its booming downtown, quality housing opportunities, beautiful landscapes and winning sports teams, is the city best positioned to achieve this title,” Bevirt, EVP Corporate Leasing & Strategy of SPP, said in the release. “We’re creating incredible infrastructure at Water Street Tampa, a $3.5 billion development comprising new offices, homes, retail and acres of public space with high-speed public broadband, that is already luring technology companies and top talent from all over the country. We’re excited to watch Tampa grow into a true hotbed for innovation. The creation of HiTampaBay is just the beginning.”

The HiTampaBay.com members also help transplants settle in by making introductions to other tech-focused businesses and individuals, as well as facilitating networking. 

“For some people, they want to get connected to the healthtech, edtech or cybertech companies. It could even be learning about the jobs for their spouse in the area or schools. A lot of founders have families and they aren’t going to relocate without knowing about the places for their children,” Blumenthal said. 

Blumenthal provided the example of how Domm Holland, CEO of San Francisco-based fintech startup Fast, got connected to Phil Stein, who is a wealth manager at Morgan Stanley, through Stein’s business – and learned Holland was looking at Tampa. Stein personally linked him with the right people and took him on a tour of Berkeley Preparatory School. Holland ultimately decided to move his family here and open Fast’s East Coast HQ in Tampa

Blumenthal said the launch of the platform is not currently funded with any resources but has been built with the donated time of the creators.